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August 2019

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