Sunday, 26 June 2016

Analysis (updated)

This weekend is recovery, no swimming at all, some rest for the upper body. With some time on my hands and with Charlie as my assistant, we have been analysing some of data from my training records, in particular comparisons between years and the time spent training in open water.

I still have a few more years to add but for now I have looked at 2010 - 2016. For the purposes of the chart below, the figures are only plotted up to and including July, albeit historically most of the annual main events take place late August. 

This years figures are reassuring. I don't expect July 2016 to be massive month as I will taper after the Windermere swim on July 10th in anticipation of some perfect weather for J2F! 
We can Hope and Pray.


Saturday, 25 June 2016

So Far So Good

My training records show the week following the Champion of Champions event is normally somewhat easy in terms of distance and effort. In fact last year I took ten days away from the water, granted, I did not have a major swim planned for 2015, perhaps the CofC was itself one the main targets of the season.

This years goal is somewhat different, with J2F looming in a mere month, time is of the essence.

Suffice to say we (Billy the fish, Ben and I) were back in the water on Monday just 24 hours after returning from Dover. Monday was a fairly easy 80 minutes stretching out and freeing up the shoulders, I made a conscious effort not to sight ahead in an attempt to protect the neck.

On Wednesday I took some time off work and swam for most of the afternoon, the first 3 hours alone then a couple more hours with Bill, a good session of 5 hours 15 minutes, which included 3 feed stops.


Thursday was a rest day, though I managed to find time to visit Simon at BodyBalance for a deep tissue massage and some mind training.

The following day was scheduled to be spent on Lake Windermere piloting Karen Throsby on her 2 Way swim, however, this was cancelled due to injury concerns. 

I therefore retuned to the River Tees for what was intended to be a 10km swim. All seemed well for the best part of 6000m after which I was physically drained. The easy option would have been to exit the water, however to work through 'the pain' was excellent mental preparation, the discomfort did in fact pass eventually to the extent that the 9th kilometre was the quickest of the day.

Overall a very good week with just under 10 hour swimming outside, covering approx. 28,000m.

So far so good. 

A few days recovery now plus a reconnaissance visit to Jersey to meet Matthew Clarke from Lionheart Pilotage. 


C of C 2016

Friday 17th June 2016 came around worryingly quick, it was that time of year again, for the annual pilgrimage to Dover in order to take part in the BLDSA Champion of Champions event. Organised again this year by the ever present and witty Mark Sheridan. I am sure by now you know the format, however for the uninitiated, it is simple enough.

Three swims in Dover Harbour negotiating a triangular course to complete 5 miles (10 laps) followed by a short rest, (the period of which is determined by the time taken to swim the required number of laps) then 3 miles (6 laps) and finally 1 mile (2 laps)

Having already swam virtually double the time and distance compared with last years total, I felt way better prepared than normal, the pre event anxiety was minimal..I felt ready.

The journey south put and end to the inner calmness as we were involved in a rear end shunt on the M25 on Friday about 630pm, the car which we have only had a 3 months sustained damaged and we began to feel the after effects and associated whiplash type injuries once the journey recommenced.

The morning of the event saw the gathering of many a familiar face, there was virtually insufficient time to say all the hellos before we were ushered into the water to begin. 

After about six laps of the ten I was starting to suffer with the sighting aspect, my neck was sore and aching. I couldn't work out if this was down to the accident or simply regular checking to ensure my swim course was on track. As the laps counted down, I remember talking to myself through the issue:
"OK whats wrong? I'm not cold (The Suunto had a temperature reading of 59ºf) I'm not physically drained..it's just my neck that hurts like hell, am I causing further damage? lets do the 5 miler and call it a day"
Exiting the water after the first swim, slower than normal by about 20 minutes (2h58m) with a distance of 8750m recorded. I was sure that was it for the day, to the extent that I went and had a warm shower. The heat alleviated the pain somewhat, I had a light hearted chat about the situation with Jane, Kelly and a few others, a quick bite to eat and drink and I was back in the water for the 3 mile swim.


For me, this is always the most demanding phase of the CofC, both physically and mentally. Soon enough the 6 laps were complete thanks to the odd jelly baby at the final buoy were our numbers were called to the lap counters and it was almost over.

Spirits on the beach are also high after the 3 miles as even those getting little to no rest, are happy in the knowledge that the end is in sight.

A leisurely 2 laps and the was that. 
The conditions were good if a tad bumpy at the furthest orange buoy (bottom right in the images), the water temperature was slightly above average for the time of year, and despite my early injury concerns I was happy to have finished what proved to be a tough but excellent training session. 9 miles in the sea in June has got to be a good thing... hasn't it ?

The presentation soon followed with Mark Shezza Sheridan (pic below) once more making every swimmer feel special with his anecdotes for instance explaining I had prepared for this event by sunset swimming in Jamaica..a comment that was even published in the event catalogue !! 
Thanks to the BLDSA family once more for a great weekend.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Recovery Week

As per the previous post, the week commencing 6 June 2016 was intended to be recovery. However, it was still one of my better weeks.

Monday and Tuesday no swimming just some light stretching.

4km on Wednesday evening after work with the flowerpot men, then rest again Thursday.

Friday I visited Simon at Bodybalance for some treatment, and ended the week with two excellent sessions in the river with Amanda. 

Friday was intended to be 2 hours which turn out out to be 2 hours 35 minutes (Amanda was late again!! so ended up doing the first hour and half alone) a pleasing 8km/5miles with no negative after effects other than a stiff neck from sighting.

Fridays route:



Saturday was a 3 hour session (as per video), wasn't feeling the love as I forced down the porridge but come lunchtime and 9350m later it was all over. So just 3 swims but  still 21+km.

Saturdays Suunto Movie:



The plan is 2 x 1 hour sessions in the North Sea this week followed by rest and eating like a pig prior to our visit to Dover for the brutal Champion of Champions event.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Building

Since the last update mid May, my training has been building very nicely. 

As a result of now having three regular training partners in Amanda, Ben and Bill, I almost always have company and the additional motivation to get into open water, I opt not to say cold water as the temperatures have been steadily increasing.

I have continued to predominantly use the River (Tees) until such times as the North Sea holds in double figures i.e. over 10º c.

Despite what may look like haphazard sessions I do actually have a training plan, albeit not written down in a formal manner. The idea is to more or less build to a weekly figure covering the total distance of J2F (Approx. 25+km) once achieved I intend to alternate between this and recovery weeks. 

A recovery week will still entail swimming though the total average will reduce to anywhere between 60-80% of a 'big week'. Having received some great advice from my sports injury expert 'Dr Ish' I intend to make a conscious effort with my nutrition, stretching and resistance band type work as part of the recovery strategy. 

This last week was very pleasing in terms of figures and remaining injury free, the final swims of the week taking place at the BLDSA Wykeham near Scarborough. The main event here is only 5km being one of the first on the calendar. However I decided to compete another circuit in order to make the swim 2 hours.

Here are the stats for last week (all figures are from The Suunto Ambit3)

Monday 120 minutes @59º 6000m Ellerton Lake
Tuesday 107 minutes @57º 5500m Tees
Thursday 80 minutes @58º 4000m Tees
Friday 63 minutes @58º 3350m Tees
Sunday 125 minutes @59º 6400m BLDSA Wykeham
Sunday 19 minutes @60º 1050m BLDSA Wykeham

Total 8 and half hours just over 26km

Wykeham track


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Adrian Rotchell 1 Way Windermere

When I received a message from Adrian last October regarding escorting him on a Windermere swim, I was flattered to say the least. Adrian is an awesome swimmer who has already swam the English Channel, he has some mammoth goals for 2016. This one way would be a stepping stone/training day on the journey toward Loch Awe and a 2 Way Loch Lomond later this year!!

Once the logistics were sorted with boat hire, timings and general plans we were all set for the morning of Sunday 29 May 2016. I will leave the finer details for Adrian to blog on his site, suffice to say we had an awesome day and we are extremely proud to be associated with him and his new record setting swim (subject to BLDSA ratification) for the earliest recorded swim of England's longest lake.

Congratulations







Saturday, 21 May 2016

More on Howard James (The dreaded North)

Unless you have been in outer space you have probably heard about the Legendary Swim this week by Howard James. Well, being that I am kind of fascinated by this sort of extreme achievement (similar to the post regarding Dave Morgan here) I thought I would share (with his permission) another of Howards swims and the write up by the man himself shortly after his North Channel (Northern Ireland to Scotland) swim in 2011.

The expression on his face after this weeks swim kind of sums up how he was feeling, I believe Dave Chisholm took the photo though I am not 100%. 


The dreaded North

"5.30am, I am awoken to the sound of the alarm, today I am attempting to swim the 'North Channel'.
A knock on the room door; it's breakfast, one weetabix in a packet washed down with coffee.....ONE....!!!
Myself and team mate Terry laugh at the north channel breakfast (don't worry , I had energy bars as well).

So half seven, we meet with pilot 'Brian Mehargh MBE', he takes us to the boat and after brief introduction to the crew we set of to my starting point just north of Bangor in Northen Ireland.

I am not really feeling anything. I'm not nervous, I'm not scared, I'm not thinking I'm gonna do this, I'm not thinking I'm not gonna do this.... It was strange that I had no emotion, I knew where I was and I knew I had to get in and swim, the day was going to be whatever the day was.....

Vaseline around my beard, down my trunks and under the arms... goggles on... look round at Terry my feeder who was also on my '09 English crossing and my good friend Martin Cullen (who was observing),
"lets swim this channel and go home" I say and jump in.....

The water is fresh, not to cold, maybe what I was expecting (10.5 as I later found out) quick look for jellies as those that know me, this was my fear, I haven't been stung before and was really not looking forward to getting stung.. there were none, I swim to the rocks, touch and start my swim to Scotland...

The first 6 hours of the swim I really enjoyed, this makes me sick to even think this. The water was fresh but I had trained for this, I have been in the sea pratically every weekend from Oct 2010... my first feed at 1.5 hrs then every 30 min.... S I S gel in luke warm sweet milky tea.. the guys on the boat are in wet weather gear, it is drizzle, but that wet drizzle.... I am loving it... I'm in the north... I am swimming better and enjoying it more than my English Channel crossing then.......BANG!!!.... 

I see a jelly with a maine longer than me as a person.. I swear... reality check... oh yes this is the north (the dreaded feared north, the cold one the one full of jellies). I am now looking everywhere for them, I need to see them,, I need to avoid them, can I be the one makes it across with out being stung....would that be fair...who cares , I didn't want to get stung..... they do thin out and after a while you kinda forget yet at the same time still looking.... On the boat, they are saying there isn't that many, I don't believe they saw all the ones I did.. I come to what I can only describe as a mine field, I am trying to weave in and out, left right, more left, oh back right, like dribbling on a football pitch, I am through, thank ---- for that, but still on alert.....

I have swam most of the Channel at this point but the tide is changing and as we know it's a waiting game now, but saying that we did keep going forward which was very good.  The water turned murky like Dover, I couldn't see much, OUCH!!! I got stung oh I'm not going to get across without getting stung... I can't see them to dodge them, oh well it is what it is, I've got this far, I got to finish.. I think of all the people sending messages, the swimmers I know that know what this swim is all about.. digging deep... it's hurting ... the tide  has changed, it's taking us in, it's strong, I'm looking for excuses to stop... I need a milky way... I need a drink.. I need a wee.. each time though I stop the tide is taking me further south (I know I'm going to get in it's just a case off how quick, I want a reasonable time, I know I shouldn't be messing about, swim man swim!!! (COME ON Howard it's 30 lengths of the pool left, I question if he means a 25m or 50m pool.... 

I know I have to dig deep but I have been stung a few times now, it doesn't hurt  its a funny sensation... the dingy is in and I finally touch Scotland.... 

I made it I am the 13th person to have swam the north channel, I'm happy but exhausted....

Back on the boat, it's hard for me to stand and keep my balance. I get dressed and go downstairs on the boat, I can feel my stings..it is uncomfortable, I feel sick.. Brian comes down and sits with me and we chat for ten minutes, he says I swam really well especially on a spring tide and that a neap would definitely been an interesting time...I feel he is inviting me back..he is, but he knows I probably won't return, all though, never say never.....

I have said before that I would like another go at the ENGLISH CHANNEL but as for the NORTH .......I'm not sure whether in what I have written here gives the full representation of that channel, It is COLD, there are JELLIES there are lots off JELLIES . They STING and they HURT the next day.....

Im not trying to be big headed,but anyone that wants to attempt THE NORTH CHANNEL is a loon and needs help........"


May

May has seen a steady progression in training as I work towards J2F. My tolerance to the water is building nicely, one of my training partners (Bill) had a fortnight away on holiday in Phuket, despite his worries of returning to the temperatures of North East England, they were short lived, he quickly hit the hour once more, only for me to disappear for a week in the sun with Kelly. 

I therefore had the same concerns having spent a week doing very little other than 4 swims of around 2km in the caribbean at a ridiculous 85ºf ! That said I was more than ready for the break.
Kelly and I returned home last Sunday (15th), once the jet lag subsided I managed 3 swims in the River with the usual suspects Bill, Amanda and Ben. 

The build up was gradual with increments of 70-100-125 minutes. Friday was our longest swim to date completing just over the 2 hours at 59ºf, the wind was quite strong which ensured we had a decent workout. 
Any discomfort was soon put to one side as we reflected on the massive achievement of Howard James, who this week set a new record for the earliest English Channel swim on 16th May, the water being 10-11º c. Now that is what I call hardcore. He is certainly in the same bracket as the likes of Kevin Murphy and Dave Morgan. 

The BLDSA Champion of Champions event will soon be here, therefore I will have a few more sessions in salt water shortly as the coastal temps have now just about reached 50f/10ºc

Onwards into the final week of May, with a  planned 10km on Bank Holiday Monday.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

On Track .. (updated)

Bank Holiday Monday (May 2nd 2016) a glimmer of sunshine and a lull in the windy conditions allowed the River Tees temperature to rise slightly and hit the tropical heights of 8.9ºc / 48f (having been a bitter 7.2ºc the previous day in which we only managed 28 minutes).

This allowed us to finally hit the hour. It's amazing the difference 1ºc or so can make and how this impacts on your time in the water.

The route was a little messy (to the second boat followed by some internal circuits, not too far from the jetty) As we approached the hour, Amanda was keen for me to get out of the water as I was beginning to slur my speech. it was the correct decision as the later pictures show I was getting a little, err, less warm.

We are expecting fantastic weather this coming weekend which is typical considering I will be abroad on holiday. That said I have two more swims planned this week after work (Wednesday and Friday) with the plan to break the hour.

The after drop was quite severe, but at least I knew what to expect and how my body reacts. This is quite normal for me. 



Update:
For once the UK weather forecast has proved to be accurate, today May 4th (star wars day) Billy, Ben and I visited the river once more, where the water temps ranged from 10.5º to 11.5ºc. I was delighted to again complete the hour this time 66 mins covering 3284m the warmer water resulted in a far better recovery too with nowhere near the same after drop. Ideally Friday will be 90 minutes before we head off for a weeks rest in the sunshine. Happy.





Thursday, 28 April 2016

Drag Appreciation Drills

There are some interesting points here, some of which may have an impact on your fatigue / energy levels particularly on a long swim. Worth a watch. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

April

We have been working quite hard in the grotty chlorine pit over the winter, the benefits of having regular training partners in Bill and Ben are massive, we constantly race each other during our interval sessions then put the world to rights in the sauna afterwards which is always funny and a great way to unwind.

With the arrival of April, it was time to make the dreaded return to open water, as always it would be mentally and physically tough getting back into the cool water. Last year I was late (mid May) starting outside and paid for it throughout the season.

Whilst the air temperature is fluctuating and the water remains below 11º, the plan as usual is restrict training to our local river, it's only about 2 miles from home and it's free. 

After this we venture further afield as the time in the water increases. 

The target and general benchmark for this time of year is 60 minutes at 10ºc. 

I've included a little map showing our normal start point of the Jetty at Preston Park and some markers we use as sessions increase.

Thus far we (combinations of Ben, Amanda and Bill) have 

8th 11minutes @ 8ºc 326m around the jetty area 
10th 21 minutes @ 9ºc 989m around the boats+
18th 17 minutes @ 8ºc 718m around the boats
20th 34 minutes @ 10ºc 1690m to first boat
21st 34 minutes @ 11º 1910m to tennis courts
25th 50 minutes @ 10ºc 2620 second corner and boats
27th 33 minutes @ 8ºc 1700m around boats and first corner 
30th 36 minutes @ 8ºc 1900m boats almost second corner left

I am yet to hit the benchmark, BUT, it isn't too far off (providing the sleet and snow stop!)

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Oldest Goat

This is a heart warming inspiring story of Walt Schneebeli, who, at 90 years of age is still swimming around Aquatic Park San Francisco, and has been doing so since 1948 ! Like he says .. Everybody wants to be the old goat !!

Can't wait to visit this place next year.

Enjoy this lovely video..