Monday, 27 July 2015

The week that was and will be (Man or Machine?)

I was doing some research into an unsung hero when I came across an impressive anniversary occurring around this time. I am pretty sure the person who forms the subject matter will not see this, as far as I can gather he does not use social media, he is however still involved in open water swimming circles and has recently been assisting today's birthday girl Erin Hope, in preparation for her 2 Way Windermere swim this coming weekend (BLDSA 1st August) 

In my humble opinion David Morgan does not look like the stereotypical athletic record breaker, he is, what I would describe as 'A normal person who has achieved extraordinary things'

42 years ago this week, The 1st August 1973 the then nine-year-old David became the youngest person ever to do the swim from Scalby Mills to the Scarborough Spa in a time of 2hours 4 minutes 40 seconds. 

On 26 July 1977 at the tender age of 13, Dave became the youngest person to swim The English Channel in a time of 11 hours 9 minutes. The footage of him on the old King of The Channel films starring Des Renford and Kevin Murphy is quite shall I put it?...cute !

(The open top car and police escort to Civic Reception at Scarborough Town hall after his first EC Swim)

He put up the fastest time for a single crossing of Loch Lomond in 9hr 57min, which knocked more than 40 minutes off the previous record back in the day.

The Scarborough born long distance swimmer set a crop of new records when he achieved the first two-way swim of Loch Ness 32 years ago. The then 19-year-old accomplished the 45-mile feat in 23 hours 5 minutes.

David successfully swam the Channel again in 1983 in 9 hours and 37 minutes, 1986 in 10 hours and 49 minutes and again in 1988 in 11 hours and 35 minutes.

I have done my best to keep these figures accurate. 

It's a term used all to often, but, he is a bit of a legend who deserves recognition.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

A change of direction (Windermere #6)

2015 is one of those years with no major swimming goals as such, I had entered a few events but I just more or less wanted to keep involved and not let slip too much. The BLDSA Champion of Champions was the biggest training day so far this year and the 10km at Ellerton the largest session.

Therefore a Windermere swim would be a reasonable challenge.

With the exception of the 2 Way Windermere swim, all my other encounters with the lake have started at Fell Foot at the South end of the lake, as is standard with the BLDSA event, part of the reason being the prevalent winds for the UK being southwesterly.

Having completed 4 previous one ways and piloted/escorted several more from the same location, I decided on this occasion to start at The North. This would provide slightly more of a mental challenge. That said, I generally find the crossover in the northern basin from Bass Rock to Ambleside the toughest part of each swim, partly due to fatigue, partly due to conditions later in the day. So physically it may or may not be easier. I would soon know.

There would be one more additional change to the tried and tested routine. At 5:45am two of the crew (Gavin and Charlie) would head to Bowness, load the boat (we always us Electric day hire boat from Shepherds) and get ready to set sail. The final crew member (Jason) would taxi me to Ambleside where I would begin the swim alone, after an hour or so the boat should have located me around two miles into the swim.

I appreciate some would say that is a silly idea, however, I am relatively well experienced, there is zero boat traffic this early on a morning, I was using a tow float to aid their locating of me, and as stated I am very familiar with the lake.

The plan worked like a dream, bang on the hour I was joined by the boat at 7:08am, took the first feed (maxim/cnp and summer fruits) right on schedule and started the routine of swim-feed-swim-feed.

The water felt ok, I was still wearing my Suunto watch despite intending to hand it to the crew at the first feed, initially this was a good thing as being a bit of a control freak, at a mid stroke glance or at a feed I could keep myself up to date with progress. I found this information quite inspiring up to a point which I will come to soon.

From Jason's notes I can see I had a stroke rate of 62spm, I opted to go straight to 30 minute feeds after the first hour.

This went well for a few hours I had a combination of coffee and maxim with an occasional solid (jelly babies/half a croissant). Though as usual the maxim/cnp did not really agree with my stomach.

At 9:22 mid stroke in single word per breath conversation I requested some pain killers due to a blinding headache, I was suffering some nasty pain above my right eye, which kind of took me out of the groove. I took the meds at the next feed (6th) and tried to swam on. I then stopped to adjust my cap and goggles attempting to get some relief from the now distracting painful headache.

Around 10:40 I took the 8th feed and also complained of pain in the hip flexors and quads (a regular problem in fresh water!) I had fully expected this. I was still keeping an eye on the distance covered via the Suunto watch which at this feed was reading 13.6km.

I was happy in the knowledge that I had a mere 3km give or take and the one way would be 'in the bag', it has been said many times that ('mentally you only put enough fuel in the tank for the journey)  meaning for example if you plan to swim 10km by 9 you will be flagging and at 10 you have given all you have got.

By 11:38 and the 11th feed I noticed the watch at 16.4km and commented to the crew words to the effect of " we should be there by now"

Suffice to say from here to Fell Foot slipway felt like an age ! The final reading being 17.68km. I am not sure if this is the route (which looks excellent in my opinion) or more likely a GPS error/blip which has been known previously in training. Whatever it is, I have learnt to hand over the watch in future.

To summarise I was and am happy with another Windermere swim in 5hours 58 minutes, not a PB, but over 10 miles is a good training swim all the same.

Thankyou as always to my awesome team, Gav for piloting again, Charlie for feeding all day and Jason of Vision K9 Security (Mr Reliable) for updating social media and never taking his eye off me for the entire swim.

I fancy something longer before the season is out!?

P.S. I also need to sort those fingers out (photo above) wonder it aches today

Windermere No.6 (preview)

More of a write up once I receive the details from the crew.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Zoe Sadler (RJ)

Congratulations to my mate Zoe Sadler on yet another marathon swim, yesterday she swam around the island of Jersey, piloted by Matthew Clarke on the boat Lionheart, in a time of 11hours 55 minutes. She adds this to a long list of huge swims including EC (July 2012) 2WW (Aug 2013).

This one is absolutely on my must do list when I retire..

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Tracks of my Tees

Did you see what I did there with the title ! 
Never mind you are probably too young to know Smokey Robinson. 

Almost a year on from contracting Leptospirosis in the River, (RELATED POST) I retuned to its murky brown waters this week, its very close to home and I needed a swim after a over a week without.

The Yarm swim was alone today, with The 'Pipey' swim being with Belly on Thursday, aside from a couple of GPS blips when swimming under trees the course seems ok. (best viewed full screen if you cannot get rid of the ad) Enjoy

Next Friday I plan my longest swim of the year..all being well

Monday, 6 July 2015

New Shores

Regular readers will be aware that most of my swimming at sea takes place in The North Sea at 'The Mecca' Seaton Carew near Hartlepool, situated to the North of the River Tees Estuary.

The Mecca as we jokingly call it has its pros and cons.

Positives: it's only about 10 miles from the house with major roads to and from, free parking is never a problem and there is an abundance of fish and chip shops for post swim scoffing!

Negatives: It's damn boring, swim too far North and there is no place to exit the water if difficulty is encountered, swim too far south and you come across the effluent outlet from the power station, (nasty stuff) therefore lengthy swims are restricted to a stretch of beach measuring about 1200m in length, yes, one can swim out to sea in triangular circuits, but thats far from the ideal especially when alone.

So, last week when I came across a social media post by Amanda Bell mentioning swimming at Saltburn I was sceptical but decided to accompany her, if nothing else then by way of a reconnaissance mission.

Saltburn-by-the-sea to give it the full title is situated on the South side of the Tees Estuary slightly south of (see photo above)

I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised, there is a long stretch of sandy beach, several land marks for sighting and gauging progress, offering a far better place for longer efforts. Typically swims take place in the area of the pier (its over 100 years old)

However, another alternative, if you are feeling adventurous is to swim either to or from Marske, a distance of around two miles each way. Now, in my limited experience the tide and prevailing wind almost always pushes the water from South to North, hence swimming to Marske is easy, quick and very assisted. Swimming the reverse is tough, akin to swimming in an endless pool with little forward motion without concentrated effort.

Last Tuesday I swam part way to Marske and part way of the return journey, the water was fresh, however it was a glorious day and I actually caught the sun on my back after just over an hour.

Yesterday (Sunday 5th July) a few swimmers arranged to attempt the tougher of the two two milers from Marske heading south and into the wind/waves.

Saltburn is almost out of sight, but t is definitely there somewhere, it is just a matter of getting beyond the breakers and swimming parallel to the shore, eventually you will (should) get there.

The start location (not my photo) the first pic shows the initial land marks of the house on the cliff followed by the church steeple, after this there is little else until the pier comes into view exactly as per the second pic.

I enjoyed the swim though it was demanding, it was certainly tougher to complete 2 miles here than 10km last Friday at Ellerton. I am sure to use this venue lots more in the future and will have to stomach the greater distance at around 25 miles from home, a journey that can take 45 mins with traffic and minor roads. That said the benefits of training on these new shores are sure to be of benefit..

In closing I just want to congratulate Darren W who made his first venture into open water and breast stroked the swim in far from ideal conditions at 12.7c..a monumental effort for his introduction to open water swimming. congratulations.

great photo of the pier when the sea was a little angry.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

BLDSA CofC 2015 (supplement)

Couple of short video clips (best viewed full screen) courtesy of The Zimbo Graeme Schlachter and his go pro filmed during the 5 miler of the BLDSA Champion of Champions 2015

Saturday, 4 July 2015

What gets measured gets done

Without going into detail my place of occupation is AGAIN becoming more and shall I put it..less of a nice place to be.

As a result, I took the day off on Friday (3rd July) with plan of going to the Lake in an effort to wash away the woes of work, at least for the weekend. Britain had been baked in glorious sunshine with the occasional electric storm for the best part of a week so there was really no excuse. Local water temperatures had been discussed online. Whilst the River and Lake would now do little for my acclimatisation, we agreed it would still be of benefit to ongoing fitness training/conditioning.

Friday was no exception weather wise, heading to Ellerton pretty much straight after the school run, I hadn't bothered with breakfast, just a couple of cups of coffee. The water looked very inviting as the sun began to peep over the tree line to East into a clear blue sky.

A few swimmers were already in the water but none that I recognised. The plan was 8-10km, hourly feeding with Lucozade sport and a tin of peaches left on the jetty, no need for warm feeds today as the sun would do its job.

Aside from the lake being extremely weedy between buoys one and two it was just 'what the doctor ordered'

The huge benefit I find from wearing the Suunto is 'What gets measured gets done' ..previously I might have gone to the lake for a planned 3 hour swim, subconsciously it would be a plod, feeds would be slower, I would have no concerns about stopping to gather my bearings or speak to anyone treading water at a buoy as they usually do. It would just be a matter of running down the clock.

Now, I am very aware that 'bobbing' and passing the time is only fooling myself, I know all to well how this will be reflected on the Suunto, and that the distance will still need to be swam, so, if I am in the water I might as well get on with it.

With a glance at the watch every 3 - laps I could choose the time to feed and keep it more or less on the hour with some minor adjustments to the route.

Three feeds later and a mere 900m to swim all was well, a little fatigued but very happy with my efforts, I had predicted 20 minutes per km, plus 3 mins, I was therefore pleased with total time of 3h:14m for 10,020m.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

BLDSA Champion of Champions 2015

Friday 19th June 2015 brought the standard horrific Dover drive, 340 miles south stuttered from the word go with traffic congestion. Arriving around 2030, we quickly checked in with Kevin Murphy at Charter House (recommended accommodation for swimmers be it your EC tidal slot or training weekends) the self sufficient cosy flat with enough rooms for us and two of the kids (Charlie and Lottie). We were delighted to see Freda too but had to cut short our catch up gossip for a table reserved at 'Cullins Yard'. 

(I had also arranged to meet with Jane from Portsmouth University re the Cold Water study, in order to take possession of 'the pill' as described on previous post)

A quick pasta meal and another chance meeting, this time with Sam Jones, then it was back to the flat to relax before bed.

Saturday morning after a broken nights sleep, mainly due to nerves,  I left the children and KGO in bed as I headed off for swim registration about 8am. Mark Sheridan and his team of helpers were in situ as were dozens of swimmers, friends old and new.., too many to mention. 

I had my weight, height and skin folds measured for the study, along with my core temperature by the Uni team. 

Arms marked up with professional Olympic style numbering it was just a case of awaiting the safety briefing before the inevitable start, planned for 0915. 

The plan was simple, swim the triangular course (what is it with the BLDSA and triangles ??? Wykeham/CofC/Derwent Water) clockwise for 10, yes 10 laps, report in to Kate Todd at the last buoy nearest shore on each lap..simples. What could possible go wrong?

The 5 mile started pretty much on time, the water felt fresh but it was too late to complain, the mass deep water start was as hectic as ever, though it didn't take long for the racing snakes (the likes of Chloe and Ollie (eventual Champions) to forge ahead. 

Rounding the first buoy, breathing under control, I felt wired, yes wired NOT weird. I needed to settle down into the metronome of one arm in front of the other. 

It would be pointless of me to flower this up so I will be as honest as can be. I rounded the second buoy and almost fell to pieces. I felt panic stricken, cold, lightheaded..what the hell was going on. I had swam plenty of times in the murky waters of Dover Harbour, the conditions were great, the sun was trying to get out, the water was about 14. something degrees C and I had only been in the said water for about 10 minutes??. Help.

It took all my concentration and focus to get to grips with this awful mental blip. I continued swimming throughout, speaking to myself all the while, working through the issues one at a time, calling on some relaxation techniques. In the back of my mind I also had the faces of those who had joked with me about ensuring I finish this event (Kelly, Emma, Sam, Graeme, G, Freda et al) 

After 5 minutes or so, my head began to settle down and sort itself. I plodded on and on and on, after what seemed like an eternity, 5 laps were done. I was half way, I was playing all kinds of mathematical games with the numbers and distances remaining. Feed wise; At some point I grabbed a couple of jelly babies from the lap counters, together with a gel I had concealed in my trunks. 

I knew each lap was taking between 15-18 minutes, therefore I knew I was now in the final hour. Yahoo! No matter how long your swim, knowing you are in the final hour always brings great relief and happiness!! In my mind the last loop didn't count as that was just the swim back to the beach.

10 laps down, one final report in to Kate with directions to swim to shore, where we touch the green buoy and the clock stopped. Excellent. Surely that was the toughest part of the event over ?

The Uni attempted unsuccessfully to take my core temperature, I was either dead or needed to swallow another pill.

KGO and the children were waiting with towels and warm dry clothes, they supplied me with several hot sweet drinks of coffee, I gobbled down a couple of croissants and an energy gel, spending the remaining time resting and warming up.

The Suunto shows 2 breaks in connection to the satellite, but you get the idea.

5 miles: 2hours 40minutes 54seconds

When we commenced the first swim, it was more or less low water. As the tide came in, so did the wind, this resulted in a marked changed in conditions for the 3 miler, the bumpy water slowed my pace and made sighting more difficult. This was physically way tougher than the 5 mile swim. Thankfully the mental demons did not re visit. Mile 2 of 3 was a killer for me, fatigued, aching, my goggles fogged to the extent that I asked Lianne to guide me in her kayak on the last leg as I was swimming blind! 

This time the Uni managed to take a reading !! I was alive....More coffee and sweets before the final briefing of the day for a mere mile.

3 miles(4898metres): 1hour 47minutes 55seconds

Good conditions had once more returned for the days final swim, just 2 laps and it would all be over, slightly more of a swim (due to the tidal range) to the start line but I was past caring.

After some thrashing around fighting the waves on the 3 miler, I decided to focus on technique and good form for these last two laps. I was very relaxed knowing it was all but achieved and enjoyed the last mile very much.
1 mile (1763metres): 33minutes 51seconds 

The presentation followed with rightful thanks to all involved in organisation and safety cover. Mark Sheridan had something positive to say about almost every swimmer, making the whole event feel very personal and friendly.

The weather held good until the end of the proceedings when the heavens opened. How lucky we were.

An awesome event. Highly recommended. Thank-you to BLDSA family yet again.

More pics later as well as feed back from the Uni.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Cold Water Swimmers Temperature Study

Whilst I am attending and taking part in the BLDSA Champion of Champions event this weekend at Dover, I will also be taking part in a cold water study conducted by The   University of Portsmouth,Department of Sport & Exercise Science.

We are surveying swimmers, to find out what factors affect your deep body temperature and also to further improve planning and health and safety for open water swimming and triathlon events worldwide. The information gained may also be of benefit to search and rescue organisations.

Taking part in this research is entirely voluntary. It is up to you to decide if you want to volunteer for the study. 

You will be asked to complete a questionnaire about your swimming experience, the event you are taking part in, as well as measure your height, weight, skinfold thickness and wetsuit fit (if you are wearing a wetsuit). You will be required to swallow a temperature pill. The picture below shows the approximate size of the pill (about the size of a Jelly bean). We will ask you to swallow the temperature pill that will start to read your deep body temperature. We would like to record your temperature just prior to the start of your swim, when you finish and again 30 minutes after you have finished.
Once you have swallowed the pill it will pass into your stomach and though your intestines before you pass the pill out. 

After swallowing the pill you will have to wear an orange medical wristband until the pill has passed out of your body (this should take between one and two days WE DO NOT WANT IT BACK!). For approximately one hour after swallowing the temperature pill we ask you to drink only tepid drinks, not cold or hot drinks as the temperature of the drink can affect the pill temperature measurements.

What measurements will be taken?
We will take all the measurements (survey, measure your height and weight) before the swim. We will also record your deep body temperature before the start of the swim, as soon as you finish, and then again 30 minutes after you have finished.

What are the possible benefits of taking part?
There are no direct benefits to you, but we hope that the results of this study will increase our understanding of the effects of cold water swimming on the body. This work will contribute towards developing the lower water temperature limits for swimming and triathlon races.  This information would also be extremely helpful with event planning and risk assessment, event safety cover and co-ordination, and entrant information and preparation to further improve open water swimming and triathlon events.

Who is funding the research?
This research is being funded by the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), International Triathlon Union (ITU) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

Monday, 15 June 2015

BLDSA Wykeham 2015

As previously mentioned, Sunday 14th June 2015 was the BLDSA Wykeham Championship. I have completed this one several times, the main reason being its geographical convenience. At 70 miles from home its is the closest event in the UK, apart from the wetsuit triathlon type crowded rubbish that does nothing for me.

Its seems to be the norm, that regardless of the weather in the preceding weeks and days, Wykeham is generally miserable, damp and windy. This year was no different, however, as alluded to elsewhere, I would certainly prefer poor weather for what can realistically be termed a training or build up swim.

No matter which words you decide to choose, train hard fight easy, expect the worst hope for the best, or God works in mysterious ways. It has to be a good thing to have challenging conditions whilst preparing for bigger and better things.

On arrival it was great to see several regulars including Mark Sheridan, Dee, Pat and Liane Llewellyn, Belly, Sarah T, Dom Gillespie, Jo Blackburn and many more, having registered it was just a case of waiting to start.

As can clearly be seen below, the event follows a multi lap triangular course. Side 1: was with a more or less following wind. Side 2: offered a head wind with Side 3: having right side minor chop. Nothing too testing but certainly sufficient to require a greater effort than swimming in a mill pond. Sighting was probably the most difficult aspect of the day due to the drizzle and the slight chop.

The water was reported to be just short of 15 degrees C though the ambit3 and my body for that matter indicated more like 16 degrees. The safety brief informed us that the course was measured at 1100m loops. I was therefore aware at the outset that a PB was not doable. Generally speaking, I manage the 5k in around 1hour 37 Minutes, last year the finis hydro tracker recorded a distance at 4999 metres ! 

This year the Suunto recorded as per the image below at 5460m in a time of 1:41:49 my official time on the certification is 1h 41m 42 seconds. The brief was more or less spot on.

Following the 5km event we warmed up, had a snack and some hot drinks, then prepared to re-enter the  water for the 1km event. I figured this would be good practice for the Champion of Champions, getting back into the cold water despite feeling toasty warm and comfortable. 

With Charlie kayaking as part of the safety cover, 19minutes 58seconds later it was all over.

The presentation was well attended with some touching tributes to persons no longer with us, then, as is becoming standard practice we had massive success winning several raffle prizes.

A great low key event, excellent facilities and friendly atmosphere. Thank you to all involved in organising, time keeping, first aid and safety cover etc..see you next year.

Event photos courtesy BLDSA 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Cheating ?

In preparation for Sundays BLDSA Wykeham Event (just 5km freshwater, my time for which is generally about 1h 38 minutes) I returned to Ellerton on Wednesday 10th June for another 2 hour swim (6278m), whilst I was pleased with my form, distance covered and especially the recovery, it did feel like I was cheating with the water up to 16 degrees. The training will be of benefit at the afore mentioned event but will be of little use for the BLDSA Champion of Champions Event at Dover the following weekend.

Last night I was analysing the GPS route for the latest 2 hours and decided to play around with some of the additional Suunto Movescount features. Below the ever present map you will see a short animation, which is made available in around 60 seconds at the press of a button within the app, probably more usefull for the cyclists and fell runners featuring changes in altitude, but you get the idea.

My acclimatisation process must be having the desired effect if I felt like a fraud on Wednesday. Once Sunday is out of the way I will need to find some cold water for a few dips next week. Fingers crossed for Dover Harbour to be above 13 degrees for the CofC.

P.S. Just been to the 'The Mecca' for a quick dip before the school run. I was expecting the North Sea water to be 11 degrees and was strangely disappointed that it was nearing 13, the sunshine on ones back does make an enormous difference.

Related posts:
Champion of Champions 2011
Open Water Tests with Suunto Ambit 3
Pool Tests with Suunto Ambit 3