Training for the Great North Swim, part II. Rain, steam & Chad Le Clos
Time moves on quickly. A trip to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang meant there was no chance to train.
Five weeks away meant there was plenty of time to think about it and to tell everyone I encountered the challenge I was undertaking. A challenge that grew when I decided to do the two-mile event rather than the one mile I had initially chosen.
It was a long time away, right? Plenty of time to train, right?
I arrived back home in early March with a cough that resembled a car backfiring, my body full of aches and pains and a desire to do little but sleep.
However, I took delivery of my arena carbon triwetsuit and X-sight goggles and resolved to go to the open air pool in Hathersage in the Peak District.
And so I did. In the rain. With steam coming off the water. A sausage and fried egg sandwich my reward.
I glided along, my stroke longer, my breathing easier but it made me realise that my fundraising swim would be about quantity and distance, not speed.
The Commonwealth Games on Gold Coast, Australia, were looming and I spoke to arena superstar Chad le Clos who was looking to become the most decorated athlete in any sport in Commonwealth history.
Chad, with four Olympic and five world medals to his name, also has a little-known open water history.
Growing up by the Indian Ocean, he joined Durban Surf Lifesaving Club aged 11 and replaced an injured friend in a race off Cape Town, South Africa.
Chad came 20th. Out of 20.
As the interview reached its conclusion I asked Chad for some advice.
“Oh my goodness,” he said. “Sheesh, that’s amazing. Two miles? Did you say two? Oh goodness.”
I know, Chad. I know.
“Don’t stress.” I am.
“I think two miles is okay if you pace yourself right. What I would do honestly if I was you I would start slowly – I’d start with two or three times a week swimming and I wouldn’t go more than that for two or three weeks.
“Then after that I would go maybe four or five sessions a week, Monday to Friday and have the weekends off. Just do aerobic stuff.
“There is no need for any sprints or anything. Get a pullbuoy every now and again and swim for 150, some 200s, some 300s and swim that system for a long time, for 30, 40 minutes a day and that will serve you well.”
Chad went on to win five medals in Australia, including a clean sweep in the butterfly events to move on to 17 in total, one short of equalling the record.
I took on board his advice and certainly started slowly.
Living in Sheffield I am spoiled by having Ponds Forge on my doorstep where you glide along the top of the water as much as swim but I was back in the routine and as ever, the more I went the better I felt and the greater the distance covered.
And the happier I felt. It was no longer something to fear but instead a goal to work towards.
Photo credit: Sarah Pearson, Yorkshire Outdoor Swimmers