Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Radio interview

I did a little radio interview for BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire yesterday. I spoke to them before and after the Channel swim last year, and one of the producers has been following the blog and got in touch after the Catalina swim. They're really nice and friendly, and it's always a fun thing to do. You can listen to the interview here for the next few days....I'm on at 2.04.35.

Bridge to Bridge

I just got some photos back from the Bridge to Bridge swim - this time taken by Suzie Dods from the safety kayak. The brightness of the day comes through really beautifully in the pics, as well as the gorgeous SF skyline.

I don't know what the three of us were doing here...probably dawdling about looking at the view.

Happy memories of a lovely swim.

And now....back down to earth with a thump, and I'm back in Coventry in a fog of jetlag, with the beginning of term only a month away. But I'm also thinking about what to do over the next year and will start writing more about this over the next few weeks.

Swimming cupcakes

At the very end of my US trip, I popped back to Santa Barbara for a final evening with my friends, Scott and Debbie, and their daughter, Quinn. To say thank you for all their help with the Catalina swim, and their splendid hospitality, I ordered a special batch of swimming cupcakes from the wonderful Crushcakes Cupcakery. We liaised over the phone and by e-mail and I pretty much left them to their own creative imaginations....and look what they came up with!

Particular favourites were the octopus...

And the swimmer...

And they were delicious too.

Friday, 19 August 2011


The day after the B2B swim, I rejoined Leslie Thomas and a group of Swim-Art swimmers to swim from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park. Fantastically, this was the swim that I won in the raffle at the CS&PF dinner last year, and which Leslie had kindly donated, so it was an extra special treat.

The 15 Swim-Art swimmers were joined by 45 triathletes from a local club - they travelled out on a different boat, but we shared the corridor of safety kayaks and ribs that led us into through the entrance to the sheltered waters of Aquatic Park and the beach finish.

The jump-off at the start showed the differences between the two groups - we jumped in in an orderly manner, one at a time, before starting to swim, while the triathletes piled overboard, lemming-like, forming a churning mass of swimmers. But eventually we all straggled out anyway, paddling our way through the very rough conditions, aiming to the left of the cove mouth in order to account for the ebbing tide flowing out under the Golden Gate Bridge. I was quite relaxed for the first half of the swim, enjoying great views of the GG Bridge when I breathed to the right, and the Bay Bridge to my left. But at some point I found myself with a couple of swimmers around me who were obviously racing, and try as I might to ignore them, I ended up joining in and really pushing for the last 15 mins or so. It's not a long swim (about 1.5 miles), but it's iconic and fun.

Interesting fact of the day....according to my guide book, they used to make the prisoners have hot showers so that they would not be acclimatised to cold water and be tempted to swim for it.

And with that, my San Francisco trip comes to an end and it's back to the UK I go.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Bridge to Bridge - San Francisco

I have been having a fantastic time in San Francisco, meeting swimmers, doing lots of interviews, and generally (believe it or not) getting a lot of work done. But then again, all work and no play....So, on Saturday, I did the Bridge to Bridge swim, courtesy of Swim-Art and the wonderful Leslie Thomas. The swim is from the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge - a distance of about 6 miles, but with a strong tidal push to help us along.

After a briefing, we boarded the "Lovely Martha" and motored out to our starting point - the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a stunning edifice, but I have to say, it looked a little bit moody in the early morning fog...

The water was looking a bit angry too, especially around the bridge pilons, and as the flotilla of safety kayakers make their way over to us, it all looked a bit grizzly....but still very exciting.

It was windy and chilly on deck, and I wondered what kind of swim this was going to be...

We were given a 5 minute warning, and readied ourselves to jump off. I was cutting my usual glamorous and elegant figure.

And then it was time to jump...

And then we started swimming - I was paired with Graham, plus the wonderful Suzie Dods in the kayak, and we swam very happily and peacefully along the coastline at a well-matched pace throughout (plus we were later joined by Chelsea, who had outpaced her original group, and we all continued to swim on merrily together). And after about half an hour, joy of joys, the clouds lifted, the water flattened, and we were treated to a beautiful, sharply-defined view of the city.

I've been lucky enough to do a lot of fabulous swims, but this was one of the most exhilerating and enjoyable swims I've ever done - perfect conditions, great views, good swimming companions, and a nice distance - enough to know you've had a good swim, but not so much that you need to lie down in a dark room afterwards. I wanted to stay in forever.

But all too soon we had reached the Bay Bridge, passing through the shadow that it cast on the water, and hearing the rumble of traffic as went swam beneath...and then over to the boat. I retrieved my bottle and waterproof camera from Suzie, sticking the bottle in my mouth so that I could use both hands to shove the camera up the side of my costume before climbing up the ladder. Thanks to whoever it was on the boat who captured my triumphant (and once again, elegant) finish!

The mood on the boat was wonderful - lots of excited talk and awash with the satisfaction of a good morning's swimming in perfect conditions. All in all, an excellent day. Many thanks to Swim-Art for running such an excellent swim - I'd recommend them to anyone who fancies a dip in San Francisco Bay. And special thanks to Suzie Dods who kept us safe from the kayak.

We were lucky enough to have Karen Drinkwater, a professional photographer, on board, who took some beautiful photographs of the day. She took all of the photos shown here, except for the shot of me with the bottle in my mouth, and the picture of the kayakers in the fog. (I pilfered these off the Swim-Art Facebook page and don't know who the photographer is, but will happily credit them if they get in touch). Thanks for the beautiful pictures, Karen.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Goodbye La Jolla, Hello San Francisco

Yesterday, I finally had to prize myself away from gorgeous La Jolla and headed north to San Francisco to start the next (and final) phase of my trip. I felt a bit overwhelmed and confused by SF at first, but spent a productive few hours today walking around and getting my bearings. My key discoveries are that (a) the city is highly walkable in size, which is good news, given the somewhat congested nature of the public transport system....this is tourist season, after all; but (b) that San Francisco is really hilly. My legs don't know what has hit them after a day of tromping around the streets.

But the highlight of the day was meeting up with Suzie Dods for my first introduction to the Dolphin Club at Aquatic Park - a splendid wooden structure which is home to a boathouse, club rooms, and impressive changing facilities .... including a sauna! Anyone, like me, who has spent their summer weekends on the beach in Dover, shivering in the wind and trying to hold on to a towel (and a final scrap of modesty) whilst changing before rushing off to a car / cafe to warm up with a faint moustache of silt still clinging to your top lip will understand just how luxurious this sounds. And it is utterly spendid! These people really do swimming well.

We went for a shortish swim (just under a mile, I think), pausing at the mouth of the harbour mouth. Suddenly clear of the pier, right in front of me was Alcatraz, and off to the left, the Bridge, looking amazing in the late afternoon sunshine through the mist, hills in the background. I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to have had the chance to visit all these amazing swimming spots, and meet all of these fabulous, water-loving swimmers. Life is good.