Monday, 13 October 2014

Pool Punctuality and Planning

I cannot say in any certainty if my desire for punctuality stems from my upbringing or a military background, without wanting to sound like a total nerd, I do prefer to be Mr Punctual or better still 5 minutes early. This can lead to frustration for many men when waiting on the opposite sex to be ready, but how very dare I say such a thing when I am told its a lady's prerogative (so much for equal ops) (Don't shout at me Dr KT).

Anyway..getting to the point, Monday, after a weekend of parental duties I arranged to meet two swimmers. For the purpose of this tale they will be referred to as Billy and Mandy. ;-) The deal was to be at the pool ready to start in the water at 4:45pm. Being that we had only recently returned to anything like intense pool sessions the plan was to have a short interval session, max effort with plenty of rest.

I even sent Billy and Mandy a text message with the set.
It was simple enough, easily doable inside the hour and read like this

1 x 200 easy warm up
8x 100 max effort
4x 200 build to max effort
8x 100 max effort
1x 200 easy swim down
Total 2800m home for tea and medals.

I foolishly (I knew it was a mistake) arrived at the pool early, rather than the standard 5 minutes before, "that's ok" I thought, they will be here soon and proceeded to start a gentle longer warm up working on some drills to improve my hand entry.

900 metres later Billy arrives and we start the set.  By the time Mandy drags her sorry backside to poolside we had almost finished the 200s! She swims her warm up and joins in for the last 8 x 100 on max effort. Billy decides that's him finished, swims down and heads for the sauna, fair enough he worked hard and can leave.

Grinning (like a red faced Cheshire Cat) Mandy thinks (wrongly) that after 800m she is finished too!! Silly Girl.

I then have to commence the 4 x 200s AGAIN followed by another 8 x 100 just so she hits the yardage planned. She too then swims down and leaves with correct figures. Meanwhile Stupid Mark here has swam 5200m and has learnt a valuable lesson.

Don't be early YOU HAVE TO SWIM MORE
Don't let people be late YOU HAVE TO SWIM MORE
Be punctual at the pool

The names have been changed (kind of) to protect the innocent. No Cheshire Cats were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Pool Tests with The Suunto Ambit3

As you will be aware I am now in possession of this great new device, at present I have only performed tests in pool environment albeit I am aware of the capability and functions it has to offer.

Initially, on first usage I utilised little more then the stopwatch and distance/lap counter. This proved to be a little frustrating with the occasional length of the 25m pool missed or rather a turn was missed, resulting in inaccurate totals for metres covered. This was addressed by the simple procedure of teaching the Ambit my stroke. (just a case of pressing a couple of buttons, selecting the appropriate stroke and swimming 25m.) Once I had gone through the 'teach phase' the device worked perfectly and never missed a beat.

The first real session was this weekend when we swam multiple 100s ie repeats of 4 lengths. It was as easy as selecting your exercise (openwater/poolswimming/running etc) and hitting the start button, the display clearly indicates the distance covered (saving me the hassle of trying to remember how many repeats, see Abacus Training!) The next line displaying the total time of the session, followed finally on the third line by the time per 100m. (It is personal preference as to what you have displayed and where). The device recognises when the swimming stops and rest periods begin and does the maths accordingly. It also counts the strokes per length and calculates your efficiency as a SWOLF number. (stroke rate plus time per length).

On conclusion of the set, the pause button is hit and the data is stored, immediately after doing so all of the figures can be viewed prior to even leaving the water. Once in proximity of your tablet or smart phone you pair the device and the data is downloaded almost instantly via bluetooth transfer.
Further analysis can then be performed, breaking down every length if you so desire, with multiple graphs and tables.

The only negative being the heart rate monitor on a standard belt style fitting slips down from the chest as one pushes off the wall. This will not be an issue outdoors and the monitor is able to store information until such times as it is in close proximity to your Ambit device.

Today I opted for the hour continuous swim, I use this set as a bench mark to measure my general fitness. I am quite pleased to not have lost too much pace over the summer (this is only my 5th pool session since April.)

Here is just one part of a screen shot whilst viewing your 'moves' via the 'movescount app' on your smart phone or tablet. As you can see, the vital stats are visible at a glance (average pace per 100m / average speed per hour, total time/distance, temperature and swolf.
There are all manner of comparables and analytic functions. Each length can be viewed as per below as can heart rate etc

Overall for pool swimming it is an absolute joy, frees my mind from troublesome mathematics, the display can be easily read on the move (at the turn) it is no more noticeable on the wrist than any other watch, it is simple to use and even motivates !


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR

Last week I was extremely fortunate to receive the very latest in GPS wrist mounted gadgets in the form of the Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR. I was vaguely familiar with the Ambit2s (the previous model) due to Gav Wild using one to the record the data on my 5th Windermere. His device was also used as part of his challenge, so it was ideal to compare stats.

I will write a full review shortly suffice to say it is very impressive. The main upgrade from the Ambit2 is the ability to upload sessions via blue tooth paring no matter where you may be. No need to wait to view information as it is transferred in a matter of seconds.


In brief..it records times, distances, locations, intervals, temperature, stroke rate, heart rate, altitude,cadence, It includes compass, mapping, animations etc etc the list goes on and on.

Full review soon.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Are you a Giver or a Taker ?

That's the swim season pretty much over, except for a trip to Buttermere later this year to swim once more where it all began. (Amanda you are coming too!)

At times it feels like we have virtually never been away from The Lake District. At the outset I should take this opportunity to thank Charlie who has never complained, not even once when asked if he was happy to help others achieve their dreams or support other peoples business interests. Despite having had my fingers burnt, on the most part it has been entirely satisfying, fulfilling even emotional at times.

Windermere with Charlie to pilot for one of Amanda's 6 hour swims (kick start her EC Solo prep.)
Coniston with Charlie for my BLDSA 5 miler
Ullswater with Charlie to paddle a 7 mile BLDSA event (for Phil Yorke)
Derwentwater with Charlie to paddle a 5 mile BLDSA event (for Phil Yorke)
Windermere with Charlie to Pilot for Kathryn's One Way
Windermere with Charlie for my latest One Way
Windermere with Jason to Pilot for Gavin's One Way

I am a firm believer regarding the importance of giving back to the sport whenever we can. Swims at all ends of the spectrum are officially recorded as 'Solo' however they are without doubt always a team effort. Not just the main events but our build up and training, which can sometimes be years in the making.

We should never lose sight of, nor neglect to be grateful for the unsung volunteers who give their time to support, be it in, on or around the water. Financially assisting us to achieve our dreams or remaining at home taking care of loved ones.

Personally speaking I get a real buzz witnessing like minded people achieve what they once considered the impossible.

So if you can, give a little back. It feels good.... I promise. and above all......

Gavin Wild 1WW 160914



On Tuesday 16 September 2014 I was delighted to support Gav Wild during his 'Swim Long, Climb High, Ride Far Challenge. I piloted the swim returning the favour together with Jason from Vision K9 Security Services Ltd (Gavins principal sponsor and all round great bloke) We headed down to Fell Foot at first light and began the swim at 0739am.  The start was ok weather wise however visibility soon dropped to around 20m, so poor that I had to resort to compass bearings for navigation purposes, by 95 minutes or so the sun began to shine and we blessed with perfect conditions thereafter.

A mammoth effort from Gav who suffered from mile 6 onwards. Jason was ace with his motivational techniques and feeding. We were both over joyed and rather emotional to share in the relief on completion of part 1 of the big Charity challenge for Birmingham Childrens Hospital.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Fresh Water Swimming Risk

What lies beneath, the Lurgy, hidden dangers..whichever way you wish to describe it, a bout of illness as a result of swimming in the River Tees is not the most pleasant experience.

Aside from the odd swim in the North Sea and a couple of swims Ellerton Lake, the vast majority of my open water training this year took place in the River Tees, generally somewhere Yarm and Thornaby. Its free ! and its very close to home (about 2 miles)

Thanks to the installation of the Tees Barrage there is rarely a strong flow other than after heavy rainfall. The water is always brown and murky making it impossible to see anything beyond arms length, it is home to lots of fish and the usual swans and ducks etc.Parts of the river are adjacent to farmers fields some for crops others for grazing animals. Due to the steepish, tree lined banks it is pretty sheltered, meaning you rarely experience anything other than mild chop at worst.  I have mostly swam with Amanda Bell, although sometimes alone or with the occasional visitor (Mark Preston / Gav Wild). 

I have been swimming in the river for years without major incident.

Being that Gav was visiting family in the area and in an effort to get Amanda back in the water after her successful English Channel Swim, I arranged to meet both at Preston Park for an hour before work on a Thursday in mid August at 6am.

Amanda was just going to swim to the first corner whilst the boys would swim to 'The Pipey' (bridge about a mile downstream).
The swim itself went smoothly enough. the water did appear rather cooler than recent times, however nothing too severe, an hours swim, Gav and I returned to the jetty, more or less racing each other the whole way, we all dressed and went our separate ways.

Thursday no issues.
Friday no issues.
Saturday began to experience some flu like symptoms, headache, achy, temperature and general fatigue.

Didn't really think anything of it, had a nice meal Saturday evening with a bottle of wine and went to bed. I had probably been in bed around 60 minutes when I began to feel extremely ill, dizzy and very nauseas, in no time at all I was vomiting uncontrollably. This continued every twenty minutes or so for about the next six hours. I was absolutely drained my whole body felt achey, especially in the joints, my legs had virtually seized up. My head was banging.

Only as I lay in my sickbed, did I remember another group who had swam in the same river around 10 days earlier, who described virtually identical symptoms. I was also aware that one of them (Michelle GG) had been prescribed antibiotics having contracted a waterborne disease.

Before too long I was in accident and emergency at the local hospital undergoing all manner of invasive tests. I received intravenous pain relief, another for intravenous relief from the nausea, underwent an ECG had several vials of blood taken etc.

I explained to the doctor looking after me my suspicions regarding Leptospirosis and included the details of Michelle's illness, all of the staff were oblivious to this or seriousness of the disease. To their credit, they went away and educated themselves with the details. Subsequent liaison with the microbiologists regarding my blood results and I was diagnosed and began treatment for the disease with antibiotics and released.

Fortunately I had already booked around 10 days off work on holiday where I could rest and recuperate in the sunshine, The whole time abroad I felt pretty much exhausted especially in the lower limbs (I still do). A couple of minutes swimming in warm water was all I could manage. I was thankful I didn't have to work.

Having made reference to the incident on social media, I was aware that Giovanna Richards had experienced a very similar scenario.

"Here is my little tale.......

I caught Lepto in the Thames in 2010 during an open water swim. Funny thing is, when I was swimming I was thinking how clean the water looked! I didnt wear a wetsuit and had no open wounds, but its inevitable that you swallow a little water now and then, which I didnt think anything of at the time.

Four days later at work I suddenly developed a terrible headache and started feeling very unwell - like I was coming down with flu. This happened in the space of an hour or two. My joints started aching and I felt very nauseous. By the time I got home from work I could barely get off the sofa and I knew I had to speak to the doctor as I recognised the symptoms of Leptospirosis.

When I was a serving police officer in the Metropolitan Police, we had talks about Lepto and carried cards with the sysmptoms (because of working near the Thames), so I put 2 and 2 together and made an appointment to see the GP.

I managed to get in the next day after a night of very high tempreture, terrible pain and swelling in my stomach around the liver, joint pain and sickness. The doctor said it was probably a virus but I pushed for a blood test and explained my recent swim in the Thames - which had followed heavy rain. I also insisted on starting antibiotics that day as I knew time was crucial when treating this illness. The GP examined me and said my liver was very swollen, so precscribed antibiotics and tests.

Luckily I started the treatment straight away as the test results came back positive for Lepto. Just a few days after I was diagnosed, Olympic Rower Andy Holmes died at Kings College Hospital of the disease.

It took me about 3 months to recover fully and for my liver to recover. It was very unpleasent and made me feel terribly poorly and exhausted.

I will never swim in the Thames again and am always careful now to stay away from the banks of any open body of water that I swim in, where it is more likely to be infected by mammal urine.

I would advise any open water swimmer to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical attention if they become unwell after an OW swim and not to be fobbed off by their doctor, but to insist on blood test and antibiotics. 

Thankfully this disease is rare, but it is potentially life threatening if left untreated."


So folks, familiarise yourself with the symptoms and know what to do, do not be afraid to explain your concerns hospital staff, better safe than sorry.

I will return to the river but will ensure I don't have any open wounds and always wear my ear plugs.

Almost forgot to include that Gav has been as bad as a dog too. !

Enough said !! 


Windermere V .. Suunto track (video)