Tag Archives: BLDSA

THE BLDSA SWIM SERIES EXPLAINED

This post has been blatantly stolen copied from a post on the BLDSA’s Facebook page and was written by Mark Sheridan, the author of the excellent Reminiscences of a Long Distance Swimmer blog – worth a read.

Anyway, Mark has swum every event on the BLDSA calendar, plus several other marathon swims (including the Channel (x2), the Catalina Channel and SCAR amongst others).

If you’re interested in any of the BLDSA swims, this summary is well worth a read.

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THE BLDSA SWIM SERIES EXPLAINED

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.

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DNDNF

For those that don’t know, DNF stands for Did Not Finish. This post was very nearly about that, but in the end I Did Not Did Not Finish.

It was the last swim of the BLDSA calendar at Kings Lynn and I was looking forward to it – a 4.5km lap swim (3 x 1.5km) and an even more relaxed and friendly atmosphere as it was the last swim.

This is where we swam. Photo courtesy of Philip Yorke (@phil924)

This is where we swam.
Photo courtesy of Philip Yorke (@phil924)

Life stuff got in the way a bit to slightly disrupt plans (poorly son), but soon I was off to Kings Lynn being directed to the wrong venue by the satnav. A slightly panicky dash to the right venue and all was fine. Time to chat, register, chat, get changed, chat, have the briefing, chat and then get in the water. It was chilly, but manageable and soon we were off.

The first part of the lap was down river and directly into the sun. I thought I’d started well and kept to the left-ish side of the river towards where I believed the turning buoy was. I felt strong and was enjoying it.

After a few minutes of swimming I looked up and saw people way over to my right. Ok, I’ll drift that way over the next few minutes, no problem. Next time I looked up and couldn’t see anyone in front of me on my current trajectory, but a group of people to my left. This was starting to get annoying!

I drifted back to the left and tried to swim in the pack so that I didn’t have to sight any more, but even that was tough as I seemed to either swim into someone with one stroke and then be 5 metres away (and out of easy eyesight) with the next stroke. The water wasn’t very clear, so there was no underwater sighting possible and I just struggle to sight with my poor eysight – it takes me two or three consecutive sighting strokes to be able to gather enough information to be sure of anything.

Fortunately I was able to stick with this small group and they led me to the turning buoy – they became involuntary Labradors!

Swimming the other way was a bit easier as it wasn’t into the sun, but boy did it take a long time. I made the mistake of looking at my watch and by the time I would have expected to have completed a full lap I wasn’t even 2/3rds done. What was wrong with me? I finally completed the first lap and set off for the second and the group was now just me and a female swimmer a couple of metres away.

The sighting on the second lap was a little easier – as much to do with familiarity as anything else, but the pace still felt veeerrrry slooooooow. And I wasn’t enjoying it.

I wasn’t not enjoying it either, but it just wasn’t ‘fun’. I was starting to feel the cold a bit, again, nothing unmanageable, but it was clearly chilly; I was getting fed up of swimming in a zig zag pattern; my pace was really annoying me; and to be perfectly honest I’d lost the desire. The actual swimming bit was nice, it was the whole ‘event’ around it that I’d had enough of.

And actually I realised that I had had enough – and you know what, I could stop. So I spent the next few minutes exploring that decision. How would it feel to have a DNF? It wouldn’t be because of injury, or hypothermia, or the conditions, it would be because I just didn’t feel like carrying on. And as I thought about it, I realised that that is probably the best reason for a DNF – I was taking care of myself instead of pushing when it wasn’t there. I was saving myself physically and mentally for future challenges and keeping the passion intact. Yep, I could cope with a DNF.

As I neared the end of the second lap and my planned stopping point two concerns now reared their heads. 1) I needed to pee – and I needed to do it now and in the water so I could get up and walk out with no worries about it happening then!; 2) I didn’t want me stopping to put off the woman I was swimming with. Fortunately these two coincided as I slowed down to pee, she got just in front.

Right there’s the buoy. I’m not going to call my number out. I’m just going to make the throat slitting gesture and swim to the bank. A DNF, but I can live with it.

Wait! What’s that he’s saying? I listened closely as information was being relayed to the woman in front – “A shorter lap for the final one… Don’t do that extra loop there…” And for some reason I carried on.

I actually enjoyed the third lap. I almost knew where I was going. I picked up my pace. And it was almost fun again.

And it turns out I wasn’t that slow after all – the course, even with the shorter final lap, was 7km and not 4.5km!

Although it was that cold as I discovered as I joined Margaret, my aunt, my Windermere support crew x2 and currently a slow breaststroke swimmer, for the final section of her swim. Swimming at a pace that was unnaturally slow for me meant that the cold really got in and I was quite shivery for a while. But nothing two cups of tea and three delicious slices of cake (thank to whoever made that) couldn’t fix.

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Even though it turned out to be 7km, I’m only counting it as 1 mile towards my Aspire Challenge. 22 miles, in 22 days, in 22 venues – you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/patrickJPRaspire/.

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So, in the end I Did Not Did Not Finish and even got a certificate

 

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Coniston

Coniston was better. Better than Bala at least – better from a kayaking perspective.

Coniston has always been my favourite BLDSA swim – it seems to wholly embrace the amateur element of the association, yet is set in such a beautiful location that you can’t help but be awestruck by it. It was while swimming it last year that I realised that I wanted to see it all from a different perspective – to get a wider appreciation for it all. That’s why I decided to kayak.

I’d actually made the decision to kayak before I’d found a swimmer who needed one. So while I was being coached by Ray over the winter I relayed this to him and persuaded him to swim the event. Then at the BLDSA dinner, late into the evening after much alcohol had taken effect I promised to kayak for Jo for the veterans’ event too (not that Jo looks like she should be anywhere near the veterans event!).

So I had a full weekend planned. And after the previous weekend I was very nervous.

I drove upon the Friday afternoon and had packed a little picnic and a pint for me to have in my room in the BnB so that I could catch up on some work – and despite some dodgy wi-fi that plan worked well. The Saturday morning it was time the briefing for the veterans’ event and the shuffle up the lake for swimmers and kayakers.

Coniston is a strange lake for swimming in that there is nowhere to set up camp at either the beginning or end of the lake. So we set up at the wonderfully welcoming Bluebird café which is about 1 mile from the end of the lake.

The full swim starts at Water Park at the north end of the lake, however it is private land at while they generously allow us access to the water, we don’t have permission to park and leave cars there (there wouldn’t be room for them all anyway). While the finish of the swim is at the point the lake finishes to the south, but is a little beach (no more than 6 feet in depth), with a little car park and a road immediately next to the beach. Given all of this the shuffle of swimmers, kayakers and kayaks to the start and from the finish is a mammoth task.

The veterans’ swim is a little shorter than the full one (at 3 ¼ miles instead of 5 ¼ miles), so the start is actually not as far up the lake as Water Park and the finish is back at the Bluebird café. This makes the shuffling a bit easier, but only a bit.

The plan originally was for me to kayak up to the start. This would have given me a bit of chance to regain my confidence and would also have provided a bit of a work out too. It was blowy, but nowhere near as tough as in Bala the previous weekend. However, although the kayak was there for me to take, the buoyancy aid and spray deck weren’t, so I couldn’t paddle it. I have to say I was a bit relieved.

So we got to the start and ready to set off. As the name suggests the veterans’ event attracts the associations older members (I have to be careful what I say here as I’ll qualify very soon) and some of them are not as speedy as they used to be, so there is a staggered start to allow everyone to finish roughly together. Jo was one of the speedier ones, so we started in the last group.

Despite my nerves (and Jo’s last minute scramble for her hat and goggles – which she didn’t find and had to borrow from someone else) all started well.

I had been joined by the spare kayaker and in the end we were either side of Jo providing synchronised support and being the living embodiment of the expression “a rose between two thorns.”

A couple of times I wanted to tell him that I was fine and he didn’t need to ‘babysit’ me. But I didn’t. After my inability to properly escort my swimmer on my last outing as a kayaker I realised that consciously or not I was being looked after and that it was not about my ego, but about swimmer safety. So I shut up and the three of us made serene progress.

Until about 30 minutes in, “SHIIIIIIIITTTT!” came a sudden yell from Jo in the water.

I frantically back paddled and shouted out to her, “are you okay?” It turned out that she was fine, the mobile phone she was fishing out of her swimsuit was less fine! In the confusion at the start she had forgotten to take it out of her costume – storing it there for safe keeping once she gets changed ready to swim. Oops!

The rest of the swim passed without incident, although given the staggered start we managed to pass a few people. And then the Bluebird was in sight and we reached the end.

Jo is a joy to be around on these swimming weekends and she clearly loves her swimming. At the end of every swim she lets out a yell and a laugh and proclaims how much she “bloody loved it.” This swim was no different and it was a real honour to provide support for it.

Cups of tea, a quick dip in the lake myself, certificates, rounds of applause and then back to the BnB for a shower and change. Out for dinner and a few pints, with more swimming chat and back to bed ready for Sunday.

Sunday was a different proposition and although kayaking for Jo had calmed my nerves, they hadn’t got rid of them completely. I had asked Ray to swim this event so that I could kayak. He had come all the way up from London just for this – and although he was clearly looking forward to it, there was more riding on it for him than there had been for Jo. Also he was speedier. He was as quick as Rach and I’d failed to keep up with her the week before.

Fortunately all the shuffling at the start meant that I forgot my nerves and before I knew it we were off.

The weather was windy again, but it was a tail wind, so it was [kind of] helpful. It certainly meant I wasn’t having to kayak into the teeth of it and as I’d borrowed Jo’s kayak again I was actually able to relax and enjoy it.

Ray was great to kayak for – a strong swimmer who didn’t actually need any support above the BLDSA requirement and we soon moved towards the front of the swim. I tried to count and I thought we were the 6th or 7th swimmer in the lake and given Ray’s speed it was amazing to watch those ahead of us speed away.

My one criticism of Ray’s swimming (beyond the jokes I made with him about his technique – he is my coach after all) was that he needs to trust his support boat and be willing to swim a little closer to it – but given my recent experiences I couldn’t be too demanding of him.

We made great progress down the lake, occasionally seeming to gain on those in front of us, but never quite reaching them. The wind seemed to be a little bit swirly so we occasionally swapped sides. I tried to navigate as straight a line down the centre of the lake as possible and we continued to make progress.

Now I was experiencing the swim from this angle – and thoroughly enjoying it – I thought about even more ways I could experience a swim. Swimming the damn things seems like such a small part of the process and I was acutely aware of just how grateful I am to all the people that have supported me during my swims – from the kayakers to the safety officials and the event organisers.

Then we were passing the Bluebird café and the end was in sight (for me in the kayak at least – I’m pretty sure Ray couldn’t see it yet). But not only were we nearing the finish, but we were gaining on another swimmer. One last push and we might overtake just before the end. C’mon Ray!

He did push, but so did the other guy and we finished a couple of minutes behind him, but in a excellent time of 2 hours 40 minutes. Not bad for a southern softy!

More cups of tea, congratulations and certificates. And during the presentation Jean who organises the swim so brilliantly announced that she’d like to step down from the job and asked if we knew anyone that might be willing to run it in future.

Well, I had been saying to myself that I wanted to experience a swim from a different angle and Coniston is my favourite swim on the BLDSA calendar, so I might* have volunteered.

 

*I did!

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Sunday was better

After the disaster that was Saturday, Sunday turned out to be a better day.

The kayak hire place (that hired out the kayak on Saturday with a broken seat, that made my experience quite a lot tougher) offered us an actual kayaker for the Sunday swim, so that we would have someone with more experience and skill if the water got as choppy again. What it actually meant for us was an extra body and Rach no longer had to kayak for me and could actually swim – getting back at least some of her lost swim from Saturday.

Originally Rach’s plan was to set off as a solo swim after the event had set off. She had informed the safety boats and had promised to keep out of the way of championship swimmers. They knew she was competent and would have a tow-float, so had promised to keep an eye on her too.

However, the BLDSA being what it is, as soon as the organisers were aware of this – coupled with the fact that they knew they had a spare kayaker – she was immediately placed as a late entry into the event.

So three of us from Team Bear set off to do the 3-mile one-way swim.

After the previous day, the berating of myself and a poor night’s sleep I wasn’t feeling on top form. But equally I had made the decision not to mope and attack it properly as I felt it would have been disrespectful to Rach to do anything else.

While the weather wasn’t as bad as Saturday, it was still a ‘little’ choppy. The first 500 or so metres across the lake from the start were certainly tough, then we turned to swim down the lake with the wind and chop [mostly] to our back. A breeze pushing us down the lake is predominantly helpful, although it can disrupt rhythm at times and increase the likelihood of taking in mouthfuls of water. So a couple of stops mid lake to spit out water and regain my rhythm aside, I pushed on and swam hard.

Rach beat me (as expected), but I was pleased with a time of 1:34.

And to top it off, Cathy completed the swim – her longest ever and after she had kayaked through the horrible conditions (and kayaked it all) the day before.

There are more thoughts to be had about the Saturday (which may well be blogged), but in the end it turned out to be a successful weekend and a lovely bunch of Bears to spend it with.

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Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit

So far I’ve not had a DNF as a swimmer. On my first attempt at providing kayak support for a swimmer I’ve had just that.

I’m so sorry for ballsing up your swim Rach.

I just couldn’t keep up with her in the conditions and so as a safety precaution we both had to get out – again sorry Rach.

I was trying as hard as I could and was just not moving forward – she was swimming great and so swimming away from me, I was kayaking on the spot and was no use to man nor beast (nor swimmer).

Bollocks! I am heartbroken about it.

Sorry Rach.

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DNS

Today was the BLDSA’s Wykeham lakes swim and although I was entered, although I was there at the venue in time to register, although I’d had a brief dip yesterday and wanted to swim I did not start (DNS).

It’s the first time I’ve ever done that when it wasn’t fitness or injury that prevented me from starting. Today it was life that got in the way.

Yesterday I did a kayaking course at the Trafford Water Sports Centre (which I’ll blog about later). The early start and full day on (and partly in) the water meant I was tired by the end of it. However, I’d arrange to stay with a friend in York to make me closer to Wykeham – which is just down the road from Scarborough – so I drove over there. But it was to be no quiet night in. Instead my friends had an 80s night to go out to, so I went along with them.

If I’d been determined to swim I’m sure I could have drank less, got to bed earlier and generally been more committed to the whole exercise. But I wasn’t. I decided to relax and spend time with friends that I’ve not seen properly for at least a year – and so this was the result:

It was a good night!

It was a good night!

So I drove up to start, said hello to a few people and then left them all to their swim and drove home again.

I’m quite comfortable with that though. As I said before, I’m being more relaxed about my swimming at the moment and I’ve also got to spend the afternoon working in preparation for a busy week next week.

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I got a PB

One of the things I love about open water swimming is the fact that it is different every time, it isn’t controlled and ‘sanitised’ like pool swimming. When you swim in a pool, you can be confident that the distances are exact, the water will be a standard temperature and you can swim up and down in a straight line. You can therefore be confident in the distance you have swum and you can measure it exactly against other swims.

Open water swimming is not like that.

On any given day the various variables mean that each swim is different. The course may change slightly (even moored buoys can move a bit), the wind and water temperature can make a huge difference. Not to mention the current or tides if you are in a river or the sea. In many ways, each swim is completely different and can’t be compared to others – even if you have swum the same ‘course’.

On that logic, I’m pleased to announce that I got a PB on Sunday.

I need to qualify that slightly – it was a PB for the swim on Sunday – given that every swim is unique. It wasn’t a PB for the distance, or even for that venue. But hey, I’ll take what I can get.

I was actually quite a bit slower than last year, but so were most people – it was very windy on Sunday (and cold!). However, I was actually slower in comparison to other people (ie they weren’t as much slower as I was). Now, they are on different swimming journeys, but still now I’ve done the big endurance event it’s time to spend a bit of time working on speed.

One of my biggest problems is knowing quite how hard to push myself on these swims. I can spend a bit too long being a ‘tourist’ and not swimming hard. So I’m not going to work on my sprinting speed, but rather my endurance threshold – getting used to feeling more comfortable pushing a bit harder for longer.

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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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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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Enoch Tarder

This weekend it was the BLDSA‘s annual dinner and AGM, so I went along. It was a great weekend.

The do was held up in Ellesmere Port, so after a lunchtime swim in the pool I set off up there. Once I’d got to the hotel I had time for a quick shower and to scrub myself up.

Scrubs up well

Scrubs up well

Unfortunately I didn’t have quite as much time as I thought (mainly because I hadn’t read the ticket details) and I got down to the dinner just as it started at 6:30pm – sorry all for being late.

The first bit of the evening was a review of the year – with awards handed out to some of the amazing swimmers and for some amazing swims. Well done to everyone, all fully deserved.

Then it was time to eat (and drink). I managed to do both!

Speeches followed the meal and as part of that we were treated to a great speech from Emma France about her amazing swimming year in 2014 – and the sneaky channel swim that she managed to do ‘under the radar’.

After the speeches we were let off the leash to socialise (drink) and chat – again I managed both quite well! While we were doing this another trophy was being challenged for – it’s called the Enoch Tarder trophy. It was inspired by a sadly missing former member of the association Maurice Ferguson. After his death the committee decided to create an award that honoured his spirit and the fact that he would swim with his glasses stored down the back of his trunks. The trophy goes to the person who can roll a pound coin closest to it over the course of the evening (the losing pound coins are collected and donated to Maurice’s favourite charity – UNICEF) and it actually an old pair of trunks and a pair of glasses sprayed gold and attached the a slate bed.

Receiving the trophy

Receiving the trophy

It’s clearly a matter of extreme skill and to be honest much harder than swimming the length of Windermere or Loch Lomond. Although nobody wants to admit it, this is actually the one trophy that everyone wants to win – but it can only go to one person and I think this year it went to a worthy winner – me!

After that, more drinking, chatting and making merry – until we all stumbled to our rooms at about 2am. A great night – thank you all.

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