Gentle Sunday mile

I wanted to swim as part of the Smile Mile, I wanted to swim for Gunnar and I wanted to clear my head after an emotionally challenging weekend.

I’m not sure I managed any of them, but I did swim.

The Smile Mile is something that I saw in passing on Facebook, I’m not sure of the details, but the bit that struck me was the idea to swim a mile this weekend with a smile on your face. As I understand it, it was to remove the need for long distances or fast times, but just to swim for the joy of it again.

Gunnar is the brother of someone that regularly posts on the Facebook group “Did You Swim Today?’ (DYST). Gunnar died recently. Erland wrote a beautiful post on Facebook and many people have taken the memory of Erland with them into their next swim. This was my next swim after seeing the post and I wanted to take the memory of Erland, and of people that I’ve lost, with me. Strangely it actually helped me to smile.

Finally I just needed the water and the exercise and the discipline of having to swim and turn and watch for the people and keep going to help give me something different for my mind to focus on. The weekend has been a bit of challenge for me emotionally and I wanted the water to help wash some of that away.

The plan was to just get in and swim for 35 minutes and then get out – I didn’t want to count lengths as I had too much else to think about. I found it hard going at first. Aside from the triathlon, this was my first real swim since Windermere and, especially with my head so full, I had to ‘remember’ how to swim again.

Pretty soon the fast lane was full of swimmers doing some Sunday evening training and so I moved to the middle (medium pace) lane. That helped a lot as the pressure to swim quickly was removed and I could just leisurely go up and back, occasionally swimming breaststroke as I swam behind a slower swimmer.

I was able to smile for some of it, I did think about Gunnar and others, and the water did wash away some of the emotional stuff too. Swimming’s good like that.

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Triathlon Done

In a moment of madness inspiration a few weeks ago I decided to enter the Last Minute Tri organised by One Step Beyond, sponsored by Esendex and most importantly taking place in my village. My view was that it would give me something to focus on after the big swim and stop me spending all of September on the sofa.

After such a disappointing Windermere swim however, I very nearly pulled out. It wasn’t just the effort of the swim, it was because it had been so tough I felt physically broken and mentally angry – not the best starting point for a triathlon. But a couple of weeks had passed and I thought it was worth giving it a go.

Last Minute Tri transition area

Last Minute Tri transition area

The one thing I didn’t want to do – especially after Windermere – was set myself a target. I was just going to have fun and see how I got on. And that’s what I did.

The organisation was great and my wave started exactly on the 10:34am start time. We were started in the pool in groups of five, based on our predicted swim times. The slowest went first and it gradually built up to the quicker ones that set off at 11:30am. What that meant though was that slower swimmers were already in the lane finishing their swim. Unfortunately for me, they were very slow. However, a few lengths of breaststroke and a sprint to overtake them and I had a nice relaxing swim with a lane almost to myself.

I had predicted 7mins 30secs for the swim and a quick glance at my watch as I got out of the pool suggested that was pretty accurate, but then we had to run round the building and into the transition area before the official swim time was registered. I did this quite gingerly – I hate doing this without my glasses.

The bike was next and it was an out and back course with a quite a hilly section to start with. It was by no means easy, but I survived. And even though my swim time meant that I started with the ‘good’ (but not super elite) triathletes, what pleased me was that only eight people passed me on the bike.

Now it was time to see if my legs could cope with the run. Again the run has a hill early on, so I decided not to go crazy and walked up this, but the rest of the run was steady if not spectacular and I plodded round nicely. The run course is two laps and the second lap followed the same pattern, apart from the ‘sprint’ finish.

I crossed the line in 1hour 19mins and 10secs. And although I said I didn’t have a target, I was secretly aiming for 1hour 25mins, so I was pleased with that. Right where do I sign up for another?

Last Minute Tri timing

Last Minute Tri timing


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Tri Hard Today

In about two hours time I’ll set off on a sprint triathlon:
– 400m swim
– 17.6km bike ride
– 5km run

After my disappointing recent swim I’m not setting any targets or aiming for a particular time – I just want to finish and enjoy it.

Considering I’ve not trained for the bike or run part it’ll probably be a bit tough. But nowhere near as tough as the Arch to Arc that a friend of mine is currently undertaking.

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Arch to Arc

I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a friend taking on the immense challenge that is the Arch to Arc. As he describes it on his Just Giving page:

“I will attempt the world’s most difficult triathlon – The Arch to Arc.  I will run 87 miles from Marble Arch to Dover. Within 48 hours of beginning that run I will attempt to swim the English Channel solo. On completion of that I will then cycle the 180 miles to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  It is a huge undertaking: You may think that an 87 mile run is a challenge but it pales into insignificance compared to the enormity of swimming the English Channel.  That is like climbing Everest with a fridge on your back! To date, only 13 people have completed the task –  one more than has stood on the moon. In September I will be the oldest person to attempt the Challenge at the grand old age of 49.”

It’s almost too much to even contemplate for us mere mortals.

Well, the challenge will start this weekend (weather dependent) and so this post is my way of wishing him good luck and pushing you to his Just Giving page – There will also be a tracker that can be found on the Enduroman homepage and will be activated once Paul starts.

You can read about Paul’s training on his blog here.

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I talk quite a lot about the community of swimmers in my presentations and I mentioned it on the radio the other week too. Over the last few weeks in the disappointment following my Windermere swim I’ve had chance to witness it first hand.

One of the most obvious ways was in the support I received at the end of the swim itself. For many people the fact that I suffered and took longer than I had anticipated made it an even better swim. I received plenty of pats on the backs and hugs and people wanted to congratulate for overcoming it all and completing the swim. At the time I couldn’t really accept it all as I felt like a failure. But the community of swimmers understands that it is actually the swims that you complete even when what feels like your entire being is begging you to quit – those are the ones that take a greater effort and should be recognised as a greater achievement. So apologies to anyone I may have brushed off that evening.

This community and show of support was repeated online. Again I brushed it off at the time, and while I’m still not happy with my swim (or myself), I can now see what people mean.

But even greater than that is the fact that some of the stars of the support are willing to help others out. Soon after the swim I reached out and asked a two-time channel swimmer if I could have some of her time to chat to her about where I went wrong and what I can do to put it right. She responded almost immediately and was very generous with her time and advice.

I do feel better after the swim now and am starting to plan for next year – thanks in part to the great community of swimmers I feel lucky to be part of.

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Are you a ‘proper’ swimmer

I’m honoured to be allowed to write an occasional article for the wonderful H2Open Magazine, especially after having met the editor Simon at a few events this summer.

The articles I write are all about the lessons that can be applied to business from open water swimming – or to put it another way, you can be Open for Business. In the latest article I write about not feeling like a ‘proper’ swimmer, or businessman.

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Although I’ve been open water swimming for three years and completed some of the sport’s most iconic swims, I’m still never quite confident enough to call myself a ‘proper’ swimmer. As a child I could always swim, but I was never a member of a swimming club. I never did the early morning training sessions before school and the gala meets. I never had a coach or even had any coaching of any sort.

Even now when I watch some of the other swimmers at the events I go to and take part in I don’t feel like a proper swimmer in comparison. And that’s not even mentioning comparing swimming times – which I hate myself for doing after every event, but I can’t help depressing myself by working out just how much faster nearly everyone else was.

And yet, even though I don’t think of myself as a proper swimmer I’m welcomed in…

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You can read the full article here.

And read more of my articles here.


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Brutal Honesty

I get a bit sweary in this post – don’t read this kids.

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My recent post on my Windermere swim has had quite a few reads so far and it seems to have been well received. The two main comments I’ve received from people on social media are:

1) That it was an ‘honest’ post

2) That it was a successful swim as I managed to complete it, despite it being so hard

Although well meaning and well received, both of those views are wrong.

1) I didn’t aim for ‘honesty’ in the post in some artsy attempt to be ‘real’. Instead I just told it how it was – although I accept that kind of is the definition of honesty. But it seems that people see this post as more honest because the swim was so hard for me and I admit that. However, I’m not sure the post was honest, as I don’t think I was telling the whole truth.

2) And where I wasn’t telling the whole truth – and the reason it wasn’t a successful swim – is that I fucked up. I wasn’t beaten by the conditions, or the day. I was beaten because I didn’t train enough, I didn’t plan enough and I did a lot of things that were almost guaranteed to mean I had a shit swim.

Since my SwimTrek trip in April I hadn’t done a single swim that was longer than three and a bit hours. In fact I was so complacent I even took a two week holiday just a week before Windermere. Instead of knuckling down and training – and also using longer swims to test my feeding plan – I focused on pool stuff and speed and pissing around on the edges. Now life stuff may have been a contributing factor, but not an excuse. And yet there I was still arrogantly assuming I could hit my seven hour target.

That’s the truth and that’s why even a few days later I can’t see this as a successful swim. Ultimately I’m just fucking annoyed at myself.

Thanks you all for your support and your good wishes. In the wider aspect of things, positives will come from this lesson. But I refuse to see this swim as anything more than a stupid, stupid, shit swim – and all my own fucking fault.

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Thank you, normal non-potty mouth service will be resumed following this post.



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