Saturday 31 December 2011

Mike Read receives an MBE in the Queens New Years Honour's Lits

Above and below: Mike Read MBE (centre) back in 1980 presenting the trophies to winners of the Bury St Edmunds Swimming Club (The Bury Beavers) annual club championships. Also in the picture starting at the back, left to right: Michael Ransom, me, Cheryl Cole, Andrew (Andy) Taylor, Lorraine Smith, Stephen Alan, Angela Stevenson. Middle row: Anna Gittus, Mike Read, Melanie Berry. Front, kneeling, Nigel Stemp.

I received an e-mail this morning stating that Mike Read had received an MBE for services to swimming in The Queens New Year's Honour's list (page 44 of document). Way back in 1980, I first met Mike when he presented the trophies to us at our annual club championships presentation evening. It was there that I first heard the title "King of The Channel". He explained how he had swum The English Channel 19 times then (now 33). My best friend, Nigel Stemp and I were simply amazed at this, and it was on that day, back in 1980 that the seed was planted for me wanting to swim the channel.

In 2006 when I decided I wanted to swim the channel, I hadn't seen or heard anything of Mike in all of those intervening 26 years. However, he was the obvious and first choice for me to "Google" and try to get in touch with, and he was extremely helpful and friendly when I did get in touch. I hadn't got involved in all of  Channel Swimming politics then, and didn't even realise there could be such a thing. I didn't know there were two organisations. When I found out about it all, it reminded me of the 'Monty Python' film 'The Life of Brian'. On one side you had 'The People's Front of Judea' (The Channel Swimming Association Limited) and on the other side you had 'The Judean People's Front' (The Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation). Both doing the same thing, getting people across The English Channel, but both with different sets of viewpoints, and means of doing it. I had stepped out of the cauldron of the Bury St Edmunds Town Council versus the St Edmundsbury Borough Council, straight into another quite different political arena!

Mike Read was the Chairman of The Channel Swimming Association Limited, and it was with them that I successfully completed my first English Channel swim. Mike helped me along the way, turning up at Felixstowe on December 26, 2006 wearing his 'Bury Beavers' sweatshirt which he had been given on that night way back in 1980 (pictured below). He inspired me to complete my longest cold water swim at that time - 1 mile @ six degrees CentigradeI was so, so cold, that if he hadn't been there I think I would have got out after 5 minutes! I will never forget his words when I finished the 35 minute swim. He came running down the beach and said "If you can do that, you can swim The Channel". Those words really inspired me to achieve my goal.

Above: Mike Read and I in the icy waters of The North Sea at Felixstowe, Suffolk on Boxing Day, December 26, 2006.

When I organised a 'Virtual Channel Swim' on May 28, 2007, again, he was there to be part of my virtual channel swim team which raised over £1,800 for CLIC Sargent Children's Cancer charity.

Above: Top left to right: Don Neate, President of West Suffolk Swimming Club in 2007, me and Mike Read outside the CLIC Sargent offices in Bury St Edmunds. Bottom, left to right: Me, English Channel aspirant Tom Gunning and Mike Read after completing our Virtual Channel Swim.
Whatever the politics that has gone in in Channel Swimming circles since then, and there has been a lot, all I know is this. If it hadn't of been for Mike Read's inspiring talk at 'The Centa' in Bury St Edmunds, way back in 1980, I would not be sitting here writing this post now. I would never have swum The Channel or represented my country at open water swimming. So when Mike's son asked me to write about how he inspired me, some 2-3 years ago now so that they could secretly get him an award, I was only too pleased to do so. His swimming experiences speak for themselves and so I would just like to say congratulations to Mike on receiving this award - Mike Read - Member of The British Empire.   

Thursday 29 December 2011

2011 - a sparse year for swimming, but exciting prospects ahead

Well, it's been a pretty sparse year for swimming, but with two young children, a new business to continue building and alot of time spent training in Advanced Clinical Massage in Brighton, it most certainly hasn't been boring! Apart from another swim around Brighton pier (pictured above) in September, my only swims for 2011 have been documented on this site. The problem is that I have been massaging from 10 am in the morning, sometimes until 9pm at night with virtually no breaks except for 20 minutes or so for nutrition. At 13.5 stones, I am some 2 stone (24 pounds) lighter than I was when I swum in the English Channel Relay in 2010, and this year has been somewhat of a blurr!

 In the summer, I thought of a quite unique swim which I believe to be possibly a world first. I measured it on Google Earth as about 26 miles in a straight line. I found a pilot who said they would help me, and their boat is shown above. It would be really tough and would probably involve 2 changes of tide. However, I cannot see at the moment how I would be able to train for such an event. I am still thinking about this one though.

 I did however, manage to complete my blog post for our 2010 Team Iryna International English Channel Relay. I started it just after the swim in 2010, but due to the delay in getting all of the team member's photos collated together, it never got finished. However, it is now finished and as it is in chronological order, you may not have realised it was there. If you click on the certificate above, or on these highlighted pieces of text, you will jump to the post. It brought back great memories finishing the post.

As I haven't got much else to do (HaHa), I have started writing a book based on my swimming an other experiences since I was five years old and joined the Bury St Edmunds Swimming Club. I have no idea how long it will take, but based on my word rate so far, it should be finished around 2020! I have provisionally called it "Journey to France...The Hard Way!". I will update the site with my progress over the next 8 years!

Lastly, I was delighted and humbled to have been include in the OpnWaterPedia website which I stumbled across by accident. Click here or on the logo above to access it.

I hope everyone has a very happy new year, and thank you to everyone who reads this site. I am still amazed that it gets around 60 unique hits per day from all over the world.

Cheers. Hoffy. x