Champion of Champions

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Since the 2008 Olympics which coincided with the launch of the Great North Swim the popularity of pure Openwater events has exploded. With the likes of the Outdoor Swimming Society, Chillswim, Henley and the British Long Distance Swmming Association ‘swim only’ events have never been more popular. Corinna swims with us at London Fields on Tuesday and was an alumni of Millfield as I was. I got to spend my 2 years there swimming in the old pool. Now they have a 10 a lane 50m pool on campus.
Here Corinna explains how BLDSA hold their Champion events. Great work Corinna, well done on your 3rd place and good luck with the next.
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On 3 August I was in Holyhead for the BLDSA Champion of Champions – my second attempt after a DNF at the Dover event.
 
The Champion of Champions takes the form of three races – a 5 mile, 3 mile and finally a 1 mile swim.  The times are approximately 4 hours for the 5 mile, 2.5 hours for the 3 mile, and 45 minutes for the 1 mile… but that includes your rest.  So the quicker you swim, the more rest, recovery and warming up time. (As with all BLDSA events, it is non-wetsuit).  My attempt at Dover was tough, I was pulled out after 7 laps (3.5 miles) in the 5 mile event due to uncontrollable vomiting.  Whether this was seasickness, vertigo, gels, or a reaction to the 14 degree water and a bit of chop, I don’t know.  I used that first recovery to warm up and take a seasickness tablet and continued for the 3 and the 1.  After coming so close to finishing, I was disappointed, and pretty desperate to prove to myself that I could finish this challenge.  Which is how I ended up in Holyhead!
 
We were lucky to get calm water for the start of the five mile, the tide was out, and after making sure I was vaselined up and had my earplugs (anti-vertigo), my travel sickness pill, and a swimming costume full of gels I set off.  I took the five mile pretty steady, being nervous after the Dover events, but the 10 laps ahead of me soon became 2 and I was feeling good for the last mile.  There were some super speedy swimmers there, and I was lapped by a few of them, but there were also a couple of breaststroke swimmers which made the event feel like less of a race but more of a friendly swim with lots of like-minded (slightly mad) pals. 
 
Five mile done (2 hours 20), I got dry, changed into a new costume, had some ovaltine and snacks, and half a (family!) pot of Ambrosia rice pudding.  It was soon time to get back into the water for the 3 mile and I set off with a bit more confidence this time, keeping up with a few other people.  After a couple of laps I realised I was keeping up and so kicked a little more, focused on keeping my head still, my EVF and rotation, and ended up overtaking a couple of the swimmers I noticed had finished the five mile ahead of me.  I’m not usually competitive, but I challenged myself to stay ahead of the swimmers I had overtaken.  And I did!  The three mile felt like an awesome swim, I was really pleased to have been able to keep up the pace. When I got out I realised that I had finished ahead of a few of the faster swimmers with a time of 1 hour 20 – hurrah! 
 
A shorter break this time, another dry cossie on, more ovaltine and what I now considered to be the almost magical rice pudding, and we were ready to get back in for the one mile.  I emptied the tank on this one – mainly because I knew I could and also in the knowledge that this was the final swim of the day and there were hot showers in the clubhouse… and beer!!!  After a sprint finish against two speedy chaps (apparently the marshalls on the turnaround boat were cheering for me – thank you Amanda and team!!), I was finished in 24 minutes and 52 seconds (ahead of the guys 😉). 
 
I was super pleased to have finished this event after the Dover challenges, and the icing on the cake was the fact that I got my first ever trophy for third place – just 90 seconds behind the awesome Liane (who has a DOUBLE channel crossing under her belt).  The best thing about this event was the people though – I turned up on my own and everyone was just so friendly.  I was even invited to join a relay team to swim Loch Lomond on the August Bank Holiday weekend.  I’m 100% in!  
 
Thank you to Dan and the Tuesday morning crew for keeping me going and positive – I have had my moments and they are always there to help get me back on track with a few kind words and lots of encouragement!    
 
 
 
Corinna Bridges

swim of the week – a trip to Sweden.

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Continuing the theme of reposting a swim of the week with some extra info as a way of sharing great events/destinations for you to consider entering, Andrew just got back from Sweden where he swam somewhere between 21 & 23km in the Vidostern event. It is a Global Swim Series event so you know it should be good! Andrew is a regular at our London Fields Fitness sessions – well,  fairly regular 🙂

He goes on…….

“I think that Dan would readily admit that I have been one of his most regular swimmers over the last 15 years. Each year, like clockwork, I would turn up, swim for three weeks, and then, like clockwork, disappear for the next 11 months. I realised that this was sub-optimal, and so in December 2019 decided to sign up to a race that meant I would have to swim more regularly. That race was the 21.5k race in a lake in Sweden: Vidosternsimmet.

I did do quite a lot of swimming in 2019, although not enough long (i.e. over 10k) or open water swims (as I only did 2 – a 10k and a 15k, both in docks which make for relatively straightforward swims). The race was on 10 August 2019. After a lovely summer, the weather took a turn for the worst on that day. Heavy rain and winds – gusting up to 15 metres per second – were forecast. I wasn’t too worried about the wind as I don’t know what metres per second means (although I have since googled it and found out that it is about 28 mph which is quite lively).

Value for money…

There were just over 100 swimmers, quite a few from the UK. The start was quite rough – waves in a lake! – and it took a while to get into any kind of rhythm and wait for my heart rate to drop. In just over 8 hours (8 hrs 5 mins) I reached the finish. Which was very cool. Although the course was 21.5k, most people with GPS watches said that they swam closer to 23k. The organisers said that this was probably right but they would not charge any extra.

 

What I learned?

I learned a few things. I would have reduced my time with better sighting, better weather and more open water training (or being a better swimmer). The wind (or something) meant that for long stretches of the race I would end up pointing in completely the wrong direction if I didn’t sight every 4 strokes or so. This wasn’t too bad though as the rain meant that I couldn’t often see where I was going anyway. And the field spread out (ie most of them left me far behind) after about 7k so I was more or less on my own until I was overtaken with 25 metres to go!). When the wind dropped, or I was sheltered behind an island, I could go about 12 strokes between sightings, which felt much more efficient.

What I ate?!

My arms felt really tired, but were loosened up by a few strokes with fists (seriously, really worked) or a few strokes tapping the compulsory tow float.

One think I did get right was the nutrition. I did take time at the stops – every 4 or 5 k – to take a couple of gels, a snickers bar and some pickled cucumber (who knew). I may have been the only swimmer to put on weight during the swim, but I felt I had energy for the whole race.

All in all, it was terrific. The link is here. I am sure entries for next year will enter sooner or later. I recommend it. And the pickled cucumber.

Cheers

Andrew

Across Continents

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I have always been intrigued by the possibility of swimming between the Continents. The Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim  is an open water swimming event between the continents Europe and Asia held annually at Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey. Established in 1989.

Mariana swims with us at Mile End, on Wednesday mornings and her account has really inspired me to enter. Thanks for this great submission Mariana.

“Here’s my swimming adventure of the month : Last Sunday, I officially became a cross-continental swimmer as I swam from Asia to Europe during the 31st edition of the Bosphorus cross-continental swim race in Istanbul ! I was one of the 2,400 competitors from across the globe who took over the Bosphorus waters while one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world was temporarily closed to traffic.

I have been a keen swimmer since the age of 3, formed part of several swimming clubs for 16 years and swam competitively for more than 7 years. However, I’m completely new to open water swimming, and this swim was one the biggest challenges in my swimmer’s life.

This is why it was so important for me to join SFT and get Dan’s guidance to learn a new way of swimming. I realized how essential was the training and preparation as I jumped in the Bosphorus along with thousands of people – it was literally diving in a human chaos but luckily the starts practice paid off and I got out of the crowd fairly easily. I then started to shift forward with the strong currents, while enjoying the gorgeous setting: blue sky, clear water with many small jellyfishes, Asia on one side Europe on the other, with amazing landmarks on the way.

I experienced a new and amazing feeling : flying on the water once I caught the main current (well I think I did?). I did have my little moments of panic when getting out of it and feeling like I was swimming stationarily and also when I realized that I was making my own route to the finish, with people being so spread out that I felt like I was racing on my own in this huge strait of water (“where is everyone?!”).


The main route was manageable in terms of physical effort, but I found that the most challenging part was the last 500 meters as we had to shift to the riverside and face strong counter currents while making sure not to turn too late and be carried away into the Marmara sea (meaning no finish time, and being taken out of the water by collection boats). The water got a lot colder, and I felt the current pushing me away from the finish line. That was the moment to put all in, so I really intensified my strokes and checked every 4 strokes that I was not being carried in the wrong direction… the longest 500 meters of my life ! But I made it and completed the 6.5K race in 1 hour, 1 minute and 57 seconds. I’m very happy with my time for this first try, as I managed to rank 8th/81 in my age category, only 4 minutes from the 1st.

I also chose this once in a lifetime opportunity to fundraise £480 for ClientEarth, a charity that uses the power of the law to protect the planet and the people who live on it.
All in all, only good stuff ! I would definitely give it another try in a couple of years to see if I can get under the hour and closer to a podium…And also make it a pretext to treat myself afterwards by going to the Turkish Baths and eating lots of delicious Turkish food !

Thanks again to Dan and the team for the preparation, the training sessions and the tips, I would have never been able to perform so well without you guys 🙂

 

More info on entry here

Clare’s journey…

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Clare submitted this to our blog as her swim of the week and I think sometimes it is great to hear from others who are not keen on the swim or struggling with the technique or distance. I have known Clare a few years now and finally this is the year she decided to enter an  IM (Italy)  Preparation has been meticulous including an Italy training camp, smaller races along the way but swimming 3.8km is a long long way regardless of all that.  Sometimes all the coaching qualifications in the world can just be surpassed when someone just comes along and tells you how it is. Wise words if you are contemplating a race, coming to train, starting openwater swimming in any format. Over to you Clare, thanks for this.

 

“I’m standing on the edge of a lake in Essex, it is 6.30am on a sunny Saturday morning. The sun is glinting off the lake and around me the heady smell of neoprene as other early risers and I pull ourselves into our wetsuits, readying for an open water swim session. I can just about see the buoys around the edge of the lake marking out our route. My training goal is to do 4 laps, 4kms being further than I’ve swum before and this being only my 5th visit to the lake.

I find myself over thinking the enormity of what I’m about to do, “it’s a long way”, “I’ve never done this before”, “what if I can’t get round?”, “what if……?”, “what if….?”. I’m doing a great job at starting to psych myself out of not only not achieving my goal, but not even starting on the journey.

Finally I give myself a good talking to, walk into the lake and just start swimming. I’d resolved to face my fears, to focus on one stroke at a time, to recollect everything my swimming coach had taught me and to trust in my ability. I was not breaking any records, but before I knew it, 91 minutes later I’d achieved my goal and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

 

As I drove home, I mulled over my morning’s experience, the parallels with everyday life, how easy it can be to self-sabotage our potential to achieve. How often do we just not start something, talk ourselves out of it, not take that next (or first) step or stroke, not speak up with a new idea, not apply for that new job, or promotion because we over think it and we don’t know how we will do it, if we can do it and we certainly don’t have all the answers, let alone all the questions!

We have all been there, so let me challenge you, where in your life do you just need to just take that first step (or stroke!)?
Be courageous, be bold. Today could be the day to just do it.”