Friday, May 20, 2011

Open water swimming - UK style!!

Dear Team

Well, with just 3 days to go before I fly back to Perth on Monday, I thought I'd drop you a line to let you know how things have been going over here in the UK this last two weeks. It's been pretty full on from both a work and training for the English Channel perspective, but has been a lovely change and I'd like to thank you all for personally allowing me this 3 week period to go and spread the Swim Smooth word further with Adam. I do really hope you've enjoyed working with all the varied coaches that we have put in place in my absence and I look forward to catching up with you all upon my return to the squad next week. My first session back will be Friday 27th May for your reference but I'll see some of you before that at Shelley's session on Wednesday.


It's been a monster schedule, but as I sit here writing this we have just two full 1-day Clinics to go and both of these are at the same venue in Hillingdon, NW London. So it's 8 down, 2 to go!

We've been literally all over the UK, starting off in the Midlands, then up to North Wales, into Yorkshire and Lancashire, then up to Scotland and back down to London via York and Oxford. We've met many great people along the way and have now put a total of 48 independent coaches through our 3-day Coaches Education Courses, essentially teaching them our techniques, specifically within video analysis and stroke correction. You'll all get to meet a dozen or so of these coaches when they travel over to Perth in October to participate in an intensive 2 weeks of further work shadowing with us.

We will have put 120 swimmers through their paces by the time we get back to Perth next week and have seen a fascinating range of styles too! We will be meeting a very special swimmer on Saturday as part of a charity event in London that we have been asked to attend in aid of the Marie Curie Cancer research group, but that's all I am permitted to say at this point I'm afraid! ;-)

Here's some photos of us with some of the coaches and swimmers:

...and here's me pretending to be Mel Gibson at the William Wallace (Braveheart) memorial in Stirling last weekend - they may take our lives, but they'll ne'er take our freeeeeedom!!!!


As soon as we landed in the UK I was straight over to the Loughborough Pool where all the top British swimmers train in order to maintain my Channel swimming fitness whilst away from the plentiful pools of Perth. I managed to get in a good number of sessions in between the courses that first week and with the coaches on our courses too, which was great.

It was then "oooppp north" to Yorkshire and North Wales where I had an invite from a good friend and north of England Triathlon Officer Morgan Williams to try out his Blue Lagoon open water swimming venue in Doncaster. Given the location I expected it to be more of a Murky Puddle than a Blue Lagoon, but I could not have been more wrong! This disused limestone quarry was the freshest water I have ever swum in and at ~13 degrees was great for an 8km session followed around by Morgan on his ski paddle.

The next day I had a very funny and embarrassing experience at a pool in sunny Bolton when I decided to hit the pool for a quick couple of K's whilst Adam was packing up the car. The pool was busy and very noisy when I strode out in my bright pink bathers, only to have three lifeguards rush over to me and usher me back into the change-rooms as I was just about to unwittingly gatecrash their weekly Ladies Only session. Adam says I should have told them that Pam had ordered me as their entertainment for the evening! You have to laugh about these things I guess!

Up in Scotland it was a little trickier to get in some quality training given that the pools restrict the numbers in their lanes to 6 up there and as such I had to intermittently get out of the pool to let other swimmers in. A little frustrating. After taking PRO triathlete and 2010 UK Ironman winner Fraser Cartmell for a stroke correction session in the University pool though, I did manage to knock out a rather enjoyable session with the coaches similar in structure to our good old Saturday 1pm session. I had alongside me Aidan Mullans (former Irish international swimmer with a 15'25" 1500m PB to his name) who gave me a good whopping over the short sprints. It was a lot of fun.

Upon leaving Scotland we could not pass up an opportune moment to hop into the Fourth of Firth for a quick dip - it was freeeeeeezzzzzzing!!! 7-8 degrees and no wetsuit!! I didn't last long, but here's the temperature contour to prove it:

It's funny, as two hours later we stopped in at a pool in Darlington where I used to race quite frequently as a young teenager and the training pool temperature was over 30 degrees - yuk! You can't get much more of a contrast than that!

This morning we drove down to Marlow and I hopped into the Thames whilst Adam walked alongside me on the bridal path for morale support. I'd guestimate that it was ~13 degrees in there, but it was a beautiful experience, see why here:

So, I'm now back at the hotel tapping this out after a second swim today at the unheated outdoor pool at the venue we're using this weekend for our last two clinics. It was certified today as being 14.6 degrees in the lovely art deco 50m lido and I had no worries whatsoever staying in. This was a massive confidence booster as have all the other really cold swims that I have done. So whilst I might have traded off a bit of by endurance and fitness with not getting as much volume and intensity in, hopefully I've made it up with some excellent cold water adaptation and some great pie eating opportunities allowing me to pork up as you see in this picture in the cold pool:

On Monday, I'll have my final cold water swim with Dr Greg Whyte, Olympian and coach to the Little Britain comedian David Walliams. We'll be hopping in the Thames again and I'm hoping that he'll be able to tell me how close to my optimal porkiness I am now for my Channel attempt on the 5th September 2011 - 15 weeks to go!

I'd just like to formally thank everyone who's made this trip such a success and particular thanks go out to all the coaches who've been hard at work running my sessions for me in Perth and also to our newest member of the Swim Smooth team, Francene, for liaising and keeping me up to speed with everything whilst I've been away. 

Lastly, thanks to Adam for being such a great support, top notch business partner and most of all great mate! We've had a blast!



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