Just keep swimming…

 

Bexhill Triathlon 28th August 2011

Delighted to be alive after a horrible swim (taken in Bexhill in Sussex, England)

As you can see from the caption and the goofy expression on my face in the photo above, I was delighted to have survived the swim leg of the Bexhill Triathlon in 2011. I’ve had rough relationship with the swim in the events I’ve entered and since I’m planning to start my swim training in March, I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

A tip which completely revolutionized swimming for me is rather simple: “Drop your head to raise your legs and have the sensation of swimming downhill.” Before I read this and put it into practice, I struggled to swim at a steady, smooth pace. No matter how much I trained, I couldn’t get into a rhythm which allowed me to swim lap after lap like all the other guys at the gym pool. It frustrated me. If I slowed down, my legs started dropping so I had to kick and stroke harder to keep from sinking. Kicking and stroking harder meant using up all my energy, which meant I had to take numerous breaks between laps. Then I read the tip and everything changed.

Suddenly it felt as if I was floating more. I felt as though I could move my arms as slowly as I wanted to and that I didn’t need to kick that hard to stay above the water. No more sinking feeling. No more energy wasted on kicking more than a dojo full of black belts. The first day I tried it I swam 1000m non-stop. I just kept going and I recall a sense of disbelief that I was managing to continue. The day before I’d struggled to finish half that distance even with regular breaks.

Expect the swim start to be a crazy washing machine of arms and legs. Even the occasional fist (I was once punched in the jaw by a guy swimming next to me. After hitting me, he swam towards another triathlete and repeated the process. It seems he took the opportunity during the confusion of the swim start to get some free punches in on unsuspecting people). In my first triathlon I was concerned about the swim distance and if I would make it. I plotted the shortest course which meant that I ended up in the thick of things at the course buoys. Ever since, I’ve made a point of swimming on the outside of the pack. Even though this means that I probably swim slightly further, it is worth it if you’d prefer to avoid the traffic jams near any obstacles or turns. So far this has worked out well for me.

There have been at least 3 triathlon events I’ve entered where I truly believed I was going to drown or, less dramatically, grab onto the canoe or kayak of the life savers to disqualify myself from the race. For all 3, I had trained and could easily manage the distance. What I didn’t manage well was the adrenaline at the start of the race nor the shock of the cold water. Now I make sure I get into the water early so I can get used to the temperature and, as mentioned above, I keep to the outskirts of the pack. I try and start at my own pace and don’t race to keep up with anyone. The other thought I have is that, if I am in serious trouble, the life savers are right there to pull me up. This gives me a sense of security and allows me to focus on my Dory thought, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just swimming…”

Good luck out there in the upcoming season. Any tips or experiences you’d like to share?

 

2015: The Training Awakens

Hi Readers

force choke

The Force has not been strong with this blog but I believe it was strong with my training in 2015.

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything on this blog (March 2015!!!). I just had a look at the stats and was surprised to discover that I’ve still had a few views despite the lack of activity. Thank you! I plan to blog more regularly this year and I also plan to focus the blog more on running, triathlons, fitness and martial arts and less on just general ‘remarkable’ topics. That’s a nice big clue as to what I’ve been up to in 2015 and what my plans are for 2016. 🙂

In 2015 I changed the way I approach my training. It started in 2014 already when I used my commute to-and-from work for my training runs and cycles. Instead of just having one workout or training session a day, I was now doing two on many days. It was tough to begin with and I struggled most evenings. However, as I stuck with it, things did improve. Then I started thinking about the training regimens that pro-athletes and elite age-groupers follow. These fit folks spend 6-8 hours a day training. Even with two sessions, I was still only doing 1-1.5 hours a day with longer runs on weekends. I reckoned that it was conceivable that I could up the daily sessions to 3 or 4. So towards the end of May 2015, I started doing 3 or 4 workouts on 3 or 4 days of the week. Again, it was tough to start with but it was manageable.

At that point, the training mix consisted of running, biking and martial arts. I started doing Kuk Sool Won twice a week for an hour. More on this martial arts system in a future post but you can find some insight into the practice from the point of view of another student (my lovely wife) in the posts on Junbi. The running was still mainly my commute and weekend long runs. I started cycling more often – substituting some of my runs with a bike to work and also going on weekly lunchtime rides with a couple of colleagues. As my body adapted to this increased regimen, I started seeing a general improvement in my endurance in particular. In June and July, I added 9Round training to my workout mix. This is a 30 min workout based on kickboxing where you move from one station to the next every 3 min. There are nine stations or rounds. It’s a high intensity workout and definitely boosted my fitness level. I feel that it took me through a plateau. I had bought a two month membership on a deal website and didn’t renew afterwards.

KSW family

It’s a family affair

In September I started crossfit of all things. There is a fantastic crossfit gym close to my home and they have a 5:30 am class – perfect for someone with a busy schedule trying to squeeze in a workout. I Will Crossfit has definitely taken my results to another level. I’ll write more about the classes but the workouts I’ve been doing there have benefited my running through heightened strength and endurance.

weekend iwc

Saturday Partner WOD – me in the Green Lantern Shirt

Event-wise, I took part in my first triathlon in the USA – the 29th Annual Tri For Real event held in Pleasanton. This was a shorter triathlon consisting of 700 yard swim, 19 -mile bike, 4-mile run. I also completed the Berkeley Trail Adventure half marathon course (the toughest half marathon I’ve ever done). Just look at the course profile!

 

BTA

After you’re done climbing, let’s climb some more

The California International Marathon held in Sacramento was my final event of the year and my first marathon since 2013. This, for me, was the true test of all the training I’d put in over the year. I had three goals depending on how the race progressed.

  1. A new PR (my previous best as detailed in my last blog post was 4h28)
  2. A sub-4h15 race
  3. A sub 4h race

I managed 1 and 2 – I finished in 4h11. My training came through – I managed to run the full distance (no walking) and I recovered faster than expected (I had a 1.5 hour drive home following the race but was nowhere near as stiff and sore as I expected to be). I definitely felt stronger.

CIM

We’re all wearing the same colours!!

So all-in-all, 2015 has given me hope for further improvements in 2016. I have entered the San Francisco Marathon  which promises to be incredibly scenic and incredibly grueling. I have plans to try a Spartan Race and/or a Tough Mudder and I’m eyeing the Ironman 70.3 in Santa Cruz. In crossfit this week we started with our baseline check. We were doing 1 rep maximum testing. It’ll be interesting to see our improvements in 12 weeks time. I’ll keep you posted. If I’m feeling brave, I may post some before and after photos.

I look forward to sharing my training journey with you.

What are you goals and events for 2016?