20191029 Swim #35

My second 2 miler in a row. And 5 minutes quicker than yesterday. Partly because the pool was much much quieter than yesterday and I had a lane to myself for much of the time. By fluke, this puts my total distance so far at exactly 78.000 km.

My pace is still slower than it was 2 weeks ago. For the first hour I focused on trying to keep my pace up but when I took a breather at the hour mark I’d still only done 94 lengths. I have no idea how I was managing 96 – 98 before or why my pace has dropped a little.

I’ve bought myself some new swimming headphone and they are fantastic. Before I started this challenge I knew one of the issues I would have would be getting bored if I tried to swim for anything more than 10 minutes. Unlike walking, there’s no scenery or variation in terrain to keep you interested and occupied. So I bought myself a cheap (£30) pair of Tayogo bone-conducting swimming headphones to see whether listening to music whilst swimming was feasible and whether it would make a difference. And I promised myself that if they did work, if I stuck at the Aspire Channel Swim and if I thought it was likely that I would continue swimming after the challenge finished then I would buy myself a better, more expensive set.

The Tayogos absolutely did work and I’d recommend them to anyone looking for a cheap set, if they were still available, but it looks like they’ve been discontinued.

So over the weekend, I ordered some AfterShokz Xtrainerz and the difference is incredible. The sound clarity is superb and they’re fantastically light and comfortable. Occasionally with the Tayogos it’d take some fiddling to get them to sit right and with a really long swim they could start to get a little irritating (as could the goggles and nose clip). The AfterShockz are so comfortable that even after the 2 miles I could still barely feel that they were there. Only the continued sound let me know that they hadn’t just fallen off. With the Tayogos listening to music was fine but any spoken word sections kind of got lost amongst the noise of the water. In the AfterShokz the clarity seems got enough to listen to spoken-word audio opening up the possibility of listening to audiobooks or language courses whilst swimming.

The Tayogos (left) and the AfterShokz Xtrainerz (right)

I’m hoping to be able to complete 2 miles a day all 5 days this week and you could encourage me on that with a donation to the Aspire charity on my JustGiving page.

20191028 Swim #34

Today’s swim was a much stronger one than I was expecting. I felt unwell over the weekend and didn’t do much other than watch TV. So I expected to struggle to even make it to the pool, let alone swim particularly far.

Having dragged myself out of bed, with the help of a caffeine drink, and to the pool I told myself I’d aim for a 45-minute swim and make up the extra 15 minutes during the week. However, as soon as I started swimming I realised I felt better and less fatigued than I have 3 or 4 weeks. So I figured I’d get a full 2 miles in.

Despite feeling good, when I stopped for a breather at the hour mark I’d only done 88 lengths. A full 10 lengths fewer than I’d done in the same time a couple of weeks earlier. This would partly be due to the fact that it was a busy session in the pool and I wasn’t in “the lanes” so I was having to dance around with other swimmers sharing the same space. But my pace does seem to have slowed over the last few weeks. Instead of the 98 lengths per hour that I was achieving, it’s now more usually 92 or 94.

You can see the record of my total mileage and a link to my Just Giving page on my Aspire Channel Swim log.

20191025 Swim #33 End of Week 7

A quick (although slightly slower than usual) 2-mile swim before breakfast rounded off week 7 of my #AspireChannelSwim week. It was a busy morning session right from the off at 7am and I was sharing a lane with 2 others for the first time in a while. Despite what I consider to be a slightly lackadaisical pace I was the fastest of the 3 and very grateful that they were quick to pause and step aside to let me past.

My Fitbit Ionic, which does my length counting for me.

I haven’t been swimming at the weekends and I’m looking forward to 2 days of relative rest before getting back to it on Monday. Just another 5 weeks left until I can take a longer break. :¬)

Prior to this challenge, I was never much of a swimmer and I’d certainly not done any distance swimming like this since I got my 1 Mile Badge as a teenager. I struggled to swim for any period of time because I found it tedious and trying to count lengths meant my mind couldn’t relax and “zen-out”. 2 things have changed that for me.

  1. Buying a set of waterproof bone conduction headphones so I can listen to music. I bought a set of £30 Tayogo MP3 player headphones just to try out the principle and they work brilliantly. But I may well invest in some more expensive ones now I know it works.
  2. My Fitbit Ionic, which counts the lengths I do. This means I don’t have to try to remember how many lengths I’ve done or which one I’m on. I just swim in 15 or 20 minutes sets keeping an eye on the clock. During the lengths now I can just let my mind wander and embrace the slightly hypnotic swimming action.

My dalliance with a change of technique is faltering. The technique I was copying whilst it felt natural at first seems to fatigue specific muscles quite heavily and seems to slow my pace down. So I’ve been looking at a few more videos and I think I’m going to try incorporating this one into my style….

When I get home from an early swim I’ll quite often lean my chair back, put my feet up on the desk and close my eyes for 10 mins. Our youngest cat Jaspervark loves to join me, jumping up and settling down on my chest or my lap for a quick snooze. It seems to have become his fave part of the day and he gets quite insistent that we get a few Zs at some point in the morning. He also seems fascinated by the smell of chlorine on my beard.

I’m up to 15th on the leaderboard today. 14th place is 4 miles ahead of me so this might be the highest I climb. https://www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk/leaderboards/individuals/order/distance/p2#board

I’m doing this as a sponsored challenge for Aspire, who support people with Spinal Cord Injury to help them live full, independent lives. I’d love it if you’d support me at https://justgiving.com/fundraising/theaardvark-2019-channel-swim

20191024 Swim #32

After a couple of lunchtime swims, today was back to a 7am swim with time for just an hour before work.

7am is a busy time at Burntwood Leisure Centre. By the time they let us through at 6:55am there was a queue of about 10 of us. As the newcomer to this early-morning group, I’m yet to work out where and how everyone prefers to swim. I ended up sharing the “slow” lane with someone who, thankfully, swam at a similar place to me for the first 30 minutes. For the second half-hour I shared it with a woman who is also doing the #AspireChannelSwim and who swims at a similar pace to me.

Yesterday’s change of technique, which uses muscles slightly differently to my previous technique, has taken its toll on my shoulder and side/back muscles so I was having to alternate between the two to manage the fatigue. Even so, I’ve been aching all day since. It showed in my pace too, completing just 92 lengths in the hour.

20191023 Swim #31

Another lunchtime 3km in my #AspireChannelSwim today.

I was focussing on my technique today after seeing some Zoggs videos posted by AspChannelSwim recently.

The video on freestyle/front-crawl suggests lowering your stroke rate and keeping your leading arm out in front of you almost until your returning arm reaches it. The arm stroke is reasonably flat to the body pulling water down your body all the way to your hip. You end up moving in a series of bursts instead of a constant speed. I think it will improve my swim but it’s a little more tiring whilst my muscles get used to the slightly different action. My shoulder and latissimus dorsi muscles are aching tonight and I think I might struggle a little tomorrow.

I’ve passed the 40-mile mark today and, as at 2pm today, I’m into the top 20 on the leaderboard.
Please sponsor me at https://justgiving.com/fundraising/theaardvark-2019-channel-swim

20191022 Swim #30

What a diff a day, 29 hours to be precise, makes. I started today’s #AspireChannelSwim feeling less fatigued & with no residual pain in my shoulder. I felt better than I have for the past week.

Today’s swim was a lunchtime one. I had a rough night with insomnia last night so I figured I’d miss the morning session and get a few extra hours kip. Lunchtime at Burntwood Leisure is often a little quieter than the 7am session and it was so today. I had the “fast” lane to myself on & off for half of my swim.

Within 5 minutes I was thinking my body had been lying to me again but that passed quickly. I hit the 1-hour mark feeling good and pushed on for an extra 15 mins with one eye on the Distance Swum Leaderboard.

At 1hr 15 mins I happened to have completed exactly 3km. I was feeling good enough to continue but didn’t want to risk fatiguing myself for the rest of the week.

I’ve started to think about my stroke technique. Now that I’ve upped my fitness to a point where I can swim for a decent time/distance the next thing to focus on has to be how well I’m doing it. The Aspire Channel Swim Twitter account linked to an instruction video from Zogg (the challenge sponsors) and I found this one from them on freestyle / front-crawl technique. I was surprised to see just how long the swimmer demonstrating left his leading hand in the front before starting the next stroke. It’s going to take some practice to do that I think.

I’ve reached the 39 miles mark for my swim since 9th September and (I had) jumped up to #21 (although I’ve dropped to 23 as others have updated during the day) on the Distance Swum Leaderboard, less than a mile behind the next place and a top 20 ranking. :¬) https://www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk/leaderboards/individuals/order/distance/p3#board

Don’t forget you can sponsor me at https://justgiving.com/fundraising/theaardvark-2019-channel-swim to give me a little encouragement to continue this challenge for the next 5 weeks. :¬)

20191021 Swim #29

In hindsight, it would seem that a 2 hour, 2.9 mile swim in addition to the hour-long swims every weekday was not a good idea.

Despite the 2 day break over the weekend, I was still feeling the after-effects when I went for today’s swim this morning. And I’m still feeling the effects now. I’m a little concerned that the muscle fatigue might be sufficient to curtail my swimming plans over the next few weeks.

I’m going to try to keep up the hour-long swim for the next few days but I might have to cut it back a little if the fatigue, particularly in my right shoulder, doesn’t ease soon.

Today’s swim started slowly. I shared a swimming lane with someone who swam alternate lengths either with a slow breaststroke or standing, walking crawl. Pacing is not my strong point so this helped me ease into the swim.

I still managed the hour but only completed 92 lengths. Someway short of my usual 98ish.

I guess I’ll know better whether I can swim an hour a day and recuperate from a long swim at the same time in a few days.

I’m up to just over 37 miles and £70 sponsorship. You can sponsor me at http://justgiving.com/fundraising/theaardvark-2019-channel-swim.

20191018 Swim #28 – 2 hours & (nearly) 2 miles

Welllllll shiiiiiiitttt……..

Today I learned that my body lies to me. Not just little lies but big fat fibs. 5 minutes into today’s swim and it was telling me that another swim so soon after yesterday’s 76 minutes was a really bad idea. I was too fatigued to even do 15 minutes, let alone the 1 hour that I had planned.

10 minutes later, after I’d convinced myself and my aching arms that I wasn’t going to give up so easily and suddenly… POW! Not only was I OK after 15 minutes but I could swim in 30 minutes sets, instead of the usual 15. And when I hit the hour mark I felt fine to just keep on going.

At 90 minutes I started to flag a little, but I was close to a new personal best. I’d not swum for more than 90 minutes before, so I thought I’d do another 15. And then after 1¾ hours… well….. I was so dammed close to 2 hours and just far enough from flaking out in the water and drowning that it had to be worth a go. So I carried on.

2 hours (well, as near as makes no difference). From the moment the pool session opened to the moment the staff were clearly waiting to get it ready for the next session. 188 lengths. 4.7km. 2.9 miles.

SWIMMING PRO TIP: LEAVE THE POOL WITH ENOUGH ENERGY LEFT TO WRESTLE YOUR SOCKS BACK ON TO DAMP FEET

I need a few days off after that, so it’s a good job that’s the end of week 6 and I’m not swimming, or doing much else, over the weekend. That brings me to the halfway point in terms of time.

If you’re as impressed with my performance as I am (I’m frankly shocked tbh – who knew I was capable of that?) then maybe you could see your way to saying a little “congratulations” in the form of a donation to Aspire, the spinal injury charity, on my fundraising page. :¬)

I’m currently 25th in the leaderboard for distance swum by participants of the challenge, up 3 places from midweek. https://www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk/leaderboards/individuals/order/distance/p3#board

20191017 Swim #27

Another 10-minute wait for the leisure centre to open to I could be pool-side at 7am-on-the-dot to start to my #AspireChannelSwim because I had to commute into the office immediately afterwards. After yesterday’s 45 min swim I added an extra 15 mins today to keep the 1 hour average going.

I’m definitely feeling the cumulative effects of swimming an hour every day. The fatigue level this morning was quite high. The last 15 minute set of lengths was tough and I only just managed to get to 76 mins without having to quit early.

122 lengths over 76 minutes is bang on the 96 – 98 lengths per hour pace, but I’d only managed 42 at the half-hour mark, so it’s my early pace that’s slowing me down.

20191016 Swim #26 – Halfway!

Between 9th November, when the challenge started, and 1 December, when it finishes, I think I can get in 52 swims (not on weekends or holidays). So that means today’s 26th swim is halfway through!

And, at halfway in I’m almost exactly halfway to my 60-mile target.

I had a train to catch this morning so I had to drag myself out of bed a 6:15 to ready to get in the pool at bang on 7am. And I only had time for 45 minutes of swimming. I managed to fit 74 lengths in, which is still just a smidge short of a 100-lengths-an-hour pace.

I’ve not really talked about the change in my fitness level that I’ve seen so far. After 5½ weeks of swimming, on average, 66 lengths a day for 5 days a week I am definitely noticing an increase in my stamina and, if judged by my swimming speed, my strength. I’m not losing weight but I am getting slimmer. My shoulders muscles are bulking up and I’ve developed pectoral muscles that I’ve never had before. My thigh muscles have also bulked up significantly but I suspect that might be more to do with the 93 mile walk a few weeks ago. I recently increased my protein intake with a whey-protein shake every day and that has improved my recovery time and, I think, the pace at which my fitness in improving. It also seems to have stopped the muscle aches and cramps I was getting overnight.

Today I discovered that there’s a leaderboard on the Aspire Channel Swim website. Whilst I’m down in the mid-900s in terms of money raised, I’m up in the top 30 for distance swum. https://www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk/leaderboards/individuals/order/distance/p3#board

I’m not entirely sure that discovering this was a good thing.

I’m undertaking this challenge for 2 reasons. Primary for me is the physical fitness aspect, creating a challenge that keeps me undertaking physical activity and pushing my fitness. However, it’s also a fundraiser for the Aspire charity and raising money keeps me motivated. I’d be very grateful if people would sponsor me at https://justgiving.com/fundraising/theaardvark-2019-channel-swim