Starting off my journey towards marathon swimming: part 1

Starting off my journey towards marathon swimming: part 1

I love the sea and love open water swimming. By the end of 2014, I discovered that there was a Sunday open water swimming group in Hong Kong, led by Ian Polson. I tried to join but couldn’t catch up with anyone in the group. I then got embarrassed and disappeared. In 2015, I found out that there was a Saturday open water swimming group led by Lloyd Mc Bean (now by Olivier Courret) as well, but I couldn’t catch up with them either.

I looked for coaching options, and found out that the university I was studying, HKU, had a triathlon programme (IHP Triathlon Programme, now rebranded as The Swim Lab Asia) which offered improver sessions which would suit me. However, the improver sessions were not operating in winter, and in the next season they moved away from the university so I didn’t join. My speed was not fast enough to join the regular squad, which required at least the speed of 2’10” / 100 m endurance pace.

I finally did an improver course in summer 2016, but I still wasn’t up to squad standard afterwards. By that time I completed my second degree at HKU, and moved away from the city, though eventually found a job back in HKU. That job would be perfect for me doing the squad training once a week on Tuesday evening, which was suitable for someone new to the squad, however I couldn’t meet the squad standard at that time. As the job required stressful commute and I did nearly no physical exercise, my health deteriorated a lot during the 1-year contract, which made me discontinued that job at contract maturity (October 2017) even that job was good for me. I rested for a few months, found another job out of the city closer to my home in March 2018, but I couldn’t find a reputable club focusing on open water swimming there so I didn’t have any structured training, and just swam on my own, and I didn’t any know any swim coach as well.

In summer 2018, I found out that I might be able to catch up with the B team, judging by my pool time, of the Saturday open water swimming group led by Olivier, and tried joining their group swim after I disappeared for 3 years, and I finally caught up with the group without the group waiting for me so long, though still in the rear of the pack. That speed was also enough for me to join some of the sessions in the squad of the triathlon programme at HKU.

In September, the Saturday open water swimming group did a 2.4 km time trial, which turned out to be lengthened to 3 km without prior announcement, and I completed it which made that my longest OW swim till that time, though I finished nearly the last. And a super typhoon forced the McBean Middle Island Challenge, a 3.7 km race around Middle Island, originally scheduled on 22 September which I was not free, to be postponed to 3 November which I could make it and allowed another month of training for me. I immediately signed up for the race without doubt, and completed it.

As the new job was crap, I resigned after the probation period, and made my decision to return to my first job at HKU, and arranged for a subdivided flat from my family in the city to avoid the long travel in my first year in the job. An important benefit of the job at HKU now is free access to the sports facilities since the end of 2017, as part of the university policy to promote exercise among their staff, including the 2 swimming pools which are not temperature-regulated at all – hot in the summer, cold in the winter. I finally made the move on 22th October, bought all my equipment and started squad training on 30th October. I then trained regularly in the squad, one or two sessions per week afterwards.

By the end of the year, I was daydreaming about some big stuff, then made a very concrete goal for me to train and achieve in a year – to complete a marathon swimming race (>= 10 km) before March 2020.

To be continued in part 2.

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