And we are back!

On the 25th July Paul and I flew over to Zurich to swim the prestigious Lake Zurich race.  Paul & I had entered the year before but not got a space so we were over the moon when we found out we got a slot for a two person relay for 2015.

This was the third relay Paul & I have done together in as many years.  The previous two were the six person one way relay of the English Channel and also the two way four person relay of the Channel.

We arrived into Zurich and headed over to Rapperswil the other side of the lake where the swim would start.  It is funny as you sit on a train for 26km realising that the next day you are going to have to swim that.  We headed over to the briefing where all the solo and relay swimmers were given details about the rules and schedule for the next day.  It was nice to see many others from the marathon swimming community that I have met and become friends with over the years many of which were doing it solo.

 Paul and I walked over to the marina at 6.30am to find our pilot.  One of the wonderful things about this swim is that the community comes together to offer its services for the swim and so you don’t know what type of boat you are going to get or who your pilot is until the morning of the swim.  As teams went off with pilots sporting fancy power boats to yachts to little rowing boats and kayaks we awaited to see what we would get.  Next minute Mat walks up and introduces himself to us as our pilot for the day.  This was Mat’s first time supporting the swim but he works on a boat school on the lake so we had no worries about him knowing the lake well enough to get us from one end to the other.  The boat was a spacious motor boat which we loaded up ready for the 26km trip and Paul headed over to the start.

Mat & I motored around to towards the start as we saw the solo swimmers set off and we waited for the relays to start.  The swim allows for solo swimmers and relay swimmers (team of 2 or 3) and in both wetsuits and non wetsuits, although at a balmy 25 degrees those in wetsuits must have been a bit toasty.  The start was interesting – the swimmers head off but then us on the boats have to find our swimmer – set with a pair of binoculars I found Paul and we motored over to him to lead the way for the next hour.

Paul swimming

Paul swimming

The relay swim rules state that swimmers must swap every hour so after enjoying the sunshine and chatting away to Mat it was time for me to jump in.  Compared to the cold waters of the UK this water was bliss and we were so lucky with the weather, just the day before the wind had built up big chop across the lake but today was so flat and peaceful – it was great to be enjoying some warm flat waters.

After I got out Paul had left me a little note which was great to receive, it was lovely not to be doing a solo swim and to have some company but the problem with a two man relay is you don’t get to speak to each other – so for the rest of the swim we left notes for each other.  As I got out of the water each time I really looked forward to reading my note.

Paul and I were motoring along looking at going just under the 8 hour mark when I noticed that Paul had started trying to stretch out his shoulders whilst swimming.  When you have swam with someone so much over the years you get to know their stroke so when it changes you know that something is up.  Paul started slowing down and so I left a note to see if he was okay – I would have to wait an hour till I got out to find out.

Turned out that Paul was in some pain from his shoulders and was suffering somewhat, but he ploughed on regardless and we carried on swapping every hour.

It was lovely having Mat aboard as he grew up in the area and was able to point things out and tell me about different parts of the lake as we passed them (when I was out of the water that is) as well as waving at friends fishing on the side of the lake.

Mat our pilot

Mat our pilot

As we approached the last 300m of the lake I jumped in with Paul and we swam to the finish together whilst Mat motored over to the marina.  At the finish you are greeted with a lei and your medal and interviewed by a lady asking you about your experience.  In the end it took us 8 hours 44 minutes and although Pail was clearly in a lot of pain he managed to grit his teeth and get us to the finish line. It is a very well run event and you are treated at the end to some wonderful vegan food and massages etc.  It was great to cheer in some friends into the finish and relax – that was until the last swimmer came in and the rain fell. We had been so lucky with the weather and as we sat on the bus back to Rapperswil following the lake I reminded myself ‘we just swam that’.

I wonderful day with wonderful people in wonderful surroundings.  A big thanks to Mat for getting us there in one piece avoiding the traffic on the lake including the ferries that were on a tight schedule and didn’t like to detract from their usual journey line.

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If you want a wise answer, ask a reasonable question


Like many aspiring Channel swimmers (& those whom already hold the grand title of being a Channel swimmer) I find myself always being asked questions about what it entails.  We often spend time laughing at some of the questions we are asked as they seem ridiculous to us but for those not living and breathing the life of a ‘Channel swimmer’ wannabe they must be reasonable questions.

For this blog I have decided to answer all those questions I am always asked and also opened up the question to my my facebook group to see what they might like to know, so here goes….

Do you wear a wetsuit?
No, I will be crossing the Channel under the rules of the Channel Swimming & Pilot Federation (CS&PF) their rules state that you are able to wear a swimsuit (one or two piece) that does not extend past the shoulder or knee, one pair of goggles and one swim hat.  For the full rules they can be read here.  There is also another Channel swimming authority –Channel Swimming Association.

What is the most comfortable costume to wear?
I think this is completely individual and as we are all different sizes different people will find styles that keep them all in place depending on their shape.  I have often seen people falling out of their costumes through training swims  or getting bad chaffing from the lining or the straps being too tight.  For me it is costumes that have a diamond back and not too many seams that will cause chaffing.  For those of you that know me well you will know that I also love really bright costumes with funky designs – many of which are from Funkita.

Do you cover yourself in goose fat/grease?
No, most people just tend to use Vaseline to help reduce chaffing and high factor sun cream to help prevent sunburn.

How much Vaseline do you use?  Can you re-apply it?
I apply it liberally under the arms, under my swimming costume straps on my shoulders and round the back of my neck where my hat my rub.  Very few people re-apply it during a swim but if you needed to you would need to be passed the Vaseline and apply it yourself (usually with a glove otherwise you get it all over your goggles).  You are not allowed to touch anyone through the swim so your crew wouldn’t be able to do it for you. I very rarely get chaffing these days even after my 12.5 hour swim it was minimal on my neck, I think my skin must have toughened up and the cold water seems to numb it so you wouldn’t notice it till after the swim.

Who is on the boat and how do you know where to go?
I have a boat that I follow, Anastasia, which is part of the CS&PF and my pilot is called Eddie.  Eddie has been guiding swimmers across the Channel for over 10 years.  The CS&PF has 6 pilots and their role is to look for the best weather windows for you to attempt the swim and whilst swimming get you across with the tides and ensure we avoid all the other vessels in the Channel (as well a ensure we swimmers are safe).  There is usually a co-pilot onboard and then also an observer who is there on behalf of the CS&PF to ensure you stick to the rules.  They are also a great source of wisdom and always there supporting the swimmer and helping the crew out if need be.  They have to write a report to the CS&PF about your swim which will be read and the swim will only be official once they are happy with what they have read.  I will also have two crew aboard.  Brian and Abby who have been supporting me and crewed for my 21 mile two way Windermere swim

How do your crew support you?
My crews role is to ensure that I am fed when I am supposed to be and to motivate me when I need it.  For me this is through smiling lots, giving me messages of support, feeding me on time and for me to see one of them at all times.  Having had Brian & Abby both support me on my Windermere swim they both did all these things and I have no concerns that they won’t during the Channel.  They are both fun people and will be doing everything they can to make me laugh and enjoy the swim as much as one can!

What do you eat?
During my Windermere swim I fed on the 1st hour, 2nd hour and then every half hour after then. My feeds consisted of a carb powder called CNP mixed with, fruit sugar, squash and warm water. With each of these I then have a little treat such as, a jelly baby, peach slice, fruit baby food, piece of chocolate or banana. My crew keep track of everything I eat and every now and then to give my stomach a rest from the CNP a cup of black tea and fruit sugar. The crew fed me from a cup attached to a reel which was lowered down from the boat and meant that I could just drop it afterwards without having to try to reach the cup back up to the crew.  This is how I plan to feed during the Channel too and is very similar to many Channel swimmers.

How much does it cost?
For the actual swim which includes the boat, fees for the swim and membership of the CS&PF is about £3,000.  However this doesn’t include all the costs spent on training such as trips down to Dover most weekends, food for swimmer and crew etc.  I have paid for everything myself so that the charity gets all the money that I raise.

How long will it take?
The fastest Channel swim is 6hrs 55 by Trent Grimsby and the slowest 28 hours 44 minutes by Jackie Cobell however the average is about 14 hours but it is all so dependent on the tide that day and the weather you are given.  We are always told never swim with a time in mind, just swim to each feed, one arm in front of the other until you run out of water.

What day do you go?
Each swimmer is given a week slot and then a position in that tide.  Mine is week 5th-11th September (my 38th Birthday week) and I am third position, therefore the third swimmer to go that week.  However, if the weather is bad and I don’t get to go that week then I join the bottom of the list for the following week and it keeps going on like that until I get to swim.  Last year for our two way relay we waited 6 weeks, for the one way relay we went on the last day of our slot – it is all weather dependant which makes it hard to plan for.  Fingers crossed for great weather the week of 5th-11th Sept.

Can you swim with someone else?
No, it is a solo swim.  However, during solo swims a swimmer may be accompanied in the water by 1 person only & not accompanied at all until after the first 3 hours. This can be for a maximum of 1 hour & cannot be repeated until at least 2 hours have elapsed after the finish of the accompaniment.  The accompanying swimmer may swim alongside, but not in front, of the solo aspirant & must not impede the solo swimmer. I don’t intend for anyone to get in with me through my swim, however I am hoping one of the team will be able to swim the finally hundred metres with me so I have someone to celebrate with me on the beach – and of course take that final photo!

Do you do it in one go or do you stop? Can you get on the boat? 
The swim is a continuous swim and the swimmer is not allowed to touch the boat or any other persons during the swim.  I will stop to feed but I will be treading water through the feed.

How do you go to the toilet?
You just go!

Do you get cramp?
So far I haven’t suffered from cramp in any of my swims or training swims but it is vital that I get my nutrition right to ensure it doesn’t happen in my swim.  In other sports people take on electrolytes to help prevent things such as cramps, in sea swimming you take on plenty of salts from the sea water so there is no need to take additional salts through electrolytes so I need to ensure that I take on plenty of other fluids and not to get dehydrated.  However, I do know others that have suffered from cramps in the calves whilst swimming so it can happen.

Does your mouth/lips swell from the sea salt?
The salt can swell your lips and tongue and can be difficult to talk and you may end up slurring.  I personally also find that for few days after long sea swims it is difficult to taste anything.  To try to help with this we may use diluted mouth wash and my favourite is fruit pastilles to try and help get some taste buds back.

What happens if you get stung by a jellyfish?
This year there have been masses of jellyfish, there isn’t much you can do bar swim through them and deal with the stings which feel like nettle stings.  During your feeds you may ask your crew to give you some pain killers or anti-histamines.

Where do you land?
The shortest distance across the Channel is from Dover to Cap Gris Nez which is where the pilot will try to guide me to.  However depending on how fast a swimmer you are and the tides on that day you may land anywhere either side of it which will make the swim longer. If you land in front of the restaurant in Cap Gris Nez it has been known for them to come down with a glass of Champagne for you – here is hoping!

Will you be staying in France?
The rules state that you can only be on land for ten minutes, so unless you choose to then go by boat to Calais and through passport control then a swim back to the boat and the 3 hour boat journey back to Dover it is.

Where do you keep your passport?
It stays on the boat along with everyone who is on the boats passports.  The French authorities do board the boats from time to time to check everyone’s passports and the pilots won’t leave Dover till they have seen everyone’s passports.

What do you think about when you are swimming for all that time? Do you not get bored?
I tend to watch my stroke, I watch my arms and hands through the water every stroke and tend to feel like a metronome as I get into a rhythm. When I feel bits hurting I have conversations with myself and tell the pains to go away and after a while they generally do.  The power of the mind is a wonderful thing!  I also remind myself that I can do it and there is no reason for me to stop and that really I am in the Caribbean in lovely warm water and not cold at all! Other people I know like to do little challenges such as their top ten favourite songs, books, places etc or complex maths sums… a bit too challenging for me!  I do from time to time remember the reason why I am doing the swim – in memory of my wonderful friend who lost her battle with Cancer two years ago.  When I am in pain or suffering I think about everything she went through over the 7 year period and remind myself that it really isn’t that bad in comparison and just keep swimming… just keeping swimming is the only thing that is going to get me to French shores.

How much cold water preparation/training have you done?
This is my third summer of doing cold water swimming in preparation for this swim.  I start in May in the sea, Lido or Lake when the water has been about 8-10 degrees and started with 30 minute swims to now where the water is about 16 degrees and swim about 6 hours at the weekend but recently did a 12.5 hour swim in 16 degrees in a lake.  I haven’t swam through the winter nor have I had cold showers as for me I don’t feel I need to but I know others that have.  I have also put on almost two stone to help combat the cold.

What do you believe makes the best Channel training coach?
I personally haven’t had one.  I used to train with a masters group and last year used a coach who used to write my sessions for me but this year I chose to go it alone.  In the winter I trained with friends and on my own and then over the summer as well as training on my own I also head down to Dover where Freda (whose daughter Alison, is the Queen of the Channel having crossed it 43 times – including doing it there, back and there again!!)tells us how long to swim for and we just get in and swim.  There is a huge amount of experience down on the beach and everyone is so supportive in giving you advice that I haven’t felt like I needed one. I have just taken on-board all the things those with Channel experience have told me and used the information and made it work for me.  However, I have ensured that I have a good support team around me to try to prevent injury.  I have a massage fortnightly and am very lucky to be sponsored by Natural Health Chiropractic  and Franco the Osteo and Abby the Chiro have kept my body in check on a weekly basis.  Which has massively helped and to which I am really thankful.

So I think that cover it all – any other questions post them in the comments and I will add them to list.  Just six weeks to go!

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The Never Ending Lake

On Monday I completed my longest ever swim to date, in fact more than double the time that I had swam before.  It was in Windermere where I swam to one end and then back again.  For those of you that don’t know, Windermere is England’s largest lake, and when measured from Ambleside to Lakeside is 10.5 miles long.  Meaning swimming both ways I covered 21 miles in a time of 12 hours 23 minutes.

I hadn’t been sure if after all the organising whether I would be able to swim as I had been suffering from an awful cold and cough for the last two weeks however I decided to go and see how I felt and could always stop part way through if I wasn’t feeling well.

I had travelled up on Sunday with Abby & Brian (my crew for both this swim and my Channel swim coming up) and Kate who was going to swim one way with me from Ambleside to Lakeside.  Once we had arrived we headed over to Ambleside to check out where the start would be and the public pier and then over to Bowness to talk to the boat hire people about the logistics for the next day as Brian was going to be Captaining the boat for the swim.  A lovely evening meal in an Italian and and then off to bed as we had an early start ahead of us the next morning.

Break of Dawn on Windermere

Break of Dawn on Windermere

Our alarms went off at 3.30am and having had a awful night’s sleep I felt like I hadn’t slept and the last thing I felt like doing was jumping in cold water and swimming for 12 plus hours but when we got down to the lake it looked stunning which helped motivate me to get me in the water.

With Brian at the helm we motored in our little electric boat from Bowness over to Ambleside which took about an hour, we were so lucky it was such a stunning start to the morning.  We had chosen to start early (and on a Monday) as we wanted the first part of the swim to be nice and quiet on the lake – not many crazy people like us on the lake at 4.45 in the morning.

And at 5.45am we started in ideal conditions with the water temperature at 16.6 degrees.

We had decided not to feed for the first hour and then again till the second hour and then half hourly after that, the sun had come out and the water was so flat and calm .  We were doing really well and making good progress , that was until we got to the other side of Bowness and the clouds came in and the wind picked up.  The next 3 hours was really tough work swimming against the wind and the on coming chop.  We arrived in Lakeside 6 hours 20 minutes after leaving Ambleside, it was slower than we had hoped but given the conditions it was good to get to the end.  Just before we had arrived at the turning buoy where Kate was going to finish and my half way mark Abby called me over to the boat to get me to feed on a warm drink as my shoulders and top of my back at turned blue/purple from the cold.  This can be the start of hypothermia so the team kept an eye on me and further signs as the colour came and went in my shoulders from then on till the finish of my swim.  I had goosebumps throughout the swim but was never really shivering.

Kate got back into the boat, a great swim from her and lovely to have the company but now this was me alone swimming back the way we had come.

The first couple of hours felt okay and with the wind now behind me and dropping a bit it felt a bit easier but then came the torrential rain and the crew had to batten down the hatches which made it a bit harder as I could only see whomever was sat in the driving seat apart from at feeds and not what else was going on in the boat.

Abby was feeding me every half hour so I was just swimming to the next feed, I had previously only swam up to 6 hours before so this was new territory for me and I wasn’t sure how my body would cope especially given that I had been poorly the following few weeks and not really been able to swim.  I was also not sure how I would deal with it mentally.  They often say long endurance swims are 80% mental 20% physical and at times during this swim I completely agree.  There were times I told myself I could do it and then another part of myself would say ‘well you’ve done 10 hours now, that’s great, you could just get out, you’ve done more than you have before’.  And then the other part of me would chip in ‘you’ve got less than 3 hours left to go now, if you were told you had a three hour swim on Dover beach you would think it was a short one, so just put your head down and carry on’.  Abby showed me messages of support from friends from time to time which really helped me and spurred me on – so thank you every one for your messages, you have no idea how much it pushed me on.

As the mist came down on the last an hour and a half in this large lake that I had been swimming in for a very long time it just never seemed to come to an end, every time I looked up it never came closer.  I had what was to be my last feed and told the team I didn’t want another one, I just wanted to get to the end and I put my head down and swam.  Abby said to me later that she saw me say to myself ‘come on Lisa, you can do this now’.  12 hours and 23 minutes after leaving Ambleside I returned to the same place I left.  I crawled out on all fours as I wasn’t sure if I would be able to walk and Brian came down and helped me walk back to the boat.  As I walked to the boat I broke down, it had been tough and I had finally done it.

During my swim I tried to adhere to all the Channel swimming rules as much as possible (the only one I didn’t was having Kate swim next to me for the first half) as I wanted to mimic the Channel swim as much as possible for both myself and the crew so we could learn what worked and what didn’t.  I imagined different scenarios in my head of how I would feel in certain points in my Channel swim but I can now have the confidence that can swim the distance and I can overcome the mental challenges.  I just need to keep reminding myself that!

I learnt a lot during this swim but most importantly how vital my crew are.  Abby kept me smiling throughout, she was always there smiling at me and always had my feeds on time which is so important when you are just swimming to the next feed.  Despite being stuck on a small boat in the cold and the rain she was so cheerful and excited throughout and did everything right, I am so pleased she is going to be on my boat for the Channel.  Next was Brian, he kept the boat on track and watched me every single stroke, it is so good to know that although you are in the water on your own that you have someone there watching over you, you don’t feel so alone – again another superstar who is going to be watching and supporting me every step of the way on my swim to France.  And last but not least, Kate, she will tell you she played no part in my success but first having swam 6 hours 20 minutes is an awesome challenge in itself but also having someone by my side to swim with for that time made it so much more do-able to achieve the whole bigger challenge.

Thank you to each of you that helped get me through – Firstly Abby, Brian, Kate but also all of you that sent me such wonderful messages and then all those that have so far donated towards my challenges and the Royal Marsden.  It is the reason I do these crazy things!

Night Windermere

Night Windermere

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How things change!

As I drove back from Dover this Saturday and the sun came out I drove past lots of people basking the in the sun, with BBQ smells filtering into the car & observing pub gardens overspilling.  I got home slumped on the sofa exhausted from battling in the cold sea against the wind and the waves and managed to get myself some banana milkshake and a piece of toast before crawling into bed for an hour kip.

As I crawled out of my bed and felt bad that I had missed the beautiful sunny afternoon it got me thinking about the sacrifices I was making this year.  Usually I would have been the first person in the beer garden or hosting a BBQ, but for the rest of my summer you will find me in the sea plodding up and down trying to chase my dream of becoming a Channel swimmer.

It has been really hard to let people down and say no to so many things already, friends Hen doo in Ibiza, a friends wedding the same week as my Channel slot and I am sure there will be many more as the summer goes on.  When people ask if I am free at the weekend’s now generally the answer is no – it really is tricky trying to balance everything- friends, work, boyfriend and training but I am determined to do it but fear not all there will be one hell of a party at the end of it!

When you choose to undertake a massive challenge you know that it comes with huge sacrifices but it doesn’t mean you find it easy and I am sure that it can be easy to say ‘oh okay then, just this once’ but I know that is a slippery slope to go down so till mid September if I say ‘I’m afraid I can’t join you’ then please understand that it isn’t because I don’t want to – there is probably nothing more than I would love than to be able to say ‘Yes, Yes’ but it is only 16 more weekends of my life so ‘No’ it is till then.

This is my quest to become ‘A Channel Swimmer, stick pebbles down my costume and be in the club’ If you haven’t watched this cartoon before please do – it is very funny but so true!

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If it wasn’t hard everybody would do it. The Hard… is what makes it great!

Over the last few weeks after doing limited training due to my back injury I pushed my body hard at two long distance training camps.

Counting the 100 x 100m

Counting the 100 x 100m

First was Camp Eton organised by Nick & Sakura Adams at Eton College over the Easter weekend. Nick is the President of the Channel Swimming & Pilot Federation and swam, I believe, the Channel 10 times plus many other big swims around the world. It involved two 12-13 hour days over which I swam about 21 km including 100 x 100m.  It had been a long time since I had trained that much and it was great to be able to complete it all despite the back aching a bit.

When were weren’t swimming the time was packed with seminars about important aspects of Channel swimming such as feeding, hypothermia, mental preparation, crew & ‘The Four P’s’.

The Four P’s are usually the questions that people want to ask about but perhaps don’t want to so it was a good chance to understand what to do if any of them happen/don’t happen and what you & your crew need to do – they included ‘puking’ ‘peeing’ ‘pooing’ and for us women ‘periods’.  Certainly made me think about things I hadn’t before.

There was also a wealth of experienced swimmers there who had completed many of the worlds iconic marathon swims including Wendy Trehiou who has completed a solo two-way crossing of the English Channel.  It was great to hear their stories and advice on my own swims this summer.  I came away from the weekend feeling like I had a lot more knowledge in my bonnet and more confident about my swimming despite my back which was great news.

The following Friday I flew out to Mallorca with friends to the SwimTrek Long distance training.  I wasn’t sure how much of the training I would do whilst I was there and was really pleased when I was able to do it all.  The water temperature was about 14-15 degrees and we swam 16 hours over 4 days.  Day 1: 1 hour and then 2 hour, Day 2: 3 hour and then 2 hour, Day 3: 6 hour, Day 4: 2 hours.

During the 6 hour (this was my second ever 6 hour swim) I swam with Kate & Olga, it makes such a big difference and made the time go quickly.  Kate & Olga both swam in wetsuits and as I swam between them I kept thinking they were little radiators next to me keeping me warm – it didn’t work but always good to ‘think’ warm!

During the swims we ‘fed’ every 30 minutes – the feed was made up of CNP powder in some warm water with either a jelly baby, piece of chocolate or bit of banana. This was good practice for both my Windermere and Channel swim as this is what I will be feeding on throughout on similar timings.

Throughout the training camp we had some sessions on channel swimming including one by Cliff Golding.  Cliff had many attempts of swimming the Channel before he finally succeeded and the perfect person to tell the story as to how to break down those ‘demons’ and psychological barriers that you come face to face with during a challenge such as the English Channel.

For the first time since I decided to sign up for the Channel whilst I was in Mallorca I started having doubt in my ability to succeed in swimming the Channel.  I am not sure if I was overwhelmed by all the information I had received over the last few weeks about the Channel and the realisation that it isn’t two years away but less than 5 months or something else but I did doubt myself and had a few tears.  However, since I have been back I have spoken to some friends who have swam the Channel and am back on track to believing in myself.  I am sure that it will happen again and probably during my swim as well – I just need to learn how to deal with it and what to do with those thoughts when they come into my head.

Scary things in the water in Mallorca

Scary things in the water in Mallorca

I am surrounded by people who do amazing things some of which have swam the Channel and being around them quite often normalised the swim I am going to undertake but it isn’t normal and it is a little bit crazy but I am enjoying the process and the up’s and down’s that come with it – it is certainly making me a stronger and a better person because of the journey.  Thanks to everyone who has been part of my journey so far and those who will be in the coming months.

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2 Saturday’s, 9 Pools & 9km

The last two Saturday’s I had decided to try and push myself and my back to see how it would take some further distance than the 2.5km I have been doing.  However, to try and make it fun and break it up a bit and also to try and catch up a bit with the ‘Winter Pool Challenge’ it was decided to try a bit of a Pool Crawl.

Lots of Towels & Cozzies

Lots of Towels & Cozzies

Last Saturday saw Brian, Kerry & I hit Kings Hall, London Fields, York Hall & Mile End – we did 1km in each so a total of 4km and then this weekend Kerry & I headed off to swim at Cally Pool, Pancras Square, Marshall Street & Porchester (both the 30m and the 25m pools) equalling a total of 5km.

Organising the ‘pool crawls’ has been quite a feat, last Saturday we travelled between by car but this was all on the tube.  The main thing has been trying to find times where there is some sort of lane swimming.  Pools generally only have lane swimming very early or very late but on the whole we were lucky enough to have a lane to swim in without too many lane drama’s.  Although funnily at Cally Pool Kerry and I had to swim in a large lane set aside as a club was training in the other 5 and whilst we swam our 1km we had to dodge two children having a lesson, 5 people doing their life saving course and picking the dummy off the bottom of the pool and a few random’s who I don’t think I can describe what they were doing as swimming.

As Kerry & I approached Porchester pool we saw this truck which had both a French & GB flag and a woman with a bottle of something – we saw this as a good omen for our swim.

GB to France

GB to France

Every pool we have visited so far has its own character, some of them have featured marble floors, other with purple glitter panels to look at when you swim to some of the not so glamorous but it has been amazing to find pools that have been there for years some of which I have walked close by many times but never knew they were there including pools just behind Carnaby Street and St Pancras Station.  It is also amazing how many pools have two pools within them of differing sizes to cater for people of all ages. Some of the pools from the outside have looked not very inviting but once in have been little pieces of heaven. We really are very lucky in London to have such choice from indoor pools to outdoor heated and non heated lidos to lakes and ponds.

Next Saturday I am off to Guildford Lido to see how my back will cope with the colder water.  The water is currently only heated to 10 degrees (most indoor pools are heated to 28-32 degrees) so no long distances to be swam there just yet but a good chance to start acclimatising to the cold water ready for Dover down in May.

If you are keen to find out more about the pools we visited you can do so on a recent guest blog I wrote for Team Mermaids.  You can find it here

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Award Winning Weekend

Last weekend I headed down to Dover with many other Channel Swimmers (both relay and solo) for the Channel Swimming & Pilot Federations annual dinner.

My friend Vicky, who was the fastest British swimmer to swim the English Channel last year, and I travelled down to Dover On Saturday via Charlton Lido.  It is such a gem of a pool and I have been a few times so far this year.  It is a 50m outdoor heated pool and is so nice to feel the freshness of the cold on your arms and head as you are warmed by the tempreture of the pool which is heated to 25 degrees.  Once the open water season opens in May I won’t have the luxuries of swimming outside in warm water so I am enjoying it whilst I can and it certainly beats swimming in indoor pools.

Charlton Lido

Charlton Lido

The CS&PF dinner was such a lovely night, catching up with other Channel swimming friends that I have met over the years, many of which had their solo swims in 2014.  I also was lucky enough to meet some amazing people from the open water swimming world, some of which have swam some incredible swims.  It truly is a wonderful community with people always offering support and advice.

The Awards

The Awards

During the dinner the awards were announced and some truly fantastic people won, people that I will be inspired by as I swim my solo this year.  It was a great surprise then when COSMIC Rays won an award.  We won the ‘Most meritorious Special Category Relay’ award, it was such a wonderful surprise and after having the BBC document our swim this was just another lovely way for us to remember and reminisce about our successful two way relay over the summer.  Unfortunately Parviz should have been there with us but due to a family illness last minute he was unable to join us – we will ensure that we all meet up to celebrate soon.

On the night a lovely video was shown (Thanks Emma for putting it together) which captured most of the swims from the summer, worth a watch if you have some time and will give you an idea of what a Channel swim entails/means to those that do it. Click here to watch it.

It was such a nice night that we decided to finish the night at the White Horse, for Channel swimmers the White Horse is somewhere where they can add their piece of history to the walls.  All over the walls Channel swimmers for years have added their scribble to ensure everyone knows their story.  COSMIC Rays hadn’t had a chance to add our piece of history yet so at 1am in the morning last weekend we finally added our names.  We also found our scribble from 2013 when we swam our one way relay as the’Flamingo’s’.

The next day we all met on the beach at 10am and most of the swimmers doused their hangovers with a 6 degree swim in Dover harbour.  I gave it a miss but it bought back many memories and will over the summer I am sure build many more.  It is now just 2 months left till I start heading down there most weekends and the training really begins for my massive challenge of 2015.

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The 6 month count down has begun

Today marks me being exactly 37 and a half but more importantly it marks 6 months until my Channel swim slot opens. The journey started on the 9th July 2013 before I had even done my first relay swim when I had a moment of madness and emailed my pilot Eddie to enquire about a solo Channel spot – the only space he had available was slot 3 during the week 5th – 11th September 2015. It seemed such a long time away at the time and since then I have done a 6 person one way relay and a 4 person 2 way relay across the Channel but now it is getting increasingly more real that I will be doing it alone.

It gets more and more real in my head everyday as I seem to think about it at least about ten times a day – I have imagined myself landing in France, jumping in the water swimming to the beach getting ready to go, swimming at night & getting acquainted with a jelly fish or two. I also think about my back and how it is hindering my training but perhaps is in fact helping me to take it easy and therefore not burn out before September. I have had people tell me that I am not training enough and other people telling me I am doing fine and just to worry about getting my back sorted and then putting in the hours from May onwards when the open water season opens. Everyone has an opinion about what is and isn’t right but the main thing is that I am happy in my head with what I am doing. I haven’t once imagined myself failing and that to me is half the battle – so many challenges are won and lost in your head and the Channel is no different.

So in light of that some interesting facts that will be true when I successfully land in France (as long as no one gets there before me). Thanks to Kerry (who is in slot 2 with the same pilot as me in the same week) for trawling the Channel swimmers data and coming up with these fun facts.

• I will be one of less than 500 women to have swam the Channel
• I will be the first female ‘Williams’ to have swam the Channel (there have been 3 men)
• I will be the 5th Lisa to have swam the Channel

The winter challenge is still going strong and as I slowly try to catch up with everyone it is has been a great way of keeping the swimming interesting – for those that don’t know, a friend Manda came up with a great idea for us to swim in as many of London’s pools as possible over the winter. Having had 4 months out I am some way back but enjoying swimming in new pools. You can find out more about it here – Winter Challenge

So as the weather starts to warm up and the open water season looms what I have I got in store. Over Easter weekend I will be heading to Eton for a 2 day swim training weekend. We will be swimming 3-4 hours each day but also importantly for me the schedule includes sessions on Channel swimming such as ‘Feeding & Hydration’, ‘Hypothermia & Fatigue’, ‘Mental Preparation’, ‘Support Crew’ etc. Then just a week later I will be heading over to Mallorca for a week for much of the same – so lots of training and info gathering coming up, watch out for those blogs in March & April.

I have also got two of my crew sorted. These are the team who will be supporting me from the boat through my whole swim and whose responsibility it will be to ensure I am fed according to what we had agreed and knowing when to change it as well as generally keeping an eye on me and making sure that I am okay and have what I need when I need it. It is such a huge responsibility and I am so grateful for them for offering to be part of my journey and taking the time to do so, it is really important to get the right people and I am 100% certain that they are. You will over time find out more about them, however, in the meantime they are Brian and Abby.

Brian I have known for many years and travelled across the UK to swim in different swims with, he has also himself done two relay’s across the Channel so understands some of the challenges the swim faces.  Brian is also joining me in Mallorca so will be fully gemmed up on Channel info by the end of the week. Abby sponsored me for my one way relay back in 2013 by looking after me and my spine through lots of chiropractic appointments, she is also a musician so I am sure she will be able to sing along to me and keep me and everyone on the boat jolly and tuneful and then help sort out my back once I am back in the boat at the end! They are both joining me in my challenge across Windermere in July so we can practice things such as my feeds and work out what works and doesn’t.

Exciting times ahead over the next 6 months.

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2015 – What will it bring?

So it is 2015 and as I thought about what resolutions I might make I decided that perhaps given the year that lays ahead I should just focus on that instead of trying to give something up.

Over the last 3 months it has been a bit of an anti climax after my team and I successfully completed our two way relay across the English Channel.  A viral infection I had in September seemed to have found its way into my lower back and caused me to have muscle problems around the sacroiliac joint and meant that I haven’t swam for this period of time.  Just before Christmas the physio allowed me to do ‘small swims’ although he quickly clarified that he didn’t mean 2-3km but more 500m.

Since then I have done a few swims and although the thought of only doing 500m-1,000m is not very motivating it has been great to be able to get back in the water after so long, especially given what the year has ahead for me.

So what has 2015 got in store for me?  I have committed to three big swims in the coming summer (instead of New Years resolutions);

  1. Monday 6th July – Two way Windermere solo (this is a 21 mile swim from one end of Windermere to the other and back again)
  2. Sunday 26th July – Two person relay across Lake Zurich with my friend Paul (26km swim – an hour in and an hour out rotating until we land in Zurich)
  3. 5-11th September – English Channel solo (21 miles from Dover to Cap Gris Nez)

So currently I have a long way to go from swimming 1km to swimming 21 miles but there is plenty of time for training but what a year I have ahead!



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Want to see what it is like to swim across the Channel?

You may remember as part of the team we had a film crew with us who were there to film us as part of a documentary about people who live, work & play on the Channel.  Well it was finally broadcast a few weeks ago.  The documentary was called ‘Channel Patrol’ and we featured on the the third episode.

You can watch the episode here – Channel Patrol Episode Three

I also found myself in a copy of Whats On TV which was amusing.  A little stardom for the COSMIC Rays.  I hope you enjoy the programme and that it helps to give you a little insight to swimming across the English Channel.

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