Anatomy of an 8 Hour swim

So three plus hour swims are a weekly (or more) feature of training right now (end of January ’10). “Normal” day’s training is hovering around two  to two & an half. I did a four hour about a week and half ago, just to see how I feeling. I had been planning to do a five hour solo that week until The Boss told us we were doing an eight hour together.

The four hour swim was a significant change from a mixed three and an half-hour session. I was doing a “Pyramid”, 1000 to 100m and back to 1000m as the main set, apart from a 1000m warm-up and few hundred swim down. The intervals were constant. I was tired by the end but “could have kept going’, which is how I judge my condition. Tired obviously though. But double the time? My previous longest swim was a five and half hour sea swim with Danny in 2008.

Ravenous and tired the next day, though I had planned a two hour session but RL intervened & I had an enforced break that day.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached the eight hour.

Having been sick during the week, I was most nervous about an induced asthma attack, which would have stopped me swimming.

Having talked to fellow soloist (oxymoron?) Jen about feeding the previous weekend, I tried to carb. load (though with a poor appetite) and had two pasta dinners the afternoon and evening beforehand, and a bunch of sandwiches before bed, along with some of the usual crap I eat.

Breakfast was fresh made smoothie and porridge, my normal training breakfast, along with another bunch of sandwiches in the car on the two hour drive down.

I also spent quite a while making two litres of fruit smoothie for the swim to keep it fresh as possible. (Grape and orange juice, peaches, pineapple, banana & yoghurt). I also had another five litres of my Miwadi isotonic mix and some grapes & bananas. Basically my swim feeding strategy was to try 100% fruit which I had done on many three plus hour swims, the only change moving from solid and awkward to liquid and easy.

The other six of The Magnificent Seven had started swimming at 7.30am in the accommodating and friendly Source Fitness Centre pool in Springfields Morans Hotel in Cork, with The Boss on the deck. A quick chat before the start, she told everyone was nervous about it.

I joined the guys at 8.40am and we kept to one lane for the day.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe lots of long sets and it an eight hour version of a usual training session. The whole shebang. 1000′s, 1500′s, paddles, pull-buoy, laterals, alternate speeds and strokes etc.

The first three hours flew, until Eilís called a 15 minute break on the four hour mark (for the guys, only three hours in for me). Fine again after. The Boss had to leave at mid-day.

At the five hour mark I was reflecting on the comparison between my four recent hour solo pool session and this session. I was definitely feeling fresher by the five hour mark. The six hour mark I considered about equal with the four hour solo. The seventh hour for me, last hour for the guys, included an 1500 hard. I held onto Liam and Rob (leading) but it hurt. They wound down their last 20 minutes easy enough and I said good-bye.

Then the dreaded re-entry into pool by myself for the final one hour and 20 minutes. I was thinking of repeat 1000’s but too leaden by then and needed a break after 800, and settled on repeat 400’s. 10 to 20 secs would be my usual interval at this point but I’m afraid they crept up to 30 to 45 for the last few despite the presence of one of Eilís’s representatives on earth, this time her brother Pat, whom I was bit too tired to recognise, though after chasing him, (unsuccessfully and being lapped), for a few k., I think I now know his style very well.

Astonishing performance of the day was my English Channel Double Relay friend and team-mate Danny, who finished work at 6am, had an hour sleep, and completed the full eight hours, and Gábor who swam with sprained wrist and damaged shoulder after a recent fall.

But everyone did great and we would have been lost without Liam keeping track of our sets and leading us out so much.

(At one point in hour seven, I was leading out a 1000m alternate set, Liam recommended I track the easy/fast alternate 150 metres. The 1000 metres were done when I was sure we had only swum 600m! No more leading out for me, I can’t count).

Turned out a few of the guys were watching from upstairs for my final hour, making sure I didn’t drown I guess, and came down after I finished, which I really appreciated.

Liam estimated about 24,000m for their total based on all the intervening sessions completed, so I’ll assume the same, besting my previous longest ever pool swim of about 14k.

I had a recovery shake, which I only do after big swims, my usual chicken breast and hit the road.

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