Channel swim training the wrong way – July to November 2020

Channel swim training the wrong way – July to November 2020

Continued from the first half of the year.

July 2020

I didn’t continue the training in the swim clubs. Instead, I was waiting for my coach, Chung Ho, to resume teaching when the situation of COVID-19 improved. My swimming was at an all-time low since I started in 2018, normally only getting in the water 2 times per week, less than an hour each time, as everything including the pools and the ocean were too hot for me.

Then, in the month, there were another outbreak of cases (the 3rd wave), probably due to quarantine loophole related to seamen. Everything were closed again and beaches were even fenced off. The 3rd wave was more severe than before and the anti-epidemic measures enacted were the strongest in history. Moreover, I moved back to my family’s home out of city permanently as well as I suspected that the place I lived before caused my skin problem. I kept swimming with the group of people I met in April. Initially I was leading the group, but in July I was already lagging behind, probably because of the temperature and the fact that I didn’t train much as well. In contrast, Isaac Yuen, who was preparing for his first 10 km challenge, swam nearly every day in July. According to my original plan in January, I should be at my peak fitness in my taper stage for Vidösternsimmet, however, the reality was the exact opposite. I was at the worst shape since I started swimming seriously in 2018.

Swim total for July 2020: 23.7 km

August 2020

I nearly stopped swimming completely in August. For each of the first 3 weeks, I only got in the water once, usually trying different courses with new friends. In fact, I did nearly no exercise in the whole month. I was really depressed at that moment as I couldn’t travel, and nothing could take place under the strongest restrictions in history. The commute problem stressed me again since I moved back to my family’s home, and I felt that my work was meaningless without the swim training in the pool next to my office. The only thing which temporary brought me out of that was Isaac’s 10 km swim, which I was the observer. The sea was too hot for me to swim any distance. I started getting the idea of postponing my Channel attempt and emailed my pilot, citing the interruption of training due to COVID, but the response was negative. The real reason was that, the UK had declared Sino-British Joint Declaration broken by the Hong Kong National Security Law which the Central government put on Hong Kong by means of national legislation in Annex 3 of the Basic Law, bypassing the legislature in Hong Kong. This had effectively ended the one-country-two-systems in Hong Kong. The UK responded by offering an immigration route for BN(O) citizens which would be effective January 2021. Therefore it would be better for me to go a working holiday in Sweden first in 2021, then emigrate to the UK in 2022, while my original plan was to go a working holiday in UK in 2021, and decide if I would go to Sweden for another working holiday afterwards.

By the end of the month, I started to get back in the water twice a week, to prepare myself getting back to full training when autumn came.

Swim total for August 2020: 28.9 km

September 2020

Initially I still swam open water for 2 times a week on the weekends, but only for a short distance each time as the sea was still hot. The pools reopened on 18th September. I got back in immediately. However it was still too hot to do any speed training at that time. I got back starting from mainly drills and short sessions first, and restarted squad training on Tuesday evenings. By the end of the month I normally swam 3 times per week.

Chun Kong Mak swam the Channel successfully, becoming the first Hongkonger to do so. He decided to swim the Channel, getting a slot from his teammate who got injury, after he got COVID in March to show that “the fear of the virus is worse than the virus itself.” Both motivations for me to swim the Channel (as a fun thing to do in a working holiday, and to become the first Hongkonger to do so) were gone.

I started a freediving course that month. However the instructors were not good. They seemed to assume that people have snorkelling / scuba diving experience and didn’t expect that I didn’t know how to use a mask, snorkel and fins properly. Therefore I couldn’t complete the requirement.

Swim total for September 2020: 30.2 km

October 2020

I increased training frequency in October but my training sessions were still short because it was still too hot. I needed to get back myself in shape after my off season. I got back to the pool about 3 times a week, and an open water swim. However I didn’t do anything long. I only averaged 13 km per week in the beginning of the month.

My job contract matured in October. However, since the beginning of the month, I was already not working because I needed to use up all annual leaves in my contract. I planned to use most of them in August in my trip but it didn’t realised. I started to dedicate myself in swim training. I started to increase my length of the sessions by the end of the month, and averaged about 15 km per week.

I continued to learn freediving with another instructor. He taught much better and I was on my way to complete the certification.

Swim total for October 2020: 63.4 km

November 2020

My second training block began as the pool and sea temperatures dropped below 25°C. I got back to squad training 2 days per week, Wednesday and Friday, a day doing USRPT myself, and also open water on the weekend. I began to see improvement through the USRPT sets. I did 100 m intervals aiming to complete 30 without 3 failures. I started at 1:50/2:10 and, by the end of the month, I passed 1:48/2:08 and looking forward to 1:46/2:06 the next time. My average amount per week increased from 15 km in the beginning of the month to 18 km by the end of the month. I started getting back onto the right track of my training.

On 8 November, I did my first open water swimming race since the pandemic began, DWB TT. My performance in that race was not significant different from previous years.

I asked the pilot again if it would be possible to postpone my Channel swim to another year, and the answer was again negative. It would be possible to change to a relay though.

I officially got AIDA 2 certified in the beginning of the month. I was looking forward to diving afterwards.

On the last Wednesday, 25 November, the squad did a challenge set. We tried to do 100 / 90 / 80 x 100 m intervals depending on which lane I was in. The pool was booked for 3 hours and we tried to do as much as possible. I was initially assigned lane 2, which was to do 90 x 100 m intervals on 2:00. That was very challenging for me as I estimated that I could only keep that interval for about 15 – 20 100. I ended up dropping to lane 1 after 35 intervals when I started to have difficulty keeping it, and changed to 2:05 interval instead. However, I couldn’t even keep that after 55 accumulated intervals and my swimming deteriorated to the point of no return and I could no longer hold any pace. I ended up doing 80 intervals.

On 29 November, I went out my first dive after I got certified. However by the end of the dive when we was diving for a shipwreck, I hurt my head and ended up in the hospital. As a result I had to be out of water for a significant period and it had a detrimental effect afterwards in December.

Swim total for November 2020: 63.4 km

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