Category Archives: Injury

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.

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


Gammy Eyes

After an auspicious start to training last week in the sea, I found myself with gammy eyes. My right goggle leaked when I was in the sea with Dan and Victoria et al. Given the rainfall and strong tides, and that Folkestone has a sewage outlet ……

So with antibiotic eye drops, I was 5 days out of the water. Whilst I could go swimming, I twittered out and received one response to keep my gammy eyes  to myself. Plus the pharmacist had said no swimming. 


Saturday saw me in the pool for a 5k speed endurance set. Known as As and Bs the goal is to swim to a bleep. I had the lane to myself to begin with but was soon joined by other swimmers. In the main we were able to keep out of each others way. This did not last for long when a breast stroker decided she was “fast” rather than medium. I am not sure why she got into the “fast lane” except there were already 3 in the other lane. The majority of the pool was for family swim time. Still she politely waited at each end if she thought either me or the bloke were anywhere near. 


4K in the pool became packed with families. All the swim toys were thrown in. My lane filled up and there were now 5 people in it. I could not make the bleep as there would invariably be someone in front. Not wanting to churn out junk miles at a slow pace, I decided to call it a day at 4.2K


It was a pacey set. The last Bs were a bit of struggle and I cannot say that I was too upset to finish. I was pleased with the session though. It felt like a quality set. 


Sunday was scheduled to be a sea swim. Kaz (already in Folkestone) gave a weather report to say the sea in Folky was too rough for swimming. I decided not to drive the 65 miles down for what could be a look at the sea and at the most 20 minutes. The caravan opens on 12 February. Plus I know that I have a place to stay on the next Cold Water Culture weekend. So I decided to spend the whole day with Melton. He is due to be a swim widower over the next 8 months and as the opportunity arose, I took it.