I ended my 2018/19 season early and did something I had done a few summers earlier. I took up triathlon training (and took part in 1 official and several practice triathlons), and I took part in my 3rd ring of Kerry cycle. I reduced my swimming training to 3 times a week, which I figured would be enough to not lose too much, and obviously added running and cycling to my training. While it was a fantastic break, I soon realised that it was not as intense as my regular training, which combined with two holidays, meant I ended up putting on weight.
Of course, the World Masters Championships and the European Masters Games were both held during the summer, and I couldn’t help looking up the results. If I had swam my best times I would have done very well, I might even have picked up some medals in the latter competition. However, I have to accept that I was in no position to train or compete in these, and I’m sure there are faster people than me across Europe that looked up the same results and realised they could have won medals too. Looking up the results and the easier training did have an amazingly positive effect, by August I was chomping at the bit to get back into the pool and get working for the European Masters Championships in Budapest 2020.
I had thought that my triathlon training, plus my swims in a Finnish lake and on a Spanish beach would leave me in pretty good shape and I wouldn’t have too much ground to make up when I officially started back in the new season. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as fit as I had expected.
Three weeks into my season when it was time to step things up, I realised that I would need to change my training pattern. Between work, family and life in general I couldn’t get into the pool as much as I would later in the season in the run up to a big competition. I also didn’t want to risk being burnt out in the business end of the season. So, my solution was to have two 4,000m sessions a week in addition to 3-4 other pool sessions of my usual length and a gym session. This allowed me to comfortably get a decent amount of aerobic work in as well as some speed, anaerobic, and threshold sessions when needed.
Then there were the changes I made in the pool. Every year I look for changes to implement in my training and my races. This year I’ve been working on breathing more to both sides to sort out muscle imbalances and to save my neck. I’ve also been tweaking my underwaters off the wall, and the pull phase of my stroke.
I’ve always wanted to race in some of the Leinster galas, especially those early in the season. I couldn’t make Tallaght and Kilkenny, but I was determined to get to the Celtic Masters. I have a rough plan for what races I’ll do in different galas throughout the season in the run up to the European Masters and the Celtic Masters was when I would have a go at the 50m and 100m Freestyle and Butterfly. I haven’t done the 100 freestyle short course very often, not since I started taking my training more seriously. It was my first race, my brother was in the lane next to me, and neither of us were very confident that we would even break the minute. The race felt good, I nailed the first two turns, then on my final turn into a plastic bulkhead something went a little wrong and my foot slipped. My time ended up matching or slightly bettering my 100m time as a teenager and was a little faster than my tapered long course best. Funnily enough it was also my first time racing in a Speedo racing suit since then. I was 0.10 away from going down another second, which is agonising, but ultimately, I’m surprised and happy with that time so early in the season. Similarly, in my 50m free I managed to get my best time ever as a masters swimmer (I can’t remember my old teenage time) and got a 26. Unfortunately, on both days my freestyle events were before my butterfly ones and I only had 30 minutes to recover. At this point in the season I simply didn’t have the necessary training and taper done to recover properly. Still I managed to get a lifetime short course PB in the 100m butterfly, so there is some great potential there.
In terms of medals I picked up a gold, 2 silvers, and a bronze. All in all it was a great gala, especially for one in the early part of the season and if past ones are anything to go by, this bodes well for the European Masters.
I have a plan for the season and the Mallow masters was next on the plan. Just before the gala I had a work trip to Prague, but I had a hotel with a pool and gym so I should have been ok training wise. My last two training sessions before my trip were fantastic and I hit training times I wouldn’t normally get until far later in the season. Then the morning of my trip I had a sore throat, which developed into something worse. Not only did I end up missing Mallow, but I was out sick for 3 weeks. I managed to get some training in just before Christmas day, and since the local pool reopened I’ve been going in every day. I’m not pushing things, I’ve relaxed my off times and I’m taking more rest between sets. For now I’m just trying to get some aerobic fitness back. It’s annoying, but at least I’m back in the pool.
For the third year in a row I’ve made it onto the Irish Masters Development squad. Unsurprisingly my sister Claire, an Irish record holder at Masters level, made the squad too. Unfortunately, my brother James just missed out on the squad and upsettingly got a time that would have qualified him for the squad in the Mallow Masters gala. At least this means he should make it next year.