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:-


Anonymous said...

Love your blog Paul, and great to meet you at the Cold Water Champs - all the best Chris Dean EWPC

Hoffy Swims said...

Thanks Chris. Same time, same place next year? Let me know how you got on with the Herbalife H30 products.



Chris Pountney said...

you people are mad - it looks freezing in there!

Hoffy Swims said...

It bloody was mate! None of this "I'm not going cycling because it's raining" nonsense! LOL!

Hope the training's going well.



grumpyoldwoman said...

Erm - 'and bump' - has that been mentioned before - when is it due? And congrats!

Hoffy Swims said...

Hi Grumps. Long time no hear! July 29th and thank you!

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