Robbie MacNab’s English Channel Quest – Part Two

The New Year means that the 2020 English Channel target of Robbie MacNab is now very real. Here's how his first month of training went...

Chief Correspondent
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The English Channel – seven months to go for Robbie MacNab

Last month (HERE), we introduced you to Robbie MacNab, Age-Group triathlete who is attempting to swim The English Channel solo in 2020. Taking part in a Channel Relay had planted the seed, but with the booking made and a public declaration of intent, the task now is to get prepared to complete the task alone.

We’ll be following Robbie regularly through the year, documenting the highs and lows, and ultimately seeing whether he can achieve the goal. Here is part two.

Triathlete vs. The Channel – January 2020

Last month it became very public that I am now booked to attempt a solo swim of The English Channel at the end of July this year… THIS YEAR! The turn of the year is another one of those moments where it has hit home the scale of what the next seven months will hold.

December itself went well, it was the first month of my training plan and I managed to hit every week’s targets in the pool. The only small niggle I suffered was an issue with my ankle after a local 50k Ultra Run, but I managed to spend a week utilising a pull buoy and focusing on my pull for a week. I’m finding it hard to say no to running events, and definitely getting bike envy seeing peoples Instagram feeds while they are out enjoying the trails on mountain bikes. However, I’m sticking to Zwift and hoping to avoid any crashes!

One big mental barrier I’m having to overcome is getting into the pool when its busy. This may sound odd, but I’m not one for ‘busy’ generally; I feel like I’m in everyone’s way and not just in the pool. In the past I’ve been known to see the busy pool, turn around and go home or even get in for a warmup and decide it’s too busy and get out. I’m used to training on my own, un-coached, so it’s only been myself that I’ve disappointed in the past. Now however, I realise I’m answerable to a head coach Ryan from RnR Sport (, supporting coaches, friends and family and of course anyone who reads these blogs. It is added pressure, but at the moment it’s good pressure… or should I say, motivation.

Outside of the pool it has all been about the admin. I knew from doing the Channel as a relay there was a lot of paperwork to get through, but now doing this swim solo it does seem (maybe obviously), to have escalated somewhat. Added to the Channel Swim Association registration and paperwork to be completed, including medicals, I’ve been advised to register with the British Long Distance Swimming Association which has in turn allowed me to enter some long open water swim events in my build up (June and July). The most exciting booking so far though has to be Red Top Swim’s ( training week in Croatia in May, exciting and also slightly daunting as it will be a full-on week with other experienced open water swimmers. I’m already hoping I’ll be in the right shape to keep up and look good in my HUUB swim briefs!

Whilst thinking about being in shape, I may have hit my swim targets so far, but I’m behind where I need to be in terms of both diet and finding a new personal trainer to help in the gym with the strength and conditioning side. To be honest, the diet was a conscious decision to relax and enjoy all that the Christmas period brings, and I did enjoy! That said, now that the Christmas cheese board is finally finished, I’ll really need to make sure I’m on top of these two areas moving forward. I suspect these are the two areas I’m probably going to continue to find the most challenging on this journey.

Let’s see how much progress I can make in those areas over January whilst trying to maintain my 100% swim targets. Happy New Year all!

December Training

Swims: 18
Distance: 75km in the pool

Robbie’s Tip of the Month:

My favourite way so far to complete the longer swims, 5-6km, is to get to the pool early for the masters sessions (which are typically around 2.5km), do an extended warmup, push hard in the session then do an extended cool down. This breaks up the longer swims nicely with a mix of my own ‘plodding’ pace and being pushed by a pool-side by a coach for an hour.

Robbie’s Coaches Tip of the Month
(From RnR Sports’s Ryan Sosna-Bowd and Red Top Swim’s Tim Denyer):

Consistency, consistency, consistency – even more so than bike and run – to improve your swim you need to make it to the pool multiple times a week! Yes, you do need to work on technique and form but ultimately you can’t ignore the direct correlation between time in pool (regularly) and results!

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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