Tick-tock tick-tock

It’s been a while, eh? My last blog entry was in September after Palmie to Manly… please don’t think I’ve been doing nothing (if anyone except me actually does read this!)

Palmie to Manly was followed by about  2 or 3 nights of trouble lying down due to left sided rib pain, followed by another 6 weeks of pain.. Since then I have been plagued by intermittent left rotator cuff pain, but have gradually been reassured by my massage therapist that it represents no actual physical damage just an imbalance of muscle tone… or something… I forget… It provides a useful warning sign to me that my stroke is failing, as, when my elbow drops, the pains comes.

Through it all I have continued to swim, in the region of 20-30km a week, although now with fewer than 6 months to go I’m getting my ass in gear once again… actually according to my swim log I am 22 weeks out, and now hitting about 35-40km a week. Shit that’s come around quickly! I remember when it was 16 months and it felt like a lifetime!

So what do the next 22 weeks hold in store? Currently I’m gearing up for Rottnest Channel swim, the 19.7km swim from Cottesloe to Rottnest Island in WA. It was at this swim last year that I committed to the English Channel. Last year I completed the swim in 6h51m55s (105th out of 199 solo finishers), and all things being equal I feel I can shave at least 10-20 minutes off this… which some might call setting myself up for a fall!

I’m sure I can improve the speed with which I find my paddler and support boat in the first 1.5km and I have also been working a lot on my nutrition plan and reducing feeding time. While proud of my 30-40s feeds on Palmie to Manly, Nic has said she’d like my feeds to be 20s max, both at Rotto and in the Channel… we have decided to avoid solids as much as possible (they slow down feeding and may increase gastric blood flow, deviating it from peripheries where it will be needed in the cold of the channel) to hit this 20s target… this alone could cut 7 minutes or so off my time from last year, where my feeding was leisurely to say the least!

Finally my technique: Martin’s repetitious “keep your armpit open during your catch” and “finish your stroke fully”, that annoyed me so much in September’s swim has finally started to pay off! 3 months of focusing on my stroke and I am beginning to pick up pace through maintaining a good stroke (mostly in the last 2 weeks thanks to some focused coaching from Vlad and Charm and some pointers from Ben).

Last weekend I had a really enjoyable 4.5h swim at Manly with Nic paddling.  The swell was up at a rolling 3-4 foot from the North and while the offshore wind picked up a little causing some whitecaps, but I think we finished before it got too bad. In combination with the clear skies, a great training swim and not too dissimilar to last year’s Rotto conditions. A few times we swam past Vlad out on his surf ski and I actually received a compliment… solid gold! Even considering the moment when Nic saw “something in the water”, “something fishy”, it was a great day… I was really feeling it! In response to seeing a shark we both applied the pragmatic attitude of “sharks are everywhere… the ones you can see are less threat”, and swam on! We had a great swim as you can see from the smiling faces in the photo on Shelly Beach afterwards.

Today I swam 15.5km from Bongin Bongin Bay to Collaroy and back, with Jennie in the paddle saddle (you’re a real trouper Jen… thanks so much! Love you). A real tough grind, choppy 3-4 foot swell from a few different directions, water slapping me in the face alternating with washing me from behind.  The high point was seeing a pod of 20-30 dolphins on our way south and north (see the great photo): I’d spent the previous half hour thinking of sharks and nature gave me dolphins… nice! The photos were all taken during a flat period when the predominant swell seemed to swing from SE to NE. Sunburnt, achy, happy!!! But so is Jennie, although I think she was a bit bored!  Today’s swim was accompanied by the album Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry… totally loving the album and was singing it constantly.

So what next… 8 weeks after Rotto comes Melbourne Cold Water camp (again), then the English Channel another 7 weeks or so after that. I have this period to maintain/gain a bit more body fat… through bloody hard work I have achieved 23% body fat and this might need to go up a little more to cope with the cold of the channel. Its a strange predicament to be focused on gaining weight while the rest of the world is trying to lose it!

All in all feeling good… got my head in the game, really excited about the culmination of the journey and the fact that I’ll share it with so many good friends; with Ben, Michael and Miles swimming at the same time it will be a Frosties abroad adventure.