Saturday, 26 March 2011

Goggles review

Goggles are one of those things that people get very attached to. I'm sure that most makes of goggles are pretty good, but it all comes down to face shape, habit and idiosyncratic preference....and anyone who spends any time in the water will know that once you find a make of goggles that work for you, you stick with them. I am a die-hard fan of mirrored Blueseventy Element goggles - on my Channel swim, I put a pair on at hour six, and didn't have to touch them once for the next 10 hours. But I've never really found a pair of clear goggles that I really like, so I was interested to try out the Speedo Futura Ice goggles that came free with my first issue of H2Open magazine.
I've been using them in the pool, and so far, I'm pretty impressed. They're comfortable, close-fitting and I haven't had to keep fiddling with them between sets; plus the blue tint is very light, giving good pool visibility, and the anti-fog is working a treat so far. My only two slight complaints about them are: firstly, that I've found that I need to have them tighter than I would ideally like in order to stay in place and watertight; and secondly, that if you end up with a drop of water in them, each socket is quite big, and the drop tends to bounce all over the place. This is the same objection I always had to mask-style goggles, although it's nowhere near as bad with these. So, have I finally found a reliable make of clear goggles? Possibly. I'm doing a longer pool swim tomorrow (3.5 hours), so I'll see how I get on.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Virgin Dublin to Holyhead relay

The OW discussion forums are buzzing with the news that Richard Branson and Ronan Keating are headlining a relay team of 10 people planning to swim the 51 miles from Dublin to Holyhead in order to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK. There's a bit of scepticism floating about - mostly because they are claiming that this would be a world record when in fact much longer relay swims have been accomplished (and without the aid of wetsuits) - see the Daily News of Open Water Swimming for an even-handed discussion, and some good links to other ultra-relay swims.

The publicity materials for the swim reference the presence of sharks as part of the challenge, but as many of the forum discussions have pointed out, a much bigger threat is the lion's mane jellyfish and the harsh conditions... plus Ronan Keating has already stated that he's not much of a swimmer. Hmm. I think it's a shame that they've talked up claims for the swim that aren't strictly accurate, but I'm sure that this was the result of inadequate research rather than purposeful misrepresentation; we also know that 'big talk' is necessary to drum up the hype necessary to raise significant sums of money. From my perspective, the much bigger challenge is that it will involve being on a slow-moving, reeling boat for hours and hours - the very thought makes me want to reach for a bucket.

So, I say, hats off to them for taking this on - you couldn't pay me, for one, to try such a thing (and, to be honest, no-one who's seen me in action on a boat would). Hopefully they'll amend some of the rhetoric to reflect other ultra-relay achievements - I don't think that they need it to be a world record to still be an ambitious and impressive swim, whatever the outcome. And such a high profile event can only be good for the sport of open water swimming.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Better at last and back to training

At last, after two weeks of croaking, wheezing, spluttering and generally becoming quite difficult to live with, my chest infection has finally retreated, my energy levels are back up and I'm back into training. I'm trying to ease in gently, but it's just so nice to be able to get back to it - not least because I tend to suffer from insomnia, especially when work pressures are high, and the swimming really helps with that. But also, Catalina is only 4 months away and I'm a long way from feeling ready to start the serious build-up to that when the open water season starts.

I'm off to Malta to guide for Swimtrek at the beginning of April, and I'm expecting that to be a pretty full on couple of weeks, with not too much time for swimming. But hopefully I'll have chance to dip the occasional toe in and to remind myself how great it is to be in the open water after a long, chlorinated winter.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Sick, sick, sick...

It's two weeks since I've been able to get in the pool, and I'm still struggling with a chest infection...although I am finally seeing some signs of improvement and have managed without having to have antibiotics. I feel really wiped out though and still have a rattly chest and croaky voice. It's hard not to worry about the lost training and fitness, but I went back through my blog and saw that I've had something like this at least once a year - it's frustrating, but doesn't do any harm in the long term. It's still driving me nuts though. I'm trying to concentrate on eating nutritious food, drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

CS&PF dinner

After months away from all things open water, I went down to Dover this weekend for the CS&PF dinner (plus a great chance to get in a couple of research interviews).

It was a beautiful afternoon on Friday when I arrived and the harbour looked very peaceful - it felt a bit odd to be down there and not be planning to spend a whole day swimming up and down.

Dover's not the loveliest town in the world, but you've got to love somewhere that includes a special logo on its harbour usage signs for distance swimmers....

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the CS&PF AGM, where big changes were afoot - with Mike Oram stepping down as Hon. Secretary (to be replaced by Kevin Murphy), and several new people bringing expertise in the fields of law, medicine and accountancy to the new committee. This felt like a really positive set of changes, and happily, the meeting passed largely without controversy.

Before dinner, a bunch of us went over to the White Horse pub to perform the Channel swimmer's ritual of adding our names to the walls of the pub. The walls are packed with years of swimmers' names, but I managed to find a little strip to make my mark on. To be honest, I didn't think that I was that bothered about it, but when it came to it, I enjoyed it enormously and it feels great to have my name up there among all those other swimmers.

Then on to the dinner in Dover town hall. It has to be said - hats off to all those involved in organising this - nice food, good company, and a great chance to celebrate all the successes of the year. The highlight for me though came during the raffle, when, to my enormous surprise and delight, I won a free Alcatraz swim, donated by the nice people at Swimart. The timing is perfect for my California trip this summer - what a huge stroke of luck, and a fantastic treat.

The only blot on the weekend was the fact that I've got a galloping chest infection, which even after a week isn't getting any better. I probably shouldn't have gone this weekend, and was a bit spluttery, but I really didn't want to miss it...and to be honest, a heady combination of over-the -counter medications combined with a few glasses of wine held it at bay for most of the evening! So, no training for me recently....but at least I had the perfect excuse for not joining this morning's sea swim!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Daily News of Open Water Swimming

Good news - my research has been featured on Steven Munatones' website, Daily News of Open Water Swimming. It's been up for a couple of days, and has already had an amazing effect on the number of visitors to the site, plus plenty of new contributions. Very exciting.