Monday, 8 March 2010

Coldest Swim Ever & Long, Slow Barefoot Road Run

Location: Lake Vyrnwy
Date: 6th & 7th March

Workout 1
Wild swim in the lake - 30 seconds!

Post Workout Nutrition: none - fasted that day.


Workout 2
Run around the lake, partly on hills and ridges, mostly on the road - 2 hours and 53 minutes, 13.3 miles

Pre-Workout Nutrition - dinner the night before - salmon & venison sausage starter, lamb (I left that potato!) & veg; nuts to finish.

Post-Workout Nutrition
- anti-inflammatory bonanza: breakfast - scrambled eggs, one of Mrs M's poached eggs, grapes and nuts; lunch: salmon, sardines, avocado, celery, spinach; dinner: mackerel, celeriac & carrot mash, cabbage, onion, coconut butter.

Mrs M and I spent the weekend at a hotel by a lake in North Wales, a fantastic location for wild swimming and hill running. Here is what I got up to, along with some photos.

Day 1: The Swim

With a lake like that on my doorstep I couldn't possibly resist a wild swim on the first morning. I was out for about 7 am, by which time the sun was already loitering behind the hills and creating some wonderful skies:

After a little walking, daylight arrived, and I noticed there was the remnants of ice on the surface of a river that fed the lake. You can just make it out on the left.

When I found a perfect spot for swimming, there was a sign which said "No Swimming." Being the naughty kind, I decided to ignore it.

With hindsight, I am glad, because when I ran round the entire lake the next day I discovered that these signs are posted anywhere where swimming is viable. It is not clear whether this is because it is dangerous, or for some other reason. If there were danger, you would think this would be mentioned, given the additional deterrent it would create.

No swimming?


This was the coldest wild swim I have ever done. I managed 30 seconds. When I emerged, I had already started to feel a kind of dull ache to my bones. It took 10 seconds before I was able to enjoy the 'warmth' of being out of the water - until then I was in pain.

I took this photo on the way back to the hotel:

Later, I took advantage of the facilities for yet more self-punishment, spending 15 minutes in this dry sauna at 94 degrees. I really didn't want to be there for the last 5 minutes, but I figured that in the same way as the extreme cold earlier would help me tolerate mild cold, the same would be true for hot.

Sauna: 95 degrees hot

Then I had a cold shower. Only afterwards did I notice the ice machine on the left. I am not sure what I would have done with the ice - presumably just rubbed it on my body. Seems like a clumsy way to get cold compared to my earlier activities.

Before you ask - there was a separate supply of ice by the water jugs, so I don't think it was for that!

Ice - for rubbing on the body?

Finally, the obligatory jacuzzi, with view of the lake....

Day 2: The Run
The plan was to do one of those long, slow, easy runs that builds up stamina but doesn't unduly stress the body. I had done a 3-hour run
on hilly terrain a couple of weeks back, emerging relatively unscathed - so this seemed like a slam dunk.

I took this panoramic shot of the valley around which I would be running - starting from the left, going down to the end, and back towards the camera. Mostly, I planned to stay on the hills and ridges. The map indicated limited paths, but the hills looked grassy so I would go 'off piste'. Click for the large version.

The planned route - left to right

I got up at 5.30am and tooled up - it was a freezing morning, so it was the full burglar outfit: black hat, gloves, leggings, top, Vibrams and even the leg warmers for my ankles. Other essentials were map, compass, money, mobile phone (with GPS tracker) hotel key and waist bag to carry it all.

The full burglar outfit...

...and survival kit

6am, at the start...

15 minutes later, the sun threatens to emerge

Initially, I ascended into the forest and onto the ridge on the South side of the lake. You can see the clockwise route on the GPS tracking screenshot further down the post. Once I was on the ridge, the sun started to blaze, making it hard to capture pictures:

At some point on the South side, I remembered why I normally only attempt paths marked on the map. It always seems like a good idea when you are studying the map at home - those contours seem so easy to stride across in your mind's eye.

However, the firm, flat terrain I had imagined turned out to be all kinds of dense heather, boggy marsh and sundry other un-runnable ground. So after 30 minutes of struggling through them I lost patience and headed due North...

...through the forest...

...and back out into the open.

I then took the nearest path directly down to the road - I figured it would be a great opportunity to test out my barefoot running style in a more controlled environment.

Following the path down to the road.

Going downhill was quite steep but but a good downhill practice - I have been learning to take short, quick strides in the Vibrams to limit the risk of catastrophe at high speeds on slippy ground.

Earlier, the first 10 minutes of the run had been on the road, and felt incredibly natural and easy - so I was looking forward to more. At this point I had been running for about 70 minutes.

Back on the road - glorious sun and steady running....

Did I mention how quiet it was? Two hours later, this sheep was the first living creature I had seen:

By now I was pretty thirsty, so I drank from this stream:

At about 2:15, my feet started to hurt and my legs became tired. My energy system was humming away beautifully and I felt I could have run for hours... but the legs and feet had simply not been exposed to the sustained road running they were now dealing with.

By now the sun was higher and I was able to get some great shots of the lake as I headed back to the hotel along the North shore.

During the final 20 minutes I had to resort to a slightly heel-first gait to give my feet and calves a rest. My legs were much more tired than I had expected, so back at the hotel I plunged them into a cold bath to help recovery. I followed this with an 'oily fish' day in the hope all that omega 3 would do likewise.

Finally, I enjoyed breakfast with a view of the lake I had just run around....

Below is the GPS output from my phone. Not exactly accurate to the nearest 10 metres, as you can see - I did not do a long swim in the last half hour!

Even less accurate was the speed and altitute graph. Click on the picture for a bigger version. Considering the last half of the run was done on a flat road 300 metres above sea level, the claimed altitude of nearly 1000 metres at the 2 hour mark makes no sense at all. There isn't a mountain that high for miles around!


Asclepius said...

An inspirational post. I am impressed by your self discipline. I am not sure I could get out of bed before sunrise...unless the house was on fire.

Lightning said...

Nice action dude. I usually just get pissed when I go there. You even kept up the diet(unless there are some photos that don't appear on the post;-)

Methuselah said...

Asclepius - strangely, I was really excited about the long run and simply woke that early. I am still on the 'Born to Run' buzz and of course love running the hills anyway.

Lightning - I am pleased to say that I did indeed remain Paleo in spite of the holiday atmos. Even Mrs M was pretty good. She did scoff a dessert on the second night, which precipitated the raiding of the in-room biscuits, but other than that, comparatively restrained given former holiday antics. Thanks for the recommendation - definately in our top 5 holiday destinations. How was Barbados. Did the rest heal your knee?

Lightning said...

Holiday was good. Knee the same, and to make things worse, my back is now shafted. Aaaarrrrr!!!!

You will like survival of the fittest(not as good a read as B2R but good in a different way). You wont agree with his diet stuff so much.

Adam | SEE said...

I had a swim like that once in the North Sea at Kiel. Probably not as cold as your swim, but I will never forget how cold I felt.

Looks like a lovely place to get away to.

By the way your scrambled eggs with coconut cream - delicious - eating some for breakfast this morning.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Sounds like great fun! I love those long runs. I can't do them often as I'd like, but I love the freedom and confidence of knowing that I could run from my home to the mountains and back if I want (~ 30 miles). You are so well prepared too. Good thinking. And the food looks wonderful too. I'll have to try that mashed celeriac dish.


Methuselah said...

Cynthia - the celeriac mash tastes best when mixed with parsnip and/or carrot too + a bit of evoo. Enjoy!

Methuselah said...

Adam - thanks - for some reason your comment never made it to my inbox and I just found it on the Blogger dashboard. Hope you didn't think I was ignoring you!