Tag Archives: 2swim4life

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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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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It’s back…

Last week I’d lost my swimming mojo. In the comments of my post Bryn suggested that I’d find it in Colwick Park (today’s BLDSA swim).

I’m somewhat reluctant to admit that he was right!

I wasn’t sure about today’s swim at all. After 2swim4life it took me two weeks to feel fully recovered, in fact it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I felt I was back. I still wasn’t convinced that I’d swim today, but I packed my swimming kit last night and we woke up to a beautiful day today, so what the hell…

Getting in was chilly. So I still wasn’t sure… But Bryn was right, if a little ambitious. It wasn’t lap two, but as lap three started I realised that I was actually enjoying it.

I’m not planning a major swimming season this year, but it’s good to feel like I’m ready to go an enjoy the swims.


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If found, please return to…

I’ve lost my swimming mojo. If you find it can you let me know?

I don’t think I realised quite how much pressure I’d put on myself for the 2swim4life event. It was obviously a lot more important to me than even I was aware of going into it. It was certainly (by a LONG way) the biggest [swimming] challenge I have ever undertaken and I knew it would be a great marker for other challenges that I want to take on in the future.

However, now it’s over and now all that adrenaline and training and pressure have been released, well… I can’t quite motivate myself for anything else.

And you know what? I’m not going to beat myself up for that. I’m going to allow myself a couple of weeks off. It may mean a DNS at my next event (but better that than a DNF), but there’s no point going through the motions only to find this “meh” feeling lasts longer. Instead I’ll wait until I really want to get back into the water. I’m sure it won’t be long, but one thing’s for sure: it’s not happened quite yet.


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2swim4life summary

At 9:30am on Saturday 2nd May I pushed off from the wall at Guildford Lido with the prospect of 24 miles of swimming ahead of me.



At a little bit past 9am on Sunday 3rd May I touched the same wall to complete the 24th mile.


I arrived in Guildford on Friday afternoon and met up with one of my two buddies, Vikki. When I say met up with – I mean met for the first time ever. The kindness and support of strangers always amazes and overwhelms me. Vikki and I knew each other online (through Team Bear) but had never met, yet, along with Jacky, she volunteered her weekend to support me. They were both immense.

Vikki & Jacky - thank you!

Vikki & Jacky – thank you!

We put our tent up near some of the other BLDSA swimmers that I knew and then it was time for dinner and an early night.

I hadn’t realised quite how nervous I was about the whole event, but I didn’t sleep very well the week before the swim and that pattern continued on the Friday night – not a great start when sleep deprivation is one of the biggest challenges you face. But Saturday morning came round and we set up our area.

The things I was worried about were all the non-swimming bits. Did I have enough clothes / towels? Did I have the right food / and enough of it? Would I be sleepy or sunburnt or bitten? So to prepare for this and quieten my brain down I slightly over prepared and over packed – all the towels and sweatshirts I owned and enough food to last for a week not a weekend. Plus a detailed plan of what I was going to eat drink and wear for each hour.

It took a while to unpack it and sort it out, but that helped as it took my mind of the actual swimming. We watched the event start with the 9am wave and then it was my turn (along with the other 80+ swimmers setting off at 9:30am).


The swimming itself was fine. The water was nice, if a little chillier than the advertised 23 degrees, and we soon developed a routine: swim, robe and shoes on, pee, back to the tent, trunks off, get dry, get dressed, eat and drink (according to the strict plan!), relax (for about 3 minutes), trunks back on, pee (and meet a couple of the faster hour start swimmers – and meet them repeatedly), swim, repeat.

I was swimming at about a 33 – 34 minute mile pace, so by the time we got back to the tent we had about 20m minutes to do everything else. But it became a routine. Vikki and Jacky took shifts, but everything stayed the same. Swim a mile, then swim another, then another… The hours merged into one and the day soon passed by.

10th mile

The first break in the routine came at 10 miles. Normally as I finished the swim I would touch the wall and then just leap out of the pool. I didn’t want to waste my own time messing around, nor did I want to get in the way of the other swimmers.

However as I completed mile 10 and leapt onto the side, my left thigh cramped up forcing me to almost fall back into the pool. The routine now involved a short swim to the side of the pool to find the steps to climb out of.

20th mile

And so it continued. Day became night and we kept on swimming.

The weather had been grey and unappealing during the day, apart from about a 30 minute spell of sunshine. However that cloud cover meant that the night air didn’t get too cold, which was good news. The bad news was that the clouds opened and for most of the night a steady rain fell – nothing too heavy, but a constant rainfall that added to the things to be managed and quickly took a layer of ‘fun’ off everything.

But still we swam, dried, ate, peed and swam again. Until mile 20.

I’d got cold between miles 19 and 20 and had reached my lowest point. Stood at the water’s edge, just about to remove my last layer before getting into the water I turned to Vikki and said I didn’t want to get in. And I really didn’t. I had nothing to prove and the chance to rest and get warm seemed sooooo appealing at that moment.

About to start mile 20 - not happy!

About to start mile 20 – not happy!

If we had been at the tent I wouldn’t have walked to the pool, but we were at the pool. So I removed the heaviest, warmest, stickiest sweatshirt ever and decided to do just “one more mile”. I would have done 20 then and you know what, that would have been one hell of an achievement. So one more mile and then I could stop, so I got in and swam.

And I loved the swim.

The sky turned from black to grey, the water soothed my sore muscles and cold skin and at the end of the mile I got out and told Vikki we needed to get a move on to get ready for mile 21! That was when I knew I was going to finish.

Unlikely alliances

After about mile 16, just as I’m in the tent getting dressed I heard a voice I recognised. “I’m looking for Patrick Smith.”

Thanks Mark!

Thanks Mark!

It was my friend Mark who had turned up at about 1:30am to offer some support. And it was great to see a welcome face, to be able to slightly break the routine for a while and to see the awe and respect (for the whole event) on someone else’s face. During events like this the process becomes your normality, to witness it through someone else’s eyes was fascinating. But it was also great to see you Mark – thanks for the support.

Then a couple of miles later I got into the pool behind a couple of the other swimmers and set off on their feet. Maybe I *could* have overtaken, but I was happy to sit on their feet for a couple of lengths, and then a couple more, and then just a few more. Soon I’d swum the whole mile drafting another swimmer and it had made a huge difference.

It makes a *bit* of difference physically (it’s easier to swim through the water and bubbles they have created than through ‘fresh’ water), but for me the main advantage I got was mental. I could just switch off for a while and not have to think about it. I could just swim and follow this guy.

My unknown support was absent for the next mile as he was part of a two-man relay. But the next time he got in I took advantage again. However this time I decided to return the favour at half-way. I tapped his feet and swam as hard to the lane end as I could, hoping he’d know what I was up to. Fortunately he did and he let me overtake and then drafted me for half a mile. This became our routine for the last few miles (and he did the all the final three miles), except for the very last one as we swam the last length side by side!

Synchronised swimming!

Synchronised swimming!

What’s next?

Before last weekend the furthest I’d ever swum in a day before was the 10.5 miles of Windermere, so 2swim4life was a massive step up for me and has given me a lot more confidence for longer swims.

But before I think about any of that I still need to rest and complete all my laundry!


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Thanks Ray

I’m sure I’ll write plenty more over the next few days / weeks about the swim, but I did want to say a huge thank you to Ray at SwimCanaryWharf. I swam 24 miles over the weekend and not once did my stroke break down and cause my swimming to suffer. There is no way I would have survived without Ray’s help and work on my stroke.

In recognition of that I wore my SwimCanaryWharf swim hat for the last mile.

Setting off for mile 24

Setting off for mile 24

Finishing. 24 miles completed!

Finishing. 24 miles completed!

If you have any doubts about your swimming, or you’ve got some big swims coming up, then I strongly advise you to seek him out.

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Next stop France…?

I did it.

At the weekend I swam in the 2swim4life event in Guildford and managed to swim 24 miles over 24 hours. Given that before the weekend the most I’d ever swum in one day was the 10.5 miles of Windermere it’s fair to say I’m pretty pleased with that.

Not only was the swimming tough, but the constant getting in and out added a lot of extra psychological toughness to it. In fact, a lot of the channel swimmers at the event said that just swimming non-stop for 20 odd miles is easier.

Let me just repeat that – a lot of people said that swimming the channel is easier. So maybe that’s what I’ll do next…


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Swim hats

I’ve banged on about this often enough now, but I’m swimming the 2swim4life event in a few weeks time. If you’ve never read this blog before then it’s a mile swim on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours.

I’ve been trying to pull together everything I need for the event. I managed to borrow a tent. I’ve bought new trunks and goggles. I’m thinking about the feeding routine and preparing myself for that. I’m even planning to pack pain killers and caffeine tablets as well, just in case.

The only thing that is left on the list are my swimming hats.

Swim hat collectionAs you can see in this picture, I’ve got a few already – mainly from my BLDSA swims over the course of the last couple of years, as well as Swimtrek, SwimCanaryWharf and Team Bear (not in the photo).

I see this swim as a chance to remember / promote / pay homage to people, swims and institutions that have helped me over the last few years – I will also hopefully be able to draw strength from them as I face the inevitable lows. But not only to the people that have helped me – to any swimming inspiration.

I’ll be doing 24 separate swims, so I’d love to have 24 different hats and wear them each for specific miles.

If you have a particular hat that you’d like to lend me (I’m happy to return them), and a particular mile that you’d like me to wear it for (with a story as to why), then get in touch. I’ve got specific plans for miles 23 and 24, but other than that you can ‘have’ any mile you like.

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April Training Plan

So, I’ve done a training plan for April. This is also the plan that will take me up to the 2swim4life event on May bank holiday weekend.

I estimate that I’ll do about 45kms in April if I stick to the plan, which feels at least 15kms light if I’m honest. Just like any other event though I have to manage life stuff as well and right now that all comes before swimming.

Here’s the plan:

April training plan

April training plan

The trick now is to stick to it and make it effective.

The swimming will be a mixture of distance sessions (I’ll aim to do a kilometre every 22 minutes to give me short rests in between them) which I’ll do in the mornings, then still some drills and technique work in the evening sessions. I’ll need a mixture of both on the day itself, so I need to practice both.

As it gets closer I must admit I’m getting a bit more nervous about 2swim4life!


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Inspired by Sally

I really really enjoyed my swim last week with Sally as part of her 50 swims. And part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was the experience of trying out a new pool and swimming in ‘new’ water.

So when I found myself in Bristol this week visiting friends and colleagues I thought I’d try and swim here too.

We checked pools and there was one both near where we were working and near where they lived. Hmmm, decisions decisions. We couldn’t decide, so I decided to swim in both.

Bristol South Swimming Pool

Bristol South Swimming Pool

The lunchtime swim was at Bristol South Swimming Pool – a great, old-fashioned swimming hall. The paint was peeling, it needed a good spruce up, the changing cubicles on the side of the pool were cramped and in general it was a long way away from its former glory. But I loved it. It felt like ‘real’ swimming. And not only did I love it. All three of the lanes were full of swimmers – there were probably at least 30 people in the pool at the same time as me. But the lanes were wide enough to allow easy overtaking and I had a lovely swim.

2015-03-26 19.26.04

Horfield Leisure Centre

After work I went to the pool local to the house. It couldn’t have been more different. A big, modern leisure centre – Horfield Leisure Centre – with lots of sporting facilities including an 8-lane 25m pool. It was bright and modern and brash with all mod cons, but not the same soul as the baths at lunchtime. However, it was equally (if not even more so) as busy and the water was still water, so I swam again.

And it’s funny isn’t it? Neither swim felt great in terms of the swimming, both felt a bit sluggish, but I enjoyed them for the experience. I timed them, not because I was after a good time, but more because I had my watch on anyway.

At lunchtime my mile was 32 minutes. A bit slow, but I could live with it. In the evening I actually felt more sluggish and as I was finishing I was thinking that if I’m going to start doing more than 32 minute miles then 2swim4life is going to be tough with very little rest between swims. So when I finished and realised that I’d done the evening swim in 29 minutes I was pleasantly surprised.

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