Get out of my lane!

<rant> If you’re swimming in a pool where the lanes are marked out for speed – that is relative speed, compared to the rest of the people in the pool that day. It’s not a speed that you aspire to, or the speed that your ego says you ‘should’ be doing.

In our four lane pool this morning, at one stage there were about 12 people in the fast lane, but only 12 people in the other three lanes combined.

To be fair, most of the problem was caused by people being in the medium lane when they should have been in the slow lane. This meant that people that may have moved into the medium lane felt that it would be much too slow for them – so they stayed in the fast lane clogging it up.

But my most fervent rant today is saved for those people that swim a set of – 1 length crawl, followed by 1 length slow breaststroke – in the fast lane. That tells me that you’re perfectly happy to potentially disrupt a whole lane when doing your slow breaststroke, because you don’t want your [still not very fast] crawl to be disrupted in the medium lane. GRRRR! </rant>

My plans were disrupted by how busy it was, so I did a gentle 2km instead.

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Aspire Channel Challenge

I very rarely ask for your money. But I’m going to mention this right up front – this time I am: https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire/.

Screenshot 2015-08-26 14.08.43I’m going to be taking part in the Aspire Channel Challenge – it’s a great idea for a swimming challenge as it asks people to swim the equivalent distance of the English Channel in their local pool. By making it a channel crossing people have a clear target to aim for and it is both a real stretch target, yet an achievable goal.

The challenge officially starts on Sept 14th and lasts for 12 weeks (finishing on Dec 7th).

For me, the swimming shouldn’t be too difficult, so I’ve decided to spice it up a bit:

I’m aiming to do the 22 miles in 22 days in 22 different pools.

I’ll be honest, this extended challenge was inspired by two main sources:

  • The first was Sally Goble’s epic 50 miles in 50 days in London. I was lucky enough to join her for one of those swims and the idea of exploring new pools and therefore having new swimming experiences every day was very inspirational.
  • The second is the fact that my company is doing some work to help promote this challenge, so I wanted to do something a bit more exciting.

What this means though, is that the logistics of the challenge will become the hardest thing for me. I live in a rural location and am lucky enough to have one great pool nearby, but no others for miles. I will spend a lot of time driving into (and through the other side) of central Nottingham early in the morning to find a lane swimming slot to be able to do a mile in.

To do this, I’m going to have to set myself some rules. Obviously I want to complete the 22 in 22 in 22 and make them all local pools, but I also have a life to live and a business to run – for example I know I have to be in London for a couple of days during the challenge.

Rules

  • I will start on September 14th
  • I will allow myself up to 3 days off swimming – so it could take up to 25 days. However these days off will only be allowed because of logistics, not laziness or tiredness on my account
  • I will swim on my London days and so not all the pools will be local
  • I am allowed to use my local pool up to 3 times – so I may only swim in 20 different pools (trying to get a close to 22 days is more important to me that 22 different pools) – looking at it, weekends will be tough, but I know my local pool has sessions on both Saturdays and Sundays
  • I will pay for all entry fees personally and if any pool offers me free entry I will add it to the fundraising total

So please, do support me here – https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire/

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Two Channel Experiences

Yesterday was a bit of a channel day for me.

It started with me reading this account of a recent channel swim by Jane. It’s funny, I know the writer but not the swimmer, but I still got all emotional reading it. It’s a great post and obviously a huge achievement and a hugely personal one for Tony.

The day then continued with me tracking a very good swimming friend of mine as she set off to “bother the French” just before 8am. I was glued to her tracker and the Facebook updates I could find in between meetings for the whole day. I made sure I could sign into Wifi on the train home to keep checking and as soon as I got home up came the tracker again.

And then after about 13 hours of swimming there was a kink in the tracker that didn’t look good. The next refresh confirmed it – the swimming had stopped and the boat had turned for home.

So near, but yet so far. The track that no-one wants to see.

So near, but yet so far. The track that no-one wants to see.

I was heart broken for her. Yet, as I posted on Facebook, for some reason I had to keep following the tracker until they got back to Folkestone harbour. I didn’t ask them to give me ‘three rings’ to let me know they were safe, but it was a similar feeling – I needed to know they were safe.

But I guess that is a typical channel day – for some it provides a defining moment of glory, for others frustration and disappointment.

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8km before breakfast

I’m doing the Bridge to Bridge swim at the weekend, so I thought I should check that the shoulders and head space can cope and do a long swim this week. As it turned out this morning was my only chance for that, so I got up at 5:30am to go off to the lake and swim.

And swim I did. Just over 8km in just over two and a half hours.

I’m very pleased with that!

This morning's swim

This morning’s swim

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Coniston

Coniston was better. Better than Bala at least – better from a kayaking perspective.

Coniston has always been my favourite BLDSA swim – it seems to wholly embrace the amateur element of the association, yet is set in such a beautiful location that you can’t help but be awestruck by it. It was while swimming it last year that I realised that I wanted to see it all from a different perspective – to get a wider appreciation for it all. That’s why I decided to kayak.

I’d actually made the decision to kayak before I’d found a swimmer who needed one. So while I was being coached by Ray over the winter I relayed this to him and persuaded him to swim the event. Then at the BLDSA dinner, late into the evening after much alcohol had taken effect I promised to kayak for Jo for the veterans’ event too (not that Jo looks like she should be anywhere near the veterans event!).

So I had a full weekend planned. And after the previous weekend I was very nervous.

I drove upon the Friday afternoon and had packed a little picnic and a pint for me to have in my room in the BnB so that I could catch up on some work – and despite some dodgy wi-fi that plan worked well. The Saturday morning it was time the briefing for the veterans’ event and the shuffle up the lake for swimmers and kayakers.

Coniston is a strange lake for swimming in that there is nowhere to set up camp at either the beginning or end of the lake. So we set up at the wonderfully welcoming Bluebird café which is about 1 mile from the end of the lake.

The full swim starts at Water Park at the north end of the lake, however it is private land at while they generously allow us access to the water, we don’t have permission to park and leave cars there (there wouldn’t be room for them all anyway). While the finish of the swim is at the point the lake finishes to the south, but is a little beach (no more than 6 feet in depth), with a little car park and a road immediately next to the beach. Given all of this the shuffle of swimmers, kayakers and kayaks to the start and from the finish is a mammoth task.

The veterans’ swim is a little shorter than the full one (at 3 ¼ miles instead of 5 ¼ miles), so the start is actually not as far up the lake as Water Park and the finish is back at the Bluebird café. This makes the shuffling a bit easier, but only a bit.

The plan originally was for me to kayak up to the start. This would have given me a bit of chance to regain my confidence and would also have provided a bit of a work out too. It was blowy, but nowhere near as tough as in Bala the previous weekend. However, although the kayak was there for me to take, the buoyancy aid and spray deck weren’t, so I couldn’t paddle it. I have to say I was a bit relieved.

So we got to the start and ready to set off. As the name suggests the veterans’ event attracts the associations older members (I have to be careful what I say here as I’ll qualify very soon) and some of them are not as speedy as they used to be, so there is a staggered start to allow everyone to finish roughly together. Jo was one of the speedier ones, so we started in the last group.

Despite my nerves (and Jo’s last minute scramble for her hat and goggles – which she didn’t find and had to borrow from someone else) all started well.

I had been joined by the spare kayaker and in the end we were either side of Jo providing synchronised support and being the living embodiment of the expression “a rose between two thorns.”

A couple of times I wanted to tell him that I was fine and he didn’t need to ‘babysit’ me. But I didn’t. After my inability to properly escort my swimmer on my last outing as a kayaker I realised that consciously or not I was being looked after and that it was not about my ego, but about swimmer safety. So I shut up and the three of us made serene progress.

Until about 30 minutes in, “SHIIIIIIIITTTT!” came a sudden yell from Jo in the water.

I frantically back paddled and shouted out to her, “are you okay?” It turned out that she was fine, the mobile phone she was fishing out of her swimsuit was less fine! In the confusion at the start she had forgotten to take it out of her costume – storing it there for safe keeping once she gets changed ready to swim. Oops!

The rest of the swim passed without incident, although given the staggered start we managed to pass a few people. And then the Bluebird was in sight and we reached the end.

Jo is a joy to be around on these swimming weekends and she clearly loves her swimming. At the end of every swim she lets out a yell and a laugh and proclaims how much she “bloody loved it.” This swim was no different and it was a real honour to provide support for it.

Cups of tea, a quick dip in the lake myself, certificates, rounds of applause and then back to the BnB for a shower and change. Out for dinner and a few pints, with more swimming chat and back to bed ready for Sunday.

Sunday was a different proposition and although kayaking for Jo had calmed my nerves, they hadn’t got rid of them completely. I had asked Ray to swim this event so that I could kayak. He had come all the way up from London just for this – and although he was clearly looking forward to it, there was more riding on it for him than there had been for Jo. Also he was speedier. He was as quick as Rach and I’d failed to keep up with her the week before.

Fortunately all the shuffling at the start meant that I forgot my nerves and before I knew it we were off.

The weather was windy again, but it was a tail wind, so it was [kind of] helpful. It certainly meant I wasn’t having to kayak into the teeth of it and as I’d borrowed Jo’s kayak again I was actually able to relax and enjoy it.

Ray was great to kayak for – a strong swimmer who didn’t actually need any support above the BLDSA requirement and we soon moved towards the front of the swim. I tried to count and I thought we were the 6th or 7th swimmer in the lake and given Ray’s speed it was amazing to watch those ahead of us speed away.

My one criticism of Ray’s swimming (beyond the jokes I made with him about his technique – he is my coach after all) was that he needs to trust his support boat and be willing to swim a little closer to it – but given my recent experiences I couldn’t be too demanding of him.

We made great progress down the lake, occasionally seeming to gain on those in front of us, but never quite reaching them. The wind seemed to be a little bit swirly so we occasionally swapped sides. I tried to navigate as straight a line down the centre of the lake as possible and we continued to make progress.

Now I was experiencing the swim from this angle – and thoroughly enjoying it – I thought about even more ways I could experience a swim. Swimming the damn things seems like such a small part of the process and I was acutely aware of just how grateful I am to all the people that have supported me during my swims – from the kayakers to the safety officials and the event organisers.

Then we were passing the Bluebird café and the end was in sight (for me in the kayak at least – I’m pretty sure Ray couldn’t see it yet). But not only were we nearing the finish, but we were gaining on another swimmer. One last push and we might overtake just before the end. C’mon Ray!

He did push, but so did the other guy and we finished a couple of minutes behind him, but in a excellent time of 2 hours 40 minutes. Not bad for a southern softy!

More cups of tea, congratulations and certificates. And during the presentation Jean who organises the swim so brilliantly announced that she’d like to step down from the job and asked if we knew anyone that might be willing to run it in future.

Well, I had been saying to myself that I wanted to experience a swim from a different angle and Coniston is my favourite swim on the BLDSA calendar, so I might* have volunteered.

 

*I did!

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Sunday was better

After the disaster that was Saturday, Sunday turned out to be a better day.

The kayak hire place (that hired out the kayak on Saturday with a broken seat, that made my experience quite a lot tougher) offered us an actual kayaker for the Sunday swim, so that we would have someone with more experience and skill if the water got as choppy again. What it actually meant for us was an extra body and Rach no longer had to kayak for me and could actually swim – getting back at least some of her lost swim from Saturday.

Originally Rach’s plan was to set off as a solo swim after the event had set off. She had informed the safety boats and had promised to keep out of the way of championship swimmers. They knew she was competent and would have a tow-float, so had promised to keep an eye on her too.

However, the BLDSA being what it is, as soon as the organisers were aware of this – coupled with the fact that they knew they had a spare kayaker – she was immediately placed as a late entry into the event.

So three of us from Team Bear set off to do the 3-mile one-way swim.

After the previous day, the berating of myself and a poor night’s sleep I wasn’t feeling on top form. But equally I had made the decision not to mope and attack it properly as I felt it would have been disrespectful to Rach to do anything else.

While the weather wasn’t as bad as Saturday, it was still a ‘little’ choppy. The first 500 or so metres across the lake from the start were certainly tough, then we turned to swim down the lake with the wind and chop [mostly] to our back. A breeze pushing us down the lake is predominantly helpful, although it can disrupt rhythm at times and increase the likelihood of taking in mouthfuls of water. So a couple of stops mid lake to spit out water and regain my rhythm aside, I pushed on and swam hard.

Rach beat me (as expected), but I was pleased with a time of 1:34.

And to top it off, Cathy completed the swim – her longest ever and after she had kayaked through the horrible conditions (and kayaked it all) the day before.

There are more thoughts to be had about the Saturday (which may well be blogged), but in the end it turned out to be a successful weekend and a lovely bunch of Bears to spend it with.

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Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit

So far I’ve not had a DNF as a swimmer. On my first attempt at providing kayak support for a swimmer I’ve had just that.

I’m so sorry for ballsing up your swim Rach.

I just couldn’t keep up with her in the conditions and so as a safety precaution we both had to get out – again sorry Rach.

I was trying as hard as I could and was just not moving forward – she was swimming great and so swimming away from me, I was kayaking on the spot and was no use to man nor beast (nor swimmer).

Bollocks! I am heartbroken about it.

Sorry Rach.

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Swimming the channel

Taken from my JustGiving page – https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire

– – –

Thank you for taking the time to visit my page.

Starting in September I’ll be swimming 22 miles – the equivalent of swimming across the English Channel – to raise money for people who have been paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury.

Every eight hours someone is paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury. It can happen to anyone at any time, and there is currently no cure. Every pound that I raise means that Aspire can provide practical help to a spinal injured person, allowing them to live a more independent life, so please donate as much as you can and help make a difference.

Although I’m a swimmer, this is still a challenge, but to make it ever harder for myself I plan to swim 1 mile per day over 22 days in 22 different local pools. I suspect that this will be a logistics challenge as much as a swimming one.

I’m also working with Aspire to help raise the profile of this event, but will be doing the challenge and hoping to raise money as a regular participant.

I’d be grateful for your support.

– – –

Aspire does great work, so I’d love your support.

But as I mentioned, I’m also working with them to raise the profile of this event to pools and leisure centres. If you want to persuade your local pool to get more involved in the challenge please let me know (you can do it without their direct involvement though – just swim!).

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Early morning dip

All this talk of triathlons made me realise that I needed to get back to my first love – swimming. So I got up at 5:30am this morning to get to the lake for 6:30.

I was a bit late setting off, but I still had plenty of time for 8 laps. It’s a 1/2 mile loop, so simple maths means that is 4 miles. But as I’m a free spirit as a swimmer and I refuse to adhere to society’s desire for straight lines (I swim wonky), plus I need to add a bit for coming into the jetty to feed, I’m rounding it up to 6,900 metres.

Not bad before breakfast.

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Half a man

Sorry, that should actually be half an ironman. At least that’s what I hope I’ll be next year.

Team Bear LogoOnline I mix with a right group of nutters and some of them did the Outlaw half ironman this year – as it’s local to me I went to watch it. And although the swim bit is way too short and there’s far too much cycling and running involved it seemed like a fun event and a challenge that I’d like to take on. But you know… one day… not now.

My priorities are and always will be my swimming goals, but I realise that they are actually quite a long way away and the lack of a more immediate ‘big’ goal has seen me drift since the 2swim4life swim.

It’s not just the recent heat that has made me become a bit listless. I had a bit of a reality check the other day and realised that I needed to have a challenge, to start training again (for my mental wellbeing as much as physical), and lose that bit of weight that has started creeping back on. So I pre-registered for next year’s Outlaw half ironman.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve committed to it, but after more conversations with the aforementioned nutters, it my own mind I have committed.

Of course I have some worries:

– That I am as rubbish at cycling and running as I fear
– That it’ll break me for future swimming
– That I’m just doing this to distract me from my current single status, but it will actually restrict me from ever being not single – you know: “That was a lovely date, when can we do it again?” “Well, I have a gap in my training schedule in 12 weeks time.”
– That real life and work reasons will get in the way and I’ll be undercooked by event time – I’m not sure I have enough time to do all the swim training I want to do
– That it’ll get addictively expensive – have you seen some of those tri bikes?
– That I’ll just be the rubbish fat bloke at the back of the field

I’m pretty sure the nutters will help me with some of these fears. I think a bit more training will help me to overcome some of the others and well, who knows.

So, when the email comes through for registration it looks like I’ll be signing up.

*Gulp*

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