After a big summer, Now for a big Winter – Except not in the water.
Sitting at home – well, home for now – thinking about the future and my life moving on, and reminiscing over an amazing year. But we now need to look forward and onto another chapter. Something I have found myself hankering over for a long time now is a way to fulfill my desire to help others realize their dreams. It has now been 10 years since I haphazardly fell into a niche that I fell in love with and the journey has been truly amazing. If I can help and inspire a few out there to embark on their own journey, and achieve their dreams, I will consider my life a success but until that happens, the journey continues and it is a wild and wonderful ride. Join me for your wild ride.
This year started with an opportunity to become an open water swimming coach, and as things turned out, the STA in association with Keri-Anne Payne afforded me the opportunity to realize that dream of training to become one. I decided to use my time this summer to build up my credibility as a swimmer in the eyes of my peers by tackling a wide range of distances, with the aim of trying to consistently finish in the top three of my category – so inevitably it has been a big year of Open water swimming.
The summer started with the Guildford 12 – 12 miles in 12 hours, 1 mile on the hour every hour. The challenges of this swim were very different from any other swim event with the main one being to swim a mile, then get out, eat, rest and change to be ready to do it all again at the top of the hour. As a challenge, it ranks as one of the top mental challenges out there. Swimming 12 miles on its own is a challenge for most, but to break it up 12 times adds a huge mental challenge.
Next it was onto the Jubilee river Challenge. A favourite of mine, I was aiming for a time under 2 hours 20 minutes. I missed my goal by 9 seconds but still managed to finish on the podium for the skins section. This is a great event in a fabulous part of the country on a stretch of river that has no boats to contend with, a great entry into the world of marathon swimming.
I was then lucky enough to take part in the very first Waveney river swim in Norfolk. This was organised by a friend of mine and is also another very good entry into the world of Open water. At a little over 11km it will definitely be a swim to look out for and put on your diary in the years to come. I surprised myself by taking home another third place in the skins section, given there was a very accomplished group of hardcore swimmers to battle against.
Now for anyone who is looking for the more ultra-distance type swims, the next on the list is an excellent swim to challenge your mind and ascertain where you are in the longer swims – the Humdinger. It’s a simple concept – a 1km loop in a lake and the challenge it to swim as many full laps in 6 hours. One of the tougher mental challenges of the year and a really good guide as to what your head does when faced with tedium on a huge level. I was surprised to be crowned the winner on the day; I was a bit slower that I expected but with 21 km covered in just over 5 hours 45 minutes not a bad effort. A must for anyone who wants to take on a huge mental challenge who may be looking to some of the bigger swims around the globe.
So after the rigors of a 6 hour lake swim, it was back to the rivers for a bit of fun – the Henley Club to Pub. A short dash from the rowing club up the river for about 600m then turn around to race the last 900m to the pub. I managed a 2nd place in the skins group to claim my medal that doubles a bottle opener and a beer. You have to love a sport where beer companies are the main sponsors! This is a fabulous swim for any swimmer who wants to try a river swim.
Then it was onto the bigger challenge in the same stretch of river, the Thames marathon swim. Another fabulous swim for anyone who wants a slightly longer swim than a marathon in a great part of the river and the feed stations are also great fun. This year I was put into the wrong wave so it was a swim of two halves, 1 entirely on my own and then the 2nd half passing swimmers who were at the back of the wave ahead of me. An interesting way to do a swim as it was very interesting to realize how my mind deals with the different challenges of swimming on my own opposed to having someone to chase. I was 3rd in the non-wet-suit category. For any who are interested in this, I see entries are open and if you want to swim without a wet-suit, these places sell out fast.
Finally, it was the culmination of a fairly big summer, the BLDSA Loch Lomond 21.6 mile overnight swim. This was a 10th anniversary present to myself of my very first Open water swim – The English Channel. Yes, a bit of a stupid present, but taken on because of other pressures (I have the option of playing all year round but it would be without a wife, aka my support crew, and living in a one bedroom flat!) and the lack of affordability the 70km Lac Leman swim. As far as challenges I have set for myself over the years, this was by far the hardest I have ever done. Living in the South, there was very little cold water to train in this summer, and boy did it show on the day. Going hypothermic after 3 hours was not part of the plan but due to an immense team who had to make plans on the move, they managed to turn what I thought was certain failure into a very successful swim. 11.5 hours in 13 – 14 degree water is not fun but my team not only managed to get me to the end but in first place on the day. This swim is for those who want a serious long distance challenge. It also taught me a very good lesson – no matter how prepared you think you may be, in this game, there is always stuff that you can overlook in preparing for an event like this.
All these swims were interspersed with my local 3 and 5km races where I managed to hold my own throughout, finishing in the top 3 in all of them – for longer write ups on most of the above swims they are covered in previous blogs.
So having had an amazing year, it is now time to look to the future and where this insane journey that began 10 years ago will now take me. There is so much to do and I have no clue where to start but this blog is part of it and will be used to focus my mind to prepare for what the future has to hold.
This winter will be spent coaching on weekends on a 1 to 1 or small groups on the weekend. So if there are any swimmers or triathlon groups who want some coaching over the winter in the West London area then please get in touch and I will be happy to give a good deal as this is a learning curve for me as it is for you and learning together is always more fun. Whilst my primary passion lies with helping others to embark on and achieve their goals, a very distant secondary passion is my business acumen so for that I will have to look at friends to help me but if there is one thing this journey has taught me so far, there is always stuff to learn.
My immediate and more pressing issue is to find myself a house to live in and with dreams in mind, I need a garden big enough to house an endless pool that I plan to equip ready for coaching with cameras for stroke analysis. It will also be useful for me to do my training.
The winter months will be spent putting together a business plan and doing the boring admin type stuff but hopefully by the time next summer arrives I will be at a point where I will do less swimming and more coaching. It is my time to give back to a community that has made such a difference in my life. I will by no means stop swimming but I think the ultra distance stuff will take a back seat for a year or two.
I look forward to seeing many of you over the winter months and follow your training. I see that the bigger swims for 2019 have now opened their bookings and if any of the swims above interest you, especially if you are wanting to compete non wetsuit, then you better get on and book as they sell out quick.
Good luck and enjoy your journey, I am sure enjoying mine, no matter how scary it i.