Friday 1 October 2021

Grasmere & Rydal Water

This morning I went with on a swim hike across Grasmere and Rydal Water in the English Lake District. Previously the weather had been wet which had lowered the water temperature (it was around 14°C) and raised the water levels distinctly. As a novice open water swimmer I didn't want to swim too much in a single leg and this route made sense to me.

We met by the main road and changed into wetsuits before a short walk to the southern side of Grasmere. After some briefing on the Ruckraft and the morning's schedule we started on acclimatisation. It's good physics that water in the wetsuit is ultimately warming but it's always a shock to let it in. Fairly soon we headed across the lake and after a few minutes breaststroke I got my face in and headed for the far side. The swim was briefer than I'd thought and soon we were unpacking shoes to walk to Rydal Water. Looking at the GPS track later the swim was under 300m, so yes, short.

In Grasmere

It's worth mentioning that the Ruckrafts are small inflatable 'U' shaped boats that support a rucsac within a large drybag. I'd expected that towing a hiking pack and shoes would be arduous but the effort seemed negligible. Moreover, the float was well behaved and only caught on my feet a few times and was readily moved 'downstream' to be out of the way. We were able to place the raft on our packs to walk to Rydal Water.

We walked a fair way along Rydal Water to reach calm water. Emma said that often the river is a safe and attractive entry to the lake but certainly not today. Walking was a good way to walk up after the first dip but the water beckoned again and we swam around two islands and back to a southern beach. Another 800m or so

Emma towing a Ruckraft in Rydal Water

Then we quickly (well as fast as one can with cooling digits) changed into hiking clothes and packed the deflated Ruckraft onto our packs. There was a brisk walk back to the car park via the 'corpse road' which gave excellent views of the valley and kept us away from traffic. I enjoyed the walks but would have like to have fitted in a third swim in the route. But perhaps better to leave wanting more, than wish to have done less?

The trip was a good opportunity for an otherwise solo swimmer to access the two lakes safely, and experience linking with a hike. Emma was clearly accustomed to the waters and used to managing guests so I'd recommend her company.


Friday 17 September 2021

Longest swim for a while

Today's swim was a last minute-design of a pyramid with 5 slow, 1 fast, 4 slow, 1 fast and so on. It worked well with good-for-me 'fast' lengths of 2:14 min/100m and 2:10min/100m and an overall length above 1200m. I finished with some bilateral breathing sprints and managed 2:09min/100m as a best. The whole set was 1533m which is my longest swim for many, many months.

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Back in a routine for 2021

I've settled into planning 2 swims a week although I've missed the odd one and occasionally done 3 sessions. Last week was a one session week and I felt I noticed the lack of practice yesterday. I'd hoped to fell refreshed but actually felt tired and the timings reflected that.

Today I changed the rhythm by doing a straight 1000m. I kept thinking about technique, especially a roll, and low head and tried to put more effort in as I mentally counted through sets of 10 lengths. I didn't manage negative splits but the pace was generally uniform. I was very pleased to do the 1000m in under 25 minutes (24:42) at 2:28min/100m. Looking back at PB data:

It seems that I've largely returned to where I was 2+ years ago which is good after a 14 month break! I know that improving the pace by a few seconds is hard work but it feels achievable. My current main set of 1000m with every third length a bit faster does seem effective. Those lengths are commonly 2:25min/100m or better so I am able to generate that pace even after 20 minutes.

I finished the day with a handful of lengths of bilateral breathing. These were individual lengths at around 2:20min/100m. MY goal was to breathe out only gently as I wonder if I've been making too many bubbles and thus increasing the need to breathe in! I paused 10 to 15 seconds between each length so clearly not a sustainable endurance pace but perhaps also indicative of progress.

Thursday 8 July 2021

Varied sets

 This week I've done a long set with every 3rd length aiming to be faster, and today, negative splits within 300m sets. There's been mixed success, today especially my pace was affected by others in the pool so hard to check the numbers exactly. At least the effort was there. I've also kept a set or two of bilateral breathing and today managed 100m with a few cheated extra breaths. That seemed manageable after 4 steady individual lengths with bilateral breathing. I still feel 'short of breath' as I did years ago and suspect I'll never break this sensation at this point in my life.

I'm generally satisfied with progress as I'm increasing average pace,  distance per session and distance per week. Actually writing that down makes it sound like an injury risk. Let's hope not.

Thursday 17 June 2021

2500m week

 Still swimming, and now with the physio's permission, on two sessions per week. This week I've passed a threshold as I was one length over 2500m.Currently I'm doing a warm up and then a long set of 2 easy lengths followed by a harder one, until tired. A decent 800m today in a little over 20 minutes.

I finished with lengths of bilateral breathing alternated with lazy breaststroke but they were slow today (that is not under 45 seconds each). A build up of fatigue I suppose.

Importantly I'm doing more, pushing a combination of speed and endurance and  my arms seem to be coping. Don't over do it!

Thursday 13 May 2021

1000m again (at last)

A month back in the water and I've gradually reached 1000m. Ok, so the session was slow and included some very restful breaststroke but at least I was in the water for half an hour. I also included a fair few bilateral breathing lengths although none were consecutive.

On the tech side, I also retuned to my Garmin Swim as I'm nervous of damaging the pressure/temperature sensor on my 935 again. However a year ago the Swim seemed to become unpredictable, which is very irritating especially if you've just done a long session! Anyway, today it behaved fine and I've almost relearnt the button layout. It's on probation...

Monday 12 April 2021


This afternoon I took my first pool swim for just over a year. Although last week I was in the lake at Doncaster that barely counted as a swim as the major effort was resisting the cold. A hopeless endeavour beyond 10 minutes!

In the lake my arms had lost all memory of swimming, but in the safety of a pool they could recall what to do. I was in the water for about half an hour and swam 700m with brief rests. Even a few bilateral breathing lengths. 

I was pleasantly surprised by my pace which dipped below 2:30min/100m. My impression is that I've lost endurance by forgetting how to manage with reduced respiratory gas exchange.

Let's hope I can move my shoulders tomorrow.

Friday 22 January 2021

A morning out of work

Today I managed to plan a day off work when it was nice weather. That's quite an  unusual combination. I'm out of practice on longer runs so committed to run/walk from the outset, my overall goal being around 22km in 3 hours. My planned route would keep me well within the Sheffield city boundary so that I was compliant with Covid-19 regulations.

I got a reasonably early start so the sun was still low even at the top of Porter Clough.

I just had to ascend to Oxstones, but after that key waypoint I set off for home via God's Spring and Devil's Elbow and then into Dore through Blacka Moor plantation. That route includes some short but sharp ascents and descents with a scattering of ice patches and bogs. Progress wasn't fast therefore. It also felt hard on my legs! My right knee is playing up again - I've blamed this on some old boots previously and had intend to throw them out...

I'd hoped to achieve 22km to match the date but I've not managed to keep up with the #496 challenge really so why bother today? It was a great outing nonetheless.