The Long Reach Swim

Last weekend was the 8.3km Long Reach River Swim organised by My Sporting Times 

Starting at Wallingford in Oxfordshire and Following the river to Streatly 8.3Km down stream This was the inaugural event and attracted 300+ swimmers covering a range of abilities.

The race was a staggered start broken into 3 waves, wave one (the slowest swimmers) at 8.00 and 8.30 for the faster swimmers. Along the course there were three aid stations (2.5km, 4.3km and 6.5km) so unlike many mass participation events, the start was a very calm and relaxed atmosphere.

The course was a beautiful stretch of the River Thames starting in a quiet town of Wallingford and then meandering through the Oxfordshire country side to finish just before Streatly, the calm clear waters created a perfect swimming environment and low boat traffic meant for a safe and relaxed swim.

This was the longest I and many others had swam continuously but it proved to be a distance that was manageable with out too many stops. The stops were frequent enough for those who needed the additional energy and fluids, but myself and a few others completed the swim without stopping or taking on additional fuel.

The race was well organised from start to finish and every swimmer I saw getting out at the finish, was doing so with a smile on their face.

Course map

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The Swim start at wallingford



Vicky showing her solid stroke mid way through 36623727001_d8d876d7a9_o35929210784_3629e1e2e3_o

The finish and Exit.



Overall a great event and I would highly recommend entering another edition in the future. Keep and eye out for next years entry


Always be Streamlined

This may just be a personal bugbear but when training at the swimming pool it completely amazes me how many people I see swimming who don’t push off the wall or dive into the water in a streamlined position.

Diving into the water and pushing off from a turn are when you will be moving faster than during any other part of your swim. Ironically this is also when you are exerting the least amount of effort.

So in essence this is ‘Free speed’. It’s free and it’s fast, so it seems silly to waste it.

Stay streamlined.


Swimming Training Zones

Most people swim their easy sets too fast and their fast sets too easy.

Do you find yourself just swimming at one pace, and wander why you are not progressing? Make sure you swim In the correct training zones to have the most effect workout.

Zone 1:  Aerobic Zone

split into:

  • 1a) low intensity HR 70-50 beats below max HR
  • 1b) maintenance 50-40 beats below max HR
  • 1c) aerobic development 40-30 beats below max HR

Zone 2: Anaerobic Threshold

30-20 beats below max HR  this is the zone where you are swimming fast, but not so fast that Lactate acid accumulates and you begin to fade or fatigue.

Zone 3: High performance endurance (critical swim speed)

20-10 beats below max HR  Generally the fastest you could swim 400m

Zone 4: Anaerobic

Max HR also known as race pace work only sustainable for 50-200m. Generally need longer rests between sets.

Zone 5: Sprint

Max speed not max effort.  This could be achieved through shorter sets such as 12.5 or 20m Max effort speeds. Ensure adequate rest for full recovery.

Remember to train all your zones but focus on the area most important for your event.

Marlow Classic River Swim 3Km

A brief summary of Saturdays Marlow River race.

For more information on how to train for an event like this visit my training article on long distance swims 


The Swim consisted of 2 laps of swimming 750m up river followed by 750m down river.

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There were 84 competitors in the river for a mass start with a mixture of swimmers in wetsuits and no wetsuits. The water temperature was a cool 18 degrees c.

My tactic was to start hard for the first 100m after the start gun (which is not a tactic many take on a long distance swim) so I found that I quickly distanced myself from the main group of swimmers within a minute or so I had clear water behind me.

I adopted a smooth steady stroke for the first lap to stay as efficient as possible, but as the race progressed I transitioned into a more straight arm swinging technique to ensure I could keep my stroke rate up.

Although I went off hard I was positioned in 2nd place as one competitor put the hammer down even more and built a 20m lead on me with in a few minutes.

The first lap was steady but solid (no surges after the start) but by leaving the main group behind I paid the price of not being able to draft any body’s slip stream so I had to power against the current myself for the first 750m.

Swimming upstream was noticeably harder and I found my self being pushed into the edge of the river bank on a few occasions ( I should have done a better job sighting).

Once I approached the first buoy to turn around I felt a sense of relief knowing I would have the current behind me for the next 750m and I could feel the pace increase with no added effort.

I held my second position for most of the race and kept a steady pace throughout. I kept an eye other competitors behind me to make sure no one was catching me up. I felt strong through out and kept my Heart rate at a steady pace.

When I approached the 3rd and final buoy (2.25km) I noticed the lead swimmers gap had dropped from 20m to 5m rather rapidly. I sensed this was the lead swimmer fatiguing and because I still felt strong physically and knowing I had built up the endurance to last for 6Km during my long swims in training, I felt I had enough energy to close this gap and then sit in his slip stream for the final 750m.

Benefiting from the decreased resistance swimming at his feet, I decided with 200m to go I would up my pace to see if he had the energy for a head to head race, fortunately his fast start had cost him and I managed to get a solid gap leading into the finish of 5-10m and new that I had won providing my exit out of the river went to plan.

Once I hit the river bank I jumped out onto the matt a ran the last 25m to the finishing shoot just 4seconds ahead of the swimmer who lead the race 2900m of the 3000m

Finishing in a final time of 43minutes and 18seconds

Collecting our winners medals after our swims in the 3Km and 1.5Km

In summary what worked well during the race.

  • Fast start to position myself well in the race
  • Sticking to my own pace and ignoring the faster swimmers
  • Not fighting the current when swimming upstream
  • Sighting regularly and not following the swimmer in front
  • Drafting the lead swimmer towards the end of the race to conserve energy
  • Leaving the sprint finish until the end to avoid a counter attack.
  • Having fun and enjoying the day.

How to Train for a Long Endurance Swim (3-10Km)


Most people think they need to train more sessions per week to improve their endurance swimming. But if  like many people you’re restricted for time or can only make a set number of sessions per week then ensuring you incorporate the following ‘focus’ session into your plan will help you prepare for your long endurance race. (for example if you swim with your masters team 3 time per week, replace one of these high intensity interval sessions with the session below)

  • The Long Steady Swim.
    • This session’s main focus is to gradually over time increase the distance/duration you can continuously swim for.
    • Ideally start incorporating this session at least 12-16 weeks out from your race and gradually build the distance you swim continuously until you can cover 75-80% of the distance 2-3 weeks out from the race.
    • e.g if your race is 10KM then 2 weeks before the race you should be comfortable swimming 7.5-8km continuously
    • Only increase your sessions distance by 10-15% every 1 to 2 weeks so if your swimming continously for 2km in week one by week 14 you should be at 7.5Km.
    • The pace of this session should be slow and steady, at no point should you elevate your heart rate.
    • This sessions should incorporate the same fuelling strategy as race day. (e.g drinking every 3km or having gels at halfway)
    • Try to plan to complete this session before a rest day, to ensure you have time to recover.
    • During the 12-14 week build make sure you plan for recovery weeks where you drop your weekly volume to ensure you are adapting to the increased load.


Swim Oxford 4K Thames Swim

Race report from lasts weekends 2017 Swim Oxford 4Km swim 


Key Facts

  • Date: Sunday 18th June 2017
  • Start: Eynsham, Oxfordshire
  • Finish: Kings Lock, Oxfordshire
  • Distance: 4k downstream river swim

The race began early at 7.30 (6.30 registration) on a beautiful Sunday morning.


The route was set from Eynsham lock to Kings lock, 4km down a tranquil part of the Thames river.

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The water temperature was a cool 19c but because of the high outdoor temperature the river was refeshing and comfortable to swim in.


There were about 200 participants with a range of abilities, the start was a shallow water waist deep start from Eynsham lock. Plenty of support crew and water saftey from the start to the finish of the race.


The Swim Race

The swim start was less agressive than a normal open water race or triathlon, i think because of the distance more people took the start of the race easy rather than a ma dash to get in a good position.

I began the first 1Km of the race i third position, sitting nicley in the slipstream of the lead two swimmers. As expected this made it easy to hold a strong consistent pace at the start. My HR was low and stroke was strong but steady.

Once the river began to meander at about 2Km I struggled to stay in the lead swimmers slipstream and drifted to the side loosing my advantage and dropping back into 5th place.

At around 2.5km the gap between me in 5th and the front 4 swimmers widened to about 100mm and although they remained in sight for the final 1.5km I never reduced to gap and swam in 5th position from 2.5km all the way to the 4km finish line. in a time of 52.35. (results)

The hardest part of the swim was Km 2 to Km 3, the river meandered alot and it became quite hard to keep a swimming in a straight line and not drift off the edge of the river. I had a saftey kayak point me back on course on a number of occasions.

The last 1km of the race flew by and seemed effortless, either it was actually shorter or the rush of adrenaline as the finish neared helped speed the final stretch up.

The finish

Over all the  Oxford 4km was a great event, well organised, safe and alot of fun. The part of the river you swim down is so serine and beautiful you feel like you could be in the wind and the willow’s and during the swim there was not a building or boat in sight.

To top it off the finishers were treated to Tea and cake at the end, how very english.

Freestyle Arm Recovery


Top Picture:  High elbow recovery.

Bottom Picture: Straight arm recovery

  • Historically the high elbow recovery has been the “correct”way to swim freestyle.
  • However as knowledge increases and we see more and more swimmers succeeding with a straight arm style it has become clear that there is no one size fits all for freestyle technique.
  • If you feel more comfortable using straight arms or you are able to more easily find your rhythm this way then straight arm recovery may be the right option for you.
  • Switching to a straight arm recovery during more choppy swims.
  • If you find it difficult swimming in a wetsuit using a bent elbow then a straight arm may help with this.
  • It is also useful to be able to modify your stroke so that you can perform with both a straight arm and high elbow and use each different style when required. 
  • Experiment in training and find what works and how it affects your speed, pace and rhythm.

First Triathlon of the 2017 Season

Nuffield Sprints.- Eaton Dorney Lake  21st May 2017

Key takeouts

  • Based at the 2012 Olympic rowing venue
  • A great race to participate as as season opener
  • Distance 750m Swim 20Km Bike and 5km run
  • Clean, clear and warm lake (18c)
  • Well marked swim course with buoys and finish markers
  • Cycle is fast but a little boring as its 5 laps around the lake
  • Crowds mostly around the transition areas
  • Head wind on 50% of bike, slows down you average speed.
  • Run is an out and back along the foot path
  • Run is dead flat and generally smooth surface
  • Sold out for 2 straight days means busy and popular event
  • Lots of first timers as well as elite and high level age group athletes
  • Well organised race but lacks a little atmosphere

IVBP8285Bike Transition DCIM100GOPROTT Bike Set upDCIM100GOPROSupporters at the start/finish DCIM100GOPROPerfect setting for the swim DCIM100GOPROFlat run course IMG_6053Bike check in MZGF5197Riding back to car after the finishIMG_6060Finishers medal to add to the collection

Open Water Skills: Drafting 



One difference between swimming and racing in open water vs swimming in a pool is that you’re often surrounded by other people (and clash into them) during your swim. Although this may make for a more physical swim, it also has it’s upsides. Positioning yourself correctly in relation to the swimmer ahead of you during a swim means you can benefit from sitting in their slipstream resulting in:.

  • Going faster than you could on swimming in isolation  or
  • Swimming at the same speed as usual but expending far less energy.

The benefit from drafting is so significant, it can save over one minute per 1500m. So if your swimming an Ironman distance swim of 3.8km you could be looking at a time saving of 3.5minutes.

There are two main types of drafting:

  1. Swimming directly behind a faster swimmer (the most common)
  2. Swimming to the side of a faster swimmer.

Drafting Directly behind a faster swimmer

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  • The aim is to position your self so you are directly behind the swimmer in front.
  • Be at least one arm length behind them so you don’t swim over the top of them.
  • Keep you extended arm as close to their feet as possible without touching, if you hit their feet you will slow them and yourself down.
  • Watch out for the wash they produce from kicking, it may cause you to swallow water when you try and breath, so adjust your breathing pattern accordingly.
  • Sight regularly, do not rely on the swimmer in front to be taking the correct route.
  • Stick behind the faster simmer for as long as possible, then use your conserved energy to pass them in the final part of the swim


Drafting to the side of a faster swimmer

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  • Position yourself either side of the faster swimmer in front of you.
  • Make sure your shoulder is adjacent to their hip
  • Breath towards the swimmer in front so you can keep an eye on where they are in relation to you. it will be is easier to breath the opposite side, however this will cause you to drift off their draft zone.
  • Sight regularly, do not rely on the swimmer in front to be taking the correct route.
  • Learn to adjust the rhythm of your stroke so your arms don’t clash.
  • You may touch swimmer in front from time to time, this is ok but too often will slow you both down.
  • Don’t swim on top of them as it will slow both of your swim speeds down.
  • It takes constant focus to ensure you don’t drift apart from the swimmer in front.
  • You should be able to feel the wake of the lead swimmer and notice the increase in speed (or decrease in energy)

Practice makes perfect.

  • Find a swim partner who is willing to let you practice drafting with and alternate being the lead swimmer.
  • Become comfortable with swimming in close proximity to another swimmer and understand how you need to adjust your stroke and breathing timing.
  • Practice both drafting potions and find which is most comfortable.
  • If you practice enough then on race day you’ll find yourself naturally entering a draft zone without the need to really think about it.
  • Being familiar with the feeling of drafting will help reduce anxiety on race day.