The last two weeks were up and down for me as far as the training goes. I did’t manage to get as many swimming sessions in as I would have liked – having my first personal training sessions in the gym and walking 26km for a charity would do that, right? I felt like I needed to recover from these and also a busy work schedule contributed to the lack of training.
Not all is lost though, I’ve made some progress I’m proud of.
One of my sessions wasn’t in my usual swimming pool – I decided to try the ‘fitness swim jet pool’ at the place I train. It’s one of the swimming pods that create a current for you to swim against – with an effect similar to a treadmill when you run. You just set up the speed you want to swim at and off you go. Now you need to keep up otherwise you would end up flattened against the wall at the back of the pod (well maybe not flattened but you would be moved backwards more and more until you’d reach the stairs).
So I set my pace at 2:09 minutes per 100 metres (not particularly fast for a front crawl, I know) and started swimming. The good thing is that you also have a mirror at the bottom of the pool so you can keep an eye on your technique and make sure you stay approximately in the middle – that way you know you are maintaining the same speed. I thought I’d get bored quickly but listening to music on my iPod made it quite an enjoyable experience. I calculated that if I swam for about 34 minutes I would have completed 1 mile, a distance I wanted to cover the first time in the pod. I did it and didn’t feel too tired afterwards, which was great news.
Like the other girls I’ve started thinking about trying on wetsuits which I needed for an open water group swim session I had booked some time ago to help me overcome my reluctance and unease getting into open water. I figured that being part of a group I’d be too embarrassed not to go into the water or make a fuss, so I signed up for an open water introductory session.
I needed to buy or hire a wetsuit for this occasion and found an open water training venue close to Reading where you can also hire wetsuits. I decided that hiring one would be the best option for now and arranged an appointment to try different wetsuits. I knew the wetsuits are not particularly comfortable to wear and have to be tight, but that didn’t prepare me for what was to come.
I was asked how much I weighed and was given a small size wetsuit I was sure I couldn’t get into. It did take me good 10 minutes of pulling and wriggling before it could be zipped up and when it was done I felt like I couldn’t breathe and would surely suffocate in the next few minutes. I had the zip undone and when I explained it to the guy in the shop, he just pulled my sleeves further up and zipped it again! Suddenly it felt much better – so much so that I could breathe without any problems. Not that I could move much and was walking a little bit like a duck, but apparently that is fine – as soon as you get into the water you don’t feel it because the wetsuit expands. I was also asked to try (just in case) a wetsuit one size bigger and, fair enough, I could tell that if I was to swim in that one, I would take a lot of water in. It was really easy to get into and out of it, but that’s not the purpose it should serve.
So I was ready both mentally and equipment-wise for my first open water swim experience.
The open water swimming seminar took place this morning. I was right about being too embarrassed to make a fuss in front of other people and even though I had no confidence, I got into the water with everybody else as if I was doing this on a regular basis (well, not really). We all got good tips on swimming techniques, what to look out for and what to focus on. The wetsuit kept me warm throughout (even though at the beginning it felt like my fingers and especially my toes would fall off because of the cold water) and I managed to swim for a few hundred metres during the session. I must say swimming in a wetsuit feels much more tiring than in the pool wearing your swimming costume (I felt tired after only 200m) but that may be a matter of getting used to being outside with all the people around you, making sure you don’t get hit or kicked by others and keeping an eye on where you are heading.
After the session I decided to book a 1-2-1 lake coaching lesson to help me with some of the things I’m concerned about – avoiding swimmers around you, swimming in the right direction, etc.
Overall it’s been a great experience and I don’t feel worried about swimming outdoors anymore. I just need to build my confidence that I can do what I’m supposed to do on the race day… No pressure.