Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Glow in the Dark...!?

  Pleased to say I have had some consistency with five swims last week all of which were outdoors, Monday 22 June I visited The North Sea at Seaton Carew, alone as usual now, I noticed on arrival the sea was looking a bit angry. I was on the verge of forgetting it without safety cover but talked myself around and waded into the water. I had no choice but to dive straight into the breakers and fight my way to about 300 metres from shore where the water was more swimmable. Once out there I checked my watch and headed North along the coast to my regular turnaround point, the swells were big and pretty much head on, the short leg is typically about 8 minutes however due to the conditions it was 15 minutes before it was time to head South, similarly the Southbound leg is around 20 minutes but today it was closer to 35, just shows what a massive impact conditions can have on an open water swim. I was very pleased to have stayed to swim and felt great exiting the water after an hour at 57f.

Tuesday Morning was the opposite in comparison, flat sea, sun shining and company in the shape of John F, timings were back to normal albeit I was swimming back and forth to John to check on his welfare, 75 minutes today at 57-58f, and a very creditable 55 minutes for John, what a difference a day makes.

Thursday I couldn't get to the beach 'til 4pm after work and to be honest I was tired before I even set off, having missed Wednesday I wanted to try at least a dip, so I was delighted to notice the glassy conditions and high water, another hour alone and no problems with the water temperature.

Friday was going to be a reconnaissance day. I drove to Seaton purposely at low tide, intending to walk the route to the North Gare of the River Tees in order to check for hazards before attempting the swim in the future, I walked past some scary looking iron groins that were covered in rust and the remains of a shipwreck from the 1800s only the wooden ribs of which can now be seen as the remainder has long since gone..

   About another 1500m South my attention was drawn what appeared to be a rocky outcrop at the base of a beacon, it was producing large amounts of white water covering an area of about ten square metres. I spoke with a local fisherman who was beach casting and was informed the white water was in fact discharge from Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station, now that was a worry, the turbulence created was of sufficient concern for me to call the power plant and ask some questions; they advised me not to swim near the discharge outlet which was described as effluent, amounting to millions of gallons 24/7 365 days a year, the water they pump out had been used as a coolant and enters the sea at no more than 30 degrees C, no wonder the fish and seals like it down there! Mark Potter from  British Energy said it should be fine if I can stay a few hundred metres away......yeah right, I had visions of him sat there eating doughnuts with his feet up like Homer Simpson at the Springfield power plant, laughing at this glow in the dark swimmer.

Finally I reached the North Gare and explored some rock pools where I saw more star fish than ever before, the water was crystal clear too, the walk back to my swim area was a long one around 45 minutes so it would be a long swim but not one I fancy doing alone just yet. I settled for another hour alone and headed home.
Even more contrast to these swims was Saturdays visit to Ellerton Lake, I had arranged to get up early after night shift to swim with Chris Pearson and his tri friend Sarah, I was tired but the weather was great, the others started first before I dived into the 67f water, the warmest I had experienced since 2007, we swam some intervals and generally worked hard for 75 minutes, I even managed to get them to shed the rubber for the final ten minutes, I dont think Chris will be converted to speedos but Sarah seems to be very tempted.

Other news I have entered the BLDSA Derwent Water 5 mile event at the end of July which will be a nice stepping stone to Windermere 10 miles and future swims of double the distance!!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Susie Maroney

This morning I was returning from swimming when I noticed that Susie Maroney from Australia had left a comment on the blog after the entry entitled 'Spooked'..To say I was flattered is an under statement, thanks Susie for taking the time to read the blog and indeed for leaving the comment.

For those that are unaware, Susie like many of us, has at times experienced great heartache, tragedy and faced adversity through many aspects of her life, in fact she continues to do so to the present day. The difference with her is how she battles on and achieves what most of us could only dream of.

Cliff Golding once admitted that women are far mentally tougher than us weak men and I think I have to agree, what with the amazing Lisa Cummins and Susie what more proof do we need.

Some of Susie's swimming achievements:

Three time winner of the Manhattan Island swim race in years 1991, 1992 and 1994.
Fastest female two way English Channel Crossing (England/France/England) in 1991 at age 17 in time of 17 hours 14 mins.!     At age 22, the first person to swim the 180km (112 mile) Florida Straits from Cuba to the United States (12 May 1997). Swam a record 197 km (122 mile) from Mexico to Cuba, covering the longest distance ever swam without fins in open sea, in 38 hours and 33 minutes (1 June 1998).
Completed 160km swim from Jamaica to Cuba (15 September 1999).

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Wykeham and Warmer Water

Friday 11th June I ventured back to Seaton and swam alone with the constant feeling I was being following by my new found chubby friends, I am certain I was being 'bumped' on the feet by Mr Seal but I didn't actually see him today. The temperature is definitely on the climb as my watch was reading a constant 55f, there was real big rolling swells today which was quite fun.

Then Sunday 13th I attended the first BLDSA event of the year at Wykeham Lake near Scarborough North Yorkshire. I had been keeping an eye on the weather all week and for once the forecasters were correct, it rained from start to finish!

On arrival I registered and had my hand and arms marked up with numbers, I then watched a couple of motorised ribs mark the swim course with large yellow buoys, three buoys dictated a triangular course, I expected maybe three laps?. The briefing soon followed and the news was 5 laps for 5km, 3 laps for the 2 milers. After a short delay, names were taken as we entered the water for a deep water start.
I was keeping my eye on my watch and swam every lap on twenty minutes, I am sure the course was slightly longer than the set distance due to my timings but thats not important. At 1 hour 41mins I reached the end and exited the water. It was a worthwhile swim I coped well with what was after warm water (60f) no medals no certificates just dress and drive home.

Monday I had an unexpected day off so took the opportunity to visit Ellerton Lake for the first time this year, I had a great swim again at a lovely 60-61f.

Other news...its pleasing to read that Enda and Andy are both having fun and training hard at Neds training camp in Cork, keep up the good work boys I wish I was there

Friday, 11 June 2010

Don't Let The Pool Cheat You.

This week I have been in touch with Gary Emich, he has very kindly allowed me to re post the following article which initially appeared in USA Triathlon Magazine in Spring 2009. Gary is an incredible human being, with many many swims to his name, he is the world record holder for The Alcatraz Challenge swim, today his count stands at 701 ! yes that's seven hundred and one swims unaided across the once thought of impossible stretch of water. He states that every Wednesday is Alcatraz day and that he plans to stop when he reaches 1000. I highly recommend his DVD "LANE LINES TO SHORE LINES" Whilst the article was targeted at triathletes it is excellent advice to all open water swimmers..Enjoy and thanks again to Gary.

Did you know a 1.5k open water swim can be up to 39 percent longer than its swimming pool equivalent?

In a 25-yard pool, my stroke count is 18 strokes per length or 1,188 for l.5k (18 strokes x 66 lengths). I recently swam in a 50-yard pool (yes, yards not meters) and thought 36 strokes would take me end to end. Imagine my surprise when it took me 43 strokes. Because there was a marker at the halfway point, I counted the number of strokes during the first 25 yards and during then second 25 yards, Sure enough, 18 strokes got me halfway across but it took me another 25 strokes to finish the length since I had no wall to push off during the second half. Extrapolating this to a 1.5k open water swim I'll take 1,650 strokes (25 strokes x 66 lengths) or 39 percent more to cover the same distance as in a 25-yard pool. This is huge!

Does this also affect my time? You bet! In a 25-yard pool, I swim 1.5k in 27:50 or 25.3 seconds per 25 yards. During my 50yard pool session, instead of 50.6 seconds length (2 x 25.3), it took me 55.0 seconds: 25.3 seconds for the first 25 yards when I pushed off the wall and 29.7 seconds for the second half without the wall push-off. Extrapolating to open water, I'll swim l.5k in 32:40 (29.7 seconds x 66 lengths) or 17%
longer than in the pool.

So how do pool workouts affect your training and race preparedness?

First and considering the examples above, your average 3,500 yard pool work-out probably is closer to 2,500 yards due to the slingshot effect of pushing off the wall; and your times won't reflect your slower but real open water speed.

Second, since accurate sighting arguably is the least developed swimming skill of most triathletes, the resultant inability to swim a straight line can increase the swim distance up to 5 percent, especially if the course is not marked well.

Third, throw in some current, chop and wind and your l.5k race-day swim is now a formidable challenge, which has been known to cause more than a few triathletes to panic.

Last, If you're like the majority of triathletes for whom the swim is the least favorite, your pool workout likely is the first to fall by the wayside when struggling to balance family, work and training. Bottom line on race day: you swim a longer distance than what you under trained for in a time far slower than you expected.

What's a triathlete to do? The easy answer is to train in open water but this is not practical for most of us during the winter; and admittedly, coached pool workouts (such as U.S. Masters Swimming) afford an opportunity to focus on speed work, drills and technique. Increase the yardage in your workouts to compensate for the yards spent torpedoing off the pool wall on your turns. If your current workout is 3,500 yards, increase it to 4,500 yards. But make sure they're quality yards with emphasis on streamlining your
body movement through the water:

Maximize your open water swimming to the extent possible so you are conditioned to swim race distances without the push off  "rest" every 25 yards and so you swim effectively without the training wheel effect of lanes and black lines. Most swimmers in open water swim one straight long set but with a little creativity and imagination you can create and simulate a pool workout complete with a warm-up, drills, intervals and a cool-down.

Pool swimming does have benefits but just as you don't train exclusively on a treadmill or on a stationary bike, you need to train sufficiently in open water so that you have the poise, confidence and skills necessary to be at the top of your game on race day.

Thursday, 10 June 2010


Monday this week I had the day more or less to myself, the weather as it has been all week was awful, grey wet and dull, more like a winters day than summer but then that's kind of typical for Britain, the previous weeks glorious sunshine was clearly all we are going to get for the time being. Anyway, back to Monday, I drove over to the coast knowing that high water was around lunchtime. On arrival the sea look reasonably inviting albeit the air temperature was lower than I expected for that of the water. I was alone on the beach, not even a dog walker in sight.

I stood on the sand applying some Vaseline to my arm pits and then I saw it, I waited, kept looking, there it was again, there was something big and dark in the water about thirty metres off shore just where I was about to head, I stood mesmerised, trying to focus, was I seeing things, maybe it was a log or something?

Then up it popped again, initially I thought it was a dorsal fin but soon I realised it was a seal, I was, by now totally freaked out, I had not expected to see anything and whilst I can deal with stuff once I am in the water this was doing nothing for my enthusiasm to get in. My mind had gone. I sneaked into the water just long enough to get cold then drove home completely paranoid about what I was going to do, if it was safe to swim here anymore and my future plans.
Once home I emailed Gary Emich and Ned Denison for some advice and reassurance, this is what they said

"We have had several instances over the years of young pups coming up & nudging swimmers playfully. As you can imagine, the swimmers freak & swim like hell which is akin to running away from a dog - the seal pup then chases the swimmers and continues to bump them - it's a game. I've been bumped 3 times and each time I just stopped swimming - the pup surfaced 3 feet away with eyes that were saying - "swim, so I can chase you" - after a minute or 2 of stand-off he basically said "sod off - you're no fun" and swam away.They're curious but normally not aggressive - nothing to worry about. Gary"

"If it is a male seal...I always pull the front of my togs down...that scares them away..

No seriously...just ignore them. Don't splash or bark at them. Don't try to play and don't ever corner them (like in a cave or small inlet) At Sandycove they will occasionally brush our feet or swim up at at us - only to veer away at the last minute. Just ignore them. Ned"

So there you have it, I was scared of a little seal, I am pleased to say that armed with the advice of two seasoned experts I am happy to get back into the North Sea with or without the company of my new friends. Its been their pool longer than mine after all, I suppose I am the intruder not them.

Lewis Pugh Everest Swim - The training...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Coniston and continued training

Sunday 30th May was event one of the Epic Swim Series, the location was Coniston Water in the Lake District, at the crack of dawn I headed across Country utilizing the 'sat nav' and soon found myself being taken the scenic route to say the least. The journey took much longer than normal, I think next time I will rely on the old fashioned methods. Modern technology then took me to the wrong final destination, fortunately the actual location I needed to be at was only a mile or so away. I arrived at a the registration point,in a local school, signed in, collected my timing chip and scoffed down some breakfast whilst admiring the spectacular views.
The first swim of the day was a 500m sprint, watching this to familiarise myself with the start point etc. Despite my objections the organisers had declared that wetsuits were compulsory, I changed into rubber and stood around waiting for the start of the 3800m event. After a short safety brief around 90 swimmers were counted into the water, it felt very warm and awkward in the wetsuit, my watch was reading 58f. We were informed a two minute count down would precede the start, so, there I was bobbing around between a boat and the first buoy when suddenly the horn sounded and we were off. It was a mass start, the dog fight that followed kind of took me by surprise, I should have known better. Sustaining an elbow strike to the face almost instantly which knocked my goggles just about clean off but for the fact they were under my cap, it was almost game over at the start.

I eventually got into some clear water and pressed on. The course was set out in a manner where two laps were required, the buoys in the distance about 1000m away could not be seen. This was my only real criticism of the event which I am told is to be addressed for future 'epic events'
After the first full clockwise rectangular lap I checked my watch, I was disappointed to see it reading about 32 minutes, I continued with the second loop and reached the the final buoy another half hour later, a short swim to the shore, a run up the matting and over the timing mat stopped the clock. I stripped to the waist and watched the remainder of the swimmers finish. After watching the final race (1mile) I headed home via lunch in Ambleside.

The next day whilst having a day off in York rehydrating with Guinness I discovered via the results that I was the 13th male to finish in a time of 66minutes, I was hoping for a better time though this is only comparing back to my triathlon days, no two courses are identical and this one was certainly not easy to follow with so few buoys. All in all it was a fun day, a nice change of venue and easy to swim in the presence of others.

Three days after the Epic swim on June 2nd I had chance to visit good old Seaton Carew, I had real trouble getting into the water, it was bloody freezing ! I wasn't sure but was convinced it was due to swimming in the wetsuit at the weekend. I did talk myself round and swam and hour among tonnes of seaweed at a constant 52f. I do prefer a steady surface temperature rather than patchy water but that Wednesday was horrid.

Thursday 4th another trip alone to Seaton, the sea weed was still present as were the lifeguards, I walked in expecting the worse, yet, to my amazement the water was warm, my watch was hitting 59f I thought this could be due to the hot sun being absorbed by the masses of seaweed. The sea itself was quite challenging, very confused short choppy waves making technique and breathing difficult, this was excellent training and less mentally challenging with the warmer water.

After what feels like an age I returned to the pool this week to complete a time trial incorporating a 5500m descending ladder, my time has finally dropped back to that of 2008 and I was able to hit 90 minutes at long last.

This week I have an OSS swim with Sarah Tunnicliffe at Thirsk on Saturday 12th and The first BLDSA Championship of the year at Wykeham Lake on Sunday 13th June..more news to follow soon