Sunday 27 May 2007

Longest swim to date, in a chilly Dover Harbour

Above: Barry greasing me up before the longest swim of my life (so far!).

We arrived at Dover harbour on a dull, grey Saturday morning (May 26, 2007) after our 140 mile journey and parked in one of three empy spaces near to where we swim. My coach, John Stemp came down for the first time, and my wife Beccy (who is no longer The Mayor after handing over the title last week but we won't go into that!). We wandered off to get a coffee, and when we came back, all the spaces were gone. I noticed the General's car with what appeared to be smoke coming out of the windows. On moving closer, she opened the window and made the polite point that she had lots of equipment and there was nowhere for her to park. I offered to move and let her have my space, but she zoomed off and next time I looked around, one of the cars was gone, and she was parked in front of me. To this moment in time I am baffled how she did that!

FOR THE RECORD EVERYONE - Freda has lots of kit, and we all sod off before she does so LEAVE HER A SPACE IF YOU GET THERE EARLY. I have put that in my little book of Fredaisms.

Anyway. The swim. "Hoffy. Red hat. 3 Hours" she said. I love her to bits. She's great!

The water temperature, according to the Sandettie light ship in the channel, was 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Centigrade). I thought "Great. It's one degree warmer than last time". Barry greased my armpits (see photo above), between my upper thights, and my chin/shoulder just in case I get a rash from my chin stubble (no comments please).

I walked down to the water's edge, took off my flip flops and got in. Bloody hell it was cold! It really felt cold. I started to swim and got my breath, then eased into my stoke. Mmm. I was still cold. No getting away from it, it was cold. "How was I going to last 3 hours in this" I thought? It was 1 degree warmer than two weeks ago, but it felt colder.

After 2 hours, I was swimming along minding my own business and was now thinking to myself, "Bloody hell this is cold". No change there then. I swum towards the shore, John Stemp, Beccy and Cliff Golding were there with our feeds. Beccy lobbed it into the water and I started to drink my Maxim. "It's really cold today" I said to Cliff Golding. "It's the wind" making it colder he said. That made sense. Two weeks earlier, the sun was on my back, and I had got a bit sunburnt at 12 degrees water temperature. Today at 13 degrees and a cold wind. I was freezing.

1 hour later, at 3 hours in the harbour. I swum towards shore thinking "Bloody hell I'm cold". But I had done it! I had swum for three hours in a cold Dover harbour as requested. I can't wait now for next week. When I got home, after Beccy and John snoring their heads off in the car while I drove back another 140 miles, I went onto Microsoft Map I worked out how far I had swum that day. Based on the distances in the harbour given by the afore mentioned, I swum about 14,000 Metres! This was the longest and furthest I have swum so far, which meant I have swum over 32KM this week.

HOWEVER - When Mark Robson, e-mailed me the Google version of the above, I noticed that the Microsoft Version does not include the Eastern Dock! Re-calculating quickly to include the Eastern Dock, the distance I swum was about 8,825 Metres - a big difference, so beware on using Microsoft's distances. This was still my longest swim, and the total distance for the week is just over 27KM.

Above: Dover Harbour swimmers area. Prince of Wales pier to Swimmers beach = 475 Metres. Swimmers beach to Eastern dock wall = 770 Metres. Prince of Wales Pier to Eastern dock wall, direct route across the harbour = 1,150 Metres.

Bring on 4 hours next week! Freda - I'll save you a space. I promise! (I'd still like to know how she got that car to move?)



4KM Race in a fresh water lake at Colwick Park, Nottingham

Above: Hoffy (4th from right) enters the Colwick Park Lake as one of 28 swimmers in the 4Km Senior Mens Freestyle event.

On a beautiful sunny Sunday on May 20th, 2007, Beccy and I rose at the crack of dawn, to drive to Colwick Park, Nottingham to enter the British Long Distance Swimming Association Open Water Championship on the West Lake. In all my years of swimming, I was about to do two new things that I had not done before. These were firstly, to enter a swimming competition which was not in a swimming pool, and secondly, to swim in a race of 4,000 metres (my previous longest was 1,500 meters in a swimming pool).

We were all given numbers which were written onto both arms in marker pen. I was no. 106. We all entered the water, but it was not just one event, it was the mens 4Km (yellow swim caps), ladies 4Km (yellow caps), 2Km senior men and the 2Km senior ladies relay swims (red hats) all swimming together! This was over 50 swimmers all starting together on the gun. At the start it was really survival of the fittest with everyone banging into each other, kicks to the arms, legs etc. I had never experienced anything like it, but it was great fun.

After about 2Km, a lady with No. 82 on her arm pulled in between me and another guy I was swimming side by side with. I checked the programme afterwards and I think she was Steph Hunter from St. Albans (Steph, if you read this - it was a good race, well done). We swum side by side for the best part of 1.5 Km, one moment Steph taking the lead, then me pulling through and overtaking her. As we breathed, her to the left and me to the right, we stared at each other eyeball to eyeball as if to say to each other "You're not going to beat me!".

Above: Hoffy, No. 106 (left), No. 82 - Steph Hunter from St. Albans (leading), and two other swimmers jostle for position.

Eventually, with about 750 Metres to go, I stepped up a gear, and sprinted the whole remainder of the distance, leaving my little group behind (sorry Steph) and finishing in 6th place, out of 26, in a time of 1 Hour, 1 Minute and 46 seconds.

Above: Getting out of the lake after the sprint of my life, barely able to stand up.

On the final 300 Metres, I overtook two other swimmers, and when I tried to get out of the water, I was barely able to get out. I have never sprinted such a prolonged sprint (apart from in Dover Harbour the previous weekend) and I was totally dizzy, with legs of jelly.

Above: Recovering after the sprint of my life. 4KM in 1 Hr. 01 Minute, 43 Seconds.

After about 10 minutes out of the water, I was fine and am now looking forward to the next B.L.D.S.A. event - The Champion of Champions in Dover Harbour on June 16, 2007. This was another excellent training session for my channel swim attempt in July 2007.

Click here to see certificate and plan of lake: Certificate


Wednesday 23 May 2007

A Bollocking from The General and a nasty rash...

Above: Getting out of the harbour after our 1.5 hour swim at 11 Degrees Centigrade was a cold experience.

Getting up for our 10.00am swim on Sunday May 13, 2007 was an entirely different experience than the previous day. It was dull, cold and raining. However, the sea was remarkably calm. It just goes to show what a difference a day makes to the weather in the Channel.

Today we were going to do a 1.5 hour swim at water temperature 11 Degrees Centigrade. Now this is important to note. When I swim, I like to swim for 45 minutes before my first feed, then feed every 30 minutes. I use Maxim energy drink, which is what is recommended for channel swimmers. My swim was quite uneventful and I swum around the harbour for 45 minutes before swimming towards the shore, treading water and shouting to my wife (who was sitting in the car out of the rain, doing her nails) for my drink. "I haven't got a drink" shouts Barry, who watches and helps from the beach with the General. "Not you. I'm talking to my wife" I shout back. Beccy, get's out of the car, puts on her mac, put's the umbrealla up, rumages around in the back of the car, then gently strolls down the beach while I tread water freezing my n#%s off and eventually arrives, careful that the umbrella is secure so she doesn't get her hair wet. She throws it in to me, I drink it, throw the empty container back then continue for a further 3/4 hour.

When I got back after 1.5 hours I was cold. I got out, walked up to The General to give her my number and I was greeted by "Hoffy! What the hell do you think you are doing stopping for a drink? You don't need a drink after only 45 minutes. Consider yourself bollocked. The first one of the season!". I walked off stunned, but just very slightly chuffed. I had heard about Freda's famous bollockings, and I was the recipient of the first one of the 2007 season! What an honour!

Getting out and changing uder a little shelter close to the beach, to get out of the rain, was a very cold experience, and for the first time since my hypothermia experience in Felixstowe, I felt cold. The picture above shows this quite clearly I think.

Above: Swimming for 1.5 Hours in Dover Harbour without shaving for 24 hours, leaves a nasty graze on my right shoulder.

When we arrived back home to Bury, my shoulder felt quite sore. I took off my shirt and to my surprise I found quite a nasty rash on my right shoulder. It was funny, in the channel swimmers forum the previous week, someone had e-mailed in to ask whether people shaved or not before swimming. Someone e-mailed back and said it can leave a rash if you don't. I personally had never experienced a rash until now. By the following Friday, it was still very sore and had a crusty scab on top. I can assure you, I will not be swimming without shaving again!



Tuesday 15 May 2007

Welcome to windy Dover, 12.00pm May 12, 2007, battling the elements...

Above: Getting into the harbour for the second time is never easy. (I'm the one without the straps).

Getting in the water for the second time at 12.00pm, having only just thawed out from the 10.00am swim is always difficult. It was made even more difficult now that the wind speed was increasing causing the sea to be very rough over on the left hand side of the harbour. "Don't go past the third groyne" was the instructions from The General, and "...swim for an hour". This was going to be tough.

Heading over to the calm side of the harbour took only a few minutes. It was very calm. I then decided to head towards the rough side. The current took me across, and before I knew it, I had easily swum past the third groyne and was heading towards the eastern side of the harbour at a fast rate of knots.

Above: Channel swimmers scattered in the eastern side of the harbour which was experiencing rough water.

I looked up and forward, as you seem to constantly do in the harbour in case you bump into another swimmer heading your way. I saw someone just in front of me and said "Have you been all the way across?". He replied "Yes, I touched the wall and am now heading back". I thought to myself, "Well if he can do it so can I" and continued towards the wall. Reaching the wall with 45 minutes on my watch, I turned round and started to head back.

It was like swimming head first into a wall of water. I swum, but wasn't moving forward. I started to think about all those 25 metre sprints my coach John Stemp had made me do recently. This is where they would pay off. I started to sprint and slowly started to move forwards. I saw our hotel to the right, the Premier Travel Inn. It moved slowly past my line of sight after about 5-6 minutes. I was still sprinting like mad, swallowing what seemed like litres of sea water, and heaving it out constantly. My arms were going faster and faster. I was thinking "You're not going to beat me you bastard". I sprinted for the best part of a 1000 Metres, and eventually came level with our spot on the beach, then turned right to head ashore. "Yes!" I thought. "That was fantastic. That was what I envisaged it was going to be like in the channel". It hadn't beaten me, and I was happy. Tired arms, but happy.

Above: heading to shore after battling against the waves on the second swim of the day.

As I came ashore, the Mayor said that she had lost me about an hour ago. I replied that it was not surprising as I had been a lot smaller than the waves had been. I had ploughed through them and returned after one and a quarter hours. This was undoubtebly the longest, hardest and most rewarding cold water swim I have so far completed.

I slept well that night (especially after watching the Eurovision Song Contest) and looked forward to one and a half hours on the Sunday morning 10.00am swim.



Welcome to windy Dover, 10.00am May 12, 2007, an uneventful morning

Above: The state-of-the art changing rooms for channel swimmers at Dover Harbour.

Ariving in Dover for our second weekend training with the Channel General, Freda Streeter, the weather was very different than the week before. The sun was out, but it was very windy. On the right hand side of the harbour it was very calm, being protected from the westerly winds by the harbour wall. To the left, the waves were really quite large.

At about 09.50am we all started moving to our chosen spots in the state-of the art changing facilities on Dover Harbour beach. I rushed to get the same spot as last week, i.e. a little spot next to the wall, just below a smelly litter bin, but close to my car in case I needed anything from there. Our instructions from the general, were to swim for 45 minutes. This was 15 more than the previous week. The water temperature was 11 Degrees Centigrade, and we would keep upping the length of time in the cold harbour water to help our bodies aclimatise to the water tempearture. I took my yellow hat, no. 15, from Freda, gave my name and started to undress.

Above: Supertrev - please note that I kept my track suit bottoms on for this photo just for you!

Above: Always the worst bit, getting into a cold Dover Harbour at 10.00am on a Saturday morning.

I swum across to the harbour wall, and by the time I got there I was busting for a pee (I find it very difficult to swim and pee, but when you've got to go, you've got to go). When I got there, the Mayor was there with her Mum and Dad, so I stopped in the water, smiled (or grimaced) while I discretely did what I had to do, while pretending to pose for a photo.

Above: "The water's warmer round the wise man..." (think about the Orange mobile phone advert when they are in the jacuzzi!!!).

Above: Swimming away from the warmer water as quickly as possible...

Above: Leading the way across Dover Harbour.

With nobody any the wiser (until now) I swum away, and completed my 45 minutes in the harbour, swimming approximately 2,500 Metres at 11 Degrees Centigrade. It was a relaxing, uneventful morning, but it warmed my muscles up for what would be a very eventful afternoon session at 12.00pm...



Tuesday 8 May 2007

Training with the Channel General...

Above: Freda Streeter, the Channel General, and Hoffy, prior to the first channel training session of the season in Dover Harbour on Saturday May 05, 2007.

On Saturday May 05, 2007, my wife, son and I got up at (having attended Cllr. Mike Ames’s retirement and Birthday party until 12..00am the night before!) to set out on the first of many treks to Dover over then next few weeks. Why? To train with the Channel General – Freda Streeter.

Every year from May until the end of September, Freda trains all budding channel swimmers every weekend, free of charge, giving up her weekends to do something she loves. It has paid of handsomely. Her daughter, Alison, has crossed the channel more times than anyone else in history – a staggering 43 times! Therefore when given the chance to train with Freda, all budding channel swimmers should (and do) jump at the chance.

Above: Hoffy with Alison Streeter who has swum the English Channel a world record 43 times!

So how did it all work? We assembled on the beach in Dover Harbour at about 09.45 and started chatting. Suddenly, Freda and Alison appeared and I have to say I was quite star struck at first. I had heard so much about both of them, but to meet them in the flesh was fantastic. Freda gave us our instructions which was basically put this hat on (mine was No. 16 yellow for first time solo swimmer) get in the water over there, swim to the far pier and back again. No more. No less. No arguments. I did as I was told.

All of a sudden, everyone started stripping off on the beach, costumes on, hats on, in the water and we're off! This was at 10.00am. About 40 or so swimmers entered the water. It was about 11 degrees centigrade which was pleasantly warm compared with what I had been swimming in recently (8 degrees centigrade at Felixstowe, and 7 degrees at Tooting Bec Lido).

Above: Getting in at the first Dover Harbour Training Session of the year - Saturday, May 05, 2007.

Above: Synchronised channel swim training in a very choppy Dover Harbour.

When we all got back, it was all quickly dressed, hats, clothes etc., then dissapear for a cup of something hot, then back again at 12.00pm for more of the same. At the end of it all, we went off together for something to eat and drink, and to chat as a group about our experiences.

It was a great morning, and I was sad not to be able to stay for the rest of the weekend (we had to go back to Bury for the America 400 event on the Sunday). It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I can't wait to get back next Saturday morning.

Thanks very much Freda, and see you on parade at 10.00am on Saturday!