Day 120 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swimming Adventure: Training log and some crazy stuff

First up, a summary of the session this morning:

Swam 4.725 (more like 4.9 – see below) kilometer all up. (That equals 190+ laps and 1318kCal)

  • Warm up of 200m casual free in 5:29 (plus about 150 or so, since the watch did not start at first attempt)
  • 100m butterfly in 1:50 (that hurt but got the heart pumping)
  • 100m butterfly/free in 1:41
  • 1k free as fast as I could keep up in 14:54 (=one second over my PB over that distance)
  • A “back/front pyramid” of sorts:
    • 200m backstroke with paddles and pullbuoy
    • 200m backstroke with pullboy
    • 200m backstroke
    • 100m back kick
    • 100m front kick
    • 200m free
    • 200m free with pull buoy
    • 200m free with pull buoy and paddles
  • Several short sets of free style drills (“chicken wings” and the like)
  • 1650m free at cruise pace in 26:53 (that’s 1:38/100m average) and overtaking/dodging a breast stroker and a cowboy intermittently

So what about the crazy stuff?

Sounds batty, but anecdotally this is true: Whenever I have the pool to myself at 6am, as I did this morning, experience has shown that by 7:30am, it is pretty chockers. It’s almost like there is a bunch of lurkers who will suddenly rock up whenever there is less than three people in the water. Call it the

“Law of Pool Occupancy” (LAWPO): Where any brief amount of time during which a pool is empty except for yourself will be followed by instances of sudden crowding and extended poor behaviour by less-than-competent bathers.

Probably the next thing people will start doing in the lap lane (CC Image via Florida Archives)
Probably the next thing people will start doing in the lap lane (CC Image via Florida Archives)

You see, there is always at least one instance of pool etiquette ignorance involved. Usually a “person”, to put it neutrally, that will try to swim in the one roped-off lane, but really shouldn’t. Today, it was an elderly breast stroker who suddenly decided to join another regular lap swimmer and myself. We just switched over to swimming clock-wise and cruising past. Then, of course, just as the breast stroker moved over into the normal swimming area (which had enough room in the first place, d’uh), a familiar pair of bathers suddenly appeared that belong to a middle-aged dude whose knowledge of pool manners is inversely proportionate to how well he thinks he can swim. At which point it decided, given it was 7.30 am and I had clocked almost 5k, this was a good point to leave the water for today.

Really, there is not much crazy stuff that happens between 6am and 8am in this little gym pool I frequent. But it is enough to warrant me writing a German language guide to going swimming and pool etiquette. It is in the works and I will add to it and then publish it as I get some time to do so.

In the meantime, I hope there will be one or two regulars with me in the water at 6am tomorrow, or I better brace myself for more silliness thanks to LAWPO.

Day 115 of the Great Big Marathon 10km Swimming Adventure: Just a perfect day …with Sammy Save-Up

(You don’t have to hum Lou Reed as you are reading this, but now you can’t help but hear the song in your head, right? Right??)

Oh it was just a perfect day. Certainly the start. Woke up ahead of the alarm clock, refreshed and ready. Left well on time and got to thepool just ahead of the gym’s opening time at 6am. And then had the whole pool to myself at first! I guess lots of people are off on their Easter hols this week. Felt really good and grateful to be able to carve up the lane like this so I decided to enjoy the situation as long as I could and skipped my warm up and stretches for the main set, a straight-up 5k swim. 

After about 1.5k or twenty-odd minutes one other regular joined in, just as I was getting bored. I took this as a sign to keep going. She did her usual morning rounds, then left soon after a friendly old guy (who always pops in for a round of awkward back paddling) rocked up. At this stage, my brain zoned out again for another k, and I experienced that awesome “flow”, to use the pop-psychological concept. Except that I did so both figuratively and literally, of course. 

You can actually buy Sammy Save-Up caps!

 And, just as I was about to approach the 3k mark, cruising comfortably and all alone again, a young chap jumped into the one swimming lane with me. He clearly not only felt like he was too fast for swimming in the now completely empty normal pool. Oh no. Like these guys (they’re always guys, never girls) usually do, he also thought he needed to keep up with me. And yes, he tried really hard! Sprinting like mad, he almost could keep up with me for about 25 m, then would slow down, then would either stop and wait for a few laps to try again or add in a lap of breast stroke. I just kept cruising. This went on for about 20 minutes and kept me somewhat entertained. The Sammy Save-Up, as this particular swimmer type is known, is a classic.  Then, after a brief attempt of using his gigantic pull-buoy to keep up, he left again. 

The last 1k or so I was left alone in my lane again, though some other guys hit the pool, and I swam out the full 5k in 1:23 hours, with a nice sprint over the last 200m. 

Since I had a bit of time and energy left, I added some backstroke variations, some butterfly arm drills with the pull buoy …and a short cool down. I clocked 6k in total, and felt great. 

Need I mention that after the swim I quickly found an excellent parking spot too, had a decent subway seat and was at work very nice and early? 

Day 114 of the Great Big 10k Swimming Adventure: Getting wet after Easter and some shoddy metaphors

After four days out of the water over the Easter weekend, I finally got back in the pool today. Yay!

What our village looks like this fine April
What our village looks like this fine April

Coming in out of the -2.5 degree centigrade weather (that is 27.5°F for all you Americans), snow still thick on the car after a 45 minute drive, there is no better feeling than jumping into a hot shower and then into the pleasantly cool pool. Having a lane to myself and sharing the pool with only two other swimmers at 6am already was glorious.

Mind you, I noticed during the warmup that I was not 100% comfortable physically. I wonder if I am catching that cold that the rest of the family is struggling with after all. Also, I had to finish 30 minutes early because there was a lot of urgent work today before the newspaper could go into print at noon. That said, it still was just bloody glorious to swim off everything on my mind and gear up for the day. Training-wise, I added some individual medley sets to the mix, since I am tackling the fly as part of this adventure now. That gets the old ticker pumping. Total time swimming today: 1:12:52, overall distance 4.000m (160 laps)

  • 200m freestyle warm-up (3:19)
  • 6x4x25m individual medley  (so that’s fly, back, breast, free for 25m each, and four sets of those) in – on average – 1:50 minutes
  • 1000m free in 18:10 (with some bilateral and intermittent breathing, but just feeling a bit crappy)
  • 500m free with pullbuoy and paddles in 8:13
  • 250m free with just pullbuoy in 4:01
  • 100m kickdrill front
  • 100m kickdrill back
  • 1100m free in 18:08 (you can tell I now was properly warmed up and felt a bit more comfortable)
  • 100m another IM just for fun in 1:49
  • 100m just relaxed cooldown

There are many metaphors to describe the joys and wonders of swimming. One that I keep coming back to lately is that of a reset button, but not in the sense that I press that button by swimming. It is more like you actually swim to get to a stage where you can reset yourself for the day…a stage that you have to swim down to (during the warm-up?) and then you can actually press. If that makes sense.

Day 88 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swimming Adventure: Clocking 5k daily, losing weight – and avoiding bugs

Been swimming pretty much a daily 5k during the week since my last update, though typically again one day some appointment or other will botch my plans to make it to the pool every morning during the working week. But you know what? Four times a week is fine at the moment. So far this week I have clocked up almost 20 kilometres – the watch says 19,675m.

(CC Image by Justin Grandfield)
(CC Image by Justin Grandfield)

Wednesday’s workout is typical, so I will use that to illustrate where I am at:

  • A total of 5000m at an average of 1:43/100m (SWOLF of 35)
  • A warm-up of 200m free in 2:57 (that’s a tasty 1:28/100m; wish I could keep that up!)
  • 7x50m sprints at 1:15 to 1:20 per 100m (have I mentioned how much I hate sprint sets)
  • 2050m (accidentally swam an extra 50m this morning) free at 1:42/100m in 34:40 (relaxed and casually cruising today)
  • 500m backstroke with pullbuoy in 9:54
  • 200m mixed kicking drills: 25m front/25m back, rinse and repeat, with the kickboard
  • 300m free with pullbuoy and paddles at 1:41/100m
  • 300m free with just pullbuoy at 1:37/100m (felt great; I love powering down the lane this way)
  • 1000m free at 1:42/100m in 17:01 (casual again, not pushing myself at all)
  • 100m cool down breaststroke/dolphin kicks

So I try and get 5k in every time I hit the pool in the morning; that way I figure I get myself tuned to the distance (and longer distances later); however, I am not really getting really much faster at this stage. Just more comfortable of longer distances.  I am thinking I might need to revisit training plans and/or look at (stroke/technique) coaching.

Yesterday – Thursday – I mucked around a bit, swimming shorter sets toward the end and “only” clocking in 4650 meters. I figure that is par for the course, though. To avoid slacking around, today, last day before the weekend break from the daily swim, I swam 5050meters:

  • 200m warm up free in 3:09, could still feel my muscles in the shoulders from yesterday
  • 3,000m at 1:39/100m average, 49:26 all up – felt strong and cruised comfortably. No sprint at the end, not pushing hard.
  • 350m back with pull buoy and paddles – really loving these back stroke sets after longer swims in free style. Also, I am just more comfortable with that style now than I have been for years
  • 200m back with pull buoy, no paddles in 4.09 – felt relaxing
  • 300m drills (kick board)
  • 500m free with paddles and p-buoy in 9:46 (!) – but that is because I was doing bilateral breathing sets and focussed on my stroke technique
  • 500m free, no paddles but p-buoy in 8:59 (!) – just one gear above doggy paddle; also doing mostly bilateral breathing

Health-wise, this swimming adventure so far has proven an inoculation of sorts against the colds and tummy bugs that have affected a lot of people around me. It might be the combination of exercise, better nutrition, or perhaps also the psychological beneftis of the daily 1.5 hour meditation the swim offers. Who knows. Certainly my immune system is stronger than it has been. Mind you, I can feel a sniffle coming on… the temp was back to -6 degrees centigrade when I left the house at 5:10 am this morning. Brrr.

Speaking of nutrition: Since I burn between 1,200 and 1,500 kCal every time I swim (according to my trusty Garmin Swim watch), and then have my liquid breakfast at 8am, aim to eat nothing after 8pm (that 12-hour-window-rule), and try to avoid anything sweet or alcoholic on normal days, I have not only burned more calories but also improved my eating habits, reducing sugar and other stuff too. Consequently, I have so far lost more than 10 pounds of weight whilst also putting on a wee bit of muscle. I do need to catch up on sleep some more, but all things considered, the health aspects of the Great Big 10k Swimming Adventure are fantastic.



Day 70 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swimming Adventure: Restarting the training plan and dreaming of Rottnest Island

Have you seen this stick? My Garmin ANT+ has gone missing. (CC-Image via Probike Kit)
Have you seen this stick? My Garmin ANT+ has gone missing. (CC-Image via Probike Kit)

First day back at work today – and first day properly back in the training schedule therefore! This morning, I clocked 4300 meters or 170 laps with an average time of 1.44/100m and a SWOLF of 35 all up.

Since I STILL have not found my Garmin stick to transfer the training data from my watch (argh!), here is a brief overview of the actual sets:

  • 1000m in 15:51 minutes (at 1.35/100m) at one gear higher than cruising speed, but felt comfy
  • stretches
  • 1000m in 16:48 minutes (at 1:41/100m) with paddles, no pullbuoy; felt tghe
  • 500m in 8:22 minutes (at 1:40/100m) cruising
  • 400m drills kickbord back and front, backstroke with pullbuoy
  • 1200m in 22:04 (at 1:50/100m) just cruising VERY casually, lots of bilateral breathing
  • 150m in 3:20 (at 2:13/100m) breast stroke with dolphin kick, just winding down
  • 50m just paddling about, cooling down

Man, it is so good to be in the water first thing in the morning. Words can not only inadequately describe it. Speaking of which: To make sure I get more k’s in – and avoid the morning traffic, which starts to build up at about 6am – I am actually getting up at 5am now, so I can hit the water at about 6am, when the place opens. That means I have 1.5 hours training time, and if need be, can push it to 2hrs (though that will be 2016 methinks).

Have I mentioned that I am actually a night owl, not a morning person? If someone would have predicted this regime back in the many years I ran the early news shift on radio in Australia, I would have laughed it off. And now I am loving it.

Absolutely loved the Rottnest Channel Swim. Since I was on “holiday”, I took the time to watch the coverage online – just go to to have a look – and see Kane Redford come out of the water first, and Grace van der Byl take first place in the women’s category in a brilliant finish. You swim for almost 20k, from the glorious Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia to Rottnest. The swimmers doing this Open Water event were absolute champs. One described it like swimming in a washing machine.

I had the good fortune of going on a dive trip to Rottnest a few years ago. I still remember how different the warm Indian ocean water and environment was from the temperate Pacific waters of Melbourne. Lots of sand and beautiful scenery under water.

After watching the coverage, I dreamt of swimming to Rottnest myself. Who knows, maybe one day I will get a chance to do so.

Rottnest Channel Swim - start of one wave back in 2004. Since then, the event has grown enormously. (CC Image via Wikimedia by Rst)
Rottnest Channel Swim – start of one wave back in 2004. Since then, the event has grown enormously. (CC Image via Wikimedia by Rst)

Day 50 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swimming Adventure: Building speed, experimenting with plant-based protein powder (and driving through blizzards)

Argh. I have been looking everywhere for the Garmin USB stick. Without it, I cannot transfer the data of my swims onto the computer. Anyway, till it shows up, let me just give you a breakdown of today and yesterday:

  • 2 February 2015: Swam 3.400m all up – 136 lanes in the 25m pool. The highlight was swimming the 1k in 15:49, which was a personal best I reckon. I averaged 1:35/100m. Mind you, I did put in the hard yards to get that, including a sprint for the last laps.
  • 3 February 2015 (today): Did 2.900m  – 116 lanes. And promptly broke the PB when doing a 1k swim by several seconds. I ended up going the distance in 15:41, averaging 1:34/100m. That one second on average for every four laps as compared to the day before netted me eight seconds.

Really pleased with how the speed is improving. I worked hard, but I can work harder on this distance, and improving on the 1k will help me with the 5k and ultimately the 10k, I am sure. That said, I am still very far from cracking the mini-goal of swimming the 1k in 15 minutes straight (or less). Need to do more speed drills – at least once a week. Other than that, I have been doing a fair bit of back stroke to alleviate the neck pain I had. That worked well (it is practically gone), and complemented with kick drills and a bit of paddles and pull buoy in the mix, this constitutes the bulk of the sessions at the moment.

All-natural protein for the liquid breakfast party

Organic hemp protein from Bioticana – tastes great, and hopefully will help with training.
Organic hemp protein from Bioticana – tastes great, and hopefully will help with training.

To improve my protein intake and add more variety to the breakfast smoothie, I have started to try out some plant-based organic protein isolates. You can get these here at Bioticana made from hemp (50% protein), peas (80% protein) and sweet lupine (41%). They come in clean, crisp brown packs, made from recycled paper, not those big flashy plastic tubs. Also, unlike the regular gym and fitness fare, there is nothing but the pure ingredient in the bag: No flavours, sweeteners, sugar, colouring. Just the “flour”. The isolate is in powder form, much like the regular whey-based stuff in terms of texture.

But what about the taste? Well, so far the hemp and lupine powders go well with apple, pear and/or banana smoothies with oats. The pea powder, though it has 80% protein, just tastes very, well, pea-y. It goes really well with a glass of tomato or vegetable juice, but not sure what else.

Anyway, will keep posting on this when I have experimented some more. So far, I am not convinced it is worth the effort.

Speaking of effort…

Just as I have truly settled into the new routine and adjusted to the habit, I am about to take two weeks off work. This means I need to train in the local pool, without lane ropes, heaps of chlorineand with bad air I fear. Since they also only open late in the morning, I will probably aim for an evening swim. Hope that works out. Given the recent crazy driving in blizzard conditions and very slippery and/or snow-covered roads at the moment, I am glad to have a bit of time off the commute at the moment, too.