Swimathon….minus 5 days

With Swimathon only 5 days away, if you’re swimming on the Friday, it’s time to think about preparing for the event itself.

Swimathon is an amazing evening, for the participant it is also a process. You sign up, often excitedly, then you begin your training. For some people training is relatively easy, they have easy access to a pool and are confident in their swimming abilities.

For some, it’s much less so. Pool access can be difficult, due to costs (my local pool is £5 a swim) and due to financial cutbacks, usually 3 or 4 pools of the 5 pools, in my borough, are closed or hired out in an evening. People have work, family and other commitments. Some people find themselves facing fear of water, of swimming. Some participants may find themselves struggling with swimming itself. This is what makes the new 400m challenge, so good. It’s an attainable distance when 60 lengths seems overwhelming.

I too, will be partaking in the 400m, hoping to swim it all freestyle and in less than 10 minutes. It will be an achievement for me, to get in the pool and swim it, without a warm up. Those who swim it against the background of such challenges, will have achieved far more than I have, times don’t matter, it’s participating and completing their challenge, that is important.

I find myself in the privileged position, of being a member of a gym with a 25m pool. I am also a confident swimmer, often being happier in the pool, than on land! Swimming 5km over 3 days, will still prove challengingly, dealing with fatigue and aching muscles.

So with Swimathon just a few short days away, now is the time to begin to prepare for the day itself.

Training

Your training should be concluding, swimming up until the day of your event, or in my case, events, is not usually beneficial. particularly if you’re swimming a longer event. A period of rest, before your event, helps you to recover in preparation for the event itself.

I have one training swim left, 2400m, 6x400m, I plan to head to the pool at 6pm tonight, complete it and then it’s 4 days off.

Plan

I always find it helpful, to have a plan in mind as to how I will complete my swim, in particular my 1.5km and 2.5km. In 2016, I had no plan, I just wanted to finish it. Last year, my plan was to swim it alternate 50m free, 25m breaststroke.

On the day itself though, my confidence alluded me. I swam it alternating 25m freestyle and 25m breaststroke. In was delighted with my time, smashing my PB by over 25 minutes, yet I knew that I would of gone faster still, had I swam it as I’d planned. This year I have a plan in mind, I appreciate it might not work on the day, but I decided to commit the final two weeks of training on building up my times and freestyle distances, aiming to swim 10 miles in my 2 weeks.

I have been really encouraged by how it has gone, in fact it has gone far better than I anticipated. My PB for 400m has tumbled, by over 40 seconds to 9m 33.1 seconds. I learnt that I can get in the pool and swim 400m freestyle, with no warm up. It has really boosted my confidence.

Kit

This is not a good time, to change your kit! Last year I purchased new goggles, ready for the event. My old ones fogged. I didn’t want foggy goggles. The new ones I discovered, on my first length, leaked. I was able to sort them out, but I had to careful, when pushing away from the wall, as not to allow a tidal wave of water into my goggles.

Make sure your happy and comfy, in your costume. I’ve had costumes that have chaffed, you’re also going to be in a public arena, so are you comfortable in your costume/jammers/trunks.

Food and sleep

Get plenty of both, but make sure you eat the right food, particularly if you’re doing a longer distance. Lots of carbohydrates and protein, fresh fruit and veg. Try to stay away from processed food. Swimming 5km isn’t a reason to head to BK or McDonalds, on a regular basis!! Also drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated.

Medication

This doesn’t apply to all, but if you need regular medication, particularly for a condition, that could effect your swimming ability, make you have enough and take it as prescribed. As someone with arthritis and severe asthma, I make sure I’m well stocked up. Ensure you have what you need, at the event.

Emotions

Many people are totally chilled about the whole event, but if your first Swimathon, you may find yourself incredibly nervous. Think through how you will deal with this. You may find, as a result of adrenaline, nerves and just taking part, you go off too fast, factor into your final training swims, how you will manage this.

Be prepared also, for your emotions to be a bit overwhelming after the event, particularly if you’re swimming in memory of someone. Be proud of what you’ve achieved.

Sponsorship

You’re swimming for two amazing charities, tell people what you’re doing and why. Get your just giving page, out there. Carry a sponsorship form, with you.

Location, location, location

If your event isn’t at your local pool, find out where it is and how to get there and how long it will take. Look on street view, either drive yourself or get someone to drive you there. Or do a trial run on public transport, if this is how you plan to get to your venue.

Finally

I will post again, in a day or two, about preparing your kit bag and preparations 24 hours before the event.

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Freestyle frustrations

Overall, I feel happy with my training and progress. I am pretty satisfied that I in a position where, I will be able to complete my swims, in the time frames I am aiming for, that is:

400m-10minutes

1500m-45minutes

2500m-1 hour 15 minutes

But, before Swimathon 2018 is even completed, I am planning for 2019. I want to swim 5km, at the London Aquatic Centre. To this end, I want to develop my freestyle (front crawl) further and to this end, I decided to look at the possibility of an intensive course. There’s bound to be something suitable I thought, in my ignorance.

Since this point I have spent many a fruitless hour searching Google. Google’s own search results haven’t helped in this regard, providing me with many random results. I’ve put in “adults”, Google comes back options for 9-16 year olds. Uk? No problem, here’s a swim school in New York. Swimming pool? Here’s a lake in Mexico that might suffice!

After searching through these inaccurate results, I’m really no further forward…many of the courses on offer, are for none swimmers. The cost, of some of these courses is astounding, £700 for 2 days or £1000 for 4, with 6 hours tuition, with the cost of the lesson amounting to £75 per hour! To the ”average person”, this will be way beyond their means. It’s certainly beyond mine.

Other options where a ”intermediate course”, this sounded more promising, but the small print revealed that the pool was only 11metre in length, meaning that with the six people, the course accommodated, there would be minimal opportunities for swimming.

Other courses are held in a pool, but with the focus on open water. Open water swimming is something I want to explore, in the future, but I’m not ready yet. One of my goals this year, is to swim in Tooting Bec Lido, which is 91metres long and I’m determined to utilise to outdoor swimming pools, in the North East of England, this year.

I beginning to conclude that finding a freestyle swim development course, that suits me and budget, is not available in the UK. To this end, I’m going to look for a Masters Group I can join, not to be a competitive swimmer, but to develop as a swimmer.

This, I feel, in conclusion may prove to be the better option. Aside from the fact, that the costs are considerably less, it will allow for continued, and supported, development in opposed to a short, sharp burst of development, offered by a course.

Training and progress

It’s hard to believe, Swimathon is now only two and half weeks away. My emotions, in relation to the event are that of nervous excitement.

I feel I could of trained more, but the general demands of a busy life, combined with the impact of “The Beast from the East”, resulted in me spending less time than I would have liked, at the pool. That said, I feel generally satisfied, with my progress, overall.

One of my swims, is 400m or 16 lengths, this distance is relatively short for me, but it’s a great distance, for a beginner. I was going to attempt to swim it, using tumble turns in opposed to open turns, however I still don’t feel overly confident with tumble turns and the safety aspect also concerns me. If the lane is busy, tumble turns in opposed to open turns, means that I won’t be able to quickly glance up the lane and assess where my fellow swimmers are.

I do however, want to swim the entire distance freestyle. Freestyle is my preferred stroke, but one that took me two years to be able to swim more than 2 lengths continually.

It was only last May, that I was finally able to swim longer distances, freestyle or front crawl. Unfortunately, there was a protracted period, between September and November, last year, where I was only able to swim short distances. This was because I was swimming either in busy pools, or recovering from back to back chest infections. It was to take till early February, this year, before I was once again able to Swim 500m freestyle.

I have not though, attempted to swim more than 100m freestyle, without a warm up period. This is usually 8 sets of 50m. This will not be an option, on the day I undertake my 400m challenge. To this end, I have been really focusing on swimming 400 and 500m freestyle sets. The last week, I have twice swam 400m without a warm up, aside from stretching, at the pool side. This has been a real confidence boost. I now know I can do it, however I know that to replicate this, on the day, I will need to control my breathing and not go out too fast. Something that may prove difficult, in the midst of the nervousness and excitement of Swimathon.

I also would like to swim it in less than 10 minutes. My PB is 9minutes 55 seconds. I appreciate though, that my time will be dependent on a number of factors. I will be tired to start with, the lane may be busy and also, I have two niggling injuries.

I plan to continue to train, until the Monday before Swimathon. It is my plan to swim a total of 15km, in the two weeks leading up and my training plan looks like this.

Monday 2.3km (already swam)

Thursday 2.5km

Friday Aquafit and 1 mile

Sunday 2.5km

Monday 2km

Thursday 2.5km

Friday Aquafit

Sat 1 km

Sunday 2.5km

Monday what ever is left to bring me to 15km

The rest of the week, leading up to Swimathon will be resting, sleeping well and ensuring that I eat well and with plenty of carbohydrates in my diet.

I have a rough plan as to how I will swim my 1500m and 2500m swim and the times I am aiming for, but I will post about this, in more depth, the week before Swimathon.

Swimathon minus 4 weeks….

In less than four weeks time, my Swimathon challenge will be over, for 2018, then it’s on to training for the next one, the big one…5km at London Aquatic Centre in 2019.

Training has gone a bit of the rails, the “Beast from the East” struck, bringing with it lots of snow, ice and cold weather. It wasn’t the cold weather that prevented me from swimming, but rather the fact that leisure centres were shut for days. My car was also stuck in a snow drift! When The pools eventually re-opened, the water was freezing as the heating had been turned off or down, during their period of closure.

Life too, has generally been busy. I help at my local Guide and Brownie packs so that’s two evenings a week, taken up. Work too, has also been demanding. All this has contributed to a general feeling of lack of energy and “can’t be botherness”. I have however, continued my swim training, on a Saturday morning. This has been going well.

The main focus, this past term, has been the mastering of tumble turns. I had a head start on this, as I learnt how to tumble turn, during my 1:1 lessons. Confidence is main issue. Completing tumble turns, takes 2 to 3 seconds, but in those seconds, you have to get your distance, breathing and body position, correct. Much amusement has has ensued, as the four of us have each made some pretty hilarious errors. I’ve missed the wall, inhaled water and emerged spluttering and coughing. Thankfully, being a controlled environment, no serious injury has occurred.

It is also proving challenging, the fact that in training, I am swimming with those of different abilities. The pool is a 20m four lane pool, the lane I am assigned to is shared with three other swimmers, P, D and M. We get on well, but we are each of different abilities, speeds and attitudes to swim training. This can prove frustrating, at times, on occasions I have been unable to complete the main set, as I’ve found myself stuck behind another swimmer, or having to stop. I am not however, ready to move to a faster lane. I have discussed this with my coach and in response he has advised me, that he is going to give it some consideration over the Easter holidays.

Speaking of the Easter holidays, I plan to use this to my advantage. Having my evenings to myself, albeit temporarily, means I can fit a lot more training in. Over the Easter holiday period, I am planning to swim, at least 10km a week, this will mean at least four sessions in the pool. I know I am physically capable of it, I want to work on my freestyle technique, which I hope will be the main stroke I will swim, when completing my Swimathon Challenge.

Last night I swam 2600 metres, by means of a “ladder set”. A ladder set is essentially where you gradually increase and then decrease your distance, the ladder set I employed was six 50m, four 100m, two 200m and a 400m, then back down again. I really enjoyed it. I’m going to look for a more challenging ladder set, to complete as Swimathon gets even near.

Long time, no blog!

There are a number of things I want to share, on my blog. Swimathon is now only six and half weeks away 🤔🤔🤔 my training is going ok, but I know I need to dedicate more time to it. I am also regularly partaking in aquafit, I’m really enjoying that.

Life is somewhat busy, at the minute, but I’m hoping that things will settle fown soon. I am also planning on blogging far more frequently, than I have been. Hopefully, by the end of this week, there will be a couple od posts, completed.

I haven’t been completely failing to blog though, this week I am Swimathon’s Guest Blogger. You can read it here

Setting the pace.

Last weeks training went realy well, it also highlighted the fact that often we don’t know what we’re really capable of, until we try.

On Thursday, I made the decision, to give pacing a go. Essentially, after a 7-10 minutes warm up, you swim 100m, aiming for a given pace. At the swimming master class, Keri-Anne suggested that I aimed for 3mins/100m. This was based on the fact that I am aiming to complete my 2.5km, in 1 hour 20mins, thus improving my time, from last year.

The previous Monday, after aquafit, I’d swam 100m in 2.29. In responce to this,I made the decision to reduce my pacing time to 2.30min/100m

Going back to how a pacing session actually works, as previously stated you swim 100m, aiming for pace time. Then you swim a relaxed 100m and repeat for the number of times, given on the provided training plan, which on that da, ywas 4 sets, so in total 800m.

During the first set, I just tried to get the measure of how it would work, for me. There after, I swan 50m at a decent pace, 25m a reasonable pace and the final 25m, all out, belting down the pool, causing a near tsunami and soaking everyone, within a 10 metre radius!

I absolutely loved it. I found it so exhilerating, challenging myself. I was delighted with my times too 2 min 19, 2 min 14, 2 min 12 and 2 min 11. My rest sets, where themselves around 2 mins 30-40.

I followed this with a “distance swim” of 500m, continuous freestyle. My time was 13 mins and 6 seconds. This is a big improvement on 18 months ago, when I was averaging 14 mins per 400m. Admittedly I was alternating freestyle with breastroke then. With these times and with 10 weeks training to go, I am now considering reviewing my pace, I have put myself down as “slow to medium”. If things continue to progress, as well as they currently, this year I think I will be looking at my.pace a “medium-fast”.

Friday saw me back in rhe pool, for Aquafit. The “teacher” J proved to be very different in her approach, to C, who takes Sunday/Monday Aquafit. It was fast and high energy. 1980’s dance tunes pounded out, across the pool while J ran round tbe side pool, bellowing insteuctions, encouraging up to “work harder”.

Fifteen minutes in, I thougbt I was dying! I knew that, that was in actual fact a hyperbole. I wasn’t going to die! Though I knew I’d ache the next day. I knew however, it would be worth it.

I love the sensation of freedom, being in the pool brings, that I am able to move in ways, that would prove painful and difficult on land. I actually find it quite a strange experience, that when I get in the pool, it almost feels that I’ve left my arthritis on the side, along with my inhlaer and water bottle! I have also learnt to move in a relaxed manner and in ways that reduce the pressure on my joints, allowing the water to carry and support me.

I “survived” through to the end, I was really proud of myself for making it to the end.

As soon as I was able, ie midnight on the Friday. I booked for next week.

One amazing day

So, we come to Saturday. The Swimathon Ambassadors launch event…it really was a once in a life time event.

After enjoying a substantial breakfast, I rarely have a cooked breakfast, but today was day, that called for such start to the day.

I headed to the vast catherdral like structure, that is St Pancras Station.

she features on the launch video, but she spoke of a nurse, who bought her patient oranges, with the aim of bringing the orange groves of Spain, to him.\nT

There I met with, my fellow ambassador, Cadi, and also Melanie Berry, who I am grateful to, for helping it all to happen.

For there, it was on to Stratford

We tried, to meet up with a fellow ambassador, Stephen, but somehow we missed other, with Stephen arriving sometime after us.

Then it was onto the London Aquatic Centre and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. When it came in to view, I found it utterly awe inspiring. This was, in 2012, the world stage. The place where the Olympics and Paralympics were held, where elite athletes, who had trained and worked so hard, for many years, to earn “the right to be there” had come together, each representing their own country, to compete in there chosen sport. It was truely was, ne of many amazing moments, that day.

Stepping inside, we were greeted, by someone representing Swimathon. This was it, this really was it!

We were shown to the room, we were to be using that day. There was tea, coffee, juice and water laid out, along with an array of sandwiches, crisps and fruit. We really were, looked after. Some ambassadors had already arrived, others came in after us. It was so fantastic, to meet my fellow ambassadors, each with their own, inspirational story. I was so nervous!.

We were soon joined by Duncan Goodhew, the 1980 Moscow Olympics Gold medalist, who is president of Swimathon, having supported the event for many years. He was quickly followed byKeri Anne Payne, the Olympic silver medalist and Double World Champion, along various people from the charity partners and other agencies working with and supprting Swimathon.

After spending time, meeting and chatting to various people, including Duncan Goodhew and Keri-Anne Payne. It felt very surreal and I was pent up with nerves and running on adrenlin. I kept bursting into uncontrollable fits of giggles.

We then began with a round of introductions. Duncan, gave a very inspiring speach, which I regret not recording. It was brilliant! Duncan alao brought along his gold medal and i couldn’t help, but wear it myself. It was suprisingly heavy!

Then we heard from a number of other people. Those supporting the project and also from McMillan. One thing many people do not realise, is that McMillian support anyone requiring palliative care, not just those living with cancer.

Moving on, it was time to head to the pool, a quick change, and I was good to go. This is when I noticed something very important missing, my medic alert bracelet, which never leaves my right wrist. I thought I’d lost it in London. It later transpired, much to my relief it was at home.

I headed to the side of the pool, attired in my gorgeous swimming costume, courtesy of Zoggs, dropping stuff as I went. I have no idea why I didn’t just use, my “Finding Nemo” pool bag, to carry it all in.

We were asked, if we needed googles. I couldn’t remember where I’d put mine, I was so flustered and neevous. I wasn’t even sure, if I needed to wear Zoggs ones, as they are a Swimathon supporter. It was to transpire, that they were more comfortable, than my present ones!

Swimming masterclass

This was delivered by Keri-Anne Payne, Olymic silver medalist and double world champion. We started off, with a theory session, which I found incredibly informative and from which, I wrote copious notes and then it was into the pool. Having never before, swam at the London Aquatic Centre, it was an awe inspiring experience!

To start with, the focus was on “aquatic breathing”. Something I’m relatively comfortable with. Keri-Anne then spoke to us about rotation and how that leads in to the arm pull. I learnt a lot from this and it was reflected the following Saturday, when my coach pointed out, that my rotation was noticably improved.

She then asked each ambassador to swim, half a length, as to allow her to assess what we need to work on, on our front crawl. For me it was the fact that my arms, aren’t straight, at the beginning of the pull, but rather crossing over, in front of my head. Keri-Anne offered some really useful advice, on how to work on improving this.

We then were offered the opportunity, to have go at coaching each other. This I enjoyed, but found challenging at the same time. I feel like I’m being critical of someone, if I tell them what they could improve on.

Combined with the above, there was lots of fun and laughter, including a handstand challenge. Handstands, were never my strong point, having never mastered them on land. With a bit of practice, I cracked it. I’m yet to see the video!

It was an amazing, if slightly terrifying afternoon. Being videod and photographed, at every turn. Giving interviews, the results of which I, like many people who hear their recorded voice, I cringe at, really pushed out of my comfort zone, but I am proud of myself of doing it.

I count myself aa being immensely blessed to have been offered, such an amazing opportunity! It was great fun and I learnt a great deal and I wil cherish the memories of such an amazing time.

On completion of the masterclass, I headed to the changing rooms, but before heading off to get changed I was asked, by Mel, if I would like to swim a length in the 50m competition pool. The answer was an unequivocal yes!

I was taken aback, as to how cold the pool was and it took my lungs a few seconds to adjust. Then I set off down the pool! It was a “scrappy length”, but it was still a special xperience, for me, to swim in a pool that a few years ago, featured on the world stage. A pool where amazing things were achieved, dreams realised, records broken, medals won and for some, hopes were dashed.

It’s also a place where, for me, I was given a fabulous opportunity. I could have never have forseen 3 years ago, that learning to swim, would lead to a day, such as today. It was such a special day.

On exiting the pool, there was further filming to be done. I would love to know what people thought, as I casually walked through the chalnging rooms, with an entorage of people in tow, including photographer and a camera crew.

One hilarious momemt happended, when two boys came charging along, heading to the pool, only to come up short, stop suddenly and subsequently nearly fall over each other. I ended up, desperately trying to stop myelf from laughing. On film, Im sure I look like I’m laughing at myself, in the mirror!

We finished with a further question and answer session, a quick de-brief. The it was time to begin thr long journey home. I got completly confused on the journey back to Kings Cross, but eventually I made it and then on the train, arriving home, close to midnight. I was tired, but the happy tired that follows a fulfilling day.

Before I left though, I summoned up the courage to asked Duncan for his autograph, for a good friend friend of mine, who regards him as her hero. I also asked for his autogragh, for myself!

I walked back to Stratford Station, with another ambassador. We relived the day, neither of us could quite believe what had happened.

I met a number of inspiring and amazing people, that day. People who I know.regard as friends.

I leave you with a few more photos