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Half marathon anyone?

Mandurah Island Probus member, Paul Jacklin embarked on a goal to do the swim section of a half marathon with his daughter, an inspiration to fellow Probians everywhere.  

 Here is his story.

It’s all over now, the 2016 Busselton Half Ironman swim; all the preparation, the swim, the exhilaration, adrenalin rush, the celebration, tiredness and sore muscles. I would like to share the story of my journey and final swim with other swimmers. I have learned so much along the way. Maybe my story might give some encouragement to others.

It all started in February 2015. I was invited by friends to an early morning swim at the Anglesea surf beach in Victoria; my effort was fairly mediocre. On returning to Mandurah, WA, I was inspired to swim more for enjoyment. This is where the journey really began.

The nearest centre was the 25 metre pool at Pinjarra (15km east from home in Mandurah). I could only swim about 100 metres continuously, which was disappointing, I thought I was better than that. I persisted, going to the pool three times a week. When the opportunity arose, I would ask questions of the local swim coaches. Remember, I knew very little at this stage.

For a while I met up with Masters Swimming there, but I discontinued swimming with them because I wasn’t nearly up to the grade to do the drills required and continued back on my own doing as many laps as I could handle to build up stamina. The improvement was slow but continuous. I was excited the day I managed to swim 20 X 25 metre laps. At the same time, I was reading online on swim techniques, training schedules, exercise, building stamina, food intake. I was looking wherever I could for information on which to improve my performance. 

I was still way behind where I wanted to be and looked for local coaching. During the time that Mandurah Aquatic Centre was being renovated to include a 50 metre outside pool, I turned to KirbySwim, a privately owned pool (by Bill Kirby the ex-Olympian swimmer), located down the road in Mandurah. This 25 metre pool suited me at this stage for drills since I still wasn’t very good at them. I would also fit in extra swims at Pinjarra doing laps to measure my progress.

I started developing a problem in my right shoulder, probably from concentrating so much on freestyle swimming, not that I knew that then. I had a right shoulder roto cuff operation several years previously which predisposed it to inflammation earlier than normal. Seeing an Exercise Physiotherapist in Mandurah turned that situation around. A range of exercises prior to swim training slowly allowed that shoulder to recover.

The concept of doing the 1.9km swimming leg of the Half Ironman in Busselton was maybe possible and became my objective although I had a long way to go. My daughter Kate is a triathlete and I discussed sharing the Busselton 70.3 event with her and what that required, so the idea lay on the table. When the time came to register, Kate registered as a single entry so that if I had continued to improve and was ready, we would convert over to a team entry which had to be completed by March 2016 - Kate would do the bike ride and finally the run. Triathlon Western Australia, who manage that one Ironman event, were very supportive along the way with their advice. I was buoyed up over the whole idea and had additional incentive to get “race ready”.

Then in September 2015 the pool renovation at Mandurah Aquatic Centre was completed and opened. I liked the idea of a 50 metre pool and I immediately joined Mandurah Masters which ramped up my level of training in the pool and introduced me to open water swimming. It was challenging for a number of early swims, until that first 500 metres stretch was achieved without undue struggle.  

Then it was months of swim training, pool and open water swimming. Early in 2016 Kate said “it was time to get the feel of race experience, essential to be ready for Busselton”. At this stage I still felt a long way off and wasn’t very confident in long distance swimming, but knew I needed this additional training.

There were three open water events as part of my run up to Busselton; 5th March “Bunbury Swim Thu” – 1.6km (my time 43 min 31 sec), 13th March Coogee “Jetty to Jetty” – 1.5km (my time 29min 32 sec). I had my 70th birthday celebration on 18th March 2016. The last competition swim was 2nd April Masters OWS – 2km (my time 43min 31 sec).  I have to admit I was spent after each swimming event, but I had gained considerable confidence, not to mention experience and support from Mandurah Masters swimmers. After these competitions, I ceased pool training and concentrated on open water at Doddi’s three times a week, making 2 kilometres the minimum distance I would swim. 

Finally, it was Sunday 1st May 2016, Busselton Half Ironman the 1.9km swim segment was first, a run up start, 10.10am water entry, about 100 in the team’s event wave, Kate convinced me to do a 5-minute pre-swim prior to the race to get the feel of the water, water temperature 17.7 degrees, wet suits were optional for teams, virtually perfect conditions with no wind, calm sea and overcast. I felt good (although rather nervous), started behind the faster swimmers, swam in a close line with the marker buoys, swimming to my plan and finished in 36 minutes 12 seconds - exceeded my expectations and captured the dream. Kate completed the 90km bike ride and the 21km run and we ran down the race to the Finishing Line together. 

What have I learned along the way: 

1. Have a strong personal incentive to train 

2. Good coaching and be open to advice. Joining  Mandurah Masters was my turning point

3. The importance of post-training recovery nutrition 

4. Adequate sleep, particularly before competitions but also hard training 

5. A designed exercise schedule prior to training and competitions 

6. Sharing your thoughts with swimming friends and learning from their experiences. 

7. Looking for the next challenge.