If you’re interested in any of the BLDSA swims, this summary is well worth a read.
With my publicity hat on, I have been intending to write a post about the BLDSA Swim Series to inform new and existing members roughly what each swim is like. I hope at least someone finds this of use out of the ca. 1000 Facebook followers we have on this page.
Not only can I talk with an element of experience (after having done them all) but, more importantly, each swim is cleverly designed to help you on your way from open water novice to serious marathon swimmer or whatever you want to be in between (of course with the wonderful BLDSA safety cover by your side)!
I think the calendar is perfect for both those who just enjoy the open water for what it is, up to potentially more determined Channel aspirants who can ensure that that they keep intensity up competing with others. You will see in the yearbook that there is a Grand Prix with points awarded for each mile swum & bonus points for those placing in the top 10. Some people travel around and do most of the circuit each year to get their fix!
The spirit of the events is unique where swimmers are treated with a name rather than trying to fill the course with huge numbers! I also like the fact that it is YOU swimming against YOURSELF and no-one ever beats anyone up over time taken (although there are generally sensible time limits at events for safety purposes) and you’ll get a certificate after each successful event (which I have found great bonus for motivation).
If you are around more and more events you will learn from other friendly people cutting your teeth on differing conditions & distances. You will also meet more potential kayakers who can help on your journey!
When I started out it was the blogs of Mark Robson and Karen Throsby that joined the dots for me and were SO vitally instructive discussing so many subjects such as feeds, stroke, training etc. They had also done some serious mileage that I was particularly envious of – be it 21 mile 2WW or the English Channel. I have also written a blog which makes a poor attempt to be anywhere near the Throsby/Robson league but at least writes up what it is like to do the odd bit of swimming: (http://reminiscencesofalongdistanceswimmer.blogspot.co.uk)
There are many other good bloggers who publicise the BLDSA swims – please add them below or let me know them so we can add them to the BLDSA homepage!!
Anyway, let me talk you through things in order of date first if you have THIS SEASON in mind….
(Observe below that wetsuits ARE PERMITTED at Wykeham 1km, Bala 3 miles, 3km and 1km, St Mary’s Loch 1km & 3 miler and Lynn Regis 1km)
1. COLWICK PARK 22/5/16 – This is an excellent 5km swim set up in a pleasant lake in Nottingham. It’s very early in the season (MAY!) and great to know where you are with your acclimatisation (have you eaten enough pies?) plus it is far enough in terms of distance to challenge all entrants and to be more than just a sprint. If you are a complete novice but can swim 2 miles in a pool environment, you might want to cut your teeth on this one for a starter BLDSA swim. I personally find the open water arena much easier than slogging up and down the pool – you see nature instead of a plaster floating by! Bring yourself – no kayaker required. Centre of the country so accessible for most.
2. WYKEHAM LAKE SWIMS 5/6/16 – Similar to Colwick in Nottingham but different swims and this time the BLDSA takes you to a seriously stunning area in God’s own county of Yorkshire. On the Sunday, the BLDSA offers 3 swims: A 2-miler, a 5km and a 1km. Bring your family and friends for the 1km as they can pay on the day as non-members. This year we are running a 5km night swim on the late evening of the 4th June to give those training for Loch Lomond, 2WW or the EC a chance to know what it is like to swim in the dark. Bring a kayaker along and get stuck in under a moonlit sky. I usually bring my elder daughter for a weekend away and we either stay in a tent or a pod in the campsite opposite. You will ONLY need your own kayaker for the night swim.
3. CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS 18/6/16 – Race Directed by yours truly. This is a 5, 3, then 1 mile swum one after the other in Dover Harbour. Still early in the season when temperatures have been 14.3 degrees on average over the last decade. The proper Champion of Champions are the man and woman with the fastest aggregated times over the 3 events – I usually give better prizes for those coming last having endured the conditions longer than everyone else (as long as they are within the time limits!). It’s legendary for dishing out relentless gut-wrenching misery, cold water & mind-shock, shaking of hands, much spillage of tea and realising how much of marathon swimming is down to your mental side. Upon overcoming yourself, the conditions and what the harbour has to throw at you, a successful completion will earn you the right to the famous red swim cap plus you will go home happy that you have achieved something seriously impressive – sure swim coach and my mentor Giovanna Richards would agree. We usually have people from all over the world completing so bring your autograph book. After opening entries early Jan, the 60 places filled up in 39 hours. If you didn’t get in this year, then volunteer & watch Facebook like a hawk in Jan! Bring yourself and perhaps a helper to sort you out between swims (Simon Griffiths I’m not taking your trunks down this year after the 5-miler!). BTW you won’t need a kayaker either.
4. TORBAY 2/7/16 – This is set up as a Torbay to Brixham and back 8-miler for seniors and 4-mile just Torbay to Brixham for the veterans. For an extra £50 we will introduce you to a local sea kayak expert. I’m sure Adrian Rotchell, Philip Yorke and André Roberts will agree with me that this is THE BEST training event for an English Channel attempt!! This is swum in the proper open sea with jellyfish, swell and tides to contend with. I love the challenging finish that never comes closer! Either bring your kayaker or request one when entering for a small extra fee. Urge you to enter early as possible! Helen Beveridge might agree with some of above as she travelled all the way from Inverness to swim this in 2014 training for a successful Catalina!
The current swim secretary is one of my heroes who swum Lomond, the EC and Windermere 50x. Ledge.
5. BALA WEEKEND 9/7/16 and 10/7/16 – This is a brilliant weekend of swimming which will send you home feeling fitter & better than when you arrived. I usually take the Friday off work each year to make the trek from Sevenoaks. The Saturday am offers a 1km novice and 3km circuit events. The Saturday afternoon then presents the formidable 6-mile 2-Way Bala to the more serious people wanting a challenge which last year presented a tough (force 6!) outward leg but a swift surf-like return amongst the stunning Snowdonia national Park. For those not worse-the-wear for the delights that Bala town on a Saturday night has to offer, the Sunday offers a 1-Way Bala swim which ends up as quite a sprint back to the top of the lake which finishes around lunchtime presenting enough time for a leisurely contented return home. Water temperatures have surprisingly varied each time I have done it from 13 degrees to 24 degrees celsius depending on the state of global warming or recent rainfall. I usually enlist the skills of local kayak legend Chris Jackson & team who charge a fee but means I don’t have the extra layer of complexity to badger a reluctant kayaker from Kent. The 1km and 3km events don’t require a kayaker. The 6 miler and 3-milers DO.
6. CONISTON WEEKEND 23/7/16 and 24/7/16 – The Veterans 3mile swim takes place on the Saturday with the Senior & Junior 5.25mile full length on the Sunday. It’s a magical swim under the watchful eye of the Old Man of Coniston mountain & sharing the same body of water where Campbell broke so many waterspeed records. You will need a kayaker.
[Patrick note – I’m organising the Senior & Junior event on Sunday 24th July]
7. ULLSWATER & DERWENTWATER WEEKEND 13/8/16 and 14/8/16 – This is a brilliant weekend similar to Bala where the serious marathon swimmers can cut their teeth on a combined weekend of 12 miles of swimming (going home glowing!) or you can elect for the 7-mile Ullswater on the Saturday on its own and/or 5miles or 2miles in Derwentwater on the Sunday. You can’t fail to see some of the most impressive sights of mountains – Helvellyn, Great End, Scafell range (not to mention some of the purest water) that England has to offer. You will need a kayaker for all of these ones but every yard will be worth it.
8. LOCH LOMOND 20/8/16 – BLDSA’S EVEREST of SWIMMING. There’s a 21.6 mile for the serious/delusional plus a 1km beforehand for crew & those up there for the weekend! We are only aware of 51 people now having swum this Loch and it is the largest body of water by surface area in the British Isles. It’s entirely stunning with mountain Ben Lomond watching over you from start to finish..The weather can be pretty unpredictable (crews had to content with max of 3 degree air at one stage overnight in 2014!) and cold water tolerance is recommended if you are going to endure to emerge proud as punch in Balloch. Theres a group of truly exceptional swimmers like Liane Llewellyn Hickling and Madfish Inwater who have done this swim more than once! You will need to locate a BOAT and CREW – but not for the 1km. Reserve a boat early as they can be hard to locate! When I did it I towed one all the way from Kent! Out of the initial ca. 9 entrants in 2014, 2 emerged as successful. Janet Wilson is swim secretary and inspired me, Jo Blackburn and Alister Stocks (& many others) to follow in her footsteps to have a go in 2012 where we got lucky with a reasonably calm night. Those conditions are rare.
Entry form stipulates that an 8mile swim must be done as qualifier but you’ll certainly do more in training won’t you!? See more on the entry form on the website..
Note – alternates in the calendar with 2-Way Windermere > next 2WW 2017.
9. 1 WAY WINDERMERE 27/8/16 – the full 10.5 mile length of it. I have heard others mention that they felt like proper marathon swimmer the day they completed a full length of Windermere! I think I agree. The entry requirement is 5.5 miles in 3.5 hours. I wished I had actually swum the 6-mile 2-Way BALA swim before attempting the length of this. That experience would have been vital. The views are picturesque and the swim takes you from Fell Foot country park through the islands finishing in Waterhead past the tallest grand fir in England on the one side with breathtaking views of the Langdale Pikes on the other. A successful completion of this will usually qualify you for a 2-Way Windermere – how cool is that?! There’s also a pub right by the finish so you can celebrate immediately with your crew because you/they will be thirsty! This could also be your English Channel 6-hour qualifier provided the water is under 16 degrees? The great Pete Larrad (swim sec. for Torbay) has swum this 50 times so what are u waiting for? – get cracking!! The great James Leitch also swam the length of this in 2014 without a single feed! LOL.
You will need to enlist a kayaker or get 2-3 crew for the rowing boat provided.
10. ST MARY’S LOCH 10/9/16 – One of the most undisturbed, undiscovered and magical parts of the British Isles but near the borders so accessible for most. Those from London like me might consider a cheeky flight to Edinburgh then it’s 1 hour in a hire car! There is a 1km swim for novices or a 1-Way or 2-Way events. The water can be quite bracing so worth observing that wetsuits ARE ALLOWED on the 1km and 3-mile events or just ‘man-up’ and endure. There’s camping offered on sight or at the local Inn if you reserve early. You might have a fighter plane or eagle fly over you whilst doing this swim.
11. LYNN REGIS – 24/9/16 – This is in north Norfolk so super accessible for most. A real buzz of a day with most people celebrating the last swim of the BLDSA calendar with a 4.5km course, 1.5km junior swim plus a 1km for non-member novices. In the past, there has been camping available so bring your tent and sleeping bag. In 2015 the water was around 16 but being late September there has been some variation. Plenty of chance to swap swim stories, see Jane Melita Langrick Bell fry up onions and talk plans for the year ahead. Also vital training for those completing events that take place in the USA for example which offers some swims in October. I treat my younger daughter to this one as our weekend away and it works fabulously well.
Disclaimer! Most/all sentiments & observations above are my own and would urge you to double check the individual swim itinerary with the website, entry central or the swim secretary. Also take time over choosing your own kayaker. Happy swimming and get in touch if you need more. Cheers, Shezza.