Sunday, 17 May 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Open Water Swimming

(West Reservoir, Stoke Newington. North London)
I am in the last month of triathlon training. Question is - do I pump it up and work extra hard or shall I keep it steady and controlled?

When I last trained for an event (for me it was a half marathon), I was a classic example of an 'over trainer'. I started way too early, peaked six weeks prior to the race and come the big day, I was exhausted. I messed it up well and truly and finished 31 seconds from my target time. I was gutted.

So with this in mind, I have been keeping training in its simplest form. Just making sure I swim, cycle and run regularly. I'm not trying out any fancy tailored sessions (although HIIT is something I try to do for running) but I am familiarising myself with triathlon scenarios, in particular, open water swimming.

Now, I will be honest. I did hesitate over booking some open water sessions. They can be costly and I did wonder if I could wing it. So basically avoid this triathlon territory and make my actual triathlon my open water debut. However, after encouragement from a fellow training companion, I found myself signing up for a induction at Stoke Newington West Reservoir through Capital Tri.

I hadn't thought much about what it would entail. I just knew it would be a great chance to try out my wetsuit. Until the actual day arrived and I dipped my toe in the water did I realise how different open water swimming would be. Here's why:

1. First up, the water is much colder. My debut was a temperature of 12 degrees
2. The cold takes your breath away and it can take time to relax and adjust to this climate
3. Swimming in groups is actually really quite daunting
4. Not having the comfort of the side of the pool to push off from means you are swimming solid for much longer distances

This first training session was a huge wake up call for me. After much panicking and swearing as I tried to cut through the ice cold waters, I managed to complete 1.2K worth of swimming. I learnt how to deal with group swimming, sighting and exiting the water. I even learnt the trick of letting a little bit of water into your wetsuit before exiting the water. This allows for a quick undressing of the wetsuit in T1.
(surviving my fist open water swim - and feeling super happy for it!)
I felt really proud of myself for overcoming my fear of open water and giving this session a go. Next up, a timed 750m sprint distance the following week. After receiving a call time of 7.40am a few days before the event, my automatic reaction was the fear of the water being colder than 12 degrees. I seriously could not go any lower than that! I was also worried about starting in a pen and battling through the waters with lots of people. However, I am going to face 100 other competitors at Blenheim Palace so I really needed to do this in order to get over this concern.

So when the 750m race came (this is part of the Splash! series with Capital Tri), I arrived half hour before my wave started, signed in, got in my wetsuit and marched straight outside. After a quick five minute briefing, we were all lining up on the jetty waiting to enter the water. Once we were given the all clear to swim to the start line, I didn't even hesitate in getting in. I walked straight down the slope into the waters and pulled my whole body under. I straight away swam over to the starting buoy and felt geared up to go. 'I've just got to go for it and not stop!' was all I could think.
(my training buddy and I getting prepped for the race!)
The siren went and we were off! My sighting was a bit off to start with and I did end up going a bit wide in the first 200m. I found myself grouped with two other girls and made my strategy to be remaining by their side at all times. We were all in the same swimming caps so it was hard to spot my friend but I had a feeling she was one of these girls. It felt reassuring to know she was nearby. By the halfway point, I felt brilliant! My pace picked up slightly and I felt light and agile as I cut through the water. By the last 100m I pushed it as hard as I could back to the jetty to finish in a time of 15.26 and securing 5th female.
(fellow swimmers for the 3000m course cutting through the water)
15.26 and 5th place. Are you kidding me!? My target was 20 minutes so to learn this was mind boggling. Maybe I'm not too shabby with my swimming after all. Hurrah!

As I write this post, I am still beaming with this result. By far one of my proudest moments in my fitness journey. Now I know I can swim open water, for 750m in what I think is a pretty decent time. This is the assurance I need for the triathlon and with it being only a month away, I need to keep up training to ensure I keep this pace and strength for the big day.

For all fellow debut triathletes out there. If your race involves an open water swim, get yourself down to your local swimming pond/reservoir asap! It is, I think, a necessity for training. Open water and pools are two very different things and it should not be assumed they are the same. 

Anyway, to celebrate I'm off for a gin! If you want to learn more about Capital Tri and training sessions they have coming up, visit the website here

Lipstick Runner. 

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