My 2020 marathon swim season is over

My 2020 marathon swim season is over

My upcoming marathon swimming race, Vidösternsimmet, which is originally planned to held on 8th August this year has been postponed to 14th August 2021 due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It means that my 2020 marathon swim season is over because going to Europe this summer is now unlikely, and I will not do marathon swimming in Hong Kong before November (i.e. I will not do a Clean Half solo) because it is too hot for me. The earliest opportunity for me to do marathon swimming again will probably be between December 2020 and February 2021.

I have been winding down my training gradually in these few weeks after peaking at a 28 km week in the 1st May long holidays as I started to doubt the possibility of the race happening, just waiting for the final decision which was announced yesterday.

My original swimming plan this year was that, after my Cold Half in January, I would take Total Immersion lessons offered by Chung Ho (Crest Ray Recreation Club) in order to improve my technique starting from February while doing speed works in the pool when it was still cold enough, then gradually build up my endurance until May to the extent that I could reasonably complete a 21 km race.

The above didn’t happen because pools had been closed since February, which have just been reopened recently. I continued swimming in the sea, however I feel that my swimming has been deteriorated when compared to last December or this January as measured by some metric. Also my training amount and intensity has never got to the level last December when I was training for the Cold Half.

I believe that I may have serious technique deficit as my speed is stuck at around 2.7 km/h even after a whole year of training, while the people I know can easily swim 20% faster than me despite they are much older than me. I have a feeling that my squad coach wants me to train my fitness despite I swim at a speed which is even slower than some people who are new to the squad, and I don’t believe that fitness is my limiter so I’m losing confidence of the squad, especially that I got immediate speed gain after taking a lesson from Chung Ho last October. Total Immersion may be a way for me to correct my swim problems.

I am losing motivation because I can’t get a lesson in order to fix my root problem in order to make me swim faster.

As the race has been postponed to 2021, the last reason that I continue to train has lost as well. Summer comes and the sea temperature is rising. The sea is now 26°C already which is too hot to my liking, and it may even reach 29°C in late summer and early autumn. It is a torture for me to swim in water that hot. Therefore I am now planning to stop my swim training soon, and probably even stop swimming completely after a further month. My plan is to restart my training in November, possibly with lessons earlier in autumn.

My short-term plan in the coming summer

I have a travel plan scheduled this August to travel to Denmark, Sweden, then over the sea to Poland and finally Berlin in order to do the Vidösternsimmet and Bukowa Cup. I bought an air ticket last month when I saw it was selling much cheaper than usual. Although Vidösternsimmet is cancelled, there hasn’t been a definite announcement on Bukowa Cup yet as IOF has only announced cancellation of races up to the end of July. If the pandemic is over by then it will be one of the earliest races after the pandemic. Moreover, the Vidösternsimmet is held on the same day as the Finnish TrailO Championships, therefore if it can be held and I can travel there by then, I will do the Finnish TrailO Championships and Bukowa Cup in two consecutive weeks.

If international travel has not been resumed by then, forcing me to change my air ticket, I will look into a period in October or November with most trail orienteering WREs in Europe, preferably a period around or after my job contract maturity (21st October). However as there is also an event in Hong Kong late October which I may need to organise it (as it counts to the qualification criteria for the Hong Kong Team) so there is also an uncertainty here.

My long term plan for 2021

My current plan is to leave my current job at contract maturity in October, then dedicate myself to train for channel swimming over the winter and also do the World Trail Orienteering Championship in Hong Kong. I will build myself through a series of progressing longer swims such as 6 hours, 8 hours, and eventually up to 12 + 8 hours on 2 consecutive days (as I predict that I will need 15 – 18 hours for my channel swim, i.e. 2/3 + 1/2 of the target swim on two consecutive days).

I will do the Cold Half again next year, also, I want to do a documented marathon swim deep in the winter as well of about 21 km in length in order to give me valuable information for me to evaluate and adjust my training. In the rare case that if the sea temperature goes below 15°C, it can also serve as the qualifying swim as well.

Afterwards, I will apply for the T5 Youth Mobility Scheme to go to the UK using my BN(O) passport, planning to depart in March. I plan to stay in Poole / Bournemouth area as it is known that there is a channel training group there. Also it is possible for me to find software developer jobs there, unlike Dover where there is basically no job opportunity apart from the port industry. I hope that I can settle down within two months and start working by May at the latest, and train in the channel training group there until my attempt in September, giving a continuity in my training as I move from Hong Kong to the UK.

After I move to the UK, I will probably do a long distance training camp (such as HITtheWALL in Ireland). I am also looking for long distance events by BLDSA as well which I have identified Loch Lomond (35 km) and Windermere (17 km). However, they may be too late to be a useful test run before my channel attempt (the Loch Lomond race is held 2 weeks before the tide opens for my channel attempt, and the Windermere is held 1 week before my channel attempt). Moreover, I will also need to take the postponed Vidösternsimmet into consideration when making my race plan in 2021 as the new scheduled date is now 3 weeks before my channel attempt.

However, all the above is still an uncertainty due to the pandemic and political reasons. We don’t know if the pandemic will be over by September yet. Some channel pilots will roll over the bookings affected by the coronavirus pandemic by a year. For example, if swims can’t take place in June 2020, the pilot will roll over the bookings into June 2021, and June 2021 booking to June 2022, June 2022 to June 2023 such that we can still prepare for the swim in the same season. In case if the pandemic isn’t over in September causing my booking to be postponed to 2022, the above plan will not be applicable.

Also, as it is possible that the autonomy given by “One Country Two Systems” in Hong Kong will end soon, I may need to find a way to emigrate faster rather than returning after two years of working holiday in the UK. I will need to investigate other kinds of visas which can lead to permanent residency after a certain time. Before the crisis, I no longer want to stay in Hong Kong for the whole life because of the climate, the property price and also the fact that information technology is not valued here, however since the anti-extradition law movement started in June, the escalation of police violence and the refusal of the government to respond to people’s demands have made me lose all confidence in the government. This has already triggered international notice as well. For example, the Hong Kong Bill has started in the UK Parliament which may give right to BN(O) holders as a response to China undermining the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Now the central government is trying to place a national security law into the Annex III of the Basic Law, which will mean the end of “One Country Two Systems” in Hong Kong as it bypasses the Hong Kong legislation, and it may even give provision for the central government to set up a unit in Hong Kong to execute the law, which means bypassing the local law enforcement unit as well. Therefore I’m feeling the urgency now as it is possible that Hong Kong may be dead by the time I’m ready to go. How the above develop will directly affect my plan to move to Europe next year, including the death rate of Hong Kong, the BN(O) status, and also the Brexit transition period as well. I can’t make any decision yet and no one can give me any confidence. I will probably need to wait until September to see if the pandemic is over, and also the progress of the Hong Kong Bill which is scheduled for second reading on 11th September before I can make any further arrangement.

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