Category Archives: Motivation

DNF DNF

Last weekend I did the 2Swim4Life event – well I say “did” it and the truth is I didn’t.

It’s a 24 hour / 24 mile swim where you swim a mile on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours. In theory it’s a simple concept. In practice it’s a brutal swim. And I only managed 13 miles.

From quite early on I knew I wasn’t going to complete it all – my shoulders didn’t feel right, but perhaps more importantly neither did my head. I just wasn’t enjoying it enough to go through the tough hours at 2 or 3am. I probably could have done a few more miles, but to be honest once I’d done 13 miles I realised that I could stop and go for a curry. So I did.

I wasn’t too disappointed to not finish it. I have done it before and I knew it would be a struggle, so in the end it was probably a wise decision.

I was less pleased with my previous DNF the week before – in fact my first ever swim DNF.

I was on a training camp by The King’s Swimmers in Menorca. And it was a great camp, well run, great location, we were blessed with great weather and a wonderful group of swimmers. We’d swum on the first two days – a two hour swim and then another two hour on the first day; a three hour, followed by another two hour on the second day – and the third day was to be a six hour coastal swim.

A six hour swim is important as it is a requirement for channel solo swim (and many other long swims) and although I don’t have a channel solo to qualify for I wanted to it as part of my training for 2-way Windermere.

The short story is though that I didn’t do it.

I swam for 1 hour and 24 minutes and realised that I just wasn’t enjoying it. I spent the next 36 minutes trying to find something in my head that would allow me to continue – singing, thinking of loved ones, counting strokes, imagining completing the Windermere swim, remembering previous 1-way Windermere swims – I tried it all and nothing worked. So after two hours I got out. I just couldn’t find a reason to continue. I did get ‘persuaded’ to get back in again a bit later and I did the last two hours of the swim, but still – very much a DNF.

Both of these have changed the way that I think about myself as a swimmer.

Firstly, they have meant that I will no longer be swimming 2-way Windermere this year. Even if I wanted to, at this rate I’ll never be ready. So that’s now out. But they also made me think about whether I ever want to go long again, or am I just not feeling it right now.

While I’ve been thinking all of this through, this weekend I caught up with the Mind Over Marathon programme about people with mental health problems training to run this year’s London marathon. It was a great programme and definitely worth a watch. While watching it I thought about my own mental health.

My back was injured last summer. I didn’t swim at all and at times during last summer I could barely stand. At first I put my recent DNFs down to that – down to the fact that I’m still not strong enough after that physical injury. However, the realisation that I’ve come to is that the physical injury also brought about a mental injury and that while I’m physically better (although maybe not completely) I’m not yet mentally better.

Like most people, I don’t talk about mental health issues hardly at all. But watching the programme made me realise that I was probably suffering from depression as well as a bad back last summer. I certainly had suicidal thoughts on a number of occasions. I was numb and couldn’t see the point of it all. I wasn’t enjoying life and wasn’t sure that it was worth continuing with. In many senses I was lucky as I knew that my son still needed me, but I remember rationalising (of a sorts) with myself and telling myself that if things hadn’t improved by the time he was 18…

Watching the programme made me realise that the mental health issue was an injury that I’ve still not recovered from. Just like a physical injury it needs not only to heal, but to be given time to be built back up to full strength – and I’m not there yet, which is why I couldn’t complete my recent swims. However, also like a phyisical injury it may relapse and I need to watch for the signs of that.

So, the rest of this year will be about continuing to build up my physical strength, but also my mental strength. I’ll swim, but maybe not [too] long and not [too] hard.

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Filed under Motivation, Swimming, Thoughts

2017 Swim Plans

I hardly swam at all in 2016 – a couple of dips as it got colder towards the end of the year, but no events and certainly not the Windermere swim I wanted to do.

Unfortunately I was injured. I had a [probably] non-swimming related back injury and it took me out all summer. It started in the middle of April and by mid-summer I could hardly stand, yet alone swim. It started to clear by the end of September, but too late for any ‘real’ swimming.

But 2017 has started much better. My back feels better, I’m getting my general fitness back and my swim fitness feels good at the moment. So I’m going to state my goals for the year. Here they are (in order of priority):

1 – 2-way Windermere
This was always the main goal for 2017 and another reason why it was so frustrating to be out of action all of last year – 2016 was meant to be a training year.

2 – Channel Relay
I’m really looking forward to doing another relay. I’ll be in a team of four with Rach, Cathy and Jayne and, fingers crossed, we’ll smash it!

3 – 2swim4life
I’ve signed up again to the 24 mile / 24 hour swim in Guildford again. When I did it in 2015 it was the biggest, hardest thing I’ve ever done and it broke me. I’m hoping this year that it will be good mental and physical train fun for the 2-way Windermere swim later in the year.

4 – 500kms
Not an event, but a personal target to swim 500kms over the year. I’d actually like to swim 600kms (50 per month), but I’d be more than happy with 500.  I managed 39.4kms in Jan.

Of course I’ll be swimming in a number of BLDSA events over the year as training swims and I’m also organising two BLDSA swims again this year.

Colwick Park – May 21st
A 1km swim for those wanting a shorter challenge and a 5km swim for those wanting to kick off their summer season with a bang. Both swims allow wetsuits.

Coniston – July 29th/30th
The Vets 3.5m swim (for those over 45) on the Saturday. And the full length 5.25m swim on the Sunday.

Both swims can be entered through Entry Central – just search for BLDSA to see all of our events.

Hopefully I’ll see you in the water in 2017.

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Longest swim…

Not ever, but the longest swim I’ve done in the past five months.

I’m slowly, tentatively returning to the water after a back injury. It’s great to be back in the water again, but I’m trying not to push too hard – just hard enough. There are two main reasons for this: 1) I’m still not certain what caused the injury, or whether the recovery will hold, so I don’t want to damage it again; 2) I’m really unfit and knackered!

However this morning I got chance to swim in the pool at Imperial College London (right by the Royal Albert Hall – a lovely location). The pool was great, it was full of fit students (and lecturers I presume) and I felt pretty good. So I pushed myself a bit further.

Today, dear reader, I swam a whole mile and even managed 3 x 500m in one go! Both recent records.

Not only did I really enjoy it, it’s also got me thinking about signing up for 2Swim4Life again!

PS – today’s swim was another as part of the Aspire Channel Challenge, please sponsor me.

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This year’s targets

After completing my distance goal for 2015, I’m going to set some new targets for this year.

Events

Firstly, it has to be around events. The main reason I train is to be able to take part in the events I enjoy and to not only take part, but enjoy them too. The year has two main goals as far as events are concerned:

IsoMan Half

The IsoMan events are designed to equalise the normal triathlon distances, so that you should spend roughly the same time completing each discipline. As a swimmer, this is music to my ears as most triathlons are very heavily geared towards the cycling and running.

The IsoMan event is on July 2nd and I am doing the half distance, which comprises of a 3.5 mile swim, a 30.6 mile bike ride, and then a half marathon (13.1 mile run).

I really enjoyed watching friends complete the Outlaw Half last year in Nottingham, so I fancied another crack at triathlons. My goal is to complete the whole thing in under 6 1/2 hours, but we’ll see.

Windermere

For some reason I only swim Windermere in even numbered years (2012 and 2014 were my previous swims), so it seems only right that I have another go at it this year. It will be a real test of my new stroke and the work I’ve put into that to see if it can keep me going down the length of the lake and to a decent finish. Any time within 30 minutes of the IsoMan finish time and I’d be delighted with that.

Training

My year long goal is hit 2,000kms (doubling the original premise of this blog). I hit my target of 1,600kms last year, so I’m going to stretch it a bit further. However, I’m also going to change the algorithm slightly. At the moment I treble any swimming distance and divide by four any cycling distance. My plan for this year is to roughly follow the IsoMan ‘equalising’ algorithm.

What that means for this year is that the swimming will be multiplied by 3.5, while the cycling will only be divided by 2.5.

While it does mean that my swimming is counted more, I suspect the biggest difference will be in the cycling, as not only will it now count for much more, but with the IsoMan coming up I’ll also be doing a lot more of it.

Other Events

All the other events I’m doing are really (in my mind) classified as training for my two main goal events. I don’t always have as much time for training as I’d like, especially the long training swims, so I’ve entered a number of events that will hopefully help me to build up to my target events.

For the IsoMan I have:

  • Southwell sprint tri – this event is in my local village and is great fun. They run it twice a year and I did the autumn version in 2014, so I have a target time to try and beat.
  • Leeds half marathon – I’ve never done this before, but I know a few people who have entered, so I thought it sounded like a great training event, as well as chance to catch up with friends.

For Windermere I have:

  • Bala weekend – I’m hoping to do both the 3km and 6mile swims on the Saturday and then the 3mile swim on the Sunday.
  • Ullswater / Derwentwater – another weekend of swimming with the BLDSA, with the 7mile Ullswater on the Saturday and the 5.25mile Derwentwater on the Sunday.

I’ll let you know how I get on…

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Filed under Cycling, Motivation, Running, Swimming

Review of the Year

There are lots of these posts going around, so to prove my lack of originality here is mine.

#TieForHelena

Screenshot 2015-12-15 22.02.08

A subject that took over my blog for a few days in December was the #TieForHelena. An online friend of mine (we’ve never actually met in person) and fellow swimmer was attacked near her house because she was wearing a tie. As a community we wanted to support her and hopefully give her the confidence to wear a tie again. Here’s the original post outlining this: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/tieforhelena/

What actually happened was that it seemed to strike a chord with people and it turned out to be quite big. Here’s the summary post I did: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/that-went-well/

2Swim4Life

About to start mile 20 - not happy!

About to start mile 20 – not happy!

There were two main events that were the focus of 2015 for me. The first was back in May and was the 2swim4life event. A simple premise of swimming a mile on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours. I trained hard for it and had great support on the day, here’s the write-up I did: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/2swim4life-summary/. That said, it took me a while to get my focus back again: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/if-found-please-return-to/

Swimming the Channel

Screenshot 2015-08-26 14.08.43One thing that did help me to regain my focus was swimming the channel on behalf of the charity Aspire. This was a channel crossing with a difference as it was to be done in the pool over the course of 12 weeks. I decided to add another element to the challenge and do it in 22 days: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/swimming-the-channel/. I completed it successfully and as you can see I was effusive in my final write-up: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/ive-done-it/.

It’s not too late to sponsor me if you have any spare money lying around after Xmas: https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire/

I didn’t do a channel relay this year (although there may be one on the cards for 2016), but I did write some of my thoughts on them for aspiring relay swimmers: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/channel-relay-thoughts/

Bala Disaster

2015 wasn’t all good though. I had my first ever DNF at Bala this year – and to make it worse I wasn’t swimming, but kayaking and had to pull my swimmer out of the water (sorry again Rach): https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/shit-shit-shit-shit-shit/. Fortunately we did get a swim in the following day: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/sunday-was-better/.

Cricket

A picture postcard scene. Photo courtesy of @135notout

A picture postcard scene. Photo courtesy of @135notout

I also tried to play cricket again in 2015, for the first time in over 25 years. As you can see from these posts, it wasn’t a complete success: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/crickets-hard-work/; https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/cricket-hmmm/

Crete

But at the end of the summer, I did treat myself to a swimming trip to Crete. It was a trip organised by the wonderful Swimtrek and I met some great new swimming friends: https://1000kmstowindermere.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/more-on-crete/. I’d definitely recommend one if you’re thinking about it.

Not a bad 2015 all in all. And I still think that 2016 will be even better.

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I’ve done it

My plan for 2015 was to complete 1,600kms – and after this morning’s swim I have crossed that threshold.

The distance isn’t the actual distance travelled during my training and events in 2015 as I use an algorithm to try and equal out the three main activities I partake in – swimming, running and cycling. As I’m mainly a swimmer, it didn’t seem fair on me to compare distances with runners for example. Yet nor did it seem fair to just do lots of cycling to boost the numbers. So the 1,600kms distance is a ‘normalised’ running distance for the year as I multiply any swimming distances by three, and divide any cycling distance by four.

So my totals for the year so far (I plan to do another session tomorrow):

Swimming: actual – 408.66kms; adjusted – 1,225.98kms
Running: actual – 270.17kms
Cycling: actual – 447.27kms; adjusted – 111.82kms
Total: actual – 1,126.10kms; adjusted – 1,607.96kms

I’m pretty pleased with that. Well over 1,000 kilometres in actual distance covered and a whole day to spare in hitting the target. But all of this is with a complete lack of motivation in June and July (after the big swim in May), which meant that to complete the target my top three months (in order) were October, December, November.

Update 31/12/15

After today’s session my final totals are: 1,145.8kms actual and 1,620.56kms adjusted.

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Four times across the Channel

Screenshot 2015-08-26 14.08.43The Aspire Channel Challenge officially ends today (if you’re still swimming your last few lengths, or raising your last few pounds, then keep going!). The challenge is to swim the same distance as an English Channel crossing (22 miles) in your local pool. The challenge started on 14th September and ran for 12 weeks, until today.

I decided that I’d set myself an additional challenge of doing the distance in 22 days, which I managed to do (I also swam in 20 different venues). I also managed to get a little bit of extra publicity for the challenge (here, here and here).

However, I didn’t stop once I’d done my 22 miles. I may not have counted them directly towards the challenge, but I kept on swimming, so I thought it would be interesting to see how much I swam throughout the twelve weeks of the challenge.

The first thing to note is that although I completed my part of the challenge as a mile a day over 22 days, I didn’t swim only a mile. Most days I swam a little bit more – I just didn’t count it towards my Aspire miles. In fact I swam an average of 2kms per day for those 22 days. After that, I went to Crete with SwimTrek. Then recently I’ve been getting a bit more serious with my training as I want to get a good base level of fitness ready for events in 2016.

The great SwimTrek group on the last night.

The great SwimTrek group on the last night.

So, the total amount of swimming I’ve done in the last twelve weeks is… drum roll please….

134.5kms, or just over 84 miles.

That’s nearly four crossings of the English Channel. Not bad I suppose.

And if that’s impressed you to sponsor me for Aspire, then please, please do so by going here: https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire/

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LetJog Update – Nearly There

As I’ve posted about before there is an online support group that has set its members the challenge of completing the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats in 2015 through their training and events. According to Wikipedia that is a distance of 874 miles (or 1,407kms).

I’m a member of this group and have signed up to this challenge, although I have decided to extend it slightly to 1,600kms – or 1,000 miles. Initially this blog was about me completing 1,000kms of exercise in a year (a target I didn’t hit), but you can see how much fitter I’ve got as my target for 2015 was 60% greater.

There’s actually a fair chance that I’ll hit this target too. I’m currently about 50kms away from John O’Groats, so I should get there before the end of November. Then that gives me December to complete the additional 180kms or so.

There are no rules to the challenge – other than the distance covered – and most of the people in the group are primarily runners, so will have run just about every mile.

I’m primarily a swimmer, but I run and cycle [a bit] too. I didn’t think that I’d manage to swim 1,600kms in a year, but equally I didn’t want to ‘cheat’ and cycle the bulk of the distance, so I follow a simple algorithm:

  • All swimming distance is multiplied by 3
  • All running distance is counted as is
  • All cycling distance is divided by 4

My totals (with adjusted figures) so far are:

  • Swimming – 357.46kms (1,072.38)
  • Running – 195.07kms (195.07)
  • Cycling – 358.77kms (89.69)
  • Total – 911.30kms (1,357.14)

As you can see I’ve travelled almost exactly as far in water as I have on a bike – although the adjusted figures are then somewhat different. It’s also a pretty good total given that once I’d completed the big 24 hour swim in May I did almost nothing in June and July (a combined, adjusted total of 107.99kms). Fortunately I caught up a lot of my missed distance with a big October – an adjusted total of 220.43kms.

I’ll need to be dedicated through December, including into the Xmas period, but I expect to hit the 1,600kms target.

 

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Getting Quicker

Every so often I write a post similar to this (for example this one) – one where I talk about the improvements I’ve made, especially those that are measured by speed. It’s clear that, while I’m not obsessed, it’s obviously an important factor for me.

It’s strange and very much a relative issue. At my local pool I can only think of four other swimmers that swim regularly that are faster than me – 90% of the time that I’m in the pool I’m the quickest one there. In Crete the other week I was in the middle of the middle group, by the end of the week I’d managed to speed up a bit and join those at the head of the middle group. Yet at most BLDSA events I’m in the last two thirds of the event – and the longer the event, the closer to the back that I finish.

I’m always striving to do better in everything I do and as I came to swimming so late (I could always swim, but I only started entering events three years ago) I think I still have a lot of room for improvement. In a group of people the definition of a ‘good’ swimmer is so subjective (I’m the crazy, open water swimmer amongst my pool colleagues, yet I’m the guy at the back in the BLDSA events), so it’s best to use an objective measurement of improvement – and speed / time is that.

Friday morning's swim time

Friday morning’s swim time

On Thursday I went to the pool mainly because I couldn’t be bothered to go to the gym. I was still tired after being out on Tuesday night, so I was planning / expecting to plod out 2km and go home. I only started my stopwatch to help me count laps as I thought I might lose concentration. However I joined two of the aforementioned quicker swimmers in the lane and I didn’t want to hold them up, so I got on with it. I got on with it so much that I did the fastest 1km that I’ve ever recorded – 17 mins and 33 seconds (an average of 1:45 / 100m).

Then the following morning, less than 12 hours after I’d got out of the pool, I was back in for my regular Friday swim. It involves 500m warm-up, 1,000m of drills, 400m of relaxed swimming, then a timed 1km set. I wasn’t expecting much after the previous evening’s unexpected exertions. Yet I matched my new PB to the second!

I put these improvements down to a few factors:

  • The work I’ve been doing with Ray from SwimCanaryWharf has made HUGE improvements to my stroke
  • The week in Crete with SwimTrek gave me a few additional pointers that I’ve worked on since getting back – raising my left hand, taking too long on my breaths, being a ‘lazy’ swimmer (my words)
  • I’m probably at the fittest I’ve been for a while having done a lot of gym work in October
  • I’m enjoying my swimming again

I’m aware that my speed isn’t much compared to some of the faster swimmers I know in real-life and online, but I’m pleased with it as not so long ago I would have been delighted to get below 20mins for 1km. Also, having never been a swimmer as a kid I still don’t tumble turn, so compared to someone swimming at the same pace as me I might be losing as much as a second a lap (20 seconds total) over a tumble turner.

What is important to me though is not how quickly I can do 1km in the pool, it’s all about getting my body used to swimming at a quicker pace, so when I want to go longer my 80-90% speed has improved.

My best time for Windermere is 7 hours and 40 minutes – an average pace of just over 27 minutes per kilometre. Imagine if I could reduce that average to something like 22 mins – well, you don’t have to imagine, it would mean a 6 1/4 hour swim!

So I’m going to keep trying to speed up in the pool, keep celebrating any improvements I get there, but also keep my eye on the bigger picture (and swims).

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Swimming the channel

Taken from my JustGiving page – https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire

– – –

Thank you for taking the time to visit my page.

Starting in September I’ll be swimming 22 miles – the equivalent of swimming across the English Channel – to raise money for people who have been paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury.

Every eight hours someone is paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury. It can happen to anyone at any time, and there is currently no cure. Every pound that I raise means that Aspire can provide practical help to a spinal injured person, allowing them to live a more independent life, so please donate as much as you can and help make a difference.

Although I’m a swimmer, this is still a challenge, but to make it ever harder for myself I plan to swim 1 mile per day over 22 days in 22 different local pools. I suspect that this will be a logistics challenge as much as a swimming one.

I’m also working with Aspire to help raise the profile of this event, but will be doing the challenge and hoping to raise money as a regular participant.

I’d be grateful for your support.

– – –

Aspire does great work, so I’d love your support.

But as I mentioned, I’m also working with them to raise the profile of this event to pools and leisure centres. If you want to persuade your local pool to get more involved in the challenge please let me know (you can do it without their direct involvement though – just swim!).

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