All posts by Sarah D

Sabbatical Part 1

The sabbatical is from 30 June to 3 August inclusive. 5 weeks to swim, sleep eat and train. I had thought it was 4 weeks but July is a long month and so there are 6 weekends in total. Yipee.

Weekend 1 was in Leeds. My Mum wanted to throw the Anniversary lunch and so with that in mind I went up to Leeds to join in the festivities.
A swim in David Lloyd Leeds on Saturday morning meant that I still did some training. But it was a lovely family fun filled weekend.

It was great to see my Cousin Linda who has also taken up swimming outside. Mainly for triathlon she is an excellent cyclist.

I travelled back to London on Sunday evening and made it in 4 hours. I knew I had to go to the office on Monday to finish of a piece of work. So Monday morning I was up early packing my bags for the following 5 weeks.

Day 1
Via the office to finish the work I set off to the van about 1pm.

I knew that I probably would not have time to swim that day. And in all honesty I was quite tired from the epic weekend of driving. I had accepted a random invitation to join some swimmers at Varne Ridge for a pasta party. They said it would be at 7.30pm. I offered to make chilli and salad. Along with Stuart Gleeson (my second favourite pilot, Eric being my first!) we went to Varne Ridge. Any qualms about finding the right caravan were soon put to bed as there was a big Irish flag in their van window.

We knocked on the door and they were already washing up! Ah well, we had Chilli, salad and Nachos so Stuart and I had a feast while we talked swimming.
Mindful of the time I excused myself at 9.30pm. I like to swim first thing in the morning and had planned to swim at 7 ish.

Day 2
My swim plans for day 2 were to double dip. I planned an hour first thing and then an hour later after high tide. The purpose of this to test out the shoulder but also I have 6 weeks and I have a gradual build up of time over each week. The sea was choppy and there was an outward tide in the morning. It felt warm as the sun was shining. There were some really cold bits. And on the way into the sea the small jelly fish were on the beach. Rumour has it that some larger jellies are going to be swept up the channel when the wind turns. I hate them. It is not so much the sting (although I don’t like that either) they are just so alarming to look at. Plus I do not really know which ones are stingers. Still I did not see any but there was lots of seaweed which would brush against me and wrap around my legs. No stings though on either swim.

I swam with a big smile on my face. The sea is my favourite place to swim. Cooler than the lake by around 5 degrees (the lake was 21 degrees last time I was there) it still felt pleasant. The winter swims ultimately pay off. That and a layer of bioprene! Natures own wetsuit.

In the evening I did a work out with my “gym stick”. It is a stick with resistance bands. I watched the DVD and followed the workout. It was quite simple to use really. Some of the exercises require more coordination than I presently have. However the DVD promises that some of the exercises will improve your balance. We’ll see.

Gym stick sessions will be 3-4 times a week during this training month. It was quite good fun. Unlike most exercise equipment it would not have a multi use as a clothes horse. But it saves going to the gym. The nearest David Lloyd is in Maidstone which is a drive a way.

Day 3
I planned another double dip on Wednesday. I thought that I would have crew but the weather stilled and Stuart (second favourite pilot) went out with a solo channel swimmer. (Cae and he completed in just over 13 hours). The plan to swim for 2 hours and then an hour later. I arrived at the water at 9.30am today. I normally go earlier and swim on an empty stomach but I thought that 2 hours would be pushing it. So I got up at 7 and had breakfast and then allowed it to settle. The myth of swimming after eating has been busted. But it does make me feel sick and I find I need to wait at least 90 minutes.

The sea was flat calm. The tide was due to turn and become inward. So placing my kit strategically (so it would not get washed away mid swim) I entered the water. It was beautiful. The sun was shining and whilst there was a current swimming one way it was an assistance on the way back. I was feeling good and quite quickly decided I would swim for the full 3 hours. As I had no crew, I planned to have a drink at 90 minutes, then an hour after that and then at the end. I wanted to reduce drinking time as without crew I have to leave the water. I had previously thought that 2 hours would be as much as I could manage without crew. But if I time it right and with some careful kit placement I could perhaps swim up to about 5 hours without crew.

The beauty of an inward tide is that there is not so far to walk at the end. The water was approximately 5 feet away from my kit. I got dry and by the time I left there was only a foot to spare.

I do train with more focus when I am alone. No one to chat to. It felt like a quality session. My arms were aching a bit and I realised that it would be the after effects of the gym stick session the night before. My elbow held out too.

The temptation was to carry on. But my kit was about to be submerged and there is no point over doing it. I have written myself a plan and that is what I shall stick to.

When I got home I checked my email. I had an email from Clare at Nursing Standard who was asking me to write a reflective piece for publication. Another chance to promote the RCN Foundation so I called her and began writing. I was limited to 700 words. I have a Mac Book Air and also not a clue how to find word count on it. I know I wrote far to much but it gave her plenty to edit.

It is due for publication toward the end of July. I shall be sure to buy my Mum and Dad a copy!


Apologies that this is rather late to be published. Sadly my site was hacked. It has taken some time to retrieve it but here it is. I shall take us back in time to mid June. And as if by magic…….


Regular readers will know that I am swimming the Channel this year. That is the main reason this website is called “channelswimwithsarahd” after all. Those that have been paying attention will know that I am also raising money for the RCN Foundation. 


There is a link on the right hand side of the page if you want to know more. 


Why am I raising money for the RCN Foundation you may ask. And even if you are not asking, I am about to tell you. 


Dinah Cox (who is an OBE! I could not believe it when I saw it on her Congress badge!) is the Head of the RCN Foundation. She came to talk to us at work about a year or so ago. She is a funny and inspirational speaker. After hearing her speak I decided that I would raise money for the RCN Foundation. But not only that, as I was due a sabbatical I would make a pitch to use my sabbatical to train, in exchange. 


The pitch was successful (Thanks Patricia Marquis and Tom Sandford) and the whole RCN Foundation thing got off to a start. It was  slow start to be fair as there did not seem a lot of point making a song and a dance about it until nearer the time. 


But how they have got behind me. They (at the Foundation)  arranged for a fringe event at Congress (where I was able to show case the Foundation and the Big Swim”.)  


Lewis Allett (Grants Manager but not an OBE.. yet) was incredibly enthusiastic. Somehow the concept of using a static bike to get Congress delegates to cycle stationary miles was born. The plan to see how many times the channel could be crossed for the duration of the Congress Exhibition. 


A map of the Channel was on display with a magnetic swimmer who was moved along each time a KM was passed. (It had to be in KM not miles as no one knew how to change the settings on the bike!).  I supported the stand (and did my fair share of cycling). We attracted famous cyclists such as Peter Carter (Gen Sec and CEO of the RCN) David Harding Price (Council Member)  and Celia Amin the RCN Deputy President. Wiggo did not turn up but in fairness he had not said that he would. 


Peter Carter on bike

















It was a huge success and there was over £300 in the bucket. There was  text number too and not forgetting my Just Giving page. 


Clare at the Nursing Standard also asked if I would write a reflections piece. I have written that and it will appear in a future edition of Nursing Standard. 


For raising awareness the Foundation stand was hit. It was referenced in RCN bulletin each day. My fringe event got a great write up and other fund raisers were also profiled in the bulletin and in the films that were on display. 


I have not as yet set a target. There is not a “as much as possible” target. What I do know is that the Foundation does some really good work and is a life change for the people who use it. But in order for it to continue to offer grants and loans it has to keep money coming in. You don’t have to be  a RCN member to access the support (it is a charity after all and is more about the greater good). 


So if after reading this you are moved to donate, you can either text “swim45£3” to 70070 or visit my Just Giving page. 


All donations gratefully received. Particularly from the people whose lives you change.


Due to the physio treatment I took the whole of Friday off. Saturday was at the lake again. 


It was pretty miserable and certainly warmer in than out. I assisted Ali with the 11am assessments. This involves swimming around 200m in a wetsuit. I don’t really call that swimming anymore. But it is quite a long way when there is no lines and no edges to hold onto! 












Still I was in the water.  And that makes me happy. The lake was 17 degrees. It felt quite warm in the water in a wetsuit. But it is still about 10 degrees colder than a swimming pool. And lots of people find swimming pools a bit chilly.  


After the assessments were completed I had arranged to swim the 750m loop with Jane. Her event is in two weeks and she just wanted to make sure she could swim the distance. 


I kept my wetsuit on as there were more assessments afterwards. It is hard enough to get a wet suit on before it is wet (a dry wet suit!). Let alone when it is a wet wet suit. 


Jane swam really well for around 500m. At this point she was a bit breathless. She was concerned about this. I reassured her that if she and run along way she would be breathless and she would not think anything of it. I did not think she was having a panic attack. She was tired. It is a long way is 500m when there is nothing to hold onto. The wet suit is buoyant and she was able to lay on her back to recover a little. 


We swam for another 50 m. This took us to the bank. Jane stood for a while to catch her breath again. She swam another 50 m or so and had another little rest. She started to walk but I stopped her. “Jane” I said, “No walking. You will only beat yourself up for not swimming it all. You can rest as much as you need to but we are swimming it all”.  Jane’s big smile told me all I needed to know. 


She swam the distance! 


I advised her to swim the 200m round the buoys the following week. Then she can come in every 200m for a rest but is still swimming the distance. 


With that she exited the water and I joined the next round of assessments. 


In total I was in the water for around 2 and a half hours. I swam around 1.5k in that time. It is great helping others with their swimming. Plus I was in the water and it kept me from over doing it. 


The following day I had arranged to meet Victoria at 10am on the tops. Her swim intentions were for 2 hours in the morning and a double dip opportunity for the afternoon.  Mine were to see how my elbow held up. 


Kaz (returned from her holidays) agreed to BBB. (Be beach butler). I picked her up and off we set. 


The tide was high but had turned and was on its way out. The beach was still fairly empty as it was quite early and the weather was cloudy and a bit over cast. 


sunnysands with victoria swim 1








We secured an arch but the sun was out so we set up swim camp outside. I have to confess I was a bit trepidacious. I was not sure how my elbow would fair. Still there was only one way to find out. I agreed with Kaz that even if my elbow was ok I would only swim for 90 minutes. That way I could double dip with Victoria. 


We got in the water. Victoria always makes a fuss and screams. I joined in just for the fun of it! 


me n vicks knee deep dip 2








I dived in through a wave and Victoria plunged in soon after. With Kaz briefed to provide us with our drinks (aka feeds) at half hourly intervals we set off toward the Burstin and then back toward the 3rd falling rock sign. This was the swimmable beach. There are rocks that you cannot see and we have various markers that we use so we don;t swim into them. I have previously swum into them and it hurts. And you bleed. And the salt water gets into the grazes and stings. So not something to be repeated!


The first half hour flew by. Nuno had suggested that I half my distance and only use 70% of the effort I would normally. There is a saying in swimming that if you slow it down you speed it up. I was concentrating on my rotation in the water and the length of my stroke as I swam toward the Burstin. On the way back I was thinking of high elbows. It seemed that I was flying through the water. It felt easier toward the Burstin. I think this was because I was thinking of rotation. Kaz observed later that we were going quicker toward the falling rocks as the waves would move us on. 


Victoria was flying too. She was swimming strong. With all that room (the whole of the English Channel if you will?)  we still managed to bump into each other. This caused great hilarity. Our laughter carried onto the beach and Kaz asked us what we had been laughing at. 


I exited the water at 90 minutes leaving Victoria to swim the last 30 alone. I wanted to stay in but mindful of the advice (and knowing that there would be a double dip opportunity) I got out. Victoria nailed another 2 hour swim. 


Stuart had joined us on the beach. Kaz and Stuart went off together as they needed to do some bits around town. Victoria and I walked back up to our cars together. It was at that moment that I realised 3 things. 1) Kaz had my car key. 2) My phone was in the car. 3) The van key was in the car. 


Victoria messaged Kaz and I joined her in the Beatle. We arrived at the van and had to sit out for about 30 minutes waiting for them.


We then had beans and cheese on toast before our next dip. Fortunately Kaz has a key for the van so was able to let us in! 


Kaz again was BBB. The sun was out for the next dip although there was a stiffer breeze. The tide was low which gives a long swimming stretch. Victoria as usual made a fuss. She was a sleepy badger and was not really feeling the love! With short shrift from Kaz (and me!) we got changed. Victoria had only one cossie with her so she had to put on her wet cossie. I had a dry one! 


the towel








The plan was for an hours dip. “That is only 2 half hours and you will be fine once you are in”, said Kaz. Proving in one sentence that she can add up and…. Actually I am not sure what else that proves!


So that is what we did. It was fantastic being in the water again. There were some lovely warm bits. But also some really cold bits. 


Victoria nailed three hours in one day. A most audacious swim. She was well pleased with herself. I had swum for 2.5 hours. No pain killers at all. 


me n victoria hoody shot me n kaz

















I made sure that I did some post swim stretches. 


We then took some photo opportunities on the beach (as we had the official photographer back). 


I have said it once and I will say it again. Although the channel is a “solo” it is far from a solo effort.  My swim buds and land crew (BBB) have supported me though my tears (earlier in the week) but also with lots of laughter. Mind you that is easy as we do find ourselves laughing at anything! Bumping into each other as you swim would not immediately strike you as funny. It hurts (Well it hurt Victoria as I walloped her) but we laughed. 


So thank you again Swim Buddies. In the words of a famous Frank Turner song “if you’ve got my back I’ll go on”.

Nuno of Joy Lane

A lay in on Friday as I was not to be swimming. I had searched the internet for local physio services the previous night. 


I had found a few. The one that drew my eye most was Joy Lane Clinic. Two reasons. Firstly I really like the name. Whilst I am sure it is more by luck than good management the street name implies that it will be good. Secondly the website promised an appointment within 24 hours. 


Now bear with me as I describe myself in a way that appears to be alien. When athletes (ha athletes – yep that’s me!) are injured the first thing they want to do is to fix it. Then they can train again. The promise of an appointment within 24 hours meant that there was a good chance I would be seen that day. 


I called at just after 8am. A bloke answered and I said I needed an appointment. He said he could see me at 9am. As it was 8.15am I knew I would have time as the clinic was only about 4 miles away. Result! As I had not yet had a cup of tea, I made a flask. It takes me a pot of tea to get going on a morning as a rule. 


I arrived at the clinic just before 9am and signed in. I waited. A client arrived at the same time as me. Then the physio arrived. He asked me if I was ok. I said I had arranged an appointment for that morning with someone on the phone. I did not catch his name. The physio told me he would see me after if I could wait. I began to wonder if I had come to the right place. I checked the number I had called against the address. They did match. 


As I was waiting my phone rang. The caller display said “Joy Lane Clinic”. I answered and said I was at the clinic. In actual fact the clinic where I was sitting was in Firs Lane. There had been a bit of a mix up as Charlie thought I would be at the Whitstable clinic. I had definitely called the Folkestone number. Apparently the phone had transferred there. He said not to worry as I could be seen by Nuno after 9.30am if I was ok to wait. He than apologised for the mix up. 


Things like this happen. When they are resolved with good humour and grace, that often makes for a better experience. It certainly makes for a better story! 


I did not mind at all. I had a flask of tea with me and there was wi-fi!


I went in to see the physio. Nuno is from Portugal and has worked as a physio in France. He is also an osteopath. Today though he was practising Physiotherapy. He did a thorough assessment. I had little to no pain. A full range of movement indicated it was not a rotator cuff injury. That is a swimmers nightmare. 


He was a little perplexed at what was going on. I explained that I had not been doing my strength exercises and of late had been a bit tardy with the stretching. I am normally disciplined with the stretching but for the last couple of weeks I have for some reason let it slip. I think mainly because my swimming is now mainly outdoors. When I do a pool set I do the stretches in the pool before I get out. Up until recently I have been dashing in to get dry and warm after swimming so I have neglected them.


This piece of information appeared to help Nuno with a provisional diagnosis. He thought it may be  “thoracic outlet syndrome”. He did some dynamic stretches with me. He also did pressure points (my description not his). He then explained that I could carry on swimming after a couple of days rest. To reduce the intensity of the sessions and stop if I had pain. 


We made a follow up appointment for 11 June should I need it. I will know at the end of the weekend when I have been back in the water. 


I was delighted with the service and the treatment I received. Nuno was competent, knowledgeable and seemed confident in his practice. He explained what he was doing and why. So a big shout out to Charlie and Nuno of Joy Lane Clinic.


Other physios are available. But Nuno can be found at Dynamix Firs Lane, Cheriton. Near Folkestone. 

Swimmers elbow?

Capel Le Ferne has a micro climate all of its own. 7am saw a miserable cloudy start to the day. By the time I had reached Sunny Sands, it lived up to its’ name. 

The sun was shining although there was a stiff breeze blowing in from the sea. An outward tide saw some waves, swell and chop. A change from the swimming conditions of the previous days. 


The air temperature was 12 (as recorded on my car thermometer) and the sea around 14. 


I love swimming in the chop. It is harder that is for sure. But it is fun. Whilst I would much prefer a calm sea on “the big day”, it is good practice to swim in the swell. It is much harder to maintain a consistent stroke and pace as you get thrown around. 


Suitably greased up with vaseline to prevent the chaff I entered the sea with a big smile on my face. 


The plan to swim an hour first thing and then return in the afternoon with the benefit of swim buddies and crew. 


The forecast for the afternoon was pretty dismal. Rain and cloud. So it was lovely to have a sunny start to the day. 


The hour completed I returned to the van in my swimmmys and swammy. (Cossie and swamket). This was a bit of mistake. The drop in air temperature and the drive combined resulted in my feeling chilly. I had to put the fire on when I returned (the first time this week after swimming). I jumped into the shower to warm up. Or I should more accurately say, I stood in the shower and warmed up. I was not jumping. For a start I am not sure if there are benefits to jumping in the shower. Plus I am not sure that health and safety legislation allows for it. You could slip and fall. I do not have a bath mat either. And as I swim in the sea alone I do not want to totally push my luck!


The poor weather predicted for the afternoon did not materialise. I arrived at the beach at 2pm as planned. I was first to arrive and took a spot by an arch. The sun was shining and it was warm. There was hardly a cloud in the sky. 


Next to arrive was Victoria. Her swim plans were for 2 hours. We chatted for a little and then our beach butlers Ali and Miche arrived. Victoria and I were in the water by 2.30pm. Ali and Miche agreed to bring us our drinks at 30 minute intervals. Victoria applied vaseline to her underarms. She had a pretty nasty case of chaffing. I applied it to my neck. And we both applied sun screen. It stops the jelly fish  stinging apparently .


a beautiful day hardly a cloud













The water felt ok. I was first to submerge. It was natural that I would be really as I had been in the sea almost daily for 5 days. We swam for 30 minutes and our feed arrived courtesy of Ali.


Victoria had been swimming strong. I was having goggle faff but I was also well aware of my left elbow. It was twanging. Not quite painful but I was aware. I mentioned this to Ali. She said I should get out. I said I would swim for another half an hour til the next one and see how it went. 


And how I wish I had taken her advice. After about 15 more minutes my elbow became excruciatingly painful. I had no power and I could not make  stroke with it. I pulled up. Vicks stopped to see if I was ok. I said I would have to get out. Victoria offered to help me but I encouraged her to get on with her swim. She had a swimming goal and stopping to help me would prevent that happening. Besides which once I was able to put my feet down I could walk to the edge. She said she had painkillers in her bag and to help myself to them. 


Clutching my elbow close to my body to immobilise it, I do confess I cried. I was in a lot of pain. I took my time to compose myself and was met by Ali at the waters edge. She looked concerned. Claire in the meantime had arrived. 


On a scale of 1-10 with 10 been the worst pain I had ever had, at this stage its as around 7. (When I was knocked over it probably hurt more). I was also hugely disappointed. I knew that my swim plans at least for the next few days were not going to happen. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation are the key to these sort of over use injuries. Drugs help too so I did help myself to Victoria’s supply of paracetamol and brufen. 


Claire in the meantime got in the water to swim with Victoria. I helped to crew with Ali and Miche. 


you would not believe the weather.














The sky was becoming a thickening dark colour. It was moody and oppressive. The rain that was forcast could well be on its way. 



moody skies.














Fortunately it held off while Claire and Victoria finished their swim. 



looking after the swimmers.














I am pleased to report that Victoria nailed the two hours. She went over to be honest. Claire also did really well and was in for an hour. She felt a little dizzy upon exit and had to sit down at the waters edge. (She had been swimming for over an hour- you would have thought she would have had a wee at that point!) 


My plan to find a physio in the area who may be able to offer some advice and perhaps treatment. Sensibly I know I have to rest it. And I will. A week or so out now will see me back swimming. To carry on and risk further injury would be foolish. 


Whilst I have increased the volume of training, I have allowed the strength and weight training to slip. This will be rectified immediately. 


All things being equal I still swam for a total of 1 hour 45 minutes. It is weird when that does not seem like much.


But quality over quantity. I shall have some physic, take the advice and come back to training rested and raring to go.  Or at least strapped up and ready. 


Thanks to the swim crew and buddies today.  I cannot do the longer swims without you. I really appreciate the gift of your time to help me realise my dreams. I also enjoy your company.  Mainly! Ali – you are the coach who is reaching for the skys! 


ahoy there


Wednesday Swim with Claire.

Wednesday is a swim day as a rule. I had thought about having the whole day as rest. I decided against this for 2 reasons. One, Wednesday afternoons I generally swim with Claire. Two, there were 24 hours between swims so it was like having a day off!

I arrive at the lake at about 2pm. Claire had not yet arrived. She was coming from work. It would be fair to say I was not feeling the love. I felt tired. The weather had taken a turn. It was cooler (only about 15 degrees) and cloudy. The clouds were low and it was threatening to rain.

Claire arrived just before 2.30pm. We decided to have a cup of tea while we decided upon our swim plans. Claire did not really mind what she did either.

After a cup of tea we both decided it was along way to come if we did not swim. Claire did not appear to be convinced when I told her I would have driven just for the pleasure of her company.

We changed into our cosies. I had left mine at the lake on Tuesday. Paula had dried it out so I just put that one back on.

It is funny how sometimes when I have my cossie on and am getting ready to swim, I can feel warmer than when I was sitting fully clothed. And I did. We had a bit of faff.

My neck is chaffed from swimming in the sea. Claire noticed and so I went back to get the vaseline. Claire got in but then got out again as she had forgotten to demist her goggles. What ever she says, it DOES NOT count as a double dip. Factually she had been in the water once. But she had not submerged. So it cannot be counted. (And this is my blog and I make the rules!)

We decided on a perimeter. We were meeting at the buoy by the blue houses for a catch up. Claire had not been well over the weekend and had missed the swimming adventures. She has also some dizzy spells. Both being nurses we had diagnosed the problem as a balance problem stemming from her inner ear. We await the results of the investigations!

Once swimming I felt much better than I had done before I got in. I met Claire at the buoy and we stopped for a chat. We complimented each other on how well we were swimming. I said that I would have a leisurely swim to the next buoy and then I would put in a bit of an effort so it was not just a plod.

claire and sarah






Although we only swam for 30 minutes it was fun. Claire was feeling more confident. For the last 200m or so we swam head up breaststroke. You can chat that way you see. I suggested to Claire that she may want to think about doing some shorter distances at speed. Generally she is a faster swimmer than I. When we were evenly trained (just before she got the dizzy spells again in March) she was leaving me for dead in the sea and the pool. And although she can keep going on and on and on, (She swims a lot too!) she does have the potential to take part in some races.

We were pondering this when some geese had a fight and came running across the water toward us. I immediately ducked and one of the geese ran straight over my head. It is strange to see geese come running toward you at eye level. It did not occur to either of us to be worried by it though. The goose who was being run off was probably more scared than us. They do get a bit tetchy when they have young with them.

We dried off and we had a cup of tea before departing. Arranging to meet the following day for more swim adventures.


smileythis photo was taken on a previous occaision. It is Claire and I. Hopefully the addition of pictures makes for a more interesting read. 

A lay in. On day 3 or 4. I cannot decide.


I slept in. I went to bed early on Monday night. I was in bed by 10.30am. I was sure I would be in the sea at 7am. I did not set an alarm so sure was I that I would wake up. I did of course wake up. But not til 7am. I had planned to be in the sea by then. 


I was also really hungry. (Did I mention I was on my holidays in a previous post). Did it really matter. Not in the slightest. I decided that I would have my breakfast on the decking and then get to the sea by about 10.30 ish. Time is a guide after all. 


I had a relaxing morning. But I was also aware that I was waiting to swim. Not only that, I was looking forward to swimming. If I eat substantially I do need to wait for two hours at least. I have experimented with this. There is an “old wives tale” that you should not eat before swimming other wise you will drown. Or get cramp. Or something equally hideous. Although I think on the scale of hideous ness that drowning is worse than a bit of cramp.  


I am not sure where that  myth came from. Or why it is an old wives tale. As opposed to a “young husbands tale” or “kindly aunt” tale. After all, it appears to be well meaning if factually incorrect. 


I do find though that I need to wait for 2 hours. Otherwise I get heart burn and vomit. (Now that is not part of the tale either is it?  I have never had cramp associated with eating and swimming and obviously I have not drowned!) 


Dan Earthquake once told me to vomit on the out breath. This was indeed sage advice. Last year I managed quite a long swim while I was vomiting. Always on the out breath. It saves inhaling you see. And it means you can keep moving and vomit at once. For those who think multi tasking is also a myth – that is doing two things at once!


I went down to Sunny Sands for my swim. It was cloudy with outbreaks of sunshine. Warm but not as warm as the previous days. In fact perfect swim conditions. I always use sunscreen but I do prefer a bit of cloud coverage. 


easter morning swimble 2











Still it was only an hours swim. Steady non stop. The tide was out and I was able to swim harbour wall to the end of the promenade again. As I passed the steps I would do 100 fast strokes (so it was not just a plodding session). I then saw a boat arrive. It moored just outside the harbour. In spite of my prescription goggles (brand new but already scratched from the sand) I could not see the name. It looked similar to Pathfinder so I went to investigate. I am of course still swimming at this point so the break was not truly a break. Infact I did not stop. I merely took a detour from my planned route. 


As I have said before, when I am on my own I do not stop (unless they are planned as part of the training). So I merely went close enough to read the name, realised my mistake and carried on. 


I was smiling all the way. 


A couple of kayakers asked me for the time. I realised at that point that I had already been in for 50 minutes. It had flown by. I can honestly say I did not want to get out when the hour was up. I gave myself another 10 minutes as a treat. But, I have a training plan. And I am enjoying it. Doing more than I have planned will certainly lead to fatigue if not injury.  I still have a long way to go. No point ruining it by going over board (if you pardon the pun) 


My kit was still there. (A towel and my swammy and glasses) My car key was safely attached to my cossie. I wondered back to the car. I now had 24 hours rest between swims. 


For the rest of the day I planned upon being a true holiday maker. The forcast in keeping with this desire was for rain!

Swim swim swim.

Early morning swims are both my favourite thing and my least favourite thing. Sometimes I wake up raring to go. Other times it is a struggle to get out of bed. 


An early night the previous night saw me awake early. I prefer to wait till 7 ish before I go to swim. This is mainly because I am swimming alone. At that time there is always a council worker about picking up litter. And there are usually some people with metal detectors if it is a low tide. Which this particular day was. So I stayed in bed for another hour. It was a rare occasion when a lay in is possible and bed still feels inviting. Mind you a lay in till 645am would not count quite as a lay in for many I suppose. 


It was bright sunny and warm. So I decided to go down to Sunny Sands in my cossie with my swamket over the top. I had my sunglasses with me which apart from the towel and swammy were the only things to leave on the beach. They are not much good to any one unless they have a -3 prescription. 


The water temperature at the coastal observatory was reading 14.4 at 5.30am.  The sea was flat and the tide was outward bound.


The empty beach today











My swim plan was to do a speed/recovery set. Swimming from the Burstin to the end of the promenade is around 450m or so. The plan to swim fast toward Dover (against the swell. That is overstating it as it was more of a ripple than a swell.) and to have a steady swim back. This I would repeat for the hour. I envisage that each repeat would take around 15 minutes so I would get 4 reps in. Although the sea was flat from the shore, when your head is level it is not possible to see over the rippling sea. I was swimming on an empty stomach (but for a cup of tea and half a glass of vimto). I like to do this for early swims. 


I generally wake up hungry and I know that on my channel swim I will be hungry. I think it is good practice to swim hungry. I may have to do this a lot on the big day.  Apparently it is also good for fat burning. Although my bodies physiological response to the cold I expose it to is probably one of confusion. Do you want this fat or not? Well it has clearly decided I do as I have a layer of “bioprene” cover. As good as a wet suit mind. 


The sea at 14.4 feels warm to me these days. I have no trouble submerging.  And with the sun on my back I swim with a big smile on my face. I wanted to stay in longer but I have a plan. It would be easy for me to do more as I love being in the sea. But a double dip is planned today. I have a technique session planned for later in the day. 


Swim 2


The second session of the day is a technique session. This is where I use drills to help with rectifying stroke. The more efficient the technique, the easier it feels. I have worked a lot on my stroke over the winter. Claire Russell and I have done some monster technique sets in the pool. They are a sociable type of training as there is always time to have a chat as you put on your fins or have a drink. It is the first time that I have used my swim toys in the lake. 


I arrived at the lake in good time. I was meeting Ali at 5pm and I arrived before 4. This meant that I would complete the set before she arrived. I was quick to get in. I am always more focused when I am alone. 


not quite the high elbow there missus














Paula remarked on the wind. I can honestly say that the sea was calmer that morning!


Still nothing ventured nothing gained. I entered the water. It actually felt warm. I am not sure of the temperature but I would hazard a guess at 17. The sun was shining brightly and if I skimmed the top of the water with my hand, I could feel its warmth. I was so glad I did my six hour last week!


I did a 550 warm up and then did the drills. Swimming the 1st yellow buoy and back I did all the drills that I would do in the pool. It worked ok. It was hard to do the Torpedo drill and Unco due to the waves. But with plenty of spluttering I managed it. 


I did all the drills and finished with a 450m cold down. 


Paula came down when I was about half way through to say that Ali’s 121 lesson had cancelled and she was going to go home and help Miche with the shed building. 


I decided to crack on anyway and hope to miss the rush hour. 


On my way out I saw Jamie. I had been thinking about him during my swims. I suggested to him that I could set him a programme of 4 sessions a week. He agreed. Like me Jamie can keep going for ever. This is ok in Ironman as the event although arduous is pretty predictable. Not so the channel. There are many more variable. But an ability to beat the tide is the difference between a 12 hour swim and an 18 hour swim. 


Jamie (for readers who may not have read my earlier blog. If not, why not?) is doing a two man channel relay with the Channel Swimmers and Pilot Federation and pilot Paul Foreman. (Other Channel swimming governing bodies  and pilots are available – well one the CSA – of whom Eric Hartley (Pathfinder) is my favourite pilot. Other pilots are also available with the CSA including Stuart Gleeson (Sea Leopard). )  Any way, I digress. Alan his swim buddy is fast. With a bit of concerted effort  and the right training Jamie could be swimming faster. 


With that promise, I took leave of the lake and set off back to the van. I did hit rush hour. And it took me 90 minutes to do the usual 45 minute journey. But, I am on my holidays so I don’t mind. When some one cut me up on the motorway I merely waved cheerily and blew them a kiss.  Life is good! And I am enjoying it. 


Oh and I forgot to mention the RCN Foundation. Have a peak at the link to see what they do.


after the six hour foundation towel

Swim Training Camp Day 1 (or 2) It depends really.

I am not counting yesterdays “swim anxiety” as training. Although I would have been in the water for 2.5 hours, most of it was with a wet suit. But also on my plan I had scheduled it as a rest/play day. Still I was in the water but….


Sunday 18 May 


My plan is to swim the channel in the week. Now I think it will take me between 15 – 18 hours. As I will be swimming in both the lake and the sea I cannot measure accurately the distance. So I will be measuring in time. 


I plan to swim between Sun 18 May and Mon 26 May for at least 18 hours. I am not swimming any longer than 4 hours at a time in this week. This is mainly because I don’t want to injure myself. 


Assuming an average pace of 2.5kmh (and I think I am bit faster approx 2.7kmph) I will be swimming approximately 45KM. I had originally thought I would like to swim about 60km. Ali (coach) suggested that while that was achievable, it was important to build in adequate rest. She was also concerned that that would involve having to swim longer than 4 hours. The purpose of this week is to set up my for longer weekend swims during June before the final build sessions in July.


I arrived at the beach just after 10am.  I thought I was early but there were already several people in the water. Neil and Grantley (Enduro men for this year coincidently on the same tide as me) were already swimming. John (from Birmingham) and two swimmers who I did not recognise were also in the water. Dan was not swimming and neither at that point was Tamsin. 


The sun was shining gloriously again. It was about 20 degrees air temperature and the weather bouy indicated that the sea was 13.3 degrees. It felt ok getting in. I splashed Tamsin to make her squeal and then dived in before she could splash me back. I am sure revenge will be a dish best savoured cold. So  I will be looking out for her during January to March next year!



















I then squealed myself. I thought I had trodden on glass. But it was a hermit crab asking me to get out of the way. I must have stood in its way again as it gave me another nip on the toe. This is the first time I have not worn my swim shoes for ages. It will also be the last time I forget them!


















Glenn was walking up and down in the sea. Turns out he had had to dive out of the way of a car and had damaged his ribs an intercostals. He was getting in and out of the sea. Making use of the cold water and the warm sunshine as natural anti inflammatories. 


My plan was to swim for 2 hours. The others were all doing more than 2 so had set off earlier (around 9am). Tamsin and I were swimming by 10.30am. She stayed in for around 45 minutes before exiting and being met by her personal beach butler. 
















The water felt warm in parts and there were other colder bits. I thought that the sea would be about 15 degrees in places it felt so warm. 


Dan kindly was undertaking beach butler duties. He was dressed in neoprene as the day before he had burnt. He had been wearing his dressing gown and had burnt through the material. It is not often I ask for a picture of a man in his dressing gown. But I found myself emailing him for the picture. It is possibly a strange reflection on our relationship that he did not bat an eyelid and sent it back by return!


dans dressing gown


















He waded out with my drink, instructing me to tread water and take a drink. This I did and then swam on again. The tide was right out. I was making good time between the harbour wall and the end of the promenade. Before too long I was being offered another drink. I only had another 20 minutes to swim to accomplish the two hours. My elbow began to twinge a little after that second drink. I will have to have that attended to. I don;t want to develop tennis elbow. I am sure it is swim related as it only twinges when I swim and not at other times. 


I got out. The tide was coming in fast. We moved up the ramp and I got dry there. It was warm and sunny. I had on a stroppy t shirt and shorts and I was warm. 


I met a guy called Tom Watch. He is an 86 year old gentleman who has coached numerous channel swimmers and enduromen. He told me he did not like to take on new people these days as at his age he may leave them without a coach. Although he walks with a stick I saw him climb over the wall and he is a sprightly fellow. We chatted for a while before he left with Eddy (of Enduroman) to head home. A little Channel history. (For the avoidance of doubt he did not coach Captain Webb!) 















Grantley and David were last out of the water.  (Earlier in the water I had been pleased to over take Grantley as he is a solid swimmer. At that point I had not realised that he had swum for 6 hours the previous day and was on his second hour by the time I got in. It doesn’t change the fact. It just adds some context!) 


They had been swimming for 4 hours that day. Grantley has an enduroman race this year (on the same tide as me). David plans to do his next year. Eddy is part of Enduroman and was there keeping a watch ful eye. 


Neil (who had run down the day before. 60 miles. He said he did not have a lift. He did have a lift home though!) swam a creditble 3 hours with no wetsuit. He is also has an enduroman race this year. 



















(Earlier in the water I had been pleased to over take him as he is a solid swimmer. At that point I had not realised that he had swum for 6 hours the previous day and was on his second hour by the time I got in. It doesn’t change the fact. It just adds some context!) 


Dan Earthquake (who is largely responsible for bringing us all together) waited for everyone to finish. At this point it was time to go and get Sunday dinner from The Lifeboat. Always a favourite thing to do after swimming. 

Swimming anxiety (but not mine).

My holiday arrived at long last. It is hard to believe that a year ago Ali Miche Kaz and I were returning from Swanage. I am going to have to be typically British and just mention the weather now. So bear with me.

The weather could not be more different to last year. 2013 was the longest winter ever. We had booked to go camping last year in the hope of having warm days (if not chilly nights). The plan was to swim the channel in a week. We could not have been more wrong. The sea was still between 7 and 9 degrees. The air temperature barely much more. And some mornings we had ice warnings on the temperature gauge on my car.

But this year! Wow. The sun was shining. The temperature was 20 degrees at 10am. There was barely any wind. Fantastic. When I met Ali at Leybourne I reminded her. “2013 was never going be my year” she said.

Pleased to have got my six hour swim out of the way last week. A good job as the temperature and eked up to 16 degrees at the edge. I had agreed to help Ali with the assessments. I had also arranged to meet Jane. A lady from the previous week who had started the assessment but could not complete it. I had promised to swim 121 with her this week.

We met at 11am for a cup of tea and a chat. The assessments started at 11.30am. There were 9 swimmers in total. Suited up (in a wet suit not my business suit.. or my birthday suit for that matter!) we entered the water.







16 degrees of course feels warm to us. Particularly in a wetsuit. But for those who are not acclimatised, it is still cold. Ali went through the acclimatisation drill. Every one looked happy with it. And we set off.

I swam behind as usual (to make sure everyone is ok) I was able to share my top tips with the new swimmers. I had already shared the cheap washing up liquid as a goggle de mister at the beginning. It also works for bathroom mirrors. Other useful tips included to stop eggs rolling off the table, place them in a bowl or other similar egg shaped receptacle. Bugger all use when you are swimming. Perhaps more handy when you are baking though. I am sure our swimmers have clear goggles and have reduced their broken egg incidents at home.


assessments 3






The assessments over I met Jane. She had already suited up. I decided to keep mine on just in case. I also used Flo (my swim safety device) Other models are available. But mine is from the states. It cost a fortune by the time I had paid the duty on it. But it is a useful swim device. It is both dry bag and a float. You attach it to your waist and it floats behind you.

I went through acclimatisation. I asked Jane what she thought the issue was. We talked about it for a while. Physical causes had been ruled out earlier in the week when she had seen her GP. So we thought about the things that make new swimmers anxious. Some don’t like the feeling of the wetsuit. It is constricting, grippy and usually tight around the neck. Others don’t like being splashed or swimming near others. The cold is an issue for some. We have a saying that it “only takes your breath away once”. But for some swimmers they then never really get control of their breathing.

Jane thought it may be the cold on her face. We talked about it for a while. It was more important for her to finish the swim she has planned. She was not worried about speed. So we decided she may wish to try breast stroke. She is comfortable with this and can then see where she is going.

We swam to the first buoy. She immersed her face between strokes. I noted that when she came up for air she was first of all exhaling. I advised blowing bubbles in the water and to practice breathing out under water. We did this for a while and then we swam to the next bouy. She was comfortable and smooth. And pretty fast. I certainly could not keep up with her doing breast stroke myself!

Having caught her up we swam back to shore to get rid of Flo. I thought we should try without. So we shed Flo and then carried on swimming. Jane swam beautifully. I asks Ali what sort of start Blenheim was. Apparently you have to jump in from a height. I hummed and ahhhed. Not my favourite thing jumping in. It is an air thing! Well a height thing. Ali said in a voice she was sure everyone could hear “you did it last year, JFDI!”

Shooting her a hard stare before collecting Flo (for safety reasons – her being a swim safety device) we set off to the pontoon. I said I thought it was about 150m from the jetty. I think that is wrong. I have no ideas how far it is. But it seemed to take us ages.

I said to Jane it was worth practising as we could use some techniques to help her retain control of her breathing. We did not really need to do that. She jumped in. Again. And again. And again. No bother. I was hesitant but also jumped in.

We then swam back to the jetty. I advised Jane she had passed her assessment. We had in reality swum much further than the assessment and been in deeper water.

I was delighted for her. I offered to swim the 750m course next weekend with her. Then she will be ready to swim her own race.

Fantastic. Someone who was so nervous (but smiling) last week came out of the water happy and confident. What could be better than helping others to have as much fun as I do!









Princess Fiona had arrived in the mean time. And Jamie. Ali offered up my services to have a look at his stroke. We set him off on 3x400m round the bouys. Catching him up for one of them so we could have a look.

I was able to give Jamie some tips too. Not baking tips this time. Swimming tips. I advised him about a few drills that would help his arm entry and rotation. And then I decided it was time to get out.

It is corny to say it but true non the less. I love helping others to enjoy swimming. I am not a coach. I don’t get paid. I have just learnt things along the way and enjoy sharing what little I know with others.

I had already invited myself to Ali and Miche’s or tea. I had also requested meat balls. I had a sandwich when I got out. Ali was not ready as she had some assessments to do. Fiona carried on swimming. Barely a peep out of her this week. She swam well and was much warmer at the end.

It is amazing how much better it feels getting out into warm sunshine. Actually, that is not amazing at all. It is evident. That sentence does not sound quite as good though. It is evident how much better it feels getting out into the warm sunshine. See? I shall stick with the original line. We did not shiver at all. Ali and I had been in 2.5 hours in total and Princess Fiona an hour.

The first thing to do upon arrival at Ali and Miche’s was to inspect the shed. (I usually have a wee as the first thing I do but not today) Miche has designed and is building a shed in their garden. To call it a shed is not quite right. Some may call it a summer house. Miche is calling it a cow shed for now. Either way it is a temporary erection for which one does not require planning permission. Their neighbour appears to have developed erection envy. I say that as while we were there we saw him measuring up for what we assumed is going to be an even bigger erection.

There will be a grand opening and there is a competition to name the shed. I was lost for ideas. Probably because I was so hungry.

The meatballs were amaze balls by the way! And I ate 4! Which I thought was a record. Apparently I have eaten 4 before. So I have equalled my record.