Category Archives: Swimming

Open Water Swimming

The week has absolutely flown by and work has had me all over the place.  However, I have managed to fit my scheduled training in which included a couple of lake swims, run and bike sessions.  The lake has cooled down somewhat due to the amount of rain we have received and it isn’t as clear as it normally is.  But I do enjoy lake swimming as there is plenty to see and focus on as I trawl around the course we use. 

If you have never swum in a wetsuit, it takes a bit of getting used to.  The first hurdle is to get into it.  Steve, a friend from work borrowed one last Tuesday and joined us for his first ever open-water swim.  Although the suit was borrowed and a tad on the small side, Steve worked a fair sweat up and knackered himself out before he even entered the water.  The suit should fit snugly enough to allow water in and create a warm layer but not be so tight that it restricts movement and breathing but also not so loose that it allows water to ‘puddle’ in the suit and weigh the wearer down.  So fit is important but also the suit’s design.  Different thicknesses of neoprene are used to create buoyancy which suits the wearer and helps to keep him/her in the ideal swimming position.  Once you’ve got a suit that fits all you need to do is make sure that any areas likely to rub are lubricated.  This should be done with something which will not affect the suit.  Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) shouldn’t be used as being petroleum based it will perish the wetsuit. 

The other odd thing about open-water swimming is that despite being in the open it can feel very claustrophobic.  It might be the fact you are wearing a restrictive suit or it could be that often you can’t see anything once your head goes in the water due to the murkiness, or it could be the cold feeling on your head and in your ears,  or a combination of the above.

This of course is before you actually enter a race where all of the above applies and on top of that you are in the middle of a thrashing mass and get the odd kick and punch by the flailing limbs of other competitors.  Once the swim is done though all you have to do is a cycle ride and a run.  Job done!


A chilly open water swim

Tuesday I met a dozen or so Team Bedford chaps and we donned our wetsuits and did a lake swim.  Various times and distance was covered by the team and I ended up doing about 3,000 metres.  A bit cold to start but soon warmed, although I did get a twinge of cramp in my quadriceps which isn’t that unusual for me on a long open water suited swim.

Swimming Coming Along Nicely

I am really pleased with how my swimming is shaping up and I am thinking about the possibility of a new wetsuit.  Not sure what to do there but there are lots of new entrants to the triathlon equipment market but mostly the suits have to be ‘off the peg’.  Unfortunately, I am quite stocky for my height and I might have to have one made to measure but that limits me to which suit I can choose.  I’ll think on it.

Half Way There

I am now in week 14 of my 27 week Ironman training schedule and the mileages are building.  This weeks LSD (long steady distance) sessions were a 17 mile run on Friday morning before work and on Saturday a 90 mile ride.  Sunday, I had a rest day and spent it doing quite a lot of heavy landscaping in the garden.  Today Monday, is also a rest day and is also the first day of a weeks holiday from work (hoorah).  I hope to get a bit more of my marathon training manual written but it is now mid-day and other jobs, including getting a blog entry completed, have taken over.  Still, it is a holiday and I am enjoying doing this.  This weeks training isn’t too testing as it allows some recovery time for a heavy Bank holiday weekend’s training.  We have guests round for a BBQ on Bank Holiday Monday so, I have had to re-jig the schedule a bit but it looks like I will be doing a 100 mile ride and a 45 minute run (5 miles) on Friday, taking a rest day on Saturday, Sunday is a brick session consisting of a 4 hour bike ride (probably about 65 to 70 miles) and then straight in to a 2 hour run (nice and steady, so probably 15 miles) and on Monday, before I light the BBQ and get my chefs head on, a 50 mile tempo bike ride.  So the Bank holiday weekend plan is to cycle 215 miles and run 20.  After all that I should be ready for my BBQ meal.

The Traffic Lights System to Colour Code your Training Schedule

LSD (long steady distance) sessions are the core sessions for endurance events and can’t be missed.  Some people colour code their training schedules in a traffic light fashion.  Those in red (LSD sessions) cannot be dropped, amber sessions shouldn’t be dropped but the odd one isn’t too detrimental and green are the sessions that can be dropped if you need some flexibility around your week.  Don’t think that green sessions are there to be dropped, as all training programmes have been structured for a specific purpose and to allow the person using the plan the maximum chance of achieving the intended goal, but it is also recognised that flexibility is necessary and this colour coded system does allow you  to quickly determine where you can have some degree of flexibility.  However, whilst the traffic light system is a good quick reference guide you should understand the basic principles of the plan and what the various sessions are trying to achieve.  This way any session dropped has been done in an informed manner rather than ad-hoc and you should also be able to work out how to re-work that training week’s sessions in order to minimise the disturbance of the missed session/s.

Mental Toughness as well as Physical Effort

Endurance sport is about physical effort but it is also about mental toughness.  This toughness is what gets you through the moments where you just want to sit on the roadside, where your brain is telling you that your body is saying no but your mental toughness is saying I CAN, I WILL, I MUST.  This mental toughness starts by making decisions in your training programme which aren’t always about carrying on through a session when it is hurting but are also about putting your goal ahead of other things and making your training high on your priority list.  Getting out of bed at some unseemly hour to run before you meet your colleagues for a breakfast meeting, or leaving a social event earlier than you normally would and having not drunk your normal amounts to ensure you are ready for tomorrow’s LSD (Long Steady Distance) session.  Endurance events are tough both physically and mentally but they can also bring many rewards and for each of us these rewards are different but hopefully worth the effort you put in and the sacrifices you made.

Dropping the odd session but not the key sessions

Over the past few days I have swum, run and cycled a few more miles with no major problems thank goodness.  A couple of sessions have had to be dropped due to other commitments but I have managed to fit in all the key sessions.  For beginners that is a trick to be remembered, you can miss the odd session but you must complete all the key weekly sessions.  For marathon training and any other endurance event training for that matter, the key sessions are the long steady distance sessions (LSD).  You can forgo the odd speed or interval session without any major detriment but start to drop the LSD sessions and you are asking for problems.  These sessions are the building blocks of endurance events and prepare your body for the arduous event you are undertaking.


I would suggest that it is almost inevitable that your training will not follow the schedule from start to finish without some disruption, so don’t panic if you have to miss the odd session.  Even the professionals have disruptions in their lives.  The important lesson to learn here is that how much you miss is, to quite a large degree, within your control.


There is nothing easier than convincing yourself that you just can’t do a session whereas it is much harder to work out how you can fit it in.  Look at the options of an early rise to get the session in before work, moving meetings to allow you to take an extended lunch or even, as some of my training colleagues do, take every Wednesday as holiday at the point in their training schedule that requires 6 to 7 hours of training in one session.  This may seem crazy to you but the driving force here is the commitment to give it your best shot and hopefully reap the benefits at the race.