Monthly Archives: October 2013

Finding my threshold

I wrote the other day about starting to use threshold training as a way to improve my swimming times, well I finally had chance to find out what my threshold is as defined by Swim Smooth.

What you need to do is swim a 400m and 200m time trial (ie as fast as possible) and then enter those times into the form and it works out your threshold training pace. I did a 7:20 400m and a 3:33 200m and my threshold pace was defined as 1:54 / 100m.

– It’s important to note that this isn’t meant to be your fastest pace, but a pace you can keep to consistently over a longer training session.

I then did my first session using that threshold pace on Tuesday lunchtime. The goal was to swim 20 x 100m at 1:54 with just a 15sec gap between each set. What was interesting was how hard it was to go slow enough to keep to that time at the start (my first 3 or 4 sets were 1:50 or below), but then how hard it was to go fast enough by the end (the 16th or 17th set was a 1:58 because I wasn’t concentrating).

Apart from that though, I like the concept of it and will keep this in my regular training plan.

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NFL – Wembley

Every year for the past few years the NFL has played a game at Wembley (this year two). And almost every year for the past few years I’ve gone along to it with a group of mates. It’s a great day out, it’s a chance to catch up with “the lads” and it’s good fun to watch the Americans’ version of football – you know, the one where they throw a rugby ball with their hands and hardly kick it at all.

I went this year to the match on Sunday to see the San Francisco 49ers thrash the Jacksonville Jaguars, here are some photos.

This is the view from our seats high up in the Gods behind the endzone.

This is the view from our seats high up in the Gods behind the endzone.

The players emerging from the tunnel.

The players emerging from the tunnel.

The razzmatazz (with big flags).

The razzmatazz (with big flags).

If you look very carefully you'll see [one of many] 49ers' touchdowns being scored.

If you look very carefully you’ll see [one of many] 49ers’ touchdowns being scored.

 

 

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Channel swimmer…

… not the whole thing, at least not yet, but as part of a relay team next summer.

Since completing Windermere last year I’ve wanted to be part of a channel relay team. I don’t [yet] think that a solo attempt is really within me, but swimming the English Channel is such an icon of long distance swimming that it would be great to be part of that. And so that’s where a relay comes in.

Traditionally a relay team would be six swimmers, although the rules on numbers have relaxed a bit and you can have any number up to six I believe. But the way it works is the same: each swimmer swims for an hour and then gets out and the next member of the team gets in to do their hour… and so on. You keep taking turns until you reach the other side. To me it seemed like the perfect way to be involved in such an iconic swim without having to swim it all myself!

So when I was up at Windermere this year as a spectator I was chatting to a few people about my desire to do it. Someone then mentioned that she might be putting a team together and suggested that she took my contact details. Of course I gave them, but thought nothing of it, for a start being such a novice swimmer I assumed that a team of “true swimmers” (my words, not theirs) wouldn’t really want me. And a couple of weeks later my thoughts were confirmed as I got an email that started with “We’ve got a team now..” I read on expecting to see a “thanks and good luck” type sign off. In the email she listed the names of the team members and they were all names that I recognised from the days that I used to watch these swims with my parents, names of the people that used to win these swims. And then there in the middle of the list was the word “you”.

I had to read it again a few times to check that she actually meant me. But she did and I was included in a relay team with some of the great names of the BLDSA. I felt excited, but to be honest I mainly felt daunted. I wasn’t sure that I deserved to be in such esteemed company and I wasn’t sure that they truly realised how much of a novice I am, how much of a weak link I could be in the team.

Now I am more than confident of the fact that I will do everything I can to be a full and equal part of this team… and I know that it’s something I really want to do. But that said, I don’t have anywhere near the experience of the other team members, yet alone the swimming miles under my belt.

So last night I met up with one of the team. Before I felt truly accepted as part of the team I wanted to explain my concerns to someone face-to-face.

The person I met up did his first solo channel crossing at the age of 16. He has swum the length of Windermere over 50 times – including about eight two-way swims. This is a PROPER swimmer.

And we met and chatted and had dinner and a couple of pints with his wife and my family. And we had a lovely evening. He waved off my concerns (“if you’ve done Windermere, you’ll be fine”) and made me feel much more relaxed and confident about it all.

So it looks like I’m going to be a Channel [Relay] Swimmer.

It’s booked for early July next year, so I have a bit of time to train up for it – sea swimming is a must, but so is just getting the miles done and building up my general strength and ideally speed.

Wish me luck.

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Swimming hair

I’ve been walking around all day with swimming hair:

Swimming hairIf you can’t see it properly, I’ve got spiky tufts at the back of my head. It’s caused by swimming this morning and then getting in the car to drive to work with wet hair. My head just touches the ceiling of the car and with wet hair that makes it stand up.

Of course no-one told me about it – I’ve been in meetings like this today!

 

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Washout weekend, woeful Wednesday

I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, but I work hard at my job. It’s not so much the hours as the intensity and sometimes it can just make me feel run down and unable to train and that’s what happened this weekend.

It started on Thursday which was a very intense day (don’t get me wrong it was great too – a lot of very exciting meetings about this). Thursday is also on the training plan as a gym night. The plan is to do a bit of cardio (bike and treadmill), but have a good weights session between those two to work on the back and shoulders. However, I got to the gym and could only manage 10 minutes on the bike. I just felt weak, had a killer headache and felt sick – not a good recipe for training. So I went home.

A good night’s sleep and again on Friday and I thought I’d be fine for my Saturday session – which is the same as Thursday plus a swim to finish it off.

Friday night didn’t turn out to be a good night as the little one woke up at 2am feeling ill, but I got everything ready as per usual on Saturday morning. I was just about to head off when I sat on the bed for a couple of minutes and nearly couldn’t get up – again not a good recipe for a training session. So Saturday got cancelled. The same thing happened on Monday morning as I was about to go out for my big swim. I realised I could go and try, but I’d either fail miserably or knock myself out for the whole week ahead – again with work not something I can risk. So another cancellation.

I did manage a very gentle mile on Monday evening, but that brings us to this morning.

I thought I was feeling better so I set off to replace Monday’s big swim with my threshold training routine. It was tough.

I managed the 100s in about 1:50 (between 1:47 and 1:52), but the 200s were a real struggle and in fact I left three of them out there.

Woeful… but possibly understandable and certainly better than a cancellation.

3,000m including warm up and cool down.

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Sponsorship

Those of you that have read this blog from the start (and those that have had the misfortune to be trapped with me in a pub) will know my thoughts on fundraising. You can read all about it here. However the summary is that I’m not a big fan. I don’t believe that being sponsored will help me complete a challenge – I either will or I won’t and the poor, lickle starving orphans won’t make any difference. While many times that people ask for sponsorship it seems to be an excuse to fund a holiday (yes walking the Inca Trail will raise lots of money and it’s purely coincidence that it is also your life’s ambition!).

In summary, I’m a miserable old bugger!

So this is going to seem like a strange turn around… but can you sponsor me please? I’m going to swim the length of Windermere for the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).

RNLI

RNLI

I’m not going to swim it in one go – the challenge is to rack up the equivalent miles in the pool before November 3rd.

I’ll be honest, it’s quite a convenient challenge for me as I’ve just started my training again, so I’ll be doing the miles anyway. But it is a bit more than I had planned, so it’ll still be a bit of a challenge. However, the main reason for signing up is that it is a great charity – and one very close to the heart of my crew from Windermere last year (Margaret and Graham).

For those of you that don’t know, the RNLI describes itself quite simply – “The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea”. That seems like a pretty good summary to me and it does it all as a voluntary organisation – all the crews are volunteers and all the funds it uses are raised through fundraising efforts such as this one.

So, if you enjoyed reading this blog over the last few months (or even if you haven’t and have endured it anyway), please put your hand in your pocket and find a spare £5 or £10. If I know you personally I’ll collect the money from you at the start of November, if I don’t then I’ll send you my bank details and you can transfer the money in there.

I’ll update you here as to how I’m getting on.

Thanks

UPDATE

For anyone wanting to sponsor me I’m afraid I don’t have a JustGiving page (or the like) as all I’ve been given is a pdf sponsor form to fill in. So if you do want to sponsor me (and why wouldn’t you?) then for us to be able to claim Gift Aid I’ll need your address. If you leave a comment and let me know your desire to sponsor then I’ll get in touch with you – thanks.

Screenshot 2013-10-15 20.13.20

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A tweak

After reading a bit more about training at your threshold and thinking about it further it makes a lot of sense to me. So I’m going to make a tweak to my big training session.

Sprinters – Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The main thing is that I’m going to drop all the 50m sets – it doesn’t matter how good I get at swimming 50m it won’t help me much if I want to swim 10.5miles. In place of the 14 sets of 50m I’m going to add an additional 3 sets of 200m (so a net loss of 100m). Much better to add longer sets that worry about my sprinting.

The second thing I’m going to do is relax on the times slightly. The point of threshold training is to constantly train at (or just below) your top speed. Instead of sprinting and training the body to cope with short sharp bursts you train at a hard pace and train the body to cope with maintaining that pace. At first it may seem that the threshold pace is too slow, but as you reach the end of the session it soon becomes a tough pace to maintain.

I don’t want to be a sprinter, I want to be able to swim long distances quicker – so this all makes sense to me. Therefore the new plan (starting tomorrow) will look like this:

– 100m sets – time 1min 50, with 15 secs rest between each, 1-min break between sets: 2-3-4-3-2
– 200m sets – time 3mins 40, with 15 secs rest between each, 1-min break between sets: 2-3-3-2
Total 3,400

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Threshold Training

I’ve written a couple of posts recently about new training plans for this year (here and here). But after the second one which specifically talked about swimming at your “threshold” I did a bit more research (clicked on a couple of links) on what that is.

This is the post that I found on Swim Smooth that covers it really well.

So what is it?

“In the training and coaching world we often shorten ‘lactate threshold’ to just ‘threshold’ – it means the same thing… CSS is an acronym for Critical Swim Speed. It’s an approximation of your lactate threshold speed and you can find it by doing a couple of swimming tests (no blood involved – just a stopwatch!). It’s not precisely the same as lactate threshold but it will be within a couple of seconds per 100m, which is plenty accurate enough to guide your training.”

And why is it important?

“For distance swimmers – including open water athletes and triathletes – one physiological factor is all important: your lactate threshold. If you can improve your lactate threshold speed your race speeds will improve. Your ability to sprint or work anaerobically above threshold is largely irrelevant in distance swimming and triathlon. So is your ability to lift heavy weights.”

Surely I should just swim as quickly as possible

Actually, no. And this is why:

“When you train faster than threshold you end up splitting the train effect into your anaerobic system too – which you don’t need much when you race. And you give your body a much greater recovery task after the session, which means it has less energy left over to make the fitness adaptations you are looking for. The result is that training above threshold gives you less adaptation of your threshold, not more.”

Read the full post to get more details (including a tool to help you set your threshold pace). But from now on I’ll be working like this.

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1,000kms

So as I stated when I set this blog up, one of the goals was to complete 1,000kms of training in the year. Well in 2012 I tried, but once I’d completed the big swim in September a combination of illness and lack of desire meant that I ended up about 150kms short.

This year it was never going to happen. Originally because I wanted to train for some different challenges, but then this summer all went to pot with my wife having to be away for most of it to look after her mother – which meant that I hardly did anything.

However, I don’t have those excuses any more. I know that I want to train up for some events next summer (including Windermere again), so I’m starting the challenge again this month. The goal is to complete 1,000kms in the 12 months from October ’13 to the end of September ’14.

So far in October I’ve done 15.85kms (according to my algorithm).

Wish me luck.

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Some of the firsts

I said that on Saturday that as the pool was closed I wasn’t able to try our some of new Speedo goodies. But the pool wasn’t closed yesterday, so as well as doing my monster training swim I was also able to try out some of the new kit.

I’ll write a review about each of them in due course (when I’ve had more time to use them), but my first impressions:

– Shorts – felt a bit tight when I first put them on, but seemed fine once I got into the water.
– Towel – strange to use, not like a “normal” towel, but it worked really well.
– Goggles – loved them!

– – –

Disclaimer: I’m not being paid by Speedo for this post, but I did receive the review items for free.

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