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.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

School Support

I am delighted to report that Charlies school (St. Patrick's Primary) have agreed to have a non uniform day today Thursday 22nd May, the children can wear whatever they wish and make a small donation of around 50pence per child for the pleasure of doing so, all the monies raised are to be split between The J-A-C-K foundation and a second charity supported by another parent.

Thanks must go to the Headmistress Mrs Nora Moffatt and Mrs Dent for organising this event at such a busy time in the schools calendar. Thank you so much every penny helps towards my target of £10,000....On the subject of Charlie, here he is posing last Saturday just before his First Holy Communion with KGB's daughter Lottie.

Today is our final day at home before the early start to fly to Cork in the morning, I have added a picture of the Island at Sandycove that hopefully I will swim around nine times. No one said it was going to be easy, thanks also to Lisa Cummins for you offer of assistance when we arrive..see you soon.

Monday, 19 May 2008


The last 10 days have been painful to say the least, my emotions have been 'through the mill' as a result of a family bereavement, those close to me know to whom I am referring. Today was no different in terms of dealing with grief. I have had some very supportive emails and I thankyou for kinds words and support.

Swim wise... I had few outdoor sessions last week, two in the salty North Sea (one of which was in extremely rough conditions), one in the fresh water of the lake, (which was too warm and very weedy after all the sunshine of late), together with some intervals at the pool it was easy enough to hit 20km...though my state of mind and motivation has been at almost an all time low, so mentally it was very hard to go training.

I am hoping to have a bit of a taper week, leading up to this coming weekend in Kinsale, Cork, Ireland, where I will be taking part in the Irish Champion of Champions event, all in all it should be around 16km in the Atlantic at 9 to 14C, there is a large entry and we are more than ready for the break after recent events.

The trip is and always has been planned as a training event as well as a test, I am hoping that my progress and cold water acclimatisation proves to be on track. Or at least heading in the right direction. I realise it will be a very very hard days 'training' however it will tell me a great deal about my level of fitness etc. The intention is to use the trip as an information gathering exercise as well as a social one. I have always had a great affinity with Irish and used to visit regularly as a child, it will be great to return to the Emerald Isle, from where it is hoped I return with good news and a positive frame of mind.

I will post a report on our return with plenty of photos.

Monday, 12 May 2008


A traumatic week followed by much the same over the coming 7 days leaves little time nor inclination for training, had a brief 31 minutes in The North Sea at Seaton Carew (51F) this morning hoping to clear my head (it didn't work).

Only positive news being that Charlies mum raised £124 for J-A-C-K on Saturday evening at a party she hosted for her 40th and her dads 70th...thankyou all especially you Tina for your efforts and support.

Less than 2 weeks 'til Sandycove.

Please continue to help spread the word regarding the swim and the charity, we really are desperate to raise funds to help fight this awful disease. Thankyou....

Thursday, 8 May 2008


With the UK experiencing what feels like a mini heatwave, this week has been great for swimming outdoors, as you know we were in the Lakes Monday and Tuesday, I was just hoping that wasn't to be then end of the long awaited British Summer! It certainly was not, and we have been blessed with glorious weather since. Yesterday (Wednesday) I had a brief swim at Bishopton Lake, where as a result of the sunshine, the water temperature had shot up to 62F, I was disappointed at this as I know it will soon be pointless swimming at that location due to it being way warmer than the English Channel. With that information to hand, I called Joni and we agreed to cancel our scheduled one hour there, but to meet at Seaton instead. That way we could return to the salt water and see how things have improved since our previous visit.

As can be witnessed from the above picture, the weather was outstanding, blue skies, sandy beaches, it could have been anywhere in the world but for the industry which will remain out of shot!. We had planned to meet for 1pm allowing an hour swim before heading off to make the school run, Joni was delayed due to circumstances beyond his control, this meant water entry was put back til 1:35...we swam in big swells for 30minutes at 52F, we both agreed that the water felt great, that the sunshine made a world of difference and that we must return as soon as possible.
We exited the water and made an excellent recovery as we had hoped for after only 30 minutes, though this would have been a different story last year, I really think the acclimatisation is starting to take effect, long may it continue.

Today was also the first time we met Jonis Kiwi girlfriend who accompanied KGB on her normally lonesome vigil, a great day with more of the same to follow at the earliest opportunity

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Lake Windermere ..Bank Holiday Training

Yesterday KGB and I returned from an overnight stay in Ambleside. We left home around 11am on Bank Holiday Monday for the 100 mile skip across country in absolute glorious sunshine. Arriving at the Smallwood House Hotel again where we had initially stayed with Swim Trek and then Loraine. Soon after checking in we headed down to Lake Windermere a matter of minutes away.

Here we spoke with the Aide and Kate at Lake Lander, they are very friendly and supportive whose services I would recommend without hesitation, we sorted out the hire of a sit on Kayak for KGB. Then, as usual I swam out to Seamew Crag a small rocky island that juts up about 1000m (as the crow flies not the route we swim) from shore opposite the YHA building). My records show that last October it had taken 22 minutes to reach the Crag, however today we were there inside seventeen minutes, Kelly was paddling right next to me and it was very comforting to know that she was close by and offering me some protection from the passing steamers and other craft.

My wristwatch was showing 56F, though at times in dropped out to 52F, the lake itself was very patchy in terms of surface temperature, I wasn’t sure if this was due to the amount of recent rainfall or to the amount of vessels churning up deeper/cooler water.

Anyway, I swam for 1hour and 20 minutes during which I could easily notice those cooler patches. My core felt warm enough most of the time, and I was reasonably pleased with my performance. We also took the chance to practice feeding in the deep water, whereby I would have to either lay on my back or tread/kick whilst I took on the hot maxim, we had used all of the drinks by the 60 minute mark, so that was a little annoying…must plan better!
After the swim we had the usual hot chocolate at the Ambleside Pier and headed off to shower and take a well deserved power nap. That evening we had an excellent meal at Lucy4s, followed by too much alcohol and a good nights sleep.

Waking slightly groggy on Tuesday morning I forced down some breakfast before heading back to speak with Aide, I was due to be back home for work at 1445, so decided to just swim for 45 mins, Kelly accompanied me again and we had the feeding off to a tee, we had figured out some basic hand signals for “danger/stop” and for “feed time”. The water it self seemed to be much more even in feel and temperature, my watched signalled a steady 55F, I was delighted with how enjoyable the swim was, in terms of comfort, safety, flat water, sunshine and KGB in the kayak, I thought to myself “conditions don’t get much better than this so make the most of it”.

Overall we had a great time, rather short lived and rushed as is normally the case, but excellent training (I Think?) Am hoping to meet Joni Storer at the Bishopton Lake on Thursday too, so things are progressing nicely, I am finally swimming mostly outdoors…lets hope for a nice long summer!

Friday, 2 May 2008

14 weeks out.....update

With 14 weeks remaining…activities are certainly picking up, Dover training commences this weekend where swimmers will gather to train every weekend before their expectant dates to tackle the Channel, I am slightly jealous that we live 340 miles from Dover, the distance and work commitments (I work shifts and have limited holidays) all mean that my trips to train under the guidance of Freda Steeter will be restricted to five weekends during June and July.

That said…I am still training hard, my twelve consecutive days of work did effect my training figures, this week so far in addition to pool work, I have had two swims at Bishopton Lake, once for an hour alone (Tuesday) and once (yesterday) with Joni Storer for 65 minutes, both swims were at 55F, warmer than the current sea and the Channel temperature, but good training all the same. It was Joni’s first visit to the idyllic lake which seemed to meet with his full approval. Though I must say his directional skills have not improved despite recently swimming for 6 hours in Malta! with Swim Trek.

Health wise all appears to be well except for some lower back pain, shoulders seem to be fine and thankfully I escaped the flu and stomach bug that was doing the rounds recently.

I mentioned some envy regarding missing the early Dover training sessions, however there is again a silver lining, on Bank Holiday Monday sensitive family issues permitting (which I cannot go into on the blog) KGB and I are going across to Ambleside for the an overnight stay, where we will have some time together and some swimming/kayaking in Lake Windermere similar to when we trained there last year with my support swimmer Loraine Verghese.

Speaking of Loraine, I sent her Channel Swim DVD to three other 2008 aspirants, Kaise Stefan in Australia, Megan Turner in Swansea and Chris Pountney in Whitstable.

Megan said: “Anyway, Mark was kind enough to send me a copy of a DVD made of Loraine Verghese swimming the channel. This DVD was fantastic to watch it showed the excitement, tension and (though this element was somewhat understated) it also showed how difficult it can be swimming into France against the tide. Loraine’s story is exciting and inspirational and it really made me think about what it will really feel like…. I have a feeling that I will be watching this DVD quite a few times over the next few months!”

Finally I am delighted to have been made aware that the J-A-C-K website is now live, thank you once again to all who have donated, (especially Mr Sean Price..(more details to follow) who have spread the word and have encouraged others to support me in The Fight against Neuroblastoma.
And Chris said “I just saw the DVD of Lorraine's swim last year and it looks like you have got yourself a fantastic team there! Lorraine's swim was very impressive, you probably couldn't ask for a better support swimmer. And a very good and encouraging pilot. I think your gonna be just fine!