Open for Business

When I’m not swimming I run a PR and Communications agency (actually the agency came before the swimming as I’ve been running it for six years now). As my swimming has developed, improved and grown in stature so too has the business. I’m convinced that not only are those things related, but that there are wider parallels that everyone can draw between open water swimming and business.

Many of the lessons that we get from the swimming can be applied to our business lives – and can help us to create better and more successful businesses.

So I want to bring those lessons to businesses and have started to present to businesses for an internal meeting, or to groups of businesses or start-ups at business events and conferences. If you’d like to find out more about this get in touch, or see more here.

I have also started to write a guest blog for the excellent open water swimming magazine H2Open. In these posts I explore the themes and lessons that we can take from open water swimming and apply to business:

H2Open online

H2Open online

Nothing Great is Easy – using Captain Webb’s quote I show that, like a channel crossing, businesses can be affected by outside factors, but that doesn’t have to mean you are blown off course.

Time to Get Your Face Wet – practice for the experience, but sometimes you just need to get on with it – in swimming and in business.

Taking the plunge in business – “Both open water swimming and running your own business, while growing in popularity, are outside of the norm. They both require a degree of bravery to set off and, if you will excuse the pun, take the plunge…”

Let me know what you think.

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Coniston Yesterday

It started with a slightly disappointing night’s stay in a slightly tired hotel in the slightly faded town of Barrow-in-Furness. The plan was to drive up to the Lakes the day before the swim so that I could relax and be refreshed for the swim on Sunday. While the overnight stay wasn’t terrible, it didn’t quite constitute “relaxing” either. If it wasn’t the people in the room next door who seemed to need the TV “turned up to 11″, it was the people leaving the pubs and clubs rowing in the street.

A pre-race snack!!

A pre-race snack!!

At least I got to carb (and protein) load the night before the swim.

Anyway, if I wasn’t refreshed from the night before, the plan did work in that I only had a short drive to the lake and could take my time and enjoy the amazing scenery. On the way up the Lakes on Saturday, as the rain was falling so heavily that the cars couldn’t drive at more than 40mph as visibility was so poor and the road was so wet, I was fully expecting the forecast storms to materialise and for the swim to be called of. On Sunday morning as I drove up from the south lakes to Coniston the weather was gorgeous.

The weather only improved during the day and in the end we had a day almost perfect for swimming, apart from the breeze that picked up a bit later in the day (but more on that later).

One of the reasons that I like the Coniston swim is the fact that the start is only accessible by walking through fields and over stiles, while the finish is on a small bit of beach at the end of the lake right next to a road. It somehow feels more ‘real’, but it does make the logistics tough and yesterday was no exception. We were given lifts to the start, after meeting at the Bluebird Cafe – but with so many swimmers wanting a lift that whole process took a long time. I ended up being in the last shuttle and so as soon we were dropped off it was “ten minutes to go please swimmers.”

Clothes off, sunscreen on, a bit of Vaseline here and there and into the water and ready.

This was the first time I’ve felt like a ‘proper’ swimmer at the start as I stayed in the main pack for a long time (I normally drift to the back pretty quickly). In fact I was stroke for stroke with another swimmer for a good half mile, possibly further. But eventually the swimmers spread out, we found our kayakers and we started our solo swims in the lake with everyone else.

At one point I thought about what a great spectacle it must be for the kayakers to see the start like that and then to be able to look down the lake and see the field start to spread out. As a swimmer I could see water, a kayak, tress and the sky and the bright sun (thank God for the sunscreen). I must kayak for someone one year soon.

And at this point I must thank my kayaker and everyone else that supported us – no swimmer could do what they do without the support of the boat crews, the safety team, the race organiser, the person that volunteered herself to drive us all to the start (and many others I’ve missed out). You are all wonderful and we thank you all.

Lovely to swim in

Lovely to swim in

The first half of the swim felt good and strong and I was really enjoying it. Last time I was a very annoying 6 seconds over 3 hours, so that was my target – and from my perspective I felt on track to hit that target. Then about halfway through we hit a headwind. It didn’t feel too bad to swim in – a bit of chop, but nothing serious and quite good fun to get your head and swim, but it didn’t make it harder for the kayakers.

But the wind must have had an effect on the swim (at least I hope it did) as I was offered a 4th feed with still a distance to go to the finish. I feed every 45 minutes, so I knew that the 3 hour target had gone and in the end I finished in 3 hours, 18 minutes and 44 seconds.

And the winner is... not me

And the winner is… not me

I had a strange feeling after that. I had thoroughly enjoyed the swim and felt strong and quick in the water; yet my time doesn’t reflect that and I’m really disappointed with it. However, before I feel too sorry for myself I’m going to try and compare myself to other swimmers’ times from other event this year – were they slowed down by the wind to an equal extent, or was it just a bad swim from me? I do know I beat someone that has beaten me the last couple of times, but she tried to get her excuses in early by claiming an injury, so we’ll have to see.

In summary I loved it, but…

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Coniston Tomorrow

Tomorrow I’m going to be swimming the length of Coniston – all 5.25miles of it.

I did it a couple of years ago – so this time around I’d like to beat my time from 2012 (which was, annoyingly 3 hours and 6 seconds). Weather and conditions permitting, I should be able to do that.

If I’m serious about a plan to swim the channel at some time in the future these are the kind of swims that I need to be able to knock off reasonably comfortably, yet at the same time treat them with the respect they deserve.

At the moment I’m in a hotel in Barrow-in-Furness, staying over so I’ve only got a short drive to the swim tomorrow. Apologies if you’re from Barrow, but it doesn’t have a lot going for it from what I can see – although in that respect I suppose it reminds me a bit of Dover. Both have seen better days.

I can’t complain too much though as I’m researching flights to Nashville for a work trip…

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Olympian?

Do you remember ‘Eric the Eel’ as the UK media dubbed him during the 2000 Olympics?

If you don’t, he was the competitor from Equatorial Guinea who swam the 100m in the Olympics, but came so far last that it looked like the time when the fat kid at school was made to run the 1,500m on school sports day.

Anyway, I was chatting about this recently and so I looked him up on Wikipedia. It turns out his time for the 100m freestyle was 1:52.72. I can swim quicker than that.

So, which nation wants to sign me up for the next Olympics? I’ve always fancied going to Rio!

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A confession…

This one isn’t in the same league as the recent Ian Thorpe one, but here goes…

Since the channel relay people have asked me if I’ll swim a solo channel. I’ve always said no, because the idea just seems crazy. However, over the last couple of weeks the thought has seeped into my brain. In that time I’ve seen (via Facebook) people I know complete successful solo crossings and the ‘competitive spirit’ has been stirred.

So…

Yes, one day I will try to swim the English Channel (I’m just not saying when).

France, here I come.

France, here I come.

And if you want to read some great blog posts by great swimmers about great Channel swims, read these:

- Emma France – http://www.emma2france.com/solos/2014-english-channel.html
- Mark Sheridan – http://reminiscencesofalongdistanceswimmer.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/english-channel-swim-11th12th-july-2014.html

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Channel Relay Photos

Here is a selection of photos from my recent channel relay.

Me, setting off at 1:30am:

Night swimming

Night swimming – looking like an alien…

Sylvia, swimmer 2:

Sylvia

Sylvia

Paul, swimmer 3:

Paul

Paul

Mike, swimmer 4:

Mike

Mike

Leaving Dover behind:

The white cliffs, getting further away.

The white cliffs, getting further away.

Heading towards France:

I can see France

I can see France

Me again:

Check out the sunburn...

Check out the sunburn…

Swimming strongly

Swimming strongly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaching France:

Paul swimming to France

Paul swimming to France

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Dover Advice

Just a quick post with some advice for people travelling to Dover to train or set off for a Channel swim.

Complementary toiletries

Complementary toiletries

Firstly, I’d heartily recommend Maison Dieu Guest House – it’s about a ten minute walk from swimmer’s beach (even when carrying a dry-bag full of damp kit) and the service and overall welcome was amazing. The hosts made the stay relaxing and easy and when I got back from the swim on my own they were quickly up to my room to offer a cup of tea and to find out how I’d got on. Really nice.

Mmmm carb loading

Mmmm carb loading

And I’d also recommend The Park pub just round the corner from the BnB. It looks a bit rough from the outside (and to be fair I suspect that it has some ‘lively’ nights at the weekend), but I went in three nights running to eat and the food was great and the service very friendly. A great place to go for a pre-swim carb-loading session.

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