Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Going nowhere, with purpose...

I spent a large part of last week swimming in the best part of 100 circles - an occupational hazard for those of us who don't live anywhere near the sea and are bound to c.7-800m lake-loops. It was my last chance to get some distance in before tapering for MIMS, and it happily coincided with a week of no teaching but mountains of marking. So, I upped sticks and relocated myself in the camper van to the Go-By-Cycle campsite near Lake 32 in Cirencester. Open until 10am every morning as well as for two evenings a week, the lake was my best chance for some decent open water training given the more restricted opening hours of my local lakes. The only obstacle was the ongoing problem with the cold weather, with air temps falling to 2-3 degrees in the mornings, accompanied by biting winds and various outbursts of slewing rain, hail and general unpleasantness. To say that it was a hard week is an understatement, and there was a great deal of this:

The water barely inched above 12 degrees for the entire week, and it was all a bit of a slog, but I managed to stick to a routine of 2-hour swims, with one 3-hour swim on a slightly milder day. I also managed to get a couple of double-dip days to crank up the mileage a bit. And in between, I ploughed through the boxes of marking, either in the van, or on colder days, in a nearby cafe, bundled up post-swim and mainlining hot coffee.

With 50km clocked and all of my marking finally finished, I headed back to Coventry ready for the training week's finale - a 6 hour swim test at Swan Pool in Walsall, courtesy of the Sandwell Channel Swimming and Lifesaving Society and the Birmingham Lifeguards, organised by Dan Earthquake. I've done at least one of these events most years, and the weather has been reliably vile for most of them, so given the chilly week I'd already had, I have to say I wasn't really looking forward to it - especially since the water has been holding at 12 degrees for several weeks and I didn't think I had 6 hours in me at that temp. But just when you think you've been pushed about as far as you can be pushed, open water swimming steps up and offers you a treat. And so it was - a day of glorious, uninterrupted sunshine. Bliss. And so I swam in endless circles, with purpose, the sun on my back and in calm, windless water.

My Hydrotracker ran out of beans about 30 mins before I finished, but I ended up covering about 20km and beating my previous record for a Swan Pool 6 by 2 laps. A good result. 

I've done these events pretty much every year since I got into marathon swimming, and they're low key, but with great safety cover and boundless encouragement, whatever the individual's goal. We had a great support crew on shore who basked in the sunshine, counted laps, offered support and helped with feeds - thanks so much everyone. 

Even the geese have finally plucked up the courage to reproduce, in spite of the cold:

We all fed off the pontoon - I settled in to my usual routine of carb drink (SiS Go...what used to be PSP22, flavoured with blackcurrant squash) with the occasional banana or jelly baby. 

I don't know what was going on here, but I look pretty desperate for that carb drink....

And as the day passed slowly by, I carried on swimming in circles, going nowhere, with purpose....

The lake started at 12 degrees and continued to hover around there for the first few hours, made more bearable by the warm air temps and bright sunshine. But it's a relatively shallow lake, and by 4pm, it was close to 15 degrees. Now that's more like it.

So, a 70km week of OW swimming, topped off with a real treat of a sunny day and a good, confidence-building 6 hours.

Well done also to Anji Page, Carl Salt, Ben Brophy, Carmen Scales and Chloe Johnson, who all completed their 6 hour swims, and to Neil Kapoor, Steve Husband, Jackson Carroll and Rob Cash, all of whom completed 2 hour swims.

But pleased though I was with my week of swimming, special mention has to go to Dan, who entered the water at the crack of dawn and completed a 10 hour swim that day. Amazing, especially when you consider that he also did a 6 hour swim in the sea (at 9 degrees!) the previous week. Dan has an early Channel swim booked and the prize is surely his for the taking.

Many thanks to the lifeguards and supporters who took care of us, to Dan for organising the day, and to Lee Warr for the lovely photos. You can find more of the pics, plus Dan's record of the day, on the Cold Water Culture website.

Next stop....Manhattan....


  1. Really brilliant swimming KT. Not easy this year in rough temps.

  2. Thanks Mark. Right back at you....I see you've been braving Dover. I am confident that we'll be rewarded with some sustained sunshine soon. Hope to see you in Dover when I get back from MIMS - the Channel awaits in mid-July. Kx

  3. wonderful read and well done Karen xx

  4. Thanks Susan - hope your Dover training went well. Kx

  5. Great prep for speedy MIMS Karen.. and awesome work from the big man

  6. Thanks Ian - not really speedy, but hopefully fast enough to get round MIMS.


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