Tag Archives: open water swimming

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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Early morning dip

All this talk of triathlons made me realise that I needed to get back to my first love – swimming. So I got up at 5:30am this morning to get to the lake for 6:30.

I was a bit late setting off, but I still had plenty of time for 8 laps. It’s a 1/2 mile loop, so simple maths means that is 4 miles. But as I’m a free spirit as a swimmer and I refuse to adhere to society’s desire for straight lines (I swim wonky), plus I need to add a bit for coming into the jetty to feed, I’m rounding it up to 6,900 metres.

Not bad before breakfast.

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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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Swimming Windermere – on TV

If you want to get a better understanding of what swimming Windermere is actually like, then it is covered in a recent TV programme on BBC called Countryside 999.

As you can guess from the programme title, it’s not exclusively about swimming and is actually about all the various ‘accidents’ that can happen in the UK’s rural locations and the emergency services that help in those situations. One of the people covered is a lake warden on Windermere and one of his duties was to check on a couple of groups of swimmers swimming the lake.

You can catch the programme on BBC iPlayer here – the swimming bits start from about 7 mins 30 seconds and again from about 31 mins.

What I love about it is that even the lake warden thinks they’re a bit mad!

Some of the swimmers setting off

Some of the swimmers setting off

Swimmers by the ferry (about half-way)

Swimmers by the ferry (about half-way)

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