Wednesday 30 April 2008

A brief mind numbing swim at Felixstowe, Suffolk - Saturday April 05, 2008

On Saturday April 05, 2008, I decided that having spent such a glorious week in Estapona in relatively "warm" water at 15.4 Degrees Centigrade, it was time to come back down to earth and get in the nice cold North Sea. Setting off for Felixstowe, I wondered what would greet us when we got there.

Parking in the car park on the sea front by the pier, I was really pleased to see that the water was probably the calmest I had ever seen it, even if the sky was very grey and it looked very uninviting. This was going to be a good swim.

I went down to the sea shore undressed, Beccy put my kit in the bag, and started her usual walk along the sea front armed with backpack and marching shoes. I stepped into the grey sea and went rigid. It was absolutely freezing. I couldn't believe it! I splashed water over my body, and people started gathering on the promenade in disbelief. Eventually I eased myself in, and started swimming. God it was cold. Really cold.

After about 100 Metres, I stopped and started swimming breastroke. It was my face and head which was causing the problem again, as in Belgium in December 2007. I had an immediate "Ice cream headache" as I call them. I started swimming again for about another 300 Metres, but simply could not keep my head in the water.

I stopped looked at Beccy, and she was merrily marching along the promenade at a fast rate of knots. My right arm then started to have a "tingling effect". I did not feel right at all. I felt terrible. Once my arm started, I made the instant decision to get out. Something simply did not feel right about being in there this day.

Once out on the promenade, it began to hail. I just stood there talking to Beccy in my Speedos, no problem, not cold at all. I just looked at the sea feeling annoyed and defeated. But I have been in cold water enough times now to know something did not feel right on this particular day. I hadn't even been in long enough (about 6 minutes) for my temperature gauge to register the water temperature, but it felt around 8 Degrees Centigrade. I decided that I would wait now until the first Dover training in May before I went in the sea again, when the water had warmed up to a nice 10 Degrees Centigrade!

Sunday 27 April 2008

Sea Training in Estapona, Andalucia, Spain - Day 8, Saturday March 22, 2008 (Final day)

Above: The stalwart part of all my swimming adventures, my wife Beccy, taking a rest at the end of a swim. The rock of Gibraltar (right) and Africa (left) can clearly be seen in the distance.

After the escapades of days six and seven in Estapona, Day 8 would have been much better if it hadn't of been for one thing, it was 'Good Friday' the day before. Why would that affect my swimming you might ask? Well here's why. Our hosts for the week, Mike and Monica Ames, are catholic. Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. Therefore all day Friday, Mike wasn't drinking, but due to not being able to swim properly due to the bizarre sea conditions, I was. That is, all afternoon and night until one minute past midnight when Mike decided to join us and start drinking! It turned out to be a very late night with Mike and Beccy after Monica had gone to bed!

Getting up later than usual on Easter Saturday, I had a real thick head! I got up, looked out onto the balcony and saw that it was really windy. There were "White horses" on the sea surface, but I could see it would be fine to swim in, so off I went. I decided to do a 4KM swim, from the apartment's, against the tide for the first 2KM, then turn round and swim back to the apartments.

Above: Diving in to set off on a 4KM swim. "Does my bum look big in these?".

I set off and it felt quite cold again, with the temperature bottoming out at 15.5 degrees Centigrade. My head thumped all the way up and back again. "Why did I drink so much yesterday?" I thought. "Because I'm on holiday!" I replied. (It's good to talk to yourself when you swim, it keeps you amused).

I went past all of the usual buildings on the right, finally reached the rocks at the 2KM point, and turned round to head back. Beccy was as usual, walking full sprint beside me, then she stopped, but I kept swimming, head thumping in the cold water.

"Why had she stopped?" I thought. Below is a picture of why she stopped. She found a fish on the beach which looked like it was still breathing. Only, she didn't know if it was the right way up so she turned it over. She put it back in the water but apparently it was dead. Does anyone know what type of fish it was?

Above: Strange fish. Anyone know what it was?

Eventually, I completed my 4KM swim, walked ashore, had a shower and slept for about 2 hours to clear my head!

Well, I can honestly say, that I enjoyed our trip to Estapona, and actually fell in love with the place. I could easily live there. What more can you want? Sea, sand, beaches, "shared-space" streets, and good food and wine! I was really sad for the first time in a long time to be actually leaving a holiday to return to Bury. Especially as there was snow on the ground when we got back!

Getting up very early on Easter Sunday to catch our flight home, I caught the above photo of the sun rising, and the sea was dead calm. It was just beautiful. It was a fantastic week, and I decided there and then that one of my future swims would be to swim the Gibraltar Straight.

Thank to Mike and Monica Ames for hosting us, thanks to Beccy for walking beside me every day to keep an eye on me, and I'm sure we'll return to Estapona again in the future, hopefully as a two-way channel swimmer!

Total distance for the week (8 Days): 24,300 Metres.

To see why I am doing this training and attempting a two way channel swim, please click on the link below and if you would like to, please sponsor me:-

Saturday 19 April 2008

Sea Training in Estapona, Andalucia, Spain - Day 7, Friday March 21, 2008 (Part 2)

Above: Setting off for my second swim of the day on Good Friday, March 21, 2008 at "Playa Del Cristo", Estapona. You can clearly see where the sheltered bay changed to the rough conditions we had experienced earlier in the day.

Having had the swim from hell earlier in the day, we sat on the beach all day watching the very rough sea, on what was a very hot sunny day. It didn't die down at all so we had a jug of Sangria, a large portion of the excellent fish available in Estapona, while I sat there frustrated at not being able to swim properly for the best part of two days.

At about 4pm, we decided to call it a day and started to walk back to the hotel. While walking along the promenade, I spoke to a chap from the Estapona "Civil Protection". These are lifeguards who sit in towers and patrol the beach all day just like in "Baywatch" except without the girls! I asked him about swimming tomorrow, and he told me I could swim today, if I just walked around the corner to a place called "Playa Del Cristo". He gave us directions, told us it wasn't far, and so we set off on what turned out to be quite a long walk (about 30 minutes) across barren water filled land to eventually arrive at the most tranquil bay you could possibly imagine. I couldn't believe it. I'd sat on Estapona beach all day, and I could have been swimming here in a secluded bay with no waves! The walk had been worth it.

As I set off for the changing room, a "Civil Protection" truck pulled up, and who should get out? Yes, the guy who told me how to get here and made us walk for 30 minutes across water filled marshland! I had a Victor Meldrew moment! "I don't believe it! Why couldn't you give us a lift?" I said. "You are fit man. It good for you walk." he replied in pigeon English. I sort of smiled then headed off to the sea for what was going to be a very welcome swim.

I walked in about 5 Metres, and the water came up to my ankles. About another 5 Metres and it was up to my shins. After walking in for about 5 minutes, it came up to my thighs. I turned round to look at Beccy, who looked like a blot on the landscape she was so far away and I shouted "It's too bloody shallow!". What a day! First it was too rough, then it was too shallow! I decided I had to swim, and so pushed off and swum, with my hands touching the seabed on every stroke.

I swum about 500 Metres across the bay, and on two separate occasions, I grazed my hands on some sharp rocks underneath the sea. This is dangerous I thought. I simply did not know what was underneath these shallow waters, and so decided to head back. I grazed my hand again and decided it was best to get out. The water temperature was great at 17.5 Degrees Centigrade, but it was simply too shallow.

As I swum back towards Beccy, I just kept on swimming, and it was so shallow that my hand was touching the seabed, and scraping down the underside of my body at the same time. I just swum to shore laughing to myself, that tomorrow, our last day, must be a better day.

I came to shore, and Beccy hadn't realised how shallow it was because I was laying on the sea bed. The picture above looks like I am standing in a hole, but I was in fact just laying down.

When I just stood up, and Beccy saw that the sea only just covered the tops of my feet, she roared with laughter and took the picture above. Enough was enough! I had managed only 1,300 Metres in two swims that day, and so it was time for a beer or two, or more!!!! Tomorrow was the last day, and I was going to make the most of it!

Total distance for the week so far (7 Days): 20,300 Metres.

Monday 14 April 2008

Sea Training in Estapona, Andalucia, Spain - Days 6-7, March 20-21, 2008

Above: The sea on Day 7 of our holiday was uninviting to say the least. However, I was there to swim, so swim I would!

On day 6 of our holiday, I looked out of the balcony window to see that there had been an immense storm the night before. However, the weather was fine so I walked down to the beach. When I got there, the sea was this horrible brown colour, and full of sediment. I couldn't make out what it was, and having heard that the Andalusian authorities were suing a company for dumping radioactive pollution in the sea, there was no way I was getting in there! I watched the sea all day and it didn't change so unfortunately I could not swim that day.

Next day, day 7, I got up to see a beautiful, cloudless, windless day. However, when I looked at the sea, I couldn't believe it. It was incredibly rough. I was getting really annoyed now. Radioactive yesterday, rougher than Aldeburgh in January today! I didn't care, I was getting in for a swim.

Above: Incredibly rough sea greeted us on Day 7 of the holiday.

Arriving down on the beach, I just couldn't get my head round things. There was no wind, it was warm and sunny but why was the sea so rough? I didn't understand it. Anyway, I got undressed, put my hat and goggles on, and pondered whether I was doing the right thing. The noise from the sea was ferocious. Tentatively, I got into the water and started to swim.

I have learnt to respect the sea, but not to fear it. "I've swum the channel" I thought. "Nothing to fear here. Just keep swimming". They say that you don't see the one that get's you. But I saw this bugger. 1-2-3 breathe right, there's Beccy on the beach. 1-2-3 breathe left, and there it was. A wall of water heading towards me from the left. It was reminiscent of the wave in the hit film The Poseidon Adventure. "I'm going to just ignore it" I thought. Yea, right. It was way above my head, and smashed into the left hand side of my body and face. It sucked me under, down to the bottom of the seabed. The force was just incredible, immense. My left goggle lifted off my head, my hat lifted up and I inhaled a complete noseful of Andalusian seawater through my nose and down my throat. Eventually, the wave passed and I bobbed to the surface with one eye in my goggle, the other out. "What the F#~k happened there?" I thought. I didn't know what day of the week it was. I had been in for no more than 5 minutes, and swum about 300 Metres, but that was enough.

Above: Before the wave got me!

I headed for shore, in an attempt to get my bearings and try to breath again. However, as I got to the beach, I was hit from behind again, and was washed up onto the beach very unceremoniously.

Above: Me (circled!) being washed up onto the beach. I think the orangy yellow colour was my head!

I managed to get out, still in shock, got dried and spent most of the day until the afternoon watching the waves. It had to die down soon didn't it? I was determined to swim again that day.

Total distance for the week so far (6.5 Days): 19,300 Metres.

Saturday 12 April 2008

Sea Training in Estapona, Andalucia, Spain - Day 5, Wednesday March 19, 2008

Above: The 2KM turning point on day 5 of my sea training in Estapona.

On day 5, I decided to do a 4KM swim which was to be 1KM more than the day before's disappointing swim! This time I was going to start at the apartments, and swim the first 2KM against the tide, then swim back to the apartments with the tide for 2KM.

When I got in it felt very cold compared to previous days. My temperature gauge bottomed out at 15.4 Degrees Centigrade. Although this is not "cold" in channel swimmers terms, your body becomes accustomed to feeling the temperature changes. From 18 Degrees on day 1 down to 15.4 degrees on day 5 is a big temperature change and it still fascinated me how different it was every day. I had not experienced these constant changes before. The water was also very calm due to what could clearly be seen as a storm brewing.

I turned at he 2KM mark and started to head back, watching all of the usual landmarks carefully as I swum. For the final 400 Metres, I sprinted at about 85% effort to keep up with Beccy who was walking very fast on the beach.

I finished the swim, got out and walked toward the promenade still panting. As I did, a French man walk slowly up to me giving me a slow hand clap saying "Bravo! Bravo!". He indicated that he had watched me swim the full 4KM and showed his appreciation, although neither of us could speak each other's language. He continued clapping as I walked off back to the apartment for a shower. It was quite humbling I have to say.

Total distance for the week so far (5 Days): 19,000 Metres.

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Sea Training in Estapona, Andalucia, Spain - Day 4, Tuesday March 18, 2008

Above: Video of the start of my swim on day 4, having had a really bad night's sleep.

Day 4 of the training trip to Spain, was a bit of a strange one having been awake for most of the night with bad indigestion! Our hosts for the trip, Mike and Monica Ames, had taken us to a restaurant called "Pepe's" the night before, and having enjoyed a wonderful seafood meal, they told use they had a surprise for us. We went to this ice cream bar where we had the biggest ice cream you ever did see. The whole night I was tossing and turning feeling physically sick!

Getting up next day, I was shattered and told Bex that the most I could manage this morning was a 3KM swim with the tide. We walked the full length of the beach, where I got undressed and into the water and set off tentatively on my swim. The temperature bottomed out at 16.4 Degrees Centigarde on my watch today. Bex had a bit of a video day today rather than a photo day, and the three below are the only photos she took (excellent they are of course!).

I swum past the rocks and saw the fishing boat again. If you ever go to Estapona, the seafood is superb, but don't eat one of them ice creams after it! I felt sick for the whole swim, and was very surprised that I wasn't!

At the end of the swim, I got out and walked back up the beach for a bit of a relax on the sunbed. It was bit disappointing as I had wanted to do a longer swim that day, but tomorrow was another day!

Total distance for the week so far (4 Days): 15,000 Metres.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Sea Training in Estapona, Andalucia, Spain - Day 3, Monday March 17, 2008

Above: The end of the first 1KM stretch, the turning point for a 3KM swim against the tide.

For day 3 of our swim trip to Spain, I decided on a 5KM swim. This was to start at our apartment on the beach, then an easy 1KM easterly swim down to the end of the bay with the tide, followed by a 3KM westerly swim along the full length of the beach against the tide, then a 1KM swim back to our favourite beach bar and restaurant with the tide again. That was my goal for the morning.

Getting into the water, I set off and watched my temperature gauge drop to 16.9 Degrees Centigrade. So the temperature had been 18, 16 and now 16.9 degrees C. I was surprised at how much each changed each day, but you could actually feel the difference on your body each time. I headed off with the tide and headed down to the end of the bay with Beccy as usual walking along the beach.

I reached the turning point in the bay (you can just see a little orange head in the photo above) spun round, and started the long swim against the tide the full length of the beach. Wow it felt different! It felt as though you weren't actually moving. I could see Beccy had slowed down her walking pace, but I just put one arm in front of the other and kept swimming. The sea was quite calm, so I just got into a good bi-lateral rhythm and swum. 1-2-3 breath right. 1-2-3- breath left etc., etc, all along the 3KM run.

At about the half way point, I could see a fishing boat to my left, and kept a careful eye on it as it appeared to keep getting closer to me. Eventually however, it just disappeared off into the sun. I reached the pile of rocks where the pipe comes out into the sea, and swum out a bit to clear them as usual.

I knew the beach now and knew where I was each day by the buildings along the beach. A short distance after the rocks, comes an area which I used to call 'Beirut' each day. The following picture shows you why.

I'm not sure of the full story, but apparently the people who were building this building, went into liquidation, and during the Mayoral elections, the new Mayor said that if you voted for him he would pull it down. He won, and so he is pulling it down. However, I had never seen a building taken down like this before, they just tore chunks off it with a digger, hit it, did anything they could to knock it down. When I reached this point each day, I knew it wasn't too far to go to the rocks at the end of the bay.

Reaching the rocks, the 4KM point of my swim, I turned round and was relieved to be swimming with the tide again. The 3KM swim against the tide was tough, but was excellent channel swim training. I headed down to the spot where our favourite bar was and came ashore.

This was a very satisfying 5KM swim, and it now brought my total for the 3 days to 12KM. I was very pleased but I didn't realise then that this would in fact be my longest swim of the week. More will follow...

Total distance for the week so far (3 Days): 12,000 Metres.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Sea Training in Estapona, Andalucia, Spain - Day 2, Sunday March 16, 2008

Above: My daily training area in Estapona, Spain during Easter week.

Getting up for my daily swim on day 2 of our trip to Spain, we stepped out onto the balcony to see it was another beautiful day, with the sea very calm again. There was however, a strong tide pushing the sea from West to East. I decided that I was going to do the same swim as yesterday, but to add another 1KM to it, by swimming back towards the apartments after I had swum the 3KM length of the beach. This would make it a 4KM swim.

We walked the full length of the beach and I undressed to get in. Stepping into the water, it felt colder than it had the day before without a doubt. Having swum for about 15 minutes, my temperature gauge on my watch levelled out at 16 Degrees Centigrade. That's a full 2 Degrees Centigrade less than the day before. It's funny but swimming in all the different temperatures over the past couple of years, your body starts to recognise a 1 Degree Centigrade water temperature change.

Above: Swimming in the calm sea on Day 2. There was one "rocky" area which was where a pipe went out to sea. The water wasn't very clear, so I had to look out for it every day to ensure I didn't swim into it.

I swum the full 3KM stretch with the tide, with the ever present Beccy walking along side on the beach and taking photos. Reaching the end, I spun round in the sea (not stopping swimming) and headed back against the tide towards our apartments. You could certainly feel the difference. Beccy was walking slower, and the buildings on the promenade didn't seem to move as fast. However, it was a really enjoyable swim, and I completed the 4KM swim in 50 minutes. As I got out, Beccy took the picture below.

Above: Finishing the 4KM swim on Day 2. Gibraltar is in the background on the right, and Africa to the left.

Getting out after the swim to have a drink on the beach, I kept looking at the gap between Gibraltar and Africa, and wondered what you would need to do to swim it. That would be a question for the Kevin Murphy or Alison Streeter when I got back home!

Total distance for the week so far (2 Days): 7,000 Metres.