New Year, Stop Crapping, Get Cracking

So an update on everything. We’ll I’ve put on over a stone at Christmas with beers and chocolates etc which I don’t even regret. It was an amazing break and got to make up special time with Seb and Ang that I missed from training I did last year. The weightloss is also a target, currently 14st hoping to get down to 12st by summer.

After visiting the physio about my left foot/ankle/shin injuries I was supposed to book myself in to see a woman about my left foot and the way I stand on it and if I should get a new sole put in my shoes. But £80 being the price to see her I’ve put it off having been skint recently and my leg’s not been too bad lately so we’ll see.

My fitness is way off what it was. I did a 130 length swim on Monday with a pace way off what it was in the summer (1.5 lengths per minute / 1.7 lengths per minute). I did a 4 mile run last night and my average pace was a bit off (6.2mph / 7mph). However I couldn’t give a damn about my level of fitness. The fact that I’ve been out two days in a row, feeling great, enjoying it and not feeling too sore apart from the odd niggle is really pleasing. I was smiling in the pool to some dance songs on my MP3 player and even dancing with waving fingers when running last night.

Hoping to do something else on Thursday either a run or swim depending on how I feel.

I’ve also signed up to a few runs and events this year and I’m still wanting to do Tough Mudder twice this year!

So much to look forward to this year, getting really fit but not having to worry about coming challenges!

150 lengths aided by new MP3 player

The pace wasn’t as quick as the 120 length swim 2 weeks ago but I’ve not swam 150 lengths since the swimming challenge back in May so really happy with my push back to fitness.
Today I used my new underwater Sony MP3 player which helped tremendously. The audio wasn’t massively loud especially when I was listening to Ricky Gervais podcasts but when I could here it I choked on the water a few times from laughing.

A fast 130 lengths in 80 minutes at Bolton One

So after Cubs this evening I decided to go to Bolton One immediate after for a decent swim. I wanted to get well over 100 lengths as I have only been doing lately due to running out of time Horwich Leisure Centre’s tight time slots for swimming when there is no swimming club on.

I got to Bolton One and met up with Suzi who is now working there and we had a quick chat about that I’ve now completed the challenges and raised £4,500. She told me that she is moving to Australia soon to do some travelling and wished her all the best.

I was in the pool for 8:15 and got cracking – the first 30 lengths felt like an eternity and I had some ridiculously fast young swimmers from what looked like Bolton Dolphins where were swimming that fast it was hard swimming through their splashes and wakes haha – proper currents!

At 40 lengths I realised that I could get in 130 lengths so I thought about taking a rest at 50 lengths but I ended up carrying on until 66 leaving me with 64 to do.

I did both sets in 80 minutes which is the same if not better than when I was fit and training for the 1,000 lengths

13/03/2014 – 130 lengths – 89 min (From Swim Diary)
Quick swim before picking up Seb. Once again made to swim in main pool for a while but wasn’t too bad. Was quite quick at my swim

Hoping to do a run this week and see how my leg shapes up

Quick Swim whilst legs are still not 100% right for running

In June after completing the Great North Swim 2014 I said I would never swim again, however since I have the Great North Run in 10 days and since my legs are not well enough to run on I needed to maintain my fitness so I thought swimming would be perfect since it’s less strenuous on the muscles and I’m pretty good at it and will be able to push my fitness levels and form.

Well…. I was pretty good at it although I had no idea how my form would be once I got into the pool. I set myself an hour’s swim and I thought if my pace was terrible I’d push an easy 50 lengths. I got in and BOY it was cold – was it this cold when I used to train here back in May? – 3 months ago!!! Perhaps they’ve decreased the temperature of the pool ever since I ended up being taken to hospital when I attempted the 1,000 length swim challenge due to it being too warm. 

I played about with my goggles for the first 6 lengths trying to get them right and there was a guy in the same lane who was trying to impress with his speed and technique – come on everyone does it! – what just me? I’m so vain!

Finally I got my goggles right and started pushing to see how my fitness and breathing was. I noticed that my technique was good and I felt like I hadn’t been away for 3 months and started getting faster and faster – I was happy to see that I was still by miles the fastest guy in the pool like I used to be at the beginning of summer. The guy I was sharing my lane with was quite impressed that I was catching up to him in the fast lane doing breaststroke whilst he was doing a fast crawl… and having to take regular breaks. I took 1 rest break overall which was only about a couple of minutes when I has done 50 lengths. I wanted to aim for 100 so I pushed myself hard laughing at that I ONLY had to do 100 lengths and not aiming for milestones of 500 or 700 lengths when I used to do the boring monotonous training. 

I noticed a woman swimming in the lane next to mine and she was wearing some basic headphones. I realised that I really missed swimming but damn it got boring and some headphones like these Fenis Neptune underwater MP3 player would be a good investment. We shall have to see!

I managed 100 lengths in the 60 minutes and my pace (0.73 MtPS, 1.76 LPM, 1.63 MPH, 2.64 KPH) is as it was back in May so I’m really chuffed!

Unfortunately for me having a good swimming fitness and form does not mean that I have a good running fitness and form. I shall do what I can in 10 days so I just hope that my legs repair so I can do the small 13 mile run.

The Great North Swim 2014, Windermere

The Great North Swim 2014, what was supposed to be a simple day, an easy swim which wouldn’t be overwhelming. I practiced and had done many miles in the pool and also in Salford Quays……. so I thought I knew how the day would pan out – my predictions could not have been more wrong.

We left our house at 12:30 giving us four hours to get there in time – easy! En-route we picked up my sister, dropped off Seb at Ang’s mum n dad’s and got some fuel. It was 1:15 by the time we got on the motorway. Luckily my bruv was 30 mins in front of me and I asked him to let me know on his way to Ambleside if there were any traffic issues. We chose Ambleside because it was closer to the event location and didn’t involve us using the ferry saving us £££.

En route, my brother called to say not to bother with Ambleside as he was in a traffic jam and hardly moved for 20 minutes. So we parked in Bowness and decided to take the ferry.

After arriving at the ferry drop off, I was surprised to learn that there was a good 30 minute walk to the event location Low Wood Bay. We arrived at 15:50 so I decided to watch the 16:00 wave to get an idea of what goes on. After this and seeing Rebecca Adlington join in with this wave I noticed that there were a couple of people doing breaststroke so I was really pleased with this. At this point I decided to get ready.

I came out at 16:10, 20 mins before my time and was surprised to see that EVERYONE was already stood waiting at the start area. I thought I missed the acclimatisation and heard the guy on the mic “This is the very last time for people to check in for this final wave” – I was like AARGGGHH WHAT why am I so late? So I ran to the check in area (eventually finding the right side to check in), scanned my ankle chip timer with my wet suit that wasn’t zipped up, the guys helping me zip it up told me I hadn’t put it on properly and that I needed to pull the creases through so that they could zip up and close the wetsuit around my shoulders. They did this, I ran into the start area and my sister then said “Paul you’ve still got your trainers on”. I thought what an idiot the guys must have thought this when I scanned my chip.

At this point I was pretty annoyed at why I was so late even though it was still 15 mins before the swim start. I was quite stressed so I started to calm myself using my CBT and then I saw someone running into the acclimatisation area – I thought I’m coming too – asked the lady next to it if I could also and she said “You have like 30 seconds” – and 30 seconds later after getting used to the water, which didn’t feel massively cold, we were called out to start the body warm up with my wave.

Whilst focusing on the warm up I was thinking and comparing how I do warm ups with the AFC Masters and if I could incorporate some of the things with our guys. I was quite lost in the moment until during the warm up I could then see the floating marker points of the course…. MY GOD THEY WERE MASSIVELY SPACED APART!!! The half way point was a fair distance away you had to squint to see it! The weather at this point was very cloudy, a bit drizzly but warm enough. An Australian open water swimming champion gave us some warm words of advice of not pushing too hard initially and that the waters were very calm. He said the water is 17.9C and in Australia in the winter if the water is less than 20 degrees they refuse to swim it as it’s too cold. Lovely!

16:30 WE GO IN! First thoughts, yep not too bad the water, aim for that first 200m floating marker. It was a bit chaotic at first banging into people even though this was supposedly a small wave of people. My goggles started to steaming up but I was finding my rhythm early, getting my head underwater and pushing the stroke a little quickly at first around 90% pace, hoping that I would eventually relax into it doing longer stokes. I noticed a few swimmers were overtaking me doing front crawl, which was fine and a woman doing breaststroke who was a little faster than I was – I thought just do your thing Paul. You have your own agenda so stick to it – don’t worry about anyone else.

After the first 200m marker I stopped banging into people, and I eventually caught up to and overtook the breaststroke swimming woman. Then I noticed THE GUY who was also doing breaststroke. He was a big guy and very animated with his breaststroke – up and down with every stroke – quite impressive which started making me think about my own technique questioning it. The negativity creeps in ALL THE TIME and you have to fight it, ignore it or laugh it off and think of something positive.

Up to the 400m marker my mind was a constant tennis of good and bad thoughts. Good as in, wow isn’t this amazing, look at the  scenery, Paul you’re doing an open water swim, wow taking part in a challenge with loads of other people. Negative as in, PAUL this is fricking DEEP, you’re in the biggest lake in England, if you struggle here you’re going DOWN a long way!

Up to the 600m marker I realised that this guy and I were pretty well matched. I thought I was pushing a bit hard to be honest and this guy was a little ahead of me all the way up to the half way point so I thought I wasn’t racing him – again just focus on my own swim.

When we approached the half way point I noticed I was still with this guy, sod it I’m sticking with him. I’m being pushed here outside of my comfort zone and my pace was a little high, but I stuck with this guy because I thought if I let him go I’d just see a guy swimming away from me and I would be on my own swimming my own swim and it would seem a little pointless – I could at least see if I could beat this guy. NOW, what annoyed me the most is that this guy had the inside line all the way round the course so even at times when I was half a body ahead of him, every time we went around the floating markers he would make up the difference and level with me.

As we passed the half way point I noticed that I was tiring a bit and my back and legs would come in huge pangs of pain which I needed to ease off a little. I was choking a lot on the water, which resulted me in stopping in the water, panicking, getting my breathing back and carrying on. This allowed the guy to overtake me again. From the 200m marker I reckon we were never more than half a body length apart the whole way, chopping and changing with who was the leader. Reminded me of the Beowulf swimming clip:

Up to the final marker point, I started thinking I’ve been going around 90% pace all the way around, I reckon I have just enough energy to do him now. So at the final marker I went for it, around 95% pace before ultimately realising that I pushed too early. About half way between the final marker and the finishing area I realised I had no energy and I turned and saw he was still only half a body length away!!! NO!!! At this point I thought RIGHT he’s won it – I can’t compete anymore. So I let him go, I swam at around 80% pace and he was now a full body length away if not a little more than that. I was thinking at this point about planning talking to Ang and everyone else who came to support me that about how I tried but there is no shame in finishing second to this guy – the greatest breaststroke swimmer I’ve ever swam with (considering I’ve done thousands of lengths of breaststroke previously).

A third of the way left to swim between the final marker and the finish point, I realised that this guy wasn’t pulling away any more… so I thought OK I’ll up it a bit to 90% again for the final part… I was catching him! Just less than a body length away so I thought LETS DO IT!!! BOOM FULL 100% PACE I had a second wind and I was powering through, reeling him in…. I still thought I didn’t have enough time and approached a bridge finishing point. He was still a little bit ahead, half a body length in front. But I realised – it was not here that was the official finishing point, you had to get up the ramp out of the water – only there was your finish time made. AND GUESS WHAT… it was on my left…. I HAD THE INSIDE LINE THIS TIME! HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT PAL??? OOOUUUSHHHH!!!! I ran up the ramp with absolute no energy, and there were volunteers with smiles on their faces grabbing my hand pulling me up the ramp. There was Ang, Pete, Maria, Helen, Martin, Anna, Luke and his friend and I ran to them who were cheering! I said “Did I beat him?”. They said “YES you were the fastest breaststroke swimmer!!!”. GET IN!!!!

Finish time of 38:01

I said where is the guy? I want to shake his hand and I turned around and he was there and completely blanked me!?!? Fair play mate I felt nothing bad in my blood – if he beat me I would have still shook his hand and said “Good race buddy”. I then walked to the check out area and he was there again and still completely blanked me – I was a bit disappointed being honest! 😦 Oh well!

I got changed and it all started to become real. I just swam the fastest mile I could have ever done. I now wish I could thank the guy for pushing me and making it a brilliant race! I would have got a time of after 40 minutes otherwise. I got my goody bag which contained my t-shirt, medal and lots of food goodies. My shoulders were absolutely battered so I just crammed in the protein.

My brother showed me a video of me getting out of the water and I saw behind me running out of the water and up the ramp this guy was being carried out of the water by volunteers. It wasn’t just me keeping up with him – he was keeping up with me all the way. Wow I felt hugely proud of this. I also realised, scarily, that if my brother didn’t go ahead of me and realised that there was traffic I would have been stuck in it and missed my race!!!

I felt pretty good once we left the venue, getting sausage and chippy chips for tea before heading home for a celebratory beer session evening in Horwich with my best friends.

Now ends the fundraising of Daytrippers and Kidz2gether – two charities I’ve had the ultimate and incredible pleasure of meeting the most amazing people. What I did fair enough was tough at times – these guys crack on and give their time ALL THE TIME and have all been through some tough demanding times with their own kids or foster children. This has been an absolute pleasure doing this for you and is huge thank you for the incredible work you do. I’m sure that this is not the end of our relationship – if not it is just the beginning.

I’ll be presenting the cheques to the two charities on Wednesday – pictures and happy faces to follow soon!

Thanks for reading 🙂

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My Wave

GreatSwimResutlsI came 1679 out of 4000 – pretty happy with that consider it was breaststroke swimming, probably one of the fastest breaststroke swimming times

Fantastic Open Water Swim Practice

Cracking swim tonight at a not so cold 17C Salford Quays Watersports Centre. 2km (4 x 500m laps) in 50 minutes which is basically my pool swimming pace.

OpenWaterSwimClick here to view the above activity on Runtastic

Basically my preparations have gone perfect and I’m so pleased. I was the fastest breaststroke swimmer by miles (and some front crawlers not expecting a ginger pale creature undertaking them doing a tougher stroke). Get in son!

It’s quite easy to seem big headed about this but months and months of training have put me in good stead for the swim. I saw people my own age struggling to even put in a decent swim and unable to carry out the stroke correctly. This is what I could have done but I chose to take it seriously and thankfully my 1,000 length challenge training has helped me tremendously. I was able to find my swimming and breathing rhythm and I smashed four x 500m laps without any difficulties. It felt absolutely fantastic to be in there and EVERYTHING going right and having the confidence to push myself knowing I was relaxed and confident in the water.

Outdoor Swimming Training – Salford Quays Watersports Club

So after putting behind me the 1,000 length swim attempt, today I started my open water swimming training.

I’ll be honest, I was completely dreading it – the thought of swimming in freezing cold water made me very apprehensive. Regardless of this, I turned up at 5:30pm around some very experienced looking swimmers and me looking like a complete novice not knowing what to do.

I got my wetsuit (total hire + entry cost was £16 ouch) and went into the changing rooms. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, how to put on the suit or which way the zip goes, where I store my extra things, if people go out in their shoes, with a towel, where the actual expanse of water is we’re swimming in. SO, I took it really slow watching everyone without looking like an absolutely stalker – all of the men getting changed into their swimming gear must have been getting pretty nervous with this ginger guy taking ages and looking at everybody haha. At one point two friends who were chatting together offered to pull up the back of the zip on the wetsuits since it’s so hard to do it yourself (note: the wetsuit is put on with the zip at the back). I then thought this would be courteous to do this for other people I got chatting to – they gave me a complete look of ‘you touch me and you will be sorry’.

So I got ready, put my stuff in the locker… again very slowly so I could follow one guy out who was brimming with confidence and he knew what he was doing. He was so cool he actually didn’t even walk outside with his wetsuit zipped up, waiting until the final minute to zip it up – what a pro!

So we made our way to the floating island area and I thought I can’t just go in and wing this – I need to tell an expert I’m new and for some information. I also said that I’m doing breaststroke – convinced that this would be seen as a rare/stupid stroke to do in open water swimming after speaking to a few experts asking me to avoid it. A passive but friendly organiser told me that there were two routes to take, one being the full 500m lap or I can cut across half way and do a 300m lap. He didn’t say anything about me doing breaststroke.

I stared at the expanse of water quickly working out that THAT would be the equivalent of doing either 20 or 12 x 25m lengths of a pool but in freezing cold deep water, in a wetsuit – something I’ve never done before. So I asked “Is there somewhere I could practice just to get my confidence up” and he smiled like ‘OMG mate’ but friendly enough pointed to two floating platforms about 20m apart I could swim between.

So rather than jumping straight in like a hero I walked in slowly like a jessie – immediately feeling the cold. I swam 2 lengths between the two floating platforms feeling cold water fill inside my wetsuit – not knowing if this was normal?? Was water supposed to get inside? My god so cold – anyway at this point I decided to go for the 300m and swam like a 60 year old lady with my head well and truly out of the water and taking an age to make some distance. I went down the first section of the lap, looking for the half-way mark so I could cut across for the 300m course but I couldn’t see it due to trying to not panic and also climatise to the water. So I followed everyone else on the 500m course instead.

On the final section of the lap I started to get a little used to the water and noticed there were actually quite a lot of people also doing breaststroke, some actually getting their heads underwater. I started to try this but again my god the water was cold! My quadriceps were killing from keeping my body flat because my head was so much out of water. So I kept trying little by little to put my head underwater. I even got a mouthful of water – EWWWW seriously it was horrible – like pond water.

After completing the lap, I got out for a little breather not knowing if we were allowed to do another lap?! The organiser I spoke to previously was kind and warm and asked how did I feel and am I going to do another lap? So after a quick breather I got back in, this time feeling miles more confident and started trying to get my head underwater.

I started getting used to it and up to a point after half way round my second lap I was doing full breaststroke like I would in a pool, full head underwater looking at all of the water weed and sediments pass under me like I was going warp speed in outer space ha! My imagination!!

After the second lap I took a breather at the floating platform but not getting out. There were also a few other people having a break and for some reason I next said something pretty stupid. I heard a guy complaining about a particular ailment he was having with his neck and that he was only able to do 2 of the 3 laps he wanted to do. He was going on about how he didn’t feel too disappointed but would have like to have done 3. Then next I asked another guy close to us all how many laps would be a mile and he said just over 3 laps. So I thought with the extra swim I did between the two floating platforms at the beginning I shouted “I may as well crack on with it then – I’ll never forgive myself if I get out just doing two” and swam off thinking “what the hell did you say that for? That guy and everyone doing one or less will be cursing you to death”…. aaaahhh oh well I didn’t know em anyway!

My final lap was fine – it takes a while to get round it but to be fair it is the equivalent of doing 20 laps without a break. My head was that much underwater my eyes actually started getting used to the dark-greenness of the water and I started to see lots of lovely objects inside. I was going at a fantastic pace once I learned how to do breaststroke in open water and guess what? I zoomed past ‘the guy’ who went outside without doing his wetsuit zip up until the last minute! Yeah ZOOOM just shows my pool training has massively helped me!

After my final lap I got out and immediately felt the warm water in my wetsuit drain out of me! So that’s what it does!!! It pulls in water and your body heats it up and you (technically) don’t get cold apart from your hands, head and feet. I felt great though – I could have done a fourth lap but I thought that would be something I could aim for next time I come.

I felt really REALLY proud of myself! It was nowhere near as terrifying or as difficult as I thought it would be. I took a quick picture and video with my waterproof camera which you can see below.

20140520_184129_The Quays

1,000 Lengths Swim….. well not quite…. 830 plus a trip in an ambulance

Well today was the Big Day! and it almost went to plan! I had to retire at 830 lengths because my lungs were so sore from the constant breathing for 13 hours. The top and lower part of my breathing hurt incredibly which resulted in me breathing quicker in the mid-range. This resulted in me not getting the carbon dioxide out of my lungs consequently making me breathe faster and faster (AKA hyperventilating) causing more pain and dizzyness! Towards the end my breaks were taking longer and longer as I was needing more time to recover before getting back into the pool but at 830 lengths my breathing didn’t recover and in fact got worse – so I had to retire which was absolutely gutting!!

If I have to be honest, although the Horwich Leisure Centre have been amazing with setting up everything, making me comfortable on the day and providing me with so much support – it wasn’t really the ideal venue to do the 1,000 with hindsight. It was TOO warm as I stated in last week’s article (500 length Practice Swim) which resulted in me having to breathe more and cool down more often getting out of the pool. I completed 700 lengths at Manchester Aquatics Centre without any complications knowing perfectly I could have done 1,000 on that day but at 500 lengths in at Horwich Leisure Centre I knew something was wrong. My form was great, energy, muscles and everything – even my knee wasn’t too bad with the knee support I put on. But I knew my breathing was getting sore and I just hoped it wouldn’t get any worse – which unfortunately it did! After 830 and getting out of the pool, getting changed and sitting on a chair at the Leisure Centre entrance I realised I needed an ambulance. I was quite distressed to be fair and it took ages to be assessed seriously at Bolton Hospital until I was given some very strong painkillers to allow me to breathe properly.

BUT what was incredible was that my friends Danny and Karen decided to jump in the pool and finish off the 170 lengths swim with the lengths my brother Pete already did with me during the day!

The support I got throughout! WOW it was incredible. From charity members to friends and family – getting cheers and roars of encouragement and waves and smiles it absolutely helped me to even get to 830. Pete my brother did 150 lengths with me (his previous PB was 50!!). Tim Cromarty got in the pool with me and did some lengths and coached me and making me comfortable throughout! Suzy who organised everything including getting up early on the day to make sure I got in the pool OK and everything and even did my warm up lengths with me too.

Summary: Swimming 1,000 was never a personal achievement. Don’t get me wrong it would have been amazing to have got there but I am proud of my 830 lengths with the thousands of lengths training I have done previously! HOWEVER, my personal achievement and main aim was to raise a ton of cash and awareness for the two charities which I DID FANTASTICALLY! We smashed the £1,000 mark last night so it was amazing knowing that this morning. So many beautiful caring people I’m so lucky and blessed to have them in my life!

I will move onto the Great North Swim event now still brimming with confidence and training starts next Monday!

20140507_100649 Me in Pool20140506_212008_Crown Ln20140507_09093520140507 - 700 Lengths20140507 - 600 lengths20140507 - 500 lengths20140507 - 400 lengths

500 length Practice Swim

So I got the day off work today and I did my 500 length practice swim at Horwich Leisure Centre. I was quite exhausted afterwards actually but I knew this was due to not a lot of sleep (nerves) and carb loading the night before.

Even still, my 500 lengths pace was much quicker than the previous time I did the 500 lengths. I also noticed that it’s a lot warmer in the pool than I was used to at Manchester Aquatics Centre. An awesome swimmer who was swimming in my lane that I was speaking to told me that she also thought the same.

Still, I should be fine for next week 🙂