Ullswater done, Derwentwater done

Yesterday I swam the 7 mile length of Ullswater with the BLDSA. 

It was chilly, windy and all in all a bloody tough swim. It split into three very distinct sections for me. 

Part 1 – horrible, cold and really not much fun. I knew I wouldn’t finish and would be getting out “soon” (it was never now, but always “soon”). I took my first feed after an hour and then every 45 minutes from then and the second feed seemed to be an age away. I really didn’t enjoy this section of the swim. 

Part 2 – it started soon after he second feed and was probably timed with the sun coming out a bit, but I suddenly felt ‘in the zone’ and really enjoyed it. From being desperate for my second feed to happen I pushed the third one back five minutes as I did t want to break my rhythm. For about two hours I actually enjoyed myself and was swimming well. 

Part 3 – was when the shoulders began to ache and the cold got into me a little bit. At this point the end couldn’t come soon enough. 

But the end arrived. I touched the buoy and turned round to thank my kayaker. Then burst out laughing. 

A wave had caught her against a jetty (that she had positioned herself against so I wouldn’t swim into it) and flipped the kayak over. So she joined me for a swim for the last 50m. I rescued the paddle, hence this photo. 


So in summary a cold swim (13.8 degrees), a long swim (7 miles), a tough swim, but almost an enjoyable one. 

Today was Derwentwater and a little easier. The water was fractionally warmer (14.3 degrees), the weather was calmer and nicer and it was shorter (5.25 miles). But the main thing that made it easier for me was that I was kayaking and not swimming. 

That said I was kayaking for an amazing swimmer and a very fast one. She covered the 5.25 mile course in a little over 2 1/4 hours and swam brilliantly throughout. 

As a kayaker it was my job to be there as safety support if needed (I wasn’t), but also guide the route and feed when needed. She speed she swam at meant that I was kept pretty busy with both of those. 

She was the first swimmer home, so I’m going to take some credit for that (I’m not really, but it was amazing to watch a proper swimmer). 


A good weekend so far. 

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Please support…

I’m not a great one for using my swims for fundraising. I’m gonna do the swim anyway, so it doesn’t always feel right to ask people to donate to something I enjoy. 

This time is different though. I’m raising money for the MNDA through JustGiving. Here’s what I wrote there:

Someone very, very important to me lost someone very, very important to her to this shi**y disease, so I wanted to do something.

What I’m actually going to do is swim a channel relay (swimming from England to France as part of team) – twice.

The first is a four-person relay which will hopefully take place at the end of August. In it we will swim for an hour each and I expect to get 3 or 4 swims (so four hours of swimming).

The second is a two-person relay at the end of September. For this one we will swim for two hours at a time and again I expect to swim 4 times, however this will mean eight hours of swimming.

If you think that this is something that is worth a few pennies then please donate. Thank you.

– – – 

If you would like to donate, please go to my JustGiving page to do so – http://www.justgiving.com/Patrick-Smith-swim

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Double Dip

After falling out of love with swimming I’m back to enjoying it more and more. This can be shown by the fact that on Tuesday I swam twice.

The first swim was a 6:30am start at a local lake next to Nottingham Sailing Club. They only opened for swimming last year, but it’s a great set up – especially as we have use of the sailing club showers and changing rooms. It makes for a perfect set up for a pre-work swim. The lake itself is set out as a c. 650m loop and I did 6 wide laps for a total of just over 4km in an hour and a quarter.

The second swim of the day was a charity event run by the excellent 100% Swimming up at the Activities Away lake. The idea was to predict how far you could swim in 20 minutes 17 seconds (20:17) and the closest to their prediction won. It was all organised in Aid of the Ethan Maull Foundation.

I predicted a total of 1,050m and decided to use it as a way to push myself as hard as I could for 20 minutes. About 300m in I got into rhythm with a wetsuited swimmer and we pushed each other around and I ended up just going past my prediction and finishing on about 1,060m.

It was a great event and hopefully it will be able to launch nationally next year. Thanks all for organising it.

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Wild Swimming in Ireland

I was in Ireland this weekend for a wedding in my girlfriend’s family (which was great by the way and it was lovely to meet all of the family), so I took the chance to do a bit of wild swimming.

I’m not normally a wild swimmer – my outdoor swimming is generally controlled in either events or round a training lake – but I had been inspired by this post about Petticoat Lucy’s lake by LoneSwimmer, so I gave it a go.

The story is that the lake is haunted by Petticoat Lucy and that she will grab the ankles of swimmers and pull them down to their death. You can probably tell by the fact that I am writing this that that didn’t happen! (More details of the legend of Petticoat Lucy can be found here).

In reality the lake is a small, peaty lake nestled in the Knockmealdown mountains. You park up near the road and walk down about half a mile to the lake. The footpath then continues around the edge of the lake, but there is a small “beach” area that I quickly got changed in. The water starts very shallow and the bottom is covered in rocks – many of which are quite sharp or jagged. So it took me a few minutes of very ungraceful walking before my feet hit the soft, squelchy ground and the water was deep enough to start swimming.

Although I didn’t believe the legend of Petticoat Lucy that first bit of swimming was certainly a bit quicker and more breathless than normal, but once I’d settled down it was lovely. The temperature was a balmy 18 degrees at a guess, and while the water was certainly very brown – with about one and half arms’ length visibility – it felt very clean.

I swam up the length of the lake while my girlfriend walked along the path that gently rises above the lake. So we had a chat with her standing about 15 feet above me once I’d reached the end. I then swam in the far corner and back to the start again along the other side of the lake. But don’t be fooled as that was only about 500m of swimming.

My exit was equally as ungraceful, which was disappointing as I’d attracted a couple of families who wanted to check I wasn’t completely mad I think.

A quick public change and then we went to visit more family for a cup of tea and some biscuits – lovely!

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DNF DNF

Last weekend I did the 2Swim4Life event – well I say “did” it and the truth is I didn’t.

It’s a 24 hour / 24 mile swim where you swim a mile on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours. In theory it’s a simple concept. In practice it’s a brutal swim. And I only managed 13 miles.

From quite early on I knew I wasn’t going to complete it all – my shoulders didn’t feel right, but perhaps more importantly neither did my head. I just wasn’t enjoying it enough to go through the tough hours at 2 or 3am. I probably could have done a few more miles, but to be honest once I’d done 13 miles I realised that I could stop and go for a curry. So I did.

I wasn’t too disappointed to not finish it. I have done it before and I knew it would be a struggle, so in the end it was probably a wise decision.

I was less pleased with my previous DNF the week before – in fact my first ever swim DNF.

I was on a training camp by The King’s Swimmers in Menorca. And it was a great camp, well run, great location, we were blessed with great weather and a wonderful group of swimmers. We’d swum on the first two days – a two hour swim and then another two hour on the first day; a three hour, followed by another two hour on the second day – and the third day was to be a six hour coastal swim.

A six hour swim is important as it is a requirement for channel solo swim (and many other long swims) and although I don’t have a channel solo to qualify for I wanted to it as part of my training for 2-way Windermere.

The short story is though that I didn’t do it.

I swam for 1 hour and 24 minutes and realised that I just wasn’t enjoying it. I spent the next 36 minutes trying to find something in my head that would allow me to continue – singing, thinking of loved ones, counting strokes, imagining completing the Windermere swim, remembering previous 1-way Windermere swims – I tried it all and nothing worked. So after two hours I got out. I just couldn’t find a reason to continue. I did get ‘persuaded’ to get back in again a bit later and I did the last two hours of the swim, but still – very much a DNF.

Both of these have changed the way that I think about myself as a swimmer.

Firstly, they have meant that I will no longer be swimming 2-way Windermere this year. Even if I wanted to, at this rate I’ll never be ready. So that’s now out. But they also made me think about whether I ever want to go long again, or am I just not feeling it right now.

While I’ve been thinking all of this through, this weekend I caught up with the Mind Over Marathon programme about people with mental health problems training to run this year’s London marathon. It was a great programme and definitely worth a watch. While watching it I thought about my own mental health.

My back was injured last summer. I didn’t swim at all and at times during last summer I could barely stand. At first I put my recent DNFs down to that – down to the fact that I’m still not strong enough after that physical injury. However, the realisation that I’ve come to is that the physical injury also brought about a mental injury and that while I’m physically better (although maybe not completely) I’m not yet mentally better.

Like most people, I don’t talk about mental health issues hardly at all. But watching the programme made me realise that I was probably suffering from depression as well as a bad back last summer. I certainly had suicidal thoughts on a number of occasions. I was numb and couldn’t see the point of it all. I wasn’t enjoying life and wasn’t sure that it was worth continuing with. In many senses I was lucky as I knew that my son still needed me, but I remember rationalising (of a sorts) with myself and telling myself that if things hadn’t improved by the time he was 18…

Watching the programme made me realise that the mental health issue was an injury that I’ve still not recovered from. Just like a physical injury it needs not only to heal, but to be given time to be built back up to full strength – and I’m not there yet, which is why I couldn’t complete my recent swims. However, also like a phyisical injury it may relapse and I need to watch for the signs of that.

So, the rest of this year will be about continuing to build up my physical strength, but also my mental strength. I’ll swim, but maybe not [too] long and not [too] hard.

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Swimming alone

I went to meet my Masters group last night and I was the only one there – so I swam alone. 

Of course I wasn’t completely alone, the rest of the swimming club was in the pool and they were busy training in the lanes next to me. However I did have a lane to myself. 

I used it as an opportunity to just swim – without any of those silly drills or being forced to swim backstroke. In the end I managed 3km in 55 minutes. 

I went again this morning and did another 4km, split into 2 x 2km. I managed a similar pace as well – the first 2km was done in 35:50 and the second in 36:36. 

I’m pleased with that distance – and that pace. Although to put it into perspective it’s about the same pace as a 9-year old girl swimming breaststroke!

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Delighted

I had a great swim last night.

It started by going to the gym – not a big strenuous workout, but I like to focus on the muscle groups I use for swimming. I don’t do big heavy lifting, but try to work through to fatigue on slightly lighter weights. But it’s always good to spend some time in the gym and I don’t quite do it often enough.

However, I timed my gym session so that I could follow it immediately with a pool session. At the moment I’m trying to do drills as much as possible, so that was the focus last night.

I got into the fast lane and there were two swimmers quicker than me already in there. I followed behind and tried to remind myself that this was just a warm up and a loosener after the gym session. So I concentrated on my stroke and a long pull and not getting out of breath. Despite all that I swam about 7:10 for the 400m warm up.

Although I wasn’t aiming for a good time I was delighted. It means that my natural pace is getting a bit quicker. And while it was only 400m (and therefore it’s not accurate for long distances) it should mean that I’ll be able to more easily cruise at a quicker pace over longer distances.

After the warm up I then did the following:

– 500m drills

– 200m swim

– 500m drills

My plan was to then swim a final 400m to round it all up to 2km and a good hour.

After a quicker warm up swim I thought I’d push it a bit in my final swim – hoping to match the warm up time. In the end I did this:


My first ever recorded sub 7min 400m swim. I’m delighted!

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2017 Swim Plans

I hardly swam at all in 2016 – a couple of dips as it got colder towards the end of the year, but no events and certainly not the Windermere swim I wanted to do.

Unfortunately I was injured. I had a [probably] non-swimming related back injury and it took me out all summer. It started in the middle of April and by mid-summer I could hardly stand, yet alone swim. It started to clear by the end of September, but too late for any ‘real’ swimming.

But 2017 has started much better. My back feels better, I’m getting my general fitness back and my swim fitness feels good at the moment. So I’m going to state my goals for the year. Here they are (in order of priority):

1 – 2-way Windermere
This was always the main goal for 2017 and another reason why it was so frustrating to be out of action all of last year – 2016 was meant to be a training year.

2 – Channel Relay
I’m really looking forward to doing another relay. I’ll be in a team of four with Rach, Cathy and Jayne and, fingers crossed, we’ll smash it!

3 – 2swim4life
I’ve signed up again to the 24 mile / 24 hour swim in Guildford again. When I did it in 2015 it was the biggest, hardest thing I’ve ever done and it broke me. I’m hoping this year that it will be good mental and physical train fun for the 2-way Windermere swim later in the year.

4 – 500kms
Not an event, but a personal target to swim 500kms over the year. I’d actually like to swim 600kms (50 per month), but I’d be more than happy with 500.  I managed 39.4kms in Jan.

Of course I’ll be swimming in a number of BLDSA events over the year as training swims and I’m also organising two BLDSA swims again this year.

Colwick Park – May 21st
A 1km swim for those wanting a shorter challenge and a 5km swim for those wanting to kick off their summer season with a bang. Both swims allow wetsuits.

Coniston – July 29th/30th
The Vets 3.5m swim (for those over 45) on the Saturday. And the full length 5.25m swim on the Sunday.

Both swims can be entered through Entry Central – just search for BLDSA to see all of our events.

Hopefully I’ll see you in the water in 2017.

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Jury Service for Politicians

The results of biggest two latest elections (the EU referendum and the US election) has brought me to two key conclusions:

  • The general public is no longer intelligent / informed / clever enough to decide on complex political issues
  • Anyone that is egotistical / arrogant / selfish enough to want to be a politician should automatically be barred from being one

Now those two things make the current system of electing represented officials difficult, so I have a solution for that:

  • Members of the public should be randomly selected to be an MP in a similar way to the way jury service is done

Let’s be honest, most of us feel that a random selection of people could hardly make a worse job of things than our current MPs are doing, while with enough civil service support the people could learn enough about the issues to make informed decisions – the kind of decisions they can’t make during an election.

Thoughts?

– – –

So I’m joking about the above, but only half joking. I do think that these two recent elections have seen a shift in the democratic process and how information is shared, understood, accepted or rejected by the electorate. I think, not just because I don’t like either of the two results, but because of how both campaigns, from both sides, were run, that something might well need to change.

How they were the same

Obviously the two elections were for different things with different protagonists, however there were a number of similarities.

One of the first is that general commentators discounted what turned out to the final result, “don’t worry, this could never happen.” In fact that line was being repeated right until the count, in both cases, showed that actually it just had. Some of that is due to the inaccuracies of the poling (joke: for people voting in the US election the polls were wrong; for those voting in the EU referendum it was the Poles that were wrong!), but much of it is due to the natural bias of the commentators (me included) meaning that they just couldn’t believe it would happen, instead of analysing the facts.

Another similarity is the way the voting patterns were split by age – in both cases the older generations voted in the final result, while the younger generations were on the losing side.

However, some of the commentary I’ve seen today would suggest that it was the split by educational level that was more influential – those with lower educational attainment voting for Brexit and Trump.

From what I can see, the biggest similarity is that a very large proportion (a majority of those that voted) used their vote as a vote against the ‘establishment’. In the EU referendum it was the establishment of Europe and the fact that most of the major politicians were supporting it. In the US Hilary is seen as one of the most establishment figures and her very experience for the job counted against her as she was seen as one of ‘them’.

Now, I would argue that the result of that anti-establishment vote has produced a worse result for those that wanted a change. In the UK what we’ve done is handed even more ‘power’ to the Tory government that can now claim a mandate for almost any right-wing policy they want claiming that it’s what the ‘people want’, without the checks and balances that the European parliament provided, or as they’ve tried to do, without any checks and balances from the British parliament. While in the US they have elected a man that has shown less than zero interest in the rights of the ‘common person’ so far as he has ridden rough-shod over people to run his businesses.

It’s here now

I was angry after the Brexit vote and while anger is easy to understand it’s not going to solve anything. What we may to do is accept.

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I don’t agree with the moves to block the triggering of Article 50 in the UK. I don’t want us to leave, but I think it is more important that we respect the result of the vote. Nor would I agree with any blocking or disrespect of Trump becoming President (I don’t like the #NotmyPresident hashtag).

That doesn’t mean that we should ‘do’ something, but that something isn’t to be bitter and reject the results. I’m not saying that I know exactly what we should do, but just being angry is the wrong thing.

The Causes

For a while the narrative amongst the Remain voters was that the Leavers were misguided, that they didn’t understand the ‘real’ issues, that they were only ‘protesting’ and didn’t mean it. In a similar way most commentators didn’t believe that Trump would be elected as those people that were claiming that they would vote for him would somehow wake up or come round and realise their mistake before the actual election.

Maybe now is the time to accept that some people really do feel that these choices are the best way forward. Maybe they voted with conviction after looking at the options and actively made this choice. Maybe the alternatives presented to them they considered to be worse for them.

We may have to consider the possibility that these results were active choices by people.

For the EU referendum vote I strongly believe that the Remain side made a huge mistake in not clearly demonstrating the benefits of the EU (that could be a separate post of its own), but what they didn’t do was address the concerns of the people who were against Europe. It would seem that for both elections there was quite a strongly divided electorate and in both cases both sides really only talked to their own ‘team’. Certainly the losing sides failed to understand that there was real anger – and I mean real, even though it may not be ‘justified’ that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t real to those that felt it – and therefore failed to even attempt to address it.

The left needs to take some blame for this – and not just during these election cycles, but over the last 20 years or so. The view that multiculturism, gender equality, open borders etc etc are good things just hasn’t got through. These are the issues that have been roundly rejected, yet are the basis of much of left-wing politics.

Another key cause has been how the media and social media have been used. The reporting that someone said something, with limited, if any, fact checking by the mainstream media and the spread of memes and conspiracy theories on social media have greatly affected how people have received and processed the information they needed / wanted to make a decision.

Finally, I genuinely think that the current state of capitalism is a key contributor to this situation. What most people are angry about is the loss of their jobs, or the fear they will lose jobs. That we are not as affluent, as a society, as we once were or as we were promised we would be. They have been looking for someone to blame and the ‘others’ become an easy scapegoat. Yet it isn’t European or Syrian immigrants (in the UK) or Muslims (in the US) that have caused this. Instead as a society we have allowed spiralling salaries and the profit at all costs culture – and most of the costs are the workers and their jobs, or if not their jobs then their salaries.

A Trump win may be the best result

Having thought about this all day I do believe that a Trump win is possibly the best result from last night. Not for a moment did I want him to win, or support anything he has said through the election. But I’ll explain my two key reasons for thinking this:

If he had lost, and his supporters had lost, then the rhetoric of the final few days of the election would have immediately resulted in ‘a fix’ being called. If Clinton had won almost half of the US voters would have felt they had been cheated yet again by the establishment and I dread to think how that anger and disappointment may have been expressed. On top of that the Republican dominated Congress would feel obliged to restrict and hinder President Clinton as much as possible.

However a Trump in the White House might not be as bad as he was on the election trail. I’m still pretty sure he’ll be terrible, but I suspect that a combination of his lack of experience will mean he will need to rely in advisors and his ego will mean that he’ll actually want to be a popular president.

This may just be a vain hope, but we can just hope.

– – –

Caveat – I’m not a professional commentator, in fact I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about. This is just a rant in the aftermath of what, to me, is a truly shocking result. I’d be happy to hear more thoughts…

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Collecting pebbles in Salford

There’s a tradition that if you complete a channel swim you collect a pebble from the beach in France as a memento. This weekend I completed my Aspire Channel Challenge by swimming 1,000 metres at USwim in Salford, so I collected my ‘French’ pebbles in Salford.

screenshot-2016-11-07-18-09-15

Obviously, there’s still time to sponsor me: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-2016-aspire-channel-swim

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