Category Archives: Swimming

Nightmare…

I’ve just remembered a nightmare I had the other night.

I had been phoned up by a channel pilot to swim the channel – but I didn’t have a support team. In fact I don’t think I’d even asked anyone if they would help me out. In the dream I then had to abandon the swim.

You’d all be there for me if I needed a channel crew (if I ever decided to do it) wouldn’t you?

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Running is hard…

… especially straight after swimming.

But that’s what I did last night as I took part in the first of the One Hundred Percent Swimming Aquathon series.

It was an 800m swim, followed by a 3km run and most entrants seemed to be triathletes who were using it as a gentle training exercise. Not fat blokes who barely run.

Actually that’s not true about the barely running thing, as I’ve been going to as many Parkruns as I can this year and finding myself both enjoying them and getting a bit faster. But running after a hard swim is new to me.

I was the only non-wetsuit swimmer and I started at the back of the pack to let all the triathletes fight it out at the front. Once the water settled though I started to move through the field and probably came out of the water about halfway in the field (of 67 entries). I could have held back a bit on the swim, but decided that I’d go as hard as I could for two reasons: 1) it would be the only chance I had of getting ahead of a few people; 2) it was a good ‘sprint’ training session for me.

After the swim I needed to sit down and dry my feet before I put my trainers on and set off running, so I don’t think my transition was the quickest! But then it was the run and bloody hell I struggled.

In the end I finished in 37:22, which I suspect could be broken down roughly as follows: 16min swim; 2min transition; 6:30min per 1km lap of the run. Of course what I realised is that for most of those entering the swim was a slog, but the run was just a sprint; for me it was very much the other way around.

Anyway, that’s my current PB and I’ll try to beat it next time (although I can’t make the second event in the series).

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The Season has Started

The open water swimming season has started for me – and started with a bit of a bang.

Last Sunday I did a 6-hour lake swim – organised by 100% Swimming. Next Sunday it will be the first BLDSA swim of the year as I’m organising the Colwick Park swim.

The 6-hour swim was something that I’d signed up for ages ok. Back in a time when I thought that I’d be able to get several lake swims in ahead of the swim and it would be a great training swim. Back before we had that horrible cold weather (can we even remember that now we’re having a mini heatwave). In the end, with winter dragging on through into April I managed a very short dip at 9 degrees in Sale with Cathy and a couple of ouchy swims in 12 degrees water at Activities Away.

In the end the weather turned in time to warm the lake up to 14 degrees in time for our swim and so swim we did.

I realised afterwards that I hadn’t swum continuously for longer than an hour at this year and that this was only my fifth ever swim of 6 hours or longer. But at the time I just swam around the half mile course swimming from feed to feed (and huge thanks to my swim buddy Hayley who was in charge of the feeds) until the 6 hours was up.

It was great to turn my winter swimming in the pool into a good open water swim. I’ve done quite a lot of pool work and a lot of gym work over the last few months. I’m still conscious of my bad back – and it is something that hasn’t been ‘fixed’, but is being ‘managed’, but not causing any real problems at the moment – so a lot of gym work has been done to stretch and strengthen the areas that need to be stretchier or stronger.

While in the pool I have been doing ‘sprint’ sets. Of course the term sprint is relative when my swim goals are 10.5 miles, so a sprint set for me has been a timed 1km or 2km swim in the pool. But I have noticed improvements and am feeling good about my swimming at the moment. It was good to test that out in open water.

Then next Sunday (20th May) will be the Colwick Park swim and the start to the BLDSA swimming season.

I am organising this swim again (but for the last year) and there will be a 1km swim – that people can turn up and enter on the day – a 3km swim and a 5km swim. As well as organising it I’m going to swim the 3km event, so that will be nice to ‘race’ in open water after the long training six hour swim.

The season has started. I wonder what it will hold for me.

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Lac Leman

Lac Leman (or lake Geneva as we know it in English) is a real bucket list swim for marathon swimmers. At 70km long it is a similar distance to a two-way English Channel swim and has been swum by only a very select group of swimmers.

That’s why, this summer, I was delighted…


… to be invited to visit some friends who live near the lake.

I didn’t bloody swim it, of course I didn’t – I’m nowhere near a good enough swimmer to do that. I did have a nice dip this morning though.


As for the weekend, I had a lovely time. A really relaxing weekend with friends, mountains, a lake, wine and LOTS of cheese.

Maybe one day I’ll be back with more serious swimming intentions…

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51kms in Windermere

I started this blog as a way to motivate me to swim one length of Windermere – which I did in 2012.

On Sunday I swam my third length of the lake, so a total of 51kms swum in that lake alone.

Sunday’s swim was cold and it took longer than I had hoped / intended. But it was also completed, so there is that I suppose. It didn’t have the “Oh my god I can’t believe I’m doing this” excitement of the first swim. Nor did it have the “Oh my god I can’t believe I’m doing this” despair of the second time I swam it. This time I just swam it (albeit slower and colder then I would have liked).

I suppose that is a level of success in itself. I can swim a length of Windermere in water temperature that may have reached the dizzy heights of 14.5 degrees and at the end I can shrug my shoulders and be a bit disappointed with my time (7hours 45minutes). It doesn’t really feel like success, but if I was forced to look on the bright side…

Anyway, it’s done and the season is done for this year. Let’s see what next year brings…

– – –

The Windermere swim was the second of my swims raising money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. If you’re able to spare a few pennies I’d be really grateful if you could donate on Just Giving. I’ll leave the page open for a couple more weeks, but then close it down by Sunday 8th October.

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Windermere v3

This Sunday I’m hoping to swim Windermere.

I say hoping because there’s a lot that can happen between now and then (not least that we haven’t finalised the logistics) and a lot that can happen during the swim. But I’m committed to making it happen, so all things being well, by Sunday evening I will have swum Windermere.

If I do it, it will be my third length of England’s longest lake (at 10.5 miles) and that fact alone surprises me. I still don’t really consider myself a swimmer, but I seem to be doing a good job of fooling everyone, so I’ll keep going until the charade is spotted.

From a swimming perspective this year started badly with a mental and physical hangover from last year’s bad back. I couldn’t quite find the motivation at the start of the season and so the goals I set at the start of the year will be mainly unfulfilled (that’s for another post). However, over the last few weeks I’ve really started to enjoy my swimming again and have enjoyed both the physical challenge and meditative quality of swimming longer distances. Ever since the Ullswater swim I’ve had my swimming mojo back.

So after the channel relay I decided I wanted to do more. I did have a 2-person relay planned, but unfortunately that fell through, so Windermere was the next logical choice.

I’ve done it before. The first time I just loved being there, the second time I tried too hard to ‘achieve’ something and had a very bad day at the office. Hopefully for the third I can do something between those two. I have a goal, but I also want to enjoy it and have a good day. Fingers crossed.

– – –

One last thing – I have been raising money for charity over the last few weeks with the channel relay and this Windermere swim. This is the last time I’ll mention it, but if you can spare a few pennies for the MNDA then I’d really appreciate it.

Please donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-swim

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Pals, Puke and Pebbles

On Friday at just before 6:03am Jayne jumped off the back of the boat Suva and set off swimming to Samphire Hoe beach. It was only a c. 200m swim and once there she climbed up the beach so that she was completely clear of the water. She waved her arms, the boat’s horn sounded and Jayne got back into the water and started swimming towards France.

After an hour Jayne got out and Rach got in. She swam for an hour and was followed in by Cathy who also did an hour and then I got in. We repeated this four times until after 15 hours and 23 minutes I had the honour and privilege of hitting land in France. I climbed up so that I was completely clear of the water and the boat’s horn sounded again – me and three pals had swum the channel.

Makes it sound easy really doesn’t it?

It wasn’t quite that simple.

It started with lots of waiting. Our tide started on the Monday and we knew it was unlikely we’d be off straight away as we were booked as the third swim to go out on the tide, but other than than that we didn’t know when it would be. At one stage it was going to be Tuesday morning, then not, then maybe Thursday evening, then not, then Friday morning and it was. But the waiting is hard work and emotionally very draining.

Jayne setting off

The confirmation finally came just before 7pm on Thursday evening and we needed to meet up with our boat pilot in Dover at 5am. So an evening of not much sleep followed with a 3am alarm clock. Then once we had met up it was time was a nerve racking journey of about 40 minutes on the boat from the harbour to the beach we were to start from. Jayne was clearly nervous, but toughed it out and did a great first swim, getting us out and away.

Rach enjoying her swim, before…

The weather was great, a beautiful sunrise and the water wasn’t too choppy. That said, for those of the team that don’t have strong sea legs it was choppy enough to cause some discomfort and both Jayne and Rach managed to feed the fish! Rach actually managed it while swimming (which is supposed to be easier than standing on deck) as she took the second leg for us. Fortunately for Cathy and I we were able to cope by staring at the horizon and taking a sea sickness tablet.

Cathy’s lovely swim

The water flattened out during our second rotation and for both Jayne and Rach another swim helped, while Cathy had her most favourite swim of the day in the beautiful water. It flattened until I got in that is. Within a few minutes of my swim starting I was thinking how much harder it felt compared to how it looked from on deck – I actually felt a bit of a wimp and vowed that I wouldn’t discuss it with anyone. But as I climbed out the rest of the team asked if I’d heard the thunder as a storm had started back on the coast and had churned the water up a bit. I hadn’t, but it justified my slightly tougher than expected swim.

Fortunately Caroline had some time to appreciate the view

The day drifted by and we continued to swim. France got closer, but still tantalisingly distant. We continued to swim in rotation and at all times we were looked after superbly by our non-swimming teammate Caroline. Towels, tea and unwavering support made the swimming so much easier. We were able to concentrate on ourselves knowing that Caroline was supporting the returning swimmer.

Then as dusk started we hit the tide and the unpredictability started. The swims themselves became tougher as we fought the tide and the serene progress was halted as forward momentum was replaced by lateral movement. The issue now was whether we would manage to hit land before the Cap (Cap Griz Nez and the famous lighthouse) or whether we would miss it and possibly give ourselves an extra 4-6 hours of swimming. The night was descending and the tiredness was setting in and it became a mental as much as physical challenge.

We were close enough to France that a strong swim in a straight line looked as if it would get us there in an hour or so. But the tide had other ideas and Jayne couldn’t break us through, then nor could Rach. By the time Cathy got in it was almost pitch black (apart from the beam from the lighthouse) and we were no longer really sure where we were. Then all of a sudden we realised exactly where we were – far too far away from Cathy as she was swimming. Panic, yelling and tooting of the boat’s horn on board; serene swimming as she thought the boat had stopped and she was swimming into shore in the water. We thought that she was fighting the tide to get back to us; she thought the boat had stopped on purpose to let her hit land. Eventually the boat moved over towards her, but had this ruined our chances of landing near the Cap? Extra worry and discussion on board; but excellent strong swimming in the water.

In the end Cathy wasn’t able to take us to land, but had done enough to see us safe and I had to get in and swim for the final leg. As I got in I wasn’t sure it would be the final leg. I had the lighthouse beam on my left (and I swore at it every time I breathed to that side, telling it it wasn’t going to win) and the boat’s light on my right. I swam like a cat that chases a laser pen, every time I slipped out of the boat’s light I chased it down again. Until one time when the boat suddenly pulled away from me – or had I dropped behind and lost our chance? Would I be able to make up the ground (water?)? Fortunately I did, but it was scary sprint from two or three minutes.

A French pebble

Then the boat just seemed to stop. My pessimistic brain immediately assumed that we had missed the Cap and swim was being aborted. But instead a beam was shone from the deck and there was the French coast. It was too shallow for the boat to go any further and I had to follow the beam of light until I could climb out on the rocks and make sure I was completely clear of the sea. I did. The horn sounded. I jumped back in, but before I swam back to the boat I picked up a handful of French pebbles as souvenirs.

All that was left was congratulations, updating social media and lots of conversations about “never again” (although not from me…).

Updating everyone back home

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Last Training Swim

On Monday I’m off down to Kent to wait for my channel relay, so this morning’s swim was my last training swim ahead of that.

I did a series of drills (to keep my stroke in good order) and then a gentle 1km to total 2,850m.

However, the best bit about today’s swim was the chat with the other swimmers and letting them know about next week’s channel relay. Having done a relay before (and lots of other open water swimming) next week’s swim, while exciting, doesn’t seem that big a deal. But to the pool swimmers it’s a big challenge and they were excited and very supportive of me. It was lovely to chat to them and to see it through other people’s eyes.

Having said all of that, I am excited and I am looking forward to it. I am aware and respectful of the challenge ahead, but I’m also confident in my training and fitness.

If you’d like to sponsor me for the swim, please go here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-swim

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Ullswater done, Derwentwater done

Yesterday I swam the 7 mile length of Ullswater with the BLDSA.

It was chilly, windy and all in all a bloody tough swim. It split into three very distinct sections for me.

Part 1 – horrible, cold and really not much fun. I knew I wouldn’t finish and would be getting out “soon” (it was never now, but always “soon”). I took my first feed after an hour and then every 45 minutes from then and the second feed seemed to be an age away. I really didn’t enjoy this section of the swim.

Part 2 – it started soon after he second feed and was probably timed with the sun coming out a bit, but I suddenly felt ‘in the zone’ and really enjoyed it. From being desperate for my second feed to happen I pushed the third one back five minutes as I did t want to break my rhythm. For about two hours I actually enjoyed myself and was swimming well.

Part 3 – was when the shoulders began to ache and the cold got into me a little bit. At this point the end couldn’t come soon enough.

But the end arrived. I touched the buoy and turned round to thank my kayaker. Then burst out laughing.

A wave had caught her against a jetty (that she had positioned herself against so I wouldn’t swim into it) and flipped the kayak over. So she joined me for a swim for the last 50m. I rescued the paddle, hence this photo.


So in summary a cold swim (13.8 degrees), a long swim (7 miles), a tough swim, but almost an enjoyable one.

Today was Derwentwater and a little easier. The water was fractionally warmer (14.3 degrees), the weather was calmer and nicer and it was shorter (5.25 miles). But the main thing that made it easier for me was that I was kayaking and not swimming.

That said I was kayaking for an amazing swimmer and a very fast one. She covered the 5.25 mile course in a little over 2 1/4 hours and swam brilliantly throughout.

As a kayaker it was my job to be there as safety support if needed (I wasn’t), but also guide the route and feed when needed. The speed she swam at meant that I was kept pretty busy with both of those.

She was the first swimmer home, so I’m going to take some credit for that (I’m not really, but it was amazing to watch a proper swimmer).


A good weekend so far.

– – –

Update – I also swam 6km in Coniston on Monday – you know, just for fun!

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Please support…

I’m not a great one for using my swims for fundraising. I’m gonna do the swim anyway, so it doesn’t always feel right to ask people to donate to something I enjoy. 

This time is different though. I’m raising money for the MNDA through JustGiving. Here’s what I wrote there:

Someone very, very important to me lost someone very, very important to her to this shi**y disease, so I wanted to do something.

What I’m actually going to do is swim a channel relay (swimming from England to France as part of team) – twice.

The first is a four-person relay which will hopefully take place at the end of August. In it we will swim for an hour each and I expect to get 3 or 4 swims (so four hours of swimming).

The second is a two-person relay at the end of September. For this one we will swim for two hours at a time and again I expect to swim 4 times, however this will mean eight hours of swimming.

If you think that this is something that is worth a few pennies then please donate. Thank you.

– – – 

If you would like to donate, please go to my JustGiving page to do so – http://www.justgiving.com/Patrick-Smith-swim

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