Category Archives: Swimming

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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Double Dip

After falling out of love with swimming I’m back to enjoying it more and more. This can be shown by the fact that on Tuesday I swam twice.

The first swim was a 6:30am start at a local lake next to Nottingham Sailing Club. They only opened for swimming last year, but it’s a great set up – especially as we have use of the sailing club showers and changing rooms. It makes for a perfect set up for a pre-work swim.┬áThe lake itself is set out as a c. 650m loop and I did 6 wide laps for a total of just over 4km in an hour and a quarter.

The second swim of the day was a charity event run by the excellent 100% Swimming up at the Activities Away lake. The idea was to predict how far you could swim in 20 minutes 17 seconds (20:17) and the closest to their prediction won. It was all organised in Aid of the Ethan Maull Foundation.

I predicted a total of 1,050m and decided to use it as a way to push myself as hard as I could for 20 minutes. About 300m in I got into rhythm with a wetsuited swimmer and we pushed each other around and I ended up just going past my prediction and finishing on about 1,060m.

It was a great event and hopefully it will be able to launch nationally next year. Thanks all for organising it.

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Wild Swimming in Ireland

I was in Ireland this weekend for a wedding in my girlfriend’s family (which was great by the way and it was lovely to meet all of the family), so I took the chance to do a bit of wild swimming.

I’m not normally a wild swimmer – my outdoor swimming is generally controlled in either events or round a training lake – but I had been inspired by this post about Petticoat Lucy’s lake by LoneSwimmer, so I gave it a go.

The story is that the lake is haunted by Petticoat Lucy and that she will grab the ankles of swimmers and pull them down to their death. You can probably tell by the fact that I am writing this that that didn’t happen! (More details of the legend of Petticoat Lucy can be found here).

In reality the lake is a small, peaty lake nestled in the Knockmealdown mountains. You park up near the road and walk down about half a mile to the lake. The footpath then continues around the edge of the lake, but there is a small “beach” area that I quickly got changed in. The water starts very shallow and the bottom is covered in rocks – many of which are quite sharp or jagged. So it took me a few minutes of very ungraceful walking before my feet hit the soft, squelchy ground and the water was deep enough to start swimming.

Although I didn’t believe the legend of Petticoat Lucy that first bit of swimming was certainly a bit quicker and more breathless than normal, but once I’d settled down it was lovely. The temperature was a balmy 18 degrees at a guess, and while the water was certainly very brown – with about one and half arms’ length visibility – it felt very clean.

I swam up the length of the lake while my girlfriend walked along the path that gently rises above the lake. So we had a chat with her standing about 15 feet above me once I’d reached the end. I then swam in the far corner and back to the start again along the other side of the lake. But don’t be fooled as that was only about 500m of swimming.

My exit was equally as ungraceful, which was disappointing as I’d attracted a couple of families who wanted to check I wasn’t completely mad I think.

A quick public change and then we went to visit more family for a cup of tea and some biscuits – lovely!

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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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