Category Archives: Swimming

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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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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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.

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

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Nearly reached France

Today was going to be the day that I completed my channel swim and reached France. It didn’t quite happen.

It wasn’t because the water was too cold and I was suffering with hypothermia, it wasn’t because the currents took me and I wasn’t strong enough to keep swimming for another 3 or 4 hours, it wasn’t because I was exhausted and just couldn’t go on.

No, for me it was because I decided to stand around and chat instead.

You see, my channel swim isn’t in the actual channel, but is part of the Aspire Channel Challenge where people swim the equivalent distance (22 miles) in their local pool. I have 1/2 a mile left to go.

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Although I didn’t reach France, I did have some lovely chats.

Firstly I chatted to Ali – like me she is doing the Aspire Challenge. I first spotted her great lap counting device (a stick, with wooden dominoes with a hole drilled into the middle so they could be added or taken off the stick as required) and so I commented on it and we got chatting.

Ali is the perfect example of who the Aspire Channel Challenge is for. She hasn’t swum for a few years (although seemed to have a great stroke), so is using the challenge as a personal motivation to get back into the pool. However on top of that she has a friend that was supported by Aspire a few years ago, so she’s also raising money to repay Aspire’s support.

The challenge is about fundraising and I’m not normally one to ask, but even if you don’t want to ‘reward’ my swimming, then please think of people like Ali’s friend and if you can spare a few pounds that would be great – please sponsor me here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-2016-aspire-channel-swim.

As well as Ali, I chatted to Scott about open water swimming and front crawl technique and then even had a work chat sat in the sauna!

So, although I didn’t reach France it was a great morning in the pool. And if I can stay in the water long enough I’ll reach France during my cold water dip in Salford Quays on Saturday morning.

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Half-way across the channel

I’ve signed up for the Aspire Channel Challenge again this year and it’s been a great way to keep me ‘honest’ and persuade me to go to the pool when I haven’t always felt like it – especially those first couple of weeks when I was still struggling with my back.

Well, I’ve been ‘honest’ enough that I’m now half-way across the channel.

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Today I managed 2.2kms and actually swam two fairly quick kilometres – 18:40 and 18:53 respectively – which I’m very pleased with.

Of course the reason Aspire set this up is not to help people like me get back into swimming after back injuries, but instead to raise money. Please consider sponsoring me here.

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I Has Cold Swimmed

After having had a back bad I’ve had to miss the entire open water swimming season this year. However, my back is slowly starting to get better.

A month ago today I posted that I had swum for the first time in months, well now I can say that yesterday I swam outside for the first time this year. Unfortunately I’ve missed the BLDSA season by a day – but I’m just delighted to get back into the water.

It happened at the final BLDSA event of the year at Lynn Regis. A few people camp over following the swim and although I didn’t swim in the event itself, my son and I joined in with the camping. Some of the campers then get up and go for a quick dip in the water on the Sunday morning. I’d taken my kit along, but wasn’t desperate to join in, until my son said he wanted to get into the water. I wasn’t sure he’d actually swim – I thought he’d paddle for a bit and get out – but he jumped in and had a quick swim (proud dad moment), so I jumped in after him.

Although I didn’t swim far I stayed in after he got out and spent probably around 20 minutes swimbling – it was great.

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Longest swim…

Not ever, but the longest swim I’ve done in the past five months.

I’m slowly, tentatively returning to the water after a back injury. It’s great to be back in the water again, but I’m trying not to push too hard – just hard enough. There are two main reasons for this: 1) I’m still not certain what caused the injury, or whether the recovery will hold, so I don’t want to damage it again; 2) I’m really unfit and knackered!

However this morning I got chance to swim in the pool at Imperial College London (right by the Royal Albert Hall – a lovely location). The pool was great, it was full of fit students (and lecturers I presume) and I felt pretty good. So I pushed myself a bit further.

Today, dear reader, I swam a whole mile and even managed 3 x 500m in one go! Both recent records.

Not only did I really enjoy it, it’s also got me thinking about signing up for 2Swim4Life again!

PS – today’s swim was another as part of the Aspire Channel Challenge, please sponsor me.

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I’m swimming the channel tomorrow

Of course I’m not swimming the actual channel, but I will be starting the Aspire Channel Challenge.

The challenge is to swim the same distance as a channel crossing (22 miles) in your local pool over a 12-week period. It starts tomorrow (12th Sept) and runs until 5th December.

I’ve been struggling with a back injury this year so I haven’t done much swimming, so it really does feel like a challenge to complete the distance. However, I’ve been swimming a few times and I think I’ll be able to give it a good go.

Although my back is a bit better, it’s a long way from being right, so I’m easing myself into gently. At the moment my swim routine is as follows:
– 100m warm-up
– 4 x 250m swim
– 100m cool down

I’m hoping to gently increase both the total distance I can swim, as well as the distance I swim in one go, so I’ll increase those middle swim sets by 50m every couple of weeks.

The total number of lengths I need to complete to ‘swim the channel’ is 1416, while the above set is 48. So based on that, I’ll need to swim an average of 2.5 times every week for the duration of the challenge.

One of my personal reasons for doing the swim this year is to help with my motivation (to make me go to the pool 2 or 3 times per week), so for that reason, I’ve donated £22 to the cause (£1 per mile). I’d be really grateful if you could spare a few pennies too – please go here to sponsor me: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-2016-aspire-channel-swim

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The Aspire Channel Challenge

I’ve signed up again for the Aspire Channel Challenge.

Last year the swimming element of the challenge was easy for me, so I increased the challenge by doing it in 22 consecutive days. This year, after coming back from an injury that has stopped me from swimming at all this summer, it’s the swimming itself that will be tough.

Since I’ve been back in the pool in three swims I’ve managed to swim 1.8kms, so over 40kms for the channel challenge feels like a lot this year.

However, I’m going to do it and I’d love you to sponsor me here – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-2016-aspire-channel-swim (where you can read most of this blurb again).

As Aspire says: “Every eight hours someone is paralysed by a Spinal Cord Injury and Aspire provides the essential equipment, advice, housing and grants that spinal cord injured people need to live their lives independently. This is a big challenge, but the more I raise, the more of a difference I’ll make, so please be generous!”

And of course, you can sign up too if you want to take part in the challenge – just go here: http://aspirechannelswim.co.uk/

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