Tag Archives: Coniston

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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Come and swim Coniston

I’m organising a swim in Coniston Water in the Lake District and I’d like to invite you to come along and swim it.

It’s through the BLDSA, so you need to be a member of the organisation – you can enter easily online here: http://bldsa.org.uk/portfolio/bldsa-annual-dinner-agm/. However, membership not only allows you to swim in any other BLDSA event this year, it also supports a voluntary organisation that is dedicated to providing safe and fun events for open water swimmers.

The swim itself is a 5.25mile skins swim that starts at the southern end of the lake and ends when the lake ends at the northern end of the lake. And it’s beautiful. Coniston is one of the nicest lakes to swim in and I promise you’ll love it.

As we are so focussed on you being safe and enjoying your swim we insist on a 1-2-1 kayak to swimmer ratio, so you’ll need to have a kayaker to support you. However, if you’re stuck with that we might be able to find you someone who can help, or if you a body but no boat kayaks can be hired at the lake – just let me know.

So, sign up here – http://www.entrycentral.com/event/100339 – and be quick as entries close tomorrow.

The view back down the lake from the finish.

The view back down the lake from the finish.

The beach at the Bluebird Cafe

The beach at the Bluebird Cafe

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Wetsuit swimmers needed

It turns out that I’m a glutton for punishment. Not only have I taken on the running of the BLDSA’s Coniston swim, but this afternoon I found myself on Facebook agreeing to help run the Colwick Park swim – my local event and the first BLDSA swim of the year.

I’ve swum it a couple of times and it’s a lovely event and a lovely swim (of course what I’ll find out is that it was so lovely for a swimmer because it was so well organised). As it’s an early one (May 22nd this year) it can be a little chilly, but not too bad and a great way to kick the season off.

What’s different about this one, and actually is new for this year, is that as well as the usual skins swim, there is a wetsuit category too. So no discrimination – all swimmers welcome. And as it’s a circuit swim – 5 laps of a 1km circuit – you don’t need to provide a personal kayak escort, the swim organiser (who I’ve heard is exceedingly handsome!) will organise kayakers to be dotted around the course watching out for all swimmers.

Anyone that’s training up for longer swims in the year, or has a 5km swim on their bucket list, this is a great event for you – however you choose to swim it!

Sign up here – http://www.entrycentral.com/festival/806
Although you need to be a BLDSA member first – http://bldsa.org.uk/swim/membership/

And don’t forget, you can sign up for Coniston too (a gorgeous 5.25m swim) – http://www.entrycentral.com/event/100339

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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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Running Again

After my recent injuries I returned to running for the first time in WEEKS tonight. I took it gently and just did 3 minutes of running and then 1 minute of walking, all done on the treadmill after a gym session. Then when I got home I iced it for a few minutes just to be extra cautious.

But, and I don’t want to tempt fate, but so far, so good and it all feels fine. A few niggles, but no injury like there was before.

The reason that I want to get back into running is that I’ve signed up to a 14 mile run around the perimeter of Coniston and I’m very keen to do it. I love the Coniston swim and so this run sounds great too – although of course it’s going to be tough. What I don’t want to do is be pig-headed about it, set off on the event and then have to pull up half-way round, or possibly even worse continue to be pig-headed, complete it and damage my leg for weeks to come.

I’ll give it a few more sessions like tonight before I commit to it, but even at tonight’s pace it looks like I could do the distance in about 2 and a half hours, so as I’m not chasing glory on this one (or any event) it could be a goer. Wish me luck.

PS – I’m a bit annoyed as I’d thought about a clever / funny title and theme for this post when I was on the treadmill, but I’ve completely forgotten it now 😦

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A great haul

The open water season is over – or at least it is for me, I don’t swim in lakes and seas when it gets proper cold. So it’s time to look back on the season and see how it’s gone and what I’ve achieved.

I could write a lot of words about this – but I think this photo is a great summary.

The season's haul

From the back, left to right we have:

– Windermere certificate and swim hat – a tough, tough swim for me, but still another 10.5 miles under my belt and I can start to see it as more of a learning experience now.

– Colwick Park certificate and swim hat – the first event of the season and I can’t say I enjoyed the swim (probably due to poor nutrition), but it was a lovely and local day for me.

– Coniston certificate and swim hat – I always like Coniston, it’s just a beautiful swim.

Wykeham Lakes certificate (x2) and swim hat – a 5km swim, followed a little later by a 1km swim, hence the two certificates.

– SwimTrek hat – provided as part of the Long Distance Training course I did with them in April in Mallorca. A great, GREAT trip and I met some amazing swimmers.

– 100% swimming hat – provided by Paul of 100% swimming as we sat and chatted one day at Activities Away.

– French pebble – probably my most treasured swimming possession. A memento of the channel relay I did in July and although I didn’t collect the pebble myself, I will do one day.

Not a bad season all told.

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I’m a runner now

Obviously not really, but the next two events I’ve entered are both running events, so my plan for the winter is to work on my swimming technique and then get running.

Leeds 10k entry form

Leeds 10k entry form

The first event I’ve got coming up is the Leeds Xmas 10k, which isn’t actually at Xmas but at the end of November. I’m in this event thanks to Gemma who ran a competition on her site – she was offered a free place because she marshalled the event last year, but she decided to give the place away. Thanks Gemma.

My second event, in March, is the Coniston 14. It’s a run around the perimeter of the lake. So as I’ve swam it, I thought it would be fun to run it too.

I better get my running shoes on.

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Coniston Yesterday

It started with a slightly disappointing night’s stay in a slightly tired hotel in the slightly faded town of Barrow-in-Furness. The plan was to drive up to the Lakes the day before the swim so that I could relax and be refreshed for the swim on Sunday. While the overnight stay wasn’t terrible, it didn’t quite constitute “relaxing” either. If it wasn’t the people in the room next door who seemed to need the TV “turned up to 11”, it was the people leaving the pubs and clubs rowing in the street.

A pre-race snack!!

A pre-race snack!!

At least I got to carb (and protein) load the night before the swim.

Anyway, if I wasn’t refreshed from the night before, the plan did work in that I only had a short drive to the lake and could take my time and enjoy the amazing scenery. On the way up the Lakes on Saturday, as the rain was falling so heavily that the cars couldn’t drive at more than 40mph as visibility was so poor and the road was so wet, I was fully expecting the forecast storms to materialise and for the swim to be called of. On Sunday morning as I drove up from the south lakes to Coniston the weather was gorgeous.

The weather only improved during the day and in the end we had a day almost perfect for swimming, apart from the breeze that picked up a bit later in the day (but more on that later).

One of the reasons that I like the Coniston swim is the fact that the start is only accessible by walking through fields and over stiles, while the finish is on a small bit of beach at the end of the lake right next to a road. It somehow feels more ‘real’, but it does make the logistics tough and yesterday was no exception. We were given lifts to the start, after meeting at the Bluebird Cafe – but with so many swimmers wanting a lift that whole process took a long time. I ended up being in the last shuttle and so as soon we were dropped off it was “ten minutes to go please swimmers.”

Clothes off, sunscreen on, a bit of Vaseline here and there and into the water and ready.

This was the first time I’ve felt like a ‘proper’ swimmer at the start as I stayed in the main pack for a long time (I normally drift to the back pretty quickly). In fact I was stroke for stroke with another swimmer for a good half mile, possibly further. But eventually the swimmers spread out, we found our kayakers and we started our solo swims in the lake with everyone else.

At one point I thought about what a great spectacle it must be for the kayakers to see the start like that and then to be able to look down the lake and see the field start to spread out. As a swimmer I could see water, a kayak, tress and the sky and the bright sun (thank God for the sunscreen). I must kayak for someone one year soon.

And at this point I must thank my kayaker and everyone else that supported us – no swimmer could do what they do without the support of the boat crews, the safety team, the race organiser, the person that volunteered herself to drive us all to the start (and many others I’ve missed out). You are all wonderful and we thank you all.

Lovely to swim in

Lovely to swim in

The first half of the swim felt good and strong and I was really enjoying it. Last time I was a very annoying 6 seconds over 3 hours, so that was my target – and from my perspective I felt on track to hit that target. Then about halfway through we hit a headwind. It didn’t feel too bad to swim in – a bit of chop, but nothing serious and quite good fun to get your head and swim, but it didn’t make it harder for the kayakers.

But the wind must have had an effect on the swim (at least I hope it did) as I was offered a 4th feed with still a distance to go to the finish. I feed every 45 minutes, so I knew that the 3 hour target had gone and in the end I finished in 3 hours, 18 minutes and 44 seconds.

And the winner is... not me

And the winner is… not me

I had a strange feeling after that. I had thoroughly enjoyed the swim and felt strong and quick in the water; yet my time doesn’t reflect that and I’m really disappointed with it. However, before I feel too sorry for myself I’m going to try and compare myself to other swimmers’ times from other event this year – were they slowed down by the wind to an equal extent, or was it just a bad swim from me? I do know I beat someone that has beaten me the last couple of times, but she tried to get her excuses in early by claiming an injury, so we’ll have to see.

In summary I loved it, but…

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Coniston Tomorrow

Tomorrow I’m going to be swimming the length of Coniston – all 5.25miles of it.

I did it a couple of years ago – so this time around I’d like to beat my time from 2012 (which was, annoyingly 3 hours and 6 seconds). Weather and conditions permitting, I should be able to do that.

If I’m serious about a plan to swim the channel at some time in the future these are the kind of swims that I need to be able to knock off reasonably comfortably, yet at the same time treat them with the respect they deserve.

At the moment I’m in a hotel in Barrow-in-Furness, staying over so I’ve only got a short drive to the swim tomorrow. Apologies if you’re from Barrow, but it doesn’t have a lot going for it from what I can see – although in that respect I suppose it reminds me a bit of Dover. Both have seen better days.

I can’t complain too much though as I’m researching flights to Nashville for a work trip…

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Windermere 2014

I’m glad I went to watch this year’s swim, but that, combined with a conversation I had the weekend before, has left me wanting to enter again next year.

The key for me is – having swum the distance already – is to try and beat what I did last year. Specifically I want to be aiming for a 7 hour swim (last year I was 7 hours and 42 minutes). I don’t want to get in to the lake if I don’t think that I can get to the end in 7 hours or less.

You can just see some swimmers in the lake below

You can just see some swimmers in the lake below

Given last year’s time, that means I need to be about 45 minutes faster, or about 4 minutes per mile quicker. I think that’s perfectly doable.

So how do I do that, well there are a few things I can get better from the swim itself:

Feeding – last year I swam for 2 hours before taking on any nourishment and even then I didn’t take on enough. So I can get that better – feed every 45 minutes, and think about proper drinks and food, not just water and jelly babies. That should give me more energy at the end of the swim.

Swim quicker – it seems obvious, but I spent a lot of last year’s swim conserving my energy. It was by far the furthest I had ever swum and I wasn’t sure I could do it, so I kept something in reserve so that I could. I had said all year that I was trying to “complete and not compete” and I’m pleased that I did complete. But it meant that I set off very slowly and stayed at that pace throughout the swim. Having a slightly different mindset from the start will help me to be a bit quicker throughout.

Train more – as I said when I got in last year, I’m not sure I could have done much more to prepare for the swim in the time I had, and that’s true. What I can do this time though is give myself more time. I only started training in April last year and only committed to swimming Windermere after swimming Coniston at the end of July. If I start now, then that should give me much more time and give me a much stronger base of fitness and swimming power, allowing me to push a bit harder on the day.

On top of those things though I’ll also need to get myself together now.

Training plan – life can be a bit up and down at times for me – pulled in a few different directions. A strong training plan will put some anchors down and will “force” me to always consider my training.

Advice – I’m not a big believer in having a coach, but I do accept that I could do with some advice on things like my stroke, my diet, my weight training. I intend to find the right people to ask – and ask them!

Physio – I spend a lot of time hunched over a laptop, if I’m then going to do a lot of front crawl it’s not going to do my shoulders and back a whole lot of good. A regular (probably monthly) good physio session will help.

Support – I need to ensure that my family is on board with all of this and that I’m not going off and doing a selfish mission. All of this will be much easier with their support.

I’m not guaranteeing I’ll enter and I’m certainly not guaranteeing that I’ll break 7 hours, but as things stand right now I’m going to give it a damn good try.

Right then, off I go.

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