Sunday, 29 April 2012

Runner takes to water

So in my bid to take the triathlete world by storm (you know, in the way I've changed the face of marathon running!) I entered my first swimathon. I figured this was a good way to put my recent swimming improver's lessons to the test and hit a distance number in a safe environment and get some confidence. 

Marie Curie run a swimathon across the weekend of 2.5km and 5km. I opted for the Sport Relief distance of 1 mile. British Gas provide a number of training plans and other online resources on a special website which is very useful but the interface between Swimathon, Splashathon, Sports Relief and was confusing. But then this blog is not for me to critique them - that's my day job!

I had only one day of proper training from a training plan and I found that so tough I had to change the training plan after the warm up! It was good to go poolside with my bottle of water and plan in plastic pouch feeling a bit pro! But my training ended up being my actual swimming lessons as they put a lot of drills in fitness training in them. 

Lessons were through the City of London gym at the architectural beast of Golden Lane leisure centre - managed by Fusion and the fabulous ironman Jonathon. So that's where I decided to do my swimathon. I was really nervous as I didn't know how long a mile was or if I could do it and I don't know enough about swimming to know what happens when you tired; do you cramp, choke, swallow water?!

There were four of us to take the swimathon and one DNS meant I was sharing a lane with a speedy 15 year old taking on the 2.5km and a chirpy old man doing the 5km. They gave us a neat little swim cap and told us we could go. We had all manner of questions about time at lane ends, loo breaks etc but they seemed pretty laid back! 

I started off fairly slow, maybe even slower than if I did a warm up lap and just let my mind wander. They were providing lap counting so I didn't take my own device with me. This was a great idea because it meant I could just have fun. I thought that sharing the lane would be fraught but actually for me it was entertaining. I could watch proper swimmers underwater (I can see better underwater whereas I can see nothing above) and getting out of their way when they lapped me gave me something to do every now and then. 

I swam breaststroke moving to a lap of crawl (unilateral breathing) every time I felt a slight pull in my lower back. This started out as every 1 in ten but moved to 1 in 6 or 2 in 8 as the swim progressed. That pull in the back was the only thing I felt. I had imagined that my knee would hurt on a breaststroke kick given my ITB niggles but it was ok. I got a little thirsty as well from the chlorine and the thought of more of that with salt water made an Ironman sea swim seem formidable. 

At one point I reckoned I had done 20 laps and then upped it to thirty so I figured I wasn't far to half way. But then never really thought of laps again, just kept swimming, turning and dodging the pros. A couple of times as I got tired, my pushes off the wall weren't in time with my breathing and I gulped water but that was my only hiccup. 

I could see shapes at the end of the pool as the other two swimmers had brought support crew (I know!) and then I noticed a shape really near the pool. I was hoping that this was the lap counter telling me it was half way as I could feel a drop in pace though I could not pin point where in my body the reduced strength was. She said nothing that I could hear as I turned so I swam on. On my next turn I felt her tap me and call out "you've done enough laps". I really couldn't believe it so I stopped and checked "Me? One mile, are you sure?!" I really felt ok! I had done 84 laps in 46 minutes 50 seconds. I was dead chuffed (I can't believe I just used such an English phrase) and expected when I got out to feel a wreck but again I felt fine, just thirsty. 

I waited till the 2.5km girl finished as she was only 15 laps away and gave her a cheer then set about asking where I get my medal from. I only do these things for the medal! 

I was so pleased to have broken some mythical distance barrier. While breaststroke is my preferred stroke it showed me that I have the capacity to do distance swimming I just need to learn technique and build strength. And learn sighting, and swim open water. And... But for now let me just enjoy the medal!

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