Anyone else struggle with pool swimming? I love the open water, the wide variety of choice of lochs, rivers and sea we have here in the North of Scotland and I love the Wild Highlanders social and adventure swims. I also love training for (and completing) the long distance swims I have begun to focus on.
To date my really big swims have been towards the end of the main UK swim season (some call it summer) and I have had the luxury of swimming in various events to build up experience, distance and endurance. My training has been 100% open water from April to October. Usually I spend the winters dipping and playing in open water with a little pool training just to keep ticking over. This year its different as I’m training for a long swim in June, with a charity 24-miles-in-24-hours swim in May as part of the preparations. It does mean that this year the pool has become an essential place for some serious distance training.
However, as I have moved more and more to open water swimming I have grown to resent some aspects of pool swimming. I find my local public swimming pool overly hot, overly crowded, with poorly regulated lanes and largely unavailable for continuous lane swimming of more than one hour of an evening. Saying that, it does provide a facility of sorts for winter training.
Unfortunately I have been ill since the start of the year with a chest infection that has kept me out of the water for weeks and left me tired and lethargic. Swim totals for the first three months of this year are: January 8 km, February 3km, March 6.8km – all of which were a bit of a struggle. My last open water swim was the 1km event at Chillswim Windermere on 1 Feb. Then, just as I’m feeling ready to return to full on training, the only public training pool in Inverness closes due to poor maintenance leading to rotten beams and a high risk of a window falling in on the users.
But I am determined to catch up my training and get to the start line in sufficient shape to be in the swim. This week I found a pool which left me singing with happiness (What? Yes, Really!) and looking forward to a return visit. Unfortunately it involves a 7 hour round trip.
While working in Edinburgh for a few days in late March I discovered the Royal Commonwealth pool. OK, so its marked on a map and has been around for about 40 years, I mean I just swam there for the first time. It’s a recently renovated clean and airy 50m pool which has public lanes open for 50m lane swimming most days all day from 0530 to 2130. Unbelievably it is also fairly quiet. Six people in a wide and deep 50m lane is an entirely different crowding to 6 people in a shallow and narrow 25m lane. Swimming could be continuous and not constantly interrupted. On the first evening, after work, I swam 2 x 1km. It was an effort, mental and physical. The following night I returned and went for 2 x 1 mile with just a few minutes break to acknowledge the mile complete and the mile yet to be. The first mile felt good and I was pretty tired after the second, but I felt alive again, I had been able to reach that happy mental state where I can enjoy the feel of the water and the catch of each stroke and just swim and swim and swim. Time to head home, but I had finally found a pool I can train in, properly train in. I’m in love with the Commie!
So, Easter weekend, just a week after the work trip, I waved the family off to my in-laws and again set out for Edinburgh. I had set myself a challenge, 5 x 1 mile the first evening followed by a 2 x 1 mile swim the following morning. I needed to do this. It would set a marker for me to work from (no, I don’t have a coach, I just make it up as I go along). Checking into the hotel was a pretty awful customer experience (I definitely do not recommend the Northumberland Hotel near the Cameron Toll centre) so I was glad enough to leave and head to the pool. First few lengths, as always, were a head game but I settled into it. I took a few minutes rest after each mile and an extra 20 minute rest after mile 3 to go eat a banana and change costume – replicating the swim break I am likely to have between each mile during the 24 hour event. It took a bit of the old head games to get back in and commence mile 4, but once swimming and over the first few lengths refocusing mind and body I was again fine. During mile 5 I toyed with the idea of a sixth mile as I had pool time available (wow, just wow! there is no time EVER that I could swim for 3 or 4 straight hours in the Inverness pool). However, my lack of training in the year to date was showing and as my shoulders and upper arms were beginning to creak a bit I decided that sense should prevail. Banking 5 miles in an evening was a huge step forward. If I made it back in the morning I would be in a good place.
Sat on the bed at 0530 my head and upper body were screaming at me to lie down again and go back to sleep. I didn’t listen though and set off to the pool where I soon loosened up again. I not only swam the planned two miles, but began a third without much conscious effort. My stroke felt strong and consistent and I was loving every minute. The miles were very consistent, a few minutes slower than where I have been, but every one of the 8 miles came home within a minute of the others. #ThisGirlCanStillSwim
I am so looking forward to warmer open waters at a temperature I can swim for hours and hours. Although I love the cold water and ice water swims, at around 5C the local lochs are currently too cold to use for any meaningful distance training . So, for now, it seems I will be making regular trips to the pool in Edinburgh, a mere 7 hour return trip from home. I am hugely grateful to my very tolerant husband and children.