Tag Archives: Great Swim

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!


Lifeboat Swim Wk 18: Donkey Rides and Water Slides

16 Feb

The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow.


I scream for ice cream! (by Weelakeo)

(Ah, dear blog – I thought I’d lost you down the back of the sofa.)

Here we are then in the ‘big year’ – the inspiration for my challenge target. And it seems we have a lot of news to catch up on…

Xmas in our household was most pleasant indeed and didn’t have too much of an impact on the swimming, even if I did spend the first 2 weeks of 2012 catching up on those missed 4 days of laps. I ended up catching a stinking cold later in January and was back in the same boat playing catch-up – that was worse though as I had to really allow my body to continue it’s recovery on those first few swims back.

My sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew bought me an excellent book for Xmas: Complete Conditioning for Swimming by Dave Salo (available on Amazon). It contains many exercises for general body strengthening, injury prevention, core strength, stretching and stroke specific conditioning, as well as information on diet, and structured routines. Since getting the book I’ve acquired a Swiss Ball, Medicine Ball and stretch cords that are required for a lot of the exercises. For the past few weeks I’ve been following some of the set routines, twice a week for about an hour each time, and I’m really starting to notice the difference. Some exercises, that to begin with I couldn’t do many reps on, are now much easier and some moves I’ve moved to higher resistance cords.

Champion is obviously a biter (by Pondspider)

In the last quarter of 2011 I’d been focussing a lot on building endurance through critical swim speed (CSS) sets, but decided to shift some focus back on technique. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of times before I swim I watch a short video of Jono Van Hazel from the SwimSmooth Catch Masterclass dvd, but realised that his is not the only technique out there – since not everyone swims the, same perhaps I should be looking at other swimmers too! So yes, it was back to good ol’ Youtube. It was when watching some videos of Grant Hackett and a few other Olympic freestylers I noticed that they all show a particular way of completing the catch/pull – it’s called Early Vertical Forearm (EVF). I’d avoided this before as it’s considered a bit of an advanced technique due to a higher risk of injury if done wrong. Thankfully there are a lot of videos on the net with clear demonstrations and drills for building the stroke up. I should point out that some swimmers use a very extreme version of EVF where the elbows remain almost at the water’s surface – I think this is only possible if you have incredible flexibility, hence why I use a much shallower version. The supposed (I say supposed because once upon a time the ‘S Pull’ was considered to be correct and has since been debunked) benefits are that there is less surface area to create drag (the upper arm is much higher in the water) and also that it allows more force to be exerted. I’ve certainly found that it’s allowed me to make one of those ‘quantum leaps’ in technique level. My sprint times have dropped, quite dramatically in some instances. At the end of last year my 100m PB was 1:26 – now it’s 1:21. My 200m was around 2:58 – that’s down to 2:53. Not only that, but I’m quite consistently swimming 3:04 for my steady 200m. I’m sure that all the core and general body exercises I’ve been doing have contributed greatly too -I really feel like I’m gliding through the water now.


The management at my local pool were kind enough to allow David and I to take a bit of film footage for something charity related I’m putting together for work. You know how you can close your eyes and picture yourself doing an action, then when you see yourself on video you realise you look nothing like that? Well yeah, I watched the footage and I didn’t like what I saw. In my mind’s eye I was Van Hazel, Hackett, Thorpe, etc. In reality I was like Moussambani. Ok, maybe not that bad. My main beef was with that stupid little whip-kick that I thought I’d stopped doing months ago. Cue daily kick drills with the Finis float. I made a lot of progress, but just couldn’t get the timing of a 4/6 beat kick right – I’d always felt that a 2 beat kick felt more natural for me, but never really gave it much attention. For the last week I’ve actually been doing it pretty consistently (making sure to point those toes!) and much like the EVF, it seems to have made quite a difference – I’m now gliding along even more. Obviously there’s still pleeenty of room for improvement, but I’m hopeful that with a bit more CSS training I can break the 6 min barrier for 400m within a week or two. I haven’t swum a mile in a while, but I’m confident that I can beat my previous 25:46 time – my aim is to get into the 24s by the Great London Swim at the end of May.

As you can see from the route map and progress board from last Friday, I’m still well on track for my challenge – I may have to pop into Great Yarmouth for a 99 with a flake very soon. I’ve only got 8 more swims to do to reach 100 miles – I might have to have a mini-celebration when I do (or perhaps another 99).

I’ve got plenty more to write, so stay tuned!

UPDATE:  Yesterday I hit 6000 lengths!  That’s 150,000m.  Nearly half way…

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.

In the shallows

13 Sep
Swimming in Lake Windermere

Image via Wikipedia

“H2O: two parts Heart, one part Obsession”

Sometimes, perhaps you’re the same, I find I have all this information and experience in my head that I need to just… get out there. For the past 20 months it feels like I’ve been verbally blogging at my wife. She’s been a terrific supporter and my No.1 fan, but although she can swim, she’s not what you’d call ‘into it’. In much the same way that I’ve never been into needle-point and craft-making I guess. So after seeing her successful example in the blogosphere, and with her positive encouragement, here it is. My very own brain-dump.

Although I’ve swum all my life, it’s only really in the last 2 years that it’s become what I’d call a passion. For a start, I’ve always only swum breast-stroke – I can’t even remember having tried freestyle. I suppose that’s partly because I was actually pretty good at breast-stroke (well, I had good form anyway), but also because as the years have progressed I’d become more and more reluctant to make a fool of myself in front of the lifeguards at the local pool – ridiculous I know, I’m sure they really couldn’t care less. So, this story really starts back in mid-2009 when a few work colleagues had decided to enter the Great North Swim – a mass participation open water swim event held annually in Lake Windermere (more about the Great Swim Series in later posts). Without knowing much about it I agreed and began swimming more regularly to ensure I could do the mile distance. I’ll post a review of the event later, but suffice to say that the whole experience was exciting, exhilarating and also very picturesque! Part of me wonders if had I not finished only 10 seconds behind my boss, would I have gotten so passionate about this sport – after all, he was doing freestyle, I did the whole thing breast-stroke. In reality, I’m pretty sure I’d been bitten by the bug anyway. In January 2010 I decided that if I was going to get any faster in the water I really needed to learn freestyle. I set out in my typical fashion of trying to teach myself, using any and every resource I could. That included websites, books, youtube, gadgets, etc – I guess this is why I consider myself a swim geek.

Through this blog I plan to document what I’ve discovered along the way, and continue to discover. Expect gadget reviews, event reviews, general musings on aspects of technique/training and whatever else catches my fancy. I’m in no way a coach, I have no qualifications, and I’m completely open to be corrected – this really is a journey for me. My hope is that my experiences and thoughts help to inspire, interest and motivate my fellow swimmers out there.

“The water is your friend…” (Popov)