An epic blog post for an epic swim. Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. It’s not so epic. On Saturday, I did my first ever 10km swim. It’s called an openwater swim race BUT it takes place in a pool. Their rationale is that the pool is “outdoors”. Right beside the ocean mind you. “OWS” race. An open water swim it is not. Misleading advertising:
Right beside the ocean:
Housemate had done this swim race before, a couple of years ago so had convinced me to do it. 10km in a pool didn’t really tickle my fancy but it would be a good test swim for a 10km open water swim. Most 10km swims here have a time limit of 3.5 hours so I figured why not do the pool swim and see if I can even make the distance before attempting it in the ocean.
I had already done the 8km Guam swim just a couple of weeks earlier. It meant that I wasn’t really prepared for this race though. The 8km swim really took it out of me. I needed a week to recover which only left about 10 training days for this 10km swim. I didn’t get the mileage up. And still I had not swum more than 5km since Guam.
Here is my training mileage over the last 6-8 months. I basically went from swimming about 8km per month to 40+ km per month. Still, this wasn’t enough training mileage. I was doing about 10-15km per week. Ideally 20-25km per week is better. My training would get me across the finish line, just probably not as comfortably as I’d like.
No correlation at all to the amount of chocolate consumed over the last 6 months:
So Saturday was race day. Left home around 7:30am and we made the trek down to Oiso. The race was at the Oiso waterpark – part of the Oiso Prince Hotel. It was a cold and wet rainy day. Perfect for a first ever 10km swim race. This is how I felt about the race, incidentally one of my favourite swimming quotes by one of my favourite comedians:
The pool though was really cool. It’s 500m! That meant I only had to do 20 laps. Albeit very long laps. Half km laps at that. Race atmosphere was a bit depressing. Overcast, raining, wet.
The race was also being televised on a local Kanagawa channel:
I was a bit out of my league in this race. The 10km was gonna be a fast field. Mostly college/university swim squads who are going to be future Japanese Olympic swimmers. They all finished in under 2 hours. The long pool: A dog-shaped pool. 250m each way, making a 500m lap.
The water temp was the optimal temp for me – about 25 degrees. Perfect. And it rained a fair bit throughout the course of swimming.
The small opening ceremony:
We had about an hour or so to get ready and prepare. Stretch. Get in food and hydrate. Getting enough fuel to last 10km was important. Back at home I had eaten 2 pieces of toast with grilled cheese and tomato. On the train down, I ate lots of watermelon. Watermelon is my on-day swim race go-to food. Lots of water and sugar without being too heavy. It’s also not salty so won’t make you thirsty later on. It’s the ultimate food. Love me my watermelon. Had one banana and a couple of red frogs – my other secret swimming weapon. I love red frog lollies. Gets me through my training sessions. Also took a liquid gel before the race and water and gatorade. Slowly drip in the calories. We got given a shitty race cap. It was made of mesh. I hate it when we get mesh caps. I wore my own silican cap underneath. Lubed up with lots of Body Glide and was pretty much ready. I set up my drink station. BYO drinks. We were allowed to bring our fuel supplies to have poolside which we could grab at any time.
As ready as I was ever going to be:
The obligatory pre-race selfie:
And then it was time to jump in. My housemate also did the same race again this year. He is ridiculously fast and a great swimmer. The men and women raced together. And they had the 10km swimmers start with the 5km swimmers. There were only 5 female swimmers in the 10km race. And over 25 guys. And then we were off. The first 20 seconds was awesome. With everyone sprinting off, the draft was amazing. I didn’t even need to try and swim, you just got drifted along.
The pool was only 12.5m wide on each side so it was a bit more confined than being in the ocean. There was also a current in the pool (not sure if deliberate or not). Got knocked in the eye by an elbow which pressed my goggles into my eyes more. The field was fast so everyone shot off and we were all pretty much interspersed. A lot of drafting went on as well. Even though there was always plenty of space, everyone was swimming really close to each other. One guy was practically swimming up between my legs, despite us being the only two swimmers in that part of the pool. Yo, there’s a whole frickin pool and here’s this punk literally trying to swim over the top of me. So basically round and round I went. For a large portion of the swim I was on my own. Most people were ahead of me. It then got to a point where the first swimmers were lapping me, there were all like 1km ahead of me and then 2km ahead of me etc. Nothing to do but just keep swimming.
I told myself I wouldn’t stop for fuel until I was at least at the halfway mark. ” Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink” (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). I swam into the drinks station when I thought I had done about 10 laps or 12 laps. I wasn’t sure. I had lost count. Ugh, my first disaster at the drinks station was that I had lost 2 out of my 3 gels. I had prepared 3 gels. I had basically left two of them with the lid unscrewed by still place on top. The lids had totally got swept away in the pool somewhere, gels were floating around and had been filled up with pool water. I took a big gulp and realised that I had probably just drunk a cup of pool water and my stomach would probably pay for it later. Ugh. I had left one gel sealed, so I unscrewed the lid off that I only took one sip. I had wasted so much time already, and this gel was going to have last me for the next 5km. At this drink stop, I asked how many more laps I had left. They said 10. Halfway point. I swam on. I felt ok. I knew my speed had seriously slackened. I knew most people were way ahead, so I just took the swim easy. I knew I could finish it, so I just swam along leisurely. No point in racing and worrying about the competition. Just swim my own race. Finishing alone was going to be a massive achievement and whatever time I did was always going to be a PB.
One of my biggest concerns about entering this swim as opposed to an open water swim was the toilet situation – or rather the lack thereof. In the open water, you can pee as much as you like. In a pool, I was going to be a lot more hesitant about it. Even when I swim train I can’t swim more than 3km without having to jump out and use the toilet. I was dreading when the urge to pee was going to hit me during the race. I decided to make peace with the fact that it wasn’t going to be a matter of IF I would need to pee in the pool but rather HOW MANY times I was going to. I wanted to relax throughout the swim. I pretty much made myself at home in the pool and I am pretty sure I peed about 8-10 times. I lost count. I actually think I peed on every lap, but 20 times seems a bit excessive…although I wouldn’t put it past me.
JC (housemate) passed me 4 times. We’d see each other underwater as he passed me. At that point I knew he was about 2km ahead of me and he would be finishing soon. When I no longer saw him pass me, I figured he had finished. I did another drink stop at about the 7 or 8km mark and I saw JC outside the pool. I asked him for the time which he didn’t know. I had the rest of my remaining gel. At the 14th lap (about 7km) in, is when I started gettting shoulder pain. And only in my left shoulder. It got worse with each km. By about the 8km mark, I was hurting. I was basically dragging the shoulder through the water. It was hard to get it out and swim properly. It was super painful. I thought about quitting. But continued. All I had to do was finish. I didn’t need to go fast. So I just slowly crawled along. Between the 8-10km, JC walked alongside the pool taking photos and video footage. I could see him following, so I kept on going. The rest of the photos are courtesy of JC. He had finished the swim in 2hrs 5min, so had plenty of time to see me swim. Yeah, he’s fast and pretty hardcore: Look he even swims without goggles!
(Ok, not really him. Just a photoshopped face of him on a swimmer’s body). This was my drinks stop at the 8km:
No time to chat…must be off again:
Head down and back to work. That whole thing about swimming being confusing. Not sure if I am swimming to not drown or swimming for fun:
A bit better here:
That left shoulder was not pretty. It’s pretty painful and you can see it in my poor stroke here. I’m literally just dragging it:
Yeah, pretty much most people had finished by this point, so I’m pretty much swimming on my own:
I caught up to the 3km swimmers, that had started 2 hours after our race had started. I managed to overtake them. I was on my 9th km at this point and they were all fresh.
Making my move:
The home stretch:
Left shoulder killing me:
I also found about 1.5/2 hours in that my hands were also hurting. Basically, using my handles as paddles, they were becoming stiff and cramped. I had to shake out my fingers and clench/unclench them just to get some movement back into them. Another problem I’ve been encountering is sore groin/uppper thigh/hip area. I never get this pain at swim training, yet I get pain there always in a race and always really early in a race, usually within the first 1km. Happened in the Guam swim too.
Anyway, just cruising along. I was sore, I was tired but I was still going to bring home the bacon. And by bring home the bacon, I mean I was gonna haul my arse to that finish line.
Coincidentally, I had also just finished reading the book “Born to Run” during the week. Lots of motivational stuff about endurance which can be applied to swimming and full of gems such as: “You don’t have to be fast. But you’d better be fearless”. And “If you’re going to try, go all the way”. Never would I have thought I would be swimming 10km races espeically at my age. I’m just your average slightly overweight office-worker who is obsessed with food and doesn’t even have a swim coach. Much to my housemate’s horror, I don’t even know how to do flipturns even after nearly 3 decades of swimming!
Around the final bend:
When you finish, you have to jump out of the pool immediately. Yeah, not so easy to find your landlegs when you’ve been horizontal for the last 2.5 hours or so. Had to return my swim cap. Look at dem shoulders! Redefining the term “a broad”.
Done. Holy moly. My shoulders were killing. JC got the camera a bit too close here for my liking:
I’m clutching my poor left shoulder. And my eyes are all squinty from the pressure of my goggles. But I’m pretty damn happy to have finished. Feeling chuffed. Have just swum my first 10km race ever. And my official time was 2 hours 45min. I was happy that I did it under 3 hours. It was definitely currently assisted (around 1-2km per hour).
For reference my 8km swim was about 2 hr 23min for 8km in the open water. The advantage of the pool swim was that you didn’t need to sight or navigate. I was 5th female to finish. Granted there were only 5 females in the race, one of whom was a pro swimmer in the Open category. Came second in my age group though! Yay me. But I came about 29th out of 33 (male and female combined). Wasn’t the slowest swimmer, but definitely ain’t the fastest. Those young 20 year olds are fast – sub 2hours.
So yep, have now officially completed a marathon distance swim (a marathon qualifies as being 10km in the swimming world). We also both signed up that same day for another 10km swim and that will be an ocean swim. So today’s race was just a “training” swim. Will need to take this week off from swimming. Pumping the protein shakes at the moment. Tiger balm applied straight after the race. And I think a massage or two are on the agenda, as painful as it is to touch my shoulders, back, arms and neck. Now I’ve even got sore hands/wrist from typing out this race report.
The fun part about endurance swimming is putting all the calories back in. Red frogs, chocolate muffins – yes please. And I have decided that my post-race dish is potato bake. I baked one in advance on the Friday night, so when I got home on Saturday night, I had a nice hot delicious potato bake to dive into – potatoes, cream, mushroom, bacon and cheese. Hell yeah. It shall be tradition.
I’ve now got 2 months to train my next 10km swim – a proper ocean marathon swim. I think I have a lot of potential to beat my PB. I’d like to do that next swim in about 2.5 hours which is possible with some more training and cross-training. I basically haven’t done anything but swim, and I need to pick up the jogging and yoga. I know that increasing my fitness will definitely help with my swimming. I also hope the shoulder holds out. Shoulder injuries are really common amongst swimmers and I’ve been really lucky to not have it effect me until now.
If you’d like to see me do more swims and read more of these entertaining swim reports , please feel free to send me <a href=”https://www.google.com.au/search?q=red+frog+lollies&hl=en-AU&gbv=2&prmd=ivns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=8mCyU4j0CcWRkAWqyoCYCg&ved=0CAUQ_AU”>Red Frogs </a>my way.