Three solid weeks, and finally back in the Lake!

The plan for the next three months of training, April through June, has been to ramp up the kilometers in the pool culminating in a long, hard week at the end of each month. This evening marks the end of three weeks that I’m reasonably happy with: just under 24km, then 26km, and now this weimageek was just shy of 30km. Here’s where we are, with the blue and red lines the low and high projections for pool workouts, and the orange line the actual distances completed to date.

For the most part the past three weeks have been dominated by long, moderate sets involving 1000s and 1500s, although we’ve also done some shorter, more intense interval work in there as well, often with Lynn leading the charge. I’ve had some great help on workouts this past week, and before that, from extraordinary Hamilton triathletes Austen and Taylor Forbes, and from Bri on the Mac team.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 11.04.58 PMToday was also our first day back in the lake doing anything like a significant distance. We had a good group arrive at the beach, led by Brenda Lussier-Neumueller, who will be having another go at crossing the lake this summer. Mark and Jayne arrived with their ever-enthusiastic little ones, and Christine and Duane made it out too. Laurence Hanly also came out to join us, and had a great swim.

My first impression, as I sat down to write this entry, was that I haven’t been in the cold water nearly as much as last year, when we were helping  Madhu train for Magellan. Looking back, I see that I’m mistaken: I have been in the lake about as much this season as last, but the swims haven’t been nearly so intense. I was swimming in the lake in the fall, and up to January, but then didn’t get back in until mid-March, when I muddled through a couple of hundred meters at Coronation Park in 4C waters.


Thinking about it, I honestly don’t know if I really enjoy the cold water swimming. A part of me does, I suppose.

There are certainly things about the cold water that draw me back. The camaraderie of doing something sort-of-crazy but life-affirming, outdoors, with good friends? That bit I like. A lot. As Madhu says: it’s really not about swimming.

There’s also a weird, austere beauty to the cold waters, in all their varied moods.

I tell myself I do the cold water training to prepare for how so many swims can turn, especially in Lake Ontario: cold. I went back to look at our temperature readings from swims last summer. One week was telling: in spite of uniformly warm weather, we had a temperature swing in the lake from 24C on July 27th at Burlington Beach, down to below 8C less than a week later at LOST beach!

IMG_20160417_132913Today we had a beautiful spring afternoon, and we discovered that the Burlington Beach waters were at around 13C in the shallows, and 10-11C further out.

For me, 10C is about the temperature where I can actually swim. (Of course as Rob Kent will tell you, it’s also the temperature at which you can start getting yourself in real trouble, for just that reason!) I can force myself to cover a kilometer or two in water a bit colder than that, but once we’re at or above 10C, it doesn’t seem crazy doing a bit more distance.

The water quality wasn’t what I’d like, but we’ve certainly swum in worse. Hell, I’ve swum a race in the Thames, so I’ll say that this wasn’t too bad at all for post-spring-runoff Lake Ontario. Still, I did a lot of backstroke.

Mark, Laurence, and I managed about a kilometre overall, out and back 500m or so, with plenty of breaks to stand and warm up a bit in the sun. Duane also had a great swim, sans wetsuit.

On with the training. The shoulders are still my primary concern right now, but they seem to be reasonably stable after this recent three-week build. In May I’ll be planning some longer pool swims, at least one of which will use the 4-hour early morning long course public lane swims available at the Toronto Pan Am pool.

Speaking of that marvelous pool, and just for inspiration, here’s Ryan Cochrane at the Pan Am complex last week, qualifying for Canada’s Rio team with a 15:00.75 in the 1500m free!

We’ll also be doing some pool swims, probably at the Oakville YMCA, followed immediately by cold water lake swims at Coronation Park. Today we did the 1000m cold swim, had a long rest, and then did another 3800m in the pool. We need to reverse that, and shorten the gap between.


Training for Lake Ontario 2016

Training for a Lake Ontario crossing has involved some changes to my usual routines in the pool, the open water, and my dryland work over the past few years. The past three seasons I’ve been focused on shorter swims, mostly 10k races on flat water courses like Dorney Lake and Welland. I’m comfortable with 10km events, but my longest point-to-point swim to date has been the Boston Light Swim at about 13kms. That’s all well and good, but Lake Ontario along the Marilyn Bell route involves roughly five 10km swims, with variable currents, surface and weather conditions!

The aim, then, is to find what legendary endurance swimmer Jim McConica calls your “forever pace” : that pace where, with periodic refueling, you feel like you can basically go on forever.

(I alternate between that label, and thinking of it as my Dory pace!)

Since January, I’ve been using my pool sessions to alternate between shorter, more intense short-course workouts balanced with longer swims on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the McMaster pool is configured for long-course during the noon lane swims.

LakeOntario2016-pooltrainingprojectionsOriginally the plan was a slow steady build, peaking at between 40km and 50km a week, with lower and higher volume routes to those peaks.

Now, however, I’ve been focusing more on dryland, emphasizing core strength and rotator stability, and building up the weekly mileage more slowly than originally planned, following roughly along the lower projections of the original plans. I’ve been adding more dips and climbs, with more intense weeks balanced by lower-volume rest weeks.

I also try to keep getting in the lake periodically, not because short, intense cold-water swimming at those temperatures (under 5C) are really especially useful as preparation a long swim like Lake Ontario, but just to stay familiar with the cold water.

I’ll keep my swim and dryland training updated at my my Garmin Connect profile, and my swim log is here. I’ll periodically post updates here about my training, our team, the logistics of the swim, and occasional thoughts and reflections on the journey.

Thanks for being a part of the adventure!