Nowt to do with swimming.

"It will be fun" I said. To Kaz. Following the warmest weeks in October on earth. So I booked the Wiggle bike ride for Sunday 6 November. 

The day dawned misty and very cold. I had been staying at the van. It was so cold I had the heating and the fire on for a while. I had set the heating to come on at 6am on Sunday but had woken up at 5.30am feeling a bit cold. Thankfully I had the foresight to take the fan heater's remote to bed with me. So I switched that on. A caravan after all is just a tin can in a field. 

I had emptied the car the night before so it was easy to load up. I had optimistically brought 3/4 length cycle trousers but wore these with Ron Hills on top. 

At 6am I decided to risk getting out of bed for a shower. I put the kettle on and was just about to get in the shower when the electric blew. I had to put on my dressing gown and go outside to the fuse box. It was freezing. The car was covered in ice and the decking was slippy. It was not light enough to cope and in any event, when the electric goes, the shower runs cold (even though it is powered by the gas)

I get into the shower only to discover that the thermostatic bar has jammed and it is too hot for me! I dance around underneath but know that I will have to replace it. 

I have a temperature gauge in the car. I love it. When I had eventually scrapped and got in it read as 1 degree. It warned of possible ice on the road. Wohooo. Great for cycling along country lanes. 

I had arranged to pick Kaz up at 745 but arrived early as I was ready and she is notoriously late for most things. She will deny this. But I know. Time is a guide anyway. She was in fact ready when I called. She had been to the Channel Swim dinner the night before. Having not got to bed till 2am she was less than raring to go. Particularly as it was so cold. Still, as we faffed abit at her house, the sun came out. This doubled the temperature to 2 degrees.

We drove to Folkestone racecourse where we could park and register. I had already done this on line but the system had not saved the details so we both had to fill in emergency contact numbers. In the unlikely event of anything happening we used each others! 

I have to say that Wiggle events are supremely well organised. We were set off in waves. We found ourselves at the front of ours so we hung back to let the others go before us. 

It was a great ride. Kaz did great as she has not been on her bike for most of the year. I have been commuting and doing a few rides here and there. (including a 50 miler with my friend Emma a few weeks before) It was cold and we both had very cold feet. We had wrapped up warm and the layers stayed on. 

 

the layers stayed on
the layers stayed on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaz had gone for the eyes only exposed look. Whilst we did warm up and we did become aware that our feet were no longer blocks of ice, it did not really ever get warm in spite of the sun. 

Commuting on my heavy steel touring bike, laden with panniers and cycling up my hill has put me in good stead for this type of ride. The bike felt light and it was easy

The ride was 24 miles and it took us about 2 hours. Kaz averted catastrophe when her shoe lace somehow came undone, escaped from under the Velcro safety catch and caught within her chain. I missed this excitement as I had gone ahead. I waited at a turn for Kaz to catch up. She was some way behind and this was the reason why. How she did not fall off? It can only be described as good luck. We both managed the hills  (slopes). 

We have some other cycle events to look forward to next year. We are doing a hilly Bala cycle with our friend Emma next May and have decided to do another Wiggle event next September. 

So nowt to do with swimming. Except we did have views of the English Channel on a number of occasions. I do see it and want to get in. But alas there was no time for such activity today. 

Back by popular demand….

Well Ali asked me if I would start my blog again. So that is one request. But Ali is very popular and she demanded it! What could I say? She had read some in her memories on facebook and told me she had missed it.  

Coincidentally we had also met for a swim on Sunny Sands. 8.30am on a Sunday morning (well really 9.30 as the clocks had gone back the night before. Why do we always say that? And express surprise that it is dark an hour earlier that evening!) 

Any way we had arranged to meet on the beach. High tide was 10.30 (adjusted for daylight saving time) so we had around 90 minutes of beach left from which to swim. 

Ali was a little late, only ten minutes or so. There had been a thick fog which had made driving tricky. Yet the beach was bathed in bright sunshine.  

I had taken a chair to the beach. It is the time of year where dogs are allowed back on the beach. They seem to be attracted by seemingly abandoned bags and will often cock a leg on them. At least if the bag is on the chair there is less chance of it being actually peed on. 

I was ready. Ali had her cossie on under her clothes. We were raring to go. Ali searched through her belongings several times before exclaiming that she had forgotten her goggles and her hat! (She has only been swimming for a lifetime!) I did not have any spares. In fact Ali has my spares and she had forgotten that too! I offered her my hat but need the goggles to see as they are prescription ones. She declined. We agreed we would just Angel Swim. That is a style of swimming where you lay on your back with your arms out and float. It is very comfortable. Victoria invented it. Well named it really as I had seen other people do this type of swimming while I was training for events. It always looked very relaxing. 

We moved our things further up the beach away from the tide (which had crept up on us) and decided to get in. 

We entered the water and stood around talking for some time. Those that know us well will realise that this is most unusual as we are more inclined to JFDI! We had not seen each other for a while so decided to catch up a bit. 

Topics inlcuded

1) Our friend Victoria had had a baby a couple of weeks before. She had named her after my swim safety device. I was most touched. Bably Flo(rence) named after Flo my swim float. How cute is that? 

2) Lack of swim mojo – Ali suggested that starting my blog up again would help with the swim mojo. (So here I am and I will let you know)

3) Jobs – changes of jobs and how working gets in the way of swimming

4) If Neal the seal turned up Ali said she would scream, push me between Neal and her and make good her escape

5) Richards birthday breakfast. I believed he was overly extending his birthday by several weeks but Ali informed me that this was someone who he vaguely knew. Chosing breakfast over swimming in the sea early on a sunday morning! Fancy that. 

6) What swim events we may or may not do next year. 

My attention was distracted as Ali pointed toward the beach.  When I turned back Ali had fully immersed. She got in before me! Nooooooo! There was nothing for it but to join her. 

The water was in fact a balmy 14.8 degrees. It did not even take my breath away. The sun was shining and all was good in the world. The air temperature was about 11 degrees and it felt warm (ish). Certainly not cold though. 

As Ali had no goggles or no hat we decided to bob about a bit and have a chat. My goggles were misting up. Something caught my eye. It was a head. I thought someone perhaps had got in without my noticing. I was shoved towards it by a screaming banshee. "Its Neal the seal!!" screached Ali and with that she made good her escape. Ali took herself to knee height in the water and looked out to sea. Neal had disappeared but he came back to say hello again a short while later. 

We were in the water for about 30 minutes. I demonstrated my new technique to Ali and she demonstrated air crawl. It was pleasing to be able to swim for the love of it rather than to train. 

We agreed that we would do the following

1) Start brutal Saturdays (swim training followed by food prepared by Mich)

2) Find an event to do

3) Find a weekend we can do for a swim/ christmas do. 

4) Pick a weekend for a double dip in February (for old times sake) 

5) I would start my blog again. 

 

And so here is the first installment for over a year!

 

 

 

Easter 2015

“How cold can it be?” we asked as we approached the lake for the first time in weeks. Due to injury, illness and logistics it had been some time since we had been swimming together. Princess Fiona and Claire had decided that they were not doing cold stuff this year. Victoria and I had aspired to an ice mile but sadly it was not to be. Baking injuries will do that to you. So does flu, gastric problems and other weekend commitments. Still it will all be there next year too. There is no rush.

 

The water was 7 degrees. Too warm for an ice mile. But a large congregation had gathered. 8 of us in total at the lake for a swim. Victoria, Christian and I were sans wet suit. Heather, Julie, Grant were with wet suit. Sam had not even brought her swim suit. She had come to look only. Sadly Ali was too ill to swim but had come along for the show! 

 

Secreted underneath her jumper however was a Manchester snow globe. We had gone in search of the snow globe once Victoria had told us that she had not bought it. It seemed a suitable gift for a specially dressed person on her special birthday. Needless to say it was beautifully wrapped in a Manchester newspaper and with the price still on it! Still that was not a surprise. Victoria had told us how much it was in the first place. 

 

So without further ado we decided to enter the water. Regular readers will be aware that there is always in fact much ado about nothing. And so it was approximately an hour later when we were ready to take out first step. We knew it would be cold. We were scared. It may be worth mentioning at this point that I had lost 10kg (21lbs in old money) since my last entry. I knew I was going to feel the cold. 

 

Christian was already in when we entered the water. He had submerged to his shoulders and went off for a swim. I bet Victoria (or maybe she bet me) that we could at least swim to the first buoy. And do you know, once you are in, it is fine. We did a couple of circuits of the buoys and then decided to get out as we had to drive. We soon realised when we were neither shivering or cold that we could have done longer than the 15 minutes we did. But who cares? It was exhilarating and we were back!

 

Sam and Ali returned from their ambulations around the lake and we had hot drinks and celebrated “being back!”.

 

The plan was to meet at 11am on Good Friday. Sam promised to bring her swim kit. Victoria sent apologies as she was going to be abroad. And on the day sadly Ali was poorly and decided not to come. It will still be there when you are better though! 

 

And so it was on Good Friday that saw Sam, Princess Victoria and myself at the lake. Later than planned (midday not 11am) Christian had already been in and out. Princess Fiona (who you may recollect had sworn off the cold stuff!) said that as she had an ear infection she was going to do head up breast stroke. 

 

We got into the water. It felt colder than the previous week but that may be due to the amount of faffage. 15 minutes we stood at waist height. “its the first time I have seen you shiver” Princess Fiona observed. I did not want to brag but I did have to say it was due to the 21lbs I had lost.  But do you know once you are in – it is easy.  We also noted that there had not been a swear word at all.  And it was still 7 degrees. I swam 4 laps of the buoys (compared to three the previous week). Sam and Princess Fiona were not far behind. And once again we had done it. 

 

A celebratory run around the lake finished the day off for Sam. Princess Fiona and I ate my home made brownies and drank hot drinks instead. After all, Princess Fiona was ill and I did not want to leave her on her own! 

 

Sam joined us after her run and we had of course saved her a small piece of brownie.

 

You may wonder why we do it.  I would say for the sociable. But surely it would be better to meet in a coffee shop or even the pub? Well it would certainly be warmer but I am not sure about being anymore fun! What better way to spend your Bank Holiday than partially dressed in the cold! 

 

Easter Sunday though saw me as a Chilly No Mates (see what I did there) Well that is not strictly true as Kaz took pictures and you can see that I had two friends.

 

Easter 2015 with swim buds Easter 2015 swimbles.

 

Kaz had to spend some time chasing the dogs away from my swim kit. You can see from the pictures that there are not many wee stations for dogs and they seem to be attracted to the bag. Or any push chair. A leg will be fine if nothing else! 

 

Sunny Sands the venue. The sea was a balmy 8.3 degrees. It is funny how much difference 1.5 degrees makes when you are swimming. The weather was similar. A small breeze but what there was was very chilly indeed. I just swam for 15 minutes. We had parked in the hour limit in the harbour. But being in the sea makes me smile. There is a cycling saying “winter miles make summer smiles”. In swimming I can reverse that. “Winter smiles make summer miles”. It is so much easier if you are acclimatised. Plus it is exhilarating. 

Tits on tour.

“Let’s go to the swim show” said Victoria. This was well before Christmas. She then reminded us in the New Year. Tickets and hotels were booked well in advance to secure cheap seats. It as a bargain. £40 return each and with booked seats. Ali, Miche, Victoria and I were travelling from London. Emma would join us for the evening in Manchester. 

 

We agreed to travel on the 9am train from Euston to Manchester. The journey takes just over two hours. Victoria had booked her seat separately and had announced she would have to be boring and work on the way up. So she decided to sit on the seat she had booked in the quiet carriage. How was she to know that the train before would be cancelled and she would be sharing with a load of football fans who were already partaking of a beer or two. 

 

Ali, Miche and I had  a table and were sharing with a young lady who appeared terrified for the whole journey. It was on this journey that I first learned of the game “cards against humanity”. I have yet to play but I have been promised a game when we go on an extended tour later in the year. “ Not entirely appropriate for a train journey” Miche informed me. 

 

We arrived in Manchester a little later than planned. I asked a policeman for directions to the hotel. He was not sure so we headed hesitantly in the direction we thought best. Victoria took charge noting shops of interest on the way. 

 

We paid an extra tenner for an early check in and shoved the bags in a room and hailed a cab to Event City – the venue of the swim show. 

 

Excited and with our spending heads on, we entered the show in a state of anticipation. And what a let down it turned out to be. The type of show was obviously dependent upon the type of magazine that one read. Well that would be a sports magazine as there was not a model, a kitchen an ideal home in sight! That would also be a sports magazine of limited range as neither was there football rugby or any team sport for that matter. It may have been better named a Tri show. Which it undoubtedly was if you read 220 to Triathletes world. However if you subscribed to Cycling Weekly it would no doubt have been called the “Bike show”. 

 

We were underwhelmed. Spending opportunities were limited to around 10 stalls (at least for swimming) But there were some good photo opportunities. Not least this famous swimmer who Victoria nearly missed as she was rummaging through a bargain bucket. I cannot for the life of memember his name. But Victoria was clearly pleased not to have missed him. 

 

what is his name

 

With disappointment rife we decided there was only one thing for it. We headed to the bar. Fancy having Gin for sale and no tonic. Having lost the will to live the order was changed to beers and cider. I am not sure where the stall holder went in search but she is still MIA. (missing in action – although to be fair that may be overstating it. There was no sign of action. Rather she was M) 

 

A few beers later we decided to head back to Manchester to the pub. Victoria closed her eyes and made various gesticulations as we passed the Manchester football ground. 

 

Not one to miss a photo op though and I am sure you will agree that they are. Although for a moment we thought we were now at the car show! 

 

lookers

 

(Please click on the image to see it the right way round – If you dare!) 

 

And so to the pub we headed. A few more beers were ordered and at long last a G&T. All a tipsy by now we were surprised that Victoria had spotted in the aforementioned shop a Manchester snow globe. This she intended to add to her not inconsiderable collection of globes from around the world. No point buying them as a gift. They only get to be added to the collection if it is a place she  has visited herself. 

 

She sent off to the station in good time so she could make her purchase.  It later transpired that she need not have bothered as her train was delayed. For ages! She text us to say she had not bought the snow globe as it was £14.99 and she could not quite bring herself to pay that. 

 

We went back to freshen up and wait the arrival of Emma. She joined us and we went for a quiet and memorable dinner at Pizza Express. Not that memorable as it turns out. Having not drunk for weeks, the 4 ciders and 3 gins had resulted in my being a tad forgetful. And a wonderer. Still it was great to meet Emma who had not only turned up but she had me a gift. A beautiful hand knit purple jumper. I love it and have hardly taken it off since! Thank you Emma. It is great and a most excellent fit. 

 

I went MIA myself after walking Emma back to the car park. Ali and Miche had called me but my phone although by the side of my head as I lay asleep on my bed, remained unanswered. Not so much missing then as sleeping it off.

 

The next morning Ali Miche and I went for breakfast and then went for a wonder around Manchester in search of snow globes. Most places were closed but we stumbled upon a brilliant junk shop. It appeared to be the front for a large collection of vintage porn which was stored at the back!

 

Back on the train to London and the uneventful journeys became highly eventful in the face of weekend train works! 

 

A good trip out and we all agreed we needed to do it again!

First Sea Swim 2015

I have been out of the water since the New Year. I had flu followed by a baking injury. The flu lasted a couple of weeks and then I inadvertantly blended my finger. I will spare the photos but I had to stay out of the water until it had healed.
My van (aka The Nest) opened in mid February. I have visited but have not been able to swim. It is most frustrating.

On Saturday 14 March, I decided I would brave the elements and have a swim. The tide was going out. The weather bouy reported the sea temperature as 7.9. The air temperature was 7 but with the wind chill it felt like 2. (It actually feels much colder when you are stood in your cossie on the beach)

I decided I would swim for 15 minutes only. I was on my own and had neither a swim buddy or a beach butler. The wind was bitter and it is a fair way to the car so I decided it was better to stay in a short while and still be able to drive.

Since January I have lost 8kg (probably a bit more by now). I was a bit worried about how much of the cold I would feel. I needn’t have worried. I still have a layer of bioprene and I also was desperate to be in the water. I got in without too much ado and swam. The waves were coming fast and breaking quickly and some were quite big. It was great. I had a huge smile on my face the whole time. I got out reluctantly as being alone I did not want to push my luck. Getting dry was quite chilly but to be honest I was so exhilarated I did not really notice. I knew I could have stayed in longer. I did not get the shivers and did not lose the use of my fingers. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The sea has to be respected. Its a tad foolish going on your own. No need to be even more foolish and over do it.

Prior to the March swim I had swum in The Strand at Gillingham with Victoria. The water was just above 1 degree and the air probably not much more. Sadly the week after I was ill then I blended my finger so I was only to swim once in the Strand. It would be a good place to go and I am sorry to have missed it. I am also envious of Victoria’s consistency this year. The ice mile we had hoped to do became a non starter the minute I got flu. The water temperatures will be seeking up now and i just of not have the acclimatisation. Still, always next year.

My other Blue Tit buddies have chosen to stay out of the really cold stuff this year. Ali has been proper poorly. She as in hospital and has not been fit. She is now back in the pool and turning out 2k swims. Not only that she has stopped smoking. So I am well proud of her. Princess Fiona and Claire swim at David Lloyd. Claire is training for Dorney 10k and Princess Fiona is mainly drinking wine!

We are having an adventure to the Swim Show. Emma (previously known as Min) is going to meet us in the evening for eats and drinks but she is a cycling tit. She is training for a 100 mile time trial. So there is lots going on and to aim for.

I am looking forward to keeping the blog up to date again (it being November since I last wrote). A swim adventure of note would be the Boxing Day Dip. Kaz joined me in the sea. We dressed up as jelly fish for the event. I carried on swimming after the even was over. The sea was 9 degrees that day but it was quite mild in the air. It was a great day. Kaz said she was glad of the costume as the bubble wrap had kept us warm. We were originally going as jilted brides. I think the outfits were multi purpose as a few people thought that is what we were. Judge for yourself. We are quite clearly jelly fish!!

 

jelly fish or brides

And the special award goes to…

A couple of pool swims have happened this week. A Critical Swim Speed set and a drill set. I swim at David Lloyd and my home club is Beckenham. It is extortionately priced but is handy for on my way to or from work. Whilst I could possibly change my membership to another club, they charge the membership to the club you use most. Other gyms are not so easy to get to and it is the pool I use most anyway. On the plus side, the spa is beautiful although I rarely use it. Perhaps I will start now I am swimming mainly for fun. I also get a visitor pass every month but I have only used two this year so far. 

There had been some refurbishment but I am not really sure what has been refurbished. The lockers are the same although the stools that used to be in front of the mirrors have been changed for chairs.  I think perhaps they will finish the painting later. The roof in the ladies changing room is full of mildew. What ever they have done, the under floor heating does not appear to be working (if it has been switched on) as the floors are now all wet from the showers and the spa. 

The pool is good though and seldom very busy. I sometimes have to share a lane but rarely. 

My Critical Swim speed is back to 2mins per 100m. This is fairly slow as I had got it to min 47 at my fastest. My plan is to work on speed and endurance over the winter. Keep up with the acclimatisation and cold water swimming as I enjoy the lifestyle. 

I don’t love the pool but I do enjoy swimming. Plus I enjoy seeing my swim speed improve. Not that I am competitive but Clare is leaving me for dead these days. And we used to be able to swim together. I would like to be able to keep up with her (aka swim faster than her!). Not that I am competitive. 

I worked Wednesday so did not have an afternoon swim with Claire. But we had arranged to meet at the lake. Victoria had a pass, Princess Fiona and Claire all arranged to meet at 10am. When I arrived Princess Fiona and Victoria were already there. I spied Victoria’s boot clad leg as she leaned into her car. My immediate thought was “WTF is she wearing today?” I parked up and she was out of the car. She had on a fleece onesie. As I was driving I had missed her “I am winning the special prize today” message. 

 

special friends

 

With a straight face she explained to Princess Fiona and I that this was the way forward for winter warmth. She had her thermals to put on after the swim. Claire arrived and rather worryingly did not bat an eyelid. Well as my oldest friend Debi  (oldest as in I have known her the longest. I do have other older friends)  and I used to say “there are no points for fashion when winter warmth is at stake”. This would be all well and good but it was forecast to be 21 degrees later and sunny.

I have to confess to some onesie envy. I am sure you will agree it is a good look. Particularly the pom pom placement when the zip is undone. 

pom pom placement

 

Will was looking after the safety boat today. He took the temperature of the lake. It was still 13.5 degrees. This is mild for the time of year (1 November)  but we have had some beautiful weather. 

So the four of us swam a lap. Claire was miles ahead (see above). But Victoria, Princess Fiona and I kept a fairly steady pace that was evenly matched. It was not quite cold enough to take my breath away yet. But it will not be long before it does. And with the warm weather there was no shivering afterwards. That delight is still to come. 

We had a natter and a hot chocolate after. We were joined by Helen and Steve who came over for a chat.  They live local to the lake. They have started swimming in the pool now for the winter. It was lovely to see them. 

With promises to catch up soon we all went our separate ways. There will no doubt be many more swim adventures before Christmas. Plus, there is some onesie shopping to be done. Now I wonder if Frizbees can do embroidery on a onesie……

Halloween Swims (sort of)

It is strange not to be swimming quite so much. And really only for enjoyment. 

I arranged to meet Claire and Ali at the lake. So I was really pleased to find that Sam was also there. Ali decided to come for the social only and planned to arrive around 12.30. So Sam, Claire and I having arrived at 11.30 decided to get on with it. 

Well get on with it might be overstating the point. But we decided to swim so that when Ali arrived she would not be waiting too long for us to finish our swim. 

The temperature was recorded at 13.9. so it was significantly cooler than the previous week when it was around 16. (Believe me 2 degrees makes a difference at these temperatures).

We were ready to swim. It was warmer in than out as the thermometer on my car read 12 degrees. But as we were about to get in the sun came out. Lovely. 

Claire claimed the water was toasty. She commented that she had admired Heather and Julie’s approach the previous week (for the naked swim) when they had just gone for it.  I followed her in and I made a leap for it and immediately submerged. (Not wanting to be out done by Heather and Julie – not that I am competitive. Oh no!)

Sam made a hesitant entrance. She was finding it cold as well she would as she had not been swimming for weeks. Claire said that she would like to swim a lap. Sam decided that as she was not as acclimatised as us she would try a 400m. I nearly persuaded her to come with us.  But when she said she would have hot drinks for us when we got out, I thought better of it. 

Claire set of at pace. I cannot keep up with her these days. At least not to begin with. And to be honest, even later I would have a job on. Perhaps after about two hours  I could. (As I said, I am not competitive)

The sun was on our backs and the water felt lovely. I would say it was a bit warmer than 13.9 – perhaps about 15? But that may have just been the sun.

When we finished Ali was waiting for us. Sam had let us down with the drinks as she was still getting dry. You just cannot get the swim buddies these days. 

It was great to see Ali, whom I have missed this year. Due to her injury she has not been able to swim as much as she would like. And certainly not as much as I would like. We bullied her into saying that she will see her GP but I think she only agreed to shut us up!

 

sociable

 

It was good to be together. We reminisced about brutal Wednesdays and Saturdays. Especially the food on the Saturdays (courtesy of Miche’s Bistro – she makes marvellous meatballs.)

It was beautiful to sit in the sun and not feel cold after a swim in late October. We all supposed this was the last time we would be able to do it as the nights are drawing in and there is a nip in the air.

 

Sunday saw me meeting Victoria at 8am for an early morning dip. The tide was out and on its way in so we decided to swim to the bouy. We had tagged it with a sticker a few weeks before and wanted to go see if it was still there.

 

early start

 

It was a beautiful day and France was as clear as it as ever been. “it doesn’t look far” quipped Victoria, “22 miles” I replied. We decided not to swim to France just then though as Victoria had visitors for lunch and we did not think we would be back in time. 

Getting in with Victoria is always an event. She suffers from cold water tourettes and makes the most amazing noises as she gets in. But, for all her fuss, she invariably does get in. And then swims brilliantly.

It was Victoria who coined the phrase “flap attack” which I shall leave to the readers imagination. Suffice it to say, it has little to do with sharks. 

We swam to the bouy. It was quite breezy and the waves were brilliant. Victoria swallowed a few mouthfuls on the way but this did not put her of her stroke at all. We were disappointed to see that the vinyl tag and been washed away. There were the remnants of the paper sticker from several weeks earlier though.

 

we tagged the bouy.

Our plan was to swim into the waves toward the harbour wall. We used a crane as a sighting point and had a great swim into the waves. It was odd as on one hand the waves were against us but it did not seem too hard to swim. The tide was on its way in so was probably helping us toward the harbour.

The harbour wall is really tall. Particularly when you are lying down. I would think it was about the height of a house. The hover craft used to leave from Folkestone. For some reason (and not just because it is close to Halloween) the wall is really spooky. It provided protection from the wind so there were no waves but this just serves to make it spookier. We dared each other to touch the wall. Then laughed (hysterically) as we did not know what we were scared of. “I don’t think there is anything that an suck you under”. We laughed again even more hysterically. And then decided it was only a wall. 

 

spooky swim

I swam toward it and paused every so often. But then decided to go for it and I swam and touched the wall. Victoria swam behind me and aimed for the bit I had touched. We then had a look around. There is an installation that looks like something from war of the worlds. Then between two walls we could see the light house. We determined that one of these days we would swim through the gap. We thought it would be a good Coldwater Culture adventure. But not in winter when you are not only rigid with fear, but also rigid with cold!  Perhaps Kaz could kayak through with us I though to myself. I did not say this out loud though. 

 

me and the lighthouse

We then swam back to shore. We had been out for around an hour. The tide had passed the harbour (although it was not yet deep enough for boats to come and go) so we had timed it beautifully. 

Victoria decided that she would get a longer rope for her camera. I tried to take a picture of her but the reach was not quite right and the picture was a bit rubbish. Not known for my photography skills, I am not sure that a longer rope would have helped to be honest!

It was a bit chilly when we got out but not really cold. I had forgotten my shoes so had to walk back to my car in my swimming shoes. In Summer this is ok, but as it gets colder this a rookie mistake (and not one I will be making again). That said, it was mild enough not to be an issue today.

The sea was around 15 degrees. The air temperature was around 12 when we started but about 14 when we finished. So still quite mild. At least when you have your clothes on. 

With a promise that I would check the tides for next week, we went our separate ways. Both of us were probably hoping that the mild weather would remain so that we could avoid the shivers for a few more weeks. 

Nothing to see here.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am not to have swum to France. 2 years of preparation. Many months without even so much a glass of wine. Well that is not strictly true I had a few exception nights. But in the main I had abstained. 

Nearly every weekend dedicated to swimming not to mention the early mornings and brutal Wednesdays. Smelling like a bleached whale over winter. Then shivering at the waters edge even before I got in over the winter and for much of the summer too! 

I have enjoyed nearly every single minute of it. And I only say that because of the bad time I have written about in Dreams are not made of this. 

I am blessed with great friends. Some swim. Many do not. But they all seem to indulge me. 

The journey is to continue. And therefore so is this website. 

Having booked for August 2016 I have it all to do again.

I hope my friends will still be my friends in 2016 and that I have not driven them away with this swimming malarky. I doubt it very much though as many of them swim too. But, many do not. 

To make up for the lack of swimming ,my friend Kaz decided to have a little party with me. She came down to the van and we planned to have a few drinks. She had bought a present for me from her holiday in Tenerife. She had primed me for it. She had told me everything was fake there. I was imagining that she may have got me a fake hand bag or watch. Perhaps a piece of Triffinany jewellery. 

Imagine my delight when she presented me with this fake blue tit! I was stunned. Especially when she told me she trawled the shops looking for it because most of them were fake robins. (aka red parrots!)

I am truly lucky to have a friend who buys me such wonderful gifts. 

fake bluetit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She then told me that she had something else for me. She presented me with a note book. I wondered if she was hinting that I should start writing my blog again. But perhaps instead of boring everyone with it, write it in the book!

diary

I opened the book. On the first page was a message from my Mum and Dad wishing me luck in my Channel swim. I read through the countless messages. One from my friend Debbie in Leeds. (I think my sister Janet had something to do with getting that one) And then others from swimming friends and others that were printed as they were from Facebook. 

Not one person had given the game away. 

I was moved to tears. My frustrations of the previous weeks escaped from my eyes. Kaz said to me she would not have given it to me if she had known it would make me cry. But she also had a tear or two in her eyes. (I don’t know how many as i avoided looking at her as I was trying to get a grip of my emotions. I say I am not prone to tears but I seem to have been crying quite a lot in the last few posts!). 

It is a book I will treasure for ever. 

So we had a glass of champagne and toasted the new adventures. 

One of the reasons why I have not booked the Channel solo for next year is that Kaz doing 50 4 50. She is going to undertake 50 things she has never done before. I want to do some of them with her. She had already begun with a swim assessment at the lake. MIche for some reason had decided to join her. Bonkers. The pair of them!

she is in the waterthe new swimmers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She did not however take part in the Naked Swim. Although she did man the safety kayak. Usually we swim without accompaniment however the safety of the public is paramount. 

Victoria was hoping to join in for the swim but family commitments meant that she could not make it. Tim also had volunteered to man the safety boat. It appeared to be all hands on deck. Such is the attention to public safety. Pete had ensured that I was not proposing to walk from the changing area to the lake sans swim suit. After reassuring him that I would be taking it off in the water, he agreed to the endeavour. 

 

Heather and Julie (lake swimmers) turned up and decided once they were in that they would join in. Princess Fiona wore her bikini instead. Claire decided she would swim.

naked swim the start

Armed with a horrific hangover, I was pleased that the water was 15.4 degrees. The sun was shining and it was not too cold. 

I swam to the bouy and then span my cossie around my head before throwing it to Tim for safe keeping. Tim I trusted with my cossie. I was somewhat suspicious that Kaz may have decided not to give it back to me. He politely kept his back to me while I did the salute.

the salute

 

 

 

 

Heather and Julie did not even trust Tim, choosing to tie their costumes round their necks. 

It was liberating. But also quite strange. I had not hang ups about swimming naked. But I did have hang downs. And they cause drag. It was a completely different experience. Not helped by the hangover, Princess Fiona and Claire were miles ahead. 

We joined up at the end by the catamaran for the dressing. Tim took some pictures of the 5 of us and then the naked swimmers got dressed before swimming for the bank. Of course it was not truly a naked swim. As per Leybourne rules, we kept our hats on! 

we kept our hats on

 

 

 

 

A few interested members of the public (mainly men coincidentally) had stopped to see what all the laughing was about.  But there was nothing to see around here! 

Dreams are not made of this.

What a roller coaster of a year it has been.

I have swum over 560 km this year so far. But sadly not across the Channel.

I was originally scheduled to swim in August. The wind and the tide dictated otherwise. It was not to be. Hurricane Bertha has happened and although the weather was ok on land. It was just too windy and the waves too big for me to have any chance of getting across. Slot 1s on my tide got to go. And a couple of relays.

After consulting with my pilot, we decided that the first week in October would be a goer. A neap tide, the sea would be still around 16 degrees. Plus, my cold endurance is good from years of outside swimming. Not to mention the “bioprene” I carry. AKA Natures wetsuit!

With that in mind I set about keeping my fitness going. However, returning to work with a diary pre booked with activity that had assumed I would have already swum meant that training took a back seat. That was ok of course as I had the miles in me. I only really needed to keep my toe in the water so to speak.

There was a six week wait between my attempts. 2 weeks before I caught a cold and felt pretty rotten. It messed with my head and I had a bit of a melt down. My head was not in the swimming at all.

I had planned a 5 hour swim about 3 weeks before the big one. Although I was full of cold I went to the lake and swam. I hated every single stroke and eventually abandoned the swim after 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Channel swimming is about endurance but it is also about emotional resilience. I was upset with myself for not completing the time I set. In the whole of the training I had only missed a few swims. I had a negative head on. Rather than thinking to myself (for who else would I think to)? Well, I had done well to swim for so long when I felt so rough, I berated myself. I was only swimming 31 minutes a lap (which for me is slow) and I had struggled to breathe. (Well, of course I had. I was full of cold and had a sore throat!)

To top it all, Eric sent me a text while I was in the swim to say there was a potential to swim that weekend. At that point in time I did not care if I never swum again.

I replied to Eric saying I was not well and could not swim. Not only that, Kaz was away on holiday, Stacey, Ali and Tim were not around either that weekend. So in fact I was also crew less. They were all set for the October slot. And this was mid September.

I did not like sending that text. But, in my heart of hearts I knew I would be able to turn my head around. Although I did not feel well I still had 3 weeks to get better. And it was only a cold.

Upon reflection swimming so long with a cold and sore throat was on one hand, pretty stupid, but on the other quite impressive.

That same weekend, (when I could have swum but still did not have my head in it) I had a bit of an episode. I was tearful and unreasonable. Melton caught the eye of the storm if you will and we had a miserable weekend in which I was critical of him (even more so than usual) and miserable.

He recognised that I was not in a good place. Although to be honest, it was fairly obvious. I am a positive soul by nature and tend to see the best in things and in people. I like to go out and do things and have lots of energy. Imagine the antithesis of that. Add a bit of extra negativity and that was me. Joyful.

Melton persuaded me not to make any decisions that weekend that I may come to regret. In spite of cutting of my nose to spite my face, I reluctantly (and sulkily) went along with his suggestion. Then I went home!

My swim slot was booked for 1 October 2014. I had a few weeks to get ready. Slowly and steadily my head turned around and by the weekend before I was enjoying swimming again. Work was manic during those few weeks. It was student recruitment season which is always bonkers. Plus I had a few over night stays and long journeys. All of this is an excuse really for saying that I had not prioritised strength training. I had prioritised going to bed (or staying in bed) rather than fitting it in.

The weekend before my swim I planned to do a couple of short swims but take the opportunity to rest and eat and sleep. I was shattered from the weeks at work and all the travel.

The Saturday before my swim I had a great swim in a flat clam sea. It was blue and a high tide. The day was warm and there were lots of people on the beach enjoying the late September sunshine. It was beautiful. I had the smile on my face that I associate with swimming. I was glad to be in the water and enjoying it all again. This was in fact the first swim that had made me smile for weeks.

I was looking forward to an early swim on Sunday. There was a bit of breeze and although it was a bit chilly, the sea was calm. The tide was out but due to turn so I set up my belongings half way up the beach.

I entered the water and began to swim. I was smiling and enjoying myself and thinking of arriving in France. I had been in the water about 15 minutes when I heard (in my head as I doubt it was so loud) a tearing sound coming from my left tricep. The pain began immediately. I rested for a second and then tried swimming. It was evident that this was not going to be a good idea.

I rested for a little while again then had another go. I had not strength in my pull and it was painful.
I only had 48 hours until my swim slot began. I got out of the water clutching my arm to my side to immobilise it.

I was greeted at the waters edge by Dachma. She lives with hear partner John in the flats overlooking the sea. Unbeknownst to me she had been watching me from her flat. She had sensed I was in trouble and came down to my aid.

She asked me if I was cold. I told her what had happened. She gave me a hug and then packed my things and took me to her flat. She gave me coffee, brufen and ice. She also told me of a German remedy. Quark applied to the affected area. She even gave me some from her freezer.

We sat for a long time on her balcony talking. Then John her partner drove me to my car and only left me once he had established I could change gear.

I got back to the Nest. The physio was closed but I knew I would be calling first thing the next day.

And so for this year at least, my Channel dreams were over.

I went back to see Nuno the following day. He advised (what I already knew really but was holding out) that if I were to swim I would make a minor injury into a major injury. And so I called Eric to tell him what had happened.

Sabbatical part 2

Where does the time go to? It is Tuesday July 15 and I realise that I have no written for just under two weeks.
I am not sure how I managed to find time to work and to train. In reality the last few weeks have shown me that I did not really.

I am very lucky to have been granted this time off. Two weeks and a bit in I am realising that it would not have been possible to achieve my Channel dream if I had not had the time.
In the first two weeks I had swum 54 miles. I had also done weights and resistance between 3-5 times a week. Plus I had been up to Leeds to take my Dad to the hospital for his review after his surgery.

Day 4 – Day 7

The first weekend of the sabbatical was scheduled to be a double sea swim. 4 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. I was lucky enough that Kaz was willing to be crew for the whole weekend. The weather forcast sadly was not great. Rain was forcast and the temperature was due to drop. This is the UK after all and as preoccupied as we are with the weather (and I more than many I will concede) it is for a reason. In Australia if it rains one day people just put off they were doing until the next. Not so in the UK. You have to get on with it.

I managed to persuade Kaz that an early start on Saturday would be advantageous as we would then be able to use the afternoon to go and see the Channel Swimming exhibition in Dover. Kaz does like this sort of thing (honest) and in fact it was her who told me about it. I planned an 8.30am start.

It was absolutely chucking it down first thing when I went to pick her up. As she is not Australian she had packed her waterproofs. My sister Janet had re named Sunny Sands. She believed Rainy Rocks would be a better name. And on this day that was certainly the case.

Funnily enough, given the time and the weather we were the only ones on the beach. My friends Claire and Princess Fiona had agreed to join in about 10.30am. Kaz wondered if they would come as the weather was so awful. I anticipated that a bit of rain is not going to put off swimmers. You are wet already as it is.

The sea was quite bumpy when I got in. It looked quite calm from the beach but when you are laying flat the waves look huge. They were also “waving” (rolling) quickly. I had on my tinted goggles. They were a bargain at a fiver. Prescription lenses too. But the sea knocked them off a couple of times so I got out and got my trusty Eagle Aqua Spheres. Back in again. I swam the first hour and then asked Kaz to bring feeds in between 30 and 40 minutes. I gave her my watch so I had no idea what time it was.

Claire and Princess Fiona arrived. I had not noticed them arriving (as it was hard to see over the waves) and the next thing I knew they were beside me. Claire commented how bumpy the sea was. The tide was out and it was taking about 7 minutes to swim away from the harbour but 22 minutes to return. (I had timed it before I handed my watch to Kaz)

We were cheerfully swimming along and something crashed into my ribs from the side. It was another swimmer. (not known to us) All that room and we still manage to bump into each other! Well in fairness he bumped into me. It didn’t half wind me and I had to stop for a little while to catch my breath. But on the count of 3… we were off.

Claire got out as she had planned to do an hour. I had no idea how long I had been in. Time is a guide and I had no idea what time they had got in the sea. Fiona stayed in with me.

When Kaz gave the call for us to get out I had no idea. I thought I had been in just over 3 hours. I had not been able to count by feeds as she had delivered them between 30 and 50 minutes.

The sun was shining and it was really quite warm. The opposite to what had been forcast in fact. I was really hungry so Kaz and Stuart went to get me chips. I devoured them.
We were joined by Nicki and Ali (two other channel aspirants) who had been swimming at the Rotunda that morning. I do not like it there as it is a steep pebble beach. Hard to get in and out. I have swum there (and it is a really good long swim) but I avoid it usually and certainly on an outward tide.

We exchanged swimming stories and I agreed to meet them the following day.

Kaz, Stuart and I went to the swimmers exhibition to look at the photos of swimmers from a bygone age. We got in at student rate too as I was a channel swimmer! Stuart is a channel pilot and Kaz, well she is just a Channel groupie!

Sunday saw us on the beach by 10.30am. Nikki and Ali were already in the water. Kaz was coming down with the grandchildren for the day. And it was raining again. In fact it was tipping it down. We used the arches to keep the kit dry and I went into the sea at 10.40 and joined the others. It was flat calm.

I swam with Ali and Nikki. They had to get out as Nikki was returning to Edinburgh and Ali to Brum. I asked them to let Kaz know my feed would be at 11.40. And sure enough it arrived. I gave her my watch again.

It was absolutely tipping it down. Kaz had arrived with Jamie, Harry and Louis. Stuart’s daughter Serena was also there. They did not appear to care that it was raining and were having fun and games on the beach.

The schedule for drinks was every 40-50 minutes. Alan and Jamie arrived and swam for an hour. But for the most part I was alone. The sun did eventually peak out. I had no idea how long I had to go when Kaz told me it was my last feed. I said that I would like another in 30 minutes.

I had nothing in me. This was a valuable lesson. And one I really already know but had “forgotten”. I was able to keep going at this point but I had no energy at all.

I burn approximately 900 calories an hour when I swim. And that is in a pool. Factor in the cold water and the chop and it could be around 1000 or more. My drinks only have 120cals per 500mls and that is all I was drinking every 30-50 minutes. It is just not enough.

I could keep going but if I am swimming for 15 hours + I am certainly going to have to take more on board. I like tinned peaches, kendal mint cake and bananas. I can also experiment with making the drink ab bit stronger. And I came to the conclusion that some of the gels may be a good source of fuel.

I chose Honey Stingers (other energy gels are available) mainly because as the name suggests they derive from honey. Which I like. Well at least on porridge. I ordered them from Amazon that evening so they would be ready for my next long swim.

My first week saw me clock up 44km of swimming over 17 hours. In other words, I swam the equivalent of the Channel in a week!

"Nothing great is ever easy" Captain Webb.