The Long swim: going past 3000m


swim lanesToday I decided to try out a long swim. I haven’t been too focussed on swimming lately, so had no idea how it would go. I don’t normally have sufficient time before work, so armed with a whole day free, I thought I would give it a go. 

Don’t let distance daunt you

Swimming has been on the backburner for me this past year, to be honest. With the absence of triathlon, there has been no reason to keep swimming so it has been a pleasure thing, and usually nothing more than 1800m. Granted, I used to drill myself several times a week, at pace, so there is some residual fitness there, but remember, I am not a born swimmer, I only learned myself in 2007.

If you can swim 2000m, you can probably swim 4000m. Its all about pacing yourself, and fuelling up before hand.

I did an open water swim race a few months back, an out of the blue 2000m. I did have tired shoulders, and wasn’t so flash with speed, but still love open water swimming. I must make it my goal to get outside next summer to swim. I am surrounded by so much water for goodness sake!

Count your laps in segments, imagine the number of the length that you are on as a big computer visual on the floor of the pool that you have so swim over. That will help you to not lose count. It will also help you chop your grand goal into small bite-size segments in your mind

I usually have a lap counter but its battery is flat so I had to leave it with the watchmaker. So, I was faced with counting my 160 laps myself. I decided to chop them up (in my mind) into ten lots of 16, i.e. 10 x 400m. This worked nicely. It also kept me focussed on a short term easy target, 400m. Another one ticked off, nice work. Ah, half way, only 5 more to go. Sounds way better than ‘only 80 more lengths to go’.

Muscle fatigue is a sign you are working hard, it is also a sign that you are burning fat and building muscle, the main fat burning engine in your body

I began to feel peckish at around 2500m. Thats ok, I said to myself, I won’t die between now and the end of this 4000m! My shoulders started to fatigue a little around 3200m. Once again, that’s ok. It’s getting rid of those bingo wings, and building nice toned shoulders!

Seriously, what I do, is mentally focus on a different muscle group. So, for a while, I thought about lats, concentrated on the pull down part of my stroke, taking the focus off the tiring muscles for a while. You would probably do the same if you were out on a big bike ride and your quads were tired, you would pull more with hams for a bit.

So, before I knew it, despite having never tried to swim 4000m before, I had completed it. Many people had come (and gone) from my lane and those around me, in that time. I didn’t stop at all, and I was blessed with a lane to myself, till a lady joined me around the 3000m marker. I didn’t wear my contact lenses, so that I couldn’t let the poolside clock distract me, as I can see it on a right turn breath stroke at the end of each length.

The result?

I was only going of quick very occasional glances at my watch, which was showing the time of day. But roughly speaking, I held the pace / 400m to within 20 seconds for the whole 4000m which I was pretty pleased about, for my first attempt.

The key is to NOT go off too fast, and not let swimmers around you distract you. This is a long distance, not a sprint.

Overall, I did the 4000m in around 1 hour 18 minutes. I had a glance at the watch at 3800m, at at that stage it was 1 hour 14 minutes.

I am pretty pleased with that, considering the lack of swimming I have been doing on a consistent basis. Perhaps rowing is a great cross over sport for swimming!

Impressing the locals

The lady sharing my lane asked me how far I had swam. I said 4km. She said ‘how many lengths, 60?’ ‘No, 160’ I said. ‘Oh My god’ she replied. Was I training to swim the Foveaux Straight of training for China or something she asked (not sure what she meant by China).

I laughed, and said no. She said ‘Ah, you must be a triathlete then’. ‘Haha, well, kinda. I was, I had to retire because I can no longer run. I need a new knee’. ‘Ah, I have needed one of those for years now’ she said. Perhaps you will be like me one day, she said, and swam off down the lane.

Barriers are all in the mind. Believe and you will achieve.

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