Tag Archives: Swimtrek

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

I posted the other week about going From the Sublime to the Ridiculous as I returned from swimming in the lovely, warm waters around Crete to swim in the less lovely and certainly less warm waters of Salford Quays.

This post charts a journey in the opposite direction.

One of the things that the SwimTrek holidays do is a video analysis of your swimming stroke – which tips and pointers about how you can improve. When I first had this done in April 2014 it was the first time I had ever seen myself swim. To be honest I didn’t know what I was looking for, so I couldn’t really spot all the faults.

However, revisiting it, it’s clear that I over-rotate on one side, and hardly rotate on the other; that I have a ‘limpy’, single-side breathing stroke; that my catch is weak; that I lift my hands in the reach. In short, it’s a clip of someone that can swim, but it’s not a great, technical stroke.

I can’t be too disappointed with it though – it got me down the length of Windermere, on two occasions.

Since that second Windermere swim I’ve had some proper coaching of my stroke by the brilliant Ray at SwimCanaryWharf. Part of Ray’s method is to film your stroke, so I’ve seen a lot of it since the film above, but it was still good to see it again, in situ when I was filmed in Crete.

Of course I could spot some faults and get picky about it, but in truth the difference is like night and day. Previously I looked like someone that could swim, now I look like a swimmer!

I still have a tendency to lift my left hand so my palm is facing forwards, I don’t kick enough and I am too slow on each breath – and so I’m going to keep working on those elements. But equally, I’m delighted with the improvements.

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Getting Quicker

Every so often I write a post similar to this (for example this one) – one where I talk about the improvements I’ve made, especially those that are measured by speed. It’s clear that, while I’m not obsessed, it’s obviously an important factor for me.

It’s strange and very much a relative issue. At my local pool I can only think of four other swimmers that swim regularly that are faster than me – 90% of the time that I’m in the pool I’m the quickest one there. In Crete the other week I was in the middle of the middle group, by the end of the week I’d managed to speed up a bit and join those at the head of the middle group. Yet at most BLDSA events I’m in the last two thirds of the event – and the longer the event, the closer to the back that I finish.

I’m always striving to do better in everything I do and as I came to swimming so late (I could always swim, but I only started entering events three years ago) I think I still have a lot of room for improvement. In a group of people the definition of a ‘good’ swimmer is so subjective (I’m the crazy, open water swimmer amongst my pool colleagues, yet I’m the guy at the back in the BLDSA events), so it’s best to use an objective measurement of improvement – and speed / time is that.

Friday morning's swim time

Friday morning’s swim time

On Thursday I went to the pool mainly because I couldn’t be bothered to go to the gym. I was still tired after being out on Tuesday night, so I was planning / expecting to plod out 2km and go home. I only started my stopwatch to help me count laps as I thought I might lose concentration. However I joined two of the aforementioned quicker swimmers in the lane and I didn’t want to hold them up, so I got on with it. I got on with it so much that I did the fastest 1km that I’ve ever recorded – 17 mins and 33 seconds (an average of 1:45 / 100m).

Then the following morning, less than 12 hours after I’d got out of the pool, I was back in for my regular Friday swim. It involves 500m warm-up, 1,000m of drills, 400m of relaxed swimming, then a timed 1km set. I wasn’t expecting much after the previous evening’s unexpected exertions. Yet I matched my new PB to the second!

I put these improvements down to a few factors:

  • The work I’ve been doing with Ray from SwimCanaryWharf has made HUGE improvements to my stroke
  • The week in Crete with SwimTrek gave me a few additional pointers that I’ve worked on since getting back – raising my left hand, taking too long on my breaths, being a ‘lazy’ swimmer (my words)
  • I’m probably at the fittest I’ve been for a while having done a lot of gym work in October
  • I’m enjoying my swimming again

I’m aware that my speed isn’t much compared to some of the faster swimmers I know in real-life and online, but I’m pleased with it as not so long ago I would have been delighted to get below 20mins for 1km. Also, having never been a swimmer as a kid I still don’t tumble turn, so compared to someone swimming at the same pace as me I might be losing as much as a second a lap (20 seconds total) over a tumble turner.

What is important to me though is not how quickly I can do 1km in the pool, it’s all about getting my body used to swimming at a quicker pace, so when I want to go longer my 80-90% speed has improved.

My best time for Windermere is 7 hours and 40 minutes – an average pace of just over 27 minutes per kilometre. Imagine if I could reduce that average to something like 22 mins – well, you don’t have to imagine, it would mean a 6 1/4 hour swim!

So I’m going to keep trying to speed up in the pool, keep celebrating any improvements I get there, but also keep my eye on the bigger picture (and swims).

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More on Crete

I thought I’d extend a bit on my Crete trip after my short initial post. I’ve also written a post for the SwimTrek website, which should be here (once they publish it).

I flew to Crete on the Saturday, with the intention of meeting fellow swimmers on the Sunday as we shared a transfer from the hotel to the airport (I stayed near the airport on Saturday night). But soon after the flight had set off I heard two people discussing swimming behind me on the plane, and it turned out they were on the same trip. They were self-medicating for flight nerves with some strong medicine that seemed to deliver headaches the following morning!

We transferred to the resort the following morning and arrived to an almost perfect beach resort scene. So bags dumped we were on the beach in swimming suits almost immediately and the first swim of the week took place. To be fair, it was more of a ‘bob’ than a swim, but it was lovely.

The following morning was the start of the trip proper and the official acclimatisation swim saw us split into groups, based on speed. I was in the middle group and the first couple of swims saw me very much in the middle of the middle group.

The groups are a very important part of SwimTrek trip, as by swimming with people of a similar speed they allow the guides to monitor the safety of everyone. They also allow the guides to judge the groups and distances and have everyone finish the swims roughly at the same time.

The swims in Crete are mainly coastal hugging ones and for the first couple of days we would jump on the boat in the morning, find a new bay and then swim along it and the next couple of bays – then back on the boat and back to the hotel. All the while enjoying the glorious sunshine we had been blessed with. What a life!

One of the plan Bs was a trek across the island.

One of the plan Bs was a trek across the island.

Unfortunately the weather changed in the second half of the week – the danger of going at the end of the season. The wind whipped up and although it was mainly dry, it made the swimming conditions much tougher. It also meant that we couldn’t take the boat out as the coastguard wouldn’t let our pilot take passengers out to sea. However, the SwimTreks guides were fantastic and excellent plan Bs meant that as swimmers we a) didn’t have to worry about it; b) still got a great swim in.

From a personal point of view, for some reason I didn’t relax and couldn’t enjoy the first couple of swims. I came out of the water wondering whether I’m just not cut out for sea swimming and whether I should abandon my idea of swimming the Channel. I was genuinely concerned. However, something changed over the last few days and while the conditions got tougher my love of the swims increased dramatically. I loved it.

One of the main changes was that our middle paced group had effectively been split into two and I started at the back of

The great group on the last night.

The great group on the last night.

the quicker group, with the other swimmers generously waiting for me every now and then (although swimming off just as I stopped for a breather, like we used to do with the fat kid on cross country runs at school!). Then a combination of a couple of pieces of advice about my stroke and a realisation from me that I was swimming lazily meant that I could keep up and play (swim) with the cool kids.

All in all I swam just over 21kms in the week – so not a huge amount, but substantial. But most importantly I have made some more great swimming friends.

The week got a thumbs up from me. Photo courtesy of Miriam Zendle.

The week got a thumbs up from me.
Photo courtesy of Miriam Zendle.

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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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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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I’m gonna swim from Europe to Asia

It’s not actually that far, just about 4.5km, but it sounds good and I’m expecting it to be great fun.

I’m going to do it as part of the Hellespont trip organised by SwimTrek (who I did the April trip with) and it’s all part of the research for my Open for Business book. I’ve blogged about it on the Open4Biz blog:

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One of my target swims for next year is Hellespont, which is the famous swim in Turkey in which you cross from the European continent to the Asian continent.

Photo blatantly stolen from the SwimTrek website.

It’s a swim that has always captured my imagination as an iconic international swim. It is also a great place to meet international swimmers and to see if they can share some of the experiences that I have with regards to the links between open water swimming and business – or perhaps even more usefully, learn from their different experiences.

So I’m delighted to say that I’ve booked the swim for next August already.

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Read the full post here.

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I’m writing a book – Open For Business: business advice from a fresh [water] perspective.

Please check out my crowdfunding site to pre-order a copy – https://www.sponsume.com/project/open-business

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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 Gonna Swim the English Channel

I’m hinted and murmured about this for a few months, ever since the successful Channel relay, but I’m going to state it out loud (or write it down at least):

I Will Swim the English Channel

I don’t know when yet, but it now a confirmed entry on my personal to-do list.

Continue reading

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More Arch to Arc

I’ve mentioned the amazing Arch to Arc challenge that someone I’m honoured to call a friend recently completed. Well, here’s some more.

I met Paul on the SwimTrek trip out to Mallorca and while I used that as the foundation to [badly] complete Windermere this year Paul was not only training to swim the channel, but run from London Dover before the swim and cycle from Calais to Paris after it – a combination of madness and extremely inspirational.

Anyway, during all the training and the challenge itself Paul had a photographer from Reuters follow him and take some amazing photos. Like this one:

You can read more about Paul’s journey (and Neil’s the photographer) here or here – and I urge you to do so.

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Paul is listed as “the oldest person to complete the race” – he’s 49. Because I’m a bit crazy like that, part of me reads that and says, “right then, a target for my 50th!” We’ll see…

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Training plans

I’ve finally got round to creating some swimming training plans, so I thought I’d share them with you.

A couple of weeks ago I devised a weekly plan – when to train and what exercise I’m doing. (Of course since then I haven’t been able to stick to it all, but that’s a whole other story). However, what I hadn’t done is define what I was going to do in the pool each time I went.

Normally I tend to alternate between doing speed endurance sessions, or just getting in the pool and swimming until it is time to get out. However, I’m aware that it would be a good idea to work on my technique a bit (especially my lack of rotation on my right side; and how my left hand lifts up as I stretch it out). So I wanted to create some sessions that would still be fun, would still feel like a ‘proper’ work out and would be manageable on my own.

I’ve split my sessions into four main areas:

– Warm-up / Cool down – as the names suggest, just gentle swimming, but I’ve added in some breaststroke and the use of the pull buoy and kickboard to mix it up a bit.

– Technical – drills suggested to me by Trish, one of the Swimtrek guides.

– Speed – or rather in my case, it’s about speed endurance. It’s not about the maximum speed I can swim, it’s about being able to hold a good speed for as long as possible.

– Swim – just some time in each session to just get some lengths in.

I had six different technical drills suggested to me, so I’ve created six different programmes, each programme working on four of the drills – in that way I get to mix it up and don’t get too bored of them. Then for the other areas I had two options for each, so just tossed a coin to see which one I’d do with that particular technical session.Once I planned the sessions I printed them out and laminated each of them (I had a bit of help cutting them out and laminating them from my son). Each time I go to the pool I’ll take one of these cards at random. In this way I’m hoping that I’ve got some sessions that keep me both interested and guessing.

Six [hopefully] interesting traing plans.

Six [hopefully] interesting training plans.

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