Tag Archives: open water swimming

Collecting pebbles in Salford

There’s a tradition that if you complete a channel swim you collect a pebble from the beach in France as a memento. This weekend I completed my Aspire Channel Challenge by swimming 1,000 metres at USwim in Salford, so I collected my ‘French’ pebbles in Salford.

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Obviously, there’s still time to sponsor me: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-2016-aspire-channel-swim

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I Has Cold Swimmed

After having had a back bad I’ve had to miss the entire open water swimming season this year. However, my back is slowly starting to get better.

A month ago today I posted that I had swum for the first time in months, well now I can say that yesterday I swam outside for the first time this year. Unfortunately I’ve missed the BLDSA season by a day – but I’m just delighted to get back into the water.

It happened at the final BLDSA event of the year at Lynn Regis. A few people camp over following the swim and although I didn’t swim in the event itself, my son and I joined in with the camping. Some of the campers then get up and go for a quick dip in the water on the Sunday morning. I’d taken my kit along, but wasn’t desperate to join in, until my son said he wanted to get into the water. I wasn’t sure he’d actually swim – I thought he’d paddle for a bit and get out – but he jumped in and had a quick swim (proud dad moment), so I jumped in after him.

Although I didn’t swim far I stayed in after he got out and spent probably around 20 minutes swimbling – it was great.

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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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BLDSA’s Colwick Park Swim – Report

A sunny day, happy and successful swimmers, the support of some great volunteers – this swim secretary job is easy isn’t it?

The first swim of the BLDSA season was blessed with glorious weather, which off-set any concerns about the early season cold water and nearly 50 swimmers set off for the 5km swim, including some wetsuit swimmers for the first time.

2016-05-22 10.10.45The great conditions were matched by great swimming. The ladies event saw the top three swimmers separated by less than three minutes – Georgia Amison coming in first a couple minutes ahead of Louise Fielding and Wendy Figures. Thomas Roberts won the gents event, with a battle for second that saw Paul Smith finish just 13 seconds ahead of Andrew Ward, who was also the first wetsuit swimmer home.

Swimmers continued to stream home for the next hour, with excellent performances from everyone.

Then once all the 5km swimmers had completed their swims (and everyone had had their bacon butties) we started the 1km swim.

12 swimmers set off for the 1km and it was a great mix of 5km swimmers wanting to add an extra 1km to their day’s swimming, swimmers looking for a 1km challenge, BLDSA regulars and some first timers to our swims. We even had a team medley happening.

Thomas Roberts was again the first swimmer home to take the gents 1km event, while Nic Court, swimming her first BLDSA event managed to scoop the ladies event and first breaststroker home.

Once again, thanks to all the volunteers and I look forward to seeing you all again next year.

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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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The Crete Escape

I’ve just got back from a great week swimming in Crete. It was an organised week, run by SwimTrek (I have done their Long Distance Training week previously) and I LOVED it.

I’ll write a bit more about over the next few days, but what can be better than a week in warm weather (and warm water), lots of swimming, great food and drink, and lovely people? Not much!

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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.

– – –

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/.

– – –

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

 

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Two Channel Experiences

Yesterday was a bit of a channel day for me.

It started with me reading this account of a recent channel swim by Jane. It’s funny, I know the writer but not the swimmer, but I still got all emotional reading it. It’s a great post and obviously a huge achievement and a hugely personal one for Tony.

The day then continued with me tracking a very good swimming friend of mine as she set off to “bother the French” just before 8am. I was glued to her tracker and the Facebook updates I could find in between meetings for the whole day. I made sure I could sign into Wifi on the train home to keep checking and as soon as I got home up came the tracker again.

And then after about 13 hours of swimming there was a kink in the tracker that didn’t look good. The next refresh confirmed it – the swimming had stopped and the boat had turned for home.

So near, but yet so far. The track that no-one wants to see.

So near, but yet so far. The track that no-one wants to see.

I was heart broken for her. Yet, as I posted on Facebook, for some reason I had to keep following the tracker until they got back to Folkestone harbour. I didn’t ask them to give me ‘three rings’ to let me know they were safe, but it was a similar feeling – I needed to know they were safe.

But I guess that is a typical channel day – for some it provides a defining moment of glory, for others frustration and disappointment.

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8km before breakfast

I’m doing the Bridge to Bridge swim at the weekend, so I thought I should check that the shoulders and head space can cope and do a long swim this week. As it turned out this morning was my only chance for that, so I got up at 5:30am to go off to the lake and swim.

And swim I did. Just over 8km in just over two and a half hours.

I’m very pleased with that!

This morning's swim

This morning’s swim

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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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