Category: Open Water and Triathlon
Acknowledge The Open Water Swimming Task
420 metres of open water swimming, 7 climbs. I’m a central London swimming instructor who’s been climbing 30ft ropes in Commando training for the majority of last year. This task is easy on the face of it. Not so much in reality. I signed up for the event with thinking it would be a nice easy ﬁrst competition of the year. However once I sat down to plan, I suddenly realised some of the factors facing me; 1. I haven’t swum competitively in over 3 years. 2. I have left shoulder & left knee injuries less than 6 months old. 3. My current ﬁtness is solely based on carrying heavy loads on my back for long distances, resulting in very dense leg muscle and stiff joints. 4. I’ve got less than 4 week until race day!!!!
Instead of creating a fantastically complicated hard training programme thinking I would get great results come race day, I acknowledged the above factors and planned accordingly to manage and overcome these obstacles. I advise others to do the same and not get sucked into the media driven image that a lot of events pull you in with. Realise the task ahead.
Basic Planning for Open Water Competitions
Now that the task has been realised I can begin to plan accordingly. In my case, managing injuries and simplicity is king. With just less than 4 weeks to race day, I aim to use the 4 weeks to get balanced in the water and make technical stroke adjustments to overcome the long absence of actual stroke swimming I have had in the last few years.
Pool time was split into thirds each session for the entirety of the 4 weeks, reducing in distance each week, but increasing in intensity. 20 minutes on technique, 20 minutes on pyramid/mountain work (either breathing, speed, times or counts), and 20 minutes of Hypoxic training (swimming intensively but with a reduced oxygen supply by breathing less often that I would like). I would keep this theme up for the entirety, but week 1 would be based around 400 meter swim repetitions, week 2 on 300 meter repetitions, week 3 on 200 meter repetitions, and week 4 on 100 meter repetitions. The intensity increased each week and I was working off a simple BBM chart (heart beats below maximum heart rate).
In terms of Race Prep, I would be explosively gliding each stroke on the swims and doing most of my overtaking on the obstacles. Seeing as 4 weeks of swimming was unlikely to make my swimming better than 6 months of Commando Training, I suspected (and later proved right), that most people thrashed the swims and were too exhausted to climb up the obstacles with any sense of urgency.
After getting up early enough on race day to have my ﬁrst ever stroll around Glasgow, I casually made my way over to the canal with just enough time to get into a strong mindset and stretch my legs some more……..oh, I’m at the wrong end of the canal. “google maps, 4.8 kilometers to Maryhill Locks” 30 minutes till the heats start. After swiftly adopting some common Glaswegian swear words out loud, I double timed it round the Lock and up some nice ascents in 19m 30s. Not bad for an injured recruit! A ﬁnal sprint into the arrival/check in desk, blood pumping, lungs bursting, and toppers heart rate. Just the way I like it, ready to race.
The place was packed. Full of spectators, a radio 1 presenter, and more free Redbull cans than you can imagine. The athletes area was great with complimentary hot tubs and bananas. Changed and on my way down to the start I got to check out the course, ﬁrst eyes on. 6 out of the 7 obstacles were vertical and varied in height. All had one thing in common…the Lock above them was open, an amount of water heavy enough I think it took most by surprise.
The heats were under way and as I jumped in the dirty lumpy brown 7 degree Glaswegian canal water, I ever so brieﬂy questioned my reasoning, only for a second though. Off we went!
A nice quick sprint by everyone for 20 meters getting that ﬁrst spell of Lactate used to get into the race. After a few elbows to the face, kicks to the ribs and the expected normality to race starts I settled into my gliding strokes, happily being overtaken by some. The longest swim is this ﬁrst stretch and I reached the ﬁrst and only horizontal obstacle (the cargo net) in about 15th place out of 30 people. as I mounted the ﬂoating ﬂoor and into a leopard crawl (something I’ve done thousands of times) I burst through to the other side only seeing about 7 or 8 people in front of me. Dive and go.
Each swim that followed I would stick to my game plan by not exhausting my swimming excessively and exploding on the verticals. This worked well and I was happy with most climbs. At one point having no room to climb to the left or right of this small round man I decided to climb over him. His loss. The weight of the water pouring down onto us during the climb deﬁnitely played its part and I saw 2 people throw up halfway up a climb. Going through the stages of cargo nets, ropes, ladders, climbing walls, more ropes and so on, I saw the ﬁnish and also 1 white tape left which were the tickets to the Semi-Final. Unfortunately 2 people were already about to climb out onto the other side of this 15 meter swim. No Semi-ﬁnal but I dove in being quietly chuffed with myself that I wasn’t last!
The race was done, the plan was followed, and I was happy to come away with that. I could swim 420 meters asleep. But this swim was harder than a 5,000m tapered training session in a pool. It was stunning in its temperature, ruthless in its cascading waterfalls, dangerous on its slippery climbs and surprising in its short brutality.
Hats off to the open water world champions, ex and current Olympians and world triathlon series competitors who competed to raise the proﬁle of this awesome event. But even they weren’t a match for Glasgow’s very own Mark Deans who has won this event every time…..every year.
- Krys competed in the 2017 Redbull Neptune Steps event.
- Are you training for an open water swimming or triathlon event too? Why not join Krys, or one of Turner Swim London’s experienced swimming instructors, for some one-to-one swimming coaching in London and he can help improve your technique, stamina and tactics for race day. Click to Book Online.