Monthly Archives: August 2012

The final countdown

This is my last post before the “big” swim.

I’m working as normal today (Thursday), then I’m taking the day off on Friday to travel up to the Lake District. It obviously doesn’t take all day to get there, but I want to get there in good time and to be as relaxed as possible. What I don’t want to do is to be hunched over a computer all day, then face Friday evening traffic in the car all evening, then have to get up early on Saturday to swim. So we’re driving up on Friday.

On Saturday it’s an early start. Not only will I be a bit nervous, but we have to meet up at the start to  register by about 8am. For those of you that know Winderemere the start is at the southern end of the lake, near Newby Bridge.

Once everyone is registered the briefing meetings will take place. A longer one for the boat crews and a slightly shorter one for the swimmers. Obviously on a big lake, with lots of other traffic on it, the safety briefing is really important – especially for the boat crews. All I’ll do is follow my rowing boat, they’ve got the difficult job of navigating the lake.

Then at 9am, in theory, we’ll set off. And it’s just the small matter of 10 1/2 miles to swim.

The finish of the swim is at Waterhead, Ambleside at the northern end of the lake. The first few people will probably be arriving there from about 1pm. It’ll be more like 4pm when I get there.

I’m looking forward to it (although I’m obviously a bit nervous). I’m confident that I’ve done all I could in terms of training and preparation. Other people may have been able to do more – but given all the work and family commitments I’ve done all I could. But I have done ALL I could. I’m also confident that I’ll try as hard as I can and won’t give up. That’s not to say that I’ll definitely complete the swim, but I know that I’ll do all I can to make sure I do.

Although I’ve hinted at the time I expect to finish the swim, I’m really not aiming for a specific time. My goal is to “complete” and not to “compete”. I’m obviously not expecting to win, but to be honest I don’t really care what my time is as long as I finish. [For this year at least] The challenge is the swim itself, not the time.

So the final countdown has started, wish me luck…

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One Week Today

At about this time next Saturday I’ll be setting off to swim the length of Windermere – 10.5 miles.

About 7 hours later I will hopefully be getting out again having completed my challenge.

I must be bloody mad.

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The birth of channel swimming?

On this day in 1875 Matthew Webb set off from Dover to start what would become the first ever successful channel swim – he arrived in Calais less than 22 hours later after what turned out to be about a 39 mile swim.

It could be said that that swim set in motion the open water swimming movement (certainly the channel swimming movement). So, Matthew Webb, thank you.

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Next Challenge

I’ve decided to sign up for something as soon as possible after Windermere, so that I don’t just sit around on my backside feeling pleased with myself (or sorry for myself depending on the result).

So I’ve entered the One Step Beyond Last Minute Tri. It’s actually in my local village which is a help. The only problem is that I’m not sure that I can cycle and run the distances required.

I suppose that’s why it’s a challenge.

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Do wetsuits make swimming “dangerous”?

I swam in an event on Saturday. It was  a one-mile swim at my local lake and was quite good fun. I was a little disappointed with my time (35 minutes), especially once I realised that the winner was a junior girl that did it in 21 minutes and 14 seconds. To be honest it might as well be a different sport.

But that’s not what I want to talk about – I’ll bore you about my lost youth, the intricacies of my swimming technique and discussions of my training regime over a pint sometime. What I wanted to talk about was wetsuits.

As I said, the swim was only one mile and the water was really warm (about 21 degrees), yet there was only me and one other that got in the water in only a swimming costume. Two others had long costumes / short wetsuits, but the rest all had a wetsuit on.

What were they afraid of?

Surely it’s not the cold – it was maybe a bit nippy as you got in, but once swimming it was positively warm. And everyone getting into this event will have been in significantly colder water (with a wetsuit, but even so). Was it the water itself?

If I’m not careful I’m going to head off into the same kind of argument that is often used to argue against a helmet law for cyclists. I’ve already talked about that one (read it here), so I’m not going to get into that here, but there are some parallels.

Wetsuits seem to present the illusion that people need “protection” while open water swimming – either from the cold or from the water itself. Yet protection isn’t needed from either. Yet this idea that it will be “bloody cold” puts more people off from getting in in the first place.

People may come back and say that many of the swimmers at this event on the weekend were triathletes and as a wetsuit is mandatory in many triathlons, they were merely practising in race conditions. Which of course is a valid argument for the individuals involved, but I would just refer this post to the triathlon organisers instead.

So if you love open water swimming, try it as a “skin swimmer”, show people that the water is lovely and then persuade more people to join you.

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Man with no limbs swims Bering Strait

I’m not sure what there is to say, except amazing. What an incredible feat.

Read about it on the Guardian here.

 

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Next Post

I love the concept of this post – I think that anyone that pushes themselves in events like this has something similar. We do it for two main reasons: 1 – it becomes our form of meditation, this is particularly true of swimming as you also have more sensory deprivation as it’s often just you and dark water; 2 – it takes you to the dark places and by doing that we know we can return and return stronger. If we go to these dark places by choice then there aren’t many things that the world can throw at us that we can’t cope with.

Tri Fatherhood

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

Sunday after church you handed me this, Izzy:

It wasn’t by accident. In your 8 years of life you’ve always delivered the voice of truth in our home. I had just finished complaining to Mommy about a recent run of “bad luck” that we’ve had at home in the last few months with appliances breaking, both of our vehicles breaking down, hospital bills, dental bills, and other unexpected emergencies. The truth is, I was whining and feeling sorry for myself.

You brought things into focus for your dad.

That emotion set off a discussion with Mommy about how most people go through life, constantly trying to get more, meanwhile oblivious to their temporary place in the grand scheme. Life is flying by. Their children are growing up. The whole thing is a short journey and we’re missing it. We distract ourselves by chasing. Hopeful that

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Getting Quicker

Finally the training seems to be making a difference.

Not only am I trying to get as much swimming in as possible – especially in open water, but I’m also going to gym regularly to work my upper body strength. I’m also always thinking about technique and how I can improve that to make a difference.

Well this morning they all combined to allow me to swim my quickest pool mile yet.

I normally take just over 1 minute to do each 50m lap (ie two lengths of the 25m pool). Therefore, as I need to do 32 laps to complete a mile my mile time is usually around 33-34 minutes. This morning I did it in 30 mins and 45 seconds. Not only that, but I wasn’t pushing too hard either.

Obviously I won’t keep that pace up for Windermere – but it’s good to know that I’m making improvements.

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Weight…

Argh. How can it be the case that after all this recent exercise I still haven’t lost any weight? I weighed myself this morning and if anything I’ve put on a couple of pounds.

Now this blog isn’t really about weight or losing weight. And I’m certainly not going to be posting videos and photos of me before and after weight loss, like Julia_B has done (although it’s well worth a read if you’re interested). What I’m more interested in are the challenges I’ve set myself. But of course these challenges started because I realised that I needed to lose some weight.

As I see it there are two big problems at the moment to me losing weight. The first is my very sedentary lifestyle – apart from the exercise I do I’m almost always sat down (usually at my desk), so I need to develop a routine to get up and move about a bit more – if nothing else it will help my posture and mental alertness I’m sure. The second is that I seem to think that when I return from a swim or a workout that I can eat whatever I like, ‘cos, well I’ve just burnt lots of calories haven’t I? I know what I need to do with this one – but it’ll be tough.

As it happens, I’ve picked a sport that requires a little bit extra body fat – you need to keep warm on the long swims. In fact my Grandad used to try and put on weight just before and during the swimming season and then lose it over the winter.

What I have noticed recently is a slight change in body shape. Shoulders and lats are getting stronger and bigger and that is creating a little bit of a taper effect down to my waist – it’s not obvious, but there are differences.

At present the plan is that while I’m still swimming outdoors not to worry about the weight – it was just a bit frustrating this morning – but once the season is over to try and follow my Grandad’s lead and lose a bit over the winter. Don’t hold your breath though!

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My views on the cycle helmet debate

I actually wrote this post a few days ago and then sat on it. The main reason being that I’m not sure if it’s wise to open this massive can of worms. But, as you can see, I’ve decided to post anyway.

I admit that I’m no expert on this, but this is my view on the way this debate is being presented to the masses, most of whom, like me, aren’t experts. So, here goes:

– – –

In a terrible coinciding of news, a few hours after Bradley Wiggins won Olympic gold on his bike a cyclist died near the Olympic Park after being hit by an official Olympic bus.

It’s obviously very sad and a real tragedy and our thoughts go out to the friends and family.

Not surprisingly in his press conference Wiggins was asked about it and his reply included him suggesting that all cyclists should wear a helmet as ‘Ultimately, if you get knocked off and you don’t have a helmet on, then you can’t argue…You can get killed if you don’t have a helmet on.’

What then happened was a huge swell of support with many people claiming that all cyclists should be made [with laws introduced] to wear a helmet. And of course an equally loud group saying how ridiculous that was and how helmets actually reduce safety.

Now I don’t belong to either camp, but I do find the non-helmet argument a strange and possibly disturbing one – so I thought I’d explain why in more detail.

As I understand it the non-helmet* argument is split into three key points.

*I’m using the term “non-helmet” to describe those people that argue against those that immediately want a helmet law. I’m aware that some of those people wear helmets occasionally, but are arguing against a helmet law.

Anyway, onto those three points:
1 – A thin bit of plastic won’t do you much good if you’re hit by a truck
2 – Forcing people to wear helmets puts people off cycling and actually cycling is safer when more people do it
3 – The helmet question is a distraction and want we actually need is better, more cyclist friendly infrastructure and attitudes

So firstly, three quick replies to those points:

1 – Can’t disagree with that, but a helmet may help reduce serious injury if you hit the road, or a branch.

2 – I know that stats are wheeled out (no pun intended) to say that when a helmet law is introduced the level of participation in cycling drops, but those are historical figures and why do we have to blindly assume that they will be repeated?

3 – I agree completely with the second half of this point, but as for the first half I believe that it is the non-helmet brigade who make it such a distraction.

And this is at the heart of my problem with this argument.

By instantly shouting down anyone that suggests that a helmet law may be a good thing, they are further stigmatising helmet wearing and further enforcing their argument that fewer people ride when there’s a helmet law.

Instead, why not embrace helmet wearing and make it a natural thing when it comes to cycling? Law or no law doesn’t really matter to me, but the non-helmet brigade need to accept that this isn’t an argument they will win – when incidents like this happen then some people will instantly say “helmet law”.

So go with that. Thank them for their concern about the welfare of cyclists and then suggest that helmet wearing is merely the start. If the same effort was spent in promoting cycling even with helmets as goes into shouting down a proposed helmet law then the numbers wouldn’t drop.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that the passion that is shown on trying to improve the infrastructure and change attitudes to cycling to make it safer should be lessened in any way, instead fight with the helmet brigade and not against.

But on the issue of the stats, I accept that I haven’t read them all in detail, but I would like to question some of the conclusions. As have proper studies been done in relation to not only the number of cyclists, but also the number of other vehicles on the road? Because when this Daily Mail article (and one that was specifically pointed out to me as having got the non-helmet response spot on) says: “You are far, far less likely to be killed on a bicycle on the streets of Amsterdam or Copenhagen than you are in New York or Los Angeles.” My first response is “of course”. That would appear to be obvious based on the number of other cars, lorries, trucks etc. as much as it about the safety in numbers argument.

In summary, I believe that by fighting the helmet lobby, the non-helmet brigades are themselves making cycling less safe. By focusing on this argument they are alienating themselves from a majority voice that just thinks “helmet = safer”. They should embrace this group, embrace helmets as a start of making cycling safer, push for mass participation and spend their energies on the important stuff such as the infrastructure and attitudes.

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