Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

Love SwimRun Llanberis

Sunday, June 19th, 2022 | Sport

Love SwimRun Llanberis was my first swimrun, an advantage-style multi-sport event which includes several sections of running and swimming with no transitions: you swim in your trainers and run in your wetsuit.

While the UK baked in the consecutive days of the hottest day of the year, North Wales stubbornly hid behind clouds. The water temperature remained at 14 degrees (compared to 22 at my local lake) so I came as prepared as I could with a thermal neoprene vest under my wetsuit, calf sleeves and neoprene gloves, but still worried I might freeze to death.

Run 1

Despite raining at registration on Friday, Saturday was reasonably bright and rain-free. We set off on the first 2k run with me in the last position. I moved up as the run went on but having already donned my swim cap I was very toasty by the end of the run section. We headed into Llyn Padarn for our first swim and the water felt pretty pleasant after that.

Swim 1

Entry to the lake is slippy on the slate and not something you want to fall over into. The 550-metre swim section took us along the coast to an exit that was even more slippery. A giant slopping rock meant that the only way we could get up it was to queue, lie on our belly and attempt to get some purchase on the far edge, pulling ourselves up along it.

Run 2

Into run section two was no kinder: this was only 2k but went straight up a muddy hillside that was overgrown with nettles and thorns. It then continued in some tarmac before heading straight back down the hill on a technical descent that frequently became artificial steps.

Swim 2

The second swim headed straight across the lake. The far shore is often further away than you think of it. Mercifully, this time it wasn’t and the swim over was fairly brisk. The 450-metre stretch heads over and into a narrow cove that gets so shallow you have to walk across it. And yes, it’s very slippy slate. You can then swim again to the exit where the first feed station is located.

Run 3

The third run section completes the easy half of the figure-of-eight loop that takes you back past the start and the first feed station. I grabbed some crisps and a gel from my back pocket. It is only 300 metres and you stop in the middle of that for the feed station so there is not much chance to warm up. That’s relevant for the next section…

Swim 3

Now we are into the proper swimming. We have left the sprint racers behind and it is just the long course athletes taking the 1k stretch down to the far end of the lake. There is no turns, you just keep going until you run out of lake. It reminded me of swimming in the rowing lake at Outlaw: it just keeps going and going.

I started to feel a bit sick during this swim and also get cold. We had not warmed up in run 3 and this time I was in the water for 27 minutes so I was very pleased to have done with it by the time we reached the swim exit. Luckily, the slate here was only moderately slippy.

Run 4

The final run section constituted the main body of running. We started with a few kilometres of flat, albeit with a wooded climb in the middle. I used this chance to unroll my tow float and pull our a Yorkie bar. With hindsight, a few more chocolate bars would not have gone amiss. I tried to keep a descent pace here, while eating, to get my body temperature up.

After the first three kilometres, you start to climb up towards the slate quarry. It’s not a scrabbling with your hands climb and the surface is good underfoot: but is relatively sleep with a series of switchbacks to get to the top. Then you are treated to a little bit of flat before arriving at feed station two: time for another gel and some jelly babies.

The views up here were amazing. We were lucky that we got a clear day. I didn’t take a camera on the event but here is a photo from the castle looking over to the quarry we ran up.

The downhill starts on a gravel road and I tried to run hard down here to keep my body temperature up as I knew we were then going into a steep technical descent through the woods where I was back to carefully picking my foot placement at little above walking speed. The climp up was a lovely chance to chat to some of the other competitors and share stories.

Swim 4

Onto the final swim. At 1.1k this was the longest swim section but was maybe a little easier psychologically because we swam along the shore to a buoy and then turned, knowing that all we then had to do was cross the lake to reach the finish line.

I felt even sicker here. I am not sure whether it was the amount of lake water I had drunk by this point but I found that if I concentrated on exhaling continuously while in the water I felt a little better. A bit of wind caused a very slight chop on the water: nothing major but it did make it harder to breathe.

Turning the final buoy was an exercise in patience: I wanted to push harder to get the thing done but if you go too hard you can often end up cramping or tiring, so I tried to tempo it into the finish.

The finish

It was cold when I finished! As ever, I thought I had brought enough warm clothes but then wished I had brought more: I ended up wearing a merino base layer, hoodie, rain jacket, changing robe and towel all layered on top of each other.

My finish time was:

3:15:53

I was in the water for less time than estimated, but running for significantly more as I walked a lot of the steep uphills and technical descents. I don’t think I’m going to be a champion swimrunner: I was 60th out of 83, with additional DNF and and 25 DNSs.

That said, I did win! Despite finishing an hour and 12 minutes behind the winner, they also have a series of lucky dip prizes to encourage people to stick around for the medal ceremony and my number was the first to be called out of those that actually had stuck around. As such, I had first pick on the prizes and went for the bobble hat.

Thoughts on swimrun

All of this running in your wetsuit and swimming in your trainers business was fine. That said, on a hot day it would have become very toasty very quickly. Carrying your tow float was more of a pain in the ass. Even though I brought some carabiners to clip it, it still bounced around and sometimes I ended up carrying it.

Specifically for Llanberis, I wouldn’t want to have worn any less as the water was cold after you had been in it a while. I’m doing Manvers Lake next month and I will see how that compares: it is a more beginner-friendly affair with shorter swims and water that should be a lot warmer.

Love SwimRun seem well organised: I didn’t know how well you could manage a water safety team with a spread out field but there was always a kayak nearby and plenty of marshalls on course. Wearing a bib vest was better than having to mess around with a pinned-on number or race belt, even if it did make it a little harder to get to the chest zip on my wetsuit.

Front crawl fundamentals

Thursday, February 24th, 2022 | Sport

This month, I’ve been running a weekly front crawl fundamentals workshop to help some of our less confident swimmers really get their heads around front crawl. It’s been a very rewarding experience because getting to see the same athletes on a weekly basis, especially with the homework they put in, really demonstrated some great progress. Well done to everyone who took part!

Swimming Mount Fuji

Thursday, September 30th, 2021 | Sport

After finishing the English Channel swim and I wanted another challenge. But there wasn’t anything else in the sea so I’ve been swimming up a mountain for the past four months.

The Amphibian

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021 | Sport

The Amphibian is an open water swimming challenge run by Evolve Endurance at the Blue Lagoon. It is a one-kilometre lap of swimming and you have four hours to complete up to ten laps.

I would like to be a marathon swimmer. Until a few months before lockdown, I thought it was literally impossible for me to swim front crawl because of a nasal issue. When I mastered it, it really changed what I thought was possible. And a marathon swim (generally thought of as 10k) would really top that off. But could I get ten laps done in the time limit?

Mass starts are back and I refuse to start at the back of the crowd because that gives me an extra 20-30 metres to swim. So, I ended up right in the washing machine with arms and legs going everywhere. Between the battle for position any drafting effect I completed the first lap in 21:34.

The water was over 20 degrees. Lovely and toasty. Despite this, I felt a slight chill after the second lap and decided to keep the work rate high to maintain my body temperature. From this, I think we can safely conclude that the Norseman is not in my future until I spent a lot of time doing cold water acclimatisation!

After that, I settled down to a consistent pace of 23 minutes per lap. Starting and finishing the fifth lap was exciting because I had never swum more than four kilometres before so this was a new record for me. I set myself five laps as my target with anything above this being a bonus. I went through the 5k mark is just over two hours.

I had one more good lap in me and then after six kilometres, I started to feel the fatigue. My pace slowed down to around 27 minutes per lap. I was chafing a little in my right underarm. Adjusting my suit did not help but flushing it did. But everything else was getting tired, too.

Because swimming is gentle on the body, I somehow thought that I would not be as sore as when I ran my first marathon. But my whole upper body was getting tired and sore. But the most soreness came from a place I did not expect: my cheeks. Three hours of blowing out air under the water were taking its toll and my whole face was tired.

After completing lap eight, I was clear I was not going to make ten. Knowing that nine would be the limit made it slightly easier psychologically. But tired arms and the feeling that my left calf was cramping made it difficult to push. I was very glad to reach the beach area for the final time.

I finished in:

3:56:23

I was the second-to-last athlete out of the water. It was a challenge rather than a race so there were no placings as such. But of the 78 swimmers that started, I came 22nd. The 21 athletes ahead of me completed all ten laps. This included Leigh with a 3:36:57 swim and Gareth from Wakefield finishing a couple of minutes ahead of me. Everyone else did fewer laps and who can blame them: nine is the most amount of work you can do without being able to call yourself a marathon swimmer 😂.

This is the final Evolve event meaning that I have done every single one of theirs this year. It has been so good to get back to racing (and they ran some during 2020 as well!). Thank you to Bev, Morg and all of the volunteers and water safety crew for making the events possible.

parkrun PB and Leeds Dock swimming

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021 | Sport

Last Saturday, Leeds Dock opened up for open water swimming. Jp, Graeme and I completed Woodhouse Moor parkrun then headed down for a dip.

As it was only my third parkrun back, and I have got a lot speedier since I ran a 22:06 in 2018. So, without meaning to but simply trying to keep JP in sight ahead of me, I ran a PB of 21:05. I think I could go faster as I was held up at the start, but I don’t want to pretend I wasn’t working hard!

I would sum up the swim at Leeds Dock as cold. But nice. I am dubious of their self-admitted guesses that it was 17 degrees. I would have guessed at 15-16 but could be mistaken. Once I was swimming, though, it wasn’t too bad. It was mostly the initial getting in and warming up as it was jumping in or use the ladder: no gentle bay area like you get at the Blue Lagoon.

They have a 240-metre loop and there were only a few other swimmers in the water so no traffic to navigate. The water was clean and weed-free. You couldn’t see the bottom but that’s true of basically everywhere I have swum.

English Channel virtual swim

Saturday, May 29th, 2021 | Sport

I have done a bunch of the Conqueror challenges including Route 66 that used to be the longest one. Taking on the shortest, the English Channel, was something else. Why? Because I wanted to swim it. When the pools opened again I wanted something to motivate me so swimming the 32 kilometres seemed like a good challenge.

I have been in the pool and the lake quite a lot as I try to work on my swim. Progress is going well: I have made some speed gains already in the six weeks since the pools reopened. Everything else is a land-based challenge so I might end up swimming up Everest or around the pyramids next!

Roka Pro Swim pull buoy review

Sunday, October 18th, 2020 | Reviews, Video

A pull buoy is designed to keep your legs floating while doing swim drills so that you can work on improving your arm stroke. In this video, I will review the Roka Pro Swim pull buoy.

What can I say? It’s a pull buoy. It is a good size: maybe slightly larger than the typical pull buoy you get at a pool but not so big that it will not fit in your bag. It has good buoyancy and allowed me to get into my stroke on pull drills. It is symmetrical so you cannot adjust the buoyancy based on its orientation but I never actually do that anyway.

Huub tow float review

Monday, August 3rd, 2020 | Reviews, Sport, Video

In this video, I will review the Huub safety tow float. It follows on from my video last week about how to inflate the thing.

Mugiro neck protector

Thursday, July 9th, 2020 | Reviews, Sport, Video

If you are experiencing wetsuit chafing on the back of your neck and lube isn’t doing much for you, you may want to upgrade to the Mugrio neck projector. It’s a thick rubber collar that sits between your skin and your wetsuit and does a great job of protecting my precious skin.

How to inflate the Huub tow float

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020 | Sport, Video

I recently purchased a Huub safety tow float so that I could swim in lakes with slightly less fear of drowning. All very well and you would think it would be obvious how to inflate it. But it wasn’t and took us a bit of time to figure out. To save anyone else the hassle of how to do it, here is a video on it:

TL;TR is the valve can be stuck at first, so use the crap to press it up and down a few times. Then make sure you’re blowing as hard as you can as you need to press the valve down with the pressure of the air before it will begin inflating.