Just another six hour pool swim

I remember my first six-hour pool. It was done with the Magnificent Seven in Source Swimming Pool in Cork in January of 2009. I’d done  a couple of four-hour swims by myself, just swimming pyramids. I’d also done one five-hour by myself the previous year (pool).

But the first six-hour pool swim with the group was a big deal.  I barely swam the day before, something like two kilometres, resting up. I carb-loaded the night before, didn’t sleep particularly well and had to leave early in the morning to get to Cork. I brought lots of food and liquid. The food included smoothie, fruit, sandwiches (I’m from Tipperary remember :-)). I’d had a very large breakfast before the hour and a half drive. We stopped to eat halfway through the swim, which was a mixture of sets from Eilís. It all went fine. More and longer swims were to follow.

Two years later, I’ve done plenty of six-hour swims, both sea and pool. Last week I did another six-hour pool swim, my first since returning to pool training four weeks ago and it was odd mix of experience and a cavalier attitude. I trained the night before, a standard set of just over 5k and was tired in the morning. I gave very little significant thought to the swim, I’d just been jealous the week before when I joined Lisa and Karen McAvoy at the end of their 20k swim. I wanted to look and feel wrecked again.

How perverse is the marathon swimmer’s mind?

I had a bowl of porridge and a small smoothie and mug of coffee for breakfast and left for the Kilkenny Watershed pool.

I brought one small “fun-sized” banana, and another small smoothie, about 250ml. I had a couple of old sachets of Go Sport carbs  (146 kcal per sachet) because I was out of Maxim. The Go Sport was only a year and a half past it’s Use-By date… I also had some Hammer Perpeteum that we don’t see here in Ireland, which Alan Clack left behind him after the Cork Distance Week. During the swim I ate the smoothie and the banana, and used one bottle of half-concentrate Hammer,  and used one and a half bottles of the sachets during the second half.

My attitude was even; “I’ll do 4 hours, see how it goes”. That was it.  No thinking about it, no nervousness, hell, not even much preparation. I even forgot to bring any painkillers.

The first hour was easy, sharing the lane with two other people, included a 1500 with paddles, and I finished 3k at 50 minutes. I had the lane to myself for the next three hours as I worked through the long set mix, which included a lot of 400s and 75’s particularly, with a lot of paddle and pull work. I’d had a flare-up of an old lower back problem on Monday and it returned during the third hour, which was when I realised I didn’t have any painkillers but it never got bad enough that I wasn’t able to continue, I just had to do occasional stretches. (The normal solution for this back problem for me is a massage).

At the end of the fourth hour, I was feeling it but saw no reason not to do a five-hour. And then there wasn’t much point in not continuing to six hours. At six hours, I decided I’d really only been swimming for about five hours forty minutes or so (a guess), due to refilling bottles, toilet stops, a lane change etc, and I might as well do another thousand metres, exactly as that logo on the right indicates.

I finished at six hours and twenty minutes, and when I did the check I had done 17,800k. Nothing of note happened. I was tired and happy but could have kept going. Because I was on my tod (i.e. by myself), I was able to stay more focused on keeping my stroke form. I was doing 5 x100s in the second-last 500 and it was really striking that though I felt the stroke was still pretty good by the end, my time per average hundred had dropped by about 10 seconds due to muscle tiredness and shortening. I was sluggish the next day but the local pool was closed for maintenance anyway, and I was still slow two days later though i did a full 5k set. By three days later in the sea I felt back to normal.

Next day I realised I had passed through the yearly one million metres target that day also. Good day.

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5 thoughts on “Just another six hour pool swim

  1. Currently maintaining 5k in a short course pool in shy of an hour, but matched this time on a beach swim in Brighton yesterday…….on shore mild wind no swell, low to rising tide…..aiming to do a Wexford 30k coastal swim in the summer, across Waterford harbour from Dunmore East, to the Hook and up the SE coast towards Carnivan Beach Bannow Bay and finishing at Kilmore…..I would also like to be the first to swim to the Saltee Islands from Slade, but would like some company, are you interested? brianftzgbbn@aol.com

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