Day 127 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swimming Adventure

Felt really grubby on Sunday night after not being in the pool for four days and had everything ready in the car to get going first thing today. That said, I almost did not get up at 5am this morning. Really had to force myself to a “heroic moment” of sorts just getting out of bed. And then still felt very cold and tired all the way to the pool.

After a longer warm-up, I was back at home in the water though. And loving it.

(CC Image by Hopscotchbaby via DeviantArt)
(CC Image by Hopscotchbaby via DeviantArt)

No regrets.

Training summary today: 1:23:24 of swimming, 4700 meters, 188 lengths at an overall average of 1:42/100m, SWOLF of 34, and burned 1300 kCal

  • 300m warm-up at 1:38/100m free
  • 1550m free at 1:37/100m cruisy but not dithering
  • 1350m free at 1:38/100m cruisy
  • 100m kickdrills with pullbuoy as kickboard
  • 100m kickdrills on the back
  • 350m back with pullbuoy (nice and relaxed, 2:02/100m)
  • 100m back in 1:58 (still quite relaxed)
  • 4 sets of 100m individual medley (butterfly/back/breast/free at 25m each), at a time of 1:41 (fastest) to 1:54 (slowest) per 100m
  • 450m cool down (slow free, with some shenanigans to relax)

Pool was very full today, fuller than I have seen it any morning since I started my 6am-stints. Maybe it is because it is spring, and the sun rises a lot earlier? Or because there has been a bit of swimming in the mainstream mass media? Anyway. No real complaints here: Had half a lane to myself. Mind you, I had to wait with butterfly till the large breast stroker had left (even with freestyle I hugged the lane rope). But at least no cowboys jumped in my way. And the little butterfly I get in is not really a big deal anyway.

Day 100 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swimming Adventure: Cracking the 1k in under 15 minutes – and some lessons from the first hundred days

OK, first off: Yay! I did it! In less than 15 minutes!

Yesterday, on the morning of day 99 since setting out on this adventure, I reached a major milestone: I swam the 1k in under 15mins. The watch says it took me precisely 14:50 minutes to do 1000 meters (in the 25 meter pool I train most mornings). Yes, dear haters, distinctly un-impressive by some standards, but for me, personally, an achievement that took a lot of work.

(In case you haven’t noticed, I am bloody pleased with myself.)

(CC Image via Flickr by uberof202)
(CC Image via Flickr by uberof202)

This is not just a personal best, but a milestone that I set for myself many months ago. It feels good to set goals and then work towards achieving them, then reaching them. Especially when trying to achieve them has many side benefits, like keeping you happy, healthy and sane.

Since today marks the 100th day since I set out on this adventure, let me draw up a quick summary of the main points/events on the journey so far:

  • Gradually increased the swimming load from hitting the pool 2-3 times a week for practices over 1-3.5k to a daily 4-5k every morning, Monday to Friday. Which means that I swim about 20k a week currently. And I plan to do more.
  • Cracked the 5k distance in the 25m pool
  • Changed my daily routine to get up at 5am and swim from 6am to 7.30am-ish every morning (not weekends).
  • Changed my diet to a liquid breakfast and eating within a 12-hour-timeframe during the week
  • Given that I burn about 1500 kcal every morning in the water, too, I have lost almost 10kg of weight
  • I have not experienced any back pain since Day 1 of this adventure, and feel much healthier, fitter, etc.
  • Unlike normally, I did not succumb to any of the bugs and viruses that family members, friends and colleagues fell ill with

And, yep, I learned some important lessons so far that I hope to remember when the going will get tough (as it invariably does). Here are four that I want to share with you:

  1. Persistence really is key. Make yourself “auto-persistent”: Change your habits to “bake in” your workout (or whatever it is) into your day. Make it routine. Stick to it.
  2. Persistence comes from priorities! Ruthlessly prioritize your life. My – and most likely your – absolute priority, from which everything flows, is my identity. (Sidenote: Sure, you don’t have to be religious to have a sound anchorage in life and death, but boy does it help.) Knowing who you are and why you are here on this planet in turn helps you to focus. My focus is on my vocation as firstly a husband to my beautiful wife, secondly a father to those crazy kids, thirdly a professional worker, and so on. So, I hear you ask, where does swimming come into all of this? Well, it is essential! But “only” because it allows me to properly function in all these roles. Just like sound rest, good nutrition, and other things that are essential. (I wish young swimmers, some of whom get depressed from having swimming as the main goal in life, knew and understood this. Swimming – or any other activity – is not a raison d’etre by itself.)
  3. Persistence can be helped! Do what ever helps you to keep at it, within reason. Cameraderie or team training, friendships, saving up for excellent gear, finding inspiration by socialising with others passionate about the sport, online or offline….and write about it! One of the stated purposes of this blogging business is to keep me motivated and have a kind of public record out there to hold myself somewhat accountable. Your mileage may vary, but for me this has really worked.
  4. Regularly remind yourself: What would happen if I did not go down this path? How did I feel before making the change? This throws into stark relief the many fundamental motivational factors that can be clouded over by short-term concerns or moods – and makes you realise: You don’t really have an alternative that is preferable. Boom. Back to 1.

Though I rarely quote from the Bible, there is a real doozy from Psalm 103. A phrase that sums all of this up rather nicely, and using the metaphor of water no less:

inter medium montium pertransibunt aquae (the waters will pass through the midst of the mountains)

Day 38 of the Great Big Marathon Swim Adventure: A week of getting up at 5:30 – plus nutrition, training plans and the thing about sprints

This is close to what my daily smoothie breakfast looks like, err, sometimes...just imagine about three glasses of that in a big Nalgene bottle. (CC Image:  Zoelizabeth via Wikimedia Commons)
This is close to what my daily smoothie breakfast looks like, err, sometimes…just imagine about three glasses of that in a big Nalgene bottle. (CC Image: Zoelizabeth via Wikimedia Commons)

Tomorrow, Friday, will mark the first week of getting up at 5:30 am, driving 45 minutes to the pool, then getting a subway to work every morning.

The initial euphoria has worn off, as was to be expected. That has advantages, too: Getting up at 5:30 still is a challenge, but my body clock woke me just before the alarm today and I actually felt like I’d finished sleeping (instead of interrupting my sleep).

It is simple, really: the single biggest benefit of hitting the pool first thing is the fact that I make sure I get my swim in for the day. Boom. The important other benefits I have already written about – they are ongoing of course …and they are the main reason why I intend to keep doing this.

With the new routine locking in, I can focus on the next items: nutrition and an actual training plan for instance. Whilst I will avoid any strict plans, simply because that would remove much of the pleasure and feeling of freedom I get from swimming, I need a modicum of a training schedule to improve my times and endurance. After all, the goal is to swim a 5k Open Water race in a few months and a 10k race next year (2016). So far, I have just lurked around a few websites and forums (instead of doing actual research), and they confirmed to me that I should add some sprints to the mix.

So on two days this week, I played with sets of sprints. This morning, I warmed up for 300meters, then swam a straight 2k in 33:06 minutes, then added some mixed kick drills. With that under my belt, I put on the paddles, grabbed the pull buoy and with both equipped did a set of 12x50ms. On average I swam the 50m in 40secs, then took a breather of about 10secs, then hit the water again. I tried to increase the stroke rhythm, which is challenging with paddles, but it felt good (as in painful thus effective). I hope this will help me build strength and increase my “cruising” speed over longer distances.

Overall, I swam 3300m – 131 laps – in 54:30 minutes with a SWOLF of 33 (against my usual 35, for what it’s worth). And I burned 867kcals apparently – though the pasta I had for lunch more than made up for that I fear.

Speaking of nutrition: I am drinking a lot less tea and coffee with the new routine, and boy do I love my liquid breakfasts! Lunch is usually quite healthy, too. But man I need to pay more attention to what else I eat throughout the day, and stay away from the snacks after dinner in particular.