20191113 Swim #46

Today’s #AspireChannelSwim was a return to the 7am sessions. I had pretty bad insomnia last night and I’d hoped to lie in until 9am and then do a lunchtime swim. But I woke up at 5am and there was little point lying in bed wide awake so I figured I’d get my swim in.

The session was very quiet, perhaps the quietest morning session I’ve seen. I had a lane to myself for the whole hour. I felt reasonably good after the usual struggles over the first 10 lengths. I thought I’d swum quite strongly for the hour. Somehow, though, I ended up doing 4 fewer lengths than either Monday’s or Tuesday’s hour-long swim

20191112 Swim #45

After swimming until 10pm last night, I waited until the midday swimming session today for my #AspireChannelSwim. It was a quiet session, which I much prefer.

The swims seem to be getting harder now, not easier. Whereas I’ve always been able to step up the time or distance I was attempting each week, this week I’ve dialled it back to 1 hr a day but it’s as hard last week’s 1½ hr per day. Still, I managed another 100-length swim in that hour today, so my pace is still at the upper end of where it has been.

I think the increased pace is a result of my evolving technique. I’m using a slower stroke pace but maximising the amount of my hand and forearm that pushes on the water and the distance it does so for.

20191111 Swim #44

So, I’ve got some blog posts to go back over and catch up on (unless you’re reading this in the future and I’ve already done them). :¬/

Today’s swim was the weirdest yet. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed for the early morning swim. Monday mornings are always really busy too, so I planned to go for a lunchtime swim. But I forgot that I had a lunchtime appointment. So I ended up going for my first 9pm swim.

The first 20 minutes of the swim were awful. My pacing was far too quick, my stroke was erratic and short, and I felt worn out after just 5 minutes. At that point, I wasn’t sure I would manage a full 10 minutes, let alone an hour. It took nearly the rest of the first half-hour to recover but then I went on to do another 100-length hour. How is that possible?

I’ve now passed the 66 miles marker, which was by far my highest target distance, and I’ve still got 8 swims to go (more if I’m able to swim whilst on holiday).

You can sponsor me at https://phoole.rocks/aspirevark

20191030, 1031 & 1101 Swims #36 to #38

How have I not blogged since Tuesday? Well, I know how, I even know why, but it does feel a little remis.

All 3 swims were 132 lengths, 2 miles, and all 3 of them took around 1hr 22 to 24 mins. And I think I may have found my current physical limit. Yesterday’s swim, the 5th 2 miler in a row, really hurt; from the 2nd length onward in a way that I haven’t had so far in this challenge.

Wednesday’s swim was reasonably straight forward, although the muscle fatigue was already setting in. On a “normal” swim my muslces, particularly my shoulder muscles, start to ache/burn after the first 2 lengths but normally settle down after 10 or so. I’ll usually take a quick break and a sip of water after 10 lengths, shake my arm muscles out and then carry on in sets of 15 to 30 minutes (20 to 40 lengths at a time). On Wednesday it was a good 45 minutes before my shoulders and arms accepted that I wasn’t quitting and stopped complaining. The next 40 minutes felt quite strong and I was tempted to carry on beyond 2 miles, but wanted to keep some reserve for the rest of the week.

Thursday’s swim was tougher both physically and mentally. On Wednesday Sharon and I went to Cardiff to see Tim Minchin in concert. It was a 4½ hour drive there and a 2½ hour drive back on Thursday morning. So by the time I went for a swim I had totally used up any patience I had for doing repetitive stuff whilst listening to music. I found the first hour of the swim boring in a way that I haven’t since I started swimming with headphones on and music playing. I almost quit twice and thought I’d make up the distance on Friday. The first time I kept going because I was listening to the Phoole & The Gang radio show from Friday 25th Oct and at the point I was going to give up Phoole gave me a shout out and asked her audience to pile in on the sponsorship. The second time I just couldn’t bring myself to quit having already done 3 2-mile swims and being within touching distance of the 4th. The last 20 minutes were less tedious but only because the adult swim session finished and the pool started to fill up with kids that I had to dodge.

Friday’s swim wasn’t so tough mentally but was incredibly difficult physically. My legs ached from fatigue for the first time since I started this challenge. Whilst they did eventually give it up and fall in line my arms and shoulders ached and burned for the whole swim. I took more breaks and thought I was swimming slower but still ended up with almost exactly the same time as Thursday. I’ve been adjusting the “catch” phase of my stroke after watching some more YouTube videos and I think that might have increased my speed and compensated for the slower cadence.

No swimming this weekend but I’m feeling the after-effects of the 10 miles this week. My arms and shoulders ache and my back hurts. I haven’t been this weary since the end of my Two Saints’ Way walk. I’d like to keep up the 2 miles per day rate though so I’m hoping I recuperate by Monday morning.

I’m up to 13th on the leaderboard on Aspire’s website now but the distances between the places are greater now so it’s going to be difficult to climb much further up.

I’m up to £100 on the sponsorship thanks to 2 donations from work colleagues. You can donate on my JustGiving page.

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

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.


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