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  • Writer's pictureNadine Bennett

The Longest Swim (well, for now) 12.1km

Yesterday's training swim hit a target for me, to finally get up to the 10km mark as my new baseline. I had also signed up for the Longest Swim on the Longest Day, a fundraiser for The Outdoor Swimming Society and the Project Seagrass, an environmental charity devoted to the conservation of seagrass ecosystems. But let's face it, I'm pretty obsessed with swim challenges, if there's a badge or t-shirt to be had, I'm there!

I couldn't actually swim on the longest day of the year (21st is a Monday, I have to work), so I used my Friday training day instead. I managed to book a 4-hour block at the Dieppe pool, booking is restricted to 4 x 45min blocks per swimmer per week, but they said it would be ok to book them back-to-back if the times were open. Music to my ears! By the time I got on deck it was 9:15, so I had until 1pm, 3hrs and 45min of pure joyful swimming.

The training goal was to:

(a) swim the entire time, no getting out early

(b) swim with consistent technique (long glide, entry on train tracks, still head)

I knew I'd get to 10km, but speed per km was NOT my focus, I accepted that if it was slow going but good technique, that was ok. I'm still rebuilding my endurance, slow is ok!

For the swim itself, I chose 30min segments because that's the interval I would use to feed on a solo swim. I had my UCAN and water bottles at the end of the lane, with a few toys. I ended up just using the Finis Axis pull buoy, more on that in a sec. I alternated 30mins regular swim, and 30mins with the buoy:

30mins, swim

30mins, swim with Axis pull-buoy

Simple but effective, here's why. I do really like to do 1km sets, and to time each km to see if I can maintain or decrease my speed. It's a great approach, but sometimes you need to train other things. By doing 30min segments, I lost track of my pace (on purpose) and focused 100% on technique. And what a swim!! I felt long and in control, and kept visualizing myself out on open water, next to a kayak. Glorious. And yes, I did slow down a little as time went on, but not all that much considering it was my first 10km. Finish time was 3hrs 28mins 57secs, which includes feeds (but excludes leaving the pool for a pee break). Feeds were about 30secs, not bad at all.

Ok so about the pull buoy. You can use the Axis between your legs, or clip it down around your ankles. By using it around your ankles, you HAVE to use your core to rotate and to keep your feet from floating above the water's surface. It's pretty hard to do if you don't have a strong core, especially as time goes on and you get tired. The floatation around your ankles tilts you forward a bit too, so you get the feeling of swimming downwards. And, you can really feel it if you're not streamlined, the buoy gives you awareness if your feet and legs are snaking behind your core, and you can work on self-correcting.

When I got home, I headed into the tank for another 2km, and did some video too. Now, don't expect perfection! I lost all of the good technique work I had done last year since there was no swimming due to lockdowns, and we're rebuilding my stroke bit by bit, so YES there's crappy stuff going on here. But we've managed to correct quite a bit already.

My left arm still isn't on the train track to my shoulder, it's out to the left a bit. But I also noticed a couple of new things as well. When I'm pulling/recovering with my right arm (pic on the left) my head struggles to stay still and leans to the left to compensate. But when I pull/recover with my left arm, it's more streamlined. And, my rotation isn't the same on both side, I struggle to get the same nice high shoulder with left-arm recovery. This might explain why I struggle to bilateral breathe to the left, my thoracic spine (upper back) and neck are really locked up and I don't rotate as well, something my massage therapist noticed last year. Gotta start working on that again.

But wait, you might be thinking, aren't you over-rotating in the left-hand pic? Nope, not for the wide-ish outsweep I'm trying to achieve (in lieu of the traditional high elbow). A nice high shoulder lets me sweep around, which I noticed creates a lot less stress on my shoulder and arm.

You can see things more prominently on the video, and I wonder if being locked up also explains why my left arm is too far out to the left. I swear my body thinks it's in the right place, but video doesn't lie! Good observations, will show coach and see what she says. But this is still WAY better than a couple of weeks ago, so I'm happy.

Note: this tether is not working for me, with hip attachments I can't rotate or kick like I normally would, so yes my legs are sinking. New tether arrives Friday!

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