I Has Cold Swimmed

After having had a back bad I’ve had to miss the entire open water swimming season this year. However, my back is slowly starting to get better.

A month ago today I posted that I had swum for the first time in months, well now I can say that yesterday I swam outside for the first time this year. Unfortunately I’ve missed the BLDSA season by a day – but I’m just delighted to get back into the water.

It happened at the final BLDSA event of the year at Lynn Regis. A few people camp over following the swim and although I didn’t swim in the event itself, my son and I joined in with the camping. Some of the campers then get up and go for a quick dip in the water on the Sunday morning. I’d taken my kit along, but wasn’t desperate to join in, until my son said he wanted to get into the water. I wasn’t sure he’d actually swim – I thought he’d paddle for a bit and get out – but he jumped in and had a quick swim (proud dad moment), so I jumped in after him.

Although I didn’t swim far I stayed in after he got out and spent probably around 20 minutes swimbling – it was great.

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The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

I wasn’t able to watch this on Thursday night, however I heard a lot of chat about it on social media – not least because there is a reference made to cold water swimming. So I caught up with it over the weekend – and I’d advise you to do the same (catch it on iPlayer here).

The simple premise is that, as a nation, we take too many drugs and that there are many things we could do instead – for example the ‘high’ people get from cold water swimming was suggested as a treatment for depression. The three main areas of overuse of drugs that the programme highlighted were: use of antibiotics for viral infections; pain medication; depression medication.

One of the major problems that was shown within the programme was that we have been trained to believe that drugs / tablets etc will ‘cure’ us, so whenever we go to the GP we feel disappointed, let down and possibly ignored or badly treated if we don’t leave with a prescription for something – even if those drugs don’t offer the best solution, or possibly won’t help at all.

I agreed with the show and enjoyed watching it. I’m someone that doesn’t like to take tablets and for years would never, ever take anything. I’ve relented a little with things like pain killers, but I’m still hesitant. That said, I’ve recently been on some strong pain killers for my bad back, so I thought I’d share my experiences.

Initial Action
When I first injured my back I assumed it was muscular, so I went to physio and a couple of different osteopaths. They helped, but not enough, so I soon realised it needed something more. I have to say that the osteopath I saw was excellent, and he was suggesting I get in touch with the GP to see if I could get it addressed that way as well.

GP
I phoned up relatively soon after I did to book an appointment with my GP, but was told the next one was about six weeks away, which just felt ridiculous. I felt like asking, “should I book this now, then just phone you up to cancel it if I’m better or dead?” However, in the end I left it and did more osteopathy.

Eventually I phoned back to book an ’emergency’ appointment so I could be seen that day. I hate doing that, as not only do I rarely have an ’emergency’, but it seems to be the only way, so that’s what I did. Of course, this means that you get pot luck in terms of which doctor you see and I saw someone I’d never seen before.

He made me feel as if I was disturbing him. Wanted to look at my back, so made me remove clothes (even though the affected area could have been seen by moving / lifting clothes) which was painful to do and painful to get dressed again. He then told me off (or that’s what it felt like) for taking Ibuprofen and prescribed stronger tablets and pain killers without me even asking. I really had to push to be referred, which was the only reason I’d gone to the GP, but finally he said I could be referred “if I really wanted to.” I did, so he did.

There was no explanation of how long I should take the tablets for, or what to expect, no suggestion of a follow up appointment to check how I was getting on – I was just given hugely strong painkillers and told to get on with it. In fact they were starting to run out before I got to see the specialist, so I was able to extend the prescription over the phone.

Consultant
The first thing to note about this, is that although I had told I was being referred to a consultant I didn’t see a consultant, I saw a physio who works in the Pain Management Clinic. That said, he was good, took time to talk to me, discussed the situation with me and then suggestions two courses of action: have an MRI to rule out anything too serious; attend the pain management course that they run to help me find ways to alleviate (or cope with) the pain. I was happy with that and felt like I might be on to something.

Pain Management Course
This is split into two main elements: exercise that we should work through, then take away and do ourselves at home every day; a seminar session each week to help us cope not just with the pain, but all the surrounding issues as well (lack of sleep etc).

The idea of it is great, but in practice it has so far been a huge waste of my time every Monday morning. The physio running it has never asked me about my specific symptoms, where my pain is, what aggravates it, or how it may change and fluctuate – but she did manage to give me a ‘personal’ exercise programme by giving me a selection of the generic exercises on the sheet. Not once has she then further checked to see if I’m doing them right, or how I’m getting on with them and whether I should increase or decrease the intensity.

While the seminars are an incredibly annoying mix of powerpoint slides with crazy fonts, clip art imagery and spelling mistakes and personal anecdotes. There are some interesting nuggets in there, but they are hard to pick out.

Consultant 2.0
Today I went back to the consultant to discuss the results of the MRI. I was waiting over 40 minutes for an 11;30am appointment which meant things didn’t start well. They got worse when he started to read from someone else’s notes and had to disappear to find mine (leaving other people’s on full display for me). When he finally came back he was far less willing to listen to me compared to last time. Told me the MRI showed a bulging disk, that it would correct itself, that I should continue to exercise, that I can increase my swimming if I’m careful, that I should see him again in about six weeks. That was it.

– – –

My point in detailing out all of this is that I actively want to not take drugs, but the biggest issue with all of this is being given some personal care to let me know, from an expert opinion, what and how I should manage this process. At no stage during this process have I felt like the care is personal to me, is based on my body, on my pain / injury, or on my vision of what success may look like. I have been given a cookie cutter answer, which has included some strong drugs.

I don’t blame the individuals, although the three main people I’ve dealt with haven’t been great, I blame the processes they have to work within, for example the poor GP had to get me out the door as quickly as possible as he only had ten minutes with me. However, if we are going to get the public to request fewer drugs, then the medical professionals need to look them in the eye, give them time and give them an alternative plan that is bespoke to them. Unfortunately that seems unlikely in the current NHS and therefore we’re going to keep taking more drugs as they offer a placebo to real care.

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Longest swim…

Not ever, but the longest swim I’ve done in the past five months.

I’m slowly, tentatively returning to the water after a back injury. It’s great to be back in the water again, but I’m trying not to push too hard – just hard enough. There are two main reasons for this: 1) I’m still not certain what caused the injury, or whether the recovery will hold, so I don’t want to damage it again; 2) I’m really unfit and knackered!

However this morning I got chance to swim in the pool at Imperial College London (right by the Royal Albert Hall – a lovely location). The pool was great, it was full of fit students (and lecturers I presume) and I felt pretty good. So I pushed myself a bit further.

Today, dear reader, I swam a whole mile and even managed 3 x 500m in one go! Both recent records.

Not only did I really enjoy it, it’s also got me thinking about signing up for 2Swim4Life again!

PS – today’s swim was another as part of the Aspire Channel Challenge, please sponsor me.

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I’m swimming the channel tomorrow

Of course I’m not swimming the actual channel, but I will be starting the Aspire Channel Challenge.

The challenge is to swim the same distance as a channel crossing (22 miles) in your local pool over a 12-week period. It starts tomorrow (12th Sept) and runs until 5th December.

I’ve been struggling with a back injury this year so I haven’t done much swimming, so it really does feel like a challenge to complete the distance. However, I’ve been swimming a few times and I think I’ll be able to give it a good go.

Although my back is a bit better, it’s a long way from being right, so I’m easing myself into gently. At the moment my swim routine is as follows:
– 100m warm-up
– 4 x 250m swim
– 100m cool down

I’m hoping to gently increase both the total distance I can swim, as well as the distance I swim in one go, so I’ll increase those middle swim sets by 50m every couple of weeks.

The total number of lengths I need to complete to ‘swim the channel’ is 1416, while the above set is 48. So based on that, I’ll need to swim an average of 2.5 times every week for the duration of the challenge.

One of my personal reasons for doing the swim this year is to help with my motivation (to make me go to the pool 2 or 3 times per week), so for that reason, I’ve donated £22 to the cause (£1 per mile). I’d be really grateful if you could spare a few pennies too – please go here to sponsor me: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-2016-aspire-channel-swim

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The Aspire Channel Challenge

I’ve signed up again for the Aspire Channel Challenge.

Last year the swimming element of the challenge was easy for me, so I increased the challenge by doing it in 22 consecutive days. This year, after coming back from an injury that has stopped me from swimming at all this summer, it’s the swimming itself that will be tough.

Since I’ve been back in the pool in three swims I’ve managed to swim 1.8kms, so over 40kms for the channel challenge feels like a lot this year.

However, I’m going to do it and I’d love you to sponsor me here – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-2016-aspire-channel-swim (where you can read most of this blurb again).

As Aspire says: “Every eight hours someone is paralysed by a Spinal Cord Injury and Aspire provides the essential equipment, advice, housing and grants that spinal cord injured people need to live their lives independently. This is a big challenge, but the more I raise, the more of a difference I’ll make, so please be generous!”

And of course, you can sign up too if you want to take part in the challenge – just go here: http://aspirechannelswim.co.uk/

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Life’s Frustrations

It’s only just dawned on me today that when I get frustrated about things – and people – in life, what it is exactly that annoys me.

It is when other people’s behaviour shows that they consider themselves to be more important than others. Of course, I get frustrated when that behaviour is shown to me, so then it becomes even more personal – that behaviour shows that they consider themselves more important than me! But it’s the fact that it is just generally selfish that bothers me, not [just] that I’ve had my nose put out of joint – honest!

There are two places that I seem to witness this the most and therefore get frustrated the most:

The pool
– Not allowing quicker swimmers to pass; chatting at the lane ends and blocking swimmers from turning; just poor lane etiquette in general and being in the wrong lane according to your speed in particular etc

The road
– Driving too quickly; overtaking with no regard for oncoming traffic – especially overtaking cyclists; parking across three spaces etc

Of course, there are other places too, one of the main ones seems to be how people talk to others on social media.

I’m sure none of this is groundbreaking new thought, but as I say, it became clear to me today.

There is of course the other type of person – usually the type that behaves as described above – who seems to get angry and frustrated at how unfair the world is when they are asked not to do exactly as they please and possibly put others first…

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A Tragic Incident

This weekend the open water swimming community was shocked to hear of the death of Nick Thomas, who died in Calais after being taken out of the water only a few miles short of completing his channel swim.

I didn’t know Nick personally, although I know a number of people that did. You can read the notice from the Channel Swimming and Pilot Federation here: http://cspf.co.uk/article/111/nick-thomas

Personally this weekend I was with another community of swimmers at the BLDSA’s Windermere swim, not swimming this year, but helping out with the management of the swim. However late on Sunday evening I got an email asking if I would be interviewed on BBC radio about Nick’s death. I’m not sure how they found me – probably through the BLDSA’s Twitter page (which I run), but I wasn’t sure that I was qualified enough to speak about it. I tried to find someone I felt was more qualified – but with it being the Sunday evening of a bank holiday weekend people weren’t available.

So last night I was on the Stephen Nolan show on Radio 5 Live. I told them I hadn’t known Nick, nor had I swum the channel, so instead I talked about open water swimming in general. You can listen here (it starts at about 45 minutes in) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07q1wfs

It wasn’t a particularly a good interview, like many non swimmers the interviewer just didn’t seem to understand the concept of open water swimming and so asked very basic questions. I hope I did ok and represented our community well enough.

I also want to offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Nick Thomas.

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I Has Swimmed

It might not sound like much given that this is a blog (in theory) all about swimming. However I’ve had a bad back for the last four months, so I’ve hardly swim at all.

At first I tried to swim through it, but that was no good. So then I tried to use swimming as therapy, but it wasn’t.

So for the last three months or so I haven’t swum at all.

Over the last few days my back has started to feel a little bit better. I don’t want to tempt fate, but just maybe…

Anyway, I decided to risk a swim today and managed a whole 500m, I was delighted. Of course I had a rest at the end of every length, but 20 whole lengths!

It was also nice that a few people at the pool said hello and asked if I’d been away. I suspect that they just enjoyed a more relaxing swim over the last few months – well, that might be about to change!

UPDATE – 1st Sept

I has swimmed again today – another 500m. This time I even managed to it in 100s (so 4 lengths at a time, no rest)!

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Dear Speedo…

I posted this tweet as a little joke last night:

Screenshot 2016-08-23 09.34.24

Obviously it was intended as a dig at Ryan Lochte and his ‘antics’ in Rio and the aftermath for him with regards to sponsors backing away from him. A couple of my friends (Rach & Hazel) saw it and we swapped a few tweets about how nice it would be, then I posted this one:

Screenshot 2016-08-23 09.34.41

But then I got to thinking about it more seriously…

I’ve read recent reports that Speedo was due to pay Lochte $50,000 which it is now donating to charity. I’m not sure if that all of the annual fee he receives, or just the Olympics related portion of it, but just think what some non-Olympic athletes could do with that sort of money – and actually how it could change the profile of a sponsor to get involved at that level.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I LOVED watching the Olympics, but I can’t say I was particularly inspired.

I’m sporty. Apart from the horse stuff and the wrestling I’ve probably had a go, in one form or another, at nearly every Olympic sport. But to watch it on TV, well they might as well have been completely different sports. I will never ever swim as quickly as Phelps (or Lochte) or run as fast as Mo. Even watching the badminton made it look like a completely different sport to the one I’ve played a few times. For that reason, those people are not my sporting inspirations.

I’m a fat, middle aged, single parent who also tries to stay fit and swim a bit. The people that inspire me, the people that I really want to be like are the slightly less fat people that finish the swims 10 or 15 minutes ahead of me (even those that finish 2 hours ahead of me are already considered to be on a different planet). Those are the people I look up to, the people who’s kit I surreptitiously check out, or who’s training programmes I try and copy. So why aren’t they sponsored?

Dear Speedo, please sponsor some more ‘normal’ athletes.

This also links to the reports about the cost of the GB team’s medals – apparently it is just £1.09 per British person per Olympic medal won in Rio. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to pay for that success and well done to all the medalists. But maybe, just maybe, we could just pay 99p each to all the athletes on the medal track and 10p towards greater participation in sport – in building basketball courts in inner cities, in increasing disability access to sport, in hiring more school sports teachers, in preserving playing fields and football pitches etc etc.

The medal success is great and I loved watching the golds, silvers and bronzes rack up over the last couple of weeks, but I’ll have forgotten much of it within 10-15 years (if not sooner). Yet as a nation think how much better off we would be in 10-15 years time if more people were more active. If you believe that sport is a good thing in itself, then surely we want as many people as possible to have the chance to take part, but aside from that – we would increase the pool of potential Olympians if more kids were active and massively reduce the burden on the NHS if people generally led a more active life.

As a major player in one of the major Olympic sports Speedo, you could do something about that right now.

Don’t find another Lochte, instead 5 or 10 ambassadors for your sport and your company and sponsor them.

And if you’re looking for suitable people and want a fat, middle-aged bloke, then yes I am available. But also look at Rach and Hazel too please – completed Ironman event, channel swims between them, they are the real inspiration for everyday folk.

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Walmer Cottage Update

Some of you will have read posts that described Walmer Cottage – a place I rented in Deal, near Dover. You will have noticed that I didn’t like it. You might also have noticed that the posts are no longer on the site. So what happened?

The owner got in touch with me to say that she has been very ill. While I absolutely stand by my posts I don’t want to add to her stress and discomfort, so I have pulled the posts for now.

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