I got a PB

One of the things I love about open water swimming is the fact that it is different every time, it isn’t controlled and ‘sanitised’ like pool swimming. When you swim in a pool, you can be confident that the distances are exact, the water will be a standard temperature and you can swim up and down in a straight line. You can therefore be confident in the distance you have swum and you can measure it exactly against other swims.

Open water swimming is not like that.

On any given day the various variables mean that each swim is different. The course may change slightly (even moored buoys can move a bit), the wind and water temperature can make a huge difference. Not to mention the current or tides if you are in a river or the sea. In many ways, each swim is completely different and can’t be compared to others – even if you have swum the same ‘course’.

On that logic, I’m pleased to announce that I got a PB on Sunday.

I need to qualify that slightly – it was a PB for the swim on Sunday – given that every swim is unique. It wasn’t a PB for the distance, or even for that venue. But hey, I’ll take what I can get.

I was actually quite a bit slower than last year, but so were most people – it was very windy on Sunday (and cold!). However, I was actually slower in comparison to other people (ie they weren’t as much slower as I was). Now, they are on different swimming journeys, but still now I’ve done the big endurance event it’s time to spend a bit of time working on speed.

One of my biggest problems is knowing quite how hard to push myself on these swims. I can spend a bit too long being a ‘tourist’ and not swimming hard. So I’m not going to work on my sprinting speed, but rather my endurance threshold – getting used to feeling more comfortable pushing a bit harder for longer.

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It’s back…

Last week I’d lost my swimming mojo. In the comments of my post Bryn suggested that I’d find it in Colwick Park (today’s BLDSA swim).

I’m somewhat reluctant to admit that he was right!

I wasn’t sure about today’s swim at all. After 2swim4life it took me two weeks to feel fully recovered, in fact it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I felt I was back. I still wasn’t convinced that I’d swim today, but I packed my swimming kit last night and we woke up to a beautiful day today, so what the hell…

Getting in was chilly. So I still wasn’t sure… But Bryn was right, if a little ambitious. It wasn’t lap two, but as lap three started I realised that I was actually enjoying it.

I’m not planning a major swimming season this year, but it’s good to feel like I’m ready to go an enjoy the swims.

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Tax savings?

I saw this on Facebook the other day and I thought that it was a nice counterpoint to my election rant.

It’s quite long, but it’s worth reading:

“For those of you reciting the ‘Tories defend the rich’ argument, read this. It’s worth it, I assure you.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100…
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this…
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.
So, that’s what they decided to do..
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball.
“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20″. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.
So the first four men were unaffected.
They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men?
The paying customers?
How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?
They realised that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they
subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.
And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).
The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33% saving).
The seventh now paid £5 instead of £7 (28% saving).
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% saving).
The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% saving).
The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% saving).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.
“I only got a pound out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man.
He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got £10!”
“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a pound too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”
“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back, when I got only £2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics.
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.”

Obviously I saw it on Facebook, so I can’t vouch for its accuracy, or that it was even originally posted by the professor (or even if he is a professor).

However, it’s one of those things that ‘feels’ true, so let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that it is. And if it is, then it a good (it somewhat over simplistic) explanation of the tax system and of tax breaks.

However, it has some major flaws and the biggest, in my eyes, is why the bartender (the Govt) would offer a reduction in the drink prices when it wasn’t needed.

All the men were happy with the original situation (in this simplistic view). The richer men may have paid more, but they got the benefits of that – the beer, but also the company of the other men (in real life this is the health and education system that provides them with healthy and educated workers, as well as transport that allows them to get to work, etc etc). The reduction in the beer price proportionately is in favour of the poorer men, but will always ‘materially’ be in favour of the richer men.

So why offer a reduction at all?

Why not use the money to provide a better service (free peanuts or crisps for example)? Or, and here’s where we need to break out of the analogy, offer the poorer men a way to earn more and therefore to contribute more for their beer?

My response is simplistic, but so is the original example. But it’s not the way the tax breaks are split out that angers people, but that they are offered in the first place.

*It doesn’t have to be men of course, again I’m just quoting the original example.

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If found, please return to…

I’ve lost my swimming mojo. If you find it can you let me know?

I don’t think I realised quite how much pressure I’d put on myself for the 2swim4life event. It was obviously a lot more important to me than even I was aware of going into it. It was certainly (by a LONG way) the biggest [swimming] challenge I have ever undertaken and I knew it would be a great marker for other challenges that I want to take on in the future.

However, now it’s over and now all that adrenaline and training and pressure have been released, well… I can’t quite motivate myself for anything else.

And you know what? I’m not going to beat myself up for that. I’m going to allow myself a couple of weeks off. It may mean a DNS at my next event (but better that than a DNF), but there’s no point going through the motions only to find this “meh” feeling lasts longer. Instead I’ll wait until I really want to get back into the water. I’m sure it won’t be long, but one thing’s for sure: it’s not happened quite yet.

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Election thoughts

I was very quiet on social media about my politics in the run up to the election and since the result, however I had a little rant on Facebook last night and I think it’s worth repeating here:

The fact that other countries don’t do it [social welfare] as well as we do is no argument for us to be less caring. Some people can’t look after themselves …, others could with just a bit more support.
However, the economic situation has been
dramatically overplayed too. Labour did not ruin the economy – the global situation did. And while Labour could have made a few better decisions in the good times they didn’t cause the bad times. Nor have the Tories saved us – again the global position has improved. In fact many economists believe that the Tories have slowed down the UK’s recovery.
However, perhaps the biggest issue is that while people may have a couple of quid extra in their pockets the long-term costs – to the country and individuals – will be much higher. A two-tier health service that will need private payments to get the level of care we now take for granted; higher university fees; a lack of social care ‘insurance’ for those that fall on bad times; lower minimum wages; less tax paid by the rich (therefore increasing the tax burden on the rest of us).
I’m sorry I think the “look after ourselves” mentality is both worrying and very, very wrong. And Labour’s biggest mistake was not messing things up last time, but not explaining that properly this time.

Rant over, smiley swimming stuff again from now on.

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2swim4life summary

At 9:30am on Saturday 2nd May I pushed off from the wall at Guildford Lido with the prospect of 24 miles of swimming ahead of me.

Finished!

Finished!

At a little bit past 9am on Sunday 3rd May I touched the same wall to complete the 24th mile.

Preparation

I arrived in Guildford on Friday afternoon and met up with one of my two buddies, Vikki. When I say met up with – I mean met for the first time ever. The kindness and support of strangers always amazes and overwhelms me. Vikki and I knew each other online (through Team Bear) but had never met, yet, along with Jacky, she volunteered her weekend to support me. They were both immense.

Vikki & Jacky - thank you!

Vikki & Jacky – thank you!

We put our tent up near some of the other BLDSA swimmers that I knew and then it was time for dinner and an early night.

I hadn’t realised quite how nervous I was about the whole event, but I didn’t sleep very well the week before the swim and that pattern continued on the Friday night – not a great start when sleep deprivation is one of the biggest challenges you face. But Saturday morning came round and we set up our area.

The things I was worried about were all the non-swimming bits. Did I have enough clothes / towels? Did I have the right food / and enough of it? Would I be sleepy or sunburnt or bitten? So to prepare for this and quieten my brain down I slightly over prepared and over packed – all the towels and sweatshirts I owned and enough food to last for a week not a weekend. Plus a detailed plan of what I was going to eat drink and wear for each hour.

It took a while to unpack it and sort it out, but that helped as it took my mind of the actual swimming. We watched the event start with the 9am wave and then it was my turn (along with the other 80+ swimmers setting off at 9:30am).

Routine

The swimming itself was fine. The water was nice, if a little chillier than the advertised 23 degrees, and we soon developed a routine: swim, robe and shoes on, pee, back to the tent, trunks off, get dry, get dressed, eat and drink (according to the strict plan!), relax (for about 3 minutes), trunks back on, pee (and meet a couple of the faster hour start swimmers – and meet them repeatedly), swim, repeat.

I was swimming at about a 33 – 34 minute mile pace, so by the time we got back to the tent we had about 20m minutes to do everything else. But it became a routine. Vikki and Jacky took shifts, but everything stayed the same. Swim a mile, then swim another, then another… The hours merged into one and the day soon passed by.

10th mile

The first break in the routine came at 10 miles. Normally as I finished the swim I would touch the wall and then just leap out of the pool. I didn’t want to waste my own time messing around, nor did I want to get in the way of the other swimmers.

However as I completed mile 10 and leapt onto the side, my left thigh cramped up forcing me to almost fall back into the pool. The routine now involved a short swim to the side of the pool to find the steps to climb out of.

20th mile

And so it continued. Day became night and we kept on swimming.

The weather had been grey and unappealing during the day, apart from about a 30 minute spell of sunshine. However that cloud cover meant that the night air didn’t get too cold, which was good news. The bad news was that the clouds opened and for most of the night a steady rain fell – nothing too heavy, but a constant rainfall that added to the things to be managed and quickly took a layer of ‘fun’ off everything.

But still we swam, dried, ate, peed and swam again. Until mile 20.

I’d got cold between miles 19 and 20 and had reached my lowest point. Stood at the water’s edge, just about to remove my last layer before getting into the water I turned to Vikki and said I didn’t want to get in. And I really didn’t. I had nothing to prove and the chance to rest and get warm seemed sooooo appealing at that moment.

About to start mile 20 - not happy!

About to start mile 20 – not happy!

If we had been at the tent I wouldn’t have walked to the pool, but we were at the pool. So I removed the heaviest, warmest, stickiest sweatshirt ever and decided to do just “one more mile”. I would have done 20 then and you know what, that would have been one hell of an achievement. So one more mile and then I could stop, so I got in and swam.

And I loved the swim.

The sky turned from black to grey, the water soothed my sore muscles and cold skin and at the end of the mile I got out and told Vikki we needed to get a move on to get ready for mile 21! That was when I knew I was going to finish.

Unlikely alliances

After about mile 16, just as I’m in the tent getting dressed I heard a voice I recognised. “I’m looking for Patrick Smith.”

Thanks Mark!

Thanks Mark!

It was my friend Mark who had turned up at about 1:30am to offer some support. And it was great to see a welcome face, to be able to slightly break the routine for a while and to see the awe and respect (for the whole event) on someone else’s face. During events like this the process becomes your normality, to witness it through someone else’s eyes was fascinating. But it was also great to see you Mark – thanks for the support.

Then a couple of miles later I got into the pool behind a couple of the other swimmers and set off on their feet. Maybe I *could* have overtaken, but I was happy to sit on their feet for a couple of lengths, and then a couple more, and then just a few more. Soon I’d swum the whole mile drafting another swimmer and it had made a huge difference.

It makes a *bit* of difference physically (it’s easier to swim through the water and bubbles they have created than through ‘fresh’ water), but for me the main advantage I got was mental. I could just switch off for a while and not have to think about it. I could just swim and follow this guy.

My unknown support was absent for the next mile as he was part of a two-man relay. But the next time he got in I took advantage again. However this time I decided to return the favour at half-way. I tapped his feet and swam as hard to the lane end as I could, hoping he’d know what I was up to. Fortunately he did and he let me overtake and then drafted me for half a mile. This became our routine for the last few miles (and he did the all the final three miles), except for the very last one as we swam the last length side by side!

Synchronised swimming!

Synchronised swimming!

What’s next?

Before last weekend the furthest I’d ever swum in a day before was the 10.5 miles of Windermere, so 2swim4life was a massive step up for me and has given me a lot more confidence for longer swims.

But before I think about any of that I still need to rest and complete all my laundry!

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Thanks Ray

I’m sure I’ll write plenty more over the next few days / weeks about the swim, but I did want to say a huge thank you to Ray at SwimCanaryWharf. I swam 24 miles over the weekend and not once did my stroke break down and cause my swimming to suffer. There is no way I would have survived without Ray’s help and work on my stroke.

In recognition of that I wore my SwimCanaryWharf swim hat for the last mile.

Setting off for mile 24

Setting off for mile 24

Finishing. 24 miles completed!

Finishing. 24 miles completed!

If you have any doubts about your swimming, or you’ve got some big swims coming up, then I strongly advise you to seek him out.

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Next stop France…?

I did it.

At the weekend I swam in the 2swim4life event in Guildford and managed to swim 24 miles over 24 hours. Given that before the weekend the most I’d ever swum in one day was the 10.5 miles of Windermere it’s fair to say I’m pretty pleased with that.

Not only was the swimming tough, but the constant getting in and out added a lot of extra psychological toughness to it. In fact, a lot of the channel swimmers at the event said that just swimming non-stop for 20 odd miles is easier.

Let me just repeat that – a lot of people said that swimming the channel is easier. So maybe that’s what I’ll do next…

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Next Stop Guildford

This weekend I will be spending a bit of time swimming – in fact almost 24 hours!

The time has finally come round for the 2swim4life event down in Guildford. Starting at 9:30am on Saturday morning I will be swimming one mile every hour for 24 miles / hours, so all being well I will set off at 8:30am on Sunday morning for my final hour. It’s fair to say that the current mood is a mixture of excitement and nerves.

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London Marathon Memories

Like many people I’m sat watching the London marathon this morning. And I guess like many people I’m remembering when I was there taking part. For me it was eleven (11!!) years ago that I ran it.

A lot has happened since then. I moved house three times, ran another marathon (Dublin that October), started a business, had a son, stopped exercising, put on a couple of stone (those last two are probably linked), started and ended a marriage and done a bit of swimming.

Despite all that happening between now and then it’s great to sit down with my nine year old and remember some of the events of that day.

As we were watching the people queue for the portaloos I remember having a pee behind a tree in Greenwich Park (my nine year old thought that was funny). I remember jumping into an earlier pen at the start (I was originally booked into the very last pen), but it still taking over 12 minutes for me to cross the line. I remember the pain I felt along Embankment. The fact that I wasn’t really aware of my surroundings at the end (I only realised that I’d run past Buckingham Palace when I watched the highlights on TV that night). And I remember sobbing at the end as I was overrun with emotion and a little boy walked past me and said “Well done.”

I’m not sure I actually enjoyed my day at the marathon. I didn’t run in glasses and so the crowd was just a bit overwhelming for me as I couldn’t see anything or anyone. And it was bloody hard work. But I finished and in the end I’m bloody glad I did it.

This year I know a few people running – people I know in real life and people I know virtually (mainly through Team Bear). Good luck to them all.

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