Tag Archives: Ponds Forge

Swimming facilities in Canada

I’ve visiting family in Southern Alberta in Canada in a town you’ll almost certainly not have heard of unless you’ve been here. It’s called Lethbridge and is situated between the grain growing prairies of Canada and the foothills of the Rockies. It’s not the most picturesque of places, but I love it here as I love visiting my family.

One thing Lethbridge does have though is a university and within the university is a sports complex and within the sports complex is a swimming pool. And that swimming pool is amazing.

It’s a newer, cleaner, very possibly bigger version of Ponds Forge with a 50m pool that can be altered by the use of a moveable platform, a diving pool and a kids pool. It also has a spectator area and great showers and changing areas.

The Ponds Forge facility is the closest 50m pool* to where I live in the UK and it’s an hour away from me. Based on that, I’m making the assumption that the Ponds Forge pool is very probably the closest 50m to around 5million people in the UK. To be the closest to that number of people the Lethbridge pool would need to be the only 50m pool in the whole of the province of Alberta – which I sincerely doubt.

* at least with these kinds of facilities.

Anyway I swam there and it was lovely.

Having said that, I can now understand why some people look to have underwater MP3 players. I’ve never bothered before as I kinda don’t see the point. One of the things that I need to train for is the mental boredom as much as the physical effort. I’m not allowed to have an MP3 player while I’m swimming the events I enter, so I don’t think I should train with them either.

However, as the Lethbridge university pool complex is so large it meant that number of different groups were using it while I swam. Not only were there a few lane swimmers (of which I was one), but there were also swimming lessons, parents with kids and a synchronised swimming training session.

That training session was using music and lots of instructions from the coach, making it a noisy session – and with the music seemingly pumped through the water as well it meant that it was hard to get ‘into the zone’ to just swim. If I’d had some I would have gladly worn some headphones and listened to music.

I swam 2 miles on Thursday and 2 miles on Friday.


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What I’ve Learnt

I did a long 10k swim on Sunday – it went well and I beat the time I was aiming for – but as the first “event” of the year, perhaps the most important factor was that it was a good check on how I’m getting on. And as the dust has settled on the event and I have time to think about how it went in more detail I realised that there are a few key things that I’ve learnt. So here they are:

I’m getting better – I completed the 10k swim in 3hrs 30minutes. The last time I did a 10k swim (in Bala) I did it in 4hrs 31minutes. I know you have to factor in the cold water, but still, just over an hour’s improvement is something I’m quite pleased with. The summary is that I completed the 10k swim in almost exactly 21 minutes per kilometre. To swim Windermere in under 7 hours (my target) I’ll need to swim 17k in just over 24.5 minutes – so I’m well on track for that.

Mmmm 50 metres

Mmmm 50 metres

I love 50m pools – this was only the second 50m that I’ve swum in and the first was so long ago I can’t remember it. But as I swam the first length on Sunday it felt so luxurious to just be able to swim and not worry about hitting the wall so soon. I might have to search out more 50m pools.

Drafting makes it easier – as I said in my original report, all the people in my lane were of a very similar speed, so we all spent a lot of time swimming behind each other. It’s funny how we were all able to catch up with the person in front (and then easily stay with them), but no-one was really able to get away once they were in front. Because drafting.

I can’t do turns – or at least my calves can’t. I was starting to cramp up after only 2 or 3km and it didn’t get any better. I pushed off once after just over 2 hours and my legs seized up so much that all I could do was just float in the water for about 30 seconds to let it ease. Fortunately there aren’t too many turns when swimming in lakes, but I’ll also look at adding an electrolyte drink to my feeding mix.

Leave them alone!

Leave them alone!

I hate toe-tappers – while we were all drafting a bit (see above) the other three people in my lane couldn’t seem to do that without constantly toe-tapping. It’s not difficult – just don’t swim into my feet. Once or twice by accident is fine. But having your hand halfway up my calf (or that’s what it felt like) a couple of time per length is just not on. Especially, as I said above, once they got past me (and I’d let them get ahead of me at the lane end if they did toe-tap – at least for the first few times) they didn’t pull away.

It’s great to meet blog buddies in real life – as I mentioned in the original write-up I met Mo at this event and in fact she had originally persuaded me to enter. Mo and I have chatted through blog comments and Twitter for over a year, but haven’t met before – so it was great to meet up. I’d love to meet more of you if you read this – feel free to get in touch.

It’s hard work – having said all of the above and how pleased I am with my progress I’ve been exhausted this week!

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10k swim completed

This morning I got up nice and early (6am … and on a Sunday!) to get ready and set off to Ponds Forge to take part in a 10k swim event. And despite the early start it was great fun.

We started with an 8:30am briefing pool side – we were split up into 6 different lanes, based on our expected finish times, with each lane having a maximum of 5 swimmers in (we had 4 in our lane). Following the briefing I got changed and got ready poolside – and suddenly we were off, I’d hardly had time to put my goggles on straight.

The calm befor ethe storm

The calm before the storm

The first thing that struck me was how great it was to swim in a 50m pool – my local pool is 25m and I’ve only been in a 50m pool on a couple of occasions previously. It felt great just to be able to swim, without worrying about the wall almost as soon as you’ve set off.

I was the 4th person away in our lane – we all set off with a 10-second gap – but I’d soon caught and overtook the people in front. However, that turned out to be nothing more than over excitement as we all seemed to swim at a very similar pace for the rest of the event. In fact about the only time positions changed was when someone stopped to take a drink.

My plan was to take a quick drink every 30 minutes. As much as anything else, this was a test for me to see how I need to refuel and how the breaks affect my swimming and how the fuel itself works with my body. That said, I ignored the plan for the very first stop!

I was enjoying the swimming too much and 45 minutes had elapsed before I’d even realised. I did stop then though – and every 30 minutes after that.

Then it was just a case of getting the head down and swimming. My body coped well – apart from quite severe cramps in my legs on occasions (I’m hoping that cold water and no turns will help this – but I’m also going to add an electrolyte drink to the refuelling plan).

Officially 3:30:07

Officially 3:30:07

I had hoped to finish with 3hrs 45mins, but in the end I smashed that target and finished in 3hrs 30mins 7secs (or 3:30:19 according to my watch as I forgot to stop it immediately).

A job well done.

However, on top of a great swim, it was also fantastic to see Maureen (Mo) from iSwimmer in real life too. We’ve been “blog buddies” for a while, so it was great to meet up – and with her friend Sally. Great swimming and thanks for pointing me to this event Mo.


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Big week… Done

Last Monday I said that I was planning a big week of swim training last week. The plan was to swim 20km over the course of the week – all in training for the 10km swim I have this Sunday (Sunday 23rd at Ponds Forge).

A break down of the week from my Speedo app

A break down of the week from my Speedo app

Well, I did it – 20km swum. Here is how it broke down:

– Monday – 4km
– Wednesday – 5km
– Thursday – 2.5km
– Friday – 5km
– Saturday – 1.5km
– Sunday – 2km

Monday was an evening swim. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all morning swims before work. On both Wednesday and Friday I was in the pool by 7:05am and got out at 8:50am. Saturday was a quick lunch time swim – and then racing home to watch the second half of the England rugby match. On Sunday I did my usual evening routine of going to the gym for an hour, then a swim (I also went to the gym before Saturday’s swim).

I’m pretty tired now, but I don’t have any real aches and strains, so my body coped well with the swimming – which stands me in good stead for the 10km at the weekend.


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Big Week

This is going to be quite a big swimming week for me as I put in the last hard training before the indoor 10km swim I’ve got coming up on Sunday 23rd.

My plan for this week is to swim a combined distance of 20km – obviously over the course of a number of sessions – and I’ll then rest (or taper) the following week, with just a couple of gentle swims / gym sessions.

One of the difficulties of swimming compared to running is the fact that you need a pool to swim in (or lake in the summer) and it has to be open and free for you to use – you are much more at the whim of other people’s schedules. So one of the hardest aspects of this week will be the planning. My pool opens sporadically for lane swimming and most of the slots it has are when I’m meant to be working. Anyway, my plan is to swim Wednesday & Friday mornings (the pool is open for 2 hours) and then top-up at the weekend.

It all started last night with a c. 1hr 30min swim. I’m not going to be counting laps, but instead working on a time basis to assume my distance.

My normal casual swim pace is now at 1:55 / 100, so for these sessions I’m going to round that up to 2:05 / 100 or 21mins per 1km. That gives me the chance to nip out to the loo, stop and take a drink, get stuck behind slower swimmers, or just ease off a little if I want. Last night I managed 1hr 24mins before they closed the pool, so at that assumed pace – exactly 4km.

Bring on the rest of the week.


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I watched a world record

On Saturday my family and I went up to Ponds Forge to watch the attempt to break the 100x100m relay world record. 100 swimmers (many of them Olympians) each swam 100m freestyle in a 25m pool (so four lengths each) in a relay, aiming to beat the record time held by a swim squad in Australia.

We went for two reasons. Firstly it was a good chance for me to go and visit Ponds Forge and have a look around before my own 10km swim at the end of March. I’m really glad we did this, as simple things like knowing where to park will be much easier now I’ve seen the lie of the land (we got lost twice searching for the car park on Saturday). Secondly the record attempt was part of a fundraising effort to raise money for leukaemia research.

As you can probably tell from the title of the post – they did it. They actually smashed it by over eight minutes, setting a new world record of 1 hour 29 minutes and 3 seconds.

The swim started off with Oliver Coleman – the ten year-old brother of the organiser Lewis Coleman. Even as a ten year-old, he still did 100m in about 1:20 (for perspective, I’d be delighted with 1:40 and probably wouldn’t be able to move my arms for a week if I hit 1:30!). Then the Olympians jumped in, with Lewis Coleman bringing us home as swimmer number 100.

All the swimmers having the briefing ahead of the swim - look carefully and you'll see some Olympic medalists.

All the swimmers having the briefing ahead of the swim – look carefully and you’ll see some Olympic medalists.

And here they are poolside for the team photo.

And here they are poolside for the team photo.

We were treated to some synchronised swimming before the main event.

We were treated to some synchronised swimming before the main event.

I was actually really impressed with it - when you see it up close...

I was actually really impressed with it – when you see it up close…

A swimmer diving in to start his leg

A swimmer diving in to start his leg

It's all over and a really lovely moment between Oliver and Lewis Coleman.

It’s all over and a really lovely moment between Oliver and Lewis Coleman.

You can still donate to the fundraising – go here: http://www.swim4leukaemia.com/

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90 down – 1,310 to go

January has been a tough month for me as far as training goes – mainly due to having two weeks almost completely off as I was ill. It forced me to pull out of Janathon and affected my #LETJOG14 distance. However, I’m starting to feel like I’m getting back on track.

The January numbers in detail are:

– Swimming – 22.65kms
– Running – 16.7kms
– Cycling – 21.2kms

Based on the way I count that gives me a total of 89.95kms for the month.

I’m currently nearly 27kms behind the monthly average I need to hit, but that said in the last six days I’ve done the equivalent of over 43kms, so I feel confident that I’ll soon be back on track.

Today’s swim was a great example of how I feel at the moment as I got in the pool and just swam. I didn’t do any sets I decided just to keep going non-stop for an hour. The first 15 minutes or so were tough as I had to talk myself into continuing, but then the laps and the minutes just flew by and I swam well – apart from the 10 lengths I had to swim breaststroke behind someone who wouldn’t let me overtake! I had to get out after an hour, but I could have just kept going no problem – so I’ve looking forward to the 10km swim in a few weeks time.


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Swimming for charity

Swim 4 LeukaemiaIf you’re anywhere near Sheffield on 1st Feb then sign up for this.

It’s a world record attempt swim in Ponds Forge – they’re trying to swim 100 x 100m in a relay in a world record time.

So, charity, a world record attempt and to be honest it’s very cheap – just £5.95 per ticket. What more could you want?

Well for me, there is the added bonus of it being at Ponds Forge. I’m doing my own swim there in a few weeks time and as I’ve never been before it will be a great chance to scope the place out and get my bearings.

There are still quite a few tickets left, so please do sign up. And if you are coming and you read this blog, let me know and we’ll say hi on the day.

Sign up here – tickets.

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Update – it might look like I’m swimming this – I’m not, I’m just spectating. You should too.

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Next challenge – 10kms… indoors

I’ve signed up for my next challenge – a 10km swim indoors at the Ponds Forge pool in March.

It’s not a “race” in that we can turn up and swim our laps when we choose during the day, so it is being described as a “challenge”. For many people it will be the first time they have swum as far as 10km and so I’m sure the atmosphere will be really good on the day.

A 10km swim is considered to be the closest equivalent swimming has to a marathon. It’s certainly similar in terms of the times people will complete it in. The fastest on the day would hope to be around 2:30 I suspect; I’ll be pleased to break 4hrs; while the cut-off point is 6hrs.

I’ve not swum at Ponds Forge before – of course it is an Olympic sized pool (50m) which makes it a bit different, although fewer turns is certainly a bonus. By signing up you get access to a few training/advice sessions from the team, so I’ll try to make one of those just so that I can get used to the surroundings.

And a massive thanks to I Swim (and sometimes Tri too) for suggesting it to me via Twitter.


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