Friday, September 30, 2011

Looking like an easterly, so...

...we'll be down at Cottesloe Beach in the morning, meeting at 715am for a 730am start. Hope you can make it!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Confirmations please for Saturday OW session

Dear Swimmers

Saturday Afternoon Squad Swim:

Owing to the running of the AFL Grand Final this Saturday, please note that the normal Saturday 1-2pm squad session at Claremont Pool will be CANCELLED. Numbers were low at last week's session and so we've decided to cancel this week's session with the view that they'll be lower still. Apologies for any inconvenience - I guess I should get more into the whole AFL thing myself!! Here's my opportunity, hey?!

Given that the 8 Swim Smooth Coaches are over from the UK / S.A and Czech Republic at the moment, we are really hoping to run a stellar (and popular) 1-2pm squad session next Saturday 8th October, to really showcase what this session is about. This particular session always operates well with good numbers (for drafting exercises and the like), so hopefully we'll see a few of you down here for that one.

Saturday Morning Open Water Swim:

Rather than leave you without a swim session at all though this Saturday, we will be offering the first in a 2 part series down at Cottesloe Beach in the ocean. We will meet on the grass bank in front of the pylon immediately to the north-side of the Indianna Tea Rooms at 7.15am for a 7.30am (prompt start). The ocean is a lovely 18 degrees at the moment and is very pleasant with no stingers. Many of you will wish to wear a wetsuit though unless you're a little chunky around the edges (like me!) or just fancy a really invigorating swim!!

We will be doing a small amount of beach running during the 60 minutes session and will go through some open water skills exercises like sighting, drafting and turning. It will be a huge amount of fun as always.

Cost is just one tick off your PAYG card or $15 for casuals. If you could please reply to this email with "I'm in for a beach swim" that'll help give us an idea of numbers.

Finally, in the event of inclement weather (i.e. very rough conditions) we'll move the swim from Point A (Cottesloe) to Point B (Claremont Jetty, off Jetty Road) on the map above. This is my new favourite swimming venue, but it is likely to be a touch colder. 

To be informed of this change if it occurs, please look directly at the blog at and I will post a confirmation at 6.00am on Saturday morning.

Cheers and hope to see some of you then.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Please welcome our 8 International Coaches this fortnight!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you've had a great weekend. It turned out to be a lot better than expected on the weather front! I had my first cycle ride in 18 months on Saturday with a few of the guys and girls from the squad (thanks for inviting me!) which was just great.

OK, so as you know, over the next 2 weeks we will have an additional 8 coaches on the pool deck at every session. With myself and Adam also present this will make for a rather amazing coach:athlete ratio so I'm hoping that you'll really all benefit from having them here! They've all now arrived from their respective countries and will be undergoing 2 weeks of further coach training with us with the view to becoming our first officially accredited Swim Smooth Coaches outside of Perth. We're really very excited about this. All 8 coaches have sat our compulsory 3-day Coach Education Course in the UK and have been selected from the 48 coaches whom have now sat this course. In this first week the coaches will be taking very much an observatory role on the pool deck to see how we run things here in Perth, but in week 2 you will see a lot more involvement in the sessions. All the coaches will be keen to liaise with you and assist with stroke correction as well as help with times and words of encouragement etc at the various sessions. 

Having additional coaches on the pool deck in this capacity is great from the increased input you will receive over these two weeks, though we will also ensure that their input does not affect the general flow of the various sessions such that you still receive a great workout as normal. In this respect, I will personally still be the Head Coach at all sessions and will run them entirely as normal, albeit with a lot of additional assistance! We know you're going to enjoy it and there's going to be no better way to kick-start your summer campaign than this!

As a brief introduction to each of the coaches, here is a quick bio of each of them taken from our introductory session this evening:

  • Fiona Ford is a BTF (British Triathlon Federation) Level 3 coach (as high as you can take the accreditation system in the UK) and has been coaching full-time for 2 years now and part-time since 2006. Fiona won her Age Group at both the World Triathlon and Aquathlon Championships in 2006, has 7 Ironman Top-10 finishes (overall) and has a PB of 9h54 over this distance. She is a brilliant athlete, but has the admirable quality of being able to communicate her experience with athletes of all levels. Fiona is based in London, UK and runs a coaching company which specialises in world class training camps in the French Alps and personalised coaching / bespoke triathlon training programs and swim squad training sessions in London.
  • Gabriela (Gabby) Fetterova is a former national swimming champion from Prague in the Czech Republic and is currently building her own swim coaching program in Prague where she hopes to specialise in video analysis and stroke correction. She will be the first coach in the Czech Republic to formally use the Swim Smooth model and she says she's very excited to visit such a beautiful place as Perth to develop her program even further. Gabby says Australia is her dream holiday and swim coaching is her dream job and that she looks forward to chatting with you all on pool deck these next 2 weeks.
  • Craig Maltby is passionate about swimming, especially open water swimming. Craig runs his Langebaan Swim School in South Africa and has access to some great open water  venues and lagoons close by. Craig also runs open water events and races and has noticed a substantial increase in the uptake of interest in these events over the last few years. In July 2012 Craig will swim the Robben Island swim ( which appears to be a similar event to our own Rottnest Channel Swim. Having seen Craig swim, we know he'll do very well! Craig says that he believes Swim Smooth has been incredibly successful and focused on getting people "out there" and looks forward to this opportunity to learn more from us whilst here and meet those of you who swim within the various squads.
  • Steve Casson is the BTF East Midlands Regional Academy Head Coach which selects and develops 14-18 year old athletes with the potential to progress through to the World Class Podium Squad. Steve runs his own successful coaching company as well called and works with adults from novice through to Age Group champions from short course to Ironman distance. Steve is also a full-time triathlon coach, based in Northampton, UK. Having worked with Steve in Loughborough last November, we're very confident that you're going to get a lot from speaking with Steve about your swimming at the squad sessions.
  • Leigh Archer has been involved in triathlon now for 25 years and loves it as much now as when he first took up the sport. He runs and specialises in the Retül bike fit system as well as being the UK distributor for Sable goggles. These are my own personal preference in goggles and I have to say they are fantastic from a fit and anti-fog perspective and were what I used when I swam the Channel. Leigh has an enviable record as a coach and was British Triathlon National Performance Development Coach Of The Year for 2010. He now wants to build his own elite squad and sessions in Loughborough, UK with a focus on stroke correction, whilst all the while sticking to his mantra of "it's all about the FUN!"
  • Steve Bailey is based in Salisbury in the UK and has attended both our 3-day Coaches Course and also several other of our 1-day Swim Smooth Clinics around the UK to further his experience with the Swim Smooth program. He's been coaching swimming for 20 years and has three children all of whom are very strong swimmers. Steve is very keen to also help guide those new swimmers in the UK seeking to get into the longer distance open water events as well as for triathlon. Steve has done a lot of video work with swimmers in the last few years and wants to now develop a successful swim squad in his local area along the lines of what we do here in Perth. He's a great guy and someone whom we believe has a great future ahead of him as he looks to pursue more of a full-time swim coaching role.
  • Martin Hill is also a BTF Level 3 coach and is based down in Yeovil, Somerset in the UK. Martin has developed his own brand of swimming paddles which work on the need to develop a more propulsive catch and feel for the water. We love them! He works with a range of swimmers from novice to "masters" and is looking to develop a larger, more dedicated swim squad over the next six to 12 months. Martin is a very competent swimmer himself and looks forward to meeting you all here in Perth.
  • Julian Nagi is a very experienced Level 3 triathlon coach who has coached over 100 athletes to Ironman success, from first-timers to Hawaii Ironman finishers. He specialises in Ironman coaching, open water swimming and in-depth stroke correction and analysis. He is a British Gas Swimming Ambassador / Coach in partnership with British Swimming and runs his successful coaching program from the lovely Park Club in London. Julian's program inspires his athletes to love swimming and not see it as a necessary evil (which many triathletes do). I personally met Julian back in July 2005 when I was first establishing the Swim Smooth brand in the UK and we have remained in close contact ever since, utilising his club's venue for several coaching clinics over the years.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Radio Interview this morning

If you have a spare moment over lunch, here was this morning's radio interview:



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You're probably over it all now, but...

I'll be on ABC radio with Glyn Greensmith tomorrow morning (Wednesday 21st September) at 4.35am summarizing our Channel Dare "crusade" and speaking about what it was like doing the swim and how we are now all feeling being back in Perth etc.

There will no doubt be a recording put up online a few days later for those who wish to listen but are pained by the early start!

I'm sure it'll be motivating listening though for those of you swimming at tomorrow's 5.30am session which I'll be back to coach. I'm really excited to be back coaching this session again as it is definitely my favorite of the week (after Saturday of course!).

See you then!



Monday, September 19, 2011

They both made it!

Well, both Andrew Hunt and Paul Downie successfully crossed the English Channel in fine form on Thursday 15th September making the hit ratio for the Channel Dare team 6 from 7. Given that the historic success rate for swimming the English Channel hovers around just 10%, I'd say we've done pretty well! Don't forget as well Wayne's heroic efforts at the start of August curtailed first by terrible weather and then by a shoulder injury sustained during his first attempt...totally out of his control. All-in-all, its been a very successful couple of months over in Dover, UK.

Andrew Hunt is currently taking a week out with his family enjoying the culinary delights of France. Andrew successfully crossed the Channel in 13h54m despite being swept past Cap Griz Nez with the powerful Spring Tide on his first approach. We are currently awaiting Andrew's report and photos and will report back with these later this week.

Paul Downie hit France in a brilliant time of 12h39m. Paul's report (which does much better than I can do here to sum it up) can be found at - there's also some great photos and video clips there to view as well. A classic quote from Paul's report goes:

"As much as possible, I had tried to make the preparation and planning cause as little impact as possible on my family, friends, colleagues and workplace but that didn't really happen. It is something that consumes you, manifests in your brain and becomes a defining point in your life at that time.

But I couldn't have possibly prepared for the elation I am experiencing now. I feel I have slayed the dragon. I doubt I will ever do it again but I have loved the journey and I think have benefited enormously from the experience."

Paul is normally quite an exuberant chap, always full of life, but to hear his voice after that swim was something else - he literally was on top of the world, and rightly so!

Well done guys, you did great! 

In total I believe we've now raised over $60,000 for Breast Cancer Care WA, so thanks very much for all your support and donations for this very worthy cause. It's not too late to still contribute though. To do so, please visit: 



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Open Water Swim Sessions and The Rottnest Channel Swim Program

NEWSFLASH!!! Both Paul Downie and Andrew Hunt have successfully made it across to France in about 13h30 (TBC) - watch this space for the latest news! Incredible effort. Well done guys - I am so proud of you both!

Dear Swimmers

I'm writing this update mid-air, somewhere over the Indian Ocean. Currently Paul Downie and Andrew Hunt are swimming the English Channel and despite hoping that I would have phone access on the Emirates flight to check how they're going (the A380 has a special "air waves" function that allows you to call any mobile anywhere in the world for $5 per minute), alas, it doesn't work! Technology hey...?!

Open Water Sessions:

Anyway, on Saturday 1st October and Saturday 8th October, we shall be running two special open water swim sessions to help kick-start your triathlon and open water racing season. We will have the 8 coaches out from the UK who will be helping run these sessions and they're guaranteed to be a lot of fun. The focus will be on open water specific skills such as drafting, sighting and turning and will feature a few fun relays as well to get the heart pumping! The sessions will meet at 7.15am for a 7.30am (prompt) start and will be at Cottesloe Beach. In the event of inclement weather, we shall move the sessions down to my new favourite open water swimming venue down at Claremont Jetty on the Swan River - it really is great for this type of work. I'll keep you posted. Cost is just one tick off your session card (or $15 casual) and will run for 60 minutes. I really hope quite a few of you can make these two excellent sessions. Depending on the popularity, we'll look at the feasibility of a more regular open water session for the schedule.

The Rottnest Channel Swim Program 2011/12:

Last year we had an amazing number of the squad compete at the Rottnest Channel Swim with some 34 Solos, a couple of dozen Duos and a gaggle of Teams. This year, we're hoping to make it even bigger and better and to look within our own resources to start pairing people up for Duos, creating some in-house Teams and helping the new Soloists find willing and able support crews and boats. Hopefully all the English Channel swims recently have been enough to inspire a bit of an urge to give this sort of an event a we just need to cultivate that.

I'd love to get an official confirmation from everyone in the squad who will be competing as a Solo, Duo or Team and preferably your Team / Duo name if you already know it? Please flick your details through to me, i.e. Joe Bloggs, Team, "The Crazy Swingers" etc and I'll start keeping a record. Also, let me know if you wish to be added to the specific Rottnest Program email list which will essentially keep you posted with detailed session plans for Saturday and Sunday's long sessions.

The new program template for 2011/12 can be downloaded here:

As you're looking at the program, it is broken down week by week starting from Monday 10th October and running for a period of 20 weeks up to the event. The weeks are grouped into phases, e.g. Establish Consistency, Threshold Development etc with an easier Recovery week sandwiched between these phases where volume is reduced.

I have given my recommendation with respect to how many sessions you should be doing per week and also the recommended volume  of training per week in kilometres depending on whether you are doing a Team, Duo or Solo. The funny "+" signs are predominantly for the Duo and Solo swimmers, showing them when I'd recommend they do a double-up 2hr session on a Tuesday and/or Friday, subject to lane space availability. This is purely a recommendation, doubtless you could complete the Rottnest Channel Swim on less volume than this, or you may decide that you want to do more - the key though (whatever you do) is for your training program to be consistent and avoid sudden massive jumps in volume especially at the start of your program.

We are going to target 4 key Open Water Races in the lead-up to the "Big One" (5 if you include the Rottnest Swim Thru) - again these are recommendations and as each of these races has a different set of distances, I've given my recommendations for which distance you should attempt based on which category you are racing on the big day.

All but the Green highlighted weekend sessions will be un-coached / un-supervised. I will however, often join you at some of these sessions as a swimmer myself, depending on how things pan out with the new arrival of our baby at the end of October. Each week, I'll send out a suggested session for either the Saturday or Sunday session via email to the specific Rottnest Channel Swim email group. I will recommend when / where to meet for this, but sometimes you might be on your own here or actually choose to do these by yourself anyway. As an endurance swim like Rottnest is as much a mental challenge as it is physical, training by yourself (so long as you're safe of course) every now and again is not a bad thing to get used to the seclusion that the watery environment presents.

On that note, the Saturday sessions will be structured as such:

  • Weeks 1 to 3 = pool based
  • Weeks 4 to 6 = start in the pool and finish with 2km in the ocean / river
  • Weeks 9 to 11 = start in the pool and finish with 4km in the ocean / river
  • Weeks 12 to 19 = all in the ocean / river, apart from Week 15 which will be our super-special 12km Rotto Pool Set

Right, just 3 weeks to go then until we officially start, in the meantime, pop down to the squad and get your arms turning over ready for what promises to be an excellent summer of swimming!



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One more day of Channel Viewing...

Dear Team

It very much looks like both Paul Downie and Andrew Hunt will get to swim this Thursday morning (15th September) and will likely start at ~2am UK time (9am Perth time). Let's really get behind these guys. The weather looks very good with light northerly winds helping to push them across (potentially), but as we all know the Channel can be a fickle Mistress at times and given that these boys will be swimming on a larger Spring Tide, expect to see quite a curve in their GPS path as they track across to France. Your support and encouragement through Twitter etc will really help them. 

Check out their progress at and to Tweet, just find any post from ChannelDare and hit the small reply button under the text. It'll ask you to sign up for an account, but it's literally a case of creating a suitable username and password and then you can get Tweeting.

I'm jumping on a plane this end from Manchester at 2pm today and will be back in Perth at 6pm on Thursday. This will mean that I might miss the first few hours of their swims, but I'm going to try and access the paid-for internet on the Emirates flight to keep track of them. For your reference, I'll be taking a few days totally off everything to relax with Michelle and Jackson who I haven't seen for 5 weeks believe it or not. I'll be back on pool deck for my first session back at 5.30am on Tuesday 20th September - can't wait. 

I'll be sending over details of our Rottnest Channel Swim Program which will officially commence on Monday 10th October and will run for 20 weeks. I highly recommend that if you're doing a Solo, Duo or Team this year that you contact me with a brief email asking me to add your email address to our specific Rottnest email group where I will keep you posted on additional squad training sessions and weekend long swims in due course.

Well, that's about it. I'm still on Cloud Nine - I feel fantastic and really relaxed / relieved to have have now done the crossing and be able to move on to getting back to some good squad coaching. I've even had my first swim back to loosen off the shoulders and loved it. 

Remember, we'll have 8 additional coaches on pool deck from the UK for the 2 weeks between the 26th September and 9th October which should be really exciting and offer you some great coaching opportunities. These 8 coaches have all been handpicked from our 47 who have sat our Swim Smooth Coaches Education course and will now go on to do their official Accredited Swim Smooth Coaches training with us in the next 6-12 months. We hope you will give them a warm welcome and reception when they arrive in Perth.



Monday, September 12, 2011

My English Channel Swim

Dear Swimmers

Well, what a roller-coaster ride this last 3 weeks has been...and the last 3 years really if you want to take it that far back!! This is inevitably going to be a long post (even for me!), so if you'd prefer to see some of the video footage from my swim and a few little interviews talking about the very tough conditions and how I felt about my swim, see here:

...and Shelley has made a great photo slideshow here too:

Alternatively, if you'd like to read the report, here goes:

Update on Paul Downie and Andrew Hunt:

A quick update to start off with on our two remaining swimmers - Paul Downie and Andrew Hunt. Paul and Andrew both shared the same tide as myself (5th to 10th September) but fortunately had a little more time to wait things out in Dover. I dare say they're also both a good bit more patient than myself and with that mentally tough too! If you check out and select Europe as the Region, United Kingdom as the Country and Dover as the Spot you'll see that there's a nice little window opening up this Thursday (15th September) with light winds blowing from the North-East which (fingers crossed) are ideal conditions for a good swim. This is still within what is called the Spring Tide window (where tidal ranges are much bigger and hence tend to drag the swimmer around a little more), but failing Thursday this week, Sunday 18th September is also looking quite nice at this stage with a much smaller tide. Let's wish the boys well and get behind them for a good swim! I totally believe that they can do it if Mother Nature plays her part.

You can follow their progress at

My English Channel Swim - 12h14m in 28-35 knot S / SW winds and BIG swell (head-on) - Friday 9th September 2011 - a tough day at the office!

A Thousand Thank Yous! 

Firstly, a quick thank you to all those of you who posted Twitter comments on the website whilst I was swimming - it was a massive heart-warming feeling knowing that you were all there "with me" as I battled the very trying 28 to 35 knot (50 to 65km/h) wind and massive swell conditions! Interestingly enough, the Rottnest Channel swim was cancelled in 2007 when conditions exceeded "just" 25 knots, so you can get a pretty good picture from this of what the day was like; that and the fact that Adam and Simon on my support boat were sick no fewer than 87 times between the two of them - maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but Simon was left incapacitated with nausea for a good 6 or 7 hours of the swim! He literally turned green poor guy. Thanks also to those of you who've sent post-swim emails through...I've tried to reply to all of them, but it is a slow process as there have been so many of them. As the famous British band "The Verve" once sang: I'm a Lucky Man!

Picking Our Slots and the Weather

If you've been following our progress whilst over in Dover through our Blogs and through Shelley's excellent video interviews at you'll know that it's been a very mentally challenging few weeks over here in Dover due to the constantly changing weather conditions. Swimming the English Channel is very much a gamble in terms of trying to time the tides and weather exactly right, and when you've only got a small window of opportunity for your booking (typically 5 to 7 days), things get even harder. That is why it was so important that nearly two years ago we went through and booked 1st spots on the tides with our respective pilots. Andrew Hunt came up with a very sophisticated way of ranking these available slots using some genius algorithms which we all then drew straws for, but at the end of the day, no amount of mathematics will change the weather. Most pilots will book 3 to 4 people on a 5-7 day tide, so you can only imagine how nerve-wracking this becomes when the weather starts to look fairly grim for a prolonged period, as it has with us. The devastating Hurricane Irene that destroyed parts of the east coast of the USA has just passed over the Atlantic and the meteorologists are claiming this is the main reason for the unsettled period we have experienced.

Last Friday (3rd September) we posted out a Blog stating that we might all (myself, Paul Downie and Andrew Hunt) get the opportunity to swim on Saturday 4th September. This was a known risk given the fact that it was still a large Spring Tide (and likely to see us going way "off course") but with the prospect of bad weather coming up for our actual window, I was personally really hoping to take it. Suffice to say that despite an afternoon of getting all pumped up listening to some banging tunes on the white cliffs of Dover, we were all called off literally just after we had posted out the Blog - Murphy's Law they call it I think?! 

Dealing with the Cancellation of Attempt # 1

I cannot even begin to express in words how deflating this was. We are told that we'll be put through these anxious waiting games but nothing can prepare you for what that actually feels like to be lifted up with the prospect of a swim and then blown just as quickly back down again. Given the fact that the weather was looking very bad for the next week when we were due to swim, I am not ashamed to say that I went through quite a down / depressed few days with the very real possibility that I might not get to swim at all before having to return home to Perth on the 14th September for work and also the close arrival of Baby Newsome # 2 in six weeks time. How did I pick myself out of it? Well, initially I tried to calm myself down saying that it's still not even our tide and that we still have at least 10 days to wait it out, but then my pilot Andy King of the Louise Jane ( ) called me on Monday after a beautiful day in Canterbury with my parents suggesting that things really weren't looking good for the rest of the week. There would still be the prospect of then swimming on the next Spring Tide if I could extend my flights back before his next set of swimmers arrived, but how long could I realistically wait it out? 

At this point panic really set in and I started to feel a weird mix of disappointment, the potential of unfinished business, a kind of disgust in myself for putting on all this weight and even guilt over having put my family through all this training only to come home without having achieved the end result. It's funny how the mind works - I often tend to drift towards the absolute worst possible scenario long before the process has had chance to play out. This is something that has always plagued me through my athletic years and something that I am acutely aware of needing to change. 

Luckily Shelley Taylor-Smith (open water guru, 7-times world marathon swimming champion and our travelling mentor) took me under her wing at this point and posed the possibility that this was maybe all happening for a reason and that there would be some sort of lesson in all this after all. This cheered me up no end - Shelley truly is an inspiration for me personally - I've even tried to model my marathon swimming stroke on hers!! :-)

Being Cheered Up by Britain's Best Comedian

What was the lesson that I needed to learn? Well, on Tuesday I was invited by my good friend and physiologist, Dr. Greg Whyte, to travel up to Oxfordshire and have the once-in-a-lifetime to swim with world-renowned comedian David Walliams from Little Britain as part of his hugely inspiring and monumental swim of the 140 miles (220 km) length of the River Thames. David is doing this for Sport Relief and aims to raise over £1 million for the charity. The guy is a total legend, my personal comedy hero and certainly one of the biggest inspirations for me attempting the English Channel in the first place as David successfully smashed the Channel in 10h29m in 2006 for the same charity. This is a totally amazing time and so it was a real honour to be invited to swim with him - I was grinning like a cheshire cat all day long and had to keep pinching myself that I was even there! 

I ended up swimming for 7 hours with David but wore Adam's wetsuit to keep warm and stave off any potential infections from the dirty(ish) water of the Thames. The pace was pretty steady, but then again David has to swim the length of the English Channel every day for 8 days in a row!! Truly amazing - here's me making a deal out of the English Channel when Walliams is truly doing it tough. Puts it all into perspective.

I think what I learned from this experience was how cool, calm and collected David was when swimming and taking everything in his stride. He commented on how he used distraction techniques (like thinking about the lyrics for all the James Bond theme tunes) to take his mind off the pain he was suffering along the way. Also, in his very modest way he was the first to say that his amazing Channel swim time was due in part to the very fortunate weather conditions that he had that day. He went on to add that his coach (Greg) was a much stronger swimmer and yet had terrible weather when he tried unsuccessfully two days previous to cross the Channel. 

I guess this made me really appreciate the fact that to set a good time you need a lot of factors on your side and given that I was still (at this point) facing the prospect of no swim at all I began to focus on the simple goal of just getting my feet wet at least. I cannot thank Greg and David enough for offering me that opportunity to swim with them that day...definitely one to tell the Grandkids! 

The "Call" and The Emotion of it All

But then the call came just two days later that there was a small possibility of an opening in the wretched weather but that the prospects were still grim and could easily change. The window would only suit swimmers capable of getting across in ~10 hours due to the likelihood of more forecast bad weather around 4pm that day. We had to call Andy (my pilot) at 6.15am on Friday 10th September with the view of starting literally just two hours later. This made for some very frantic telephone calling to assemble our much dwindled support team, many of whom had returned back to their normal jobs / lives etc. Interestingly enough, nearly all the other swimmers who had been waiting it out in Dover for the weather to change had been sent home by their pilots stating that there was zero chance of a start on this tide. This made for a very gloomy atmosphere within the Channel swimming fraternity in Dover and was hard to avoid feeling the effects of.

So, after we got the green light to go from Andy, we drove down to the harbour through all the thick fog I was listening to Eminem's "Not Afraid" on my iPod and all the emotions of what I had gone through with all the hard training, the waiting around, and the upcoming challenge of swimming the Channel suddenly all boiled to the surface. I sat there and thought about my family, about Jackson and Michelle, about all my wonderful Channel Dare training buddies and support crew, the people that I coach and who have supported me all the way, Shelley and Adam's ultimate belief in me and also the burning desire to get the job done. I'm not ashamed to say that tears were flowing freely down my cheeks, but it wasn't fear or sadness it was the realisation in one moment that I could do this and that I would get across to France come hell or high water. It was such a strong, powerful emotion that I wish I could have bottled it as I've never experienced so much conviction and belief in myself ever before.

Adjusting the Goal Posts

It was heartening to know that when we got down to the harbour that there was one other swimmer who was also due to set off for an attempt. Up until this point I thought I was going to be tackling the Channel alone that day. He was apparently a fireman, a former "cage fighter", good ex-swimmer and was under the wing of brilliant Channel swimmer Lyndon Dunsbee who formerly held the British record for a crossing of the Channel in 8h34m. I immediately thought that with his bulging biceps, strong shoulders and excellent support crew (including legendary pilot Reg Brickell) that if they're making this tough decision to at least give it a go, then we've made the right decision too. Mark (the swimmer) shook my hand (actually, crunched it ;-) ) immediately before we set off and Lyndon stated that he believed that in good weather his guy would go sub-10 hours (about where I pitched my own ability). However, Lyndon took one look at the weather, sniffed the breeze and very firmly stated that today he'll do 12 to 13 hours. How right he was (Mark did 12h48m as it transpired). 

This brief encounter with Lyndon prior to the start was crucial for how the day played out for me as I immediately let go of any aspirations of knocking out a fast time knowing that one of the world's greatest marathon swimmers had the experience to call it even before we started with "today will be character building if anyone gets across"

I'm assuming this was the second lesson that Shelley suggested I needed to learn before my swim: patience and persistence from David Walliams and letting go of any thoughts of fast times but focusing in on the "simple" goal of finishing.

The Plan

And so we were off, out through Dover harbour and heading west towards Samphire Hoe for our proposed swim start at 8.30am on Friday 9th September 2011. Even as we drove out, Andy (my pilot) kept saying that we'd just see how it goes and test whether or not it was truly possible to attempt the swim given that the breeze and swell were really picking up already. We had a bit of a deal that if we started and got up to a maximum of 4 hours and the weather looked like it was really going to turn, that Adam would pull me out of the water at this point and we'd look to waiting on for Thursday (15th September) when much better weather was forecast. We reasoned that with only 4 hours in my arms I'd have a chance of recovering in time for a second attempt 6 days later. 

If you recall, our legendary Wayne Morris was pulled from the water after 8 hours of his first attempt and then tried to back up 5 days later with another attempt, again getting 8 hours into the swim before the fatigue in his shoulders from his first attempt really hit home. Sadly Wayne didn't make it on his second attempt, but if he could have he would have - having been there now myself I have absolutely no doubt about that. There is a world of difference between the effects of a hard 4 hour swim on the body and an 8 hour swim, and for Wayne to do two of these within one week is absolutely astonishing - there is no way I could have done what he did, no way. Mother Nature won that time, but Wayne will be back.

As we ploughed round towards Samphire Hoe, Andy took the quick decision to change our starting point to Shakespeare Beach instead, which is literally just around the corner of Dover harbour wall. Reg Brickell and Mark (the other swimmer) employed the same tactics and before I knew it I was greased up and jumping into the water which was 16.2 degrees at this point - chilly, but much warmer than we've been training in. I've grown to like the cold actually, despite the weight gain (which helps massively from a thermal perspective), I like how invigorated it makes me feel - a kind of electric charge through the body. Andy and Reg had placed a bet on whether Mark or myself would get across to France first and all I remember Andy saying is "don't let me down son!" as he looked hard into my eyes. The race was on! I'm a sucker for was exactly the right scenario to get me off to a good start.

Those Critical First Few Strokes

I reckon you can tell within 3 or 4 strokes exactly how good you're going to feel on any given swim. As I swam into shore prior to starting the actual attempt I felt absolutely amazing. Again, I knew that I would make it across to France right there and then. I did however have a massive 25 knot wind up my backside and a big swell pushing me into the shore! When I officially got started it was a very stark contrast having to push into the waves and the realisation that this would be a relentless headwind all day without any sort of let-up. If anything it was due to get worse at ~7 hours into the swim. From my last big 18km training swim in Perth with Amanda Nitschke and Bae Hooper (my two loyal and keen-as-mustard paddlers) I learnt that whilst I needed my stroke to be strong and purposeful into these types of waves, that I also needed to conserve energy and not fight it as much as I'd be able to do so in say a 5km swim. It sounds obvious of course, but just backing off 10% and going with the flow of the swell and chop made all the difference. I was immediately into my rhythm and ploughing towards France.

Motivation Tactics and Feeding

In Perth I had been training with a Garmin 310XT GPS device which I'd place under my swimming cap and which would record how far I had swam and also how fast. Prior to leaving Perth I was able to comfortably knock out 14 minutes per km for 4+ hour swims and had set the Garmin to buzz at me every 500m. This was a massive motivating device for me in those long training swims as I'd only ever focus on reaching the next buzz, every 7 minutes or so. I never once thought about the length of the swims as a whole as doing do would just freak me out. No one really likes swimming that long, but if you break it down into a series of smaller chunks, it becomes much easier. 

During my Channel swim I wasn't allowed to wear anything more than a cap, some goggles, very standardised bathers and grease - the Garmin was banned as a pacing device. Instead I asked Adam to blow a sharp blast on the loud-haler every 7 minutes to signify the same milestones as I'd done with the Garmin in training. The sound of the loud-haler was instantly obscured by the force of the wind, so we had to go with plan B - holding up a red umbrella every 7 minutes instead. Adam, Paul Caunce (who'd travelled 5 hours down from Doncaster on a whim the night before, hoping that I'd get to swim - legendary commitment) and Simon (editor of H2Open Magazine) did brilliantly doing this 105 times (!) through the course of the swim and took great dedication and an understanding of just how important it was for me to keep this going. I would cite this as the biggest single motivation technique that I used out there during the swim - aside from all your Tweats and emails, SMSs etc of course! ;-)

To coincide perfectly with the red umbrella waving, every 4th cycle (28 minutes) we'd stop briefly for some fluid and / or food. This is exactly how I'd practiced in Perth and I didn't change a thing from what I know works for me now. This was a stark contrast to the critical error I made in 2004 when attempting my first Ironman and losing confidence in my well-rehearsed fuelling strategy, thinking I'd need to suddenly consume more because this was the "big one". In that case I became massively bloated and dehydrated because none of the carbs were getting into my system, they were just sat there like a useless weight in my stomach from over-consuming. Stupid when I look back at it as it forced me out of the race in the end, and to date I have never revisited Ironman.

I alternated between 250ml of Gatorade on stop # 1, then 250ml of Gatorade and a GU gel on stop # 2. This I repeated over and over again for all 25 of my fuel stops. On a couple of occasions I'd ask for something different (Turkish Delight, Boost Bar, Annette van Hazel's amazing fruit cake...) but I generally stuck to the plan and only ate these things when I felt like I craved the action of simply eating rather than slurping! I had two Nurofen at 4 hours and 8 hours to help with my shoulders but didn't drink any pure water at all and had one quick sip from a bottle of Coke. Aside from that it was Blue and Red Gatorade e-numbers all the way to the post-swim toilet...I'll leave that thought right there...! ;-)

Swinging Both Ways

As you know I am super pedantic about bilateral breathing for endurance swimming. When I started the swim the swell and chop was coming at us from the front and to the right. Andy (my pilot) expertly positioned the boat to shelter me from the main effects of this such that the boat was on my right. Right is my preferred side to breathe naturally, however, this asymmetry in my stroke from years of unchecked unilateral breathing is also the primary reason why my left shoulder is always the one that gives me grief on long swims as I generally don't rotate as well to my left. As I had to try and maintain eye contact with the boat, I started to breathe more and more to the right but as the waves were still hitting me hard from this side I was swallowing a lot of water and not getting a proper breath in. The waves were so strong at this point that I was also being pushed away from the boat and then frustratingly having to readjust my position. I didn't feel totally relaxed and at just two hours into the swim my left shoulder started to let me know it was there. I asked the guys on the boat if I could swim on the other side (allowing me to breathe more to my left and alleviate the pain in my shoulder), but their initial response was that I was crazy as the conditions were even worse on that side. After suffering like this for the first three hours I firmly stated that I would have a go on the other side and that I could always come back if necessary, potentially even swapping every few hours between sides. We tried it and the effect was shoulder pain eased up, I was able to sit closer to the boat, my rhythm improved and whilst the conditions were arguably harder to swim in, at least I was guaranteed a breath on my left hand side and at the same time stay in contact with the boat. I stayed on this side for the remainder of the swim.

Flying Along

As there are no land marks when you're halfway across the Channel, it is very hard to judge how well you're moving in terms of pace. I felt like I was totally flying along for the entire swim and this was evidenced by a super consistent 75 to 80 strokes per minute for the whole swim. The video above was filmed at 8 hours into the swim and you can see that I'm still moving really well. I do not think for a minute that I could have swum this Channel crossing any better or faster than what I did given the conditions I was presented pacing was perfect, stroke was consistent and I felt strong the whole way. I am entirely happy with my efforts and the end result. Geoff Wilson said of his epic 15h15m swim back in July that if he had have been forced to swim further he could have done given how physically well prepared he was. I'll admit that initially I even found this hard to truly believe, but when out there I also felt this amazing energy that would just seemingly go and go. I've never experienced anything like it and it just felt amazing. 

You all know how pedantic I am about pacing in our training sessions and the reason for this is because I know how bad I naturally am at this and it is something I've worked incredibly hard on the last three years. On this swim, all that effort paid off - it went totally according to plan and when the weather really picked up at 7 hours into the swim, I lifted my game even further - I wasn't going to let Mother Nature beat me now! 

Shelley tried to explain it to me as needing to feel like I was on a leash for the first two-thirds of the swim, holding back for when I really needed it. For those of you following the tracker, some of you have commented how it appears like I slowed to a snail's pace at about 4 hours into the swim, but this couldn't be further from the truth. At this point the tide was changing directions (becoming slack) and this affects your forward progress significantly. Many swimmers at this point actually struggle to make any ground at all and some even get pushed backwards, so it's very important to push on here and not take too long over your drink and food stops.

Not Afraid

I would say that I remained in a happy place 98% of the entire swim and for me this is the single biggest achievement of the swim. It's amazing what can be achieved when you can keep yourself in this flow-state of positivity. I was doing all that I could do to get across to France and I vividly recall thinking at about 7 hours in that if the predicted storm does really kick in now (and that they have to drag me from the water for safety reasons), I'd be very happy and satisfied with my efforts even if I wasn't able to finish. Whenever an ounce of doubt crept into my mind, I'd start singing "Not Afraid" by Eminem and think about my son Jackson and doing it for him. I know that all sounds a bit cliche, but having this anchor to go back to in the tougher moments was so useful. 

I read Des Renford's book in the days before the swim (19 x Channel Swimmer and Australian swimming icon) prior to my attempt and in it he stated a couple of quotes which had helped him:

"Even the darkest hour still only has 60 minutes!"

...this was also brilliant to refer back to, as was another:

"A man who wants something will find a way; a man who doesn't will find an excuse!"

Getting On With It

I had been keeping a mental note of how many food stops we'd had and thus how far into the swim we were, but after about 4 hours I started to lose track of this and actually let the counting float away. This was a good period for me and I quite enjoyed the freedom from anything other than thinking about the next stroke, the next umbrella, the next feed. I had told Adam that I would not ask how close to France we were at any point during the swim, but at 8h50m I slipped and just had to ask exactly how long we'd been going for as I still couldn't see France or smell the croissants. Adam asked if I really wanted to know and then eventually told me. I asked my pilot Andy where was France and he just pointed forwards and said it was "over there". Fair point, I took that as my cue to get going and stop worrying and just got on with the task at hand.

Eventually the light started to fade and we paused briefly to pin on a Glow Stick to make me more visible in the water (like my Hot Pink Funky Trunks weren't loud enough?!). I knew at this point that I was getting very close and decided to stop for an extra feed just 6 minutes after the last which was to be my final surge in energy for the push to the finish. I could see the boys readying the dinghy to escort me to shore and at this point I knew I had made it, bar disaster. Little Andy (Big Andy's first mate on the boat) escorted me in and witnessed me finishing on the rocky beach in complete darkness and a little fog. I didn't get chance to savour the moment unfortunately (not even a photograph) as I was being beckoned back onto the boat so we could get back to Dover asap as the temperature was dropping.

Despite being neck and neck up to the four hour point with Mark I eventually finished 34 minutes clear. As such, Andy won his bet with Reg and we all felt quite chuffed with ourselves - what a day! Sharing those conditions with Mark was a real privilege. 

Will I Ever Do It Again?

In a word, no. Job done, next chapter, move on. The training and preparation was excellent. I couldn't have asked for a better training crew to train up with for this mammoth undertaking. Wayne, Ceinwen, Paul D, Andrew, Lisa and Geoff were all amazing and we always kept each other on track and the vibe was fun, enjoyable and supportive. I've had the privilege to train with some of the world's best athletes in a former life living in the UK as part of the triathlon World Class Program, but can honestly say that I've never trained with more dedicated and committed athletes than these guys.

Adam's (Young) support through this whole thing has been legendary, especially given the monster work tasks we set ourselves with Swim Smooth. Surviving the sea sickness on the boat was a big thing all in itself. Shelley's (Taylor-Smith) encouragement in these last few weeks in particular has been outstanding. Not all elite athletes make great coaches and mentors, but I can categorically state that Shelley does. She's been brilliant and both Adam and Shelley were right there when I needed them to help me turn around what was becoming a period of despair after our first swim attempt was cancelled. 

My boat support crew of Big Andy (King or "Grumpy" as he is known), Little Andy, the CSA observer (Mick) and of course Adam (Young), Paul (Caunce) and Simon (Griffiths) were legendary. All pilots have their own ways of getting swimmers across the Channel but what really stood out for me with Andy King on the Louise Jane was how quietly confident he was in his own judgement, methods and experience. Andy always got back to me within a few hours on the email even going back two years ago when I registered with him for the swim. He'd answer any questions that I had and dealt with me in a professional and courteous way at all times. He calls a spade a spade and for a challenge like this, I personally believe that this is what is needed in a pilot. He was determined to get me across the Channel in a fast time, but when the conditions looked as though they wouldn't give me an opportunity to do that we switched to Plan B and focused on making the best of a very small window between two strong weather fronts. 

For me, getting across was always my number one goal, irrespective of time. On the day, everything was all perfectly timed and whilst there might not have been millions of gadgets and computers to dazzle us with technology, there was just the right amount. This to me is the sign of a true craftsman, someone who knows his stuff and gets the job done. It's a little like the bookworm or "swot" at school who might get the grades but has no practical application of what they have learnt versus someone like Andy who has practicality pouring out of his ears. You can see that Andy positively loves doing what he does and to get me through those conditions like he did was nothing short of extraordinary. He must have been watching me 110% of the time through his little port window as there were a few times when I came close to the boat in the rough seas and he'd always manage to manoeuvre the big boat out of my way accordingly. I cannot recommend him highly enough for anyone considering a crack at the English Channel.

Varne Ridge Holiday Park is where we stayed for our entire trip and I have always been intrigued as to how good this site would be given the tremendous amount of positive feedback I have heard about the site itself and owners David and Evelyn. I knew from the instant we arrived that we'd be well looked after as Evelyn came bustling in offering us loads of free food and supplies to get us started before the grand trek to Tescos supermarket. David and Evelyn are truly wonderful, genuine people who were the perfect hosts for our time in Dover. They know so much about the Channel and always have a calming effect on you when you're worried about whether or not you're going to get to swim etc. We all thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

Finally, to my parents Linda & Steve, Shaun & Catherine, my sister Sheryl and close friends and of course especially Michelle and Jackson without whom I wouldn't have been able to do any of this and live and accomplish a boyhood dream. I am totally in awe of how Michelle does what she does, looks after me and copes with me when I'm tired and grumpy and manages to look after our beautiful little boy Jackson whilst all the while carrying around a massive lump in her belly. I haven't seen either of them for nearly six weeks now and can't wait to get back to Perth for a reunion. Mish, you're a legend and Jackson, maybe we can do a Duo to Rottnest one day soon?

What Next?

Well, Baby Newsome # 2 is due at the end of October so I'll go fully back into "Dad Mode" then. We also have quite a few exciting projects on the go with Swim Smooth that we're due to roll out in the next six months too. I'm currently weighing in at around 80kg and would like to drop back down to 72kg within the next 9 months. I'll do this by getting back into a bit of running and cycling (which I have missed dearly) and maybe even the odd triathlon. The Rottnest Channel Swim Solo 2012 is probably off the cards at this stage, but never say never...I am however super excited about the prospect of assisting many prospective Soloists train up for this magnificent event, potentially even with the view to a crack at the English Channel themselves down the line...

Thanks again for the opportunity to undertake this challenge - it is without a doubt the very biggest and best athletic achievement I have ever completed.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Swimming the Thames with David Walliams!

Well, we might be all getting a little frustrated not having yet swum the English Channel, however, today I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to swim with my absolute comedy hero David Walliams (of Little Britain fame) as he navigates the entire 140 miles of the River Thames in 8 days in aid of Sport Relief:

...that's the equivalent of swimming 7 consecutive English Channel swims in a week! Legend!

Today I helped pace David on Day 2 of his swim with his coach and good friend of mine Dr. Greg Whyte, whom many of you will remember came over to Perth last March and gave a chat to those of us aspiring to swim the English Channel. I was in the water with the two of them for nearly 7hrs as we covered approximately 14 (22km) of the 21 miles they had scheduled for the day.

It was an amazing experience and I even had chance to share lunch with them at a lovely pub in Oxfordshire, all dressed in our wetsuits too!

Here's some pics:

And here's the Channel right now:



Thursday, September 1, 2011

Channel update

Dear Swimmers

Well, I hit a bit of jet lag flat spot after the weekend's race and was beginning to panic after a terrible swim on Tuesday. Nevertheless, a big fat juicy steak, a pint of Guiness and early to bed and on Wednesday I had an absolute cracker of a 10km swim in Folkestone which really lifted my spirits!! No sooner had I finished the swim than my skipper (Andy King) called me to say that the weather was looking really bad for next week as a big front pushed through on the back of Hurricane Irene. Not deterred though, Andy suggested that whilst the tide won't be quite so favourable and will likely add 1.5-2hrs to our finishing times, Saturday morning at ~3am is looking very good from the weather perspective. Funnily enough, all three skippers confirmed this same news despite not communicating between themselves. This has filled us all with a bit of excitement and equally a sense of relief that whilst we might not get "ideal" conditions, we will at least get a swim start!!

The Channel has periods called Spring and Neap tides. Neap tides last for 4-5 days and are when the tidal range is at it's smallest allowing swimmers to take a reasonably straight line across to France. Spring tides have a much larger tidal range and consequently rather than covering 34-38km, typical swims (as we saw with Ceinwen's swim) are in the region of 50km+. Swimmers don't actually swim that much further, but are pushed by the strength of the tides and so inevitably end up swimming in the region of 6-8km further than on a Neap tide in actual terms.

The other factor is the's no good having a great Neap tide but terrible weather, and that's what it's looking like next week. As such, with better weather set for the end of the Spring tide on Saturday, it looks like we'll be heading off then, which will be about 10am on Saturday morning Perth time. Stay tuned at for live updates, a GPS tracker for each of us and live Twitter feeds from the boat. Don't forget you can send your messages of support through replying to the Twitter feed on the website - very easy to do!

I'll keep you posted if anything changes. Suffice to say we're not looking set for amazingly quick times, but as we're all gradually appreciating over here with the amazing tides, the key is to get across whatever or however long it takes. 

Wish us luck! Here we go!!