Tuesday, 30 March 2010

You WILL swim down...

As you aware, things have been going fairly well on the swim front with a steady increase in distance and effort over the last few months, finally, times are beginning to come down and I am starting to find some comfort when swimming for longer sessions. Like most situations with me there is a big 'HOWEVER'.
Just when I thought I was getting to grips with my lower back problem it has flared up to the point that today it called a stop to my training. The reasons may well me two fold...On Sunday 28 March I attended a Masters swim meet at Darlington where I took part in a few team events all of which only measured 50m per swim. I spent most of the day sat/stood around watching the gala, feeling increasingly uncomfortable despite attempting to sit or stand with good posture... (That was error number one). Post race I didn't bother with any swim down, thinking what was the point after three short sprints?...(error two) and finally I haven't used the Swiss ball for my core since Saturday (error three).

So..on Sunday evening after a good feed, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable to the extent that I was walking around like an old(er) man...I felt like I had ran a marathon as oppose anything else. The next morning I was so stiff in the legs I couldn't believe it. Surely this could not be from three little sprints??

I took Monday off from training and headed back to the pool this morning, only as already stated, to be thwarted by severe back pain and heavy legs...this prompted me to interrogate the Internet with a view to researching 'The Swim Down' and here is what I found:

The Swim Down - that last few minutes of the session when the hard work is over, when you can finally relax and start to think about what you are doing after the session. But do you make the most of your swim down? It should be one of the most important parts of your training.

There are numerous physiological reasons to swim down at the end of every session but there are other advantages that can be gained. As you train your body temperature and heart rate rise and the blood vessels in the muscles expand to allow more blood and hence oxygen to them. During training the body releases chemicals into the blood stream, such as adrenaline and endorphins, and there is a build up of waste products in the muscles.

A sudden stop in exercise can cause a rapid drop of heart rate, leading to a fall in blood pressure because of the blood vessels being dilated and the fact that the blood is well distributed around the body. Indeed in these circumstances it can tend to pool in your legs instead of returning to your heart. This can cause dizziness, nausea and a "worn out" feeling. The levels of adrenaline and endorphins remain high and can cause a feeling of restlessness and even a sleepless night. Equally waste products tend to remain in the muscles and can be a factor in muscle soreness and stiffness after training. In any case, it is not good for anyone to have a rapid decrease in body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.

The swim down therefore serves two purposes:
it reduces your pulse at a rate that helps maintain blood pressure
it returns the blood to your heart but keeps the circulation at a rate that allows waste products to be effectively removed from the muscles.


It takes your body approximately 3 minutes to realise it does not need to pump additional blood to your muscles. A safe swim down period is therefore at least 3 minutes but preferably longer. As a very rough rule of thumb a swim down should be about 5 to 10% of the total yardage of a session, although in high intensity or lactate tolerance work it can be beneficial to lengthen the recovery phase of the session as the concentration of lactic acid and other by-products of respiration in the muscles will be relatively higher.

While swimming down there are a couple of other points that can be included to improve the quality of your session. If you've been swimming a lot of front crawl or fly, swim some backstroke. This works the joint in the other direction and exercises the opposing muscles. Doing this regularly can prevent, and in the early stages reduce the impact of, an injury.

Swim down is also an ideal time to include stroke work. Drills are well suited to less vigorous swimming and including these in your swim down will also ensure that your body and mind are aware of correct technique even when tired - a vital factor in racing.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Colin Hills Channel Swim

This is Colins English Channel swim compilation, he is the brain child behind the UK Great swim series, I have spoken to him a few times on email and will probably swim with him later in the year as he only lives in Hexham Northumberland.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Back to the future that is 2010

Well I said I was back and here I am..its as far back as September last year since my last 'real' post, since then I having been training steadily in the pool mainly at Total Fitness Teesside in their 25m pool and occasionally at the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds where they have a superb Olympic Pool. I must say that in Britain with the prospect London 2012 around the corner we really have no where near the required amount of fifty metre pools. There is a world of difference between the two, believe me after being used to pushing off the wall every twenty five metres the jump to a session in Leeds was very noticeable both mentally and physically. At first I thought the end was never going to arrive. That said I went on Monday and had a great session and the pool at last felt normal!

Since September my body has been its usual with problems at various sites, I had a scan  in Hospital and some detailed investigation into my shoulder problems in particular those of the rotator cuff. I am pleased to say that I have no tears only bursitis and slight swelling. After a visit to the muscular skeletal clinic I have been performing some specific weight bearing exercises and a particular stretch which has helped massively, in fact today I received another letter for the follow up appointment in about 4 weeks time.

As a result of this work both shoulders have been pain free in comparison to 2008 when I was training hard...it doesn't end there though, for a while I have been having severe lower back pain which at times has forced me out of the water, this too however is now under control having made renewed use of the Swiss thera ball and by always finishing the swim session with small amount of backstroke..

My weekly figures are back up around 20km though I only attend about four times a week now, these sessions are more structured than years gone by, due partly to occasionally having a training partner from work who I like to refer to as 'Mick the Fish'. we train now and again but I am able to copy the agony when alone. I have also been inspired by Arther Puckrin, he trains at the same pool as me, he is in his seventies and swims for hours on end, he is doing a double deca Ironman (that's 48 miles of swimming before mega bike and run)  in November and thinks nothing of swimming for 4 hours or more in the chlorinated pool!! its great being in the next lane to Arthur when I am doing a longish set as there is no way I can quit early! Right now my long swims are only upto 7km but things are building up nicely.

Yesterday I gave my friends at Bishopton Lake a visit with a view to starting my outdoor training, the owners are away but I hope for good news in the coming days as I need to get started if I am serious about completing this years plans..

At this stage I have a few things arranged (I am not going to tell you all my secrets am I ?!), we are going back to Sandycove Ireland in early May where I hope to swim the Island at least once with Lisa Cummins though I bet it will be baltic! This kind of a send off swim celebration for Dan Martin who will commence his global triathlon around the same time.

I am hoping to do a 4km race in Coniston, a one way (10.5 miles) Lake Windermere, finishing off with season at the Great North Swim..

I also heard rumour of a 'Swim4Life' which I would like to do, this is 1 mile on the hour every hour for 24 hours, not sure if and when this takes place but its indoors and would be fun (or mad) to have a go at.

I want to finish this brief post by sending my heart felt best wishes to Enda Kennedy and family whose Dad is suffering from lung cancer, I hope and pray he makes a full recovery, we met in 2008 and he is truly a top man just like his son..

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Elaine Howley in her own words....

Many thanks to Elaine for allowing me to repost this story of success..

Horray! We did it! It was a long, sometimes brutal, but very worthwhile experience and I am thrilled to be able to say I am now an official member of the elite club of English Channel swimmers!

Yesterday was a beautiful day on the water. Warm and sunny the whole way, with just a few scattered clouds crossing over head. We arrived at Folkestone harbor just before 8am to board the boat-- which was an interesting process. The pilot, Fred, and his crew, Harry, helped us load our supplies into a little dinghy, which they then rowed out to the fishing boat. Then they came back for us and the observer, Andy. We all climbed aboard and set to slathering me with sunblock and zinc oxide.

We motored around the coastline on the English side a few miles to Samphire Hoe, the launch point. Martin and Sonia from the guest house where we are staying where waiting on the beach to see us off. With some trepidation, I jumped off the Samallen and swam to shore, enjoyed a very quick chat with Martin and Sonia, posed for some pictures, found a great rock to bring home, and set out.

The water was bumpy at the start. Not terrible, just bumpy, like we would sometimes get on the Jersey Shore, especially if there were a hurricane sitting well off in the swell window somewhere. That bumpiness continued for some time, but I just kept swimming.

By the third hour, my right shoulder was getting a little achy, since I was taking the impact of the waves on that side. I also starting having some tummy trouble, but a few Advil helped relieve all those aches.

Somewhere during the fifth hour, the sea flattened out and I started making good headway. I felt great for the next few hours, and we saw several large tankers and ferries as we crossed into the shipping lanes. Thankfully, we didn't have any run-ins or trouble navigating around and between all the traffic.

Somewhere around that time, I noticed a couple of jellyfish drifting along a few feet below me. They didn't sting me, but I did catch another that I didn't see in the armpit on my right side. It tingled and itched for a few minutes, and then went away. I had one other run-in, also on the right side, with another stinger an hour or two later, and that was the extent of my sea life interactions.

Somewhere around the 8th hour, the seas kicked up again, and that's when I started to feel seasick. Not a pleasant feeling. It was just enough to make me not want to eat or drink, but not so severe as to make me just vomit and get past it. It was not a pleasant state of affairs. I was refusing solids and my Ultima, but my electrolytes were out of wack, so then I got a little moody, but finally, the seas calmed down a little and I was able to get some Ultima down and keep it there, and then I was back on track. The tinned peaches were my saviour through this all, though, and I was really glad we had picked up two cans.

I could see the French shoreline beginning somewhere in the 9th hour, and it was frustratingly close, but seemingly not getting closer. When I finally got mad, I got moving, and that's what got me through. That and knowing that there were so many people who would be disappointed for me if I didn't make it and all the questions I'd have to answer if I didn't finish this thing. So, it was just head down, ass up, and let's get there.

Around the 11th hour, the sun started to set, and I was a little nervous whether I would get cold as night fell, but thankfully, I didn't notice any real change in the temperature after the sun went down. But then it was harder to see. I still had on my tinted goggles and the light faded fast. I could no longer see my watch, which may have been a good thing. I truly began swimming from feed to feed, with no knowledge of where I was, how long it had been since I last spoke to my crew, or how much closer France was getting, and even though I was frustrated, I knew I was getting closer with every stroke. The dark mass of land grew larger every time we stopped.

Finally, they told me it was the last feed, and I was so excited. I had all but made it. I would be on shore in less than 45 minutes, and the sea had turned to glass. A nice smooth landing... just what the doctor ordered. Not long after that last feed, the pilot and my husband got into the little dinghy and they rowed along with me. The big fishing boat moored out a bit where it was deep enough. Then it was just a matter of plugging away to the finish line. They shined a weak spotlight ahead, and I just swam towards the light. I heard Mark shout that I was about 50 feet from shore, then took a few more strokes and my hands grazed sand. I stood up, ran on shore, and scrambled up on to some white rocks beyond the edge of the water line, and with that, magically, it was done. I was a Channel swimmer in 13 hours, 55 minutes.

No sooner had I stood up on the rocks and waved to the boat to check that I had gone far enough ashore than I went ass over teakettle into the stones. Not my most graceful moment, but a small bruise on my right butt is a nice little souvenir, I guess!

I didn't linger on shore for long. After swimming hard in the 62-63 degree water for nearly 14 hours, I knew my body temperature would drop fast once I'd stopped swimming. I waded out to where Fred and Mark had all but beached the dinghy and hoisted myself into it. Again, not the most graceful or elegant of moves, but then, no one ever said Channel swimming was a pretty sport.

Mark got me bundled up in towels while Fred rowed us back to the boat. We boarded and Khrista and Mark got my wet suit off (with some difficulty) while the observer called in the swim to make it official. I was all sticky and still covered with zinc-- that's why it's so useful as a sunblock. I shivered a little, but it subsided quickly after a nice, hot cup of proper English tea. I was still feeling a bit queasy, so I laid down under towels and sweatshirts and jackets on a mat on the deck and we motored back to Folkestone harbor.

Mark and I had, for some unknown reason, assumed that the trip back would take about 3 hours. But, it actually took about 5 and a half. The trip that started at 8am, was finally over at 5:30 the next morning.

When we got to Folkestone, the tide was out, so Fred moored the boat out beyond the harbor walls and rowed us into the harbor, where we jumped out in a foot of water and waded to shore. The observer gave us a lift back to the guest house, where Sonia met us with smiles and congratulations. I jumped in the shower (but am still mostly coated in zinc-- it will take a while to come off completely) and then fell into bed, still feeling the rocking motions of the waves and the boat as I drifted off to sleep.

We slept for about 6 hours, and now we're working on updating everyone as to how it went. I'm sorry that we couldn't keep you better informed during the event. I gather that the AIS tracking didn't really work, but then, that is the nature of an English Channel swim-- you just go and do it and everyone has to have a little faith that you'll get there and be back to tell the story the next day.

Thanks again to everyone who helped us on this journey. A special thanks to Mark and Khrista for crewing me and boosting my spirits when I began to think it was hopeless. Thanks to Fred and Harry for being the best pilots ever and to Andy for being a great observer and for the ride home. Thanks also to my family and friends back home-- I could feel your positive vibes, and it was a little bit of peer pressure that helped get me through the rough parts-- I couldn't bear to come home and tell you all I hadn't made it, so I just did it. Special thanks are in order for Pam O'Neill for letting me use her wonderful home as a training playground, and to all the lakers for the great swims over the past several years. That was where the idea was first forged, and I'm pleased to say that after 2+ years of hard work, we got there. There are so many other people along the way who have been a huge help-- too many to name here, but I trust that you know who you are and that I deeply appreciate your guidance and support throughout this journey. I am looking forward to telling all the stories and seeing you all soon when we get back to the States, where we can raise a few triumphant pints. For now, though, I think I'll go take a nap

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Nick Caine- English Channel (1 of 2)

Great swim in far from flat conditions...and he has very little body fat either!

I'M BACK......Nick Caine in his owns words...

Big Thankyou to Nick for allowing me to repost his report, will add his video soon.
By the way ITS GOOD TO BE BACK !!
Tuesday July 28th 2009- At 6:30 PM I got a phone call from Eddie Spelling, my boat pilot, asking if I want to make my swim in the morning. I said “ya sure” not really believing it was my turn to swim after all this time. He said “ok mate, on the boat at 03:30 tomorrow morning.” I went down stairs and told mom, dad, and my grandparent’s that I would be swimming tomorrow morning. They were all shocked and wanted to know what happened to my 12 hour notice since I was only getting 8 hours notice.

My grandparents and dad went to dinner at Smugglers and my mom and I stayed home to frantically get everything organized into bags for the boat. I called Dan to see if he could come down and help crew for me but he had to work and couldn’t make it. Next I called Chris and he said he could help crew. I went outside to mix my feed bottles of Cytomax. I had four 2-liter bottles and two 1-liter bottles which was more than enough for the swim. I called Ned Dennison, who is a fellow English Channel swimmer and my coach from Ireland, to let him know that I would be swimming tomorrow and he gave me some last minute advice. I had pasta and chicken for dinner and water to drink. I organized my swim bag and got all my supplies ready and waiting at the door before I went up to bed. In went to bed at 9:30 pm but fell asleep by 11:30 pm. I was thinking about the swim and couldn’t fall asleep.

Wednesday July 29th 2009- I woke up around 12:45am and went to the bathroom and tried to go back to sleep. I woke up again at 1:55am and ended up getting about two hours of sleep before my swim, which was pretty good. Once I was up, I got changed, shaved, checked my e-mail and facebook, put a new pair of contacts in, and went down stairs to eat. I had a bowl of frosted flakes, hot chocolate and some water. Then I went upstairs to change into my swim suit because I didn’t want to forget it even though I had 2 extras packed - let’s just say forgetting my suit was one of my big fears. My dad and I left the cottage at 2:55am to pick up my grandpa Katz, drove to Knightstown to pick up Chris who was waiting on the street for us.

We then drove down to the Dover Marina and I went into the dock masters office to get an all day parking pass because I would be swimming the channel. As we were standing in the parking lot I saw there were two other groups getting ready to go out also. One solo swimmer and one 3-person relay team. We carried all the gear over to the boat and waited to board. We got on the boat at 3:35am, met Eddie’s crew then did some paper work for the observer and his report. We left the harbor shortly after 4:00am and headed down to Shakespeare Beach.

We were the last of the three channel swimming boats to leave the harbor. When we got to Shakespeare Beach at 4:12am I could see Boris had just started his solo swim which would take him 14hrs and 26min. Eddie said we had to get started so that we didn’t miss the most favorable start time so I quickly unchanged. As my mom was greasing me up, I watched as the relay team started their swim, which took them 13hrs and 6min to complete. I was now anxious to start my swim.

I had grease on my arm pits and the area around them as well as all over my neck, inner thigh and stomach. I had on one latex cap, a TYR Speedo, TYR goggles, and a flashing light attached to my goggle strap. I normally wear my goggles under the cap but I had to change this for the swim to accommodate the light. I didn’t really like this because the light made it so the waves could change the placement of the goggle strap and they filled with water several times throughout the swim. When I was getting ready to jump off the boat everyone on board wished me good luck. As I was walking down the ladder to the swim deck, I was thinking “do I jump feet first or dive in?” I ended up jumping in feet first so I didn’t loose my goggles. I wasn’t thinking about what I was about to do and the significance of this challenge.

I walked up onto the beach, looked out across the channel and started thinking about what I was about to do. I cleared the water by about 10 feet, touched the wall, and fixed my goggles once more, then walked back into the water. Once I was at mid-thigh, I dove forward and I was off.

I started swimming with the boat on my left side staying 10-15 feet from it. I wasn’t in total darkness so I wasn’t worried about the boat. I knew the sun would rise in a little while. I could see the White Cliff’s of Dover and the lights on shore over my shoulder. The first hour went by fast; I was feeling strong and felt like I was making good progress. I noticed the waves were big and they were moving me around a lot so I really had to focus on my technique so that I could be more efficient. I waited all day for the waves to subside but it didn’t happen until I was one mile from France.

As I was swimming I decided I wanted to pass the relay team that started about seven minutes in front of me. By the two hour point I had reached them. I couldn’t see Boris or his boat and decided not to worry about them. I was swimming feed to feed and counting the time in my head by adding up the number of feeds I had. I was also singing songs in my head, thinking about my stroke, watching the people on my support boat, and watching everything else around me and in the water. Shortly after the five hour point I started to see Jelly Fish - the big brown ones that really hurt and then the smaller purple/ blue ones that are not as bad. I might have been stung by a purple one on my right elbow but it didn’t hurt very much and the pain went away after 30 minutes.

After my six hour feed, I was in completely new territory. I had never done an open water swim longer then six hours. I was feeling pretty good physically, and mentally I was doing great - I was really enjoying the swim. I was thinking I was close to shore and that I would be there in a little while. I was happy. I figured I had about two hours until I got to shore based on the math I was doing in my head and how far France looked. As everyone else says, France stays the same size for a really, really long time and doesn’t start to look closer until you’re about two miles off the coast.

I started to put what pain I was feeling aside and pulling even harder and stronger and swimming faster because I was feeling so good. At my six and half hour feed Chris said I had about three more hours and was doing great, I responded by saying THREE MORE HOURS! He said yes, don’t worry about it. I put my head back down and kept swimming, feed to feed doing the same things I had been doing the whole time. I decided that nine and a half hours was a good time and that I would want to be out of the water by then.

At the seven hour feed they had me swim behind the boat over to the other side so the boat was now on my right side and I was no more then 5 feet from the boat. We were trying to use the boat to block some of the wind and waves but I still had the big rolling swells pushing me around and some were still breaking on me.

At nine hours I was starting to worry a little bit and that was the first time during my swim that I had doubts about making to shore. I started thinking about having to go home after all this time training and working so hard with only ¾ of the channel swum. I was trying to have faster feeds because I wanted to finish faster so I wasn’t really talking to my crew. By the time I got to my ten hour feed, I was getting frustrated that land wasn’t much closer than it had been - THREE HOURS AGO - at the seven hour point!

I couldn’t figure out why. I knew I had slowed down a little, but I was still holding the same normal pace that I had during the first three to five hours of my swim. They now told me that I only had one hour left and that I was almost done. I was mad but I kept swimming because I thought I was almost finished. With one hour left I figured I would have one more feed, but that one feed turned into seven more feeds and I new something was wrong. They kept telling me the beach was right in front of me but I couldn’t see it and at this point, I was getting very mad.

Every other feed my dad was telling me that I had one hour left and I was really close to shore. I could see the cliff’s of France that were to my left and looked to be within a mile from where I was and I couldn’t figure out why we were not heading in that direction. I could tell the boat had changed from going right, in the direction of Cap Gris-Nez to a straighter course towards Wissant beach. I was thinking this was going to make my swim longer. I kept asking them, “where am I going”, and they replied with the same thing each time; “the beach is right in front of you, keep swimming” but it definitely wasn’t because I couldn’t see it. All I could see was the cliffs of France on either side of me and I was tired, in pain, mad, frustrated and just wanted to finish.

By the twelve and a half hour point I just wanted to be done with the swim. I had had enough. My crew said they were putting the dingy in the water in ten minutes and I would be on the beach in fifteen minutes. They finally put the dingy in the water at the twelve hour fifty-five minute point I think. I had my last feed between twelve hour forty-five minutes and twelve hours fifty minutes.

Then they where dangling the bottle over the boat for another feed! I yelled “ANOTHER FEED? YOU SAID I WAS ALMOST DONE 5 FEEDS AGO”. They where laughing at me and whenever I stopped to ask where I was going, I replied “ya sure, that’s what you said last time and it still hasn’t changed.” From the twelve and a half hour point until I finished, I could tell I was going forward and then backwards because the cliff was black in one spot and then white closer to the beach. I would make it to the white and then immediately be pushed back to where I was ten minutes ago. This was very discouraging and I was yelling at them that I wasn’t going anywhere.

After swimming for twelve hours, I knew I was going to make it because I was not going to give up after making it that far. I just didn’t know when I would finish. Once the dingy was finally in the water (long after they said it would be), the first mate was driving it, yelling to encourage me with the video camera up in the air, I knew I was getting close.

We had turned left to cut through the current and finish on the rocks, not the beach since the current was too strong. I heard the boat horns go off when the relay team finished. I was disappointed because I wanted to beat them, but I new I was close and it was my turn to have horns go off for me.

I had decided where I was going to finish. I didn’t want to swim another ten feet down to get to a place where it was less rocky so I decided I would fight my way though the rocks and just get out of the water. I had trouble getting out because the waves kept knocking me down and I couldn’t get my balance to clear the water. I fell down and cut both my hands pretty bad and they where bleeding, I also hit my foot on a big rock but didn’t notice until I was on land that it too also bleeding. It took almost two minutes from the time I was waist high until I had cleared the water and my swim was officially over. Once I could stand as I got close to shore, even though the water was shoulder high, I knew I had finished. I was SO happy.

It’s the best feeling knowing you have accomplished a big goal, especially after training for so long to achieve it. Once I was on land, I heard the boat horns go off several times and the first mate screaming that I did it! I had my right hand over my head smiling and waiving to them; I picked up a few rocks and walked back into the water so that I could be picked up. They wrapped me in a thermal blanket so the wind didn’t make me too cold. I could hear everyone yelling from the boat and I was so relieved to be out of the water and done swimming. My final time was thirteen hours and eleven minutes. Once I was finished I found out that the current changed two hours early which made the swim four hours longer since I had to swim into for a long time.

They had me get changed quickly and we headed back home to Dover. I started to feel very sick and almost threw up. I had my head down on a life jacket hanging off the side of the boat and slept most of the way home. I was woken up a few times by my mom to make sure I was still alive and because a reporter, who had been following my swim back home, had a few questions about the swim. I couldn’t give many answers because it was hard for me to think at the time.

Once we had docked and were walking off the boat I again started to feel very sick again. I was having trouble walking and got very hot but the cold wind and rain made me feel a little better. I realized that I only felt good when sitting down because I was so dehydrated and it made me very light headed when standing up. We dropped Chris home and thanked him for all his help. I went home and had a coke so that I could have something with sugar and to get the taste of salt water out of my mouth. I showered to get the grease off me and then went on my computer for a little while. I had a bowl of soup for dinner and went to bed around twelve in the morning- after a very long and rewarding day.

I woke up at five forty in the morning not tired thinking it was six forty. So I got up and checked my e-mail and facebook. I read several congratulation messages that made me feel really good about myself. Then, it felt like I had been hit by a train. My right shoulder hurt whenever I moved it. I was in a lot of pain all over. I went back to bed at six fifty and woke again at eight fifty. I had some ice cream for breakfast and showered.

After breakfast I went down to the harbor where I was greeted by a big group of people and they all congratulated me. I went for a sixteen minute swim to loosen up and get my muscles moving again since I was in so much pain. After my swim, I stayed around the harbor for a while because they where filming a T.V. show called Wild Swims. They wanted to talk to me and have me be part of the show. The whole experience was amazing and one that I will never forget it.