Monday, 31 March 2008

Bishopton Lake

Over the weekend, like every other day for the last year (at least!) I was chatting with KGB about the swim, training, nutrition etc when the subject inevitably came around to acclimatisation. I was expressing a little concern re future plans as we build towards August with particular reference to open water sessions, the question being: would we have time to schedule sufficient, without too much disruption to her own regimes of gym, pool, work and motherhood.

After some debate we fully agreed that I will not swim in the North Sea no matter how good the conditions appear to be, without the presence of a shore walker/post swim carer. However..I am allowed to swim in Bishopton Lake. On the understanding that I inform the Surf Store of my intentions and that I report back afterwards. Without further ado I called the boss at the store to confirm permission re use of the Lake, as last year, he kindly agreed without hesitation.

Monday 31st March I awoke to a frosty windscreen on the car (I don't actually sleep in the car but you get the message) the sky was clear and very blue, even the sun was shining, amazing, a day off work with decent weather.. a rare combination.

Just after noon I drove the 3 miles to Bishopton, where I re-introduced myself to the staff having not attended since last July (see first blog entry) and was given the go ahead. Being that it was such a pleasant day the lake was free from any other wind related activity. I strolled the very short distant to the waters edge through a field of young lambs, it was silent but for the bleats of the sheep and quacks from the ducks/geese on the water.
I secured my clothes in the dry bag in order to prevent theft by Mr or Mrs Wool, and waded into the very still water, it felt rather weird in comparison to Seaton. I am quite used to getting a face full of salt water and a bashing from the waves, but this was bliss in comparison. I breast-stroked through a little weedy patch in the shallower water, then began freestyle. I soon forgot about the geese who I initially expected to be annoyed at a swimmer in their lake.

The sun was blinding, and I was wishing I had tinted lenses. The lake is relatively small at around 380 metres but it was so much better than the pool. My watch was registering 48F (around 8.9C) it was therefore about 2C warmer than the North Sea which surprised me. The only interruptions were the odd weeds around the throat! After 35 minutes I returned to the tranquility of the shore. I hadn't taken a flask as I thought, with the short drive home it wasn't worth it. Big mistake. I got major shivers during the drive home and should really have waited before setting off. A lesson learnt but all in all a very beneficial session.

Aerial view of the lake and route of swim (numerous laps).

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

19 weeks....That's all..

Easter came and went with the same alarming momentum that has built since the onset of 2008. I was having a glance over my swimming figures and was happy enough to see last weeks 25 km coupled with another twenty minutes in the North Sea at 44F.

This week has started OK too, surprisingly the pool I usually use was open on Easter Monday so I managed to get there for a rather rushed (65mins) 4000m around 6pm, whilst Kelly kindly looked after Charlie. I took Tuesday off from Training having swam for 8 days consecutive. Being that I am nights tonight (Wednesday 26th) I decided to get the pool early for a reasonable session this morning. On arrival I was disappointed to find the water temperature up to 31 degrees, uncomfortably warm for anything more than a sprint. Then, after an hour or so the pumps started churning something out that clouded the once clear water, after two more hours, I again experienced some irritation to my throat and chest due the over chlorinated water. That was enough for me to call it a day rather than risk trauma to the respiratory system. 11km -3 hours and 5 minutes. Not what I had planned but better than nothing. No adverse effects to the shoulder.

The fluctuating temperature, over chlorinated water and the lack of policing/management of the lanes have in fact resulted in me cancelling my membership, it's due to expire at the end of April, by which time hopefully I will be doing a lot more open water swimming. In addition to that, as luck would have it, a 50metre pool is due to open in Sunderland at the end of April. Whilst it's a 45 mile drive am sure it will be well worth a visit.

Looking at the calender its now only 19 weeks 'til the beginning of my tides to swim the English Channel. I have been training exclusively in the water for 36 weeks, to date I have swam just short of 700 kilometres. I realise the hard work is yet to come as the cold water season begins in earnest in May, but feel reasonably relaxed at the moment with the knowledge that everything is now arranged.

Many thanks to those who have began donating online, I really appreciate your generosity as does the Joining Against Cancer in Kids Charity. Also a big thank you to all of my Corporate Sponsors especially those who wish to remain anonymous.

Friday, 21 March 2008

It's Not a Fashion Parade You Know!

Last Sunday I emailed Joni Storer, letting him know my open water plans for the coming week; I had been working nights on Monday and Tuesday followed by a quick return (onto afternoons) for Wed and Thursday, as a result of which, training has been a little bit of a squeeze. Figures are okish but I had still been looking forward to a Sea Swim on Thurs.

From my bed on Wednesday night I could hear the wind and rain against the windows, I feared the worst for the following morning. Sure enough it was still raining when I dragged my self up to try to eat before a scheduled 10am swim at Seaton. After sending Joni a text (to confirm his attendance) KGB and I were enroute.

On arrival at the car park rendezvous I approached Joni’s car, where he tells me he had nodded off ! The rain was pouring; it was a completely miserable day. Joni wound down his window and said something along the lines of “Its not too nice for this ..there are other options you know!” I told him it was just something we had to do… Before long we headed off to the water, quite a walk today as the tide was more or less at its lowest. Stripped and ready for action the conditions were far from ideal. It seemed like a marathon to get from the dry kit to the waters edge. The breakers didn’t look too bad from a distance but upon closer inspection, we found them to be around head height. No sooner were we waist deep than we were under water, due to the swells. That in itself actually helped matters since it did not allow for any messing about! We breast stroked to a point beyond the worst of the breakers and then got straight on with some freestyle.

Joni and I swam a reasonable distance out to sea; with a constant eye on KGBs location in order to keep my bearings, I swam with Joni boy in tow (more or less). We stayed out for twenty minutes again at 44F (about 6.7C according to my watch), my hands and feet were frozen by the time I exited the water. I walked out to find Kelly, soaked to the skin looking colder than a frozen pizza! She again, took it upon herself, to take our guest under her wing and helped Joni into his leather shoes which were full of water, up the beech and to the cars.

Once seated in the car, with hot drinks to hand, I got a fit of the giggles and couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at Joni as he tried to don his cotton shirt and jeans! Once I calmed down, I gave some advice regarding ideal clothing and footwear, for use in future. This clearly had the desired effect as shortly after our arrival home he text me with his new purchases. Well done today Joni, even KGB has warmed up now. Twenty five minutes next week so make sure you are dressed accordingly!

Unfortunately, KGB was unable to take photos today due to the conditions. It wasn’t necessarily the rain which prevented decent shots, just her frozen stiff fingers! Need better gloves fit for the purpose next time, not fashion accessories!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Back on track

All things considered it has been a reasonably productive few days. I resumed normal pool training after what I will term a recovery period. I only swam 10.5km last week as I was letting my right shoulder rest. The injury is going to be a long term issue, it is under control, with a few adjustments, some treatment and a little luck I can keep it in check.

I eased back into things with a couple of shorter sessions Monday and Tuesday then had a nice steady swim of 10,000m yesterday, no real issues after this longer swim which lasted about 2hour 45 minutes. I did not get to the sea on Tuesday either, I dare say we could have squeezed in a visit, but it would have been a mad rush so I opted for the pool instead.

A week or so ago, Jonathon Storer (top violinist) emailed the Channel Group asking for suggested swim locations in the Tyneside area, now whilst we in the region of an hour south of that location, I thought it reasonable to invite him to Sunny Seaton when we made our next visit. We arranged to meet at 9.20 am today (Thursday 13th) weather permitting. At 08:15 I called Coastwatch Redcar to be informed it was a lovely day and the sea was slight but more or less flat. I sent Joni a text and before long we met up in a desolate car park to have what would be Jonathon's first sea swim of the year.

He was very positive in the car park and new the conditions were do able, we entered the water under the watchful eye of KGB, at which point Jonathon realised just what he had let himself in was showing 44 degrees (6.7C) on my wristwatch...after a little verbal encouragement he began to breaststroke and before long we were both front crawling parallel to the shore. I was very aware this was going to be tough (for us both) and was a little more relaxed when Joni was back on terra firma being looked after by KGB. I swam for fifteen minutes then joined Jonathon and Kelly on the beech where we dressed before returning to the cars for hot drinks (and shivers) before we parted. Joni made and excellent start and promised to return soon.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Sandycove and Storms

I received an email tonight from Ned Denison, no script but a nice aerial photograph of Sandycove Island, its only about eleven weeks before we have to swim in the region of 10.5 miles in the Atlantic at 9 - 14 degrees. As you can see below it ain't small and it kind of brings home just how tough a day this is going to be.

I am hoping to get to the coast in the morning (Tuesday 11th) for another little swim, but as I type this post, Britain is being battered by the worst storm of the winter. The south coast is suffering the brunt of the weather, and Dover Port was closed today due to the sea conditions. I will decide in the morning if it is feasible to swim outside, the chart below shows the surface water temperatures; around 7 degrees for our location, 8 for Dover and 9 or so for Cork, fingers crossed for a nice morning after the school run before I have to disappear to work.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Every Cloud.......

At the start of the week I decided to allow my shoulder a little respite and made the firm decision to stay away from the pool for a few days, maybe even the full week. Not that it was going to be a complete lay off you understand....I read/heard somewhere that cold temperatures be it cold water or air affect the body in may ways, one of which is the increased blood supply and associated accelerated healing which can result.

So with this in mind and the shoulders more or less feeling OK, I fought the urge to return too quickly to the pool. Instead, Kelly and I took the first window of opportunity to travel to Seaton and re commence the acclimatisation process proper. Now Tuesday was not warm, there was a possibility of snow forecast and the wind was strong and bitter. See below..

When we arrived at the coast it could clearly be seen that the westerly wind and the sea were in battle as a result of which the conditions were far from ideal. I got into the water for the planned dip, with the figure of ten minutes in mind, I had great fun diving under the breakers and swells though I almost lost my goggles a few times and the ice cream head was a killer! I had a reading of 43 degrees (6.1C) on my watch, and exited the water after 12 minutes. My hands were painful as we walked back to the car, but the warming didn't seem to take long at all and soon the hands were fine. A good start...........

Wednesday was Charlies club night at the pool, where all the young ones were doing a sponsored session to raise funds for the club. Charlie swam his first full kilometre, so I was really pleased and proud for him..Well done son x

Today (Thursday the 6th) I managed to get away from work a little early and again we made a visit to Seaton. The conditions were far calmer, though the water was much the same temperature wise, I obviously had the previous twelve minutes in mind, so entered the water hoping to stretch to 15 on this occasion. After twenty minutes I swam to shore feeling great, my body/core was fine though my hands and feet were telling a different story. The warming took a while, probably not helped by the fact that as we returned to the car for some hot sweet tea, the HiFi turned itself on and began to play the 'Foreigner Track' 'You're as Cold as Ice !' now that was funny..I was delighted to have swam for longer and figured out how to fight the brain freeze after advice from Ned Denison last night on the phone ...cheers Ned, it works a treat.

So there we have it, the cloud lying over my head regarding the shoulder that was causing some concern was indeed silver lined, it feels normal again now and two cold swims as an added bonus..more next week as and when other commitments permit..

Thanks again to Kell for watching over me and listening to my moans and groans that you are so quick to point out !!x

Monday, 3 March 2008

February Fly By (23 weeks)

February 2008 seemed to arrive instantly after the New Years celebrations to the extent that I wondered what on earth had happened to the first month of the year, feeling a little seasonally affected with the depths of winter upon us, even the surface of the river and patches of the lake were frozen a couple of times. Then, in the blink of an eye, whoosh.... February is gone too, its still rather fresh, but Spring is without a doubt on its way, the daffodils are flowering really early so I guess its been a mild winter. I have been watching the sea surface temperatures which would appear to have bottomed out around 6.6 degrees. I do expect plenty more cold snaps but looking at the statistics, the averages say the temperatures will now slowly begin to climb...oh yeah, those stats can be wrong and averages are exactly that.....just averages. That said, the charts show a balmy North Sea of 7 to 8 degrees so you never know. The wind chill is still a factor but we hope to make more of a concentrated effort of restarting the acclimatisation process.

My shoulder still isn't 100% but its not a show stopper at this stage. I had an easy week, after advice from Forest Nelson decided to train, but not hard, more just to keep a feel for the water and hit the showers at the earliest sign of pain, I kept the distances and effort to a minimum, which is just as well as I felt really tired all week. 15km over the week is a drop from the figures of late, but I know from last year that its not possible nor ideal to train at a peak permanently, the recovery week should have done my body the world of good ! I have been training for thirty three weeks now since Austria, at times I get a little paranoid if I don't manage to hit my targets, though normally there is a valid reason i.e. an injury/work etc.. so its not all doom and gloom. The 'at a glance' weekly distance graph is below..

I have booked my accommodation at Hubert House for the week of the swim and look forward to the stay, Maggie Kidd also has a reservation, she is no.2 on the same tides as me. There is a good chance we will swim on the same day, her skipper is 'Queen Alison Streeter', to say they have some experience between them is an understatement.

So 23 weeks til the middle of our tides, I think all the logistical plans are arranged now, just need to finalise the crew for the boat, I will do that much closer to the time, I want to be certain to have the best people on board to push me on and not listen to my moaning.