By March the average outdoor water temperature was beginning to creep up again and so it was becoming easier and more pleasant to spend more time in the water, particularly as the days were also beginning to get longer. Night swimming, like ice swimming, is not recommended but it is fantastic fun and for people who work the normal Monday to Friday in office hours, the only option available. It’s not something to ever do on your own though.
In the pool I was really coming on leaps and bounds and beginning to hold my own pace wise with people whose technique and speed I had always envied and never been able to emulate. Of the training programme that I had started in January of four 2km sessions a week in it’s schedule, I could now do the first two weeks of that schedule and all the different drills and exercises it involved. I looked at week three of the programme and realised that I needed to invest in some swimming equipment such as fins for my feet and paddles for my hands. Between pool and outdoor sessions was now swimming at least once a day, every day of the week.
My local pool is 25 yards but a couple of miles away there is a 25 metre pool however I experienced a fair bit of aggression and lane rage from other simmers when I trained there. Predominantly when I have experienced this before it has been from pool only swimmers who have become very territorial over ‘their’ pool and despite the fact that I always follow pool etiquette some people just don’t like newcomers. These people are very much in the minority and where possible should be ignored and avoided. It’s a shame because they don’t do the sport, the pool or themselves any favours as scaring people away from pools makes them less economic to run so less likely to be able to afford to stay open. In the lakes, rivers and seas there are no lane markers so lane rage is not such an issue, nor is aggression from other swimmers, other water users perhaps and of course nay-sayers from the shore always have something to say, usually ‘nay’.
When I wasn’t swimming, I was reading about swimming. This month I was reading “SwimSmooth” by Adam Young and Paul Newsome. The ‘SwimSmooth’ book is an interesting read and some people who I’d shown my copy to were so impressed that they went out and bought their own. It lists a lot of gear that you can spend money on that will help you become a better swimmer, it also profiles different body types and what typically makes a good or bad swimmer for people with those types of bodies. If your swimming style is not broke, SwimSmooth won’t fix it but if your swimming style could benefit from some adjustments it has a few handy suggestions. Throughout the book there are multiple ‘digs’ and criticisms of techniques taught in the Total Immersion system. The swimming equipment recommended by SwimSmooth is great if you have the money and you want to spend it, to me I realised that many of my friends would have made the purchases already and I could ask to borrow it if I needed it. Having done that, I’d say for most of the time people don’t really need all that SwimSmooth tell you that you do.
If I were to produce my own list it would read something like this:
Restube or another type of towfloat
Headtorch, waterproof (if swimming at night)
As my training had stepped up a gear I found that my reputation for swimming was also developing. The staff and regular evening swimmers in the pool all knew me and would comment on how fast I was going and how much my technique had improved. Going to lakes and rivers, though there’d be hardly anyone there I would occasionally be asked “Are you Matty?”.
The print and video from the Audi article were now available, the article focused on the #ChesterFrosties group organiser, Di, and had myself and two other swimmers, Emma and Denise, in the background. After seeing the article online I was surprising to learn in a work meeting that one of our contract managers was an Audi owner so had his own copy of the magazine and had seen me in it! Also, Di had written to the #OutdoorSwimmer magazine and in March we were the featured ‘club of the month’ in issue 1 after it had been re-launched from it’s old title ‘H2Open’. The photo they used had been taken at the British Ice Swimming Championships near the Ben Lomond bunkhouse we had stayed at with National Trust Scotland. On the next page they had also featured a photo of one of our swimmers, Emma, taking an evening dip in Loch Lomond. It looked really beautiful.
Over the months I’d identified what was making me dizzy in races was the effect of wearing a swimming cap and ear plugs as traditionally I had never worn either. It took a few weeks of trial and error in March, including one almost fatal error, to find the right fit for me. Outdoors I always swim with a #restube and use it as a tow float so I can be easily seen in the water, but it also can also act as a buoyancy aid. One time I got very dizzy in the middle of a lake due to one of my ear plugs falling out and having the restube allowed me to rest whilst keeping my head above the surface and regain my balance so I could swim back to shore safely using head up breaststroke. Without it I know that I would have drowned as I was too dizzy to know up from down and left from right and too far from shore to make it to safety in time. That incident spurred me on to always carry ear plugs with me (I bought 7 sets just to be sure I had some) and not to wear swimming caps over the ear again. For most people, having a lucky escape might dissuade them from carrying on with an activity, with me it just inspired me to develop my safety practices to reduce the risk.
As the water was getting warmer and the days longer I was able to push myself further and at the start of the month I achieved my first ever outdoor mile, whilst by the end of the month I was confidently swimming 2km outdoors in lakes and rivers. The thrill of swim was getting me addicted, I found myself lying awake at night thinking and visualising swimming techniques that I had read about, watched online, read about and tried for myself. Finding what worked for me, rather than what was easy for me was becoming fun.
The #OutdoorSwimmer magazine is an interesting and diverse read covering all aspects of the sport including technique, training, travel and competitions. The events listings are at the end of the magazine and having made as much progress as I had I now wanted to put it to the test. I keenly went through it with a marker pen and highlighted all the events I wanted to do aiming for at least one event a month, only to find I could not find an event within reasonable travelling distance in April. The first event I found was organised by USwim in Manchester towards the end of May, then a week later there was an event in June near Warrington. I managed to find a race in every month through to the end of September and then their listings went a bit dry. None of the events were particularly long, up to 2 miles maximum and none of them very high profile but they enough to get me in the water and create opportunity to check my progress from where I had been in February. When I had reached the end of finding all the events I could enter through the #OutdoorSwimmer magazine, I noticed that the International Winter Swimming Association had put their fixture list up for next winter, these are the events that will lead me to get to Estonia in March 2018 for the World Championships. Looking at the fixture list I realised that even if I attended only the ‘World Cup’ series of events I would have to take a lot of time off work and travel more than I have ever travelled before. I might even have to get a new job to pay for it all! There are events all over the globe from Vladivostok at the far East of Russia, New York in America as well as across Northern and Eastern Europe and little old Britain is hosting an event in Windermere again. Looking at all these events and looking at my bank balance I realised that it would only be possible to get to a few of them as I really am not a rich man. The key thing was that it was possible to do it, the thought that it was possible put a fire in my heart much warmer than Wim Hof’s ice mantra ‘the cold is my warm friend’.
At the end of March the clocks changed to British Summer Time which meant that I would have more time in the evenings to swim and that it would be easier to fit in 2 swims a day! I just needed to become a morning person to get a swim in before work. British Summer Time also meant that the water should be getting warmer too.
Book of the month :”SwimSmooth” by Adam Young and Paul Newsome, available direct from http://www.swimsmooth.com/swim-smooth-book.html