When it comes to motivating myself, I need a goal. As much as I love triathlon and all of the sports that go with it, I’m not great at running (or swimming or cycling) just because. I like something to strive for- a new challenge to inspire me to clock those difficult miles on the days I’d rather stay in bed or the evenings when dinner and the sofa beckon. Such a challenge presented itself this summer in the form of a 10k swim.
Why a 10k swim you might ask?
As it was the summer of the Olympics, I decided to have my own summer of Olympic challenges, including a couple of Olympic-distance triathlons, a cycling sportive (travelling roads that were featured in the Olympics) and some running events. This was all well and good, but realistically, it just didn’t feel like enough. This is what I like to do every summer! I needed something bigger (or at least longer…). Something to make me a little nervous and even more so, excited, about my training.
And so the 10k swim it was. Olympic swimming’s version of the marathon was exactly the ticket to motivate me to take my training to a new level.
The longest swim I’d done before taking on 10k training was 3.8k- and that was a couple of years ago, so I knew that I had to get serious about my training. That said, I didn’t want to spend all of my time in the pool (I feared that would lead to extreme boredom) and I wanted to keep up with my running and cycling, even if it was on a less intense level.
Online 10k swim training plans tend to be few and far between, but I did like the suggested training plan for the Dart 10k, focusing on three swims a week- a 90-minute fitness session, a 45-minute technique session and a weekly long swim (starting at 2.5k and peaking at 8k, 2-3 weeks before the event).
I also avoided dreading the pool by changing the location of my swims from time-to-time and swimming as many of my long swims in open water as possible (yay, lakes and lidos!)
Of course this occasionally meant a long train ride to get in my hours at a lake of choice or braving water that was a bit cold for my taste, but that was all part of the adventure. Between the training plan that was right for me and varying my swim locations, I had the right balance to keep boredom at bay and enjoy my training all summer long.
Yes, I put race in quotations. For me, the idea of swimming my first 10k meant, ‘Can I finish? Will I make the cutoff? How do I ingest my gel as quickly as possible and keep swimming?’ so to say race is a bit of a stretch.
On the day of my challenge, let’s say, I awoke before the sun (4 am, but who’s keeping track?) and drove with friends to the lake. It was a chilly morning- and still dark upon our arrival- but as the sun came up on a beautiful day, I was anxious to get into the water (warmer than air temperature!) and start swimming.
Some laps worked better than others, but I found myself changing up my stroke rate when I got tired, focusing on different parts of my stroke when I feared falling apart, and singing to myself when I started to get bored. If you must know, ‘I Have Confidence’ (from the Sound of Music) and ‘Break My Stride’ (from the 80’s) are my motivators of choice. Laugh if you must.
Once we finally got started, there was the excitement of racing for the first few laps. Though the field was certainly varied in ability, for a while I had a nice crowd nearby which kept my competitive nature going and meant that I could play fun games with myself, such as ‘Stay on that Guy’s Feet’ or ‘Don’t Let Her Pass You’ or my personal favourite, ‘How Closely Can I Cut the Buoy?’ Unfortunately, as everyone got into their rhythm and chose different times for ‘feeding’, the field spread out and it was really time to find my inner motivation.
And so 10 x 1k later, I had finished my first 10k. And to answer my own questions: Yes, I can finish. Yes, I will make the cutoff (though I sure did slow down on the second half!). You eat the gel like in any other race (get it down quickly and drink some water!), you just do it while treading water.
Next year, the Olympics won’t be around to help me figure out my motivational goals, so I’ll have to figure them out on my own. But please, if I start talking Channel swim, remind me that there are plenty of goals on nice, dry land!