#Challengeaccepted 

It’s been nearly three months, since my last post. Obviously, I have been very neglectful, of my blog, that’s not because I haven’t been swimming, far from it. I have been swimming lots…

There is little point in me doing, as originally planned a post about every single swim, for Arthritis Care,  but I will summarise the past three months.

It’s been amazing!!!

On the 8th April, I partook in Marie Curie swimathon. My swim, though, didn’t go quite as I’d planned. On the day in question I woke with the start of, what wato transpire to be, a heavy cold which then developed in a chest infection and resulted in a severe exacerbation of my asthma, This swim, was to be my last swim, for three weeks. Despite this, I still swam it, in 1 hour 24 minutes and three seconds, smashing my previous PB for 2,5km and swimming nearly six minutes, under the time my coach, told me to aim for. My previous PB was 1 hour 50 minutes and 28 seconds.

I have my tee-shirt and my medal, the medal I display with pride and the T-shirt I wear with pride. Unfortunately, it’s white and the first wearing, I dropped curry down it, no amount of soaking and washing, have shifted the stain!

Going back, to the swim itself. I swam it at “Chester le Street Pool” near Durham, the dated interior and freezing waters, where more than made up for, by the amazing staff. They shouted, cheered and hollered me, to the finish line. 

I was the only one, taking part, but that didn’t stop them making an effort. My final lengths were swam with, “Calvin Harris, This is what you came for”, blasting out. it was particularly meaningful, as the pool who I had previously booked it, to swim it at, cancelled at the last minute “as not enough people “had signed up”.
Then, it was on to the next challenge.,,

This was planned, to start on the 13th April and was my much anticipated and planned “marathon challenge”.  I reluctantly, had to pistpone this challenge, due to my asthma. 

Finally, on the 4th May I started, only 5 days after my enforced 3 week break, on account of my asthma. It goes without saying, it was incredibly tough. 

I had to make a lot of sacrifices and I hated, how it led to me feeling that I was putting swimming, before my friends. I had to be so focused and disciplined.

Arthritis Care Week was the 8th-14th May 2017, my plan was to swim at least 10km, during that week. This equates to an Olympic Swim Marathon-in the end I swam 13.1km during AC week. 

The other aspect, of this challenge, was to swim the  equivalent distance of the London Marathon, from the 4th May-4th June. Two and half weeks, into my challenge, I came into contact with two people, with colds. I knew a cold, would destroy any chance I might have of completing my challenge, so I made the decision to complete it as quick, as I could.

I pushed myself hard, to hard, swimming 15km in just 5 days. I also finished on Tuesday 30th May-5 days early. It was a brilliant evening , several members of the branch, sat at the side of the pool encouraging and supporting me to the end. Then the celebrations began, wine and procesco was drunk and congratulations given.

I totally crashed, after this. I slept much of the following  and mt arthritis went into a massive flair up, but it was so worth it. The sense of achievement, is amazing. 

My coach often states that we often don’t do things, because our mind tells us, we can’t, but often we are capable of doing far more than we believe we can. This was certainly true, of this challenge. Despite severe asthma, for which I’m on 10 different medications, polyarthalgia/osteoarthritis, gluteal neuropathy and significant muscle damage to my back, I swam over 26 miles (42200m) in three weeks and two days. I couldn’t, however of done it without the support of my friends and members of Arthritis Care.

During this challenge I threw in lots of micro challenges, I improved my front crawl distance, from 200m to 1500m and I am regularly doing half a mile, freestyle sets, now. My next plan, is to add tumble turns, into this.

My one mile PB is now 47 mins and a few seconds and my 2km PB sits at just over a hour, by a few seconds. Fourteen months ago, my one mile PB was one hour and 8 mins, so this represents, huge progress.

I also completed my longest distance swam, in one session, 4km. This wasn’t swam, without stopping, but only took 2 hours 50 mins to complete. My next aim, is 5km. 

 Then, finally, in the middle of May, I took part in the “mile in an hour challenge” for the Alzheimer’s Society. I swam this, un memory of my amazing grandma, who suffered (and I mean really suffered) from Alzheimers Disease, prior to her passing in 2003. 

I was, initially, a little disappointed with my time of 50mins and 35 seconds. My total swim distance, in the hour was 1900m, I’d aimed for 2000m, however it was a tough swim. The pool lacked “anti-wave ropes’, with at least 12 people in the pool, it was, at best, choppy, making swimming harder work. It also meant, that when freestyle  (frontcrawl) breathing, I was often hit, with a faceful of water.

It also didn’t help, that midway through, someone swam into me, head first, resulting insome minor bruising, it was more of a shock and took a while to get back into the pattern of swimming. 

So that is currently, where I am up to. Hopefully, my next post will appear, a lot quicker than it took me to post this.

Training off to a great start

My training started in ernest tonight and I’m really happy with how it went.

The pool was much quieter, than is has been of late, I’m suspecting the colder weather and threat of snow has put a few people off. Possibly some of the “New Years Resolution Gang” can’t face the idea of going outside , after swimming, in to the icy wind. Cold weather, in all likelihood, sorts some of the wheat from chaff, when it comes to making a long term swimming commitment. I’m making a assumptions here, of course!

Anyhow, I started with a 50m warm up. I was amused to reach the end of the lane, after my first 25, to witness a couple, who had got in just after me, having a massive argument. She was resorting, to splashing him with large amounts of water, as a means of marking her ire with him. Saves throwing plates, I guess. Maybe its a damage limiting exercise,  go to your local pool for an argument, instead of throwing crockery in frustration and smashing the furniture, throw some water instead! 

I was quite suprised, on the return journey, swimming front crawl, that my lungs felt uncomfortable. Clearly there was some inflammation/muscle tightness in my lungs as a result of my asthma. 

I decided to swim, mainly breaststroke in the early stages of my swim. This is a difficult call, I usually alternative breaststroke and frnot crawl, with distances of equal length.  Breast stroke is much easier on my lungs, bit puts much more pressure on my joints. Fortunately, as time went on and I became more “warmed up” my lungs improved and front crawl became easier

The other thing, I was working on today, along with completing a long swim, was prevent or at least reducing the painful cramp I experience in my feet and ankles. I’ve read a number of articles,which suggest dehydration is a culprit in causing this. 

Usually,  when I swim a distance, I don’t like to stop, but this means I can be swimming up to two hours, with out fluids. If the gym, you know how much fluid your loosing, in the pool you have no idea. Therefore, I built regular, fluid breaks into my swim. This also allowed me to have two puffs my salbutamol inhaler, each time I stopped.

Every 15 or minutes, I would stop, have a few sips of water, 200mcg of salbutamol and off I’d go again. Intrestingly, cramp was much less of a problem, today. It also proved to be a good way, of breaking down a long swim. Next time, I will try half an hour and see how I feel, before deciding when to fit in my fluid breaks. 

The pool, did get busier as time went along, from 7pm-8pm, it was ladies only. There was only myself and one of two other’s seemed too be undertaking serious swimming. It clearly highlights to me, just how many adult’s,  seem never to have, had the opportunity. I also noticed, that quite a large majority where excercising mainly, their mouth. It’s good, that the pool provides a social space, bit how many will return home, thinking that they have completed a decent amount of swimming, when in reality have achieved little in the way of aerobic exercise, one of the greatest benefits swimming can, if done properly provide. 

As I swam, I became aware of the fact I was experiencing a significant amount of.pain in my right wrist and shoulder. Clearly my arthritis was accompanying me, in the pool! Fortunately, it didn’t get to the “unbearable point” and I was able to carry on. 

On Monday, I had been forced to abandon my swim, thanks to, two ladies swimming side by side, chatting. This time, I decided I needed to be brutal. If someone was in my way, rather than getting frustrated and give up, I knew I had to find a way of keeping going.

Most of the time I was able to swim round them, even it meant swimming a slightly greater distance,  but a couple of times I was forced to swim through them. 

On one particular occasion,  half way up the lane, four ladies were swimming a slow breaststroke, side by side, chatting. A shoal of women! Not wanting to sound like an exert from “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”, but I knew that I could get round them, nor could I swim under them. I couldn’t stay behind them, as their pace was far too slow. I just had to go through them, and I did. Head down, arms outstretched, I put myself into the gliding position, literally barged my way through the middle. It wasn’t the most decorious way, to deal with it or, if the truth be told, polite. But it was, the only way to continue. Coming back in the opposite direction, I saw them again, in their little pack, coming towards me, so did they and they scattered, swimming off, in different directions, before again reforming their ranks, re-comencing their conversation!

I would like to take the opportunity here, to apologise. I probably come across as opinionated and bitchy. I don’t intend to, it’s just sometimes, it gets frustrating. 

It’s impossible to run sessions for social swimmers and serious swimmers, it just wouldn’t be practical, but sometimes I wish I could, get in the pool and “just swim” without having to be considering how to circumnavigate round other people.

I also had a couple of folk crash into me, easy done and their apologies are accepted. If you’re swimming with your head up, you can see me in advance. For most of my swims, I’m looking, mainly at the pool floor, I don’t have a periscope on my goggles, unfortunately. Nor am I able, to take my eye out, lift it up and look round, like Mr Potato Head in Toy Story! 

Despite all of this, I had a great, first training swim. Along with the 50m at the he beginning, I swam a further 2300m in one hour and thirty minutes. My previous best for 2500m was one hour 51 minutes, so this shows to me, a marked improvement in speed. 

The last 500 metres, was exhausting. I felt like I had nothing left, in the tank, despite raiding my work’s Christmas sweetie tin, earlier in the afternoon! It felt like, every single stroke, was a hard work and I knew I was depleting already depleted resources, but I had decided to swim till 7.50pm and I was determined to do this. And I did. 

I climbed, gratefully out of the pool, really happy with my swim, but desperate for a rest. I ached and my left hand was tingling, telling me that I had irritated the nerve damage, in my upper spine. 

To help me recover a little, I parked myself up in the steam room. It was great, not to have to share it it big, burly blokes, dressed only in their speedo budgie smugglers. Where else would it be perfectly normal and acceptable, to sit in a room with a group of blokes, clad only in, in essence, their pants? It was nice too, to be able to relax, without being surrounded by blokes vying for supremacy, with each other, in someway. 

Five minutes later, I emerged from this steam fIlled enclosure, feeling revived. I spotted a thing of beauty. A empty pool, it’s surface, like a millpond. It was opportunity too good to miss. With four minutes to closing time, I got back in. 

I still felt, utterly exhausted, but to be able to swim in an empty pool was too good an opportunity. It had to be taken. 

I swam a further three lengths, 50m butterfly, reaching the end of the pool the lifeguard shouted “we’re closed love, time to get out”. Please, one more back to the bottom?  I set off, to find all eyes on me, as I flayed my way to the end. 

Yes the pool was closed to the public, but the local swimming club had just arrived for training and these were the elite swimmers. Goodness what they all thought, as they saw me splashing my way down the pool. I might judge other other people’s swimming style. 

Anyway I will end with a summary of the main swim, today. 

, they must have had similar thoughts about me!

Next big challenge…

Over the last few months, I’ve filled this blog, with generally waffle posts. 

This year I am going to undertake Marie Curie Swimathon, the 30th one, and a swimming challenge to raise funds for Arthritis Care, Gateshead Branch. 

My aim is, and I think I’ve mentioned this previously, is to swim “a marathon in a month, with a marathon in a week”.

I know this sounds  a little confusing, but I will explain. 

A marathon,  when ran, is 26.195 miles or just under, 42200m. A swimming marathon, is 10km. So my plan is to swim 42200m in a month (1688 lengths of a 25 pool), with at least 10km (400 lengths) being swam in the final week. Arthritis Care week. 

Obviously, I can’t just dive in there and swim it. It will take 2-3 months before hand of training, building up my distances and further increasing my fitness.

Training, of any kind, is a bit tougher right now, because the pools are busier and some people seem unfamiliar with the “rules of the pool”. 

Last Saturday, I was swimming on the pools “training lanes” only to have someone swim into me, head first, as they were swmiming on the wrong side of the lane.

On Monday, I was forced to abandon my plan to swim 2km, after I was joined by two social swimmers, who swam a slow “breast stroke” side by side, while chatting, making it impossible to swim at any pace but theirs. Overtaking resulted in being kicked, as the had a wide legged, scissor kick, in opposed to a frog type kick, resulting in flailing legs!

The life guards are supposed to intervene in situations like this, but failed to and speaking to their manager didn’t help either. 

Anyway, my focus over the next fews will be on my training and preparation for this challenge and this blog, I hope, will help chart some of this.