Sunday, 14 December 2008

A bad day at Dover, a picture speaks a thousand words..I think you can see from this what I mean when I say one is completely at the mercy of the weather when awaiting a swim slot...

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Enda Kennedy

My tide in August was from the 8th to the 15th, as you are well aware the weather was shocking and many swimmers didn't get to start, one of whom was Enda Kennedy from Clara, Co Offaly. Ireland. We had previously met Enda in Kinsale at the Irish Champion of Champions and hit off a great friendship immediately.

Since the tide and the subsequent no go tides for us both in September we have remained in touch, this last weekend we visited Enda and his lovely wife Denise to attend the black tie ball at the SAS Radison in Athlone for the Charity night in aid of his chosen cause Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.

The weekend and the ball in particular was a great success and I just wanted to thank Enda and his extended family for a fabulous time, overall the night raised in the region of 35,000 Euro making Endas efforts so far over 330,000Euro an amazing effort well beyond the call of duty.

He is now off to run his 8 or 9th NY marathon again for the hospital.
A top man ....thanks liver is now recovering!

Friday, 10 October 2008


I am delighted to be able to report that little Jack Brown has returned home from America where he has been battling Neuroblastoma. He has at last been declared NED ..(no evidence of disease), I received an email from his mum Yvonne today, his parents and friends are quite obviously elated at the news, as are we, long may his recovery continue.

You can read more on the updates on Jacks website

Friday, 12 September 2008

once upon a time

I have been telling the story over and over at work regarding my predicament and the weather putting a stop to me swimming last week at the beginning of the neap tide. I do still so want to swim The English Channel, very much so. I am determined to tackle it one day when the time is right. The fact is, I believe I owe it to Charlie to spend next summer at home or on holiday with him, not spending every penny we have chasing my dreams year in year out.

I did get some very generous help from my friends and family but the fact remains that I missed my annual holiday with my best buddy. I have promised that next year we will not sacrifice our week away, even if it means we spend it in Switzerland at Lake Zurich! Sorry Kell ...

I still have a number of people to inform of the events but I am feeling a little better knowing it was completely out of my hands, I feel a weight lift once I have made it clear that their donations have not been breached in any way. And that one day I will return......think I better buy a ticket for the euro millions !!

Its looking reasonable for Windermere swim, maybe Thursday 25th Sept..will keep you posted.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Life goes on

Life is slowly returning to normal on the work and parenting front. I feel like there is a huge void waiting to be filled, after all the training and planning I am at a loss as to what to do next. Don't misunderstand me I do have a thousand mundane tasks to be fulfilled in and around home, but on the swim front it all seems kind of weird.

I am thinking about doing the 10.5 mile Lake Windermere swim before the end of the season, though it is just a thought at this stage, maybe Zurich next summer ?, providing I could take Charlie with me. However even if I do those swims I know that the Channel will still be eating away at me from within.

We have already discussed the implications and what could done slightly differently by way of training, time off work and child care. Not a lot of changes but sufficient that would probably postpone a return to Dover next year unless of course we win the Lotto!

I certainly am not alone in my disappointments of being thwarted by the weather and the lousy British summer; Stanley Paris who hoped to become the oldest Channel swimmer at 70 years of age has also returned home to the United States, as has a training friend of his, a lady from India whose name I do not know. At least I didn't have a flight to catch, my journey home being simple enough in comparison.

Alison Streeter MBE said "it is the worst summer for Channel Swimming" she has known in 28 years of involvement.

I have received a great deal of backing from people who have confirmed the last year was not in vain, we managed to raise some funds for and perhaps more importantly some awareness regarding the plight of the many children fighting Neuroblastoma and of course The JACK foundation. With that I am happy. Its a pity I cannot go around claiming the funds for the charity from the paper pledges, that would boost their figures by another thousand pounds or so.

Fingers crossed for Enda Kennedy who will make his attempt in 10 days time on the final neap tide of the season.

Updates will continue re future plans, thankyou again for your support.

Sunday, 7 September 2008


Whilst I was driving home yesterday… I asked myself a few questions regarding how or what I might have done differently in the build up. Having thought about little else since October 2006 I am not sure just what else I could have done.

A brief look at my training records show around 1025km swimming in the last 12 months with around 80+ hours in cold water since May this year, I don’t think I could have managed a lot more physical training wise with my other normal commitments.

My main regret is taking the carrot to swim after the drive on 8 August. That one weekend trip left us around £2500 (mainly the boat fee) out of pocket with any comeback to be a struggle. Together with a large drop in confidence. Had I not risked the journey that Friday maybe I would have been more relaxed and excited about a later swim and had more holidays from work still to use.

That said, no one can control the weather. I may well have spent the whole of this week waiting at Deal without opportunity to swim, then the pilot would have another set of swimmers on the next tide as well as all those backed up from earlier. The whole thing can be a nightmare.

I under estimated the complications with the Pilot, the wait and the effect all of this would have on those close to me.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Thats it...

The weather never did improve, nor did the forecast for the coming the week. I spoke with the pilot and another pilot for good measure… the consensus of opinion being that there does not look like a swimmable window of opportunity anytime soon.

With deep regret I therefore took the advice of my pilot to travel home and thus abandon any hope of swimming the English Channel. I feel emotionally shattered, over eighteen months of preparation, sacrifice, never ending research, training and financial commitment has ended.

I will post soon regarding some hindsight and what might have been. Thank you to everyone who has text me today and especially thank you to those who have supported me through all of this build up, to all those who have donated in advance and helped to raise awareness of the Jack Foundation and the fight against Neuroblastoma. I am sorry it has come to nothing.

To the Dover beech people. You are an amazing bunch, without Freda Streeter and Barrie Wakeham very few swimmers would every make it to France. As Ned Denison reminded today I have also met a lot of great people and made a few friends along the way.

Gutted, embarrassed, upset and angry.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Deal or No Deal

Well I have arrived at the South East Coast, as stated earlier I am staying in the town of Deal just a few miles from Dover, having had a fairly trouble free journey yesterday reaching the accommodation around 6pm. I travelled alone with KGB due follow on Sunday. I didn't do a lot last night apart from eat, sleep and think about home.

Woke this morning to hear the wind and rain against the windows, it is completely miserable. I had a drive up to The Harbour where I saw Sam Jones and a fella called Steve from North Devon who is hoping to swim this week. We swam for an hour in the choppy water whilst the rain lashed it down. A far cry from the weekends of sunshine we experienced 6 weeks ago.

After coffee and breakfast at Chaplin's in Town, I returned to the Lodge to shower then popped over to the library for Internet access, the latest information on the channel swimmers email group is that the gale force winds look set to remain and we will be lucky if anyone gets the go ahead on this neap tide. So.. after all the months of training, and after anxiety of making the decision to return it looks like it might never happen. I certainly cannot make it down here again for the final tide of the swim season at the end of September. It is therefore fingers crossed that the met office have made a mistake. Without a lengthy break from the present conditions no swims will start.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Jessica Sullivan

nice video, would put my mortgage on Jessie completing her swim, am sure she will be least I hope so. I recently had some great emails from Kaise Stefan amongst others, thankyou for your kind words, your support and enthusiasm is overwhelming.

Monday, 1 September 2008


I am delighted to say that Mike Cross (3 x English Channel, Loch Ness etc) is joining us for the swim, he was one of the first people outside family (together with Enda and Macy) to offer his support post 080808. I think most things are now in place. Mike is full of enthusiasm and advice, I am really pleased to have him onside. He only lives around an hour from Dover so the logistical issues of notice, travel, accommodation and work are kept to a minimum.

After a long wait Loraine has now gone on holiday to join her daughter, she is disappointed not to be involved as planned but it is out of our hands, I would like to thank her too for her support thus far.

We will be staying at Wellington Lodge in Deal as of the 4th. I am working nights Monday and Tuesday then the afternoon/evening of Wednesday. The plan is to take Charlie to school Thursday then head off to Dover, where I will await suitable weather conditions.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


The good news for me is that Charlie flies home tonight, it will be great to see him bright and early in the morning to hear all about his adventures.

Went to Seaton today, just for an hours swim before work, the sea was as flat as I have ever seen it. I could actually see the sandy bottom for the whole of the swim, got spooked a few times by stuff I don’t normally see i.e. stacks of fish and the odd large rock that appeared out of nowhere. I am pleased to say that the recent sighting of a blue shark off the pier was not repeated today, I really didn’t want to have a chance encounter with anything bigger than myself in the waters of the North Sea!

Its back to the two week count down again before the September tide, I hope to tick over with my swims in the cold water and try to keep up the acclimatisation, the water today was around 58F on my watch, still much less than the Channel which was reading 64F last time I checked.

I heard some great news about Paul Forsey who swam The English Channel at the weekend in a time of 16 hours and 8 minutes, (Paul swam in memory of his Dad who passed away on boxing day last year) well done Paul, we are really pleased for you.

Thank you for the positive encouragement on comments, texts and email it really does help me.

Friday, 22 August 2008

lessons of life


Ok its official, the swim should take place on the first tide in September which runs from the 5th onwards.

The re run is absolutely crippling me financially as has the whole year in the build up, however it would seem silly to have sacrificed so much to throw it all away now, the time away from Charlie, all the training, the sponsorship for The J.A.C.K Foundation and my own empty pockets would all be in vain if I didn’t bother returning to Dover. More importantly I promised my mum I would give it my best shot and I know she will be watching over me.

I have sorted transport, accommodation, CSA fees (again) etc. and expect to be in Dover together with KGB on the afternoon of the 4th September, I will not begin unless I am certain I am ready physically and emotionally. Just crew to confirm and that’s us all set.

Thank you for all your well wishes and encouragement and continued support.

I will be glad when its all over, so that I can settle down to a normal life on dry land whilst trying to be a good daddy.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Les Brown: Why People Fail

I like this bloke, there is a stack of his speeches on the internet, I just thought this one was rather appropriate in the present circumstances.

I am still finding it difficult to be as motivated as I was before 080808.

Charlie went away on holiday today with his mum for a week, and the weather is terrible so its not a great day. I should use the week to get some training in between shifts and report back with some positive news. Too much 'negative air' as Lance Armstrong would say!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Hugh Tucker Swims in

an inspiring clip of Hugh Tuckers last moments before reaching France...great for visualisation.

Saturday, 16 August 2008


I just want to add line re Joni Storer (who I have trained with over the winter in some really cold water) and also re Megan Turner (who we met many times at the harbour). Both made their attempts yesterday leaving Dover around 10am, unfortunately both were out of the water 10 hours later (10 hours 45 for Megan) without reaching France, they were only beaten by the weather and dangerous waves. Both should be very proud of their valiant efforts. Several other swimmers set out turns out that only 3 from 13 made it to French soil.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


I am currently investigating the feasibility of swimming in the number 1 slot on the first tide in September. I have the position allocated and will take it if I can satisfy a number of queries. Not least of which is the proviso that the swimmers still waiting on this tide and the remaining August tide all get the go..if not I would be well down the pecking order.

If we do get back in September it will be great to meet up with our good friends from Ireland, they, (Enda Kennedy and his team (Bila, Micheal and Stevie) are returning home tomorrow after over a week of the waiting game.They will hopefully return the same time as me for Enda’s Channel Swim..I know he misses his two young boys terribly and is looking forward to being with them once more.

Charlie remains on cloud nine after reciept of his gift from Enda that I collected this weekend. Thank you so much.

Monday, 11 August 2008


An old school master of mine regularly spouted two particular quotes one of which was “a fool learns by his mistakes yet a wise man learns by the mistakes of others”

How right he was.

I will spare you the finer details but here is Fridays Tale…

By way of background and as frequent visitors to the blog will know, we have visited Dover a number of times this year, the drive is in general a gruelling ordeal, 350 miles taking anywhere from six and half hours plus, on arrival all we ever feel like doing is eating and sleeping. As per the previous post, last week I was playing the waiting game and did not expect to get any opportunity to swim, a swimmer was backed up from the previous tide and I was second slot, therefore in effect I was third in line with no sign of good weather.

Around 8:30 on Friday morning I was down stairs making a cuppa when Charlie called from my bedroom shouting that my pilot was on the telephone, I was offered the opportunity to swim providing I could get to Dover Marina by 1430-1530, I quickly rang KGB and Dave Neal who where at work, without discussion we agreed that it was possible to cover the distance in time if we left immediately, I crammed the car and before too long Charlie was dropped with his Grans and we were racing down the motorway. I was yet to have coffee let alone breakfast, but we continued with haste to make the dead line.

Kelly received some telephone calls whilst enroute from some very informed swimmers and other experienced parties all of whom doubted my sanity and the conditions of the day, I told her I didn’t want to hear any negatives as I was already committed.

Grabbing some MnS pasta enroute, an electric shave in the car and the odd toilet stop at roadside! We arrived at 3.20pm, My support swimmer could not make it in time having been at work and not expecting the call before Saturday at the earliest. Sam Jones stepped in and even purchased some items that we had left behind in the rush to depart. Thanks Sam.

Without time to brief, focus, eat, rest, prepare feeds etc we loaded the boat and motored around to Samphire Hoe, I jumped from the boat swam to shore, it was a surreal, this was not how I imagined it would be in the slightest, I was not excited I was almost in tears as I reached the shore to begin. Begin I did, however within 45 minutes I was vomiting, I do not know if it was entirely as a result of the sea state or some other factors, my first feed was soon returned to the sea as I continued to be sick. Shortly before my second feed I called it a day much to the disatisfaction of Kelly and the other people on board. It was ridiculous situation. I was ill, I was tired before even starting, I was starving before the start but now the last thing I wanted was to eat. My stomach was inside out and I felt I had no choice but to abandon, I have zero regrets about getting out.

However, in hindsight I should never ever have accepted the offer to swim at such short notice moments after a 6hour plus drive with such little emotional/mental preparation. It was a crazy decision I hold my hands up to making a massive mistake.

I want to thank my new friends from the swim world for their 100% support and advice. Especially Enda Kennedy, Freda Streeter, Kevin and Jane Murphy, Cliff Golding, Barrie and Irene Wakeham, Michelle Macy, Sam Jones.

I have the option to swim in September…after a little thinking time, I will decide pending child care, work, time off, finance etc.

I do not consider that I have failed, lets face it two hours is barely a training session, I know for a fact that I am way better that this, I have proven to myself I can manage at least 7 hours. All I want are the conditions and the circumstances for a reasonable chance.


Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Waiting Game

Brief update at 10am Thursday 7th August, I am more less packed and waiting for the weather to change, at the moment it could even be a no go all week due to high winds! That would be bad after all this time, however , that is just the way it is, I hear that early Friday is a possibility, followed by a very unsettled weekend.

Being that I am in second slot, it is most likely that I will depart for Dover on Saturday which allows for another night with Charlie too. The moment I receive news I will post. In the meantime it’s the waiting game.

Thank you for your continued support, sponsorship, texts and emails.

Monday, 4 August 2008

1 Million Metres...

This is my final week of preparations before the beginning of the window of tides for my swim. I don’t think I can effect my fitness in a positive way now, its just a case of eating well, resting between shifts, checking the administration side of things and keeping up the acclimatisation by frequent dips in the sea (I swam yesterday evening (Sunday3rd August) and again at lunchtime today in the North Sea) nothing severe just relaxing swims at around 14 and half degrees C, which is good as it is around 17 mid Channel now. The lifeguards at Seaton were in attendance and they handed me a good luck card…I was touched thank you.

I had a nice chat with Enda Kennedy this morning who has already arrived in Dover ahead of his swim. There seems to be lots of people on this tide besides Enda and myself there is Kevin Murphy, Megan Turner, Maggie Kidd, Vasanti and Rob to name a few… those are just the ones I know of but there are many more, who like me, are no doubt watching the weather and the long range forecasts trying to predict when the conditions may improve. I realise it is pointless ME checking the weather but its hard to resist. When all is said and done it will be the pilot who will decide if and when the time is right.

I am becoming increasingly anxious and excited at the same time, ideally I will not be Dover for the whole week as I will miss Charlie terribly, that said it is hopefully a once in a life time mission. One that will raise lots of pennies for the charity and one that has been on my mind everyday for years. One that Charlie may well get a taste for too in the future. Even though he strongly suggests otherwise at the moment!

Other concerns as well as being homesick will be the waiting around that all Channel swimmers experience, the worry of my support crew arriving on time bearing in mind some of them have a 7 hour drive to contend with minimal warning, can I handle the cold water for maybe 14 hours plus especially the cold water washed up from the depths by passing ships, marine life?…I have read some scary stories of certain things accompanying swimmers across the Dover Straits, seasickness for both me and the crew, and of course will my body hold out.

It is a mammoth task, I don’t think I could have done a lot more by way of training, today’s training swim pushed my total distance since the Ironman last July over 1 million metres.

I was telling a colleague yesterday (who has finished IMAustria a couple of times) that nothing compares to swimming in cold water, no amount of pool work can prepare you for the pain of all kinds you have to deal with in the sea, physically its easier doing and Ironman triathlon in say 12 hours than swimming for six hours in a cold choppy Dover Harbour.

No one said it was going to be easy and it certainly hasn’t been, however the real work and pain is yet to come.

No time now for anything but positive thoughts.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

August has arrived

Not a lot has happened this week, the times I haven’t been working I have had some fun with Charlie during his school holidays, we have been to the cinema, played a stack of football and attended an awards ceremony at work, where as a result of the press coverage for an unconnected matter we had our pictures published in a local rag and managed to get The Swim and The Jack Foundation a mention.

Training wise I have had an easy week kind of forced upon me by other commitments, but at least it allowed my body to recover, to be honest I felt physically better after the 7 and 6 hours swims than after 3 or 4 hours? Maybe it was the sunshine at the weekend that lifted our spirits and made it all seem a little easier. I am glad to say the sunburn on my legs has calmed down…lesson learnt there.

Went to Seaton today about 5pm for an hour, was easy enough but boring being alone with no real route to swim, the tide was very high and the temperature on my watch said 58F, somewhat cooler than Dover Harbour. Sandettie Lightship shows the temperature mid channel hitting 64F. I am hoping to get a longer swim tomorrow after work again, weather permitting, as we have had almost constant rain and some wind for days now.

I have formulated my equipment and packing lists for the boat, as well as a number of questions I want to run by Andy King before I leave home on Friday. The plan is for me to be in Dover Friday afternoon, where I will await the go ahead of the swimmer in first slot. KGB and subsequently Dave Neal will then follow me down ready for the big day.

More news in a day or so regarding my feelings, needs, and fears. Thank you again for all those who continue to support the swim and the Charity, please spread the word and help me in the fight against Nueroblastoma.

Monday, 28 July 2008


Leaving home at noon on Friday the 25th we embarked on another gruelling seven hour drive, arriving at Dover worse for wear, hungry and tired, we found the nearest restaurant table had my standard two main course meals and returned to Hubert House for some much needed sleep.

I was out of bed by 7am to be first at the breakfast table for the mandatory intake of porridge, banana and coffee followed by maxim, fortisip and 1000mg of vitamin c. Suitably stuffed and uncomfortable we drove the very short distance to the beach, parked up and walked across the road to see Freda and the many other simmers already gathered. I was greeted with a hug and kiss, she made it clear that she was happy to to us again. Before she could hand out my penance I pointed out that I was expecting seven hours. “Good boy, 7 hours, find the switch, you know you can do it” So, off to be greased about the pits and neck by the ever cheerful Barrie, down a little more maxim and into the water bang on 9am.
My plan was to return to the beach to feed at 65 minute intervals or thereabouts, I more or less did this until I was joined at 12:15 by my support swimmer Loraine Verghese, we swam together for an hour in total synchronisation before she left to gossip with her drinking partner KGB at my fourth feed. The next three hours were much more comfortable and are more or less a blur until I came in to feed with around 40minutes to do. I got the thumbs up from KGB and Barrie and headed back out to the pier, the last 40 minutes were a real bore, not time enough to swim a full lap and far too much clock watching.

I was delighted to complete the seven hours, I had zero shoulder pain just a bit of expected soreness in the triceps, I walked up the pebbles to a very happy Freda Streeter. The first part of my split Channel training session was complete. 7 hours at about 63F.

We eventually returned to Hubert House where after a clean up and power nap we met Marcy Macdonald who was in the UK crewing for some swimmers, I had followed a few of Marcy’s training plans so it was great to finally speak to her in person.

After another Maximum Belly Stretch, this time at Cullins Yard it was off to bed for more sleep and not even a drop of Guinness!

Sunday the usual rituals of breakfast, grumbles, pack the car, check out and be at the beach for 9am. Freda actually looked a little surprised to see me, I was duly awarded another 6 hour swim in probably the best conditions I have seen in the harbour.

The first three hours dragged as they usually do, I had a brief hour with Chris before following the usual schedule of 65minute swims, feed and so on. I actually managed to down part of a sandwich at one feed courtesy of a request I made to KGB and hour earlier, gosh I was starving, I think this was about 4 or 5 hours in. I also saw Cliff Golding on the beach, he was chatting to Kelly; giving me very positive words of encouragement at each feed, in clear, calm reassurance which all helped my mindset. Again the last 45 minutes were a drag, but I exited the water, felt reasonably fresh and dried off in the sunshine. Only then did I realise we had forgot to apply sun block to my legs…they were and they are, red raw, and Charlie is only too quick to point out that “Hey Dad, the moon is out and its really white!”

Thank you to all the beach crew for a great weekends training and all of your help, especially Barrie and his Jelly Babies and of course Freda et al. Kelly I know you are bored senseless on the beach but thank you for supporting me through this, and to everyone who has helped with child care whilst we are away..only one more trip now.
The only side effects are what feels like tennis elbow in the left arm, otherwise I feel great and as ready as I will ever be for this mammoth challenge.

Friday, 25 July 2008

two weeks remaining

Thursday 24 July
08 x 15

Pain at the front aspect of the right deltoid all night, it then hung around all day, at times I think it was deferred to all other parts of the shoulder, I generally feel like I have a ‘dead arm’. Had a MBS (maximum belly stretch) of pasta in anticipation of the drive tomorrow, plan is to leave around noon. Early night tonight.

Friday 25 July

Yesterdays pain seems to have eased after a good nights rest. Charlie and I will go collect the car from work ready for the trip to Dover soon, one of the worst things with these trips to Dover is leaving him behind, he could in fact come but he would be bored senseless on the journey let alone standing on the beach for hours on end. Still..its the last weekend away before the tides, I would like to have a good confidence giving set of back to back swims, ideally on Sunday I will drive home and feel ready to taper, fingers crossed that my body holds out and that the journey to the south coast doesn't turn out to be a nightmare, just two weeks now, will blog Dover5 soon as we return ...good luck to Sam Jones and Stanley Paris who look like they may commence their swims any day now!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Wednesday 23 July

0800 x 1500

Another good nights sleep, just a sore throat remaining from the fluey symptoms, didn’t feel like getting up for a day shift but theres nothing new in that , did some stretching last night which eased the left arm. Visited the clinic and met Dr Rehman for my interview (a thousand questions) and shoulder assessment, the good news is the opinion that I do not have a major injury to the shoulders no tears etc, I do have some tendonitis and inflammation, after much discussion of pros and cons I decided to go ahead and get a shot in the right shoulder, was talked through the whole procedure which was totally painless, hope is to give some anti inflammatory effects directly to the affected area, benefits to be at peak in 4 - 6 weeks though will be of benefit before hand i.e. within 7 days or so. He appeared genuinely interested in both the swim and the associated injuries. Promised to keep him updated, very professional and re assuring. Lets hope it does the trick. As I type this I feel like I have been punched on the upper arm but that should ease soon.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Days to do are getting few...

Sunday 20 July 2008
15 x 21 C
Have now had two nights with flu type symptoms, waking up through the night soaking wet followed by the shivers and unable to get warm, difficulty swallowing, ear neck and glands ache, shoulder still not good despite the rest, think my immune system has took a hammering of late? Took some positive inspiration from Ed Williams by way of his diary entries on the build up to his 2006 Solo Swim. Hoping the flu clears up, want to get to Seaton in the morning after the school run for a one hour swim. Managed to get some more fortisip. Spoke to Enda and Joni on text.. both swam 7 hours Saturday in Dover harbour then 6 and 3 hours respectively Sunday well done boys I am impressed.

Monday 21 July
A couple of cold sweats but better than previous night. must be better for Dover5. Took Charlie to school for his last day in year 3, non uniform day,… Just back from Seaton was so rough unable to get beyond breakers to actually swim much to the relief of the beach lifeguards went into the water and dived under the breakers for about 20 minutes just to feel the cold water on my skin, was tough and yet funny getting in, lots of talking out loud! strolled out and chatted with the guards before having a shiver for ten minutes in the car as I chatted to Joni Storer on the phone, amazing what difference it makes when not swimming to generate heat, Watch said 57F 14C actual maybe 55F. Will try again Tuesday. Had an email from Jenni at Hubert House, great news.. we will be in The Georgian Suite this weekend. Also Andrea Joynes handed over £147 for the JACK foundation from customers in her salon. Many thanks…Text from Andrae Dent states cheque donation for J-A-C-K from St. Patricks Primary to be presented in September..excellent.

Tuesday 22 July
Better nights sleep, no sweats/shivers. Charlie spending day with his mum today, so headed to Seaton intending 1 hour session, arrived to see tide well out and big rollers coming in but much better than yesterday, eventually got through the rollers and swam for 45 minutes, was way too far out really and did not feel safe, but this was were the rollers eased off enough to allow me to swim. Watch said water at 58F, air temp very warm for a change. My left arm from the rear of the shoulder to elbow was very painful, especially on final phase of the push, in addition to that felt like I had no control over that arm and that it was going all over the place? Disturbing? Have I forgotten how to swim?? …am keen to get to the specialist tomorrow hoping that he can give me some pain relief to both shoulders, it is going to be pricey but if it works it will be worth every penny.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Its not good...but its ok

Following a disappointing Sunday in Dover Harbour when I felt like it was all over, it has been a relatively quiet week, I have received a couple of treatments by way of deep massage and ultra sound. The left shoulder in particular continues to be problematic however an assessment booked for Wednesday when the specialist will decide if an anti-inflammatory injection is required. Whatever he says, It will help to know if I am either being a wimp or I require the jab to help me through this final build up.

I swam once this week at Seaton Carew (The back from the dead canoeist trial is on going at Crown Court) before being laid up with ‘man flu’ I had every intention of a swim at Ellerton Lake this morning but after a night mixed between hot sweats/shivers I certainly didn’t feel that it would be a good idea. I did however have to go to work and ended up standing in the wind and rain for most of the afternoon…at present I am rattling with paracetamol !

So…after sulking for most of the week, I am almost raring to go, thank you to those who have reminded me of why I am doing this, for your undying enthusiasm, well wishes and support, not least KGB, Enda, Freda, Loraine and Jane et al.

Thank you also to all those who continue to donate both on and offline, your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Monday, 14 July 2008


High and (S)Lows...

Highs:1. Excellent accommodation, I would highly recommend to future swimmers Wellingtons Lodge in the very pretty town of Deal just 8 miles from Dover.
2. Saturday swam as requested for 6 hours at 16C unaccompanied except for 20 minutes when I was joined briefly by Loraine Verghese..delighted with this 5 days after last six hour swim.
3. Had a good chat with my pilot who sounds on top form just hours before his season started with Kaise Stefan.
4. It didn’t rain.
1. The drive to Dover took almost 8 hours due to weather and roadworks.
2. My arms were aching terribly in the triceps and elbows from start to finish on Saturday, getting progressively stiffer as the day went on. Probably not recovered in full from the swim last Sunday in not the best conditions.
3. Woke Sunday encountered difficulty dressing due to almost unbearable pain in the right arm.
Freda gave me 5 hours I was glad it wasn’t 6! agreed to go for it, wanted to be out at 1 hour (pain and getting cold due to inability to swim as the normal pace).
Ended up getting out after just short of 2 hours, much to the annoyance of several, including Freda, received offers of help from Jane but could not do it, feel severely gutted at yet another injury, and embarrassed at my failure to make the time, and for what I may or may not have said to the beach crew and Kelly. I wasn’t rude or impolite but was very stubborn. For what a number of people must think of me for refusing point blank to get back in.
My arm/right shoulder is still causing me a great deal pain today after the drive home and a day at work. I have treatment arranged for this week but to be honest I don’t expect to be back in Dover anytime soon.

Public apologies to Kelly, Freda and Jane. Sorry


Congratulations to Kaise Stefan who successfully swam The English Channel yesterday Sunday 13th July 2008 in a fantastic time of 12 hours 34 minutes...great job!

Also to Finbar Hedermann from Ireland who successfully swam yesterday in around 13 hours 21 minutes...brilliant job done boys...enjoy the glory.....forever

Friday, 11 July 2008

Almost there

It is now twelve months since that logistical nightmare otherwise known as Ironman Austria...for those who don't remember, Good old Air France delayed our flights for nine hours, then they lost our luggage including race kit, when we finally arrived at the hotel it was locked up so we had to sleep in the car, at dawn I had to re buy everything needed for the event the next day by which time all we could get to eat was pizza! Not ideal preparation.

Well that was a year ago now, albeit I was training for the English Channel prior to the Ironman, real training began immediately what seems like a flash of time I have now been training exclusively for the big day for 52 weeks. Having covered over 900km, and previously been pushed to extremes in the military and other events, I feel that I am now finally getting into the zone and hope for two more successful weekends of training at Dover. Followed by some good weather and finally putting myself in the hands of my pilot.

This weekend has the potential to be the most difficult yet with possibility of a split channel swim comprising 7 hours Saturday followed by 6 Sunday. My arms/shoulders are still recovering from last weeks battering by waves and walls of water. So its fingers crossed for reasonable weather, If I can adopt the right mental approach things will be manageable.

I am just off to pack the car now for our usual drive to the south coast in an hour or so. I will report back with Dover4 as soon as possible.

Good luck to all those swimmers and pilots who are waiting for the weather break. You are almost there...

Monday, 7 July 2008


Our weekend training trips to Dover are basically a race from start to finish. The contest normal begins with parental planning, the school run, try to finish work early, load the car and head southbound for a minimum of 6 hours, as you can imagine, by the time we arrive on the south coast we are shattered, this week was no different. We managed a quick meal, followed by a broken nights sleep, waking with a body full of aches and pains as a result of sleeping in a strange small bed .

“700 miles? In a weekend? I take it you fly to Dover” was the comment from a workmate … “Oh no we just drive” the look on his face said it all…one questioning my sanity!

I had (or at least I thought I had) prepared my self mentally this week for a six hour swim on Saturday in order to qualify before the waters reached anything above a balmy 16 degrees, so it was no surprise when I reported in, to be handed my red cap and be asked to do 6. Yep I knew she was going to say that.

It was a busy time on the beach this weekend with a lot of new faces in attendance, many of whom I had spoken to online, we met with Kaise Stephan, Vasanti and later Stanley Paris, all of whom were really nice, caring and enthusiastic.
After some intros I was greased by the ever present Barrie and headed into the very low water together with Kaise and his support swimmer Ryan, he was just swimming for an hour before meeting his pilot we also planned to see our skipper this week at some point but unfortunately never got chance. Into the water, we walked until in a reasonable depth and headed off to the eastern dock wall, basically swam a lap of the harbour before going our separate ways. It was great swimming with someone of a similar pace, the benefits of gently moving along side by side are enormous, the mind has far more things with which to be occupied, the first hour seemed to fly by.
I continued on alone, the sun was in and out and the water felt ok at just short of 16C, by the time I was due to come in for a feed a 2 hours my right shoulder/arm was playing up and all manner of negatives had started to invade my mental plan. Issues I hadn’t considered for the first hour would not leave my head and I didn’t do a very good job of thinking positive, cold, bored, hurting, hungry, choppy water, tired…I had let all these things get a hold of me. I swam in and told Barrie my shoulder was playing up, I was gutted… he gave me a warm maxim drink, some pain killers and instructed me to swim to out to the Western wall and see how it felt afterwards. At that point I had decided I was getting out, and so I did at 2 hours and 20 minutes, I dragged my sorry butt up the beach and had to face Freda, I was embarrassed at my performance and went away to sulk, I was too stubborn to see the error of my ways and sat on the stones thinking it was all over.

KGB arrived back at the beach a short time later (she wasn’t expecting me to be out this early) and was not a happy bunny, What was I playing at? What had Freda said? She sat with me for a while, I could almost hear the cogs turning in her head as she disappeared… before much longer, Freda was approaching with that knowing smile beckoning me to sit with her on one of the concrete groins. We had a heart to heart, I was told a number of things about both my training and my character, she then said something that really hit the spot (am not letting you into it though)…and no matter what my body was saying I was getting back in, “Just two hours, good boy and Jane (Murphy) will do the second one with you”

The variety of guises Freda Streeter can take on amaze me, she can be scary, motivating, hard but above all she is also one of the most selfless and compassionate people I know. Kelly was not allowed to speak to me before I re entered the water, I was in and swimming without time to consider other options, it was rougher than earlier, when Jane joined me I felt like she had been sent to kick my a**e, I was fighting tooth and nail to keep up. When we left the water, it was in a much better place emotionally. Thanks Jane for joining me. Saturday 2 swims, 4 hours 20 minutes 15.9C.
Whilst I was doing my second swim a plan had been hatched between KGB, Freda and Jane and some of the other beach crew. After a relaxed chat and we had the remainder of the day to our selves, subsequently had a lovely evening meal at Dunkerleys in Deal. The setting was beautiful and the back ground music encouraged me to think about a number of issues some of which brought on a bout of tears. Sunday, I had decided was now or never.

Another nights broken sleep, breakfast, pack the car, check out of Hubert House and report in to Freda and Irene at the beach, “Morning Mark, red cap number 6 and 6 hours, in every hour to feed, its choppy and it will be getting worse, away you go” A quick reminder of yesterdays conversation followed by a greasing up from Barry.

Saturdays plan had already been put in motion I was going to be swimming with Jane for 2 hours then Kaise for 1 hour then later Jane again for the final hour, as I stripped I couldn’t locate Jane so headed in to start alone. The water felt about the same as previous day, was very choppy to the extent that we were told not to go much further than the sloping groin. A circuit of the harbour and in for feed one, Barrie questioned why I was not with Jane as she was already in to catch up with me..? Around twenty minutes later I was heading back from the eastern end when by pure chance I accidentally grabbed a foot whilst I reached out through the increasing chop, as luck would have it, it was in fact Jane and Kathy, we swam together to the Prince of Wales (PofW) pier then on Jane’s say so completed another lap.

Feed 2 thus arrived I took some Ibuprofen from KGB and noticed Kaise and Ryan standing in their togs waiting to start. Some quick hellos and I was off to the PofW pier again, the boys soon caught up, once by the wall we did some intervals up and down with 30 seconds rest between each repeat. Soon it was time to head in for Midday and Feed 3.
Kaise and Ryan left the water, whilst I took my maxim and chocolate. The next hour was uneventful, I was joined by another unknown swimmer as I did some more repeats. It was as I made progress for Feed 4 that I knew was going to manage the six. Telling myself I had only one more feed seemed a much better prospect than the thought of two more hours, and so Feed 5 came. By now it was raining, the waves were crashing up swimmers beach, the crew there were soaked to the skin, Barrie by now was in full oil skins! the wind was blowing a gale and the sea was getting more and more angry. As I got to the beach I was greeted by cheers and a wall of people shouting praise and encouragement. Freda and Kelly were blowing me kisses and giving me the thumbs up, this hit a nerve and I immediately began to think about my late mum. It was then that I noticed Jane being cuddled as she struggled to keep warm. I told her she didn’t have to join me, true to her word, in she got and battled the waves for another hour. It was a fight to return to shore on completion, though the elated feeling when I did make it in such conditions made it worth while. The girls were waiting with hugs for me as I waded through the wash. A quick all day breakfast with Freda, her Grandson, Jane, Kevin, Matt, and Neil was then followed by phase three of the race, the return 350 miles to home, arriving around midnight I was tired to say the least.

Thankyou very much indeed to everyone who helped the swimmers this weekend in some atrocious conditions, I am happy to be officially qualified and look forward to my split channel swims next time we are in Dover.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Final Countdown

It feels like only days ago that I began this blog with more than a year to prepare and plan for the task at hand. I find it staggering that the first six months of the 2008 have passed us by. Granted, it has been tough going in every way, not just the training, but coping with the dramas and trauma that life presents, let alone working full time on shifts and attempting to be a good daddy.

But, that said, here we are... the longest day is now just a memory, July has begun and with it probably the toughest swimming and endurance month of my life (so far). This month is set to incorporate three visits to Dover, to complete my longest swims to date, I am hoping for around eleven hours this weekend followed by two split channel swims comprising 7 hours Saturday 6 hours Sunday. Under the watchful eye of Freda Streeter.

In addition to the swimming I am making one last effort to eat sufficient in order to gain another seven pounds in weight, whether achieve this remains to be seen, its heavy going eating so many times per day but I know the efforts over the next six weeks could make all the difference when it comes to that big day in August.

Went to the pool yesterday for a sprint workout for a change, was not sorry to leave the place on what was my final day of membership. Now there is no option but swimming outdoors which to be honest is all we have been doing anyway.

Had a brief chat with my skipper/pilot a couple of days ago, everything is running smoothly at his end, we hope to meet up again this weekend for a gossip and to put a couple of nerves to bed. He is 100% supportive and never has anything but encouragement.

Also this week I will probably meet up with the boys from 10 degrees latitude who are riding 800 miles to Dover before their relay swim across the Channel followed by a 200 mile ride to Paris! They will be in Newcastle tonight and Leeds tomorrow so I will attempt to get there and say hi.

In addition to the normal routine, Dover should be a busy place this weekend as there are a few other people in town that we hope to meet ...Kaise Stefan from Australia who also swims with Andy in around ten days will be there as will Vasanti from Germany. Together with all the regulars of course..I know KGB is keen to see Jane again for more girl talk, so at least I wont feel too guilty that she is alone when I am in the water..

I will post any more news as and when I have it.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Alone at Sea(ton)

Awoke to a sunny day for once, after another night of rainfall, dropped Charlie at school and made my way to Sunny Seaton, (well it was sunny when I left the house) on arrival the wind was blowing again, it was a westerly, which providing it ain't gale force tends to flatten the sea. So conditions were quite good really, just a bit of chop, high water and sunny intervals.

I was alone today as KGB was at work, and Joni has gone to Dover. I needed to get in for another sea swim and being that the conditions were favourable I decided to it was safe to do so. One of the worst things of going to the coast alone is the dilemna of time and equipment. Do I take the dry bag and clothes onto the beach so I am clothed til the last minute and risk it being stolen or blown away or, do I walk almost naked from the car park several hundred metres to the waters edge. I decided just like Monday that I would risk being arrested and walk semi naked across the sand.

Now once I make the decision to leave my clothes, towel and drinks etc in the car I then have to somehow secure the key for the ignition within my trunks. I normally tie it to the waist cord and hope for the best, there is no pocket inside the swimming togs so it's kind of just has to dangle in there, now that may sound OK to you...however as a result of the cold water I kind of lose the feeling of anything inside there so I never really know if I still have the key or if it has gone to Davey Jones' locker! am sure you can imagine my thoughts of exiting the sea only to have no dry kit and be faced with a ten mile walk home almost butt naked!! Not a pleasant prospect.

Into the water... my initial reaction was one of 'brrrr that's cold!' my hands and torso certainly felt the drop in comparison to the lake on Tuesday evening, after about 5 minutes I had relaxed into my swim and my breathing was fine. I swam a slightly longer route than normal, more or less keeping parallel to the shore, I did not want to head out too far without my safety cover and was rarely more than 200 metres from dry land.

Even though I obviously cannot speak with Kelly when she trudges the sand, it is comforting to know she is there, I found it boring today without her (yes Freda I know it it supposed to be boring). But for the occasional visit from a seagull I was in total isolation. Good training I guess. I swam for an hour at a watch reading of 55F, this is almost 10F lower than the lake, so I am really pleased that I made the effort to go today, we (KGB and I) are planning on returning tomorrow for a little longer.

Other are trying to get some TV coverage for the swim so as to raise the profile of the J-A-C-K foundation and the fight against Neuroblastoma, thank you to all who continue to support the swim, be it financially, emotionally or by sacrificing your time. Without you I could not manage this.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Ellerton Lake

When I was involved in triathlon, a colleague of mine (Darren) took me swimming to Ellerton Lake near Croft Circuit, North Yorkshire, its a reasonable size lake with lots of activities in terms of paddlers, divers and the odd swimmer. I haven't visited this place for well over a year, for one thing its 25 miles away, not far I agree but with Bishopton Lake 3 miles from home and Seaton Carew less than ten it seemed a little pointless. Bishopton however is now a little busy albeit the staff there cannot do enough to help, and the Sea is dependant on having Kelly keeping a watchful eye on me and my equipment. That said, yesterday I was 'allowed' to go for a little swim on my own, the only trouble was that a number Jet skis were hogging the surf and I did not feel at all safe, I kept the swim short and headed home before too long, my watch surprised me when it bottomed out at 55F, I had expected it to be much closer to 59F, maybe it was due to all wind that must have backed up a lot of water. It was still good to complete a couple of kilometres in the cold.

Anyway...a couple of days ago I was informed by Darren that lots of 'Tri' people attend the Lake at Ellerton on Tuesday evenings for a two hour session, I figured it would be better than a 2 hour pool swim and have opted to attend tonight. I have no idea how warm the water will be but will report back later today with how it went. I have arranged to meet another Channel Aspirant there too who is just formulating his plan .......................................................................................................................................

Been back from the lake around an hour, having filled my face with Indian food I thought I would update as promised before I start my Guinness!

We arrived at the pre arranged time to find only a few cars parked up, a few people were in the process of squeezing the bodies into wetsuits, glancing across I made eye contact with a man I had never met and was soon introduced to Dave Neal, who had recently emailed me with an interest in local open water swims..after some brief intros we stripped to our speedos and began our swim. It was my plan to swim loops of the lake perimeter, however we soon got caught up in some very dense weed, we therefore made our way to what looked like a pre planned swim course marked out by a number of white floating barrels.

Initially we swam to the small jetty where KGB was waiting with her daughter Lottie, Dave and I had slightly different speeds, so we decided at this point to swim with the rubber clad triathletes at our own pace. At this point I set off and decided to try to use the swim as an interval type session, being that it was going to be limited time wise I swam at around 90% of my maximum and tried to focus on some well needed drills at the same time. The water was crystal clear and bordered on being too warm. My watch was reading 64F. I could certainly feel the difference between this and yesterdays water in the North Sea. I was questioning the benefits in my head but it had to be better than the pool at a ridiculous 30+ C.
After another lap of the fixed route, I swam in for a warm feed, this was more for practice than anything else, I drank it and headed off as soon as possible feeling fine after the stop. Another loop, popped to the jetty to check on the girls and said I would do one more lap before we set off home to sort children for bed. That fell on deaf ears as I was told there was time for two more laps before home time, I get the feeling KGB would have said one more than any number I may have uttered! The rain started to come down on the last lap, but the surface of the lake was like glass, the water crystal clear and the temperature too good to be true, a short session well within my comfort zone, all in all, was a nice change of venue, got the chance to meet Dave who seems keen to do more, but for the weed it was a very pleasant evening.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Another week gone..7 to go

Just a brief diary type entry...this week has been rather full of everything but swimming, on Doctors advice Charlie has remained away from school this week for the protection of his arm. Therefore training has kind of taken a back seat, not such a bad thing after almost eight hours at the weekend, though now I am chomping at the bit to get back into the water.

Monday and Tuesday I was working days followed by child care, Wednesday I had another physio session with Gary Hinchely at Norton and Thursday I had the briefest of swims at Seaton Carew just to take part in a work related press release /photo shoot for the local media regarding the swim, my employers have been completely supportive hence I could not deny them the opportunity for some positive press, in addition to raising the profile of J-A-C-K.
For what its worth the sea yesterday was pan flat, the sun was shining but the wind was strong, the water was around 58F on my watch, for all it was brief, its is still good to get some cold water on the skin. I am hoping to get a longer swim either Sunday or early next week. Earlier this week I wrote a post to the Channel Swimmers Email Group regarding a swimming Lake Windermere sometime in the next fortnight but there seems to be little interest, so I guess its Seaton from now on prior to the three weekends at Dover, where I know Freda will ask for 7/6 hour swims on each occasion.

Edward Williams

I thought I would post Eds short film to the blog, it was one of the first clips I found on the internet shortly after booking my boat for the swim, with only seven weeks remaining until the beginning of my tides, it is nice to re watch the success of the likes of Ed, Loraine and Tim Denyer on DVD. There is a distinct lack of footage from swims to view but this clip certainly inspired me along the way..

Monday, 16 June 2008

Dover2 ...Friday the 13th

It was around 8am, as Charlie and I chatted as we prepared for school, I was telling him about ‘Friday The 13th’ and how some people have a phobia about the date, we agreed that there was nothing to worry about and that just as many people see 13 as a lucky number. I dropped him at the school gates, got my hug and kiss and he wished me well for my trip to Dover.

I returned home, loaded the car and before too long KGB and I were on our way. Around one hundred miles from home, I received a text message asking me to call Charlie’s mum, eventually I managed to get hold of her, only to be told that Charlie had hurt himself playing football at school and was enroute to hospital in a great deal of pain. X-rays revealed that he had broken his forearm and that he would require surgery to correct it. I was racked with guilt that I wasn’t there to hold his hand and be a good Dad, it was bad enough that I was going to be away for Fathers day let alone this. He was in good hands with his mum and I was told to continue my journey to Dover but to keep in touch.

Continuing onto Dover, we had arranged to meet with Joni Storer who was attending for the BLDSA Champion of Champions event. We arrived at Hubert House much earlier than last week after a relatively easy 6 hours or so, Jenni had a surprise for us, as she led us to the Georgian Suite, it was very very nice. Eventually Joni arrived, we showed him the harbour, the statues and off course The White Horse Pub.

We then returned to Hubert House in order to eat at the Bistro, where to our surprise Ned Dension and Eddie Irwine were seated and eating, it was great to see them again after Sandycove, (they too were in town for the BLDSA race) we had a good chat and laughed a lot especially at Ned’s dietary advice of “its doesn’t matter if it takes your fancy or not, just eat it!” This kind of encouraged me to sink a few more calories just prior to getting into bed in the form of mullerice and fortisip.

Next morning usual business of forcing down porridge, bananas, coffee, maxim etc before heading to the harbour to see Freda. The others headed to the West end of the harbour as the boot camp swimmers were greased up by Barrie, we all gathered around Freda as she announced the timings for each swimmer, it was at this point that she publicly informed Barrie that he was to “TAKE NO CRAP, THIS IS MARK ROBSON, HE IS DOING 5 HOURS NO MATTER WHAT!” I said a few words to Megan, Chris and Sam and headed off for my swim, entering the water again at 9am, the temperature felt much the same as last week though the weather in general was much nicer, with the sun breaking out from the clouds throughout the day, I had no shoulder pain, I was mentally in the correct frame of mind and enjoyed my first two hours before the first feed. We were restricted in our swim area due to part of the harbour being taken up by The Champion of Champions, that, together with several sailing boats and the odd ferry made for a rather busy place to be.
During the first few hours in particular I was desperate to get some news about Charlie and my mind started to drift to thoughts of him laying in a hospital bed. After the feed at two hours, feeds then take place on the hour, and consist of a small plastic cup of warm maxim with maybe a chocolate roll or milky way, it was really nice to see Kelly running knee deep into the water to hand out the drinks, she looked like she was having fun with Barrie and Sam. I remember coming in at four hours and seeing the delight on Kelly’s face as she knew I was entering new territory time wise in the open water, I said to her “Just one more hour and then I must phone Char.” Also around this time my hips began to cause me some pain which became more and more uncomfortable as time went on, I found that I was almost unable to kick which meant I began to cool off a little, I told myself that in less than an hour I would be in a steaming hot bath! At last the 5 hour point arrived by which time I was getting cold and my hips felt like they had completely locked up! It was then as I lay in the shallows that I noticed Freda had approached the waters edge, she asked me to do an additional hour for my qualifier swim, I took some ibuprofen from Sam and tried to set off toward the Prince of Wales Pier, within 5 minutes I knew it wasn’t possible today, I should have had the tablets hours ago, and now I was cold, I returned to the beach and got out. I had no regrets at all though I do wish I could have done it for Freda.

I almost see her as my Dover Mother. I find it quite moving how this community on swimmers beach are so desperate for people to achieve success, they offer their time and experience free of charge week in week out, they are a top class group of individuals who together form a unique team. I had an excellent recovery and was warm in no time at all, I called Charlie to find that he was going to theatre any minute, I was again sad that I wasn’t home. Soon I was cleaned up, we returned to the beach, offered Ned the use of the car to recover from his second swim of the day and had time to watch their final race. We had a pasta filled evening and returned to Hubert House for an early night. Next morning more of the same, though I only swam for two hours and 45 minutes, the water felt a little cooler than Saturday, but it was much sunnier, after my feed at two hours I had a flare up of the shoulder injury, and decided to get out the next time I passed the beach. I was not cold and stood talking to Barrie on the pebbles, before approaching Freda to tell her the tale. She was ok and understand also that we needed to be home. I gave her a kiss and we departed for the usual boring 340 mile drive. Overall I covered in the region of 15000 metres Saturday and 8000 metres Sunday, total of 7 hours 45 minutes in water around 13.9C. A fantastic couple of days training only dampened by the events of Friday The Thirteenth...As Enda says...boys will be boys!

Monday, 9 June 2008


At 8pm Friday evening, after seven gruelling hours of bumper to bumper traffic, rain storms, surface spray and enforced reduced speed limits, we finally arrived at Hubert House, our accommodation for all our visits to Dover this year. A brisk freshen up and off to Chapters8 for a Chinese buffet, into The White Horse pub next door to the hotel for a nightcap then off to bed. Kelly and I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast throughout the week, we kind of expected and accepted the rain and cloud for the journey but hoped for blue skies Saturday and Sunday, afterall its always warmer down south…isn’t it?

An early start next morning to force down some porridge banana and coffee with a dose anti inflammatory medication for the shoulder which was still bothering me (I hate eating first thing) we drove the very short distance to the harbour where we saw many swimmers already gathered, getting instructions from Freda Streeter and being greased by Barry. The atmosphere was good, we bumped into a few regulars most of whom we don’t know, said hello to those who we could identify (Chris, John, Paul, Sam etc) then had I a momentary flap when I thought I had lost my ear plugs, soon located them and went to speak with Freda, she was very welcoming and told me to try four hours for this my first visit of the year.

On the stroke of nine a.m. I entered the water, it felt chilly initially after two weeks off, I was dreading what the shoulder reaction might be and just hoped it would hold up for more than a few minutes, following several other seasoned swimmers, I tentatively made my way toward the eastern dock wall. I tried not strain as I pulled the water, wanting to ease the joint back into full use, it felt tender and stiff but seemed ok enough to carry on.

By the time I reached the end of the harbour the throng of people had spread out, so I was more or less alone, but for the odd cap or arm splash that could be seen somewhere off in the distance. Four laps to and from the Prince of Wales pier, then at last I was heading in for a feed, I swam into the beach and felt sore in the shoulder and forearm and was beginning to feel chilly. I reached the pebbles on swimmers beach to see KGB standing there, I told her how I felt and soon began to shiver as I stood in knee deep water, the air temperature was probably cooler than the water. She gave me ‘the look’ and told me to get going, I was miserable by now, bored with being alone and just hoped to make it back to the Western end of the harbour and back to swimmers beach.

I did however swim another loop and came back to shore at three hours ten minutes and called it a day. I admitted to KGB that I could have possibly managed a final loop at a struggle, though this was said after I had warmed up. There were however some positives, the shoulder was better than I anticipated after the lay off from both cold water and any form of swimming. It was a step in the right direction from 2hours 20mins in Cork and I was learning a lot about the whole set up here in Dover.

That evening we ate pasta at an Italian restaurant and headed for an early night hoping for a glorious start to Sunday morning as per the forecast.

Alas after a poor nights sleep interspersed with dreams of swimming with the sun on my back, we awoke to a foggy, cloudy, miserable morning, not impressed I struggled to eat my porridge, before heading once more to the waters edge, today Freda said with a grin, ‘You are going to be here a while today..6 hours’ I nearly fell over, did she know it was me, did she remember I was just a baby with a poorly sick shoulder and that my longest swim in the harbour was 190 minutes, I knew this was not a good idea, straight away I started to doubt myself, I was convinced she was going to say four hours maximum, but she was giving out 5s and 6s like there was no tomorrow. Thinking I would aim for four hours with anything else being a bonus I headed into the water, it felt colder than the previous day and my shoulder was much the same, I managed a pathetic 2 hours and ten minutes, Freda was not impressed, she gave me some ‘advice’ and does not expect anything like that again. I was really disappointed at Sundays performance, I just couldn’t get going, my mindset was all over the place and I have beating myself up since. The 340 mile drive home was in the most part not a happy one as a result.

We are back to Dover this coming Saturday (14th) for more of the same, I must do some mental training this week and prepare myself for the worst in terms of conditions, weather, and swim times. Today I still don’t think I am ready for six hours at 13. something degrees but lets see how I feel at the weekend, its not all doom and gloom and I am trying to seek out the good points, so that I don’t drop into a depression.

Freda’s parting words were, ‘You have time so long as you knuckle down, Its good that you feel cold and yes its boring, see you next week’

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Alexander Popov swimming technique

not exactly what I or probably any other aspirants will be doing but some nice viewing all the same whilst we wait to recover, more physio this afternoon, after which I will hopefully be all set for the 340 miles drive to Dover on Friday morning.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Not yet

A rather disturbing week, following the onset of my shoulder problem. I have not been able to swim since last Saturday at Sandycove. I actually went to the gym yesterday to have a little check the progress of my recovery, swimming in the pool for a just a few minutes without any strain caused some mild pain directly at the site of the injury. I therefore made what I thought was the sensible decision to delay my water re entry for a few more days. I was on nights over the weekend, when at one point in the early hours of Sunday I foolishly without thinking went to the assistance of a colleague to push a motor car out of the main road, this caused me some serious pain and I was kicking myself immediately for being so stupid.

The worst of the pain brought on from that momentary lapse was gone this morning when I was woken after 4 hours sleep! I am still on the nsaids and hope that tomorrows physio appointment is worthwhile. I am seriously considering cortisone injections as an option and have been re reading Michele Macys website re this (she swam the English Channel last year in 10hours!)

We are going to Dover this Friday come rain or shine therefore I am hoping for some progress as the mental side effects are getting me down. I am beginning to feel as though the last two years training are going to waste, especially as I am aware of how well training is progressing in Dover Harbour under the guidance of Freda Streeter. Don’t get me wrong, I am reasonably confident that I can cope with the current penance being imposed by Freda which for the majority of swimmers this weekend was 4 hours, it just feels like I am watching from afar, I am desperate to get back into the salt water and hope that the rest I am getting whilst I nurse my shoulder proves to be a blessing in disguise.

Thursday is pencilled in for a RV with Joni Storer, for a swim in the North Sea, he has suggested I obtain a magnetic shoulder strap to accelerate my recovery, I will probably do so being that I am prepared to try anything that may help.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Injury and Inner Potential

Before we left for Sandycove I had a telephone conversation with Joni Storer (Channel aspirant same tides as me and violinist extraordinaire) the basis of the conversation was family, followed by worries about a nagging injury he had picked up to his shoulder. I remember during the chat me telling Joni not too worry, that I had sustained several injuries on my journey toward the goal of Swimming The English Channel, that I had nursed multiple ear infections, shoulder injuries, back spasms to name but a few. I clearly recall stating it would be a temporary set back and that with some rest and professional treatment he would be just fine.!

Then of course, I travelled to Cork and got battered by some rough seas over 4 hours or so of swimming. Only to return home and be in a great deal of pain with my left shoulder, it has been worrying me all week to the extent that I have not swam since Saturday, that in itself presents its own paranoia type feelings let alone the concern for recovery now that we have only ten weeks before my tidal dates.

On Tuesday I awoke in the worst pain my shoulder has felt since training began, I have been taking anti inflammatory medication but no pain killers as I didn’t want to mask the issue and end up causing further complications. Wednesday the pain had eased by around 10%, I had some treatment from Gary Hinchely at The Norton Physio/Sports Injury Clinic, a session of ultrasound and some advice/diagnosis. It is reckoned that I have either tendonitis or a partial tear to the rotar cuff, the prognosis is good so long as I take some rest. I looked up the injury online and thought I would include some of what I discovered, as I know many swimmers will get similar pains along their routes to France.
Rotator Cuff Injury Explained

A Rotator Cuff injury is a common cause of shoulder pain. Injury to the Rotator Cuff will usually begin as inflammation, often referred to as Rotator Cuff tendonitis. The Rotator Cuff muscles (Subscapularis, Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus and Teres minor) are small muscles situated around the shoulder joint. Although they have individual actions, their main role is to work together to stabilise the humeral head (ball) in the shoulder socket. People are often told that they have injured one particular Rotator Cuff muscle or tendon, with the most common diagnosis being Supraspinatus tendonitis. However, it is unlikely that the problem is with just one of the muscles in isolation. The world's top shoulder surgeons refer to such conditions as a 'rotator cuff injury' and consider the picture as a whole.

Although the Rotator Cuff can be injured by a single traumatic incident, this is not common. Injury to the Rotator Cuff will usually begin as inflammation (tendonitis) caused by some form of micro trauma (a small but continuous source of irritation). If the cause of the inflammation is not addressed, and continues over a long period of time, partial tears may develop in the cuff that could eventually become complete tears (a tear all the way through one or more of the rotator cuff muscles).

There are three main causes of micro trauma to the rotator cuff:

Primary Impingement The 'Coraco-Acromial arch' forms a bridge over the Rotator Cuff. It is made up of bones and ligaments and is lined by a sac of fluid called the Subacromial bursa. The space under the bridge that is available for the Rotator Cuff is called the Subacromial space. Many people will have a naturally small Subacromial space, which is just bad luck, but the space can also be reduced by conditions such as OsteoarthritisDegenerative joint disease, characterised by wear of the articular surface of a joint. This can occur due to repeated overuse, but the incidence and onset of osteoarthritis is increased secondary to trauma, such as major ligamentous injury or meniscal injury in the knee.','',250)" onmouseout=hideddrivetip() ;Osteoarthritis. Whatever the cause of this small Subacromial space, repetitive overhead activities (such as throwing a basketball or dusting high shelves) can cause the Rotator Cuff to become continuously squashed against the Coraco-Acromial arch, causing inflammation of the cuff.

Secondary Impingement Many people will have what is called shoulder instability (a lax shoulder joint). This laxity may have been present since birth or may be due to an injury. Often it will have occurred over time due to repetitive overhead activity, poor posture or inactivity. Due to this instability, the Rotator Cuff has to overwork to stabilise the shoulder, causing it to become inflamed. Eventually, the Rotator Cuff will become weak and tired, and will not be able to prevent the humeral head from squashing up against the Coraco-Acromial arch. Because this type of impingement is not due to a small Subacromial space, it is called secondary impingement.

Overstraining During forceful throwing actions (e.g. tennis service, pitching and throwing), the Rotator Cuff has to work very hard. With repetitive throwing, the cuff is prone to being overloaded, resulting in inflammation and tissue breakdown.


As a result of not being able to swim, yesterday I broke my promise of never running again and had an excellent ‘hill work out’ on a treadmill at the gym, I followed this by a short spinning session just so that I felt I had achieved some cardio training rather than sat on my butt.

That said…whilst sitting on my butt I have been considering some other beneficial and necessary training: Alison Streeter states that Swimming The English Channel is 80% Mental (who better qualified than Alison..simple answer…no one) therefore I have been spending my some time reading related books/articles and hope to visit a a therapist in the next fortnight regarding Inner Potential Therapy and Training, I am quite excited about this.

I have included some text that kind of gives you an idea of where I have been heading with this mental training and visualization.

A Room in Heaven

One day a human went to heaven in the way that humans often do. On arrival, the human was greeted by a host of angels and given a tour of all heaven's wonders. Over the course of the tour, the human noticed that there was one room the angels quickly glided past each time they approached.What's in that room? the human asked.The angels looked at each other as if they'd been dreading that question.

Finally, one of them stepped forward and said kindly, "we're not allowed to keep you out, but please believe us - you don't want to go in there."The human's mind raced at the thought of what might be contained in that room. What could be so horrible that all the angels of heaven would want to hide it away? the human knew that one should probably take the angels at their word, but found it very hard to resist temptation. "After all", the human thought, "I'm only human".Slowly walking towards the room, the human was filled with dread and wonder at what horrors might about to be revealed. But in fact, the room was filled with the most wonderful things imaginable: a beautiful home; nice things; great wisdom; a happy family; loving friends; and riches beyond measure.Eyes wide, the human turned back to the angels. "But why didn't you want me to come in here?" This room is filled with the most amazing things I've ever seen!"The angels looked at each other sadly, then back to the human."These are all the things you were meant to have while you were on earth, but you never believed you could have them."

(Taken from "You Can Have What You Want" by Michael Neil)

I will leave you with a quote from Lesley Broadhead, it’s a little like Mark 9:23 i.e. To he who believes anything is possible...

If you never set goals or if you never have dreams then how can they ever come true?

It's ok to want things - it's ok to expect things - it's ok to set goals.

Remember - focus on what you want not what you don't want - this is my golden rule.”

Monday, 26 May 2008

Irish Champions

When the alarm sounded at 5am on Friday morning (23th May) I really didn’t feel like getting out of bed, with a flight to catch at 7.35 I didn’t have a choice, other than the early start, the journey to Cork went without a hitch, by 9am we had checked into the beautiful Carlton hotel just outside Kinsale. You may recall that the flights and hotel reservations were a Christmas gift for me from KGB.

Following breakfast we drove the hire car into Kinsale town where we met up with 2009 Channel Aspirant Lisa Cummins, after intros chat and coffee we headed off, following her to Sandycove itself. It became obvious that thanks to KGBs planning we were absolutely ideally situated, with the venue for the swim being no more than fifteen minutes from the hotel.

However as we rounded the corner Sandycove Island came into view and my immediate thoughts which I voiced aloud were, along the lines of “Good grief, look at the size of that!” the Island looked massive, way larger than I anticipated it would be.

The tide was almost at its lowest and as such the visible area of the island was at his greatest. After a bit of a safety brief by Lisa, we decided to get in and swim despite the low water levels. It was sunny and the wind was moderate. So nothing too severe ...I thought. Entering the water it felt a little warmer than at home, though due to the shallows we were forced to walk through patches of dense seaweed which under normal circumstances would be well below the surface, when we turned the corner to swim the back side of Island we were met with large swells and white water, we stopped regularly to check each others welfare and for Lisa to give advice on the route to follow as she pointed out various hazards as we got battered by the waves. Turning the next corner we were pushed nicely along before the home stretch where again the water levels eventually dropped to the point that we walked to shore.

My watch had been reading 60F, the lap took in the region of 35 mins for around 1700-1900 metres. Making our way to the slipway, Kelly was waiting with our towels as always, she took the opportunity to tell us off for chatting too much instead of swimming! I made an excellent recovery due to the good temperature and the fact that it had been a brief swim. Lisa showed no signs of being cold whatsoever either in the water or afterwards. I was over the moon that we had took the opportunity to scout the area and felt confident for the following day, though I prayed that the conditions would improve on the other side of the cove.

Back to The Carlton to shower away the salt and take a ‘power nap’ after which we had probably the best meal ever in the hotel restaurant. We then returned to Sandycove to view the scene at high tide, a completely different picture greeted us with all of the rocky outcrops now under water. A drop of the black stuff then off to bed had been a long day.

Breakfast didn’t start til 7am so we were more or less waiting for the staff to open in order to eat and get to the swim, to be in time for the safety brief from Ned Denison and to get a suitable parking place. Having forced down some porridge we arrived in plenty of time, got parked and said a few hellos before a thorough group brief and welcome from Ned. Kelly immediately struck up conversation with Jane Murphy (Kevin’s wife) and they were virtually inseparable for most of the day. Ned briefs the swimmers before the start of play/battle.

Swim no.1 started around 9:15am, a mass start at high water, we all made our way, some in Speedos, some in wetsuits, to corner one and then it hit us, it was incredible, the roughest water I had ever swam in, I was finding it almost impossible to sight, breath or get into a rhythm, I was being tossed around and dropped from peak to trough constantly…this was not funny nor was it anything like I had imagined.

After three laps, I approached the feed boat, I was gutted to find my drink was icy, the wind was blowing and I began to feel cold, I had to get moving but I really did not want to face the abuse from the sea again. I headed off around the corner and eventually managed four laps of the Island in what my watch was showing as 58F, I got to the slipway after 2hours and 20 minutes, I wasn’t too cold but did not feel I could manage another lap at this stage. I was paranoid that I was in last place and worried about my performance. Greeted on the slipway again by Kelly I swore to her that I was not getting back into the water under any circumstances, I felt like I needed to throw up and couldn’t believe how rough it had been.

After some soup and a good talking to by Ned, and Kelly and others I decided that I would swim one more lap at the two o’clock start. I dreaded the prospect of turning the corner as did many others, a number of swimmers didn’t face the start and opted to end the day there and then. So at what was now almost low tide we set of for the second swim, I swam the agreed lap, experienced some mild pain in the left shoulder and forearm and returned to shore. I was already devastated that I hadn’t swam the full five laps and my head was not in the right place. I was lifted slighted by the virtue of having gotten back into the water after feeling so low earlier. A number of individuals managed partial swims with a shrinking number completing.

Jane Murphy completed all three laps for her first swim of the day, I was well impressed, Kelly was there to meet her with a towel as she raced and beat Kevin to shore.

Kelly and Jane Murphy

As far as I was concerned I was done for the day, until I was summoned to Head Master Ned who was sat baking in a blisteringly hot car, we chatted for some time about many aspects of the day and my Channel swim, at the end of which I thought I might as well do the final lap at 5pm, this I did together with 8 others in our group (some swam earlier due to the start of the Heineken Cup Final) Ned raced home in 29 minutes, I sprinted the whole way, got battered again of the reverse side of the Island and landed at the slip second behind Ned in 34 minutes, I was pleased but my shoulder was paying the price.
Kevin Murphy (no introduction needed!)
A short time later we said our goodbyes and thank you’s before heading off for food, Guinness and rest.

It was, from the outset meant to be a information gathering exercise, I swam for longer than I have done before in open water, in conditions the like of which I have never experienced, I took some positives from getting back into the sea three times and was chuffed to have silenced the mental demons who were telling me not to bother. Overall I finished in ninth place, only four non wetsuit swimmers completed all nine lap: Ned Denison, Kevin Murphy, Enda Kennedy and Ed Jeffries. It was excellent training. We met some wonderful people and made some friends who we are sure to see again. The weather was on our side, the sun shone and Kinsale Town together with the hotel was a delight.

I learnt a lot about myself and know that with the right support crew I can do more than I think is possible, still disappointed in 6 laps not 9 but am determined to take the positives and build on anything else.
My shoulder is suffering now, I have some treatment booked for Wednesday, I am flapping a bit about the injury but fingers crossed it will repair before too long.

A big thank you to Kelly for organising (and paying) for the trip, to Ned, Lisa and Enda for your help and support, to Jane for looking after Kelly whilst I was away for the first swim. Irish hospitality never fails to impress me, thanks to you all for a memorable weekend…we will be back.

Together with Enda Kennedy 2008 Channel Aspirant before the final swim.