Starting off my journey towards marathon swimming: part 2
The new year of 2019 began. I became a member of Tritons Triathlon Club, which is associated with the triathlon programme at HKU with membership running per calendar year, and increased my training amount. Since January I regularly swim about 12 – 15 km per week, including normally 2 squad sessions, an open water group swim on the weekend, and a few sessions on my own. I originally wanted to increase the training amount further in February then April but refrained from doing so because I thought that my technique was lacking, after taking a Swim Smooth video analysis session in February.
Another fact which I found out only after joining the triathlon club is that, the club produces marathon swimmers, including two English Channel swimmers – Simon Holliday from UK (who swam round the Hong Kong Island in 2017) and Cae Tolman from Australia, therefore I thought I actually joined the right club as my goal is to do marathon swimming.
However, I didn’t have much time improvement even after I have joined the squad for 4 months. The VRC announced a 5 km race, the DWB on 28 April, with stated cut off time 1 hour 45 minutes which I would really want to do it but scared about the cut-off, as my prediction based on historical results was slightly outside the cut-off. At that time, my orienteering friends introduced me a swim coach, Gary Lui. He was willing to charge me a “friendly” price so I decided to take some lessons with him as I was desperately trying to improve my technique in order to make the cut-off of that race, which started in the middle of March.
Returning to open water swimming, there are 2 main groups in Hong Kong, the Saturday afternoon group led by Olivier, and the Sunday morning group led by Ian. I normally do the Saturday afternoon group, but if I am not free, mostly due to orienteering which remains at my first priority, I will do the Sunday morning group instead. Actually the Sunday group consists of mostly Tritons members, however it is faster than the Saturday group and I may still not be able to catch up with them, while I am comfortable in the middle of B team in the Saturday group, even everyone is with wetsuit but not me (I never wear a wetsuit in Hong Kong because I am very afraid of heat – I like to swim in cold water, 18°C – 20°C is perfect for me now, and I am uncomfortable in anything over 24°C when wetsuit is forbidden in triathlons).
The Saturday group normally do only 3 km, which I am definitely not satisfied, however, the Sunday group do a variety of distances – 3 km, 5 km, or even 7 – 9 km. I really hope to do longer swims, but the group swimming long distance in Sunday is below 1’40” / 100 m endurance pace, which I definitely cannot catch up (my endurance pace is estimated to be somewhere around 2’10” / 100 m), and I always end up barely following only the shorter group. The best way to train for my marathon swimming target is definitely to swim with them, doing 7 – 9 km occasionally, because they are real marathon swimmers, probably the only group of marathon swimmers in Hong Kong, but I can’t because the speed difference is too large.