A day without swimming

For the first time in 23 days I won’t be swimming today.

For the last 22 days I have swum a mile each day as part of my Aspire Channel Swim. I have now landed in France and so I’m taking the day off to enjoy the cheese and wine. (Unfortunately for me, this is as true as the fact that I’ve actually swum the channel – but I have swum 22 miles).

Screenshot 2015-10-06 12.36.04For me the swimming was never going to the big challenge – I’ve actually swum no less than a mile each day, but often more and have averaged at just over 2km per day – however the logistics and repetition of it were a big challenge. No matter what else I’ve been doing I’ve had to make time for a swim every day. And of course to make it harder for myself I’ve tried to do it in a different venue every day – what an idiot!

Anyway, it’s done now. I’ll post more about it later, as despite what sounds like a moan I’ve really enjoyed it.

In the meantime I’ve been featured in my local paper, so you can read the article in the Nottingham Post.

And of course, it’s not too late to sponsor me.

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I’ve done it

22 miles in 22 days in [nearly] 22 different venues. 

For the first time in just over 3 weeks, I’m not going to swim tomorrow. 


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“This is clockwise isn’t it?”

It wasn’t.

Imagine the scene…

It’s a busy Saturday afternoon at a ‘fun’ pool – you know the sort, with all the slides and wave machines and screaming kids. But I still had a mile to do for the Aspire Channel Swim. Fortunately there was a regular pool next door, however there were only three lanes marked, with the other half of the pool given up to a group of kids having a lesson.

The lanes were marked for speed, so I joined the fast lane. At the shallow end was a guy, who let’s be honest didn’t look the most athletic, resting. I set off for my mile and 5 lengths in I turned and headed back to the shallow end. Swimming directly towards me, with a very slow breaststroke, was the aforementioned resting guy – heading straight towards me on my side of the lane.

“Isn’t this lane for clockwise swimming?” I asked politely.

“This is clockwise isn’t it?” he replied.

“No it isn’t. And it’s meant to be the bloody fast lane,” was what I wanted to reply. But I didn’t. I swam round him, carried on and finished my mile.

One of the things that I’ve tried to stick to throughout all of these miles is that these are not my pools and I don’t know the culture and so I’ve tried to just fit in with whatever was going on there. I’ve just tried to get my head down and get my mile done. It’s not always been easy, but I think I’ve managed.

Today’s mile, the penultimate one, was at the Ken Martin Leisure Centre in Nottingham.

I think the best I can say about it is that I’m glad I’m nearly finished. There was nothing terrible, but it just wasn’t right. The water was too warm; the lanes were marked for speed, which wasn’t adhered to; there was a queue to get in; my son was with me, but wasn’t allowed to watch pool side. It was all a bit ‘meh’.

But hey, one more mile tomorrow and then it’s done.

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Proper Pool

2015-10-02 08.33.26This morning’s mile for Aspire was wonderful. The fact it was mile 19 and the end is in sight helped. The fact that I swam well and smoothly and completed my lengths with no fuss also helped. But the main reason it was so wonderful was the fact that it was in a proper, old-fashioned pool.

It was the Portland Centre in Nottingham, run by Notts County’s Football in the Community scheme and reminded me of the old pools that my grandad would have taken me too. The changing rooms were cubicles on the side of the pool and there was no chrome or steel, just tiles and water and the chance to swim in a lovely 30m pool.

Post swim smiley face

Post swim smiley face

Mile 17 was also a great swim too. A friend joined me and as he said afterwards, the solitary aspect of swimming is great, but it’s also good to have company once in a while. We swam at the Victoria Leisure Centre pool and after a 1,000m warm-up we did 10 x 100m off 1:50m. It felt like we were pushing things, without killing ourselves and I was comfortably holding 1:40 for each 100m. To finish off we did a timed 100m sprint – Julian managed 1:19 and thrashed my 1:35. It just shows me that I clearly only have one gear / speed. I comfortably held 1:40 in ‘cruise’, but flat out sprint only gains me an extra 5 seconds!

We enjoyed it so much that we forgot to take a photo and instead rushed off for bacon sandwiches!

Yesterday’s mile – mile 18 – was swum in London as I was down there for meetings for the day. It was good, but a bit ‘London’ – you know, a bit too busy and a bit too expensive. But another mile ticked.

I nearly missed mile 16 earlier in the week. I got up later than I intended and so realised that I might not have time to get to the planned pool. So instead I looked for a closer pool and set off for that one – only to arrive and realise that I’d looked at the timetable for the wring day and it wasn’t open for another hour. I drove back home in a sulk, but it did give me time to have a proper shower and breakfast, two things I’ve missed most mornings.

I went back to the same pool after work, only to act like a cross between a sulky teenager and a diva when I discovered that a) I’d misread the timetable and it wasn’t lane swimming, but ‘general swim’ and b) it was only an 18m pool. I went for it anyway and of course the swim itself was lovely. I did 120 lengths for a total of 2,160m (but only counted the first mile of it towards the Aspire total).

If things go to plan, I’ll finish on Monday in my local pool.

– – –

You can still sponsor me here – www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire


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Cold Water Miles

I’m already over halfway through my Aspire Channel Swim – but there’s still time to sponsor me (please go here).

For miles 12 and 13 I got back to my cold water roots and swam in the open air, although in two very different experiences.

I was in London overnight on Thursday and so on Friday morning I had set my mind to swim at Parliament Hill Lido. I’ve heard so much about it through swimming friends on Facebook and although the only other lido I’ve swum at is the one in Guildford, I love the idea of them.

The downside of Parliament Hill Lido is that to get to it on public transport is a bit of a pain, it’s not super well connected and as I was carrying not only my swimming kit, but also my work bag and an overnight bag it felt like a bit of a trek.

However, once there it was lovely.

A friendly atmosphere (although I didn’t really speak to anyone), beautiful, cool and clean water and an amazing ‘space age’ design for the pool meant that I really enjoyed my swim. The exterior is an old-fashioned lido with a brick wall to the premises and slightly dilapidated (but clean and functional) changing and showering facilities. However the pool itself has a metal base that makes the water appear even cleaner and somehow ‘shinier’. As most pools have brick or tiles it felt strange entering this metal ‘world’, but it made for a great swim.

Happy, but chilly.

Happy, but chilly.

The pool is 60m long, so my original plan was to swim 30 lengths to make sure that I crossed over the 1,600m needed for a mile, but I was enjoying it so much that I swam an additional 4 lengths to go over 2k (I’m only counting the first mile to my Aspire total). I could have stayed in longer, but I was starting to feel the chill and I realised that I had a full working day to tackle.

But, and consider this a warning, I’ll definitely be back Parliament Hill Lido!

Mile 13 was on Saturday and I fancied more outdoor, cold water, so I made my way to my ‘regular’ lake, called Activities Away, up near Lincoln. I say regular, but I’ve probably only been about 4 times this year.

No metal bottom here. Instead there were weeds and fish to keep me company. The lake is marked out with an 800m lap, so two laps would equal the mile I needed to do, but I was enjoying it too much, so I did an extra lap (again, only counting the first mile towards the Aspire challenge).

Tea and cake at Activities Away - the real reason we swim!

Tea and cake at Activities Away – the real reason we swim!


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Half way to France

My mile a day challenge has reached day 11, and therefore mile 11 and so I’m half way. As the challenge is designed to be an ‘English Channel’ swim, that means I’m half way to France. Not sure how I’ll get a keepsake pebble for this swim though.

Mile 9

A bit of a trek for me this one, out to West Park Leisure Centre near the M1, but I got there in plenty of time for the 8:30pm start of lane swimming. However, we weren’t even allowed into the changing rooms until 8:32pm so that we didn’t get in the way of the swimming club. It seemed that that was regular policy and while it didn’t matter for me this time, it’s something I’d be annoyed about if this was my regular pool.

Once in though, the swim was lovely. The pool is an unusual ‘T’-shape and the main bit of the pool was being used by an aqua aerobics class, so the lane swimmers has three lanes at the top of the T. Due to the shape, we still got a 25m length and it was a lovely swim.

Mile 10

I hit double figures at Cotgrave Leisure Centre yesterday morning. A lovely clean pool that was kept nice and cool – probably one of the coolest indoor pools I’ve swam in – perfect for lane swimming.

Three lanes we re marked out and that left room for ‘general’ swimmers as well. However the medium speed lane was taken up by two slow breaststrokers swimming side-by-side. And as soon as they finished, literally as they were leaving the lane, two more got in and again swam side-by-side. Fortunately the pool wasn’t big enough that it slowed anyone down or stopped anyone else’s swim, however surely that’s what the unlaned area is for.

Anyway, another mile done. And in fact I did an extra length as the changing rooms were at the deep end, so I swam up there to get out.

Mile 11 – halfway

Mile 11 was done this morning before I attempted* to catch the train to London. For that reason it was at the Grove Leisure Centre in Newark, close to the train station.

This leisure centre is attached to my local one and so my membership got me in for a free and it was a nice big pool with at least six lanes marked out for swimming – with two fast lanes. The far fast lane was occupied by two guys doing sprints, so I joined a woman in the other lane and the two of us swam peacefully around each other.

Another lovely mile to set me up for the day before I got to the train station to discover all the trains were delayed or cancelled.

*They were so messed up I ended up driving to London!

Half way happy face

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Day 8, Mile 8

So far so good and I’m sticking to my mile a day plan.

Mile 6

Mile 6 was an open water swim near Kings Lynn which I’ve blogged about separately here. It was longer than a mile (and actually longer than I was expecting – I swam 7.3km), but I’m only counting a mile towards the Aspire challenge.

Mile 7

I had to use the local pool ‘Get Out of Jail’ card again on Sunday. Looking after a poorly son for the day meant that I didn’t have time to travel anywhere else before they closed the pool for the day. I know that my local pool has an 8pm lanes session, so I went along there. Again though, I forgot the post-swim selfie.

In the rules, I had allowed myself up to 3 swims in my local pool if life got in the way – so I now have one left.

Mile 8

This morning saw me leave my flat relatively early and drive through the countryside to a nearby village to swim in the Dukeries Leisure Centre. Like many are nowadays, it’s a leisure centre that’s attached to a school and inside the centre it has the feel of a school from the 70s/80s. People my age will know the feeling of the hardwood floors of the school gym and for some reason the endless corridors. That’s what this felt like.

The whole place was a little shabby, but clean and cared for and somehow more ‘real’ that some of the shiny, modern leisure centres around. The pool itself was just 20m, but with three quiet lanes roped off it was a great place to just get my head down and swim.

I have to admit, I enjoyed it this morning. Just another 14 to go.

Outside Dukeries Leisure Centre in the rain.

Outside Dukeries Leisure Centre in the rain.

And I’m still looking for more sponsorship if you can spare a couple of pennies – please sponsor me on JustGiving.

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For those that don’t know, DNF stands for Did Not Finish. This post was very nearly about that, but in the end I Did Not Did Not Finish.

It was the last swim of the BLDSA calendar at Kings Lynn and I was looking forward to it – a 4.5km lap swim (3 x 1.5km) and an even more relaxed and friendly atmosphere as it was the last swim.

This is where we swam. Photo courtesy of Philip Yorke (@phil924)

This is where we swam.
Photo courtesy of Philip Yorke (@phil924)

Life stuff got in the way a bit to slightly disrupt plans (poorly son), but soon I was off to Kings Lynn being directed to the wrong venue by the satnav. A slightly panicky dash to the right venue and all was fine. Time to chat, register, chat, get changed, chat, have the briefing, chat and then get in the water. It was chilly, but manageable and soon we were off.

The first part of the lap was down river and directly into the sun. I thought I’d started well and kept to the left-ish side of the river towards where I believed the turning buoy was. I felt strong and was enjoying it.

After a few minutes of swimming I looked up and saw people way over to my right. Ok, I’ll drift that way over the next few minutes, no problem. Next time I looked up and couldn’t see anyone in front of me on my current trajectory, but a group of people to my left. This was starting to get annoying!

I drifted back to the left and tried to swim in the pack so that I didn’t have to sight any more, but even that was tough as I seemed to either swim into someone with one stroke and then be 5 metres away (and out of easy eyesight) with the next stroke. The water wasn’t very clear, so there was no underwater sighting possible and I just struggle to sight with my poor eysight – it takes me two or three consecutive sighting strokes to be able to gather enough information to be sure of anything.

Fortunately I was able to stick with this small group and they led me to the turning buoy – they became involuntary Labradors!

Swimming the other way was a bit easier as it wasn’t into the sun, but boy did it take a long time. I made the mistake of looking at my watch and by the time I would have expected to have completed a full lap I wasn’t even 2/3rds done. What was wrong with me? I finally completed the first lap and set off for the second and the group was now just me and a female swimmer a couple of metres away.

The sighting on the second lap was a little easier – as much to do with familiarity as anything else, but the pace still felt veeerrrry slooooooow. And I wasn’t enjoying it.

I wasn’t not enjoying it either, but it just wasn’t ‘fun’. I was starting to feel the cold a bit, again, nothing unmanageable, but it was clearly chilly; I was getting fed up of swimming in a zig zag pattern; my pace was really annoying me; and to be perfectly honest I’d lost the desire. The actual swimming bit was nice, it was the whole ‘event’ around it that I’d had enough of.

And actually I realised that I had had enough – and you know what, I could stop. So I spent the next few minutes exploring that decision. How would it feel to have a DNF? It wouldn’t be because of injury, or hypothermia, or the conditions, it would be because I just didn’t feel like carrying on. And as I thought about it, I realised that that is probably the best reason for a DNF – I was taking care of myself instead of pushing when it wasn’t there. I was saving myself physically and mentally for future challenges and keeping the passion intact. Yep, I could cope with a DNF.

As I neared the end of the second lap and my planned stopping point two concerns now reared their heads. 1) I needed to pee – and I needed to do it now and in the water so I could get up and walk out with no worries about it happening then!; 2) I didn’t want me stopping to put off the woman I was swimming with. Fortunately these two coincided as I slowed down to pee, she got just in front.

Right there’s the buoy. I’m not going to call my number out. I’m just going to make the throat slitting gesture and swim to the bank. A DNF, but I can live with it.

Wait! What’s that he’s saying? I listened closely as information was being relayed to the woman in front – “A shorter lap for the final one… Don’t do that extra loop there…” And for some reason I carried on.

I actually enjoyed the third lap. I almost knew where I was going. I picked up my pace. And it was almost fun again.

And it turns out I wasn’t that slow after all – the course, even with the shorter final lap, was 7km and not 4.5km!

Although it was that cold as I discovered as I joined Margaret, my aunt, my Windermere support crew x2 and currently a slow breaststroke swimmer, for the final section of her swim. Swimming at a pace that was unnaturally slow for me meant that the cold really got in and I was quite shivery for a while. But nothing two cups of tea and three delicious slices of cake (thank to whoever made that) couldn’t fix.

– – –

Even though it turned out to be 7km, I’m only counting it as 1 mile towards my Aspire Challenge. 22 miles, in 22 days, in 22 venues – you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire/.

– – –

So, in the end I Did Not Did Not Finish and even got a certificate



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The best and the worst so far

I’m only five miles into the Aspire Channel Challenge so far, but the last two days have seen the best and worst swims so far.

The Best

After just one of those days at work yesterday – you know the sort, nothing bad, but it just felt like hard work – I went to the Lammas Leisure Centre in Sutton, about 15 minutes from the office.

As I arrived just before 7pm the place was heaving. The car park was so full people were parking (neatly and sensibly) in spaces next to the marked bays. Lots of kids were leaving the centre having done club sessions of one sort or another and it just look like a hive of positive activity. Already I felt cheered.

Lane swimming was just an hour from 7-8pm and as it turned out it was only two lanes with aqua aerobics sharing the pool. In my local pool I’d have tutted at this and already planned just how much my workout would be affected, but I put on a brave face and went for it anyway. There were about 20 people in the aqua aerobics class and about another 10 sharing the swimming lanes. The swim didn’t start well as just as was pushing off for my second lap a very slow swimmer set off directly in front of me and forced me into very slow breaststroke – despite me choosing the lane marked as the fast one of the two.

But after that it got much better. It didn’t get any less busy, but the stars seemed to align. I swam well, people were respectful, the water was lovely and it was, all in all, a great experience. I got out MUCH happier than when I got in.

Lammas Leisure Centre

Lammas Leisure Centre

The Worst

This morning I had to use one of my ‘local pool joker cards’ as my son isn’t very well. I had planned a swim at a new pool in Nottingham, but instead needed to be quick and back to work from home supervising his sitting on the sofa watching TV.

I thought that I was a creature of habit and that I’d love to be back in my ‘home‘ pool. But not today.

Nothing was really wrong and no-one is to blame, but this morning just felt like a bit of a slog. I’ll be honest, if this is the worst of the 22 swims then I’ll be doing really well, but it’s the worst so far.

And I even forget to take a selfie afterwards.

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Aspire miles 2 and 3

Miles two and three were actually only about 10 hours apart.

Mile two was a late night session last night at Southglade Leisure Centre. A nice modern pool with about 6 lanes marked out. Although they weren’t marked for speed there was one lane with a single, quickish front crawler in when I got there, so I joined him. The pool was shallow at one end and even shallower at the other, with no real deep end. But it was nice, clean and I had a lovely evening swim.

Southglade last night

Southglade last night

Mile three was early this morning at Rushcliffe Leisure Centre. I used to live round the corner from this centre and this is where I started swimming again, although only as occasional exercise and long before I decided to swim in open water. I had remembered that it was only a 20m pool, but I hadn’t remembered how inappropriate it was for lane swimming. The swimming part of the pool is joined onto a ‘fun’ part and is separated by a lane rope. On top of that it’s curved on the sides and only has three lanes marked. The people in my lane (nominally the fast lane) seemed to have chosen it as it was the widest, rather than their swimming speed. So 80 lengths and a lot of dodging of slow breaststrokers.

I’m glad I don’t have to use this pool as a regular training pool, but it’s funny how times change. As I was swimming I remembered how I came home from a previous swim there delighted that I had swum 40 lengths (800m) non stop!

Rushcliffe this morning

Rushcliffe this morning

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