Monthly Archives: April 2014

What if Michael Phelps were an open water swimmer?

I wrote about Michael Phelps’s return to swimming the other day. In it I talked about Michael getting fat – cos I’m a deep and serious blogger like that.

However, if you wanted a slightly less serious* take on it all, then Simon Griffiths from H2Open has written a great post. He asks the question – how might things be different if Michael Phelps was an open water swimmer and reaches a disappointing conclusion:

“In short, his medal tally, and his net worth, would almost certainly be considerably diminished if he were an open water swimmer.”

So Simon goes on to make two very good points:

1 – The number of open water swimming events at the Olympics should increase to allow us to have highly decorated stars such as Phelps.

2 – Someone should get Phelps into a lake now he’s returning to swimming.

It would be great to see the additional profile for open water swimming if either or both of those happened.

*Simon’s post is of course very serious and very good and you should read it:

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Getting Faster

My swim yesterday had a few difficulties, not least of which was a hangover* from the night before. I also had to contend with other people in the lane – not all of whom understood how to behave. So after being disrupted from my gentle hangover-managing swim again, I decided to do a few sprints to keep it interesting at the end.

And the good news is that even with a hangover I’m getting quicker.

I did the first 100m in 1:40 and the only other one I managed to complete (because people in the lane interrupted me, not because I was too hungover) in 1:37.

It may not sound like much to you real swimmers out there, but as I was delighted if I broke 2 minutes a couple of years ago, I’ll take it.

– – –

* You can tell I was still hungover as after my first 100m I thought I’d done it in 1:10 at first. I was amazed – and delighted and it took me about 10 seconds to realise that I’d set off at 30 seconds past the minute!

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Don’t Be A Kn0b!

There’s a guy that sometimes swims in the fast lane at my local pool. He’s not a bad swimmer, I think he’s actually training up for a triathlon. However, he’s not that quick. He’s not slow enough to need to be in the medium lane, but he is often the slowest in the fast lane.

Now that wouldn’t normally be a problem… if he wasn’t a knob.

Unfortunately he just plods up and down the lane without ever letting people pass. The etiquette is quite simple – if someone is quicker than you, let them pass. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of an important training set, because you know what – so are they!

I have mentioned this to him before and we came to a strange compromise – he suggested that if I wanted to pass him I should tap his toes. I wasn’t keen on the arrangement, but I agreed to it. So when I saw him today I made an effort to speed up a bit to make sure that I tapped him quickly so I wasn’t stuck behind him for another length.

For some reason however, instead of letting me turn and swim on, after waiting a couple of seconds he started to turn with me. So for a moment or two he was right on my toes. To do this once might have been simple poor timing, however to do it three consecutive times is just being a knob.

On top of that he was back to his old tricks and not letting anyone else pass. So when he turned into me for the fourth time I decided it was time to have a word.

All I tried to do was explain the etiquette, to explain that while he was trying to train hard, so were the rest of us and that everyone’s swim would be so much easier if he just behaved himself. But what I really wanted to say was… “stop being a knob.”


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Me too Michael, me too

I love this story about Michael Phelps returning to competitive swimming. Especially the reason he’s given for the return:

“Michael Phelps says concerns about weight gain were behind his decision to return to the sport… “Getting back into shape was the number one thing,” he said.”

He’s basically saying, when I swam a lot, I ate a lot. I still want to eat a lot, so I better swim some more.

I think we can all see the logic in that!


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Analysing my stroke

One of the sessions we had on the Mallorca trip the other week was some stroke analysis. It wasn’t done in great depth – with a group of 16 it’s hard to concentrate on any one individual for too long. However, it’s the most analysis my stroke has ever had, so I found it fascinating.

The first element was to film the stroke from three different angles: overhead; side-on underwater; head-on underwater. It’s the first time I’ve ever had the chance to see my stroke like this, so it was very illuminating. Here it is:

This is a film I took of the TV screen which was playing the film of my stroke, so the quality’s not great, but you get the idea. There were five main things that I thought / spotted as I watched this:

– Ooh look, that’s me swimming – as I said I’ve never seen myself swim before.

– My legs are going faster than I expected – however thinking about it I think that this was about it being earlier in the morning and chilly in the pool. I was just trying to wake and warm myself up.

– My right arm is close to crossing over – this had to be pointed out to me, I didn’t really spot it, but I don’t think this is a major issue, but certainly something I need to be aware of.

– My left hand goes down and then back up after entering the water – it looks really pronounced on the side-on view. I suspect that this is something that I do to try and elongate my stroke and extend the glide phase, but as you can see (although I was told too) it’s quite inefficient and I’m holding the water back rather than gliding through it.

– I just don’t rotate my right side at all – and this is something that I’m going to really work on.

But I think the main thing I took from watching this is – Ooh look, that’s me swimming! Deep insight there!


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¡Vaya Idiota!

It was late on Sunday afternoon and I’d had a bad swim in that day – feeling very sick after the feed I was given didn’t agree with me. Not only that, but I could only find one shop open in the small town in Mallorca and I could already feel my skin getting sunburnt.

That’s my excuse anyway.

While I was out shopping I bought some moisturiser as I could forget to get some in the UK before I left. I could feel the sun cooking my skin and I knew that I had a lot more swimming to do, so I’d be in the sun for a long time that week. The only shop I could find open was a small general store, but they had a “health” section. So I studied the bottles. I didn’t want to get anything too scented and feminine – I just needed manly moisturiser!!

Now I’m no expert in Spanish, but I saw “Nutricion Intensa” and the Dove brand and it looked good to me. So off I went.

I spent the rest of the week applying it to the many areas of me that burnt – especially my back and shoulders, my face and behind my knees. Even with liberal applications of suncream my pasty white skin suffered the effects of sun, especially during the long six-hour swim we did. However, this Spanish cream didn’t seem that good and it was very sticky and hard for the skin to absorb. But I just assumed that it was a Spanish “flavour” and got on with it.

I carried on applying it once I was back in the UK as the sunburn and then peeling were really bad. More moisturiser can only help right?

That’s why it was near the bathroom sink and that’s why I was able to study the bottle again as I was brushing my teeth this morning. Today, for the first time I read the words “gel de ducha” underneath the intense nutrition stuff.

I’m still no expert in Spanish, but I think I’ve been liberally applying shower gel to my sunburnt body! It may not have helped the sunburn, but at least I was clean!

Gel de Ducha


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SwimTrek Day 5

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

– – –
The final day started with yet another swim. But this one was much shorter and much more relaxed. We met up before breakfast and wandered down to the beach and spent almost as much time taking photos as we did on the 15 minute swim we did.

A group shot just before the last swim of the week

A group shot just before the last swim of the week

It was lovely though. The water was beautifully clear again and it was a great way to start the day but end the week.

It brought the total swim time to the week to 14 hours for me:
– 1 hour followed by 2 hours on Sunday (although I’m only counting 1:45 for the second swim as I felt so ill I hardly moved for the last bit)
– 2 hours and 3 hours on Monday
– 6 hours on Tuesday
– 15 minutes on Thursday

My normal pool speed is about 21 minutes per kilometre, so if we assume that with the addition of feeding, the cold water and fatigue I slowed down to an average speed of 23 minutes per kilometre, which gives me a weekly total of 36.5kms.

That said, one of the things that I’m most pleased about from the week is the fact that I felt strong in the water for nearly all of it. I may not be that quick, but if I can keep steady then I’ll hit my targets. If I can maintain a pace of 23 minutes per kilometre for Windermere, then I’ll be getting home in around 6 and a half hours.

The rest of the day involved lazing by the pool, chatting, having lunch, getting to the airport, waiting, flying, driving home and then eventually sleeping!

Who is that swimming God?

Who is that swimming God?

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SwimTrek Day 4

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

– – –
Today was intended to be a gentle recovery swim, but my sunburn was so bad after yesterday’s swim that I couldn’t face even being outside. It was so frustrating as I had done all I could do yesterday – I had applied* factor 50 before we had left the hotel room and then before we got into the water I had applied* another layer of factor 30 on top. Yet I guess six hours in salt water will rub most of that off and my back was in agony.

* I say I applied it – I had it applied to me by other members of the group – thanks guys, especially James.

So instead of going out for the swim, I stayed in the room and read for a bit. It turns out that hardly anyone stayed in the water for the full two hours, but it was quite an eventful swim as it was the group’s first experience of jellyfish. Nearly everyone got stung it seems (helping their decision to get out) and so, while not wanting to be stung, I do feel that I missed out on an “experience”.

The afternoon was time for another seminar and more chats from the guides. I got some training advice and general pep talks about future swims. For others it was a chance to ask vital questions about channel experience.

Then finally we had the chance to go out, let our [salty and bedraggled] hair down and have a few beers. A group dinner and then onto a bar saw the group come together even more. And over dinner we got awarded our certificates for the six-hour swim that we had done.

The full group, with shots on the bar waiting for us.

The full group, with shots on the bar waiting for us.


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SwimTrek Day 3

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

– – –
Today was the day of the “big” swim – a six-hour non-stop swim that for anyone doing a solo channel crossing needs to be fulfilled and verified before they can get in at Dover. So for many of our group today’s swim was the main reason to attend this week’s camp.

I could afford to be a bit more relaxed about it. For a channel relay swim you only need to do a two-hour qualifying swim – and I had done that yesterday… However, it would of course be good practice… But I was tired and didn’t want to ruin myself… But of course to work through my demons would give me a great boost for Windermere… But that’s months away and I’ve already done it, so I know I can.

In the end I decided that I was definitely going to swim for four hours and then see how I felt.

The day started with an early breakfast and you could tell that we were a bit more apprehensive as there wasn’t quite so much chat. We caught the boat again and went a bit further round the coast to Mondrago Bay. And again it was beautiful. We actually had a double bay to swim around, with some buoys to mark the edges of our course and the boat in the middle which was acting as the feed station.

Suncream and vaseline applied we got in the water at 9:20am – it was only once we set off that I realised that meant we would be swimming until after 3pm! Madness.

It was another beautiful day with the weather and the first hour or so was pretty nice. There were some cold patches, but I just swam hard through those and back into “warmer” water. I was extending my feed time slightly to about 40 minutes and the feeds were working well. It was cold and I was stiff from all the week’s swimming, so it wasn’t ever easy, but the first 2-3 hours happened and I was soon at half way.

But then after about three and a half hours it got tough. My swimming had felt slow throughout – which I think was partly due to all the work we’d already done, but this slowness meant that I seemed to feel the cold more. I convinced myself to soldier on to at least my four hour target, but I wasn’t happy.

After four hours I was just swimming loop to loop. I could actually feel myself shivering in some of the patches of cold water – something that I have never noticed before and every time I came past the boat I wanted to get out. It was only the encouragement from the boat (some of it less gentle than others) and in particular one of the other swimmers, Robin, who was a similar pace to me so we kept meeting each other at the feeds, that kept me going. That and my own stubbornness and the fact that I didn’t want to lose face in the group.

I hated that section of the swim. Really hated it.

However, by five hours, although the swimming didn’t get any easier and the water didn’t get any warmer I knew I would do it and so I got happier. We had joked before we set off about songs we should sing to keep us going and that was when “Don’t stop me now” by Queen got into my head, along with “Dignity” by Deacon Blue (a song I sing to my son).

The last ten minutes of the swim were a very strange mixture of desperately counting down the minutes willing for it to end, while swimming really strongly and quite enjoying it.

In the end of our group of 16, all but two of us completed the six hour swim. And those two, a couple, didn’t need or intend to anyway. They are signed up to a relay, so didn’t need to do the six hours. But both of them, after really struggling with the cold all week, completed their two hour requirement.

It was a fairly subdued boat ride back – but this time due to exhaustion. We had a couple of hours before a group dinner and when we got to the restaurant you could tell that we all wanted to eat, drink and be merry, but none of us could quite manage any of them – due to tiredness and fat tongues / lips caused by the salt water. But I think we all still managed to be pretty satisfied with a good day’s work.

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SwimTrek Day 2

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

– – –
After worrying about my feeding issue I really wasn’t looking forward to today. The plan for the day was a three hour swim, followed by a two one, with lunch in between.

To get to today’s swim location we all got in a little, local cruise boat and traveled down the coast for a couple of kilometres. What a beautiful coastline, with some very impressive properties. If anyone wants to give me one…

Then we were quickly into our first swim, the three hour one. The day was overcast and it had the look of a nice day if only the sun would burn through the clouds. Unfortunately it refused to do that throughout our morning swim – which made everything just feel so much colder.

But, and most importantly, I did it. Using my own feed and not the Maxi I swam the three hour swim and almost enjoyed it! It was possibly too cold (water temp about 14 degrees C) for enjoyment, but for me at least it was a MASSIVE relief.

Lunch was a quick grab of pasta and bread – but amazingly presented given the confines of the boat, especially as there were 24 of us to feed. But then it was time to get back in for the afternoon swim – only two hours back in the cold water!

The bay for today's swim

The bay for today’s swim

Fortunately, while we were having lunch the sun had burnt through and so it was gorgeous afternoon which put us all in a better mood. The afternoon seemed to go by in a bit of a blur, but again I was very close to enjoying it. I actually felt quite strong in the swimming and even on the last lap of the course (probably just under 1km) I “raced” my roommate who is significantly quicker than me (he didn’t actually know it was a race, but it still counts for me). He beat me by about 25m in the end, but I was pleased that my fastest lap of the day was the last one.

A post swim selfie

A post swim selfie

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