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Can I swim the channel in a week?

2 Mar

Linked to Source

No, I don’t mean I’m thinking of swimming the channel in a week’s time – I’d be sliiightly under prepared if I did – rather that I’m wondering if I can complete the distance (22 miles) in the pool (1408 lengths) by the end of next week.

My local pool is hosting a challenge where swimmers can log the miles they swim between now and August, towards the goal of 22 miles. Apparently there are prizes, but I don’t know what yet. Of course, as soon my ‘stealth competitive’ side heard this (this is the side of me that likes racing people in the pool whilst they’re unaware that we’re racing) it perked right up. Swim the channel? Against elderly breaststrokers? Let’s obliterate theeeem!! (Don’t ask me where this comes from, I’m not particularly proud of it. Maybe I’m an attention seeker.)

Anyway, I’ll need to complete 260 lengths a day for 5 days, to add to the 112 I did today (I’ll most certainly be including my warm-ups and cool-downs, which I don’t count for my Lifeboat Challenge).

Think I can do it?

(Oh, BTW, completed mile 105 today)


Well-a, Rrrr have swum. One. Hun. Dred. Miles. And-a Rrrr will swim. One. Hun. Dred. Mooore.

24 Feb

Dun-da-dun-Daah (Dun-da-dun-Daah).   Naah, too many syllables to write the rest of that out.

By Anvica (linked to source)

 Yes, I’m halfway there(ish)! And in way of celebration, yesterday I set a new PB for 400m of 6.06.

I haven’t really laboured too much on the fundraising side of things, mainly to give family and friend’s pockets a break from last year, but now the first half is out of the way, it’s time to start raising that total! Not that I haven’t had and sponsors recently – big thanks to Kat C, Alex M and Victoria S for their generous donations.

By Choconancy1

So with 101.2 miles to go and 22 weeks til the Olympics, that means I’m very much still on target. Just to break that down, it’s 4.6 miles a week, or around 300 lengths of a 25m pool.

I’ve got 3 open water events lined up so far this year:

Great London Swim – 26 May
Great North Swim – 24 June
Great Manchester Swim – 1 July

I’m really looking forward to them all, especially as my good friends from ‘Betty’s Buoys’ will be joining me for the Windermere swim – back where it all started in Sept ’09.

By Leo Reynolds (linked to source)

Right, I’m going to have a nice relax this weekend, then it’s on with the journey on Monday.

Have a great weekend and Happy Swimming to you all!

Lifeboats Swim – Wk 4: Welcome to Miami!

7 Nov

Miami Beach, Sutton-on-Sea that is.

4 weeks down and 20 miles (1,296 lengths) complete – phew!.  That’s just a tenth of the total done but I’m well on my way as you can see from my virtual route map.  My challenge has now been advertised in a department-wide bulletin at work to senior staff , by fellow swimmers at my pool and also by my good friend DJ Einstein from the hip-hop group Ugly Duckling – thanks to Jon, Jamie and Rod for their help.

The fund-raising is going well and with thanks to some generous donations this week from Jon, Rob and Sally at work we’re now up to £112!  Here’s that justgiving link again:

Right, off to swim another mile…

P.S. I know I said this blog was going to feature gadget reviews and I promise one is on the way soon!

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

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!

We’re heading for Venus (Venus)

24 Sep


Banana… Check.  Bodyglide… Check.  Morrison’s carrier bag… Check.  Ok, drag your mind out of the gutter, I’m not preparing for some kinky sexy-time session here. No, it’s my last open water swim event of the season tomorrow!

Hosted by Votwo Events, it’s the final of the RNLI Long Swim Series. The venue is Dorney Lake at Eton College in Buckinghamshire, UK. It’s a manmade lake built specifically for rowing and will be used next year in the Olympics for said event.

It’s another mile event (although there’s also 750m and 3.8km distances), so i’ve got a few others I can compare times with this year.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on increasing my aerobic threshold, but just this week some piece of technique seems to have clicked. I’ve still to define exactly what that is, but I’ve gone from a 3.27 for 200m to a 3.20, then a 3.10 on Thursday. Over a week and a half that seems to me like a huge improvement!

Of course rather than giving me the belief that I can get a PB tomorrow, I’m actually putting pressure on myself because I’ll be disappointed if I don’t. I guess this is where we start to get into the psychological aspects of sport – something I think will definitely be interesting to revisit at a later date.

Whatever happens, I’ve had a great season and have achieved a lot more than I thought I could. Here’s to the end of the season!

Oh, and a big Happy Birthday to my big sis for tomorrow – love ya!

Event: Great North Swim 2009 & 2011

22 Sep

Beware of flags stuck to your swim cap

So this is the one, the Great Grandaddy, where it all started for me back in 2009 at Lake Windermere.  Grab yourself a brew and get comfy folks, cos this post’s gonna be a long’un! (well, for me)

Back in 2009 the Great Swim series was still getting started, with the first event being held just the year before.  By the time my team and I (affectionately called ‘Betty’s Buoys’ by the only lady in the group) had entered there were only a handful of places left, so even back then it was a popular event.  The entry process hasn’t changed much over the years – choose your wave time, t-shirt size, etc.  We received our event packs about a week before the event and were ready to go with our swim hats, timing chip and info booklet.

Since this was my very first open water event (or any event for that matter) I really didn’t know what to expect beyond the info on the website.  I’d managed to swim a mile in my local pool a few times (64 lengths x 25m, thereabouts), but at this stage I hadn’t attempted freestyle so it was the frog-kick all the way for me.  So many questions were running through my head:  what would it be like swimming in a wetsuit? (certainly not as hot as trying it out in the pool!)  How many people would be in my wave?  Can you see the bottom?  How cold will it be?! (in case you’re wondering, the answers were: pretty fun, lots, not really and hmm, a bit chilly)

My wife and I stayed in Bowness-on-Windermere, along with my folks, at the Westbourne hotel (a tip here – make sure you book waaaay ahead, particularly if you only want to stay for one night).  Driving to the event is a no-no as there’s only a couple of ways to the event and they get very busy.  Instead, we caught the ferry (free for me as a competitor) to Ambleside, which was a really pleasant journey.  For the 2011 swim we stayed in Ambleside itself, so were only a half hour walk away from the Low Wood Hotel, which is opposite the swim itself.  There’s absolutely no mistaking the route once you get close – just follow the crowds (but the not the one’s wearing the medals!).

The event village itself is really well set up, with plenty of food stalls, charity marquees, swim related companies and even a climbing wall. Once we’d found the changing tent and got ourselves ready there was a bit of time to hang about and get *really* nervous!  I always find this the hardest part – it gives my brain too much time to think.  Once the wave registration opened we were funneled down to the start area, timing chip and name checked on the way, down to the start.  This was our first opportunity to test the water out – all I can remember was thinking “Ohh, mmmy goddd, it’s cooold!”  This was early September, so I was really just being a bit of a wuss.

Right.  I need to stop myself before I get too much further, as I haven’t mentioned anything about the amazing surroundings!  I mean, wow – there can’t be many more places that are more picturesque than the Lake District.  Of all the events I’ve done so far this has got to be the most stunning.  You’re surrounded by impressive peaks and greenery in all directions – it’s almost a shame to swim freestyle.

Amazing Ambleside

Ok, where was I.  Once we’d had a dip and wondered what we’d let ourselves in for it was nearly time for the start.  (Incidentally, there’s a grandstand right next to the start that’s perfect for family and friends to watch from)  With about 10 minutes to go it was time for the safety briefing and short warm-up routine (I warn you – it’s impossible to look cool doing these).  It’s a rectangular course, with large yellow buoys marking various distances, waaaay off in the distance the pink turn buoys, and finally the very welcoming red buoys, which mean you’re almost home.

10…9…8…7654321  HOOONK!!  They’re off!  Back in 2009 I was quite far back in the pack, so it was a steady walk across the timing mat, with time to make *help*faces at the rest of the team, followed by the wild melee of flailing arms and legs.  This year, however, I was right at the front so I actually managed to run in.  The stretch to the first pink buoy seems a long way off, but it’s actually shorter on the way back in.  There’s not much I remember about the actual swim itself as I tend to ‘zone out’ a bit – it’s one of the reasons I like swimming, I find it quite meditative.  Anyway, once you’re past those red finish buoys it’s a short sprint to the ramp and a welcoming hand out of the water.  Hurrah – the finish!  All that’s left is to get the goodie bag and those classic Great Swim flip-flops!

Amongst the Great Swims I’ve done this is probably my favourite, partly for sentimental reasons, but mainly for the atmosphere and location.  I think it’ll keep me coming back season after season!

[One thing I haven’t mentioned is what happened to the 2010 event – pesky blue/green algae, that’s what!  It’s just one of those unpredictable parts of open water swimming, but of course no one wants to be swimming through that muck.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the 2011 event being moved to June?)]

Tiiiime, is on my side. Yuues it is

20 Sep

Photo by WWarby

I have to admit, I’m a *bit* of a sucker for stats and the like (right, I’m not going to apologise for being a geek any longer).  I’m sure I’m not alone when it comes to the time sheets – after all, timing yourself is the easiest way to measure your progression.  Of course, it means a bit more when you’re pool swimming, since in open water conditions on the day can vary wildly from one season to the next (or even one hour to the next).  Still, timings can still be a useful tool.

As an illustration (and to document where I’ve got to so far), I’m going to list the open water events I’ve done thus far:

  • Great North Swim 2009 (1 mile, lake):  38.40 (breaststroke only)
  • Great London Swim 2010 (1 mile, dock):  36.28
  • Great Salford Swim 2010 (1 mile, dock):  34.28
  • Great Salford Swim 2011 (1 mile, dock):  29.55
  • Great North Swim 2011 (1 mile, lake):  29.49
  • Great London Swim 2011 (1 mile, dock):  29.52
  • International Birdman Swim (2km, sea):  29.17
  • Henley-on-Thames River Swim (1.5km):  27.40
  • WWF Blue Mile swim (1 mile, reservoir):  29.25
  • RNLI Swim Series, Dorney (1 mile, lake):  ?

As you can see, quite a massive difference between seasons, but for those first few Great Swims this year I was only just dipping under 30 mins.   Still, given that the goal I had set myself this year was to swim under 30 mins by the END of the season, I’m pretty pleased with myself.  I can’t really count the Henley swim in this as it was a shorter distance, and the Birdman swim was obviously massively current assisted, but knocking almost 25 secs off my previous best at the WWF swim was good (I think better sighting helped a lot there).

So, the Dorney Lake swim is this Sunday – can I end the season on a PB?!

It’s all for charidee, mate

17 Sep

WWF Blue Mile Swim - 4th Sept 2011

Back in 2009 when I took part in my first open water event, the Great North Swim, it was a perfect opportunity to raise some money for charity.  In the end our team raised over £1000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.  This year, since I had entered 7 events I thought it would be another great chance.  I already make donations to the World Wildlife Fund UK so made that my charity of choice for the season.  This is their mission in their own words:

As part of the international WWF network, WWF-UK addresses global threats to people and nature such as climate change, the peril to endangered species and habitats, and the unsustainable consumption of the world’s natural resources. We do this by influencing how governments, businesses and people think, learn and act in relation to the world around us, and by working with local communities to improve their livelihoods and the environment upon which we all depend.
WWF uses its practical experience, knowledge and credibility to create long-term solutions for the planet’s environment.

A very worthy cause I’m sure you’ll agree.  Unless you happen to live on the moon.

My latest swim (review to come) was actually an event organised by WWF-UK themselves – The WWF Blue Mile.  This one was all about raising funds for their work protecting our rivers and seas – if you’re interested in swimming, and since you’re reading this I’m guessing you are, then you’ll know how important this is.

Now that I’ve said my piece, should you wish to support this worthy cause (ie, the planet), just click on the justgiving link next to my picture.  Or click here.

Chug over and out.