Tag Archives: Windermere

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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Swimming Season Over

At least it is for me.

I’ve been injured for the last eight weeks or so and although it’s slowly getting better it’s a long way from fixed. Tonight I finally bit the bullet and cancelled my entries to the BLDSA’s Bala swim. I also withdrew from my place in a Channel Relay team.

The Bala swims were to be one of my training weekends for Windermere – the plan was to use events as long distance training opportunities. Without Bala I’m not going to be able to train enough for Windermere, so that’s out for this year.


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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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Psychological Strategy

I was asked this morning on Twitter by a friend of mine, “What psychological strategy do you use when it gets tough on a long swim?”

I was going to reply on Twitter, but I realised that it probably needed more than just a tweet, it needed more than 140 characters. So here goes…

Team Bear Logo I’ve recently joined a virtual team called Team Bear. One of the main reasons that it appealed to me is the motto they have, which is “Suffer but NEVER surrender.” And that is one of the things that gets me through. I’ve never yet had a DNF (did not finish) for all the swims I’ve done and I want to do all I can to make sure I don’t have one.

It’s the old question of, how would you feel the minute after you’ve stopped? If you can honestly say that it was the best decision (and in swimming that can be about health reasons, especially hypothermia) to stop then do so. But if once you’ve retired you realise that maybe you could have just carried on, then you’ll regret it – if I’m struggling I do that analysis… and then carry on.

Another thing I’ve learnt through experience is that I need to play to my own strengths. And although it’s tough in open water swimming I’m a talker, so that’s what I need to do even while swimming. I’m someone that likes to downplay the effort involved, downplay the hardship and make jokes / comments about the trivialities. One of the reasons that I didn’t do as well this year in Windermere was that I was trying to be too focused and that’s just not me.

One thing that did help massively during Windermere was when I took a break and started swimming breaststroke for a couple of minutes. My boat crew leaned over to see if I was ok. I shook my head and explained that I was finding it hard. “Of course it’s bloody hard,” was the incredibly caring and considerate reply. And actually that helped enormously as I realised that that was all it was – a bit of hard work. It wasn’t any more serious than that, it just required me to dig in. Well I could do that, so I did.

Mmmm carb loading before the Channel Relay

Mmmm carb loading before the Channel Relay

Finally, one of the biggest ways to stop yourself struggling in the first place is to feed well. If you don’t, then energy levels drop and if energy levels drop then you can feel the cold more and all of that affects your ‘head’. Just imagine starting the day without your normal cup of tea or coffee, then go to the worst work meeting you can imagine, now think what kind of mood you’ll be in. That’s what it feels like if you’re swimming without proper nutrition. If you can crack that, then most of the psychological battles become minor skirmishes. If you don’t crack the nutrition, then they become full-on wars which you may lose.

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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.

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A true long distance swimmer

At the weekend a great little package arrived for me – a swim cap celebrating the Windermere swim.

Windermere swim hat

Windermere swim hat

What’s even better than the hat itself though is the message that came with it. Windermere is unofficially recognised (certainly by the BLDSA and by many others) as the swim that marks a swimmer out and confirms you as no longer someone that swims long distances, but a true long distance swimmer:

a true Long Distance Swimmer

a true Long Distance Swimmer

– – –

And yes, despite still not being happy about it, I can almost celebrate the swim.


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Brutal Honesty

I get a bit sweary in this post – don’t read this kids.

– – –

My recent post on my Windermere swim has had quite a few reads so far and it seems to have been well received. The two main comments I’ve received from people on social media are:

1) That it was an ‘honest’ post

2) That it was a successful swim as I managed to complete it, despite it being so hard

Although well meaning and well received, both of those views are wrong.

1) I didn’t aim for ‘honesty’ in the post in some artsy attempt to be ‘real’. Instead I just told it how it was – although I accept that kind of is the definition of honesty. But it seems that people see this post as more honest because the swim was so hard for me and I admit that. However, I’m not sure the post was honest, as I don’t think I was telling the whole truth.

2) And where I wasn’t telling the whole truth – and the reason it wasn’t a successful swim – is that I fucked up. I wasn’t beaten by the conditions, or the day. I was beaten because I didn’t train enough, I didn’t plan enough and I did a lot of things that were almost guaranteed to mean I had a shit swim.

Since my SwimTrek trip in April I hadn’t done a single swim that was longer than three and a bit hours. In fact I was so complacent I even took a two week holiday just a week before Windermere. Instead of knuckling down and training – and also using longer swims to test my feeding plan – I focused on pool stuff and speed and pissing around on the edges. Now life stuff may have been a contributing factor, but not an excuse. And yet there I was still arrogantly assuming I could hit my seven hour target.

That’s the truth and that’s why even a few days later I can’t see this as a successful swim. Ultimately I’m just fucking annoyed at myself.

Thanks you all for your support and your good wishes. In the wider aspect of things, positives will come from this lesson. But I refuse to see this swim as anything more than a stupid, stupid, shit swim – and all my own fucking fault.

– – –

Thank you, normal non-potty mouth service will be resumed following this post.



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Windermere 2014

It was time for another crack at Windermere. Initially, as you can see by the name of this blog, that was my swimming goal – to complete the swim once, but after doing just that in 2012, I decided to have another go at it.

2012 was a rollercoaster swimming year with me managing to achieve in one year what I expected to take me two. And it was a good job that I did as, for a variety of reasons, I hardly did any swimming in the summer of 2013. So by the end of the 2013 swimming season I knew that I wanted another go at Windermere and started pool and gym training through the winter. I also signed up for the SwimTrek Long Distance Training (LDT) trip to get even more miles and experience under my belt.

With all of that training I knew that I was now a quicker swimmer. In 2012 my only goal was to finish (which I did in 7 hours, 42 minutes and 36 seconds). This year I wanted to beat that time – in fact my goal was to go under 7 hours.

Or, to put it another way – I wanted a 6, ie 6 hours xx xx.

I had a big gaggle of family and friends to help on my safety boat and support me for the swim, so we all gathered at the start with the other BLDSA swimmers. The pre-race nerves were pushed aside by the logistics of organising the feeds and checking the rowing boat had all my kit and then getting ready with hat and goggles and grease.

Me at the start (with my dad in the foreground). Photo thanks to Paula Stritch

Me at the start (with my dad in the foreground).
Photo thanks to Paula Stritch

Swimmer's briefing. Photo thanks to Paula Stritch

Swimmer’s briefing.
Photo thanks to Paula Stritch








Just before 9:20am the 26 swimmers set off and I got into my rhythm as quickly as possible as we swam through the ‘crowds’ and out towards where our safety boats were waiting for us (they wait a little way up the lake to allow the swimmers to spread out and create some room). What was pleasing was that the rhythm I got into saw me in the pack of swimmers, clearly not at the front, but not at the back either.

For the first hour I enjoyed this rhythm and found myself in what seemed to me to be a line of three swimmers – one of whom was Michelle, a swimmer that I’ve had very friendly ‘competition’ with at a few other swims this year (it wasn’t real competition as she won, it would have been real competition if I’d won).

In fact this relaxed, strong, confident feeling lasted well over the first three hours. Michelle and I seemed to be neck and neck for much of this time and I was enjoying the swim. I was focused and fed as quickly as possible – rolling onto my back and gently kicking as I took a big swig of my sports drink. In fact I hardly spoke to my boat for the first three hours, such was my concentration. Anyone that knows me will know how unusual it is for me not to talk for three hours!

We crossed by the ferry, the approximate halfway point after about 3 hours and 15 minutes. If things could stay the same I’d certainly get my 6!

Unfortunately that’s not what happened. I managed another hour or so feeling ok and then the wheels came off – and they came off big time. They came off so big, I’m not even sure I can describe it very well here. In the end I made it home in 8 hours and 10 minutes and I was going so slowly at the end that about 4 or 5 people swam past in the last hour or so.

The last four hours were horrible, really, really horrible. There was a LOT of swearing and moaning in my head. I was repeatedly telling myself how stupid I was for telling the radio guy that this was fun. At times I was almost day dreaming that my support crew told me to give up and got me into the boat. In fact I was ‘swimming’ away from the boat a lot so that I wouldn’t reach up and grab onto it (and by doing that disqualify myself).

Thinking it through – a bit while in the water,  a bit since – there were four things that I need to think about that went wrong:

Nutrition – this is the most obvious as after about 4 or 5 hours I was getting painful indigestion and feeling a bit sick from the feed. This meant that I was refusing feeds, which can’t have helped.

Flexibility – for about two hours my legs just seemed to stop working, the main reason for this was that my groin had seized up and I just couldn’t really move my legs. It didn’t feel muscular, more to do with being ‘stiff’. On top of that, by the time I’d finished my left ankle / achilles was completely gone.

Training – I clearly hadn’t trained enough for this. I had put in a lot of distance training at the start of the year, but since the SwimTrek trip in April I had done nothing over 3 hours. A better training plan is needed.

Stroke – of all the things to assess this seemed to be the least concerning, but if I’m going to do this again it will need to be considered.

Having said that, there were a lot of times during the last couple of hours where I was telling myself “never again.”

The one positive thing that I can take from this is that I did complete it. I was clearly a little over confident and a lot under prepared, but I still completed it. I could tell from soon after 4 hours that I wouldn’t ‘get a 6’. I’ll be honest though, I didn’t expect to get an 8!

Having been on the radio and talked so publicly about it all, having so many people waiting for me at the finish (especially my son Joshua) and a bit of stubbornness and bloody-mindedness all contributed to getting me through it.

And so after just under 8 hours of swimming I could see Waterhead and the piers and I knew that round those would be the finish and the beach. At that point the swimming seemed to come a bit easier again, my stroke improved slightly and I knew that I’d make it. Although it was probably me sub-consciously wanting to show off for the crowds!

The check point and finishing times for everyone. Photo thanks to Paula Stritch

The check point and finishing times for everyone.
Photo thanks to Paula Stritch

I finished and could hardly stand, my legs wouldn’t work and even with support to get out I fell into the water a couple of times. Once I’d staggered onto the beach all I could do was thank the boat crew (Margaret, Tony & Sonny – thanks again), shake uncontrollably, hug Joshua and have a little cry. I was broken, despondent and a little embarrassed that everyone had come to witness what felt like a failure.

Now, a couple of days later I can see that it was a ‘success’ of sorts and that it has given me a huge amount of food for thought.


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Patrick on the radio

On Friday I was on the Simon Mayo show on Radio 2, interviewed by Matt Williams for the Friday Fixture.

Obviously I was talking about the Windermere swim and the British Long Distance Swimming Association (or BLDSA).

It’s only a 3 minute interview, so have a listen here (I’m on 1 hour and 46 minutes into the show): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dz75k

You have until this Friday (Sept 5th) to catch it on BBC iPlayer.



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