Monday 23 June 2008

Mark Ransom's Channel Swim - June 21 to 27, 2008 - CANCELLED!

Above: Training in Dover Harbour with fellow West Suffolk Masters Swimming Club member Mark Ransom (right).

Monday June 23, 2008 - 09.00 Hrs. - Mark's swim is probably on for tomorrow morning at 01.00am. There is a slight doubt due to the predicted weather on Tuesday afternoon.

Monday June 23, 2008 - 12.00 Hrs. - Speak to Mark and make sure he has the last few details all tied up. Chris Pountney e-mailed me and is now coming on board as a late crew member. I have been up to the town to get all my food ready for the long day out, and spoke to Mark again on the mobile. All is set. I am leaving for Dover at 21:00 Hrs.

Monday June 23, 2008 - 16.20 Hrs. - Mark's pilot, Fred Mardle phones me. The swim is off. It looks like bad weather on Tuesday afternoon as predicted, so it now looks like the best day will be Thursday at 03.00am. I speak to Mark who has just filled his car up with petrol and was on his way to Dover. His wife has already broken the news to him. That's Channel Swimming for you, expect the unexpected! Have now unpacked all the food and put it back in the fridge. Will keep you updated with any further news.

Tuesday June 24, 2008 - 12.10 - No further news on Mark's swim yet, but just got the official swim list for the FINA Open Water Grand Prix in Serbia on July the 13th. I will be competing against English Channel World Record Holder, Petar Stoychev. I am also the only swimmer entered from England/GB and the second oldest swimmer in the race. No pressure there then! Full list of starters can be found by clicking on the link below:-

Will update later when I have further news on Mark's swim.

Wednesday June 25, 2008 - 12.00 - Spoke to Mark's pilot's wife who said she didn't think it looks too promising for Thursday morning. Sam Jones has text me from Dover saying "Just down at the harbour its really windy and the sea is pretty rough with lots of white horses! Hope its going to calm down for you.". Doesn't sound too good, but will wait for Fred Mardle (Mark's pilot) to phone later. Went to the pool last night to thrash out 4KM and relieve all of the stress of the past week.

Wednesday June 25, 2008 - 14.15 - IT'S OFF AGAIN! Just spoke to Fred Mardle, and the conditions are not suitable for tomorrow. We are now looking at Friday at 04.00am or Saturday at 05.00am. Very frustrating for Mark, but it's all part of channel swimming.

Wednesday June 25, 2008 - 18.00 - What the papers say about Mark's swim:-

At least it's something to read while we are waiting!

Thursday June 26, 2008 - 10.00 - Had an e-mail from Freda Streeter last night saying Saturday looks good for the next swim, which will unfortunately mess my Saturday training schedule in Dover up, which she is worried about as I obviously need to get as much training in for my two-way channel swim as is physically possible. Therefore I hit the pool at 07.00am this morning and did 3,350 Metres at Culford School Pool, as well as some weights, press-ups and stretching before I went to bed last night. It made me feel a bit better about things.

Thursday June 26, 2008 - 13.15 - ...and so it continues...! Just spoke to Fred Mardle. Neither Friday or Saturday are looking good at present. 25mph+ winds on both days. At least I will be training in Dover on Saturday! Will update when we have further news.

Thursday June 26, 2008 - 16.45 - The swim cannot go ahead tomorrow due to the weather, and Mark, who works as a paramedic, cannot get any time off work this weekend and so at present the swim is cancelled. He will speak to his pilot to see if he can get another chance later in the season.

What a week! Unfortunately, this is the nature of channel swimming, and unless the weather is right, you simply cannot swim.

Dover 2008 week 8 - A tough swim, and a tense wait for Mark Ransom's Channel Swim

Above: Swimmers Beach on a bleak and dreary 'Mid Summers' day 2008.

I had been waiting for the phone call from Mark Ransom to say he was swimming the channel on Friday June 21, 2008. However, when we got the call, it was to say that it wouldn't be happening this weekend. So off I went to Dover, on my own again this week as Beccy was running in the Cancer Research UK "Race for Life" in Bury St Edmunds.

When I arrived on Swimmers Beach, it was a horrible, misty day with fine rain falling. After helping Barry and Freda put the tent up, to protect her from the inclement weather, I was given 7 hours, and put my new Aqua Sphere swim hat and goggles on. After a year of searching, I had now found the perfect hat and goggles for me. The hat comes down over the ears, which helps protect my right ear from what has been a very niggling little ear irritation for some weeks. The General gave me hat number 1, which I put in my bag and set off on my swim, thinking that I could remember "No. 1" when I come in for a feed. I set off on the swim, being the first person to enter the water. It was quite pleasant at about 15 degrees centigrade, and I felt quite good.

After 2 hours, I came in for a feed, and Barry handed me the Maxim, and Irene took the register. "No. 1" I said, and swam off for my next hour. When I got in for my second feed, The General came storming down the beach, shouting and waving her arms at me. All I could see was her lips moving, I couldn't hear a thing due to by excellent hat keeping out all sound as well as the water. Eventually it turned out that I was to wear a red hat not my silver one for whatever reason. The General went up to my bag, got out the red one, then told me I had to wear it. There was no way I was taking off my silver hat, so I took off my new goggles and put on the red hat over the top of my silver one. Then, disaster, I lost my goggles. I searched but could find them anywhere, so I ran up the beach, reached into my bag, pulled out my old pair, ran back down to the water, and set off. I was absolutely fuming! It was only the second time I had worn those goggles, and they weren't cheap at £16.99! I continued swimming.

At 4.5 hours, I started to feel "ill". I had not felt like this before in the harbour, but my arms felt weak, and I had two projectile vomits which looked like blood in the water, although it was probably Maxim. Not being one to quit, somehow I kept swimming and eventually reached 7 hours and 20,000 Metres, and got out and had a massage with Louise. I then went back to The Sandown B&B and was in and out of consciousness all night on my bed.

Getting up next morning, I had the "thick head" from hell. I felt like I had a hangover, but without the alcohol! I decided to drive home, because I felt so bad. The whole way home, I felt like I was having an "out of body" experience. I was "floating". I got home, and had a really good 2 hour sleep, still having a splitting headache when I woke up. I then got the phone call....

Mark Ransom, will be swimming the channel at about 1am on Tuesday morning, June 24, 2008! I unpacked my bags, and started to re-pack them ready to get down to Dover again on Monday evening.

The next blog will hopefully be all about Mark's swim.


Kind regards.

Hoffy and Bex.

Monday 16 June 2008

Dover 2008 week 7 - 8th place in the B.L.D.S.A. Champion of Champions 2008 event

Above: Competitors line up for the first race of the 2008 British Long Distance Swimming Association "Champion of Champions" event in Dover Harbour, Saturday June 14, 2008.

Leaving home after work on Friday the 13th of June, I was wondering if anything untoward would happen on this most superstitious of days. This week, Beccy was off to Dublin to celebrate her sister's 30th birthday. Having entered the "Champion of Champions" event some time before we knew they were off to Dublin, I decided to stay and swim, and 'Little Hoffy' and his friend James accompanied me to Dover.

At about 6.30pm, my mobile rang. It was Beccy. All I could hear was screaming on the phone, and not being able to comprehend what she was saying, I asked Little Hoffy to speak to her. Friday 13th I thought, feeling quite panicy and ready to turn the car round! When he had finished speaking to her, Little Hoffy informed me that someone called Maggie, had donated £1,000 on my website to St. Nicholas' Hospice, and with the 'Gift Aid', it means that the Hospice was now £1,280 better off! Wow! I was blown away. Maggie, whoever you are, from the bottom of my heart "Thank you". It was such a generous thing to do, and makes all these trips and training worthwhile.

Champion of Champions Event 1 - 5 Miles - 09.15 Hours

All Champion of Champions (CoC) entrants assembled on the beach for a briefing at 08.45am. The channel swimmers were as usual, all at the far end of the beach, and had to keep clear of the 1 mile course, marked out by four yellow buoys in the harbour, which for the first race, we had to swim round 5 times.

Above: With fellow 'Swimmers Beach' swimmer Rob Telford prior to the first briefing of the day.

Above: Swimmers receive their instructions from B.L.D.S.A. Championship Hon. Secretary Stephen O'Brien, and below, I keep a beady eye on the opposition!

This years starting and timing procedures were different to last years. Alison Streeter's new boat, "Rocco" was anchored in the harbour, and had an electronic timing pad mounted on the rear. We had to strap an electronic device onto our wrists (see below), which we had to touch onto the rear of the boat at the end of the race. We all swum over towards the boat and waited for Alison to sound the horn to start the race.

The first 3/4 of a mile, my shoulders, lats and pecs were still very painful from last weekend's seven and six hours swims, and the sports massage I had the following day to ease the pain. It was also, a very tough fight with the other swimmers to get round the first two buoys. Then, all of a sudden I broke away and found myself out on my own, with a few swimmers in front, and the rest behind. All in all it was a pretty lonely race, which I kept at about 80% sprint effort for the entire race. It was, tough keeping at this pace, but at the end of the day, it was a sprint race, and I thought about Nick Adams's training he had given me over the past two weeks. I think it definitely helped.

Last year, I completed the 5 mile course in 2 Hours 28 Minutes, and 52 Seconds, although there was problems with the course, which allegedly was more than a mile, and the sea was very rough. This year, the buoys had been positioned with GPS to ensure it was a 1 mile course, and the sea was dead calm. As I finished the first race by touching my wrist strap on the back of the timing pad on Alison's boat, I asked Ali what my time was. When she told me 1 Hour 50 Minutes I was astonished! The official time turned out to be 01:50:29 which I was really pleased with.

Champion of Champions Event 2 - 3 Miles - 13.45 Hours

At breakfast, we had met Keith Bartolo from Malta who was staying in the same B&B as us. Keith is hoping to be only the second Maltese man to swim the English channel in maybe 2010 and had been training in the harbour all week. He is a great chap and we have made a new friend in Malta.

The 3 mile race was very similar to the 5, in that we set off in the group and after about 3/4 of a mile I was out on my own with a lonely race again. I was pleased to pass Ned Denison on the last lap. Ned, who is a fantastically fast swimmer and was over from Ireland, had beaten me in the first race, but this made it one all! Once again I swum at about 80% effort, and was very pleased to finish in 1 Hour, 7 minutes and 53 seconds which again beat last years time of 01:15:21. So far, two very pleasing races.

Above: Keith Bartolo from Malta exits the harbour after finishing the 3 mile race in a time of 01:08:38.

Champion of Champions Event 3 - 1 Mile - 16.55 Hours

After the long wait between the second and third races, we all undressed for the last race of the day, the 1 mile race. This was the worst because you are now entering the cold water for the third time having dried off and warmed up twice. It is also a full 100% effort sprint around the buoys for one complete lap.

Having been started for the final time by Alison, I was flat out round the buoys for a full circle. By the 1/2 mile spot, my arms were really burning but I was pleased with myself that I didn't let up in any way, shape or form. I pictured myself heading for the French coast, trying to beat the tide, and I feel this was very good channel training. I was however, disappointed to see that my time was 22 Minutes 25 Seconds which was slower than last year's time of 20:08. However, I seem to remember that last year due to shortening the course, it was probably less than 1 mile. Ned Denison also beat me making it 2:1 to him! Well done Ned, but wait till next year!

Above: Rounding the 3rd buoy near the Prince of Wales Pier for the last time in the 1 mile race.

Above: With Keith Bartolo from Malta after completing all three events at the 2008 Champion of Champions event.

Above (Left to Right): Me, Kevin Murphy, Keith Bartolo, Mark Blewitt and Freda Streeter who had come to see what was happening after the Channel Swimmers had finished on Swimmers Beach.

Above: James Patterson, Keith Bartolo and Little Hoffy who was photographer for the day. Thanks Baz and well done!

It was a great day, and I added another 9 miles to my training for the channel and Jersey. I was also delighted to find out that I was positioned 8th out of 45 senior men's swimmers in a total time of 03:20:46 (HH:MM:SS) with the only swimmer in front of me who was older than me being Ned Dennison. All the others who beat me, were younger. It's good to know that I have got some speed as well as endurance for my Serbia, Jersey to France and two-way channel swims.

Next weekend, weather permitting, I will be supporting Mark Ransom on his channel swim attempt.

Click here for Senior Men's Champion of Champions Results 2008

For training diary update click here

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Dover 2008 week 6 - A 'Split' Channel Swim and a tough but rewarding weekend

Above (left to right): My dad Johann Hopfensperger, me and my mum, Vera Hopfensperger at Varne Ridge Holiday Park, on Friday June 11, 2008.

This week we went down to Dover on the Friday to meet my mum and dad who were staying in Folkstone. We accompanied them to Dover, and dropped in to see Evelyn and David at Varne Ridge Holiday Park. We stayed there during our channel swim week, and will be staying there again for my two-way this year. The main reason was to show my mum and dad the plaques with all the channel swimmers who have stayed at Varne Ridge on the wall. The above photo was taken in front of mine, and David assures me he will be getting the surname spelt correctly when he orders the next batch of successful swimmers plaques!

Day 1 - Saturday June 07, 2008

Arriving at swimmers beach on Saturday morning, it was a dull, misty horrible morning. It was good to see Mark Robson again, having travelled all the way down from Teeside to train in the harbour. Fellow West Suffolk Swimming Club Member, Mark Ransom was also there, and we undressed and waited for our orders from The General.

Above: Barry "The Shingle Stomper" Wakeham applying Vaseline to my delicate areas, while Mark Robson waits for his turn.

"Hoffy - 7 Hours" came the orders across the beach from The General. I wasn't worried or surprised because I had been through all of this last year. I was expecting 7 hours today, and 6 tomorrow. It's when you are not expecting it that you beat yourself up mentally. If you are training in Dover, it's always best to expect the unexpected, that way you should breeze through whatever is dished out. Mark Ransom was given 5 hours, as he will be swimming in 2 weeks time. I am delighted to say that I have been asked to be his support swimmer. I am looking forward to this, and will give a report on his swim, hopefully with live blog updates via Beccy on the day.

We stepped into what was undoubtedly the shallowest Dover Harbour I have ever swum in. It was so shallow, that the first 5 minutes of the swim were taken up walking to an area to swim in. i.e. one that you didn't scrape your hand on the bottom! The water was very cold (13.4 Degrees Centigrade) but we set off on our mission to swim to the first feed, which was 6,060 Metres and 2 hours.

I have said this before, many times, but breaking it down into feeds, gets you through the swim. It is so important not to think in terms of hours. Swimming across to the Prince of Wales Pier, we stopped, and were amazed to be able to put our feet down and touch the bottom. I don't think I have ever done this before. It must have been a spring tide.

Above: Stopping at the Prince of Wales Pier, Mark stands in a cloud of the finest 'brown' I have ever seen. God only knows what it was, Mark didn't mention that it came from him, but we soon swum away I know that for sure!

We then just continued to swim from feed to feed, at about 1 hour intervals, and before we knew it, we were at 5 hours, and Mark got out. The last two hours were totally different, and I just swum across the harbour in a triangle for hour 6, and Nicola Millichip took the photo below of Beccy and Barry feeding me.

The last hour was tough, as my shoulders were quite painful, and there was only 2 or three of us out there. The tide had also come in, and I was amazed that it was now above the "slopey groyne" whereas earlier, I could see the bottom of it! It was a huge tide today without a doubt. I swum a bit of a bizarre route, out to P.O.W. pier, across to the "slopey groyne" back to the P.O.W. pier, across towards swimmers beach, back towards the pier, then diagonally in to complete 7 hours! Yes! Awesomely satisfying. A 7 hour swim, covering 19,870 Metres in 13.4 degrees Centigrade water.

I went back to the guest house, showered, went for a meal with my parents in Folkstone, then returned home for a good sleep before what I assumed would be a 6 hour swim the next day.

Day 2 - Sunday June 08, 2008

Arriving at Swimmers Beach after a hearty breakfast consisting of 2 x Wheatabix, Half a pint of milk, a full fried "Sandown" breakfast of 2 x Bacon, 1 x Sausage, 2 x Fried Egg, Baked Beans, 1 x Hash Brown, 2 x Fried Tomato's, 2 x cups of coffee, a "Herbalife" Tropical Fruit Vitamin and Mineral drink in half a pint of milk, I was still a little peckish, so I downed a whole banana and sipped my half pint Maxim Electrolyte drink as we waited for instructions.

Above: Waiting for instructions on "Swimmers Beach" for Sunday's swim from The General.

As Mark Ransom and I stood there waiting, our worst nightmare happened. Both feeling very stiff and sore from the day before's swim, the last thing I expected was for two-way channel swimmer, Nick Adams, to come flying over saying "I'm swimming with you today boys". You may remember from last week's Sunday swim, that on the Sunday he made us sprint for over 4KM nearly finishing us off! Well, No! Not this week. We were not falling for that again. No way. Absolutely not! No, no, no NO! "Sorry Nick" I said. "Did 7 hours yesterday. Couldn't possibly swim at your speed today". I was astonished that he gave in so easily and said "Oh well. I'll have to swim with someone else", and off he went. "Huh! That told him" I thought. "Soon got rid of him!".

"Hoffy 6 hours" said The General. "Mark 5 hours". A little bit of stretching the shoulders out, and into the water we went. It was once again, incredibly low and 13.4 Degrees Centigrade again. Quite cold, but we just went through exactly the same routines, and procedures again, and the time flew by.

Above: Entering the harbour for 6 hours (me) and 5 hours Mark Ransom.

All went pretty much to plan with swims to the next feed, until at 4.75 hours into the swim, and just about to swim from the P.O.W. pier, back to swimmers beach, for Mark to get out, and me to get my 5 hour feed, a cerise pink hat suddenly emerged in front of our eyes.....

10 Minutes earlier on the beach...

Beccy was on the beach, standing in for Barry and Irene and instructing 6 foot 4" swimmers to not be such wimps, the water wasn't cold and get back in and swim to the P.O.W. pier and back. They duly obeyed. While standing there, out of the corner of her eye, she saw this:-

... yes a pair of cerise pink swimming trunks, with cerise pink swim hat protruding from the underside of the brief, and a nice pair of cerise pink "Crocs". Yes, it was none other than Nick "The Fish" Adams, scanning the harbour for two members of the West Suffolk Masters Open Water Synchronised Swimming Team...

"Right where are those two homos? Where's Hoffy I want to pee him off?" said Nick to Beccy. "You just want to be on his blog" said Beccy laughing. "No I don't" he replied.

Nick stepped into the water, and adjusted his heat seeking goggles, scanning the harbour like a vulture searching for his prey. Nicola Millichip witnessed this, and barley able to control her laughter took the above pictures of Nick. "Ah right there they are, I can get them from here. I'm not worried about being on the blog, I just want to cause as much misery as possible." said Nick to Beccy, as he slipped into stealth mode and sped across the harbour towards the P.O.W. pier to catch up with Mark and me.

Prince of Wales Pier

Mark and I had just decided to swim in for a feed, then it was just one more hour for me, on my own, swimming with my thoughts before coming in at 6 hours to complete a total of 13 hours in the harbour for the weekend. I was pleased with myself, but very sore in the neck and shoulders. Having seen Nick Adams get out a couple of hours earlier, the last thing I expected was to see him here at 4.75 hours into out swim.

"Right you two, you've got me for the last hour. Come on chop, chop" said Nick. "Nick, Mark is getting out, and I'm going in for a feed, and I did 7 hours yesterday, and this is my last hour! You just want to be on my blog" I laughed. "No I don't, but I'll just swim with you then". I swum into shore, Mark got out, and I wondered what on earth he was going to get me to do. I had my feed, and off we went over to the Eastern Dock, starting off slowly, then stretching out, and getting faster as we completed the 830 Metre swim to the dock. "Right, we're going to sprint across the harbour and I'm going to time you" said Nick. "But I'm knackered" I protested. "I did 7 hours yesterday, and have done 5 so far today. My arms have had it". Nick would have none of it. Off we went. I was flat out. I couldn't have gone any faster if you paid me.

The first 100 Metres weren't too bad. My arms burned, but they felt tired. At 200 Metres, still flat out, they were starting to hurt. At 300 Metres, I was hallucinating! My arms were just simply about to explode! At 400 Metres, against all my best intentions, I pulled up and said "Nick, I'm knackered. I can't go on at this pace". He looked at his watch and said "When you're in the channel, and your pilot asks you to sprint for 30 minutes, you need to be able to do it. It can knock 3 hours off your swim. Come on, just stretch out, and do your best." We swum across to the P.O.W. Pier, then headed towards the beach to complete my 6 hours.

I was smiling to myself, wondering why he kept picking on me, when I lost concentration and swam over the back of his legs. "Hoffy" he said. "You're not trying to 'Roger me' are you?" he said. I just laughed my head off to myself. He is a great swimmer, and does make me laugh, and is genuinely trying to help me achieve my goal of completing a two way channel swim. "Come on" I said. "Let's have a picture for my blog." and here they are...

Above: (Left) Hoffy, 2-Way Channel Swimmer Aspirant. (Right) Nick "The Fish" Adams - 2-Way Channel Swimmer. Respect.

It was a fantastic weekend, having achieved what The General calls a "Split Channel Swim". i.e. 13 hours over two days. Thanks to Beccy for helping with the feeding, Freda for being Freda, Mark for being a great swim companion and Nick for being Nick. It makes it all so worthwhile being surrounded by such fantastic and inspiring people.

Next week will be something different, "Champion of Champions" in Dover Harbour. I am looking forward to it, having come 5th overall last year.

Total time in the harbour this week - 13 Hours.
Total distance covered - 35,780 Metres.

For training diary update click here

Monday 2 June 2008

Dover 2008 week 5 - West Suffolk Masters Swimmers Mark Ransom and Hoffy qualify for the channel!

Above: Bury St Edmunds Swimming Club ("The Beavers") before leaving for a swim trip to Kevelaer in Gemany in 1982. Mark Ransom (12) is seated on the bottom left at the front. I am kneeling down holding the banner, 2nd from the right on the front row. I was 19 at the time. Photo (c) Bury Free Press 1982.

I think that both Mark Ransom and I enjoyed last week's 2 x 3 hour 20 minute swims, but we were we were quite certain that this week was going to be much tougher. We both had to qualify for the channel by doing a 6 hour swim. Mine was not so urgent, but Mark will be swimming in only 3 weeks time. I felt quite emotional for him in a funny way, as it was a big day, and I couldn't believe that someone I had swum with all those years ago, was now about to attempt to jump from 1 hour, to 2 x 3 hour 20 minutes swims and then the following week, come straight in with 6 hours! I kept thinking about the photo on my living room wall with 12 year old Mark sitting at the front with a big grin on his face. I have reproduced it above.

Day 1 - Saturday May 31, 2008

Arriving on 'Swimmers Beach' after the 145 mile drive, we undressed and waited for instructions from The General. "Hoffy, Mark - 6 hours" came the roar across the beach. We 'Vaselined' up and got into the water.

Above: Mark Ransom (left) and me getting in for the start of our 6 hour channel qualifying swim.

We set off and did the same route as last week, which was out to the Eastern Dock, 4 lengths of the harbour and back in for a feed. This was a distance of about 6,060 Metres in about 2 hours 20 minutes. The water temperature wasn't too bad at 14.9 degrees Centigrade. It's amazing how the surface temperature warms up when you get a bit of sun on it.

Above: Swimming across the harbour, in for a feed, then off for another two laps.

Before we got in, I said to Mark that he shouldn't think about swimming for 6 hours, we just swim to the next feed. We have to think of it in laps followed by feeds, not distance or hours. Just laps. After the first feed, it was just out to the Eastern Dock, 2 lengths of the harbour, then back in for a feed. Another 3,860 Metres completed, and 3 hours 20 minutes gone. Next time, out to the Prince of Wales Pier, two laps, then in for a feed. 3,260 Metres and 4 hours 10 minutes gone. We then finished off with 2 x "triangle circuits" of the harbour (Eastern dock, across the harbour to Prince of Wales Pier) in for a feed and 5 hours, then 6 hours 3 minutes and we completed the swim, both qualifying for the channel!

Above: Channel Qualifiers! Mark Ransom (left) and Hoffy at the end of their 6 hour channel qualifying swims.

It was tough, and we were both shattered afterwards, but we had done it! The General congratulated us, then we all went of to Cullins Yard for a well earned one and a half pints of Guinness and some nosh! Before we went, The General asked me "Who was slowing down for who?". I wasn't sure what she meant. She said that we were both swimming exactly the same speed and someone must be slowing down for the other one. I hadn't thought about it. We just got in, swum together and completed 6 hours and 18.1KM. That's all I knew really. She smiled. This was worrying.

That night, I laid on the bed rigid, and could barely move my arms, my back and shoulders hurt so much. We watched the finals of "Britain's Got Talent" and "I'd do Anything". I just laid on the bed, unable to speak or move. At about 10.15pm I said to Beccy "I'm going to sleep now". She told me the following day that she said "OK", walked about 2 Metres to the sink, then heard me snoring! I had just passed out! Little did I know then, that the next day would be even tougher than today...

Day 2 - Sunday June 01, 2008

Arriving at Swimmers Beach at about 08.40am the next day, I felt as though rigor mortis had set into my back and shoulders! "Hoffy - 5 Hours" came the call from The General. Then something unexpected happened. Nick Adams, a 31 year old Maths teacher from Eton College and one of only 4 English people to have completed a two-way English Channel Swim, walked over to Mark and me and said "Morning Boys". (We are both older than him!) "I'm swimming with you today". "Excellent!" I said. "Why's that then?" I asked inquisitively. "Freda asked me to". Now I was worried. "What was going on here" I thought to myself. I didn't have to wait long to find out.

Getting into the water, I explained how we were going to swim over to the Prince of Wales Pier, then do four lengths and in for a feed. This normally took just over two hours going this route which was about the right time for a feed. "2 hours?" said Nick Adams looking surprised. We headed over to the Pier.

Arriving at the Pier he said "Right, come on then boys, follow me" in his best school master's voice. We obeyed. We shot across the harbour like a bloody rocket! Nick in front, me behind his feet, and Mark behind mine. Arriving at The Eastern Dock, I was panting heavily. "I don't think I'm going to be able to keep that speed up for 5 hours" I said nervously. Nick looked at me and said "Right, off we go!". We shot across again faster than the first time I think.

Arriving at the Pier, I said "How long are you staying in for Nick" hoping he was going to say that he was getting out now. "I'm not sure" he replied. "Come on, off we go!". We shot across again, the muscles in my arms now seriously starting to ache and feel heavy. While I was full flat out going across the harbour, Nick was bobbing up and down, doing a bit of backstroke, etc.. He just looked like he was playing. When we finally arrived across the harbour for the fourth time, I was knackered, I have no idea how Mark was feeling, I hadn't even got the strength to ask him.

"You boys are slowing down a bit now" said Nick. "Yes" I thought, "That would be correct. We have just swum over 4,400 Metres at Mach 1!". I could barely get my arms out of the water. "Right in for a feed, I will be doing my own swim now" said Nick. Although I have alot of admiration for Nick, like his sense of humour, and was honoured to have swum with him, and studied his toes in great depth knowing exactly how many hairs he had on each foot, I have never been so pleased to hear those words! We swum in, and when I looked at my watch, we had completed 5,460 Metres in just over 1 Hr. 42 minutes! That was 20 minutes quicker than normal for me. "It's not how long you're in the water for, it's what you do when you're in there" said Nick. I would love to have had a photo of us all coming in for a feed, unfortunately, Beccy wasn't expecting us there for another 20 minutes, and when she arrived, we were long gone!

Swimming over to the Prince of Wales Pier, It was all I could do to get my arms out of the water, but somehow we just kept going, albeit somewhat slower than the first 2 hours! When we got there, Beccy was up on the Pier and took a photo. I remember just floating there trying to wave at her.

Above: Arriving at the Prince of Wales Pier after Nick Adams had left us, then below, swimming off across the harbour again.

The previous day, Beccy had commented that Mark and I looked like synchronised swimmers when we swum. We had an almost identical stroke. This could be that we were both taught by the same coach, John Stemp, in the 1970's and 80's. She took the photos below, which seems to emphasise this fact.

Above: West Suffolk Masters, Men's over 35 Synchronised Open Water Swimming Team in action!

Arriving in for our 3 hour feed, there on the shore, fully dressed was Nick Adams! He had got out! As we slowly came to shore I heard the schoolmaster voice - "Come on you pair of homo's! You look like a pair of turtles swimming ashore!". I couldn't help but laugh to myself, it was like being back at my old school, Moreton Hall. That's how the teachers spoke to us there. We fed, and swum off at the same speed as we sum in at, i.e. slow with arms barely breaking the surface.

Somehow, we made it to 5 hours, and completed 14,640 Metres. I was absolutely knackered, but pleased that somehow, we had crossed all the mental barriers, including the cold (my watch read 13.1 degrees Centigrade, 1.8 degrees colder than yesterday, Kevin Murphy's read 12.5) and completed a 6 hour and a 5 hour swim on consecutive days.

Emerging from the water, The General was smiling. "I'm not talking to you!" I said jokingly. "Why?" replied the General. "Did you tell Nick Adams to push us like that?" I smiled. "Yes, you were both holding back yesterday" she said. So even way out in the harbour during a 6 hour swim the day before, Freda had been watching us, and to ensure we were swimming as she wanted us to, and to make sure we complete our respective tasks this year, she put Nick in with us today to give us a helping hand. That's why she's called "The General". She commands, and get's respect from all the swimmers.

Total time in the harbour this week - 11 Hours.
Total distance covered - 32,740 Metres.

For training diary update click here