Monday 31 May 2010

Very tiring week only managing to complete 10,800 Metres...Must try harder next week!

Above and below: Beccy applies Vaseline to the armpits, neck, side of face and groin areas to avoid chafing in the sea, while Luca wonders what on earth she is doing!

This week has been an extremely busy week. It has been very good for business on Tuesday completing 19 massages! However, it has really taken it out of me physically. I only managed two pool sessions; 4,100 Metres at Culford School pool on Tuesday (after the massages) and 3,000 Metres on Wednesday. It was then Sunday before I got in the water again with the Suffolk Open Water Swimming group @ Felixstowe, via a 200 mile round trip to Grantham on Saturday for business.

On Sunday, there were just three of us turned up for sea swim, Nathan Pittam (left), me and a new member, Jim Dinley. We are all doing The Great East Swim in three weeks time, and shortly I will have to try swimming in a wetsuit for a mile, something I have never done before. As we pulled up to the beach in the car, I noticed what a disgusting colour it was. It looked all churned up and sandy coloured up to 100 Metres from the coast, and differing colours after that.

After the tropical conditions of last Sunday, today was cold with a brisk wind coming in across The North Sea. Although it wasn't raining, it felt colder than any week we had encountered before. I was not looking forward to getting in, and my body felt physically weak after my busy week.

I had agreed with Enda Kennedy in Ireland to do 2.25 hours this week. That was probably to the pier and back twice, and some more which I was going to work out once I had been to the pier and back twice. We all stepped towards the sea, and started to get in.

It felt bloody freezing. I knew it would, and of course as you think, so you attract. I had told myself it would be cold, and it was. I should know better. I set off on my swim and my arms felt heavy. I had forgotten to put my spray into my goggles and they kept steaming up. Already, this felt a shitty swim. I thought about Enda in Ireland, and wondered how he was doing? I knew he would do 2.25 hours as his mental attitude was now definitely in the right place. Mine wasn't. The cool wind was blowing on my back and I started to feel cold. Eventually, I made it to the pier (1,550 Metres) turned round and started to head back. I thought of Beccy and Luca on the beach and thought that they would also be cold and alone on the beach. There was no one else there on the beach this week, and it wasn't fair for them to sit there on their own.

Half way back I saw a couple of Kyakers heading in the opposite direction and started to feel really heavy in the arms. Eventually I reached the beach and Nathan and Jim were already out and dressed sitting with Beccy and Luca. They said their goodbye's as Beccy fed me, then they left for home.

I told Beccy I was going to swim to the first poles and back (another 600 Metres) then get out. I sprinted there and back as fast as I could and stepped out of the water after 3,700 Metres and 1.25 hours.

The sea had become quite choppy all of a sudden and it had been tough. I was pleased that I had completed 15 minutes more than last week, but not pleased that I felt so shattered. Beccy drove back and I slept like a log in the car.

Same time, same place next week, and I must try harder next week. If you want to join us, please visit the FaceBook group at:-

Thursday 27 May 2010

Fundraising talk for St. Nicholas Hospice at Bury St Edmunds 'Probus 3' Club

As part of my fundraising for my 2010 swim of 'The Wash' in aid of St Nicholas Hospice, I was invited by Maurice Buxton, Programme Secretary of the PROBUS 3 Club in Bury St Edmunds to give my talk "Life is a Channel Swim - Setting and Achieving Goals" today. They meet on Thursday's at 'The Friends Meeting House', and having got out of the pool last night after only 59 minutes and 3,000 Metres to go through my presentation, I set off this morning for the 5 minute walk from my home to give my talk.

There were about 55 retired businessmen in the room, and I was pleased that they seemed to listen so intently, as I described my 40 year journey from completing my first width of a swimming pool in 1967 and coming last in the process, to completing my first Channel Swim in 2007, all by setting and completing small goals until I completed the big one at the first attempt.

At the end of the presentation, I was delighted that they put £63.19 into my St.Nicholas Hospice bucket which will be given to them via my JustGiving page tomorrow.

If anyone is interested in the talk, which lasts about an hour, please click on the link below for further details:-

Monday 24 May 2010

A Fantastic week: 21,650 Metres total ending in a fantastic swim @ Felixstowe in tropical conditions...

Above: Beccy: "Well Catherine, yes they are totally mad, but just think of the sun tan you'll be getting on a day like today".

Well this week was the best week of the season so far. Between Monday and Friday I completed some of the biggest sessions in the pool I have swum since my first English Channel swim in 2007. They were as follows:-

MON: 3,050 Metres
TUE: 3,100 Metres
WED: 6,100 Metres
FRI: 6,300 Metres

That's a total of 18,550 Metres in Culford pool, which was capped off by a simply superb day with the Suffolk Open Water Swimming Group on Sunday.

Above: Left to right - Nathan Pittam, Heidi Mcdowell and Donna Whelan on the beach at Felixstowe on a stunningly hot Suffolk day.

I had already set my goals for the day. These were to swim to the pier and back, and stay in the water for a minimum of 1 hour. After all, I have to keep up with Enda Kennedy in Ireland who already did an hour last week! This was a distance of 3,100 Metres round trip. If you look closely in the photo above, you will see the pier in the background.

Heidi, Nathan and Donna were desperate to get in, and as I prepared myself, 'Bury Boy' and 'Florrie's Mum' (well known local Bury St Edmunds bloggers) arrived on the beach for a chat.

I got in the 11 Degrees C water. Had a quick team talk, and off we all went. I headed for the pier and felt really good.

Above: Heading for Felixstowe Pier with two of the other swimmers in the shot also.

At about half way, I felt something brush into my leg and it felt like it had taken a nibble at me. It made me jump somewhat and sent shivers down my spine so I just swum faster to get away from this invisible underwater creature. I then started to think about seals and sharks, and every sail I could see on the horizon was a potential dorsal fin! I snapped out of it and carried on swimming.

Then it happened again. For a split second, I sandwiched something between my elbow and my rib cage. I have no idea what it was, but it felt hard and slimy. I sprinted even faster for the pier, and never did find out what it was.

I touched the pier and thought about the first time I did this swim on December 26, 2006. I had been barely unable to crawl out at that time I had been so cold. This time, I touched the pier, turned straight round and started the 1,550 Metre trek back.

Above: Heading back to the beach which was much easier on the way back as I was swimming with the tide.

I arrived back in 50 minutes, and spent 10 minutes gently swimming around in the beach area to complete the 1 hour in the water. Heidi was up on the beach enjoying the sun, having swum with Donna to The Spa Pavillion and back, and I persuaded Nathan to take his wetsuit of for a few minutes to acclimatise to the cold water. Everyone was really pleased with their achievements today, and already we can see steady progress both in time in the water and in distance. Well done everyone, and thanks to Beccy and Luca, Catherine and Donna's partner for their support on the beach.

It had been a fantastic day, and a fantastic week's swimming. I can't wait for next Sunday now when I will be going for the pier and back twice. If anyone wants to join us, then join the Facebook group for further information:-

Saturday 22 May 2010

Suffolk Open Water Swimming Training - Session 4 - May 16, 2010

Left to right: Sheila Facer, Philip Beer, me and Dr Heidi Mcdowell about to get in the 10 Degrees C North Sea at Felixstowe, Suffolk.

After a bad week in the pool due to work and other commitments, I couldn't wait to get in the sea this week to make up for it. There were four of us in total, with of course Beccy and Luca on the beach. Sheila Facer from Culford School, one of my official swim partners for the 2010 season, ever present Philip Beer and Dr Heidi Mcdowell who is new to the area, moving up recently from Plymouth and has previous open water experience. Sheila had not been in open water like this before and was looking forward to it.

Last minute cold water tips before...

...we're in! As usual it felt cold. Somehow it never seem to get any easier to prepare yourself for that initial shock when you enter the water. However, after checking everyone was OK, I set off for a 30 minute swim which would be the longest in open water so far this year.

I swum 1,200 Metres, 600 with the current, and 600 against. It felt great, and arriving back on the beach at 28.5 minutes, I loitered in the water for 1.5 minutes to ensure I was in for 30 minutes. You wouldn't be allowed out in Dover at 28.5 minutes, so I disciplined myself to ensure we do the same in Felixstowe. If I'm swimming The Wash, I'm not going to get out 1.5 minutes before the end, so I need to ensure that mentally I do the same in training.

We had a great Haddock, Chips and peas at The Fludyer Arms Hotel, which I thoroughly recommend if you are in the area, then headed back home, satisfied, and determined to get more pool time in this week to ensure that I am fitter for next week when I want to do an hour.

Same time next week, Sunday May 23, 2010 at 11.00am. See the website for more details:-

Friday 21 May 2010

Start of 2010 Charity Fundraising - This year for St. Nicholas' Hospice by swimming The Wash & other events...

Above: Beccy and Luca on the St Nicholas Hospice stand, Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club, Sunday May 09, 2010.

We were delighted to kick start our 2010 charity fundraising, which this year is for St. Nicholas Hospice, Bury St Edmunds, when we were asked by Michelle Gray, Senior Fundraising Manager for St. Nicholas Hospice, to man a stall at the URL International Rugby Sevens tournament on May 9th. The idea was to give chair massages to people which is what we do as part of our business, and for them to donate to our fund for swimming 'The Wash'. Baz and I set the stand up in the morning, thanks very much to him for this, and Beccy and Luca helped man the stall prior to the tournament starting and during it.

Left: Luca and I wait for the people to arrive prior to the start of the event which kicked off at 11am.

We were situated in the car park area of the ground, and I have to say that it wasn't the best location to get people to come for a massage. As they walked into the ground, they were looking the other way, i.e. at the rugby which is understandable, and I had to run over with the bucket on many occasions just to catch the people's eye.

However, that said, we did a few massages, spoke to many people about swimming The Wash, and showed them the route of my 2007 English Channel swim to try to explain what will happen during the swim of The Wash. People are constantly amazed that you do not swim in a straight line when you swim The Channel. They also think that you swim from Dover to Calais, imagining that you enter Calais harbour alongside one of the P&O Ferries, docking just like a ferry. They are totally amazed when you explain how it all actually happens. The Wash, I explained will be very similar, i.e. A large "S" shape which will mean probably being out in The North Sea for some considerable time before coming back into The Wash.

Above: A lady from Hereford was really pleased when I relieved all the tension in her neck by giving her a 15 minute chair massage.

The day was really enjoyable. The rugby was excellent (England St George running out as winners) and we collected £151.55p from people. This coupled with the 71 printer cartridges collected from Suffolk County Council meant we started our 2010 campaign off with £222.55p. A good start. If anyone would like to donate, please feel free to do so by clicking on the secure JustGiving widget below or opposite. Thank you in anticipation.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Suffolk Open Water Swimming Training Session 3 - Felixstowe, May 08, 2010

Above: Left to right, Nathan Pittam, Philip Beer, me and Donna Whelan, members of the Suffolk Open Water Swimming group who swum in the 9.5 Degrees C waters of Felixstowe.

Undeterred by last weeks cold water swim, four people turned up for this week's swim on a cold, rainy Saturday morning in Felixstowe. Some people decided not to come because it was raining. I had a conversation with one swimmer on the Friday evening which went something like this:-

Swimmer: "I'm not coming because it's raining".
Me: "But you're going in the sea".
Swimmer: "Yes, but it's raining, so I'm not coming".
Me: "Yes, but you'll be swimming in the sea. What difference does it make if it's raining".
Swimmer: "Well, it will be cold as it's raining".
Me: "The sea temperature will not change because it's raining. Just come down and get in".
Swimmer: "But it's raining. I'm not coming if it's raining".

...and so it went on. As it turned out, she didn't come, because it was raining!

For the record. Open water swimming, and swimming in the sea is a mental challenge as well as a physical one. It's 80% mental and 20% physical to do what we do. It doesn't matter if it's raining, snowing, windy or the sun is out. If you want to achieve your goal, you need to get in the water and just swim, no matter what.

Above: Heading along the promenade towards the beach, having changed in our cars, to start our swim.

We completed two swims from the beach to just past The Fludyer Arms hotel and back, and everyone really enjoyed it. Donna, who told me afterwards that this was the first time in the sea like this, wanted to get back in again she enjoyed it so much.

We will be back again at 11.00am next Sunday. Full information can be found on the website at:-

Sunday 2 May 2010

Suffolk Open Water Swiming Training Session 2 - Felixstowe, May 02, 2010

Above: Triathlete Nathan Pittam and 2011 English Channel Aspirant Tracy Van Dyke prior to entering the North Sea for the first time on Sunday May 02, 2010.

At about 2am this morning, I got out of bed and put 9 month old Luca into my bed and went to the spare bedroom. He is not sleeping well at the moment. At 6am, I gave Beccy a well deserved rest and took him downstairs to give him breakfast. At about 6.30am I put him back into his bed and went back to my bed to sleep until the alarm went off at 8am. Today we had the possibility of about 7 swimmers attending the first main session of the season at Felixstowe. Beccy didn't move, so I got up and got ready to head for Felixstowe on my own.

It was a cold, windy, rainy day. Not nice at all. I thought about all the swimmers in Dover, and about all the sessions I had completed in Dover in 2007 & 2008. It's only rain. Nothing stops hardy channel swimmers from entering the water. It's what we do. Mind over matter. I got in the car alone and set out for the 45 mile drive to Felixstowe.

When I got there the sea looked a little rough, the sky was grey, and it was peeing down with rain. It reminded me of the "forked lightning" swim I did in Dover Harbour in 2007, although it wasn't as bad. I headed for the Fludyer Arms to see how many people had turned up for the first swim of the season.

I was delighted that 4 swimmers had turned up to the first official session with guests. These were Tracy Van Dyk, English Channel Aspirant 2011 and three Triathletes, Nick Rowntree, Philip Beer, Nathan Pittam. That made 5 of us to swim. I gave a brief talk to everyone in the breakfast room of The Fludyer Arms, then we all headed to our respective cars to get ready for the swim.

Above: Nick Rowntree from Poole in Dorset, ecstatic about getting into the 9 Degrees C water!

Above: Left to right: Nick Rowntree, Philip Beer, Nathan Pittam and Tracy Van Dyk in the rain prior to getting in the sea.

We all got in and set off to swim from the beach to The Fludyer Arms and back again. I have to say, this was the longest cold water swim I had completed since 2008 and it was cold! I felt the familiar pins and needles in both hands, but it was to totally OK. I felt fine. I tried to ensure that everyone was OK, and we stuck together.

Above: Brief chat before going back in for the second swim to The Fludyer Arms and back. Two swims completed by all of us, and a good first week.

Above: Left to right: Tracy Van Dyk, me, Philip Beer, Nick Rowntree an Nathan Pittam in The Fludyer Arms after our swim.

Next week we will be swimming on Saturday morning at 11am. If you wish to join us, please join our Facebook group at for further information.