Training for Coniston 2016

I (Manda) recently watched a mini documentary series about USA athlete Sarah Brown. Sarah got unexpectedly pregnant a year before the Olympics in Rio. She decided to continue training whilst pregnant to ensure she could give herself the best chance at the Olympic trials in July 2016. She gave birth early so ended up having 4 months to get ready for the trials. So much in this series hit a note with me. Ok Coniston ISN’T the Olympic trials but it is my A goal of my shortened season. I’m not looking to qualify or win or even get a time… I just want to start and a bonus will be to finish.

My baby was due 3rd June and arrived on 4th June. I was hoping to swim 5.25 miles end to end of Coniston on 3rd September. I got signed off for swimming on 14th July so had 7 weeks and 1 day (but who is counting!!) to get myself as ready as I could.

I am not out to damage or hurt myself and this is just a fun hobby so I had no plans on doing anything silly and my plan was run past both my GP and my midwife. Also, before I gave birth to my son I wrote a plan including several eventualities. I had to be realistic that he could be 2 weeks late and that my recovery could take longer than the generic 6 weeks. In any scenario there would be no benefit to panic training so the plans were set and I promised the post-partum me that I would be kind to myself no matter what.

Week 0

6 week checkup with medical practitioners. Given the go ahead with the caveat of ‘no swimming the Channel just yet’. Errrr ok! And another excuse never to have to swim the Channel conveniently gets logged in my head!

I text my husband with the casual request that we go to lido for a short dip once he gets home from work. His reply is ‘OK. I will go cycling on Sunday’. The childcare negotiations have started!

The swim was 1000yds of euphoria. Then the next day.. Boom..soar throat of doom. I am not sure whether it was to do with the swim but hey. I reasoned with myself that I was fortunate that my baby was on time (punctual as expected!) and that I was signed off after 6 weeks so could relax and better to get rid of it properly than return too soon and lose more time.

Week 1

Plan: Long swim: 2500 / Total distance: 5000
Actual: Long swim: 1400 / Total distance: 3600

After a week of soar throat I returned to the tropical climates of Tooting lido. Due to proximity to my house I did all my London training at the lido. It is a 20 minute walk or 5 minute drive away so this meant I would be able to maximise time in the water rather than travelling to/from further away pools. I was also training “skins”. Again time constraints meant that I would lose training time by having to put on a wetsuit, it was also + 20 degrees by the time I started training AND MY WETSUIT DIDN’T FIT!! I added 200 yards on to the 3 swims I did this week. I didn’t make my planned distances but I was calm about what lay ahead.

Week 2

Plan: Long swim: 3300 / Total distance: 6600
Actual: Long swim: 2800 / Total distance: 7800

Not only have I got the physical challenges up against me I also have the logistical issues. I can’t just go swimming when I please anymore. This week highlighted this when despite feeling better and capable I got kicked out the lido at 19:45 despite having only done 2800 yards of my planned 3400 yards. 2 things have to happen to allow me to leave for the lido: Husband needs to be home and baby needs to be fed. Either one of those not happening at the right time means time at the lido is compromised. Lessons were learnt and we were ready now for the weeks ahead.

Week 3

Plan: Long swim: 4400 / Total distance: 7700
Actual: Long swim: 4000 / Total distance: 10200

Week 3 and I was still to hit my long swim distance. I swam 4000 yards at the lido on the Sunday on my own and afterwards I was convinced I had bitten off more than I could chew. The only person I admitted this to was Josie. She was also training for Coniston and this was going to be her longest swim to date so unlike the usual gang she could sympathise with what I was going through. I decided to take it easy the following week and as much as it pained me I was at the lido again the next day but didn’t swim. Maybe I was learning or maybe I was just scared of the midwife?!?

Week 4

Plan: Long swim: 5500 / Total distance: 8800
Actual: Long swim: 5000 / Total distance: 9400

With my Guernsey trip coming up I wanted to get in a long swim the day I was flying off. This was a great plan until I was half way to Gatwick with a 2 month year old and I was exhausted from swimming 5000 yards, 800 yds of which was a SLSC race. With the 5000 yards banked I was quietly optimistic that Coniston was a quickly things had changed.

Week 5

Plan: Long swim: 4400 / Total distance: 8800
Actual: Long swim: 3000m / Total distance: 3800m

I went off to Guernsey this week and training was a bit of a farce. The local leisure centre and only place for public pool swimming was shut to be extended by half a centimetre and they instead had sessions (for 2 hours and 2 lanes!) every other day at a school. The first time I turned up my sister was driving my son around in the car whilst I swam and when I got onto pool side it was carnage. The limited time and space meant everyone on the island was in the pool! I managed 800m before I got out and my sister got me. I did make it back for another 3000m one day but the rest of the time, when the weather allowed, I swam on the beach but this was a no googles, no hat, no watch type affair… but I loved it.

Week 6

Plan: Long swim: 6600 / Total distance: 8800
Actual: Long swim: 6600 / Total distance: 13800

Hoorah.. With 1 week to go I hit my long swim target for the first time. I felt ok after the swim, so much so that I managed a full day of activities afterwards but then proceeded to crash and burn the next day.


Plan: Long swim: 3300 / Total distance: 5500
Actual: Long swim: 2200 / Total distance: 3600

Tapering consisted of some splashing around at the lido with Katie, Josie and Laura and some serious burger consumption to ensure optimal fuelling for what lay ahead. At this point I knew I had done all I could to get myself ready for the 5.25 mile swim and I would just have to see how things would go. It was too late to do anything else….

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