Sunday, 23 November 2014

Ocean Walker on Teesside

If memory serves me correctly, I first met Adam Walker in 2008 whilst swimming in Dover Harbour. He went on to swim swim The English Channel that year in an impressive time of 11 hours 35 minutes.

Fast forward to 2014 Adam was well on his way to becoming the first Britain to complete 'The Oceans 7' and was now hosting swim training camps both at home and abroad. His coaching sessions looked interesting though I had not personally attended, as luck would have it one such camp was taking place this summer at Bishopton Lake (about 5 minutes from home) I took this opportunity to briefly meet up and had a rather inspirational chat with him that evening and decided to keep a closer eye on his progress.

August soon arrived and whilst I was completing one way Windermere number 5, Adam was completing the North Channel from Ireland to Scotland and in doing so made it 7 out of 7.

By now he was pretty much flirting with celebrities! telling his story loud and proud. I therefore more or less pestered him to attend the Stockton area where he could also speak, providing I could gather sufficient interested parties.

Yesterday around 60 of us gathered at David Lloyds Teesside where we were first entertained with some acoustic singing by Gemma (Adams girlfriend) followed by Adams story, unfortunately I missed the first ten minutes or so of the talk as I had volunteered to sell raffle tickets !! I soon got up to speed as Adam engaged with the audience rattling off the details of all seven crossings. The presentation was very well received and I thank Adam for making the effort to travel to our neck of the woods.

The next morning....after far too much alcohol, with a bed time long after midnight, I was back to David Lloyds for a 1 to 1 technique/video analysis session. Feeling slightly under the weather I found the session quite demanding but extremely beneficial. Adam (who uses a rhymical hip rotation to maximise his power and glide) gave clear explanations and demos which I was soon imitating and practising.(at least I was attempting to!) He stayed in the water with me for in excess 2 hours and recorded several elements as we built my stroke in a series of drills. On completion we viewed the recordings and chatted regarding the way forward.

This for me this was the highlight of the weekend, if you are considering or feel the need for some stroke improvement/analysis, I would recommend being Walkerized!!

Friday, 21 November 2014

One of those days

I wonder just what your thoughts were as you read the title of this post...I suspect it may well have been something along the lines of that old Elvis Presley track where "Nothing goes right from morning til night" well surprising enough the reason for the title is the exact opposite.

I have been back to the pool for a little while now, more often than not with Miss Bell of Channel Swimming Fame. We have been doing interval sessions on average around 75 minutes, the general format is: warm up followed by either pyramids or combinations of 100s 200s 400s all on maximum effort trying to hold form with sufficient rest to facilitate the next effort.

Training with another swimmer guarantees greater effort, I'm not sure if that is an ego thing or due to the fact that you know you are not the only one suffering, coupled with being far less boring.

Thursday this week we had planned another similar session, an uneventful steady warm up circa 700m, it was then decided (by Miss Bell) we were doing intervals of 400s, I swam the first two laps harder than normal (I usually try to build the pace on anything longer than 200s) for some unknown reason I was able to maintain this pace and knew I was making excellent progress and yet felt fresh in total control and in no way fatigued) touching after the 16 laps my co-swimmer uttered a few expletives with the closing line "Are you on drugs" She too had noticed an increase in what is my standard best pace.

The same feeling of well being, flow, glide and effortless swimming continued for the remainder of the set. We said our goodbyes and I disappeared for a sauna. I quizzed myself for the reason behind this great session but was unable to find answers. I had been to work all day, I had eaten as poorly as ever, my sleep has at best has been broken due to the arrival of a noisy pup. I just couldn't fathom it.

So I guess I was just fortunate to experience 'One of those days', when for reasons beyond my control everything fell into place, the sort of peak you really want to hit on the day of a major target. I don't know the answer, I wish I did. Do you??

Thursday, 30 October 2014

CSPF 2014 Season Stats..a closer look

I have a day off work and thought it would be interesting to have a closer look at the 2014 swim details provided on the excellent Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation website. For the purpose of this post I am referring to successful solo swims though I may have a look at the relays at a later date. I do not have all the data from the CSA Ltd hence there is no reference to swims.

The basics from the CS&PF site show there was a total of 62 crossings including a 2 way by Dori Miller. (61 swims)

As expected the organisations highly respected pilots were all pretty much equally busy, with the following successes (remember this does not include relay figures)
Paul Foreman (Optimist) 10
Lance Oram (Sea Satin) 9
Mike Oram (Gallivant) 14
Eddie Spelling (Anastasia) 9
Neil Streeter (Suva) 16
James Willi (Gallivant) 3

In total successful solo swimmers spent over 921 hours in the waters of the English Channel.

The season opened with first crossing made by Marcy Macdonald from the USA on Friday 30 June escorted as usual by Mike O and the good ship Gallivant.
The quickest crossing (10hours 50minutes) was made by Bob Fernald escorted by Lance/Sea Satin on 22 July. Track below:

The longest crossing being Tony Bailey with a mammoth breast stroke swim (25 hours 56 minutes 51 seconds) escorted by Eddie/Anastasia on 7 September. Track below:

The average crossing time this year was 14 hours 51minutes and 25 seconds with most success achieved on 5 August by five individuals Nick Adams, Amanda Bell, Stuart Bowman, Georgina Halford and of course Dori Miller and her two way.

The last solo swim was completed on 2 October by Kate Todd escorted by Neil/Suva.

I hope this is of interest :-)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The cave of light and The cave of birds

Open water swimmer Sam Krohn created this moving film of my friend Donal Buckley aka LoneSwimmer swimming the caves of Irelands Copper Coast.

If you you feel stressed... relax, unwind and enjoy this lovely film.
It's 18 minutes long but well worth watching.

I trust Donal and Sam wont mind me sharing. All credit to them for creating this.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Lewis Pugh in London

Last week KGB and I had another whistle stop trip, this time to Kensington, London where we attended the Royal Geographic Society in order to listen to the swimmer and environmentalist that is Lewis Pugh.

Whilst I have already read 'Achieving The Impossible' and am part way through '21 Yaks and a Speedo' his talk remained enthralling and inspirational.

At the close of the talk Lewis was kind enough to chat, have photos taken and sign my books with a personal note. He was totally genuine and humble. We had previously communicated online though I must admit I was suspicious that his agent may be speaking on his behalf. Our conversation took away all such thoughts as he recalled the details of these messages, and thanked us for travelling so far to attend the event.

We then spent some time catching up (in the bar where else?!) with some friends including Graeme Schlachter and Audra Turner, then to our surprise we became aware of the presence of  Cliff Golding, we were both delighted to see Cliff again as he is one of the nicest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He speaks great sense and is himself an inspirational man who I have long since admired. You may be lucky enough to meet him on a Swim Trek LDTC in Mallorca.

If you ever have the opportunity to do so I highly recommend attending such an evening. Here is Lewis' excellent website 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Pool Punctuality and Planning

I cannot say in any certainty if my desire for punctuality stems from my upbringing or a military background, without wanting to sound like a total nerd, I do prefer to be Mr Punctual or better still 5 minutes early. This can lead to frustration for many men when waiting on the opposite sex to be ready, but how very dare I say such a thing when I am told its a lady's prerogative (so much for equal ops) (Don't shout at me Dr KT).

Anyway..getting to the point, Monday, after a weekend of parental duties I arranged to meet two swimmers. For the purpose of this tale they will be referred to as Billy and Mandy. ;-) The deal was to be at the pool ready to start in the water at 4:45pm. Being that we had only recently returned to anything like intense pool sessions the plan was to have a short interval session, max effort with plenty of rest.

I even sent Billy and Mandy a text message with the set.
It was simple enough, easily doable inside the hour and read like this

1 x 200 easy warm up
8x 100 max effort
4x 200 build to max effort
8x 100 max effort
1x 200 easy swim down
Total 2800m home for tea and medals.

I foolishly (I knew it was a mistake) arrived at the pool early, rather than the standard 5 minutes before, "that's ok" I thought, they will be here soon and proceeded to start a gentle longer warm up working on some drills to improve my hand entry.

900 metres later Billy arrives and we start the set.  By the time Mandy drags her sorry backside to poolside we had almost finished the 200s! She swims her warm up and joins in for the last 8 x 100 on max effort. Billy decides that's him finished, swims down and heads for the sauna, fair enough he worked hard and can leave.

Grinning (like a red faced Cheshire Cat) Mandy thinks (wrongly) that after 800m she is finished too!! Silly Girl.

I then have to commence the 4 x 200s AGAIN followed by another 8 x 100 just so she hits the yardage planned. She too then swims down and leaves with correct figures. Meanwhile Stupid Mark here has swam 5200m and has learnt a valuable lesson.

Don't be early YOU HAVE TO SWIM MORE
Don't let people be late YOU HAVE TO SWIM MORE
Be punctual at the pool

The names have been changed (kind of) to protect the innocent. No Cheshire Cats were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Pool Tests with The Suunto Ambit3

As you will be aware I am now in possession of this great new device, at present I have only performed tests in pool environment albeit I am aware of the capability and functions it has to offer.

Initially, on first usage I utilised little more then the stopwatch and distance/lap counter. This proved to be a little frustrating with the occasional length of the 25m pool missed or rather a turn was missed, resulting in inaccurate totals for metres covered. This was addressed by the simple procedure of teaching the Ambit my stroke. (just a case of pressing a couple of buttons, selecting the appropriate stroke and swimming 25m.) Once I had gone through the 'teach phase' the device worked perfectly and never missed a beat.

The first real session was this weekend when we swam multiple 100s ie repeats of 4 lengths. It was as easy as selecting your exercise (openwater/poolswimming/running etc) and hitting the start button, the display clearly indicates the distance covered (saving me the hassle of trying to remember how many repeats, see Abacus Training!) The next line displaying the total time of the session, followed finally on the third line by the time per 100m. (It is personal preference as to what you have displayed and where). The device recognises when the swimming stops and rest periods begin and does the maths accordingly. It also counts the strokes per length and calculates your efficiency as a SWOLF number. (stroke rate plus time per length).

On conclusion of the set, the pause button is hit and the data is stored, immediately after doing so all of the figures can be viewed prior to even leaving the water. Once in proximity of your tablet or smart phone you pair the device and the data is downloaded almost instantly via bluetooth transfer.
Further analysis can then be performed, breaking down every length if you so desire, with multiple graphs and tables.

The only negative being the heart rate monitor on a standard belt style fitting slips down from the chest as one pushes off the wall. This will not be an issue outdoors and the monitor is able to store information until such times as it is in close proximity to your Ambit device.

Today I opted for the hour continuous swim, I use this set as a bench mark to measure my general fitness. I am quite pleased to not have lost too much pace over the summer (this is only my 5th pool session since April.)

Here is just one part of a screen shot whilst viewing your 'moves' via the 'movescount app' on your smart phone or tablet. As you can see, the vital stats are visible at a glance (average pace per 100m / average speed per hour, total time/distance, temperature and swolf.
There are all manner of comparables and analytic functions. Each length can be viewed as per below as can heart rate etc

Overall for pool swimming it is an absolute joy, frees my mind from troublesome mathematics, the display can be easily read on the move (at the turn) it is no more noticeable on the wrist than any other watch, it is simple to use and even motivates !

related post Openwater Testing 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR

Last week I was extremely fortunate to acquire the very latest in GPS wrist mounted gadgets in the form of the Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR. I was vaguely familiar with the Ambit2s (the previous model) due to Gav Wild using one to the record the data on my 5th Windermere. His device was also used as part of his challenge, so it was ideal to compare stats.

I will write a full review shortly suffice to say it is very impressive. The main upgrade from the Ambit2 is the ability to upload sessions via blue tooth paring no matter where you may be. No need to wait to view information as it is transferred in a matter of seconds.

In records times, distances, locations, intervals, temperature, stroke rate, heart rate, altitude,cadence, It includes compass, mapping, animations etc etc the list goes on and on.

Full review soon.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Are you a Giver or a Taker ?

That's the swim season pretty much over, except for a trip to Buttermere later this year to swim once more where it all began. (Amanda you are coming too!)

At times it feels like we have virtually never been away from The Lake District. At the outset I should take this opportunity to thank Charlie who has never complained, not even once when asked if he was happy to help others achieve their dreams or support other peoples business interests. Despite having had my fingers burnt, on the most part it has been entirely satisfying, fulfilling even emotional at times.

Windermere with Charlie to pilot for one of Amanda's 6 hour swims (kick start her EC Solo prep.)
Coniston with Charlie for my BLDSA 5 miler
Ullswater with Charlie to paddle a 7 mile BLDSA event (for Phil Yorke)
Derwentwater with Charlie to paddle a 5 mile BLDSA event (for Phil Yorke)
Windermere with Charlie to Pilot for Kathryn's One Way
Windermere with Charlie for my latest One Way
Windermere with Jason to Pilot for Gavin's One Way

I am a firm believer regarding the importance of giving back to the sport whenever we can. Swims at all ends of the spectrum are officially recorded as 'Solo' however they are without doubt always a team effort. Not just the main events but our build up and training, which can sometimes be years in the making.

We should never lose sight of, nor neglect to be grateful for the unsung volunteers who give their time to support, be it in, on or around the water. Financially assisting us to achieve our dreams or remaining at home taking care of loved ones.

Personally speaking I get a real buzz witnessing like minded people achieve what they once considered the impossible.

So if you can, give a little back. It feels good.... I promise. and above all......

Gavin Wild 1 Way Windermere

On Tuesday 16 September 2014 I was delighted to support Gav Wild during his 'Swim Long, Climb High, Ride Far Challenge. I piloted the swim returning the favour together with Jason (Gavins principal sponsor and all round great bloke) We headed down to Fell Foot at first light and began the swim at 0739am.  The start was ok weather wise however visibility soon dropped to around 20m, so poor that I had to resort to compass bearings for navigation purposes, by 95 minutes or so the sun began to shine and we blessed with perfect conditions thereafter.

A mammoth effort from Gav who suffered from mile 6 onwards. Jason was ace with his motivational techniques and feeding. We were both over joyed and rather emotional to share in the relief on completion of part 1 of the big Charity challenge for Birmingham Childrens Hospital.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Fresh Water Swimming Risk

What lies beneath, the Lurgy, hidden dangers..whichever way you wish to describe it, a bout of illness as a result of swimming in the River Tees is not the most pleasant experience.

Aside from the odd swim in the North Sea and a couple of swims Ellerton Lake, the vast majority of my open water training this year took place in the River Tees, generally somewhere near or between Yarm and Thornaby. Its free ! and its very close to home (about 2 miles)

Thanks to the installation of the Tees Barrage there is rarely a strong flow other than after heavy rainfall. The water is always brown and murky making it impossible to see anything beyond arms length, it is home to lots of fish and the usual swans and ducks etc.Parts of the river are adjacent to farmers fields some for crops others for grazing animals. Due to the steepish, tree lined banks it is pretty sheltered, meaning you rarely experience anything other than mild chop at worst.  I have mostly swam with Amanda Bell, although sometimes alone or with the occasional visitor (Mark Preston / Gav Wild). 

I have been swimming in the river for years without major incident.

Being that Gav was visiting family in the area and in an effort to get Amanda back in the water after her successful English Channel Swim, I arranged to meet both at Preston Park for an hour before work on a Thursday in mid August at 6am.

Amanda was just going to swim to the first corner whilst the boys would swim to 'The Pipey' (bridge about a mile downstream).
The swim itself went smoothly enough. the water did appear rather cooler than recent times, however nothing too severe, an hours swim, Gav and I returned to the jetty, more or less racing each other the whole way, we all dressed and went our separate ways.

Thursday no issues.
Friday no issues.
Saturday began to experience some flu like symptoms, headache, achy, temperature and general fatigue.

Didn't really think anything of it, had a nice meal Saturday evening with a bottle of wine and went to bed. I had probably been in bed around 60 minutes when I began to feel extremely ill, dizzy and very nauseas, in no time at all I was vomiting uncontrollably. This continued every twenty minutes or so for about the next six hours. I was absolutely drained my whole body felt achey, especially in the joints, my legs had virtually seized up. My head was banging.

Only as I lay in my sickbed, did I remember another group who had swam in the same river around 10 days earlier, who described virtually identical symptoms. I was also aware that one of them (Michelle GG) had been prescribed antibiotics having contracted a waterborne disease.

Before too long I was in accident and emergency at the local hospital undergoing all manner of invasive tests. I received intravenous pain relief, another for intravenous relief from the nausea, underwent an ECG had several vials of blood taken etc.

I explained to the doctor looking after me my suspicions regarding Leptospirosis and included the details of Michelle's illness, all of the staff were oblivious to this or seriousness of the disease. To their credit, they went away and educated themselves with the details. Subsequent liaison with the microbiologists regarding my blood results and I was diagnosed and began treatment for the disease with antibiotics and released.

Fortunately I had already booked around 10 days off work on holiday where I could rest and recuperate in the sunshine, The whole time abroad I felt pretty much exhausted especially in the lower limbs (I still do). A couple of minutes swimming in warm water was all I could manage. I was thankful I didn't have to work.

Having made reference to the incident on social media, I was aware that Giovanna Richards had experienced a very similar scenario. These are Gs words..

"Here is my little tale.......

I caught Lepto in the Thames in 2010 during an open water swim. Funny thing is, when I was swimming I was thinking how clean the water looked! I didnt wear a wetsuit and had no open wounds, but its inevitable that you swallow a little water now and then, which I didnt think anything of at the time.

Four days later at work I suddenly developed a terrible headache and started feeling very unwell - like I was coming down with flu. This happened in the space of an hour or two. My joints started aching and I felt very nauseous. By the time I got home from work I could barely get off the sofa and I knew I had to speak to the doctor as I recognised the symptoms of Leptospirosis.

When I was a serving police officer in the Metropolitan Police, we had talks about Lepto and carried cards with the sysmptoms (because of working near the Thames), so I put 2 and 2 together and made an appointment to see the GP.

I managed to get in the next day after a night of very high tempreture, terrible pain and swelling in my stomach around the liver, joint pain and sickness. The doctor said it was probably a virus but I pushed for a blood test and explained my recent swim in the Thames - which had followed heavy rain. I also insisted on starting antibiotics that day as I knew time was crucial when treating this illness. The GP examined me and said my liver was very swollen, so precscribed antibiotics and tests.

Luckily I started the treatment straight away as the test results came back positive for Lepto. Just a few days after I was diagnosed, Olympic Rower Andy Holmes died at Kings College Hospital of the disease.

It took me about 3 months to recover fully and for my liver to recover. It was very unpleasent and made me feel terribly poorly and exhausted.

I will never swim in the Thames again and am always careful now to stay away from the banks of any open body of water that I swim in, where it is more likely to be infected by mammal urine.

I would advise any open water swimmer to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical attention if they become unwell after an OW swim and not to be fobbed off by their doctor, but to insist on blood test and antibiotics. 

Thankfully this disease is rare, but it is potentially life threatening if left untreated."

So folks, familiarise yourself with the symptoms and know what to do, do not be afraid to explain your concerns hospital staff, better safe than sorry.

I will return to the river but will ensure I don't have any open wounds and always wear my ear plugs.

Almost forgot to include that Gav has been as bad as a dog too. !

Enough said !! 

Windermere V .. Suunto track (video)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Interview with EC swimmer Amanda Bell Part 4 of 4

AB " I did consider stopping and asking them, but I'm not so sure I would have started again once I stopped, so I just kept swimming and swimming, the next thing was seeing the rib (rigid inflatable boat used for escorting the swimmer when the water is too shallow for larger vessel) coming off the rear of the boat which made me give a little YAY !! And then even though it came off the back it just sat there, at the other side of the boat, occasionally I would slip behind the boat and again I would see the rib. I'm not sure if this was deliberate from Eddie, I suspect it was, in order to give me a boost, then I would find myself at the front thinking YES The boat is stopping now it's getting really close, then we would go through the whole cycle again. With every stroke I took I was longing for the boat to go away, so that it was just me and the rib. I could see the vague outline of land ahead, but it was so dark I couldn't tell if it was really close or far away. It remained like that until such time as the rib crew said "That's it, you are there" it didn't change in appearance at all. I still had no idea how long, so I swam on and then I more or less bumped into sand. I was there. I had done it.

MR " How did you feel?"
AB " It was a real anti climax, I know this sounds really negative but it wasn't at all how I had envisaged it would be. Nothing like what had been going through my head for hours and hours. You know when you see videos of people in daylight, with lots of cheers and arms held aloft, it was nothing like that. It was pitch black. I couldn't see anything aside from a small light on the rib, and light further off on Anastasia. So I stood up, on the beach, alone, raised my arms in the air and said Yaay (spoken in a very soft unassuming lonely manner) pretty much to myself. I didn't look for pebbles it was pointless in the dark on a sandy beach. I just felt relieved. I suppose inside I was chuffed I had done it, it hadn't really sunk in."

MR " Did you cry"
AB " No, I just go back in, I wanted to get back to the boat and get dressed. I wouldn't get in the rib, there was no way, you know what I am like, there was only one boat I was getting on. So I swam back to boat and whilst doing so swam into the biggest almighty jelly I had encountered all day. It was so large and hard I thought my hand had hit the rib. I received a mild sting and made it back to the boat. I climbed aboard where everyone was fussing. I was grateful though I was still capable of getting dressed. We sat and chatted for a while. My priority was to let those closest to me hear the news in particular the children. The crew retired to the bunks so I got wrapped up and stayed on deck and rested til we arrived back in Dover. I felt better than at the end of the 2 way Windermere, no banging headache and there had been no vomiting. I pretty much stuck to the maxim and it wasn't a problem "
MR " Awesome, is there anything you would like to add"

AB "Yes absolutely, there are many people to thank. Firstly, thank you Mark for taking the time to interview me and write about my swim. Much appreciated! The many people who have helped and supported me along the way. I couldn't have done it without the support from lots of other swimmers not least Adam Walker for his technique sessions and Nick Adams for the Eton Camp. The many others for training with me, and of course Freda Streeter and the Dover beach crew. Mark Sheridan and his family for their hospitality. The kind words of support and understanding from all family & friends.

To my colleagues at work and for all the support and efforts of the pupils at OLSB. I thank you all. 

Thanks also to my Pilot Eddie Spelling his crew on Anastasia, along with my crew on board, Johanna Barkwith, Barbara Brown, Kathryn Ayre & John Mace. Ground control, that's you Mark, you were not only a great support during the swim but a major part of the build up and part of the inspiration in the first place, even though you won't like me saying that and probably won't include it. I want it in! Also to Charlie your son for giving up his days off to crew for miss in the water! (Amanda is Charlie's science teacher)

To Georgina for being incredibly courageous during exceptionally difficult times. An inspiration to all.

Final thanks has to go to my ever supportive children, Joe, Adam and Emma. They are simply awesome!"

MR " Amanda I am sure I speak for many many people, when I say congratulations, I am very proud, thank-you for you honesty. I am certain you have inspired lots of people, not only swimmers but everyday folk who think they are having a bad day. Thankyou for allowing me to part of your journey"

It is only right to include The Justgiving page to close.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Interview with EC swimmer Amanda Bell. Part 3 of 4


AB " Those first few hours were more worrying because I knew I had done them before, nobody would be impressed, your mind is continually trying to work out where you are, you don't know where you are, you haven't a clue, but you look for clues. You look to see how far the shore has gone and you look to see how far Suva is ahead !! (giggles) and you look to see if you can sight any big ships because you know when you do see those ships, you are heading towards the shipping lane. It was a constant pointless calculation, but there was soon something very major to think about. It was about 3 hours in and there was massive massive jelly fish,  greater than the size of a dustbin lid. If I could go again without the worry of being stung,  it would be great to just look, as there was so many different varieties that you would not believe possible. From the small ones you see washed up on the beach, to massive barrel ones, small heads and long long tentacles, you name it, I was stunned at the numbers."

MR " What was going through your head when you were seeing them"
AB " At first it was no no no they are horrible, they are massive, but they were quite far down, so it was a case of, oh that's ok then, I had spoken to Jason Betley on the beach who had just swam his solo, we had a discussion about when jellies come to the surface and when they sink down, was it when the sun was up or when it was down? I couldn't remember which way around it was !  I thought they are horrid but they are down there, I will be fine. Unfortunately that wasn't the case I was stung huge amounts of times probably between the fourth and the eight hour, it seemed as though I couldn't switch off and swim because I was constantly under the fear of the jelly fish, waiting for the next sting. There was even times when I was stopped swimming, back pedalled to go around them rather than be stung yet again. In hindsight that was probably stupid, but I couldn't help it. Some of the stings were really painful (shows evidence on forearms as she speaks)."

MR " During this difficult period did you every think I can't do this ?"
AB " Yes that was the 8 hour mark when I said to the crew, I'm struggling, what I meant by that was after eight hours I've got so long to go and I'm sick to death of looking for jellies, being stung by jellies, being frightened by jellies, I just wanted to get out"

MR " Was that due to pain or more mental fatigue?"
AB " It was more tired than pain, the stings are not pleasant, and in isolation they wouldn't be a show stopper, they do take your breath away but nothing more than that. Apart from that one (shows arm again bearing the scars) but that was later."

MR " OK we are around the eight hour mark, you're feeding was going to plan, on the hour for three hours, then every 45 minutes, when did you drop to 30 minute feeds?"
AB "That was at seven hours 30 (refers to written notes from crew) because I have asked them to and told them I'm struggling and yet I didn't quite know why, I knew I was sick of the jellies, it wasn't just that I had been swimming for so long and felt like I had got nowhere. Physically my shoulders had been much worse than they were, it was just wrong, everything was wrong. (sounds and looks sad reliving the moment) it's difficult for me to explain how I felt. I just couldn't do it. It was too big, I was wishing I'd never even started, but also in my head I knew I had not come far enough to have given this a good go, I had so much further to go. I still wanted to get out, it was just horrible and I was only eight hours in. I didn't ever think I was going to make it all away to France. Ever. Ever. It was so depressing, that all of the training and all of those hours and all of those people watching, sending those messages, telling you to keep going. I didn't think I was going to be able to bounce back from this low."

MR " Let's move on from this depressing phase you are going through"
AB "  Yes, well before the separation zone, I remember seeing ships each time I took a breath, I'm thinking OMG there are huge I did actually express this to the crew, it was sheer amazement that I was so close to these huge ships, however there was never a single moment that I felt worried about the ships. I had every faith in Eddie that he would keep me safe. The size of them and the number of them, it was totally amazing, if anything that was one of the highs. The separation zone was just fantastic, I could've swam in there all day, no jellies to worry about whatsoever if there was, it was tiny little ones.  I suddenly started to feel better, that I could focus solely on swimming. I knew I was halfway."
MR " Were you told that you're in the separation zone or are you aware of it due to the position of the ships behind you?"
AB " A bit of both really, I also asked to check. I referred to it as the central reservation after Michelle's (MGG) previous jokes with Eddie. That was the best part of the swim for me by far, I didn't have to worry about anything at all apart from swimming and that was great. That was the same time I was updated that Radio Tees had been on the telephone and that was also a lift just to know that somebody else cared and were interested."

MR" What was the next thing you remember, I appreciate you have been in the water a long time now, but from memory, what do you recall?"
AB " I remember at one point telling the crew that I was on my holidays and that's why I looked happy, I have since been made aware that was about 11 hours into the swim, at this point I didn't have a clue where I was, this is when the don't look forward comes into play, but again you can't help it, you can see France but then again you can see France from Dover! when you're in the water you can't, so the first sighting..well, it doesn't look that far away! I was clearly wrong, very wrong, but you perk up a little bit because you know you've done lots of hours, you can see France and you think you must be getting somewhere at last. However, I couldn't see any ships on the other side which felt really bizarre. There was hours and hours and hours when I thought I was still in the separation zone. And that made me have another lull because I thought I haven't seen any ships, I cannot be making any progress. That's the time when I should have just switched off, instead I was concerning myself with my location.

The next major thing and I always knew this was going to happen. I was asked to put in a hard hour, I had always made the presumption that this would be when we were close to finishing, this actually came at 14 hours. The message came to me from the crew, I had always been worried about this and questioned how anybody could do a hard hour after such a long time swimming. That said, my stroke rate went up and I managed to maintain the increased turnover. I was aware that this increased effort could be the difference between, saving a few hours, being successful or maybe being pulled. I just had to switch off. So I put in the hard hour, got to the next feed and was told that was great we just need another half hour like that!  So you can imagine how that felt. (shakes head) I lost count how many times they said just another half an hour like that just another half an hour like that. It was starting to get dark, but again I had no idea where I was. I just thought it must be only a couple of hours now, it was quite clear that France was much closer. I didn't expect at that point , there were still going to be another four hours. I wasn't getting anything information wise to tell me how I was doing, what progress I was making, nothing, just more requests for another half hour.
Then Eddie came onto the deck and I thought, this is serious. He gave me a little bit of a talking to and told me we were going to end up in a place he didn't want to be and I didn't want to be, basically told me to get on with it."

MR " Yes he actually tweeted that at the time, (making reference to Calais Harbour)"
AB " At this time I thought this could actually be the end of the swim, so anyway, I did give it another half hour, there was more feeds, but at one feed and I still didn't know what was going on. I did ask them how much longer? it was the only point I got annoyed with the crew, as the reply was something along the lines of as long as it takes. I was annoyed. I wanted some indication of whether we were on course, was it another 10 hours, just tell me, eventually I was told it was 3 miles. That made me think okay that's doable. At 16 1/2 hours I got my last feed and they told me it's about an hour to go. That wasn't telling lies, it was the information they had been given. They did attempt to feed me between again, but it would make little if any difference so to leave me swim. For me, in the water, it was awful those last two 2 1/2 hours, it should probably have been quite uplifting.  But I just kept on swimming and swimming and by this stage it was pitch black. I couldn't see the crew to get any indication and no feed stops to ask them."

Monday, 18 August 2014

Interview with EC swimmer Amanda Bell. Part 2 of 4


MR "Are you ok to carry on?"
AB " Yes, lets do this"

MR " So what about the night before, when the telephone rang."
AB " I got a text message from Eddie, just as we had put a film on to take our minds off it, I was struggling to concentrate on the film anyway, it was around 8pm, I noticed the text alert on the phone and who it was from and immediately my heart began to race before I had even read the content. The message basically said there may be a problem with the next swimmer in line and was I ready to go. It took a moment to reply "Ready when you are" Eddie answered stating that he was still out in the Channel with a completed successful swim and would give me confirmation as soon as he returned to Dover within a couple of hours. So we clearly had an hour and a half or so not to exactly run around like headless chickens but to ensure that I was ready if he said it was a go. It was a long two hours. After which the phone rings, it's Eddie and he says "We are on, meet at the boat 4 o'clock in the morning ready to go"

AB "We then started the routine of... we should really go to bed...but we can't go to bed, check and recheck everything once more, we actually again went to confirm the location of the boat even though I had been earlier in the week. We then packed the cars with everything except the feeds. I already had the maxim bagged up in the right quantities ready to put into the bottles to mix, but I wasn't really happy about the crew making my feeds up ! Once I had made the first bottle I let go of the control freak within me and let them carry on..but kept a watchful eye (giggles). Then it was finally time to try and get some rest"

MR " How did you feel at that point?"
AB " Oh wow, I don't even think I could begin to describe how I felt at that point, the timings were certainly going to fit in with my plans regarding crew and accommodation, but yeah, worry, nervous. My phone was going ballistic with messages from here, there and everywhere which was nice but everytime it buzzes you've got to check, meaning I was constantly on a state of alert, coupled with a mixture of emotions, but it certainly wasn't doom" (looks at me knowingly)

MR " So you are now all set for the off, what were biggest needs and fears"
AB "  (pauses for while) Me have needs !! (laughs) as you know we had a crew meeting before we left home and had others whilst in Dover, so everybody knew their specific role, there was lots and lots of questions but I had to try and explain to the crew that there would be times when they needed to use their initiative, to try and expect the unexpected, they did have the famous handbook from Nick Adams (Eton Swim Camp) that I had left them, which would answer many of their queries once I was in the water."

MR " Fears ?"
AB " Don't know about fears but I had many concerns, you know a lot of people are watching, you know lots of people have donated to the charities, you don't want to let anybody down. You want to be able justify their generosity, I was really worried about the journey to the start, you know that journey to Samphire Hoe ! I so did not want to be ill, my nerves were not about the swim but that journey to the start"

MR " Is your recollection of the swim clear or only the highs and lows are there any voids"
AB "  It's all pretty clear, no voids"

MR " OK this is it..tell me what you can remember"
AB "  When we got on the boat  I asked Eddie where we would be starting from, he told me Shakey.. I could have jumped for joy. We had been to the beach the day before so I knew where we were going and I knew what it was like, so I was ready at that point to get in and get on with it, the other thing was, it was dark however it was 4am, it was starting to get light. I would not have liked swimming for three or four hours in the dark at the beginning so that was good. I suppose another fear was that I would have a long swim to the start from the boat, I was relieved just how close to shore we managed to get. He said "We are ready" I just thought, great , I can get off this boat and into the water. It was a relief to get there and it was all going to be over one way or the other. I know that might sound bad but the training was hard work, it had become something I had to do, more than something I was enjoying. Every swim was becoming more and more pressure.

There was a moment right at the start when the crew thought I was having a change of heart, I went down the ladder at the rear of the boat, they thought I was hesitating to get into the water but I wasn't I was just making sure I didn't slip, bang off something before I even got started. And that was it, I was in the water and onto the beach. I noticed that Suva (Neil Streeter's Escort Boat) was next to us with another swimmer, I didn't click at the time, until we set off, then as Suva moved away at a much faster pace I realised it was Nick Adams.

The first hour went really quickly, I reckon we started seeing light within that first hour, first feed not a problem as are the next 2 to be honest, it was all moving along quite quickly, I didn't talk to the crew at the feeds, just had it and continued"

MR " What were you feeling aside from relief at this point?"
AB " I wouldn't say I was completely relaxed, I was trying to remember some of the advice, don't look back, don't look forward, it's impossible not to, especially at the feeds when you lay on your  back to drink's just there."

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Windermere ..The Fifth

I am writing this post from my sick bed having contracted leptospirosis from swimming in the River Tees, more about that at another time.

A little history on my relationship with Windermere to start with.
I first swam in England's longest lake (10.5 miles from Fell Foot to Ambleside ) in September 2007 on a Swim Trek lakes weekender (recommended if you are new to open water swimming)  these swims were pretty short and I blogged them back in the day. After this short trip I made many visits with KGB and swam numerous times usually around the north end of the lake in the vicinity of Seamew Crag.

August 2010: my first 1 Way Windermere 5h 58m during which I suffered like a dog from approximately 8 miles with motion sickness and general fatigue. My feeds were far too complicated.

July 2011: second 1 Way Windermere with Joe Hunter (EC 2011) a few days after his Seaton Carew mind numbing 6 hour swim, lots of messing around and back stroke due to Joe being very fatigued. Was still very nauseous on conclusion. 6h 42m.

August 2011: 2 Way Windermere 13h 50m first length in around 6 hours but again suffered like a dog this time from around 17 miles. This was a very tough day at the office ! though I was delighted to complete the swim and proves to be my longest swim to date.

That's pretty much the history, so having taken more or less 18 months away from Open Water, this year I needed a target (without one I don't make the effort to train) On an earlier post I mentioned the build up training being somewhat lacking, however I was of the belief I had enough miles in my body to get me through a six hour swim.

Midday on Tuesday 5th August 2014 (a significant date for Amanda Bell !) Charlie and I headed across to Langdale Chase where we had arranged to spend the night. We spent the afternoon and late late evening monitoring Amanda's Channel Swim and updated her swim page where possible. It was almost midnight by the time we managed to get to bed, I needed to rest with an early start and longish swim ahead. My mind was racing after the days activity, this coupled with some pre swim nerves led to very little sleep.

In what felt like the blink of an eye it was time to force down some breakfast. Gavin Wild (Pilot for the day) had arrived and before we knew it, the boat was loaded and the journey in the little electric boat to the start at Fell Foot was underway with Charlie at the helm. This takes around 65 minutes so plenty of time to brief the crew regarding navigation and feeds.

The swim started at  0846 in pretty poor weather, Gav started the stopwatch and I began to swim the most direct line through the moored yachts at Fell Foot, whilst Charlie and Gav took the easier route into open space. Before long the heavens opened for what seemed like a lifetime. The heavy rain flattened the water, though it did nothing for visibility or the comfort of my crew. The noise was quite weird, I actually thought it was hailstones as the bombs hit my back.

The initial plan in terms of feeding was take have 300mls of CPN (same as maxim pure maltodextrin but reportedly easier to stomach) every 45 mins, before too long I spoke mid stroke to Charlie and said "feed on the hour" as is normal at the start of a longish swim my mind was racing, I was already doing the maths and didn't want to waste to much time feeding. 

At the second feed (2 hours) we were just about level with Storrs Temple. I remember drinking as quick as possible and saying to Gav "Don't get pushed right" at this point I knew exactly where we were and what the next sighting point was around Ferry Nab.

The weather had started to improve in that the torrential rain had turned to showers, part of the roofing in the boat was removed occasionally though I could see the flag alpha fully aloft as the wind began to build.

Before the next feed we negotiate the rear of the stationary chain ferry (the start and finish point of my 2 way swim in 2011) again the boat/crew took the safest route through the shallows and I cut the corners in the most direct route swimmable, I was still clear in the head and was hoping to keep time to a minimum. 

Somewhere around 'The Lillies' I took the third feed, and glanced ahead to the newer jetty at Bass Rock where the cross over would begin, I asked to drop to 45 minute feeds from now and began to swim on. Mentally this was the toughest part of the day, it felt like it was taking an eternity to make up some distance, I fed again before the cross over at which point the fun began.

The weather had improved again in that the sun was almost always present, however the wind coupled with the lack of exposure away from the lakes western side made swimming conditions a little tougher. I told. Charlie "next feed in 30 minutes" the intention being to swim hard and attempt to get about a mile of the crossover over with whilst I still had some energy. I was getting the thumbs up from the crew and was aware that my stroke rate had picked up. 30 mins soon passed at which point pilot Gav said words to the effect of 'keep that up and we will break 5hours 30' my reply was a simple "NO CHANCE" in hindsight I had probably swam a little to hard and I began to pay the price.

From a physical standpoint, this point to Holme Crag were by far the toughest, due to the wind and the swell from passing steamers I had to distance myself from the boat, failure to do so just meant I was getting some rebound from the boat adding to the difficulty, another couple of short feeds I could see Langdale followed by Low Wood, we were being pushed into the bay slightly but I was very aware of the visual target at Holme Crag. The boat swapped sides and again I took the shortest route, passing the rock I gave the crew a wave and my spirits lifted knowing the end was in sight. I tried to sprint the remainder of the course passing the YHA and into Waterhead and the jetties. 

The watch stopped and it was all over, I was delighted for a number of reasons.
There was no sickness
I had completed the swim on little training comparative to other years.
I had achieved a personal best by 12 minutes in not exactly perfect conditions.


Massive thanks to Gav for Piloting, I will be doing the same for you in less than a month, and to my top crew mate and feeder Charlie Rob.

Charlie piloted us back to the boat hire place after which it was straight to Langdale to see Thomas and Claire for tea and medals !

In closing I believe I can still reduce my time by around another 10 minutes, if you fancy this swim its easy to organise and relatively cheap compared to some of the big marathon swims, the electric boat allows for a little comfort for your support team, they don't have to row and become fatigued therefore they can concentrate on the needs of the swimmer, granted the boat is not rapid in the event of an emergency (though you are never more than an hour from Bowness) but that is the only downside and I wouldn't expect anyone to start without some experience.

Interview with EC swimmer Amanda Bell. Part 1 of 4

First and foremost thank you for the opportunity to conduct this interview, Whilst I already know what to expect from some of your answers, I thought it would perhaps be of benefit to some open water swimmers with aspirations to swim the English Channel.

At the outset I want to remind people that your swim was dedicated to Georgina and raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust / Cancer Research UK and additionally that it's never too late to donate to your charity on the just giving page here.

MR "When you first decided to swim the English Channel how long did you set aside and what specific training plan did you have in mind in order to build up to what is termed the Everest open water swims?"
AB " When I first booked the Channel swim it was to do a relay with a friend,  due to a change in circumstance and as time moved on, this changed to a solo, so I started looking at doing longer distances whilst training in open water, starting with a one-way Windermere in August 2012 (6h 15m) after which I was absolutely shattered ! That was a huge swim for me.
The next year I built up to a 2 Way Windermere (13h 42m in August 2013) with six-hour training sessions in various locations as prep."

MR " OK that brings us to 2014, what was your plan this year."
AB " Initially I didn't have a specific written plan, I just knew I had to swim as much as I possibly could. Looking back and hind sight is a wonderful thing, I don't think I did sufficient interval sessions in the pool during the winter. I certainly didn't complete as many as in the previous year. My training was virtually exclusively in open water even through the winter. "

MR " Do you think that is partially down to the crazy idea of doing an ice mile!? "
AB " Well yes, although it was never really planned to do an official ice mile, I just really enjoy open water, and pool stuff ,well, it's just not the same. That said, it did make a big difference coming to April May time when I was easily able to complete a couple of hours whilst most other open water swimmers were only just starting outside"

MR " So once the open water season started in earnest did you have some targets that you wanted to hit"
AB " Yes, early on it was to get a two hour session as soon as possible. I was keeping an eye on social networks to see who was doing what and where, as a bit of a benchmark to see where I needed to be, after which I just wanted to build up and get as many six hour sessions as possible bearing in mind I had to juggle my swimming with work and family. "

MR " What do you consider to be the most tough or the most beneficial training sessions you did this year?"
AB " They were all beneficial and they were all tough in different ways, one of the hardest things is when you know you haven't been in the water as long as you should, not because you are tired and not because you can't physically do it, just because you can't be bothered. I think the most beneficial will be the seven and six-hour at Dover with Freda's beach crew. I know certainly for myself and a friend, I don't think he will mind me saying we both (Mark Sheridan and I) then considered we had a chance of being successful. Then of course the Seaton Carew swims (she laughs and smiles knowingly) some of which were not successful due to our friend Sammy the Seal !!! "

MR " Am I right in assuming that the swims you consider to be of greatest value were mentally tougher than physically demanding?"
AB "Definitely, I don't think there has been many swims and I know this might sound silly, but physically it was never an issue. Sometimes it's plain boredom."

MR " Thanks for that,  let's jump forward to closer to the big day, I would like you to tell readers about the days prior to your swim following arrival in Dover at the beginning of your tidal slot"
AB " Once we arrived in Dover I kind of made the rule with the crew that we weren't going to have any talk about the weather and if and when I might go, that was going to be entirely down to Eddie (Eddie Spelling Anastasia pilot) it would be pointless to speculate. I tried to distance myself from the whole business of Channel Swimming, yes we went to Dover beach where I swam with others and that was great, but I only did an hour or so. And didn't even get told off by Freda which was quite nice ! I didn't want to get on the treadmill of could be today, it could be tomorrow.  I had some highs and lows that's for sure, though my only big worry was not getting the opportunity to start the swim. I just had to believe that it would work out. Despite trying to distance myself from it all we did visit Varne Ridge which may not have been the best idea. Seeing all the plaques of successful Channel  swimmers, then...obviously...seeing the two plaques for Susan and Paraic really made it hit home, I think the crew were really excited, however for me it had a massive emotional impact."

pause to gather our thoughts and pay respect to lives lost.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

More legends

Whilst I am congratulating individuals, there are other swimmers who have been legendary in their efforts this year.

Emma France who has not only recovered from cancer, she then swam The English Channel for a second time just for the hell of it in an awesome 12h 58 mins smashing her PB. As if that was not enough a week later she swam around Jersey in 11h 46m. Incredible.

Mark Sheridan another top bloke, total gent and all round nice man. He also swam The Channel in 14h 33mins. Check out his website.

Nick Adams on virtually no training swam The Channel for THE TENTH TIME.

All are genuine honest generous swimmers who go out of their way to help others.
Congratulations and thanks for the inspiration.

Not to mention Adam Walker the first British Oceans 7 swimmer.


The following words are similar to those I posted on social media recently.

Sometimes... if you are very lucky, someone you know, or better still someone you have helped, achieves a lifelong dream, when that happens it fills you with a warm happy glow. Not only do I want to publicly congratulate Amanda but also thank her for making me feel so very very proud. Like Joe Hunter, I was fortunate enough (together with Charlie) to be allowed to witness some of her build up to the immense swim.

My sea legs or rather lack of prevented me from being present of the support boat Anastasia, however I was hooked to the CS & PF tracker system all day, finding myself close to tears when she landed in France after almost 18 and a half hours of swimming.

There will be much much more to follow from Amanda soon so check back soon.

its never too late to donate to her charity

Congrats again Belly. Hopefully reality it is beginning to sink in.

Its been a while

As the title states, it has indeed been a while. I miss writing for the site so a long overdue return is happening. I have some exciting ideas for writings and interviews, but first of all a little of what has been going on in my world of swimming.

For the benefit of those who don't know me in person, I more less took a break from almost all things swim related until the beginning of 2014, starting back with the usual monotonous pool sessions. If I am totally honest these outings did not stand the test of time for two reasons, firstly just as I was getting some form and fitness back the grotty pool closed for refurbishment (it looks no better and is certainly no cleaner) and I was pretty bored.

So there I was festering away whilst attempting to cope with some other testing matters (mostly work related) when out of the blue I was called by Joe Hunter (EC 2011) who, to my horror , asked if I fancied a swim at the lake.

It had been 616 days since I had swam outside, so I knew it was going to be a shock to the system, and indeed it was. I was cold, out of breath and acting like a total new starter. This however proved to be the kick up the backside I needed and I was soon making regular trips to the river, mainly with Amanda Bell who I had promised to help where possible with her up and coming EC swim during the first August neap tide.

Anyway, I re joined the BLDSA and swam the Wykeham Lake Triangular 5km on June 8th in 1h 37m 45s which was more or less exactly what I had managed in previous years with a fraction of the training. 

I was my finis hydro tracker to map swims as above until it gave up the ghost during one of Amandas six hour efforts on Windermere. Its an excellent bit of kit but I am growing increasingly frustrated at the customer services regarding replacement

Next up in terms of events was Sun 20 July BLDSA Coniston 5.25 miles which I swam in 2h 41m 21s thrashing my new found swim pal Gavin Wilde by a full 40 seconds ! (sorry Gav, couldn't resist)

Finally bringing you right up to date was last weeks swim. A 1 way Windermere about which I will add further details on a future post, suffice to say I was delighted to brake my PB by 12 minutes swimming the 10.5 miles in 5h 46m 56s. More to follow very soon.