Category Archives: Training

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!

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!


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”.

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. 

Do you believe in Mermaids?

Sunday dawned cold, cloudy and windy. This was the date I had set for my six hour qualification swim.  In order to be allowed to even set up on a channel swim there are rules. One of them is that you must have completed a 6 hour swim in water below 15 degrees. 


swim buds 6 hour swim


I set this date quite early. One because the lake where I swim would still fit the temperature criteria. But also because if I did not manage (for what ever reason) I still had 12 weeks left to fit it in. 


I was not feeling the love. I had planned to be at the lake by 10am. I was running a bit late. This was mainly because I had not been able to park near my caravan. The torrential rain the night over the weekend had left the grass soggy. So it took me longer to get all my kit from the van to the car. 


I arrived at the lake and rang my Mum. My Dad had been poorly over night and I just wanted to check on how he was. My plan to start swimming at 10.30 was not going to happen. 


Nick another channel swimmer was signing in at the same time as me. He had one bottle with him so was not in for the long haul. I chatted about my prospects of completing. To be honest I was not all that hopeful. It was cold and the wind was bitter cold. “if I don;t complete it it is not the end of the world I still have plenty of time”. Nick (his swim is early July) is counting training sessions. He still has 50 sessions to go. His is 6 weeks before mine. 


I went to sign the safety book. My coach and friend Ali was there already. She had assessments to do. We hugged and she could sense my doubts. Full of sympathy as ever she said, “you don;t have to do it. But you have planned to. So JFDI!”


She took some film with the RCN camera in which I was not all that positive. But I ended up saying I was doing it for the Foundation so I would have a go. 


There is not arguing with that. She boiled the kettle and offered to pour it in the lake for me. Not one to miss a photo opportunity (although I don;t like my photo taken!!) I decided to pose for that one myself. With the RCN Foundation arm showing!


warming the water


I then went to get my cossie on. My new goggles had arrived so this was their first outing. They were clear as a bell a they were not scratched. Comfortable.


Princess Fiona arrived full of apologies as she was running late! She had come to swim the first lap with me. I said I would get on with it and see her in there. I entered the water at 1055. Princess Fiona joined me about 2 minutes later and we set off at 11am. My task to keep swimming until 5pm.


mini bar for 6 hour swim


I pushed my mini bar to the bouy and attached it there. This held my drinks, jelly babies and jaffa cakes for the day. It saves me coming into the jetty. This saves me from a) standing up to drink and b) getting caught up in a chat. Those that know me well will realise I am always up for a chat and can be easily distracted. I can also focus. I have made no friends at the pool where I swim. On a morning I just get there at 6.30am, get in and swim and then go to work. I have not joined the women who stand at the end of the pool chatting. 



The wind was blowing a gale. There was stiller water at the entry but round at the back it was choppy and hard work. The wind felt cold on my arms. I know Fiona agreed. It was probably warmer in that out at that point. 


Our first lap was 30 minutes. I was swimming steady at a pace that I can keep up for hours. No point starting out too quick. I was pleased with that effort. Princess Fiona swam in but promised she would be back for the last lap. I decided that I would try and swim out of the wind. So I swam randomly around the lake not following any particular route.


artistic swim bud shot


I had said I would swim in at midday and swim with the newbies who were there for assessment. This I did. The pace was a bit slow as there is lots of stopping and starting. Princess Fiona (teeth chattering) offered to help Ali. Again full of sympathy Ali said “she’s in for six hours anyway it will be good for her!”.  I accompanied them around and did begin to feel a bit cold. I did not put my feet down (it does not matter if I did as the 6 hour swim is about cold water tolerance rather than swimming) . After it had finished I swam briskly to warm up and soon felt a bit warmer. Ali (bless her soul she can be kind really) swam out with a cup of tea in a flask. I had a drink of this and felt much better. 


I carried on swimming further Round and round and round. Randomly. I was aware that Kaz and Miche had arrived. I swam in to wave and shout greetings. I then assisted with another assessment. Again I got a bit cold and again Ali had a hot cup of tea in a flask for me. (Well a vaguely warm cup of tea which felt hot.)  


At three hours in I realised that it was on the cards that I could finish.  I only had the same to go again. Three hours thirty is the most time I have swum this year. So this was another milestone. Claire Russell joined me around 4 hours in. (I am not sure of the time at this point. We swam together for around 40 minutes before she exited. She was very happy with her swim. She has been having some dizzy spells in the water. She swam strong and it was a pleasure to have her. Not that we talked (except at the mini bar). But when you breathe it is good to see someone by your side. 


claire gets ready for six hour swim (mine not hers)


At 5 hours and 8 minutes something in my elbow twanged. I had a sharp pain in my joint. It swam to the mini bar and took some brufen. Swimming with a clenched fist helped the pain. But then the brufen began to work. By the time Ali and Princess Fiona joined me with 30 minutes to go it was tolerable and I could swim again with an open hand. Ali said she would bring our boat in. (We have part ownership of the vessel so she was keen to protect her investment) I swam in and there was a lovely welcome committee.


tuck shop selection


Sadly the RCN Foundation camera had run out of battery. Kaz filmed it on her phone. And so in I swam. I had done it. 


Upon completing I did feel a bit wobbly. I was not too cold at that point but struggled to get my balance. I posed in my red swamket for a few photos and then went to get dry.


after the six hour foundation towel


I surprised myself by having enough coordination to do up my bra. Often when you get that cold you lose the fine motor movements that are required for that type of task. 


Kaz had a surprise for me. My multi season swamket was ready. (ish) Fashioned from a shower curtain (the granniest one she could find!) she has been making this for some time. She was worried that the stitching was not of good enough quality. I suggested that most people would be so overwhelmed by the pattern they would hardly notice the stitching. 


angel of the north


I was made tea and offered jelly babies. A great post swim snack. Someone had bitten off all of their heads! I have my suspicions as Claire Russell had been waiting by the minibar for me to come in.  I enjoy her swim company but not the jelly baby abuse. 



Kaz showed us her photos and filming. There was a piece of film where I am swimming past and a little girl asks Kaz if she believes in Mermaids. Kaz replies that there is one in the water. 

Pete and Paula (the proprietors of Leybourne Lake Watersports Centre) congratulated me. They have been incredibly supportive of my swim endeavours at the lake. So a big shout out to them! 


We then had a group photo of the swim crew. Helen took the picture and the other Blue Tits assembled in the picture. I still have my swim hat on as I could not find my beanie. I am privileged to have great friends who are nuttier than me. I am swimming the channel. There is a reason for me being in the water and hanging around a chilly lake all day. These people just follow me around. I could not do it without them.  We do have fun and I lucky to have found them. Not that they were lost.  


There is that saying Reason Season or for life.  For me there is certainly a reason. But I also suspect that The Bluetits will be friends for life! 




I sent a text to Melton to let him know I had completed. 



I nailed it!

Double dip in May.

The sea was a balmy 11.7 degrees first thing. There had been a night frost and the early morning air temperature was struggling to reach double figures. It was going to be warmer in than out. 

I had arranged to meet Helen at 10am on Sunny Sands. We met “on the tops” where we had chosen to park. 


Melton was looking forward to sitting on the beach in the cold watching two mad women get into the water. The sun was shining though and there was little breeze. I wished Helen a happy new year as it was the first time we had met for some time. She arrived dressed to swim. Well she had boots on and a jumper but once she had taken those off and put on her hat and goggles she was ready. Or not. As the case may be. 


Helen has a half iron man race in July. She was planning a bike ride later in the day. So the early ish start (for a Sunday) suited her well. 




The tide was out. A long way out. It seemed to take us ages to walk down to the sea. Melton came with us to take photos. It felt really cold when we first stepped in. I was beginning to wonder if my stated hour was going to be too much. We decided we would do what we could do. 




Helen ducked and was up to her shoulders. Not wanting to be beaten (as I am certainly not competitive) I entered the water. I jump up and dive in.  Once you are in the air there is no turning back. It is a shocker and it felt cold. 


We headed for the Burstin, still not sure of our swim intentions. I swam to Helens right as that is the side she breathes. That way we can always keep an eye out for each other. I am a bi lateral breather. That is I breathe to both sides. I have had to practice this as it does not come naturally. The irony is that my weaker side is now my stronger side.  At least technically. I suspect that is because I did not have any bad habits.


We swam the whole of the front of Sunny Sands. From the end of the promenade to the harbour. It is long stretch. The water was flat and calm. Visibility below the water was not great. And it was fairly shallow. But this is not a bad idea if you are not sure how you will be. 


Helen swam fantastically strong and was in the water for 50 minutes. I swam for a further 20 minutes to make it 70 in all. 


We were both delighted with our swims as we had not believed that we would swim for so long. We kept up a steady even pace. 


Melton and I headed back to the van for dinner. I then had a siesta in preparation for my afternoon dip. It is tiring being cold. And we were cold after the swim. Neither of us juddered violently but we were a bit chilly. Melton wanted to open a window in the car but I said I was too cold. This is role reversal as it is usually me who is too warm. But I was chilled to the core and still had on my dry robe and hat. 


The afternoon swim was set for 4pm. Karen and Stuart volunteered to beach butler for me. Melton stayed at the van so that he could start dinner. 


My swim intentions were for another hour. The tide was in but just going out so it was not as far to walk. It was calm, flat and so clear. I was able to see the bottom for the whole time I was in. 


The water felt a little warmer for this swim. Kaz had stepped her toe in and declared it freezing. 


The recorded sea temperature was 12.3. Kaz accompanied me for photo opportunity. She paddled in the water and was soon calf deep in her jeans. She still said it was cold! She had not changed her mind from 5 minutes before. 




I swam intervals. Fast toward the Burstin (from the third falling rock sign) and steady back. I did this for an hour. I had a smile on my face for the whole time. I did see a white jelly fish. It was long and thin with a tail. This later turned out to be some old sacking that was half buried under the sand. The distortion of the water and possibly my mind was playing tricks on me. Stuart had said that jelly fish had been spotted. I am not sure where. But I do not think at Sunny Sands. I did see a crab though. He scuttled off beneath me giving me cheery wave. (That is a fib. His wave was not cheery!)




I got out and the sun was dipping. I ended up in the shade. Ever thoughtful, Kaz made me run to warm up. It works a treat. I thought I was quick and fleet of foot. The video footage proves otherwise! (this may be added at a later date if the demand is there)