Wednesday 27 August 2008

Dover 2008 week 17 - 3 Days in Dover Harbour (on our wedding anniversary!)

Above: A 7 Hour training swim in Dover harbour on our 11th wedding anniversary - Saturday August 23, 2008.

Day 1 - Saturday August 23, 2008

This weekend was going to be a really important one. With only two weeks to go before my two-way channel swim attempt, it would be the last big training weekend before I start to taper down ready for the channel. It was also our 11th wedding anniversary.

Arriving at the beach, it was a beautiful clear sunny day and the harbour was dead flat. When Freda said "6 hours please Hoffy" to me, I replied "Can't I do 7 please?". She crossed out 6 on her pad and wrote 7 in it's place. I think I am slowly going mad! It was 9am and I said goodbye to Bex, wished her a happy anniversary, and told her I would see her at 3pm - 7 hours later. This is the fantastic thing, she is fully supportive of the swim, and without this support, it simply would not be possible.

I set off with Nick Aspey from Wigan, who was in the harbour doing his 6 hour qualifying swim. It was hist first time in Dover, and he was really excited about it. I did explain that it wasn't always as calm as it was today, but he simply had a great time, really enjoying himself until he got out at 6 hours with his swim complete. Well done Nick, great swim - the longest he has ever done in one go.

Beccy was on the beach with the usual team, and was there to feed everyone when we came in. After 7 hours, I came in pleased with myself having completed 19,260 Metres in 7 hours.

To celebrate our anniversary, I had booked a table at Cullins Yard for 7.30pm. Having been there for about an hour, I heard some South African voices behind me. I turned round, and there sitting right behind me was none other than "The Ice Bear" himself, Lewis Gordon-Pugh - the first man ever to swim for 1KM at The North Pole in -1.7 Degrees Centigrade water!

Above: South African Channel Swimmers including front, left in the red T-shirt - Lewis Gordon-Pugh, me seated on floor, and far right at the front, a South African swimmer who had just swum the channel that day.

Above: Beccy on our 11th wedding anniversary at Cullins Yard.

After a fantastic steak, we said goodbye to the South Africans, and headed back to our beds for the night, ready for another big swim the following day.

Day 2 - Sunday August 24, 2008 - 133 Years to the day since Captain Matthew Webb first swum the English Channel.

Above: Coming in for a feed during Sunday's swim.

What a bloody miserable day. It was horrible. When we got up, it was cold, grey skies, raining and no sign anywhere of the sun which had shone the day before. To cap it off, over by the Eastern Dock it was like swimming in a washing machine. It was horrible, so I swum with Chris Enyon from Sudbury & District swimming club "up and down the wall" where it was a bit calmer to say the least.

At about 3.75 hours, I had one of those feelings which I have experienced many times when we are fed Maxim Electrolyte rather than the full Maxim. I was sprinting with Chris, when it felt like I had just run out of fuel. I told him to continue at his pace while I swum at mine. I continued up the wall, back down again, and really struggled along the beach. I was absolutely famished. I was so hungry it hurt. I stopped and started, just making it to the beach at 4 hours and 5 minutes ready for a very welcome feed when to my astonishment Beccy stood there and said "Everyone out. Finished. You're all getting out". Apparently, for the first time in living memory, Freda had had enough, and you can't blame her. All of the beach crew, including Beccy, were absolutely soaked through to the skin. It was a truly awful day. I had however, completed 10,255 Metres.

Chatting to Beccy later, she told me that we were going to do 4 hours tomorrow so that we could all get home early in case of bad traffic. This was a shame as I had wanted to complete 7 Hours/6 Hours then 5 Hours over the weekend.

Day 3 - Bank Holiday Monday August 25, 2008

Monday was no better than Sunday. Grey, dark skies, cold wind and really miserable. At least it was only going to be a 4 hour swim and then we could be off home. "Hoffy - 6 hours." came the words from Freda's mouth. "6?" I replied. "Yes, we need to get the hours in as we only did 4 yesterday". Bloody weather! I got in and set off to swim for 6 hours.

At 4 hours I was really fed up, and for the first time for a long time I was cold, so cold that I was shivering as I swum. This was not good so near my channel swim. I think I had mentally prepared myself to swim for 4 hours, not 6 and it's amazing how your mind adapts to this way of thinking. I was a bit angry with myself, and as I came in for a feed I said "What a bloody way to spend a Bank Holiday Monday. One more hour then I'm getting out!". I had my feed then set off.

I sprinted quite hard, and soon began to warm up. Up and down the wall I was putting in some good sprints. When it came to the end of hour 5, I had snapped out of it and was looking forward to the last hour. As I arrived back at the beach, several women of varying degrees of looking stern were standing at strategic locations across the beach. Standing head and shoulders above the rest at the top of the beach (the tide was out) was The General. "What's the matter with them?" I thought to myself. Then I realised and burst out laughing. They were all stopping me getting out! "It's Ok." I said, "I'm all better now, I'm not getting out!". I had my feed and completed 6 hours 5 minutes covering 16,180 Metres.

Above: Getting out after 6 hours and 16,180 Metres. Thank you ladies for ensuring I didn't get out at 5 hours! LOL!

All in all, although the weather was miserable on the Sunday and Monday, it was a very productive weekend covering a total of 45,695 Metres. Next week, I will be tapering down hopefully, weather dependant, preparing to start my two-way channel swim attempt the following weekend. After the disappointment of Jersey, let's hope this one goes ahead!

Total time in the harbour this week - 17 Hours 10 Minutes.
Total distance covered - 45,695 Metres.

Monday 18 August 2008

Dover 2008 week 16 - 6 hour swim in miserable conditions

Above: The ever present Barry Wakeham puts on the Vaseline before another 6 hour swim in Dover Harbour.

After the disappointment of last week, it was important to get back into heavy training for my two-way channel swim attempt in September. Having tapered down for the Jersey swim, then not swum and only did some light training while I was there, I felt as though I was losing some fitness. So Saturday night at 8pm, only 24 hours after returning from Jersey, Beccy and I set off for Dover.

Arriving at 10.00pm, we headed for a pint of Guinness at the White Horse. As soon as we walked in I heard American accents and found out that they were non other than Liz Fry and her crew. Liz, had literally hours earlier, been pulled out at "The Varne" in the channel after swimming for 24 hours on a two-way attempt. This was a fantastic effort, and we chatted for about an hour about her valiant attempt. At 11pm it was off to bed ready for the next day's swim.

Arriving at Swimmers beach it really was a glum, grey, misty day with light spots of rain. "Looks like I'll be sitting in the car all day!" said Beccy. Barry greased me up and in I got.

The water was in fact dead calm, and I proceeded to swim my usual 2 hour routine before the first feed. However, after about an hour, it cut up rough again at the Eastern Dock and it turned into a battle with the waves.

At the 3 hour feed, The General came down to speak to me, but I simply cannot hear her when I have my ear plugs in and hat over my ears. This is what I thought she said:-

"Don't go up to the Eastern Dock because I can't see you. It too rough over there. Go over the other side and go up and down the wall".

This is what she actually said:-

"Don't go past the slopey groyne, I can't see you because it's too rough over there. Don't go up and down the wall".

I spent the remaining 3 hours going up and down the wall, as I though she had told me, only to get a bollocking when I got back for going up and down the wall! It was however, and friendly bollocking as I was laughing so much due to my total misunderstanding! I spent a bit of time with Chris Enyon doing some sprints up and down the wall, and with Chris Pountney after Chris Enyon got out at 5 hours.

It was a good "blow the cobwebs away" swim, and it will only now increase with the 2 way channel approaching fast.

I would just like to say very well done to Leanne Harling, who I was supposed to be support swimmer for. Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, her swim was brought forward a week, and it happened when we were on the airplane back from Jersey. She swum brilliantly for 12 hours before being pulled out due to the terrible weather conditions. Well done Leanne, you will do it next time I know you will.

Total time in the harbour this week - 6 Hours
Total distance covered - 17,100 Metres.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Jersey to France Solo to become 'Around Jersey Solo'? - CANCELLED due to adverse weather conditions

Above: The 18 mile swim from Jersey to France which is my next challenge...

The second of my three big swims for 2008, Jersey to France, is now upon us, the first being my swim in Serbia and the third being my two-way English Channel Swim attempt in September. I am really looking forward to this one, and to meeting the members of the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club of which I am now a member. Further information on this swim can be found on my web site at:-

On there you will find all the swimmers who have completed the swim, as well as other useful information about the swim. I will update this blog from Jersey when we get there, but all being well with the weather etc., I hope to swim on Monday August 11, 2008 - my wife Beccy's birthday!

UPDATE! - August 07, 2008 - 17.15 Hrs.

I've just had a telephone conversation with Charlie Gravett in Jersey who has said that the weather for the whole tide next week is not looking good at all. He has told us that if we haven't already bought our tickets, then it's probably best not to come! He said that they would not go out if the sea was above a force 4. Unfortunately, all the weather forecasters are saying that it will be force 5 - 6!

This is open water swimming for you unfortunately. I will update the site as soon as I have any further information.

UPDATE! - August 09, 2008 - 14.15 Hrs.

Well, I've been swimming in the sea in Jersey this morning for about 25 minutes. It was about the same temperature as Dover last weekend, 18 Degrees C. The really annoying thing is that this is probably the nearest I will get to a swim this week. Beccy and I had a drink with my pilot, Charlie last night, followed by a text this morning. There is very little likelihood of swimming before next Sunday due to the adverse weather conditions! If we were able to swim then, it wouldn't be to France, it would be around Jersey due to it being a spring tide next week. We are just sitting here in Jersey playing the waiting game. Will update when I have further news.

Above: Training in the Havre Des Pas sea lido, Jersey on Saturday August 09, 2008.

UPDATE! - August 11, 2008 - 12.30 Hrs.

Well today is Beccy's birthday, and I haven't swum. Neither am I going to other than to train. Yesterday, I trained with the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club in the beautiful St. Catherine's bay. The sun was out, I could see the starting point of a Jersey to France swim, and I could see the French coast, but other than a 1/2 hour 1 mile swim across the bay and back, there is no chance of a Jersey to France swim on this tide due to it being force 4-5 out at sea. It will be force 7 tomorrow!

Above: Training in St Catherine's bay with the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club on Sunday August 10, 2008

Above: left to right, my pilot, Charlie Gravett, me and 2008 Jersey to France swimmer, Wendy Prunty in St Catherin'e bay after my Sunday morning training swim.

My pilot, Charlie has told me that there is a very real possibility of an 'Around Jersey' swim, next Monday morning at 5am. This is a very challenging 44 mile 'Spring Tide' assisted swim. The logistics of being able to stay in Jersey for an extra 4 days, as well as hotels, flight and work commitments is being analysed as I write. I will update when the situation becomes clearer.

UPDATE! - August 14, 2008 - 11.00 Hrs. - SWIM CANCELLED!

Well, since the last update on Monday, we have been playing the very nerve wracking waiting game, and I now have no finger nails left! Right up until yesterday, there was a possibility of swimming around Jersey next Monday. So Charlie took us around the island to see the swim. The winds were gusting up to Gale Force 8, and in some locations it was all you could do to stand up!

Above: The windy conditions can be clearly seen in the photos above. It would not be possible to swim in those conditions on grounds of safety. The blue boat above (JY893) is the pilot boat which would have taken us.

Yesterday, Charlie said there was a slight opportunity that we may be able to swim on Friday morning at 04.30 hrs. He would confirm it by text at 10.00 hrs. this morning, one way or the other. At 09.50 hrs. we got the text and as it is still gusting force 4-5, we will not be swimming.

We've enjoyed our time on the island, met some great people, and Charlie has spent alot of his time with us showing us around. Thanks for this Charlie, and I sincerely hope to be back again in the near future to give it another try. Meanwhile, it's back to Dover for some serious training again at the weekend!

Jersey, August 14, 2008.

Monday 4 August 2008

Dover Regatta 2000 Metre Freestyle Sea Swim Race 2008

Above: In pensive mood prior to the 2008 Dover Regatta 2000 Metre Freestyle Sea Swim.

This weekend in Dover was different to all the others so far this year. The reason was that I was in "taper down" mode prior to my Jersey to France attempt, which weather permitting, will be next Monday, August 11th 2008, my wife Beccy's birthday! Last year on her birthday, we were swimming in the 2007 Dover Regatta 2000 Metre Freestyle Sea Swim. So swimming on her birthday is something she is very much getting used to.

Day 1 - Saturday August 02, 2008 - Training

Arriving on swimmers beach at 10.20am on Saturday morning, it was a dull, miserable and wet day. The sea did not look inviting, especially as being Dover Regatta weekend, we could only swim from swimmers beach up to the Eastern Dock and back again due to all of the events going on up towards the Prince of Wales Pier. This I duly did. 8 times in fact in some of the roughest sea I had swum in since the swim on Bank Holiday Monday in May. I swam for 2 hours 20 minutes, arms getting smashed to bits, and covering 6,400 Metres. After such a swim we then deservedly spent the rest of the afternoon having 'afternoon tea' with fellow channel swimmers Rob, Nicola, Rob, Megan, Chrissy and 2008 channel swimming aspirant Chris Pountney. It was nice to be able to chat to them for a change. Normally after a 7 hour swim, everyone disappears and you never get the chance to chat. Today, was a special day and 'Afternoon Tea' lasted for the best part of four hours, leaving me with a strange 'buzz' in the head afterwards. It was very pleasant, and both Beccy and I enjoyed the afternoon immensely.

Having showered and rested, we went back to the promenade to enjoy the fantastic firework display at 9.30pm, before going back for a good nights sleep prior to the 2KM race on Sunday afternoon.

Day 2 - Sunday August 03, 2008 - Race Day

The 2KM race was at 14.30 hours, so we had the unique opportunity of being able to lay in bed later than 06.45 Hrs. which is our normal time of rising when we are doing 6 hours training on a Sunday. In fact we were able to get up at 10.00 Hrs. Awesome!

We went down to watch the training on swimmers beach which was another unique experience as I am normally one of the ones being watched! I bought some Maxim Electrolyte for Jersey, then went over to the Dover Life Guard club HQ for our briefing at 14.00 Hrs.

There was a little bit of controversy. Under ASA rules, you are allowed to wear "all in one" suits or "leggings". Under British Long Distance Swimming Association rules, you are not. Long story short, you could wear what you wanted, but had to wear the yellow hat with your number on (mine was No. 14), but due to them being extremely thin, you could wear 2 hats. All very confusing but we got there in the end. We lined up on the beach, and waited to be called in by race organiser Lee Wakeham (son of Barrie and Irene).

Above: Assembling for the 14:00 Hrs. briefing at Dover Life Guard Club HQ. I was talking to Danni Callahan from the Dorset Open Water Swim Team, who was in Dover to do a Channel Relay this week.

Above: Me, no. 14, lining up at the start waiting to be called into the water to start the race.

We were instructed by Lee to enter the water as our name was called out, and swim to the right hand side of the yellow buoy. There were a massive 63 entrants, and we all had to squeeze in between the buoy and the speed boat which had the starter on board. Everyone was jostling for position in the water, and I felt I had a good position. To my right was a girl, and to my left a man. I was positioned perfectly waiting for the start.

Above: Swimming out gently to the start position to the right of the yellow buoy.

The whistle went, followed by "ONE MINUTE UNTIL THE START!" from the starter. All eyes watched him eagerly. He raised the yellow flag, then "BANG!". The flag came down and we were off. Well the man and girl beside me were at least. I went nowhere. As I plunged my right hand into the water. It struck the girls back. Undeterred, I plunged my left hand into the water. It went straight into the man's back. They had squeezed together and I couldn't swim! Somehow I managed to get going. There were elbows, arms, legs, bodies smashing into me from all over the place. This was bloody tough. I just went flat out 100% to try to make up some ground, but for the best part of 500 Metres I was being hit by all body parts imaginable. I was kicked in the face I don't know how many times, but funnily enough it was great fun! I was battling mentally with my competition and eventually, as I always seem to end up in races, I was out on my own with just the sea to do battle with. And do battle with it I did!

Above: The start of the race. I am in there somewhere!

Now training for a Channel Swim in rough sea in Dover Harbour is one thing, because you swim at a sensible pace to try and get a rhythm going with the waves. Sprinting through these waves at 100% flat out pace is another thing, because you have difficulty in breathing. I would like to apologise to the Dover Harbour Board here and now if the ferries are 300mm lower in the water than usual. I hold my hand up and say that I inhaled both nasally and orally, the top 300mm of water yesterday. God I have had an upset stomach today! Even during my 19KM swim in Serbia in July, I did not swallow as much water as I did yesterday. I was heaving all over the place under water trying to get rid of it. However, and this I am pleased about, I did not ease up once. I just kept swimming at 100% effort for the entire 2KM.

Arriving at the turning buoy next to the 'Slopey Groyne' two swimmers seemed to ease up to look where they were going next. I just swum in, rounded the buoy and overtook them. That was a great feeling. About 200 Metres on the way back, I was panting heavily, my heart was hurting, I was merrily inhaling water, but up to the right I could see a big pair of male arms racing a girl to his right. It was my mission to overtake them both.

Flat out, I slowly came up behind the swimmer, who I could see was swimmer no. 6. God he was huge! I pulled up behind him, and he was concentrating on the girl to the right, only breathing to the right. I caught him, then "smash" he kicked me in the face. 'That's very impolite' I thought, so I pulled out a bit to overtake him. He cut across and kicked me in the face again. He then started looking to the left and took his concentration off the girl, and concentrating on me, who after all was the one he was racing. I pulled up along side him. He had an immense stroke. I can still now see his arms coming over at full steam ahead, smashing into the water. It was interesting to watch. Then, he put a spurt on, and we both pulled away from the girl, swimming alongside each other for about 2-3 minutes. Then, somewhere from deep within, I relaxed but in a flat out manner, and I just knew I would beat him. I can't explain it, but there was no way he was going to keep up with me. I just pulled away, and he appeared to just cave in.

Still flat out, I reached the yellow buoy where we had started from, turned and headed towards the beach. I was out on my own again but sensed someone behind me, and so did not ease up at all. I sprinted towards the beach. Now this was going to be the tough bit. We had to get out of the water, run up the coconut mat, and the race finished when we ran between the two cones.

Above: Chris Eynon (left) from Sudbury Swimming Club in Suffolk and another swimmer (apologies I don't know his name) sprint up the beach to eventually finish equal 2nd overall.

Above: I swim into the beach closely followed by another swimmer at the end of a gruelling race.

I got to the beach, found my footing and ran up the beach panting heavily. I was knackered! However, I was not overtaken, and shouted my number out as I crossed the line.

Above: Running out of the water at the finish of the 2KM sprint. This was the tough bit.

Remarkably, after about 5 minutes, I was totally back to normal, no panting no aching muscles, just feeling fine. I had one disappointment though when we were given the results at the end of the afternoon.

Entering the race, I had three goals which were as follows:-

1) I wanted to beat last years time of 28:16.99 (

2) I wanted to beat my total position of 21st lat year, even though there were far more swimmers here this year.

3) I wanted to retain my 'Over 40's' title which I had won last year.

I am sad to say, that I only achieved 2 out of these 3 goals. My time was a very pleasing 26:48.18 ( That's over 1 minute 28 seconds faster than last year, in far worst conditions. I came in 17th overall, that's 4 places better than last year, but against far more competitors. I also came in 9th in the men's race, 6th in the over 18's Men's race, BUT! I came in 2nd in the over 40's age group! I was really disappointed by this. However, I know one thing. I couldn't possibly have gone any faster. I was flat out for 2KM and 26:48.18 minutes. So at least I know I did my best. You can do no more than your best.

Click here to download full set of results

NOTE! An "*" beside the names on the results are the over 40's competitors.

At the World Winter Swimming Championships in February, I met Danni Callahan from Dorset. She also competed in the 2KM event, as was in Dover waiting for her Channel Relay.

Above: With Danni Callahan (right) and one of her team mates for the channel relay which is scheduled for this week. Good luck girls.

All in all, it was a pleasing weekend, and now is the big taper down, with perhaps just one or maybe two swims before I attempt my Jersey to France swim next week. The next blog, will hopefully be from Jersey.