Sunday 25 January 2009

UK Cold Water Swimming Championships 2009, Tooting Bec Lido, London, England

Tooting Bec Lido, London, England - Saturday January 24, 2009

Above: The fabulous Tooting Bec Lido, home of the South London Swimming Club.

As the alarm went off at 4.45am on a cold frosty winters morning, I really did not feel like getting out of bed. Then I remembered we were off to one of my favourite events of the year, the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec Lido, London. I leaped out of bed, took my usual nutritional breakfast of Herbalife milk shake with bananas, grabbed by kit, scraped the ice off the car windows and set off on our 100 mile trip to South London.

Walking from the car park to the pool, it really was a cold but sunny winter morning. The frost was all over Tooting Bec Common, and the thought of getting into the icy water did not appeal. As we entered and registered, the official water temperature was given out as 3 degrees centigrade (37 Degrees Fahrenheit). This would be the coldest water I had ever swum in.

My first event was the men's 40 - 49 years old Freestyle event, in which there were 44 men registered. I was in event no. 12, and we went through the very well rehearsed and organised routine of walking around the pool and undressing at various stages so as not get get cold.

Above: Lining up to take my first ever dip into 3 Degrees Centigrade water...

...followed by - Ssssshhhhiiittttt! That totally takes your breath away! Jumping in, I gulped for air as the icy waters hit my stomach, then we all had to put our shoulders under the water, and that's when it really hits you. We all put our feet on the wall, grabbed the bar with one hand, then the starter counts down - 3 - 2 - 1 - GO! Bloody hell did I GO! I went hell for leather. Not because I wanted to win, but just so I could get out the other side as quickly as possible!

I touched just behind the guy in the lane to the left of me and jumped out of the pool as fast as I possibly could. I didn't want to be in there any longer than I had to be. I checked my time which was 17.78 seconds. I was a bit disappointed with that, as at the event two years ago I had clocked 16.70 seconds. However, it wasn't too bad considering a little secret I have to share. I only started training this week after a 2.5 month lay off! I have struggled to get back in the water again since Mexico. However, I am now back into it but have a lot of catching up to do.

I grabbed my clothes, and ran round to the hot tub and jumped in to warm up. It was fantastic. Having thawed out, everyone in the event then dived into the sauna which was now permanent fixture at the lido since last years World Cold Water Swimming Championships.

When the results went up on the board, I was delighted and really surprised to see that I had qualified for the final with the 3rd fastest time. Not bad for no training!

Above: Kevin Murphy, King of The English Channel (read hat), competes in the "Head Up" breastroke event. A special event for winter swimming in which your eyes are not allowed to go under the water, and some people wear funny hats (That is not a real duck sitting on that chaps head!).

Above: Going through the same procedure in the "Head Up Breastroke" event, in which I won my heat and was promptly interviewed by actor Alistair Petrie.

Above: Back in the hot tub straight after the "Head Up" breastroke event.

Above: The results of the "Head up" breastroke event showed that I came 8th over all, missing out on the final by one place. I was still pleased with this as I have never been a breast stroke swimmer.

After lunch, was the final of my Freestyle event. We lined up and stepped into the water, and went through the same routine again. It really did not get any easier after the 3rd time. It still totally took my breath away. When the 3-2-1-GO! went again, I went absolutely flat out. I hit the wall in exactly the same time as my heat, and jumped straight out again.

I asked Beccy where I had come, and she said she thought I was 3rd. If that was so, I would be very pleased especially as I hadn't trained for so long. I headed to the hot tub, followed by the sauna.

Above: In the sauna after my last event of the day. To the right is the actress Lucy Petrie (Lucy Scott) wife of Alistair Petrie.

When I got out, Beccy confirmed that I had taken 3rd position and so would be going home with a bronze medal. I was so chuffed!

Above: Left, my Dover Harbour training buddy Leanne Harding and Jane Murphy, wife of 'King of The Channel', Kevin Murphy after competing in the 5 lengths endurance race. Well done Jane (and Kevin) for completing that one!

Above: The ever present Beccy keeping herself (and 'bump') warm. Thanks Bex as always for being there and for taking all the photos. In the background is my other Dover Harbour training buddy, and multi-channel swimmer, Nick Adams (red hat).

Above: Margy Sullivan, organiser of the championships, puts my bronze medal around my neck. Below, with Gold and Silver medalists, Chris Dean and William Kearney of Enfield Water Polo Club.

Above: My participation certificate and bronze medal for taking 3rd place in the Freestyle event.

After such a great day, I didn't expect things to get any better. However, arriving back home and checking through my e-mails, I received the following e-mail from the Chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Round Table:-

Dear Hoffy

Your request for funding from Bury St Edmunds Round Table has been considered by our members and I am delighted to inform you that a donation of £500 to St Nicholas Hospice has been approved [....]

Yours sincerely

Anton Woodward
Chairman 2008 – 2009
Bury St Edmunds Round Table

I was absolutely thrilled by this. As a member of the Bury St Edmunds Round Table between 1996 and 2002, I know how hard everyone works to organise fund raising events. The above donation comes from the funds raised from the 2008 Fireworks display in the Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds. I would like to personally thank the Bury St Edmunds Round Table for the very generous donation to one of my swimming charities - St Nicholas' Hospice. This now brings the fundraising total to:-


If you would like to sponsor me for yesterday's UK Cold Water Swimming Championships event, please do so by clicking on either (or both) of the links below:-

Monday 12 January 2009

Jersey to France - July 01, 2009

Above: The route from Jersey to France - La Coupe Point to San Germaine Sur Plage, 18 miles as the crow flies.

Following last years swim being cancelled due to the adverse weather conditions, my first swim which is definitely booked for 2009 is to attempt the swim from Jersey to France, booked for the week commencing July 01, 2009. Jersey is a beautiful island and despite the fact I did not get to swim, we spent a great week there in what were very sunny and warm conditions, even though it was too windy to swim.

Above: My coach (and wife!) celebrated her birthday on August 11, 2008 in the very tropical island of Jersey.

Above: With Vice President of the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club and my pilot, Charlie Gravett during our very windy trip around the island by car.

Above: View across the sea on the north of the island which clearly shows the windy conditions out at sea which made the swim impossible last year.

Above: I completed two training sessions in the beautiful St Catherine's bay (as well as a session in the pool and in the sea at another part of the island). This is quite close to the starting point of the swim.

One very good thing about going over to Jersey last year from a swimming point of view, was that I saw the starting point of the swim, and looked across to see France. I always find this very important preparing for a swim to be able to visualise the swim, over and over again in my head months before it happens.

Above: La Coupe Point to San Germaine Sur Plage, the starting point for a Jersey to France swim.

Above: Gazing across the sea to France. If you look closely, it can be seen on the horizon quite clearly.

I am really looking forward to this swim and hopefully the weather will not scupper it again this year. All my training is geared up for this swim, and although I am preparing another two swims as I write, we have a family issue which may take precedent over swimming this year. Will keep you informed!

Sunday 11 January 2009

New Years Day Swim 2009 (...or not...)

Above: Jesus Green Lido, Cambridge, UK - Friday January 01, 2009. A view through the fence.

On December 28, 2008, I sent an e-mail to the Channel Swimmers Google Group, which is a group we have to impart information to each other. The e-mail asked if there was any New Years Day swims in East Anglia. I received two responses as follows:-

-----Original Message-----
From: Bryn Dymott
Sent: 28 December 2008 17:39
To: Paul Hopfensperger (Hoffy)
Subject: Re: [Channel Group] New Years Day Dips?

£10 (includes a hot drink !!) at Jesus Green Lido, Cambridge. If you decide on somewhere else please ket me know.
Cheers. Bryn

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Enyon
Sent: 29 December 2008 15:56
To: Channel Swimmers
Subject: [Channel Group] Re: New Years Day Dips?

Hi Hoffy,
I believe there is a New Years Day dip at Jesus Green Lido (91m long!!) in Cambridge. The outdoor swimming society has a list of festive dips on there website:
The lido is not that hard to get to and is a really nice place to swim!
Hope this helps,

I checked on the Outdoor Swimming Society website, and sure enough it confirmed the swim with the following information:-


Jesus Green Lido, Cambridge. Britain's longest outdoor (unheated) pool will be open on New Years Day for the first time from 12 noon to 2pm for all those (over 16) who would like a swim. Entrance is £10 (including hot drink) and all swimmers will receive a 5% discount voucher for a 2008 season ticket."

Excellent news we thought, so off we trekked to Cambridge arriving at 11.30am after a relatively alcohol free New Years Eve ready for the swim. Bryn and Chris said that they might turn up, so we parked the car and walked to the pool. Another girl from Cambridge, Sarah, was was there who had also seen it on the outdoor swimming society web site. The front door was a roller shutter and was firmly locked. I walked to a hole in the fence and saw thick ice on top of the water:-

Above: Thick ice on top of the water and the place was entirely desolate!

We walked around the entire perimeter of the pool, looking through the fence wherever we could and took some photos. There was no one to be seen.

Above: All ready for a swim in the icy waters, but no way in!

I resorted to phoning Chris Enyon to see if he was coming, but he didn't answer his phone (hangover probably!). I telephoned Nick Adams to see if he knew anything about it but he didn't. Eventually, at about 12.30pm, getting really cold from hanging around in the arctic air conditions, we decided to call it a day, and headed to Cafe Uno for a beer and some food to make up for what we didn't have the night before.

Above: Having lunch in Cafe Uno, Cambridge due to not being able to swim.

When we got back home, I was going to e-mail Bryn and Chris to ask them why they weren't there, because they had probably found out previously it wasn't on but hadn't told me! But first, I read the outdoor swimming society website again just to check I wasn't going mad. The answer was in the last three words:-


Jesus Green Lido, Cambridge. Britain's longest outdoor (unheated) pool will be open on New Years Day for the first time from 12 noon to 2pm for all those (over 16) who would like a swim. Entrance is £10 (including hot drink) and all swimmers will receive a 5% discount voucher for a 2008 season ticket."

If you turned up for the swim, you would qualify for a 5% discount voucher for a 2008 season ticket (i.e. last year). Therefore, I was in fact exactly 365 days too late for this swim - It was on January 01, 2008!

Happy New Year!