Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 Stats

As 2011 draws to a close I thought it would be interesting to have a closer look at my training records, whilst I agree that statistics can be manipulated to show a chosen outcome, this post is merely a reflection on the years distances and times..

At a glance it appears that in 2011 I swam a total of 600km, this is broken down to Pool swims amounting to 272km and Open water swims of 328km. The Open Water swims account for 107 hours of training, I could further break the figures down to fresh and salt water swims but have not bothered to do so as yet.

Considering I was injured for about ten weeks (rib separation January, Tenosynovitis May, Road traffic accident July) and took a break for more or less the whole of September I am very pleased with the stats.

It has been a successful year in swimming terms. I have completed all but one session, met the major targets of The 24 Hour swim, Ullswater, Windermere 1 way then The Windermere 2 way in August. The achievements this year have left me with greater confidence to tackle the the challenges that lay ahead.

Whilst my own goals have brought me great satisfaction, I am also delighted to have formed some new friendships not least with Joe Hunter who has proved himself a model student in the build up to his success in The English Channel. Amanda and Jo have also become regular training partners and always provide a laugh.

Thomas, Dee, Sarah T, Pash, Chris, Dave Neal, Andy Williams and many others have continued to inspire me throughout the year. I have been extremely lucky with the help and support from the likes of The BLDSA and my crews (Col, Jo, Dave, Mike) on various swims...there is sure to be some I have forgotten but you know who you are.

I cannot finish without thanking KGB for her continued patience and support and of course Charlie who comes before everything and everyone.

Happy 2012 one and all....the journey continues

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Back to it......

Last week proved to be rather testing due to over indulgence on the alcohol front, first of all on Friday KGB and I had our annual Christmas visit to York, where she forced me to drink copious amounts of Guinness, then.. despite my delicate state of well being I was dragged to Amanda's on Saturday where I was once again subject to yet more alcohol in the form of bottled lager and red wine..To say I was rough when we left in Simon's taxi at 3 am is an understatement. It didn't help with Amanda jumping on the spot chanting 'Amanda Bell 1 Robson 0 !! (I jest you not, she was actually doing this, it is one of the few things I remember) All of this binge drinking made me feel guilty as well as ill.

So today I went back to the pool with a vengeance, the plan was to do a set I last swam on April Fools day...just over three hours later I had completed the dreaded 100 x 100 (10km) I was suffering around the 75 point and undergoing a bit of a mental blip. Another 25 repetitions later and I was all done. I drank two 75cl bottles of juice (no carbs) a few jelly babies and courtesy of Lisa Cummins' great idea...a packet of sugar loaded skittles.
Very happy to have completed this 'monster set' and dont feel quite as guilty now after the blow out.

All that Guinness and The Buoy at Seaton talk did however encourage me to post my favourite advert. Enjoy

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Getting Serious

A little over due with this post for a number of reasons, but better late than never.

As stated on the last post, Robin and I arranged to meet with Jax Higginson at Seaton Carew on 22 November. She wanted to join our little 'buoy club'. Despite the fog everyone arrived on time and after some brief intros we were headed into the water with the intention of doing a minimum of 60 minutes. Jax gave us some info re her pace, which made us think she would be slightly wrong we were...a dark horse to say the least, Rob and I needed to put in a very big effort just to keep up...anyway, as we reached the buoy the fog lifted and the sun appeared, rounding our orange friend, we swam south for about 8 minutes in order to complete the first half hour.The plan was then to return to the buoy, have a quick welfare check then back to the beach. This way no matter how much you feel like it there is no quitting before the agreed time due to the distance from shore. Rob failed to stop for the 'check in' preferring to get keep moving, I knew this meant he was feeling a little cold, so I continued swimming with Jax on my left and Rob to the right. 62 minutes later we were all done, the water was 52f /11.1c A great swim, with Rob receiving some stern advice re his post swim routine needing to be muck more slick and coordinated.

After a couple more pool swims I arranged to meet with a few other locals from OWSNEE on Saturday 26 November for yet more individuals who wished to try the buoy swim...It was blowing a gale, however Magic Seaweed predicted no incoming swell. 13 swimmers gathered, we had a safety briefing before heading into what looked like flat water. Before too long we had a wind against tide situation, I reached the buoy in challenging but not the worst conditions and thought I would be the only one today. The fight to get back to dry land was good fun and I fully expected to be the last out. To my surprise around ten swimmers were still in the water. I quickly dressed and waited on the beach as the remainder slowly started to appear..the comments that followed on the facebook group indicated that most if not all found it extremely tough, to the point of being frightened. I was delighted that a safety brief had taken place and that most had swam in groups...slapped wrists for those who did not listen!...yes that's you Amanda Bell.

Yet more pool sessions before December arrived and the prospect of swimming outside into the final month of the year...Another planned session with Rob on the 1st of the month, we agreed to swim to the buoy and straight back as the air temperature was dropping rapidly...out to the buoy in the 50f /10c water, all felt good, we stopped for the standard check in, I moved from the horizontal to tread water and suddenly felt dizzy..I told Rob and we headed back to shore without delay...the spell of dizziness seemed to subside once swimming again. We both made a good recovery and headed off home. I was a little worried for a couple of days afterwards and hoped it was a one off incident.

Sunday 4 December and yet another visitor to join the club, this time in form of Channel Swimmer Dee I am not saying we are rubbish, but, Dee needs to wear Tee Shirt and shorts for extra drag to give us the slightest chance of keeping up! She is rapid to say the least. The air temp had dropped to 5c, with the water continuing to drop by the day, today my watch was showing 49f as we rounded the buoy, another great swim with no dizzy spells..I was more than happy. And this time even Amanda listened to the brief ;-) The only negative was me having to head off for an 10 hour night shift.

The following morning after a few hours sleep, I gathered my flask, swim kit and warm clothes, having arranged to meet Joe, Amanda and Katherine for another dip at Seaton. The ice on the road at home almost prevented me getting the car off the drive. That said, a short time later we had gathered in the car park, we began to shiver before we were even stripped. The air temp was around 3c, it was windy and I was tired. The breakers looked big from the safety of the cars, so it was no surprise to find them above head height as we waded into the water. Amanda will not mind me saying she had some doubts, (the breakers are not her favourite thing). However we soon cleared them and began to make our way out to sea in the direction of the buoy. Joe and Katherine (in her wetty) leading the way, the strong wind was helping us make good progress, however the water was only 48f / 8.8c combined with the air and wind made it a bit chilly (see Donals precise temp guide on the link)

I met Joe at the buoy..we laughed about the temperature and the battle that lay ahead to get back to shore, we were in good spirits, it was like being back in April. I could not see Amanda and felt certain she was already headed back. In a matter of moments I was separated from Joe, I was struggling to sight. Making a direct line to safety was almost impossible. I knew from the many swims here with Joe in similar conditions, to just get my head down and swim hard, attempting to keep my stroke long and swim under the oncoming waves and chop.

Surrounded by white horses, I stopped to confirm my position/heading, I had drifted north about 150 metres from the buoy, I glanced Amanda in the distance and was horrified to see her still heading to the buoy. Despite my best efforts I was unable to get her attention, the sea was roaring and the wind made it impossible for my voice to do anything but disappear. Amanda was acclimatised and looked good, however the journey back was going to be far from easy. I began to feel the cold and could no longer sight any of the others, then suddenly I swam into what felt like an icey stretch of water...I was, for a moment, cold to the bone, then without warning something very strange...I felt like I was over heating, I needed to take off my cap, I was burning up. I was able to recognise that this was a danger sign of hypothermia. I felt faint but managed to talk myself into NOT taking off the cap, I began to worry intensely about Amanda, I was convinced she was in trouble. This was serious.

I lay on my back, getting battered my the swell and chop.. I decided the best course of action was to backstroke, this way I could breathe easily, could continue to look for the others without the need to stop and perhaps more importantly could generate some heat and make progress to land.

After what seemed liked an eternity I was tossed about in the breakers and hobbled up the sand, Joe had just landed but there was no sign of the girls, I expressed to him my concerns and was actually pleased to see the arrival of a coastguard truck. I rushed to the car, got dressed and started to get some hot fluids down my neck when to my ecstatic joy I saw Amanda speaking with the coastguard. (a concerned member of the public had called them after seeing us enter the water and failed to see our return) Once dressed Amanda joined me in the warmth of my car, I gave her a hug and almost burst into tears such was my relief that she was safe.

My own recovery took rather longer than normal but soon we were all home, dry and warm. A few reminders today regarding the importance of briefings, safety measures, lack of sleep, air temperature, swimming in groups etc.

A swim that under normal circumstances only ever takes 45-50 minutes had taken me an hour. A short time after arriving home I spoke with the ever positive and poker faced Joe and asked what he thought...his one word reply 'Nasty' said it all.

On reflection I was reminded of Cyrise Sanders post here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

eau de chlorine

Its that time of year when the open water swims are drawing short if not to a close, with it the unwilling re attendance at the grotty swimming pool with the hideous chemicals and associated tedium. Whilst we are attempting to maintain a weekly swim in the sea, the pool will slowly take over and the distances increased on a weekly basis probably til around April/May next year.

Actually last week I managed to squeeze in three swims at Seaton Carew, twice with Channel Swimmer Joe, and once with the girls all of whom made it to the buoy...congratulations and welcome to our little club!!
The water is holding steady around 11-12c though the sea state changes by the day.

My first real pool session was last Thursday (17 Nov) with the familiar 5500m descending ladder, ie 1000, 900, 800 etc. down to 100. I like to use this session as a gauge or benchmark as to my fitness level. I was pleased to see I haven't lost too much yet this year. I just need to be sensible on the build up in order to avoid any overuse injuries. Other than that Charlie and I have been getting in the school pool each Sunday for some drills with Chris Pearson (he swam Windermere 1 way with me back in 2010) hopefully we can continue this til at least Christmas.

There you have the latest update...Im off to meet Batman at Seaton today in the fog...should be fun..brrrrr

Monday, 14 November 2011

Guest Post ..Donal Buckley (Today is The Channel)

Contradictorily, I'm not a great person for motivational aphorisms, but at the same time I love reading and have a large collection of quotations I like. Many relate to the sea or swimming somehow, and I have a few that I've used a few times on my site.

With the English Channel or any other epic marathon swim, you will be asked "why". Many times this question is asked in a "what is wrong with you that you need to do this kind thing" way. There is rarely an answer that works for those particular people.

We all have both similar, and different answers though. I eventually found an answer that worked for 99% of people. That 99% of people are those who don't do what we do, and the other 1% are endurance athletes, who will not even ask the question, because they already understand. I don't need to ask you why you might be thinking of a marathon swim. You don't need my reasons. So my simple answer became a quotation:

No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.- Socrates

After all, who is going to argue with Socrates?

But that wasn't my motivation.

Another that I use, and have used in advising people about the English Channel is:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Usually incorrectly attributed to Goethe by W.H Murray. You can feel something in those words. You can feel the urge to sprinkle fairy dust over your life, to step outside.

But the English Channel is not just about dreams, it's far more about grind. About swimming day in and day out, on frosty mornings and when you are sore, hungry and tired, and have lost the love of swimming you had.

And on those days, when there was just me, when the rest of the Magnificent Seven were all training down in Cork, when I had no-one to swim with, when my local pool was treating me like dirt, I needed something else. I really did need motivational help. So on my training log and inside my locker I wrote:

This Is the Channel.

Today. Every day. Every metre. Every stroke. And it helped. The reminder was always there. Everyday when I opened the locker and when I entered my metres into the spreadsheet. It is still there on my ongoing training logs. It became part of my swimming ethos. I began to value the bad days more, to enjoy the good days.

And when I was done with the Channel, I fell back on another quotation, written by Philip Larkin and used incorrectly by me, but to me the only way I can really describe the English Channel and  my own feelings about it.

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Ullswater in November

Having swam The 7 mile BLDSA Ullswater event on 30 July this year in near perfect sunny warm conditions I thought it would be a good idea to re visit once the water temperatures had started to drop..with that in mind I invited a few swimmy mates to a planned swim, to take place Sunday 6 November, the plan was a civilised start time of 12 noon and as much or as little effort as each individual wished for.

Despite lots of initial interest we ended up with just four swimmers in attendance, Amanda Bell and Jo Charlton for the girls and Dave Neal and I for the boys, creeping into the inky water just beyond the Ferry at Glenridding we swam around the first Island and up the lake for a few minutes, the sun was shining and the lake was glass like in appearance, it was somewhat cooler than the sea  but not nearly as cool as we had anticipated, 55 minutes later we returned to shore refreshed and buzzing from a pleasant swim with amazing scenery.

After much hot chocolate and cake, Jo (and her Bear Grylls boyfriend Rich) Dave (and his gaffer Sarah) left us and headed home. Amanda and I warmed up a little more before we took the plunge for a second dip, it was really tough to leave the warm clothes behind and to creep into back into the lake, much to the consternation of onlookers who openly questioned our sanity.. 35 minutes later we were back again, fully revitalised and glowing like red lobsters..

It was funny to see and feel the familiar lack of coordination and shakes return, it seems like a long time since we were experiencing these post swim symptoms of cold water back in April...overall a great day with great company..we must do it again soon. Water 51f 10.5c 90 minutes total.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Escort by Beth Barnes..(in her own words)

When a new neighbour invited me to dinner she was surprised to hear how I'd spent my life, she had one thing to say...'you should write a book'.  I scoffed, I'd heard all this before and wondered why anyone would be interested in what I of all people had to say.  I got home and realized that I SHOULD write a book, I did have something to say and it was important.
I wanted to tell my story of two years that changed my life and will hopefully change others lives too.  My story was one of adventure...and meaning.  

After participating in twenty Catalina Channel crossings, I knew that I'd learned a lot...a lot that could possibly benefit others.
Now, I hope that what I learned will spread like wildfire throughout the open water swimming world.  I have a dream.  My dream is that every person who even considers kayaking next to an open water swimmer, or who loves an open water swimmer will read my account of the past two years.  I am still not quite sure what drives open water swimmers to do what they do, but I know what drives!
Safety first, everything else will naturally follow!  You do what you do, and I'll do what I do, and in the end we'll get there together...simple as that!
Thanks to everyone, worldwide, for your love and support.
(Avaliable for all e-readers at Amazon or Smashwords...type in Escort, Beth Barnes.  Even free PDF download at Smashwords if you haven't joined the e-reader revolution yet)

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Some will know, some will not know.... who is The Loneswimmer You...?

if you don't and you are a Channel Swim aspirant (like me) then you should find out...but to save you the effort I will let the cat out of the bag.... Donal Buckley (practical joker extra-ordinaire) is a Channel Swimmer, having made an epic swim to France in August 2010...he writes on an almost daily basis at and has a wealth of news data discussion going at any one time, a brief look through his older posts provide mountains of informative reading for the dark nights now that the clocks have lost the hour.

Like lots of successful Channel swimmers DB has continued to swim and inspires me to pull my finger out from time to time..Last year after my first 1WW (one way windermere) I more or less stopped the open water swimming til the following April.

This year the plan is to drop the sessions back but attempt to maintain some acclimatisation and remind myself of the conditions that await in the Straits of Dover, as DB recently wrote something along the lines of..."Why do you think you can swim The Channel if you only train in lakes and pools"

DB is maintaining his 60 minutes swims as the temperature drops in the waters surrounding the beloved Emerald Isle and I am following suit..together with the re- introduction of pool/interval sessions..hopefully Donal will spot this post and write something here by way of a guest post.. continues..the water a Seaton Carew is now 53f 11.6c, the air temperature is dropping but we are sticking at it, today was a great swim with Joe Hunter, the target remains 60 minutes and no less until we get below 50f hurts like hell getting in and its so funny when we shake and giggle afterwards but you feel great all day once its should try wont kill you......well I don't think so anyway !

oh...if you hadn't noticed the blog now has an easy domain name..its now just

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

October H2Open Mag

Looking forward to the next issue which should be available around Monday 10thOctober....I wonder if I get a mention in this edition?? Its a Channel Special so it should be great

Friday, 30 September 2011

British Gas Blog of the Month October 2011

Just had an email to say I have been chosen as blog of the month for cool is that!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pete Windridge-France

I have even more fantastic news regarding my mate Pete, some will remember form a previous post that we trained together at Ellerton Lake and Dover Harbour for the Champion of Champions event this year. 

Well, yesterday 24 September 2011, virtually 24 hours after Joe Hunters success Pete made his own attempt to swim The English Channel..I am delighted once more to report Pete landed in France after 17 hours and 55 minutes having been escorted by Lance Oram and the boat Sea Satin since before day break into the night.

Many many congratulations and your family should be very very proud
In the presence of heroes, Pete, Me and Joe earlier this year in Dover
So in exactly one month all our targets have been met, My 2 Way Windermere 25 August, Joe EC 23 September and now Pete EC 24 September

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Joe Hunter

I am delighted to announce that Joe Hunter, my training partner for 2011 and all round great bloke, is now officially an English Channel Swimmer, he made it to France yesterday 23 September in a time of 14 hours and 10 minutes...

It has been a complete pleasure to train with Joe, he never once complained, moaned or questioned what I suggested or asked of him, I am proud beyond words, I cannot express how pleased for him.

The student is now the master


Friday, 9 September 2011


Following some study of my training records relating to acclimatisation. I decided it would be handy for me to compare the figures in graph form with regards to time spent in open water over the past few years..I don't have records for 2009 but the other three years are plotted. Obviously a lot of time is spent in the pool too but that is a completely different set of figures. The plan for 2012 will obviously be a nice steady incline slightly  better than the green line for this year.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

And Then What...?

So...I staggered up the slipway at Ferry Nab, 21 miles, 13 hours and 50 minutes after the early morning start..

As I neared the end, drifting in and out of mental sanity I fully expected to burst into tears in shear relief that it was all over. The tears never came, I was spent like I had never been spent before, I looked completely spaced out. A great deal of what happened next is vague to say the least. I remember sitting in the boat with KGB dressing me. I was huddled up in my tracksuit, wearing Sarahs pink hat! and also her socks...The next thing I recall is struggling to walk along the jetty onto dry land at Shepherds, my legs had all but seized up, eventually I was man handled into Pash's car and then what felt like a warp factor drive back to the hotel.

KGB escorted me down the stairs of The Lake House (I would have fallen without assistance) and then I was in the tub, Kelly was telling me the water was too hot but I refused to listen, it felt fantastic. Pash briefly came into the bathroom to say something, I have no idea what as I was almost asleep. As usual KGB was right, I was getting light headed and needed to get out quick. Crawling on hands and knees into bed, that was me finished.

The telephone rang at some was Sarah saying she and Andy's crew were off to eat, I was a little upset that I was in no state to go drink Champagne and no time at all I was flat out.

The next morning I woke feeling like I had been out on  a monster drinking session, a headache like no other and a belly to match. Around midday we drove home, I was still really sleepy to the extent that I needed to stop for a power nap after only half and hour. Once home I managed to eat after which my recovery soon began to accelerate.

I want to say thankyou to my fantastic crew, KGB, what can I say, I understand you took the brunt of my grumpiness towards the end, though in my delirious state I cannot recall what was said, sorry. I appreciatte it was a struggle to fit the swim into your own plans, but you did not hesitate to support me yet again x
Pash,  I had 100% confidence in your ability to Pilot the boat for many many hours, I know it demands a massive amount of concentration and that you had your work cut out all day, not only with your vital role but also listening to the girl gossip all day long. I owe you in a big way.

Sarah Sarah smiley Sarah, as usual you were great to be around, you listened to my every request and had no hesitation getting into the water when I was in bits during the latter stages. You were awesome.

Thomas, Claire, Andrew and Ben, thank you so much for all your help and support in and around the delightful Langdale Chase, (Can you believe that Thomas even arranged for a hot food delivery to the crew mid lake..what a great bloke) we are looking forward to your return from holiday so we can crack open that fizzy!!

Ben with a delivery from 'The Chase'

Joe Hunter my steadfast crazy training partner, thank you for your dedication to the cause, you are next up on the stage..Good Luck.

To all the facebook, twitter and Channel google group members who emailed, called and sent texts your words kept me in the water, it made a huge difference to know you were all watching.

Last but not least..Thankyou to my little man ' Coach Charlie' just for being you.

Friday, 2 September 2011

2 Way Windermere

On the morning of Wednesday 24th August in poor weather conditions we loaded the car and headed cross country toward the Langdale Chase Hotel where Thomas Noblett had reserved rooms in the fabulous Lake House for KGB and I, Sarah Tunnicliffe, Andy, Ruth Williams and Angela his crew. Arriving around 3pm we were delighted with the very plush room and its beautiful surroundings...I was however less pleased with the rain as it lashed down outside.

Before too long the others arrived and checked in, without delay we headed into Bowness in order to secure the Electric Boats required for the swim, the actual marina would be closed at our estimated start time, however the staff at Shepherds were very helpful, supplying us with the gate access codes so that we could take the boats as soon as daylight appeared.

After this it was off to the shops for some last minute supplies (some alcohol for the girls) then back to the hotel where we met up with the extremely hungover Thomas, his boss Claire and of course his right hand man Andrew. The weather had now started to clear as we prepared to sit down for our evening meal. I scoffed my standard two main meals...(pasta followed by steak) and generally relaxed around the table with all involved except for Mark Pashby, my pilot, who was due to arrive very early next morning.

We retired to our room, together with Sarah, where I made up my maxim, and discussed the feeding pattern with the girls, all sorted and off to bed (Sarah went back to her own room!) I slept OK til about 2:30am. After which I was tossing and turning until I finally got up to make coffee around 4:30 and attempt to force down some breakfast at this crazy hour. Thomas had kindly offered to take us to Bowness at 5:15, despite my doubts he arrived bang on time. We loaded his car and headed to Shepherds a year to the day from my first one way Windermere swim (and 136 years to the day since Capt. Matthew Webb first swam the English Channel)

Thankfully no issues with the codes, we were on the jetty and loading our boat named 'Kate' in no time at all, Andy and his crew arrived moments later and set about their own pre swim routine (Andy was swimming one way starting from the South) Capt Pash arrived and was introduced to everyone and that was it...'Team Robson' was reunited, Pash took to the controls and we were off..a brief trip across to the west side of the lake and our start point of Ferry was a beautiful morning, not a breath of wind, not a ripple on the lake but for the disturbance we created ourselves, a few scattered clouds but it looked set to be the perfect day..we had clearly been blessed..

The concrete ramp for the Ferry soon came into view, the team were aware of the plan to grease up on the slipway clear of the water. Pash manoeuvred the boat then accidentally crashed into the brick wall, almost putting KGB through the windscreen in the process! I jumped across onto dry land. Now... I forget why, but KGB decided to do the same, however, with one foot still in the boat and the other on the slipway, we were soon hysterically laughing as she just about did the was so funny. Sorry Kell..

Once we stopped the giggles I covered the usual body locations with Vaseline, (all those that rub and some extra today any areas which might be exposed to the wind), I wasn't sure if it would make a blind bit of difference, but I did so anyway.

It was time... I gave KGB  a kiss and pointed out that I had suddenly began to experience some doubts, I was quickly reprimanded by the whole crew and told to start on the Captains signal...At 0615 Pash gave the shout and I eased into the glassy water to begin my attempt as the boat was positioned to head south aiming directly for Fell Foot, I breast stroked out from land getting control of my breathing, until I was alongside the boat.
The clock had already started but this was not a race, a few final words of encouragement from the crew and I was ready..."OK lets go" I said.. and we were off..gently settling into front crawl, trying to be as economical as possible, my mind was racing but we were doing it at long last. This was exactly what I had spent the last year or so training for and the conditions couldn't have been better.
The feeding plan was to be fluids after the first hour switching 45 minute intervals more or less straight away, I was still experimenting and wanted to try maxim on alternate feeds, having tea, coffee, hot chocolate or similar left to the discretion of the crew and each other feed.

Sarah had updated Facebook and The Channel Swimmers Google Group, as a result of which messages of support soon began to filter through, either through the wonders of the Internet or text message and phone calls..modern technology seemed to working a treat, with the exception of the spot tracker which did not want to play game.

In what felt like no time, the white board made its first appearance with the message "Storrs Temple already" a mile south of the start point, this was nice to know. I am quite familiar with many of the lakeside features so my progress was easy to gauge (at this stage).

As we approached Blake Holme

My mind had started to settle down albeit I was still doing the maths regarding distances and times, I figured if we reached the turn at 3 hours, we would be ahead of schedule by around 30 minutes (I had predicted 3and a half hours per leg, the swim being split into 4 legs in my head)

My stroke rate was being recorded at 60-64spm, and was holding steady as we approached the yachts moored close to Fell Foot, I told the boat to speed ahead so that the girls could use the toilets, by the time I reached the last jetty, the girls were out of sight, Pash handed me Feed 3; Maxim and Juice with a welcome piece of sandwich. I requested Pash to drop the feeds to 45 minutes from now on. Some stretching in the water, then I headed off breastroking through the yachts so as to keep warm and not get too far ahead, moments later the boat was with me again and I was back into front crawl.

Soon as we got beyond the shelter of the trees at Fell Foot I starting having issues with the clear lens goggles I had chosen, I was getting lots of glare as the Sun was shining directly into my eyes every time  took a breath to the right (which is the only side I breathe) whilst I do swim a lot of time with my eyes closed this was getting very frustrating, between breathes and with a word or two per head turn I asked for some tinted lenses at the next feed. It was only 45 minutes but it seemed to take forever.

Feed 4 eventually arrived I changed to some yellow lenses and took the nutrition, which on this occasion was hot chocolate and maxim, chocolate roll and medication. I swam on as quick as possible after the food and the delays of the goggle change, however in no time I was feeling sick, I made a note to not have any more hot chocolate or those type of jaffa cake rolls, the goggles didn't help a great deal but they were a slight improvement...I was wishing I had my mirrored aqua sphere goggles but had to just get on with it.

At 1045 it was time for Feed 5, I was pleased by now that the sun had risen high enough to not be in my eye line and I was able to settle back down with no squinting or head ache worries (I have an intolerance to white light) Feed 5 was Coffee and banana, I told the crew about the chocolate issues and swam on, I could see the mid section of the lake ahead, by the next feed (Feed 6 Maxim and Juice plus jelly babies) we were back at Rawlinsons Nab, my stroke rate was holding at 64spm and I felt great, one more feed and we should be back to the start point.

6 hours into the swim and we were more or less at the start point where the Ferry crosses the lake, I took Feed 7(1215h) hot tea and milky way and asked for my clear goggles to be returned.
It seemed to take an age to get through the midsection behind Belle Isle, through The Lillies and the shallow areas, my stroke rate was now 60spm, seeing the bottom of the lake and weeds going by kind of messed with my balance or eyes or something as I started getting a little dizzy ?? bit strange but it was soon gone once the water depth improved.

Feed 8 (1300h) was taken at the north end of Belle Isle and consisted of maxim juice and chocolate. I was still feeling good and was aware of my location, the time and what was remaining of the challenge. I remember saying to KGB "OK this is where we go into the unknown" (this was reference to my previous longest swim being 7 hours in Dover Harbour).

By this stage my hip flexors and quads were really giving me trouble, I was trying to stretch them at each feed with little respite from the discomfort. This proved to be the most troublesome body part for the whole swim, my concern had been for the shoulders and some ongoing bicep tendonitis issues, however it seemed that all was well except the legs.

Feeds 9 and 10 are a bit of a blur, albeit I know from the records that I had some electrolytes in the shape of 'Lucozade Sport' at 8 and a quarter hours, we were well into new territory time wise, I recall looking across the lake and noted we had  levelled with Langdale Chase Hotel. In my head it was around two more hours til the final turn. It's kind of weird how some parts of the swim are totally forgotten, yet some moments are crystal clear. I vividly remember making the cross over towards Ambleside, thinking in my head " I am actually going to do this"

Sometime before 3pm I was asking for a savoury feed, Sarah asked if I would like a cup-o-soup and chicken sandwich, it sounded fantastic, I looked forward to it for the whole period before it arrived...and yet, as soon as I took a mouthful it was rejected, it tasted way too strong, I declined waiting for the prep of another and swam on. 

The records show I also rejected Feeds 12 and 13 the latter being at 4pm, I took a little plain juice but that was it. 

Andy had by now finished his one way in around 7hours 20 minutes, he was dressed and changed and back on board his escort boat, when I reached the turn point (About 10 hours in, the notes are too sketchy to be precise) he was standing on deck shouting "Turn, Turn, Turn" I had no idea that his boat and mine had swapped places, I turned to face south and found my crew positioned to take over. 

I plodded on, suffering with the swell from the passing Ferries, my stomach started to play up with what I think was motion sickness? I was unable to take any feeds of great benefit, fatigue was taking hold, clearly evident in my pace. Sarah joined me in the water and offered verbal encouragement as did KGB and Pash from the boat. The thought of having swam for ten hours lifted me a little but I really didn't care about time any more.

I was stopping far too regularly to either stretch, complain and or rest, my neck was very stiff, my legs were in agony, each time I stopped I flipped over and made a feeble attempt to breast stroke kick, I was slowly becoming more and more exhausted, Andy's boat was still alongside to the left, I could hear Ruth and Angela shouting at me, trying every trick in the book to get me moving. 

The further into the swim I try to re live, the more hazy it becomes, I was drifting off in the water, I am not sure if I knew exactly where I was, my mind was in a very strange place, I did not believe anything I was told and the end was in in my opinion no where to be seen. I did however feel there was no way I was getting out without getting the job done, the dozens of white board messages and the knowledge that lots of people were willing me on inspired me to plod on. The embarrassment would have been too much to live with.

After what feels like a life time, the slipway from where we had started almost 14 hours earlier came into view, I struggled to the front crawl until I could see and feel the concrete below me. The video on the previous post shows me for some unknown reason clearing the water and looking like a person under the influence of mind altering substances..

I had done no small part due to the fantastic support from everyone involved both my boat and Andy's...

a physical and mental wreck is an understatement....

more to follow and next post..regarding what actually happened next! recovery, lessons learnt and of course multiple thanks and appreciations

Sunday, 28 August 2011

2 Way Windermere Ending

Full report to follow once I have received the notes from Sarah, the meantime I thought I would share this video clip as I clear the water after the 13 hours 50minutes and 21 miles, as you will see I was totally spent to say the least...forgive the swear from KGB at the end refering to my stubborness!

Best viewed on full or 75% screen rather than the tiny window...thankyou all so much for your comments and support via the blog, the Channel Swimmers Google Group and Facebook/Twitter.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Two days, Thomas and Trackers

At 5am this morning I finally finished my last shift prior to the 2 way swim...Not a great deal of sleep as is usual after night shifts, but I hope to catch up a little bit tonight..

I just spoke with my friend Thomas Noblett who recently spent 17 hours battling what he calls his mistress, ie The English Channel, it wasn't to be his day on this occasion but he will land in France one day soon of that I am certain. Thomas is one of the nicest blokes we have met. He goes out of his way to help others, his hospitality and supportive nature know no bounds.

He has very kindly allowed me the use of his spot tracker for Thursday so you will be able to see exactly where we are on the lake. It will be switched on just before the start.
Here's the link:

We will be starting on the West side of the Lake at the Ferry and swimming south to Fell Foot, then heading back to the Start point where the electric boat from Shepherds will need exchanging for one with a new power source (I will be joined by a kayaker at this point before the return of the fresh crew and boat)

After this, the plan will be to continue North to Ambleside with an eventual turn around back to the start point...Well...that's the plan...what actually happens remains to be seen.

Thank you so much for all of your comments on the previous post, facebook and twitter. Its great to know you are taking interest and your support means a great deal to us.

Monday, 22 August 2011

3 days and counting

As  a result of the untimely car accident, a new shift pattern at work and the summer holidays for schools, my training took a bit of a battering, however, things are settling down nicely with the aid of physio, massage and medication...I apologise for the lack of updates but to be quite honest, there has either been nothing much to say or I lost the urge to post...

On the training front I have swam as much as the above circumstances have allowed, with a couple of six hour swims, including another one way Windermere, a six hour at Ellerton last weekend and the odd two/three hour efforts here and there. More or less double the amount of swimming I managed last year.

With just three days to go until the planned 2011 target I am feeling rather nervous, excited too, but more nervous than anything else..

The plan is to reunite the team (Capt Pash, Sarah and KGB) at The Langdale Chase Hotel and start the swim the following morning at 6am Thursday 25 August...a year to the day since my first 1 Way Windermere..

I am hoping to have a tracker on the support boat, where if you are so inclined you will be able to follow my progress as I attempt to swim the length of Englands Longest Lake in both directions, 21 miles hopefully in about 14 hours.

Everything after 7 hours will be new territory, hence the nerves and anxiety at the prospect. your support is really appreciatted and any comments are greatly received!

More news soon...I promise

Monday, 18 July 2011

Best Intentions

Just returned from a gentle swim at Seaton with Joe, in the water for 9:30am with the plan of an easy hour, just to stretch off and assess. The normal build up of grease and walk into the sea, it rarely feels warm, infact it actually felt cold today until we got on with it. High tide had been and gone so the normal northerly route was a ‘no go’ due to exposed rocks and other risks, we stood in chest depth water deciding our destination when up popped our friend Sammy Seal! Great…I really did not want to have a meeting with him and his presence always put me on edge. Once upon a time I would have exited the water at this point, today we decided to ignore him making our way out to sea towards the dreaded buoy…

Around 15 minutes later the big orange buoy came into view (you will recall it is easily visible from the car park, however it gets lost in the swell when at swimmers eye level) Joe had the bright idea that we should circle the buoy before heading closer to shore. Off he went…I had no opportunity to complain. A quick sprint and I was level with him, I could sense that Joe was pushing the pace, I didn’t want to push too hard as my neck and back are far from 100%, a few minutes later we had rounded the buoy and were heading back towards shore, a little spooked but very safe…phew!
The surface temperature was a little higher in the deeper water, with the days average being  59f /15c which was comfortable enough after 5 minutes or so, the cooler patches were a bit of shock to the system but I was inwardly hoping the cold would be of benefit  to my injury. A few stops later and the hour was up.
Swimming through the surf we were soon in shallow enough water to walk the last few metres. Then, to our surprise we noticed two uniformed Police Officers making rapid progress in our direction, what had we done now?, we chatted between ourselves, we hadn’t done anything wrong, so continued heading for the dry bag further up the beach.
Before we got there we were stopped and spoken to by the ‘bobbys’  it turns out that a local workman had called the police, explaining he had seen two swimmers heading out to sea but they could  no longer be seen, it was genuine concern for our safety so we should be grateful, the fact that the police helicopter was on standby is a bit more worrying,  but we cant exactly call the police everytime we go for a swim can we?, it’s a different matter when the lifeguards are in attendance who we always brief on our intentions.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Friday, 8 July 2011

Buoy oh Buoy

It was all going so well...Joe Hunter and I had been continuing our build up to the cold water, so that 90 minutes in 12C was becoming the norm.We stepped up to the 2 hour mark with little consequence, other than the odd sighting of jellyfish well below as we swam out to the dreaded buoy (which marks the edge of the shipping channel on the approach to the River Tees)...

I'm not entirely certain of the distance from shore to the big orange buoy, its difficult to estimate at the best of times, let alone when the conditions are so swelly that it cannot be seen even from the car park which is on slightly higher land. I was a little freaked out by the jellys in all manner of shape size and colour, probably as a result of never seeing anything but the familiar green murk. The conditions at Seaton Carew generally don't allow a swimmer to see beyond the length of an arm, never mind into the deep.
With the 2hour swim nailed midweek, last Saturday we arranged to meet with the plan of upping the effort to 3 hours, the sun was shining it was a beautiful day, however on arrival Joe was already in the water. I was surprised to see lots of breaking waves crashing onto the beach. We had previously agreed to do the 3 hours providing we fed every 60 minutes. After a ten minute battle to get beyond the breakers, I swam North in the large swells trying to locate Joe, I had kind of given up when he appeared on the crest of a swell. "Fancy meeting you here"

The swim was fairly uneventful, we swam hard against the swell and scared ourselves (well me anyway) at our distance from the safety of land, I was a bit concerned to find we had swam out to the buoys AGAIN despite my wishes against doing so! The second feed soon came around, we were greeted by KGB who had turned up out of the blue to offer a timely kick in the rear, the last hour was easier mentally, knowing we were going to reach the target time.

The sun was so hot that there was no warming up or shivers to be laughed at, in fact I set off home bare chested in my shorts. Ten minutes later it all went wrong....., waiting at a roundabout for a safe exit, my car was rear ended by another vehicle, to cut a long story short, I have been unable to sleep very well or train all week. The only saving grace is that I have been doing classroom course work at the University so there has been no requirement to take sick leave. The ice, painkillers and NSAIDs are slowly doing their thing,  feeling very frustrated and hoping to return to the water soon, who knows the cold may even help, providing I can turn to breathe.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Champion of Champions (CofC)

With the familiar road to Dover once again beckoning, we departed from home midday Friday 17 June, we had made arrangements to collect Joe Hunter enroute with a rendezvous of Cambridge services. No sooner had we recommenced the journey from the RV when Joe started reading out emails from his iPhone (posted on the Google Channel Swimmers Group) indicating the severity of the weather forecast, for the first time in history Freda Streeter the Channel General, was advising swimmers that gale force winds together with a spring tide would make it unsafe to swim in the harbour the following day.

This, in our minds, obviously put the BLDSA Champion of Champions event (5 miles then 3 miles then 1 mile) in would be a great shame to take time off work, book and pay for accommodation and drive the best part of 350 miles only to find the event cancelled. There was no news from the organisors, therefore we continued south to our lodgings for the night just outside Dover on the A20. Once checked in we headed off to Cullin's Yard for the standard maximum belly stretch, the storm was certainly with us, the windows of the restaurant being lashed with wind and rain as we stuffed our faces.

Next morning after a poor nights sleep, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a clear blue sky as I packed the car and prepared for the brutal day ahead. The normal early breakfast issues and nerves began to surface, there was little time to worry though as we were required at the safety brief for 8:30am.

Several swimmers had already arrived, we sat, chatted, registered/ numbered and basically became a little frustrated as the start time came and went. Eventually a briefing did take place however it was not entirely good news, the standard 1 mile square course was to be adjusted, we were required to visualise this as the buoys were yet to be placed, suffice to say the square would be replaced by a half mile triangular course, meaning ten clockwise laps not 5! what a nightmare, Neil Streeters boat 'Suva' would be anchored at the base of the triangle, we would simply swim by, shout names and numbers and be ticked off...easy enough...?

Around 10:15 swimmers after downing a litre of maxim, we were counted into the water and off we went, the water was 58f  about 14.5c, the usual dog fight at the first turn buoy before the field spread and clear water appeared, it was a little bumpy you might say, the incoming tide was bringing big swells, and wind brought with it just about every weather type known to man, we had rain, sunshine, hail, cloud, wind all in the space of three hours. The photographs do not capture the water movement sadly.

Neil was unable to anchor Suva on the silt bottom of the harbour which resulted in the first lap being more of a square due to drift, a change of plan emerged as numbers were now being taken by a rib, it seemed to take forever to reached six laps, I was worried I was going to have to do eleven as the rib was away performing a rescue during one of my passes. After what seemed like an age without a feed in the choppy swells, I swam upto the the first turn buoy on completion of lap ten only to be told to swim to Suva and give my number again, after 3hours and 10 minutes I was heading to shore after what felt like more than 5 miles, having battled the breakers at the beach, it was actions stations to feed and warm up before the start of the 3 mile swim in less than and hours time.
After a sit in the car and chat with Joe, being attended to by the motherly KGB we emerged to be given the news that due to several issues (abandonment's, injury to kayak safety crew and the weather conditions) the 3 mile event was cancelled. Most of the experienced swimmers stated the 5 mile swim was nearer 6 so that was pleasing but I didn't know how to feel in truth...the lazy part of me was relieved, the planner in me was disappointed, I felt a little cheated but accepted the cancellation decision and spent the next hour or so catching up with some friends who we hadn't seen for some time.
Several 'legends' for me to introduce to Joe, the likes of Kevin Murphy (The King of the English Channel) Jane Murphy, Marcy MacDonald, Freda, Nick Adams, Nuala, Dee, Liane, Thomas, Rebecca Lewis to name a few.
The course was then re positioned closer to land for the 1 mile event, two laps and that was us all done, we hung around for about an hour for the presentation and then due to delays hit the road for the seven hour drive home.
Tired and a little disappointed due to the lack of the 3 mile swim but overall very happy to have swam for 3 hours without a feed at 58f, something I have not managed before now.

Thank you as ever to KGB for your help and support, to Joe and of course the BLDSA especially the paddlers in some atrocious conditions.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

When The King speaks we should LISTEN

When Kevin Murphy -The King of The English Channel was recently asked on facebook:

"What is the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome in the Channel"

This is what he replied

"The biggest obstacle - the mind. Fifty per cent of a successful Channel swim is willpower, 25% swimming ability; 25% fitness. If you don't want it enough and you crack mentally, you won't do it. You will be exhausted. You may be sick. You may think you are never going to get there. But if you are determined enough and keep putting one arm in front of the other, you will get there. However tough it gets, remember, the discomfort is short term. The achievement lasts a lifetime."

There endeth the lesson.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Thick and Fast

The children returned to school last Monday after the the final break of the educational year, albeit will soon be the six week summer holidays. This allowed for a little more training as I continue along the road (or stepping stones as I prefer to call them), enroute to the goals for 2011.

I have developed quite a good relationship with Joe Hunter (EC Sept 2011) and together we have been swimming and laughing at the 'resort' of Seaton Carew near Hartlepool, the water up North is a little cooler than that of the English Channel therefore the time spent on the sessions is obviously nowhere near that of Freda's gang at Dover. That said, we have been making some excellent progress whilst shuffling our everyday work and family issues.

Monday 6 June 1hr 15mins @ 54f/55f
Tuesday 7 June 1hr 35mins @ 53f/54f
Thursday 8 June 1hr 25mins@ 53f

Sandettie shows the Channel in the region of 57f so this is good training for Joe (he recently swam the Eton 10km in 3h:38m and has had a three hour swim at Dover and five hours at Ellerton)

Meanwhile on Saturday I travelled together with KGB, Charlie and Lottie to the Lake District in order to meet with Andy Williams, the purpose of the rendezvous was to have a test swim to assess our pace and to discuss some of the finer details of the planned 2 Way Windermere. We were invited by Thomas Noblett to base ourselves at the delightful Langdale Chase where we were allowed full use of his swimming facilities including kayaks, jetty, changing areas etc.

Andy and I swam for an hour (59f /15c) from the Jetty at the hotel to Holme Crag, accompanied by his wife Ruth in her own sit on kayak, therefore our safety was never an issue, afterwards we warmed up in the the sunshine overlooking the lake from the beautiful hotel grounds where we were spoilt by Thomas providing us fresh coffee with scones, whipped cream and jam..heaven! After some navigation talk and general planning we left for a few hours in Ambleside before the usual 100 mile drive home, before I end this piece I should say a massive thank you to KGB for her continued support and to Thomas who could not have done more to assist....Top man.

Once home I broke most of the pre swim event rules by having a few glasses of red wine, a large hot curry and a late night (for me) watching Forrest Gump..I say pre swim as Sunday I was entered in the BLDSA Wykeham Championships.

Rising early enough to try and fail to eat breakfast, I drove the 65 miles or so towards Scarborough whilst Charlie spent some time with Grandad, it was lovely and sunny with just a little breeze, far better than the prediction. On arrival it was great to see Mark Blewitt, Nuala (Stop Talking) Muir-Cochrane, El Capitan Mark Pashby and his trusty side kick Darren as well as Jo and Amanda from Ellerton who were competing in their first BLDSA event.

I was keen to get started and return home to Charlie and was therefore a little disappointed with delayed start time,  however the 5 laps each of 1000m were soon underway, the conditions were good with the water at 60f/15.5c a little surface chop but nothing like the sea. My goal as with all of these events is firstly to finish and secondly to endeavour to complete in somewhere near to last years time of 1h:41m:12s, (the course is plotted using GPS to ensure accuracy), I was very pleased and surprised to complete my 5km in 1h:37m:45s so age has not taken too much out of me........yet. Thanks to all the safety paddlers and to Dee and Liane for running the show.

Congratulations to Amanda, Jo, Pash and Darren who all completed their swims.

As stated I was in a bit of a rush so departed prior to the awards ceremony, in fact, I was in so much of a rush that I left without my tracksuit bottoms, it was only a few miles up the road I realised I was in fact driving home in speedos with a towel around my waist (I am so pleased I didn't get pulled for speeding!)

The events seem to be coming thick and fast now with The Champion of Champions event this to finish and continue the Tanni GT vocalisation...I am hoping for 2h 50m 5 miles, 1h 40 3 miles, 35 mins 1 mile..fingers crossed.

Features in H2Open

Saturday Morning bright and early I was pleased to hear the postman drop issue 3 of the H2open magazine through the letter box..and even more pleased to look at page 34, if you take a peep at the contents page you see what I mean. A nice follow on from the Dover Solo book review which appeared in issue 2.
Thanks Simon..keep up the great work, I am particularly looking forward to the 'Channel Special'

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Beth Barnes..Kayaker Extraordinaire

Many open water swimmers around the world, myself included depend on so many pieces of the jigsaw fitting together when we commence our swims, one of the most important factors on which it is difficult to place a price, is that of your support crew and pilot who provide your eyes and ears, whilst you are in a state of sensory deprivation. I really enjoyed Beth's heartfelt words and asked if I could post them here...she stated she would be honoured and thanked me for asking! Its us who are honoured and lucky to have such people around. It is such a great feeling knowing you can trust in your guide be it in the ocean or lake...thankyou to all my support team, and for Beth for writing this piece..all pics except the ones of KGB are courtesy of Beth.

For more info you can visit Beths site aptly named

Before the veil of stars gives way to dawn, the rhythmic sound of stroke-after-stroke is the only indication that anything disturbs the vast and relative calm of the Catalina Channel. The synchronized efforts of swimmer and kayaker, slowly but methodically slicing their way through the swells, are but a radar blip on the universe’s screen. The night is eerily and barely illuminated by several light sticks and the dim shadows of the support boat in the distance, so darkness prevails while Catalina Island fades and the Palos Verdes Peninsula beckons. It is a slow, methodical, and heroic journey - a Southern California pastime that few can imagine and fewer still will experience.

Open water swimming is a sleeping giant, yawning and stretching and ready to awaken with a roar. It won’t be long until athletes of all abilities, keen for the next big challenge, grab cap, goggles and body grease and challenge the open water. Few, however will find the strength of mind and body to brave this cold and foreboding channel. If they do, they’ll need me, or someone like me, in a kayak next to them. These waters can be welcoming and calm, or they can be wild and uninviting with currents that are unpredictable and treacherous, and the cold is an ever-looming demon.
According to the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, the 2010 season was a record year for swimmers with over forty elite athletes attempting the sanctioned swim. During the 2009 season there were just fifteen crossings. The Catalina Channel is a challenge on par with the English Channel, but the wait for optimal conditions does not hamper the marathon swimmer in California as it does the one at the white cliffs of Dover.

For a small group of committed and elite marathon swimmers the Catalina Channel is also but one swim in a trio of swims that comprises the Triple Crown of marathon swimming. The Triple Crown is earned by swimmers who complete the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, the English Channel Swim and the Catalina Channel Swim. Less than forty athletes have earned this illustrious accolade to date, and U.S. Masters swimmers Jim Barber, 51, who swims for YMCA Indy SwimFit, holds the record for taking the longest time – 22 years - to complete the swims. Rendy Lynn Opdycke, 27, from Novaquatics Masters, completed the challenge in an impressive thirty four days.

Due to the unpredictable conditions during the daylight hours, swimmers begin their Catalina crossing around midnight from a small, secluded and very dark cove on Catalina Island’s west end. They have to travel there from the California mainland, crossing the very channel they will immediately have to cross again under their own power. In order to complete a sanctioned and official swim, a trained Catalina Channel Swimming Federation observer is on board the support vessel that will transport the swimmer and their team to the island. During the two hour boat ride, the observers are finalizing details and ensuring each team member understands what is expected. The team will usually include family members, friends and pace swimmers, all of whom understand the intensity of the occasion and all of whom are there for one reason … to support their swimmer.

To complete the personal and hand chosen team, there will be two support kayakers who may be strangers to the swimmer and family, but they will be equally committed. The volunteer kayakers will take shifts throughout the night and will be constant companions, stroke-by-stroke during the journey, moving in unison with the swimmer in order to keep them on course. If their course is altered in any way this can add extra strokes to the swim which will mean wasted time and extra distance.

“Without a competent kayaker who knows the challenge of the open channel, including a positive attitude, the swim would be more difficult to navigate. We depend upon kayakers to be our ears, eyes, compass and lane line so we only have to concentrate on every stroke that takes us closer to our goal,” says Barber.

The swimmer is flanked by the pitching support boat on one side and the steadier kayak on the other, and although they dance to the same song, the steps are occasionally altered due to swells, currents and winds. The swimmer will sight from both boats, so they are illuminated with dull yet visible light sticks, purposely kept dim in order to avoid attracting sea life. There is a reverence about swimming under these conditions, and although it is often unspoken, an undercurrent of deep respect for the swimmer prevails.
The support kayaker is the first line of defense in the event of personal distress but most of all, the kayaker is the security blanket for the swimmer. The Catalina Channel in the darkest hours of a starless night can be an unnerving place and the company of a kayaker is a comfort, a dim beacon in an otherwise black night. It is a privilege and a terrific responsibility to be that comfort. The pace of the kayak is determined by the pace of each individual swimmer and although it seems easy, it takes strength of mind and body to maneuver a kayak across twenty one miles of open water and fortitude to remain awake. Kayaking is often done in shifts of two to three hours but six to eight hours is my goal so the swimmer is disrupted as little as possible.

It is a humbling and grueling endeavor, and these marathon swimmers are athletes of the highest order who understand that mental attitude is just as important as physical prowess. They could so easily confront the channel with the intention of conquering, but instead, they come only to connect, not to conquer. The channel reprimands ego but rewards humility so the swimmer must understand that all bragging rights are earned after enduring great difficulty.

As the trio of swimmer, kayaker and boat move toward the mainland, the swimmer’s support crew finds their own quiet corner of the pitching vessel to claim as their own. They settle down to watch the slow but methodical progress. The swimmer is lost in a private aquatic world as months and possibly years of preparation are put to the test. The kayaker watches the swimmer and probably wonders, why? The crew on the boat watches both swimmer and kayaker and wonders, why?

The swimmer swims while the kayaker paddles. Two slow moving blurs in the middle of a vast and pitch-black ocean; synchronizing their strokes from one shore to another. It is as simple as that.

Monday, 6 June 2011

How we FEEL cold water

The following post appears with the permission of Donal Buckley

When you enter cold water you feel a few different sensations. I talked about habituation and gasp reflex, peripheral vaso-constriction and mammalian dive reflex before, and I’m sure I will again. But I neglected to talk about one of the most obvious effects, the feeling across your skin.Depending on your experience the feeling may be severe enough that you can’t tell exactly to which sensation it is analogous. It might feel like fire or ice or boiling water or acid or lime, or as you’d imagine them.

Those are thermoreceptors, only one of the four main types of touch receptors (extraceptors) in the skin. There are also pain receptors (nocireceptors). Ah, yes, there’s a difference.

There are apparently about 50 touch receptors per square centimetre of skin. One square centimetre is equal to 2.4710538147 x 10-8 acres in American money! (Engineer humour again).

Anyway, the main sensory input from cold water comes from the thermoreceptors. Thermoreceptors are of two types, sensing both heat and cold. And … there are about four times as many cold receptors as heat receptors. And, the maximum density of cold receptors is where?

Oh yeah, you swimmers know – there are more in the face and ears! Yes, the bits that hurt the most, and go cold the quickest.

In The Nervous System in Action, author Michael Mann says “in estimating skin temperature, people are quite accurate in the region of normal body temperature, 37 ºC to 38 ºC, but they consistently overestimate higher and underestimate lower temperatures.” Interesting. I think after a certain time cold water swimmers develop a really good internal estimation system for cold. If Lisa or Rob tell me the water is 8 ºC, I believe them. Partly because of their experience, partly because of mine.

Mann further says “starting at 28 ºC, the temperature has to be raised by about 1 ºC [ ... ] to elicit a sensation of warmth or lowered by 0.15 ºC to elicit a sensation of cold.”

That’s probably a surprise for many of us. I certainly thought I could detect a heat change (to warmer water) of maybe half a degree once I was swimming and cooled down. Of course unlike measuring temperatures before and after swimming, I’ve never had a way of checking this.

He makes a significant point that these changes are contingent based on whatever the acclimation temperature is “When the temperature of the skin is changed rapidly, the sensation evoked depends not only on the amount and direction of change, but also upon the temperature from which it is changed, the acclimation temperature.”

And Mann has a nice experiment: “To convince yourself that these observations are accurate, try the following experiment: Fill three bowls with water: one lukewarm, one cold and one warm. Put the left hand in cold water, the right in warm water for a while and then place both in the lukewarm water. A clear sensation of warmth will occur in the left hand and a sensation of cold in the right. An important conclusion from Figure 5-8 is that the same temperature can feel either warm or cold depending upon stimulus conditions, i.e., the acclimation temperature”.

(You could do that with just three glasses of water and hold them instead).

Heat receptors start to perceive heat above 30 ºC. and continue to perceive heat until the maximum receptor stimulation which occurs at 45 ºC. Over 45 ºC, pain receptors take over to avoid (Stop! Heat! Burn!) damaging the skin and body.

Cold receptors only start to perceive cold below 35 °C. Normal core body temperature is 37 °C. So you start to feel cold pretty quickly. And there is obviously a five degree cross-over where both hot and cold receptors are operating. I guess it is partly the balance of these two that help indicate level of comfort.

Drum roll. At five degrees C. cold receptors no longer operate. Unlike with heat, the pain receptors don’t come into operation. So … you start to go numb, end of pain.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

As luck would have it

This vocalising business seems to be helping a little bit (Thanks Tanni) partly because it sets a target / partly because of the embarrassment which follows should the said target not be reached for anything other than a near death excuse.

Several members of the OWSNEE Facebook group had committed to attending Ellerton Lake on Thursday 2nd June, most of whom planned to arrive around 5pm, however Joe Hunter and I arrived early in attempt to rack up three for a change, the North East of England had been baked in glorious sunshine all day, resulting in perfect conditions, the water had shot up to 17C, it was glass like in appearance with the air temperature in the region of 24 degrees!!

We swam around the outer edge of the whole lake rather than the usual ten minute loops around the buoys, this made for a far less boring session, with each lap taking in the region of half and hour, we fed on the hour, the time was passing OK once we had finished the dreaded first 60 minutes..sometime after the 5pm feed we were joined by several other swimmers both in and out of rubber.

Having exited the water after 3 hours and 10 minutes, I was toying with mixed emotions, on the one hand I was delighted to have completed the time with no issues apart from a little fatigue in the shoulders, on the other hand I was feeling a bit of a fraud due to the exemplary conditions, surely anybody could have swam for three hours in that near bath like water??

It was certainly somewhat easier than the hour we had swam the day before at Seaton Carew in 11c / 52f, but I suppose that's just the luck of the draw..

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

H2Open in WHSmiths

From June 13th UK residents will be able to purchase H2Open in selected branches of WHSmiths..the participating branches are nationwide, subscriptions are still available too.