Monthly Archives: July 2012

Feeling a bit down

I love the open water swimming and really enjoy the feeling of getting in the water and just swimming. However, I’m trying to enter a couple more events tonight and I need crews for them both and I just feel really uncomfortable asking for favours from my friends for this.

Both of the events are in the Lake District and start early on Saturday, so anyone volunteering to crew has to stay over on the Friday night – so that’s an expense for them, as well as meaning they have to leave work early on Friday to get there, or drive all Friday evening.

I’m happy to do these things, but I’m doing them. I don’t see why I need to ask other people and I don’t like doing it. It doesn’t feel fair and I feel uncomfortable doing it. So I’m having a moan.

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Windermere this year

A little while ago I asked whether I should try to swim Windermere this year. After all, the original plan was to spend this year getting used to open water swimming and then to do “the big one” next year. But that was after the [really tough] Bala swim and before the [much easier] Coniston swim.

So, based on the views of far more experienced swimmers than me, as well as the feeling I had when I finished Coniston, I’m going to try and enter.

There are a few things I need to tick off first, not least getting a crew together that will row for me – for the bigger swims a kayak isn’t enough and you need a rowing boat – but if I can do that then I’m in.

I’ll need to think of a new challenge for next year at this rate.

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Kayaker Needed

As I’ve mentioned in my posts about the Bala swim and the Coniston swim, the kayakers are an essential part of the event and the effort they put in to support the swimmers cannot ever be over-appreciated.

If anyone would like to feel the immense gratitude of a swimmer, then we are looking for a kayaker for a swim in Ullswater this Sunday (29th July). It’s not for me, but for my cousin. It’s a 7 mile swim that starts early on Sunday morning, but should be finished by lunch time, so you can get home in time for your roast dinner.

If there is anyone that could do it, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll pass on your details – we’d be very grateful.

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Coniston Report

Before I do anything I have to say a massive thank you to my canoeist Lucy HG. Last week at Bala (my first big swim) Jon was excellent as he kept me going and motivated, with just the right amount of coaxing and cajoling. There wasn’t as much of that this time around, firstly because I didn’t need it, but mainly because Lucy spent all of her time keeping the kayak upright.

It was choppy.

A choppy Coniston

Apparently it couldn’t get much choppier without the event being cancelled. Not only that, but the waves were blowing down the course, meaning that the kayaks were getting pushed way beyond the swimmers. Poor old Lucy spent all of her time paddling backwards just to make sure she was going as slow as I was. She did an amazing job, and yet again – thank you.

However, the one thing that Lucy needs to do is be more believable when she tells me that we’re close to the finish. At one stage I took a moment to get my bearings and I heard Lucy say: “You’re doing really well, nearly there.” “Yeah, yeah,” I thought, as according to my calculations I was about a mile away. But a couple of minutes later I heard, “nearly there” again. This time I thought, “leave me alone woman,” so I looked up and was about to say that when Lucy said, “that yellow buoy is the finish.” We were only about 200 metres away, so I put my head down and got on with it.

In the end I finished in 3 hours and 6 seconds.

While I was disappointed not to break 3 hours, I was expecting to be closer to 4 hours, so I was delighted with the time. Last week I did 6 miles in 4 hrs 31 mins (45 mins per mile), this week I did 5.25 miles in 3 hrs (34 mins per mile). Or to put it another way, last week’s winner did it in 2 hrs 39 mins, while this week’s winner (the same person) did it in 1 hr 58 mins. Apart from the fact that those times don’t appear human to me, they were 41 mins quicker, while I was 91 mins quicker.

What caused this? I’m not entirely sure myself, but I suspect it’s a combination of: just getting on with it – I was a bit of a tourist last week and enjoyed the view too much; confidence in the distance – I knew I could do 5.25 miles, after all I swam 6 miles last week; being a bit stronger and swim fitter – again last week’s swim helped; and maybe just getting a bit better.

So, onwards and upwards now.

Update

Read Lucy’s blog about it here – I thought she was a more experienced kayaker 😉

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Windermere this year?

After swimming Bala last weekend I had a very good judge of swimmers (and a long distance swimmer herself) tell me that she thought I would be more than capable of swimming Windermere this year.

It hadn’t even crossed my mind before she said to be honest, my plan was always to swim it next year. Mainly because I had assumed that there was no way I’d be ready this year. But now… well it’s got me thinking.

I’ve got a 5 1/4 mile swim in Coniston this weekend, so I need to see how that goes first. It might be that last week’s exertions have taken too much out of me and I struggle this weekend. But if not, well maybe there’s a chance.

I’d love to hear your comments / thoughts on this. Should I go for it?

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Swimming Photos

It turns out that Jon, my canoeist for the Bala swim, is not only an excellent canoeist, but also a pretty good photographer.

I could see him taking the odd photo as I was swimming along and it took all of my will power to not gurn for the camera and give a cheesy smile. Looking at the results, I’m really pleased that I managed that as some of the photos are amazing.

Here’s one of the people entering the water at the start (I’m at the back right).

Getting in

While here are some actions shots:

Swimming

I’m winning

Close up

And finally, me finishing:

Finished (knackered)

As you can also see, the scenery around Lake Bala is stunning. I obviously don’t get chance to see much more than water though.

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Swimming Lake Bala

Yesterday I swam the two-way Bala swim, organised by the BLDSA.

Lake Bala

It sounds a lot easier when it’s written down like that. In reality it was a six mile swim that took me 4 hrs and 31 minutes and towards the end in particular was agony. My shoulders were burning with every stroke in the last mile or so, but – and this is the good bit – I did it.

I stayed overnight on Friday near Bala, so I had a relaxed morning after a wonderful breakfast at the B&B and I just had time to have a snack before the briefing meeting at midday. Then it was time to get changed, put on some grease and get ready to go in the water ahead of the 1pm start.

The water was cold – 14 degrees – but once we got swimming I didn’t feel it. In fact apart from a couple of sections the cold wasn’t an issue at all.

It all started well and I got into my rhythm quickly and was really enjoying it. We got to the first landmark, the white house (no, not the White House), which is at about 1.25 miles, in about 45 minutes. And then it was time for a quick snack and drink.

At this point I have to praise my wonderful canoeist. I’d never met him before yesterday, I found him through the incredible kindness of strangers who had responded to a Twitter plea and had introduced me to people who could introduce me to people who could help. Anyway Jon agreed to canoe for me and he provided the perfect mix of calm, support, reassurance, guidance (literally and figuratively) and even technical advice. And towards the end he also cleverly appealed to my competitive spirit, but more about that soon.

After the first stop we hit the cold patch, but once through that it felt good and steady and actually felt like I was making good time. Unfortunately what happened then was I became too much of a tourist. I stopped swimming hard and started to look around and enjoy the scenery a bit too much. That meant that instead of making good time I didn’t reach the turn until 2 hours and 22 minutes.

I was disappointed in the halfway time so I put my head down and just swam for the next mile or so. But then things started to get hard. The furthest I’d done in training was 4 1/2 miles, so as I was reaching that distance I could really feel it. For a while I was really concerned that I wouldn’t make it, it just seemed to be going on forever … and ever. But then I saw the white house again – it was tucked around a headland and was an incredibly welcome sight.

It was at this point that Jon started appealing to my competitive nature, telling me that the breast stroke swimmer was gaining on me. This was the tough bit. I was desperate to finish, desperate to beat the breast stroker and I also wanted to beat 4 1/2 hours, so I dug in. For a while I was grunting like a female tennis player with every stroke, fortunately though my head was submerged so it didn’t sound like Centre Court.

Well, I achieved two of those goals.

I didn’t quite beat the time I was aiming for. But then, as predicted I took, almost to the second, the same time as I took to finish my first marathon. In my second marathon I knocked about 20 minutes off my time, so that’s the goal for next year. In the meantime it’s more training for Windermere, starting with a 5 1/4 mile swim next weekend in Coniston Water.

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6 miles … Done

Did it!

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6 miles … *gulp*

This weekend sees the first real challenge of my swimming training – I’m doing the two-way Lake Bala event, organised by the BLDSA.

Looks pretty there doesn’t it? I’m not so sure it’ll feel like that as I’m swimming it. The lake is 3 miles long, so the two-way event is 6 miles.

To put this into perspective, the longest swim I have done so far in training is 4 1/2 miles. That took me just under 3 1/4 hours, so I’m expecting this to take me close to 4 1/2 hours. Again, for a bit of perspective, a few years ago I ran a couple of marathons – I did London in 4hrs 31mins and then Dublin in 4hrs 10mins. If I complete this swim in less then my Dublin time I’d be delighted, but either way I’m effectively swimming a “marathon”.

And this is only part of the training so that I can swim the 10 1/2 mile Windermere.

To top it all there’s a lake monster called Teggie.

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1,000kms update

Those of you that have bothered to look at the About page on this blog will see that I’m trying to complete 1,000kms of exercise this year (according to a weird calculation method I have invented).

As the year was half-way through a couple of weeks ago I thought I would provide an update as to where I am.

As of the end of June I have:

– Swum – 139.5kms (scored as 279kms)
– Run – 14.8kms (scored as 14.8kms)
– Cycled – 397.88kms (scored as 132.63kms)

In total, that’s 552.18kms, but as I divide the cycling kilometres by 3 (and double the swimming ones), the adjusted score is actually 426.43kms.

After six months, I’m about 74kms down on my target.

To be honest, I’m actually quite pleased about that. As you can see I’ve hardly done any running as I had a very bad, recurring calf injury which stopped me from running (I’ve only got back into running this month – and even then not much).

I’ve also had a couple of very busy periods, both professionally and personally. Late Feb / early March was a very busy time at work as there was a major conference in Barcelona and so we supported a number of clients out there – it meant long days in the build-up and a very busy week out there during the show. Then in June my wife was away for a couple of weeks (her mum was ill), so training took a back seat while I was a temporary single-parent.

Yet despite these setbacks I’m still in touching distance. I was afraid that when I added all the numbers up I would be at a “well I might as well not bother” place. Actually, I’m at a “great, a bit more effort and I’ll get there” place. Already in July I’m about 20kms ahead of target for the month and I’ve got a couple of long swims coming up, so I’m hopeful I’ll be back on track soon.

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