13th challenge completed – Swimming

Yesterday I completed the 2.5k swimathon challenge.

The swimming challenge was a bit like the athletics challenge in that I could have easily just picked a short distance to complete, ticked it off and moved onto the next one. In truth I didn’t know what I was going to do for swimming until one day I came across the Sportsrelief leaflet at my local sports centre.

A few days later, I had signed up for the 2.5k swimathon for Sportsrelief. Rhian also signed up so the plan for the next few weeks was for us to train together and slowly build up to the distance. I think we only swam together once, but it was still good to share the experience of training for something new.

It took me a couple of weeks before I got in the pool as I was finding it difficult to fit in the swimming around my marathon training. The first swim was tough, I managed around 750m and had my head above water for the whole thing – I couldn’t get used to the breathing. The next session I progressed to alternating between a proper stroke and keeping my head above the water. But it soon started coming back to me and after the 3rd or 4th swim I was up to half distance and starting to feel confident that I would be able to complete the 2.5k. In the meantime, Rhian was smashing the swims – going further, faster and swimming more often than I was.

I was still at a maximum of 1,5k when I broke down with tendonitis after a 18mile long run as part of my marathon training. Whilst this was bad news for the running it was good news for the swimming. I swapped 3 runs for 3 swims, with a longest effort of almost 2k. I was almost there – the only problem was that I was still in marathon training and as my weekly mileage increased to close to 40 miles I didn’t have the energy to do anything else, so in the last 4 weeks before the big day I only managed 2 swims, both around half the target list. For the two weeks leading up to the swimathon I also spent every evening trying to work out how to fit the 2.5k into my marathon training. I wanted to be fresh for the swim but without cutting back too much on my runs. Luckily (or unluckily) the swim was two weeks before the marathon and therefore I am currently in my taper phase. So on Saturday morning I ran 12 miles as planned, stretched, foamed rolled and iced in preparation for the swim.

So yesterday, the day had arrived – however we weren’t swimming until 6pm so we had the build up of a whole day. I don’t know why we were nervous but we both were. My parents had come up to watch (thanks for the photos) so at least there would be people cheering us on, not that you can hear that much in the pool. The event was a lot more low-key that we’d thought with around 20 other swimmers taking part at the same time as us. Rhian was in lane 5 and I somehow managed to get lane 1 all to myself. So at 6pm off we went – we’d been training in a 25m but Gurnell in Ealing opened up the 50m pool. Great experience, but psychologically a lot harder and probably slightly harder as you don’t get to push off the side as often.

After the initial adrenaline rush of being part of an event, I quickly slipped into my cruise mode and my pace was similar to my training swims. I had a white hat on (the swimmers in each lane had different colour hats to make it easy to count), although it didn’t really matter for me as I was the only person in my lane. Despite this I’m sure the guy counting my lengths wasn’t really paying much attention and at the point I had done 40 lengths of the 50m pool, he wasn’t looking so I had to shout and ask how many to go. He said 12. I probably had only done 38 but wasn’t the most reassuring response.

Anyway, I completed the swim in around 1h 11m – about what I thought. Rhian finished in 1 h 1 min 1 second. She was slightly gutted not to finish in under an hour.

Overall, it was a great experience and the first time I’ve swam regularly since primary school. It was also help for the triathlons, although I might need to swim front crawl for those.

Feeling a bit stiff today so I have taken a day’s rest before getting back on the marathon training. 2 weeks to go until I hopefully achieve my goal of a sub-4 hour finish.

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