So I did a 10k swim the other day.

I know! A 10k swim! In a pool! 100×100’s!

In case you’re trying to work it out that’s 400 lengths of a 25m pool. I’d been talking about doing this swim for probably a year or more and Patrick my swimmer mate had been keeping the pressure on me.

Click on through to read how it went…

Firstly to put the session into context this will be twice as long as my longest swim this year and 3.5km longer than the furthest I’ve ever swum (swam?) before. My previous longest 6.5k swim was a whole four years ago so apart from imparting the knowledge that I was once able to swim that far it’s not going to be much use to me today.

Related: My killer session 100×100’s 

We got into the pool to start at exactly 6pm. We were going to measure and time this the old fashioned swimmers way. Using the pool clock. The plan was simple we were going to start at 6pm and then start every subsequent 100 off a 2 minute interval. So we’d start each 100 at 6:00, 6:02, 6:04 etc.

This should mean we would cover 3000m in the first hour at which point we would have to move lanes as the swim academy had most of the pool booked. Patrick also had 4 minute pit stops planned at 90 minutes and 2.5 hours to allow for a toilet break and to eat something.

Each two minute interval included our recovery. Basing our timing off what I’d been swimming in the 50m format I figured I’d be coming in on about 1:48-1:52 therefore having 8-12 seconds recovery each time.

If we could stay on target of 2 minute repeats that would get us 3 hour 20 minutes and if you added in the two pit stops we were aiming for a sub 3 hour 30 10k swim. At least that was Patrick’s plan. I figured that at some point I’d start to slow and my times might start to drift out to 2:05-2:10 or slower per 100.

I was less concerned with the time and much more worried about just being able to do it. If I’m really honest I was absolutely shitting a brick. There’s not too many sporting things that we do that scare me anymore. Of course there is almost always pre-race nerves but I spent the whole day in the lead up to the swim completely bricking it. By the time I got to the pool I stank of what I think of as “stress sweat” and needed a shower before I got into the pool.

I was afraid of being late or getting stuck in traffic and missing our start time so we got there early. In fact I was sitting poolside at least twenty minutes before we were due to start. Ais was next out and then Big John landed on deck. John’s been racing bikes all year and rode the Ras for the first time. The Ras is what’s called a “ProAm” race. It’s an 8 day bike race where amateurs like us get the opportunity to have the shit kicked out of them by the full time pros for just over a week. John was along for the swim mostly for moral support and because the 100×100’s is traditionally a birthday swim and yesterday was his birthday. He also admitted that this was his third swim of the year so he wasn’t too sure how long he’d last.

Patrick was next on deck and he introduced us to a couple of his swimmer mates. Big Dave rocked up last just making it in time for the start. Patrick, my swimmer mate was going to lead out for the whole thing and the plan was to draft off him (for as long as I could anyway)

Just in case you’re wondering are all of my mates called big John, or big Dave or if I’m just really small and everyone else is huge in relation to me. At just 6′ I’m fairly average but John at 6’2″ and Dave at a whopping 6’6″ were both looking down on me, as is Patrick who I reckon also runs about 6’3. So I guess that for this swim I was the runt of the litter.

6pm clicked over on the pool clock and we started. I was relieved just to be started and I pushed off immediately after Patrick to maximise the draft. The pace was easy, in fact I had to slow down so as not to crash into him, which he might just take as meaning that he was going too slow and speed up. Which I certainly didn’t want to be encouraging him to do.

I hadn’t allowed for how much faster we would be in the 25 meter pool and I was stunned to grab the pool edge to hear Patrick happily say we’d finished the first 100 in 1:33.

Holy shit. We’d either gone off way too fast or this was going to be waaay easier than I’d thought.

Patrick asked how did it feel. I told him it felt easy, really easy. The pace was spot on.

I was thinking to myself as I held onto the pool edge that we’d allowed too much recovery. We should have gone off 1:50 per 100 instead of 2:00.

Famous last words. It’s funny that an Ironman also feels remarkably easy in the first hour too.

The next 100 was just as easy and I was still being careful not to tap Patrick’s feet at the same time as I was trying to stay as close to get the biggest draft I could.

 

For those interested in the numbers I’ll put in my splits for those not so inclined move along.

The first 10 x100 were as follows

1:33, 37, 39, 36, 39, 39, 39, 39, 41, 40

The first kilometre went by really quickly and I was still a bit stunned at the speed we were holding. Patrick’s pacing felt spot on.

The next 10 went just as smoothly and the fact that we were going much quicker than I’d originally thought that I could sustain meant that we had really long recoveries which made it feel even easier.

The next 10 splits were:

1:40, 42, 42, 40, 40, 41, 41, 40, 39, 42

The next 1000 went just as easily but as we got to the end of it I finally started to feel like I was working. The effort wasn’t hard just yet but at this stage I was glad that we had those long recoveries. I could feel the weight of the water and I could feel the muscles in my back, shoulders and arms being loaded up where the early one’s had felt almost effortless.

Splits for the third kilometre:

1:41, 42, 40, 41, 39, 40, 42, 41, 38, 40

At this stage we had to switch lanes and we wanted to do it as quickly as possible to stay on track. Before we started Patrick had warned that we would lose recovery time on the next few as he pushed to get us back on target. Remember we were using the pool clock to time and count the session so didn’t have the luxury afforded by using my watch. I made sure to get out of the pool as quickly as possible so that I didn’t lose too much time.

Ais was moving all of our food and stuff to the end of the lane we’d been told we could use and as I arrived she was talking to a pool attendant who was now telling us we couldn’t use the lane. We told him this was the one we’d been told to use and he argued a bit before Patrick asked for a manager.

Time was bleeding away as we stood there arguing and as soon as the attendant agreed to get his manager Patrick jumped in and shouted up at me that we’d do a 100 while we waited and promptly pushed off while I was still standing on the deck. I quickly jumped in and chased hard to get his feet. I didn’t quite catch him but I did swim a 1:32 for that 100 while chasing which was my fastest split of the evening so far.

The manager arrived and argued a bit more when we stopped but finally allowed us go ahead. I didn’t know how much time we’d lost but reckoned it was minutes not seconds. Patrick took off as soon as we had permission and went through the next 100 in 1:37 and as soon as I touched the wall he said we’d go again. No recovery. After that interval he said we were back on even minutes and that we’d lost 2 minutes in total.

That meant that we were now on track to finish only seconds inside of Patrick’s target of 3 hours 30.

The pitstop was originally going to be at 4.5k but Patrick suggested we go to 5k and take a toilet break then. I was happy to just do what I was told. Having someone who took control and made decisions meant that I only had to swim and not worry about logistics. Anyway I was still feeling really good so 5k sounded like a good idea.

The splits for the 4th and 5th kilometre were:

1:32, 37, 39, 38, 38, 38, 39, 39, 41, 40

1:39, 39, 39, 38, 37, 38, 40, 39, 41, 41

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed that these splits are all faster than the previous 2000m. Patrick said the messing at the lane change messed up his pacing but I think that only lasted for the first few hundred. He then settled into the slightly faster rhythm and held it.

Related: The incredible effects of a 30,000m swim week

John called it a day somewhere in here and I was very impressed that he had held on as well as he did given his lack of pool time this year.

I started to get dropped a little during this section as Patrick speeded up and when it happened first I thought I was slowing but in fact it was just that Patrick was going faster. What it meant for me was that I was now swimming most of each interval without the benefit of a draft so I was working a little harder. Despite that I was still feeling good so held the effort and was happy every time I saw another consistent split.

At 5k we had our quick pitstop and I ate a couple of energy chews. Before the break I was starting to feel the effort in my shoulders as fatigue gradually set in but even just a 4 minute stop meant that I felt good again and the splits stayed consistent again for the next 30 intervals.

Kilometers 6, 7 & 8 splits:

1:39, 40, 38, 41, 41, 39, 38, 38, 40, 41

1:40, 40, 41, 40, 40, 41, 41, 41, 42, 41

1:41, 42, 44, 43, 40, 41, 43, 42, 41, 43

At 8000m I was really starting to feel it in every part of my upper body. Shoulders, arms, lats, neck, core, back were all in what I would call a lot of discomfort. Not quite pain just yet. I was also having some mild stomach problems. I had a slightly sick, acidic feeling roiling around in my gut but to be honest I was 3000mt past my longest swim of the year and was still more or less holding the pace.

It was only starting to slip after we went through 8k and even then it was only by a second or two per 100. If I could stay close to this pace for the rest of the swim I would be delighted.

We jumped out for the second of our two pit stops at the 8k mark and took the full 4 minutes Patrick had planned for. So now had 40 minutes left to break the 3 hour 30 mark which was becoming a real target in my mind as well as in Patrick’s.

We restarted and almost immediately I started to slow more. Not drastically but after a couple of mid 1:40 splits I thought I was running out of gas. I grabbed the packet of energy chews at interval 84 and fumbled two into my mouth just as Patrick pushed off.

I panicked a bit and followed suit quickly to at least try to get some draft for the first of the four lengths. I realised almost as soon as I pushed off I’d made a mistake. I had a mouth full of food and couldn’t chew it or swallow it and I also quickly realised that I was going to find it very hard to breathe with a mouth full of food too. Over the next 100m I tried in vain to wedge the jellies in between the side of my mouth and cheek but all I succeeded in doing was swallowing a lot of pool water.

After the interval I swallowed the chews and pushed off again but it didn’t take long for the nausea to kick in. Every time I rolled to breathe I could feel my stomach churning. I was starting to get dizzy and increasingly nauseous. All I could think was that all of the water I took in while trying to eat the chews on top of an already delicate and slightly sick stomach had tipped me over the edge.

Splits for the 9th kilometre

1:41, 44, 44, 45, 44, 46, 46, 46, 48, 49

The food wasn’t helping bring my pace back and the nausea meant that I was losing more time on every length. I was still well inside the 2 mins we’d allowed per 100 so was still getting about 10 seconds rest but I was fading fast due to the worsening nausea.

Splits for the 10th kilometre

1:52, 1:53, 1:56, 1:56, 1:56, 2:01, 2:01, 2:10, 2:01, 1:37

The sickness got so bad that I was reduced to breast stroke for a couple of lengths about the 9.5k mark and at that stage I stopped to try and recover and to suppress the very strong urge to vomit. I told the two lads following me to swim through but Patrick saw me and shouted for me to keep going. While he was back stroking down the lane. He kept on shouting to keep going. I reluctantly pushed off and managed one length before having to breast stroke for the next three.

The next 100 was the same and as I came in on 2:01 I was now getting no recovery, I’d just hit the lap button on the watch and push off. Ais was on the deck encouraging me and Patrick was shouting at me to swim front crawl, sub 3:30 was still on the cards.

I didn’t give a flying fuck at that stage about a sub 3:30 I was just trying not to puke and keep moving but I knew Patrick was right and he’d put so much work into getting me this far I couldn’t let him down.

Ais was on deck encouraging me but she looked a bit worried. She knew I was sick and maybe had visions of the mess if I lost control. The next two 100’s got increasingly worse as I really struggled not to vomit and I was dizzy and completely empty and everything north of my waist hurt. Everything. Patrick kept on pushing me, shouting encouragement, abuse, anything that he thought would keep me moving.

As I touched the wall I looked up at the pool clock and saw that I would need to swim a 1:38 for the last 100 to come in below 3:30. I thought that was impossible, I was just too sick. At the same moment I thought that the sub 3:30 really mattered to Patrick and he knew that it would matter to me as soon as I finished so I gave it all I had for the last four lengths and realised that it didn’t matter about vomiting now, I could get out of the pool in less than two minutes and puke all I needed.

I pushed as hard as I can ever remember doing in the pool and when I finally touched the wall and looked up it said 9:30:00

Patrick was delighted, he said that as I had started behind him that my time was a couple of seconds behind him so he reckoned it was a 3:29:57

Patrick was in charge of the session today and he deserves a lot of thanks for giving up his evening to help me tick off one of my bucket list sessions.

Thanks to Ais who swam the first portion with us then hung around for another 2.5 hours offering moral support and Facebooking proceedings.

Thanks to Big John who has been in the water a grand total of three or four times this year, one of which was while racing a half Ironman who managed to flog himself for the first 4k. At one point I was actually worried he’d do the whole thing with zero training and really show me up.

Big, big Kudos to Big Dave (all of my friends aren’t called “big John or big Dave” it just happened that all three of the lads stand well north of 6ft with Dave way up there in nosebleed territory at 6’6″) Anyway Dave was in for the whole session. This is Dave’s first season in triathlon but he’s been swimming for a couple of years.

Thanks also to Patricks buddy’s Mario, Francesco, Paul and I cant remember the last guys name but if you’re reading you know who you are.