The Greater Manchester Swim: Open Water, Frozen Toes And A Gold Medal

The Greater Manchester Swim

My first triathlon of the season will be Cardiff on the 23rd of June (eek!), but as I build up to the event, I thought it would be a good idea to do a few other competitions to get race ready. Swimming being my favourite event, I entered The Greater Manchester Swim and decided to give open water racing a go.

Competing in the one mile race, I was aiming for a sub 25-minute finish. I clocked in at 22’24, finishing first woman and fourth overall. Needless to say, I was really chuffed.

Insider Tip: You can check out the full results here.

About The Greater Manchester Swim

Swimming In The Salford Quays

If you live in the Manchester area and love open water swimming, I couldn’t recommend The Greater Manchester Swim enough. Located in the Salford Quays (dock 9), it’s well organised, the water is really pleasant to swim in and the course is so easy to follow. There’s also quite a wide start, so you aren’t crawling over people or getting constantly hit in the first hundred metres.

Navigating Cold Waters

The only downside? The water temperature! I guess it’s a given when you’re swimming in deep water in the UK in May, but the cold water of Salford’s Docks was a shock to the system. 14.2°C, they warned us to get used to the water to avoid a panic attack and/or breathing issues.

The cold hit my body hard and I genuinely spent five minutes before the race just dunking my face into the water, trying to calm my breathing and get used to the cold.

I won’t lie, by the end of the race, my toes and fingers had gone completely white. Still, maybe the desperation to get out of the cold water makes you swim faster (it sure worked for me!).

Preparation Training

For those of you who are wondering how I prepared for the event, I have to admit, I didn’t particularly change my training in the lead up to The Greater Manchester Swim (my aim is still to be fastest across 750m in a triathlon). So, I stuck to my usual routine, swimming three 3km training sessions a week.

If you’re interested, some of those sessions include:

1. Strength And Technique

I use this session to work on my technique. The pulls serve to recreate the effect of wearing a wetsuit and help strengthen my upper body to minimise the need for kicking (best save my legs for the bike and run).

  • Warm Up: 250m breaststroke
  • Sessions: 5x (250m pulls – 250m crawl) with 250m in 3’45 to 4’00
  • Cool Down: 250m breaststroke

2. Speed Endurance

This session is all about maintaining a quick pace over a longer distance, without much rest.

  • Warm Up: 250m breaststroke – 250m pulls
  • Session: 4x(500m crawl) with 500 in 7’45 to 8’00
  • Cool Down: 250m pulls 250m breaststroke

Alternatively, I like to do a 600-500-400-300-200-100m session (this one is tough but you feel great afterwards), or a pyramid session where I alternate between fast and steady pace (e.g. 4x (25m sprint, 50m steady, 75m sprint, 100m steady, 125m sprint, 100m steady, 75m sprint, 50m steady, 25m sprint)).

3. Race Practice

I like to recreate race conditions by dividing my 750m races into distances between buoys. Often this will be a short 150 to 200m swim, then a long 300 to 400m stretch and finally a shorter leg to the transition line.

  • Warm Up: 250m breaststroke – 250 m pulls
  • Session: 3x (200m – 300m – 250m) 10s rest between each swim, 30s rest between each set with 200m in 3’20, 300m in 4’40, 250m in 4’00
  • Alternative sessions include: 150m–350m–200m; 300m-450m; and 200m-350m-200m
  • Cool Down: 250m breaststroke

Insider Tip: Look up the course of your next race and calculate the distance to each buoy. You can then recreate the course in your next training session.

4. The Test Session

I also like to put my training to the test. Throughout the winter, I’ll do variant A of this session every week. Starting from March, I’ll do variant B every other week. This gives me an idea of how quickly I can swim 750m.

Variant A:

  • Warm Up: 250m breaststroke – 250m pulls
  • Session: 750m crawl – 500m pulls – 750m crawl (750 in 11’4 to 12’00)
  • Cool Down: 250m pulls – 250m breaststroke

Variant B:

  • Warm Up: 250m breaststroke – 250m pulls
  • Session: 3x 750m crawl (in 11’50)
  • Cool Down: 250m breaststroke

I’ll admit that the above sessions weren’t set by a coach. I make up sessions that I know work for me and I enjoy doing. Feel free to borrow some ideas from above, or drop me a message or comment below with your own sessions!

Staying motivated, feeling strong and tracking progress, that’s all I need.

More Open Races To Come

I enjoyed The Greater Manchester Swim so much that I’ve actually signed up to do a second one (this time over 1500m) in July. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

3 thoughts on “The Greater Manchester Swim: Open Water, Frozen Toes And A Gold Medal

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