Archive | October, 2011

Lifeboats Olympic Challenge – Week 2

23 Oct


Well it’s 2 weeks down and all is going great. My total number of lengths is up to 640 (10 miles) and just this Friday I set another PB for a mile in the pool of 27.29. You could say it was an ‘unaided’ swim as I decided not to use any of my metronome pacing gadgets and just do a gentle 64 lengths. My aim for next season is to break into 25 mins – think I can do it?!

On the fundraising side I’ve now had my first donations – woohoo! So that’s £65 raised for the Lifeboat Fund with thanks to my wife Katie and mum and dad.


Lifeboats Olympic Challenge – Week 1

15 Oct

320 down… 12,631 to go!

I’m now one week into my Olympic swim challenge in aid of the Lifeboat Fund, and so far, so good.  Over the course of the 42 weeks (now 41) between now and the Olympics I need to average around 4.8 miles a week (or 7,709m/308 lengths).  As you can see from the pic of my progress board I have up at work, I’ve totalled 320 lengths – so in fact I’m a little up.  Check my virtual route map to see where along the coast I am now!

This week has been a good demonstration of why this challenge is a real challenge – towards the end of the week the energy levels were a bit low and the thought of a half or 3/4 mile seemed quite enticing.  Maybe with a coach on the side of the deck pushing me on it would be different, but I have only myself and the thought of all the great work of the RNLI to keep me going.  But I will get there, have no doubt!

You can sponsor me here:

Nicky Buoy Swims for Lifeboats – 201.2 miles to the Olympics

10 Oct

One week without swimming makes one weak

For my latest swimming challenge a week off is not an option.  To commemorate the 2012 Olympics, and to raise money for the Lifeboat Fund, I shall be swimming a total of 201.2 miles between today, 10 Oct, and the opening ceremony in July 2012.

Over the next 42 weeks I’ll be hitting the pool and the open water events to cover the equivalent of almost 13,000 lengths of a 25m pool.  That’s around 5 miles, or 308 lengths a week.  In fact, it’s like me hopping on the train from Leeds over to Grimsby and swimming down along the coast and up the Thames to the Olympic Village (well, in nautical miles)!  You can keep track of my progress by clicking on the map at the top of my blog page.

So, please head on over to my Justgiving page if you want to donate!

So, why the Lifeboat Fund?  Well, I’ve been a civil servant for 11 years and it’s our official charity.  Here’s a bit from their website:

“The Communications and Public Service Lifeboat Fund (The Lifeboat Fund, for short) is proud to be the single largest regular contributor to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the charity that saves lives at sea.  The Fund is registered with the official regulators as a charity which fundraises throughout the UK.

The Fund was formed in 1866 by civil servants who wanted to donate and now, in the 21 century, its mission continues, to ensure there is a source of help for those who find themselves in situations of panic and distress in the UK’s coastal waters.  Often, their only source of help is the courageous and selfless body of RNLI volunteers, always ready to respond to ‘shouts’ in any weather and all times of the day and night.  Sometimes, they owe their lives to them.

All money raised by The Fund goes directly to support the RNLI. We are by far its largest contributor. Since it was formed, The Lifeboat Fund has provided the RNLI with 52 new lifeboats and lots of other assistance.  The RNLI survives solely on voluntary contributions and legacies.  So it needs our help to maintain over 330 lifeboats in its active fleet, working out of 235 lifeboat stations.  In each of 2009 and 2010, the volunteer crews rescued well over 8,000 people – an average of 22 every single day.

The Lifeboat Fund is an official charity of the Civil Service, the Royal Mail and British Telecom.  It benefits from giving by serving and retired employees and from legacies.  Civil servants the length and breadth of the UK organise fundraising collections and promote the lifesaving work of the RNLI.  Our Patron is HRH the Duke of Kent.”

And now a bit about the RNLI:

“The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. We provide a 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service around the coasts of the UK and RoI, as well as a seasonal lifeguard service on many of the busiest beaches in England and Wales.  The RNLI has saved more than 139,000 since it’s foundation in 1824.

The RNLI also works to promote sea and beach safety.”

Here’s that Justgiving link once again.


Nicky Buoy

Break on through to the other side!

7 Oct

Photo by B5160-R

I could have been king. But in my own way, I *am* king.” Ash

Ok, so I may be exaggerating the enormity of my latest achievement a *teensie* bit, but to me it’s a pretty big one.

My long standing 100m PB of 1.31 has fallen. So long sucka. Hellooo 1.26 🙂

Truth be told, I haven’t really been working on my sprints much since that 1.31 back in March. Still, given all the endurance and technique training I’ve been doing you’d have expected that to drop a bit. Once again, it seems like my recent improvements are to thank. And I think I’ve figured out what they are…

I believe there are 3 aspects that have contributed to my recent PBs:

  • Eliminating any glide before the catch and not applying pressure during it
  • Timing my strokes so that my recovering arm has entered the water and is spearing forward as my stroking arm is starting the pull (almost like a flying Superman pose?)
  • Keeping my core strong and stretching tall

What do all these have in common? That’s right, it’s all about reducing drag! I’ve also found that my stroke rate has increased quite naturally too. It’s all still a bit rough, but I think the basic principles are there.

(200m times are also down from around 3.26 to 3.04 over the last 3 weeks – which I still don’t quite believe yet)

So to sum up, I wanted to highlight once again the importance of swimming smarter. What’s the point of putting all that effort in if you’re gonna be a draaaag?!

I felt the neeed… and I had the speeed! (Event: RNLI Long Swim @ Dorney Lake 25 Sept 2011)

3 Oct

When I go out to race, I’m not trying to beat opponents, I’m trying to beat what I have done …to beat myself, basically“.  Ian Thorpe

Despite some of the faces, it was a pleasant 18°C-ish

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I swam my last open water event of the season at Dorney Lake last weekend.  Only 3 weeks before then I’d set a personal best for a mile with a 29.25 – I was pretty pleased with that as it was over 20 secs faster than my previous best, although I made a few mistakes and lost about 10 – 15 secs.  With all the improvements I’d made in the pool the week before Dorney I was quietly confident (but nervous) that I could maybe dip under 29 mins and beat my PB.  What I wasn’t expecting was to absolutely smash it…

Prior to the race I was much calmer than I’d been at previous events – perhaps it was knowing that I was certain to swim under 30 mins, which, after all, was my actual goal for the season.  Once all the race preparations were done and we were waiting for the start I was surprised by how calm I actually was – no excessive fiddling with my goggles at all (my main sign of nervousness).  This was a floating start and since there were only 48 other swimmers it wasn’t too crowded (compared to the 3.8km race, which had 175 competitors setting off at the same time!).  Dorney Lake is predominantly a rowing venue, so there were lane buoys all along the course, however it was pretty easy to spot and avoid by the anchor rope along the bottom.  The 1 mile course was simple enough, set out in a triangle – one large orange buoy out, back to a smaller white one, back across to the start and repeat.  As with some of the other smaller events the finish wasn’t very well marked.  Whilst I’m talking about the event itself, it appears someone had made quite a balls-up of the registration process – I was down as being a female doing the 3.8km swim.  The people both in front of me and behind also had the wrong details.  Also, for an event that was sponsored by RNLI, there was not a single tent, flag, poster to promote them.  Nothing.  Pretty strange for a charity really?

1 mile and 3.8km courses

One thing I need to remedy for next season is my goggles – every pair I’ve had have fogged up shortly after the start.  For this event I used some Aquasphere spray 30mins beforehand, and whilst that did seem to work, about 50m in I was back in Cloud City.  With each event I’ve done my sighting skill seems to have improved, but there was no way I was going to spot anything with the goggles as they were.  So I had to make a decision: press on and hope for the best, or stop and do something about it.  I decided on the latter – better to lose 5 secs now and see properly the rest of the way I figured.  So I made like an otter, rolled onto my back, stuck a finger in one lens and rubbed.  Hey presto, I could now see!  The rest of the swim was pretty straightforward so I just go into the zone and ploughed on.  In fact, I even had the presence of mind to consider the Swim Smooth blog post published the Friday before, which talked about the catch.

A look of confusion if ever there was one

I checked my watch as I exited the water – 27.05.  Surely that can’t be right?!  I spotted my folks and told them, but they thought I’d been in the water longer than that.  Much like the Henley swim, I was able to check my time instantly on the provided timing computer.  There it was confirmed – official time of 27.09!  Hmm, perhaps the course was actually shorter than I thought.  I checked with two officials who confirmed the distance as 1600m.

So how on earth did I drop 2.15 over 3 weeks?!  I spent most of the journey home that day trying to calculate and justify my time and decided that based on the pool times I was doing during the week before, it was entirely plausible.  In the pool I’d been doing between 3.10 – 3.20 for 200m, so an average split of 3.23 for a mile seems about right.  When you combine that with my improved sighting and being much calmer pre-race, it all just seemed to come together.  At previous events I think my relatively poorer technique and mistakes had negated any benefit gained from wearing a wetsuit, but it seemed to have actually helped this time.

So what lessons can I take from this into the winter training?  Firstly, I need to continue doing pilates.  The key areas of strengthening the core and stretching tall have really helped in my opinion.  After all, reducing drag should be our main focus.  Secondly, more catch work.  ‘Feel for the water’ still seems the most elusive part of the freestyle stroke.  But it seems I’m heading in the right direction!