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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Race your pace – Eton Dorney half marathon

A slightly delayed update.

3 weeks ago as part of my training for the Greater Manchester Marathon I ran the Race your pace – Eton Dorney half marathon.

2 weeks before this I had by first major set back on my marathon training. After a relatively comfortable 18 mile run around Richmond park I started to feel some pain in my left knee. The pain became worse the next day and it was beginning to feel uncomfortable to walk. I went to get it checked out and the injury was diagnosed as patella tendonitis. Not good, but not as bad as it could have been. I took some anti-inflammatories, took a week off running and undertook daily rehabilitation exercises. I also went swimming a few times to maintain my fitness.

After the week I gradually started to build up the running again and by the end of the week it was time for the half marathon. I had contemplated not taking part as my injury had not completely healed. I decided to go ahead as I really wanted to break the 1.50 mark and a good half marathon time would give me a good prediction of what is possible for the full marathon.

The weather leading up to the half marathon wasn’t very good. A large part of the UK was experiencing flooding, many of these areas very close to the race, and the night before we had winds up to 90 miles/hour. On the morning of the race, the rain had stopped but the winds were still very strong and the course was very exposed.

Anyway, here comes the good stuff. I met up with a few people before the race who are on the runnersworld forum (details previous post). This really helps as having other runners to talk to and share stories with in the hour or so before the gun takes your mind off the race and has a calming influence. The organisation for the race was fantastic, the volunteers were really helpful, the facilities were excellent and there was lots of free energy products to pick from at the start.

10am – off I went. There was only 400 odd runners so unlike some of the larger races that I’ve done in the past it was quite an easy get away and everyone quickly spread out. As the name of the race suggests, there were various pacers at 6,7,8,9,10 min/miles. I was targetting a sub 1.50 so went off at around 8.15/8.20min/miles and as a lot of people were running with a particular pace group I found that I spent a lot of time running on my own.

The race was 4 laps around Eton Dorney lake. After the first kilometer it quickly became apparent how strong the wind was. For about a mile on each lap we had a really strong side wind trying to push us into the lake. Strangely though, I always felt that if I could get through this part on each lap then the rest of the lap would feel like a recovery period. So I used this lap after lap and as the race went on I was feeling stronger and stronger. My splits were moving up and up and I kept on setting myself new goals. Sub 1.49, 1.48 until I thought maybe I could even go under 1.47. I felt so strong with 1.5 miles to go that I increased my pace to around 7.30 min/miles. I wasn’t really paying attention to the overall time, just the average pace so when I crossed the line in 1.46.07 I couldn’t believe it, a 6 minute personal best. I was ecstatic.

So I picked up my medal and technical t-shirt and caught up with my fellow runners. Everyone had a new PB so it was smiles all round. I went away feeling very positive. My knee is not 100% but I am managing it and confident that if I can stay injury free for the next few weeks that a sub 4 hour marathon is within my reach.

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