Swimmers view

Swimmers view
Sea Leopard - swimmers eye view

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Offshore swimming, 25th Feb, 2012

Some people do not see the value of outdoor winter training, argueing that their time is better spent indoors doing distance and then acclimatising to the sea or lakes around May. For those of us that enjoy the full variations of the UK weather, we swim until the water is too solid to break. By May we have endured temperatures in the single digits so we can get on with our distances without losing any time. My observation from eleven consecutive winters is that the extra thirty two weeks of outdoor training (from Last week of September to first week of May) gives me between four and six weeks head start in getting ready for an adventure. Many people will calculate that effort to be not worth the reward - for me it's all part of a broader lifestyle choice of swimming so it's worthwhile and through the internet I'm finding that others are similarly motivated.

This winter has been particularly good for outdoor training - we have had low temperatures but only a short time of ice, accordingly we've been able to get a lot more done. These winter boat trips are valuable for those with early season bookings - mid Channel late June can be as cool as nine degrees and as warm as fourteen. Getting used to lower temperatures, wave action and even the taste of the water early on takes away much of the mystery - and fear - for swimmers new to this delightful stretch of water.

We met at Dover Marina, not a tickle of breeze: a bit overcast. Introductions to those who hadn't previously met: eight of us swimming today off the coast with Stu Gleeson & the Sea Leopard.

Dan Earthquake, Jim Malone, Hanno Nickau, Anji Page, Ali Hornby, Sue Brooks, Victoria Hill & Nicky Graham
New to sea swimming, Jim Malone entered the water first, 7 degrees the reported sea temperature. Jim got into a comfortable stroke early on making a credible 25 minutes, the swimming in more severe temperatures inland showing its worth.
Jim Malone getting in for his first ever swim off a boat.

Jim Malone swimming off coast of Samphire Ho/The Warren

"Can't get the gloves off Jim? - I'll surgically remove them if you like."
Next in was Nicky Graham, very fast stroke - hard to get a good photo of her. 20 minutes no wetsuit made for another good effort.

Nicky Graham with the Warren in the background.

Curious Seal
A seal watched us from a reasonable distance, I've had to blow the photo up - I guess he/she was curious. Living on the beach near Samphire Ho, the local seals see plenty of Channel Swimmers - but not in February. Sue Brookes jumped overboard as much to dare sister Ali as anything else, swimming strongly for 25minutes - again impressive for a first session in the Channel in February.
No Fear for Sue Brookes.

Anji Page followed after, 20 minutes easily accomplished.

Anji Page

Anji Page swimming - swimming off shore with the cliffs of the Warren behind

Ali Hornby couldn't be cajoled into jumping in despite the taunts from Sue & I. Goggles were her enemy today - spares as it turned out due to lending usual ones that had not been returned. We all agreed that lending best goggles is beyond reasonable generosity.

Ali Hornby - Folkestone is in the far distance.
Victoria Hill lowered herself in next, noticeably faster than last time - training with Duncan Goodhew (see http://twitpic.com/8nk6yl ) obviously helped on Thursday with a good thirty minute effort.

Victoria Hill with the Warren in the background
Hanno Nickau programmes his cybernetic interface whilst Jim looks on...

Unplugging before the swim...

...six million euro man Hanno Nickau dives into the Channel
Hanno Nickau - half man, half cyborg - unplugged himself from his computerised life suppport & dived overboard. Tide in full flood meant we had to change direction, we opted not to tell him so as to test whether he would follow the boat. He did & completed a full hour.
Warn the shipping - Dan Earthquake jumping into the Channel...
I jumped overboard armed with camera to get some swimmers eye photos of Sea Leopard. Then I got back on board so we could cruise back towards Shakespeare as the drift was taking us closer to Dover harbour than was desirable. I got back in for a short swim - lazy today. Without a hat the neuralgia was severe & it took me 62 breathes to feel comfortable, swimming with the tide almost to Admiralty Pier.
Self photo with Sea Leopard behind. Note the blue sky.

Dan Earthquake, off Shakespeare Beach, Dover: February 25th 2012

Stuart took us back to Dover, everyone had had a good time and were all hungry. Swimming costumes were exchanged, odd domestics were done at the hotel and we reconvened at the Chinese buffet & made plans for a night dip on the beach.

Lots of people avoid, fear or simply never get round to swimming at night. I've swam a few times in various lakes, rivers and canals at night and it is enjoyable, sometime magical if the sky is clear and the stars visible. Channel solo and relay swimmers may have to swim in the dark for some part of their trip; there are a lot of early morning starts. If the first experience of swimming at night is the swim to Shakespeare or Samphire Ho beach at 1am on the day of your attempt then you have only yourself to blame if it bothers you. Stu and I can help: A practice start; some swimming offshore away from the protection of the cliffs at different times of day; varied conditions; swimming across and against the tide - these are advisible before committing to a date and the expense of the whole adventure. It is always a shame to hear of those who set off unprepared and don't make it - I was one of them a few years ago, suffering dreadful seasickness. It's what started me hiring Stuarts boat - to try and overcome the sickness, which I eventually did. I enjoyed it and kept coming back.

I gave my friends a short safety briefing, always best to have some sort of plan especially for swimming at night.
Anji Page, Ali Hornby, Victoria Hill, Nicky Graham, Hanno Nickau, Sue Brookes & Jim Malone

At 8pm we were in, lights on our hats & costumes with the clear night sky showing the Moon, Venus & Jupiter (as identified by Hanno). It was fun, always a bit magical swimming in the dark. Follkestone Harbour Company have invested in some new lights in the Outer Harbour and I think they are excellent.
Ali Hornby, Jim Malone, Nicky Graham, Sue Brookes & Victoria Hill. Hanno Nickau & Anji Page out of shot.

Dan Earthquake & friends, Sunny Sands, February 25th 2012
Dried off we went to visit @Coastal_Man Mike Collins who is now on the last few weeks of his Winter Coastal Endurance challenge - 6 months living rough September 18th 2011 to March 23rd 2012. Due to the large number of us in comparison with his tent, we met in the truck drivers lounge of the harbour car park. He told my friends about the campaign to help ex servicemen readjust & survive life after the forces - already he has helped find many homes for veterans living rough & has raised lots of money to help provide services for them.

@Coastal_Man Mike Collins briefs the Coldwater Culturists.
Mike is a real life superhero, you only meet a few in a lifetime & I'm proud to work alongside him on Folkestone Rescue. Please visit his websites & see if you could help him - a few kind words at least will make his time left pass quicker. Either click on his picture in the side bar or on the Winter Coastal Endurance button above.

With sunshine & just a few clouds we met on Sunday at 10am on Sunny Sands, eight Coldwater Culturists enthusiastic for another dose of sea medicine. I led the charge & set off, wearing the swimming cap today which made all the difference, less than twenty breaths to feel comfortable & no neuralgia. A few culturists later said they felt the temperature to be cooler than yesterday, but I felt more capable in it so can't say.
Dan Earthquake, Lex, Victoria Hill, Stuart Gleeson, Sue Brookes, Anji Page, Ali Hornby, Hanno Nickau, Nicky Graham, @Coastal_Man Mick Collins & Jim Malone.
The sea was like glass, barely a ripple. Nicky Graham & Hanno Nickau sped past me as did Jim Malone, it being an hour or so past low water we could swim hard without much concern as the tide pushed us too shallow many times.

Sue Brookes exited first, telling Tamsin & Stu that she "was taking one for the team," to take the pressure off anyone not wanting to get out first, a kindly action.

I saw Ali Hornby swimming well & said hello to Anji Page at one point who was smiling, red neck & white faced. "I'll put my face in in a minute" she said.

Victoria Hill swam with me at one point, hard to keep with her - the volume she swims & the masters session certainly improving her speed.
One by one the others exited, I had no idea of time or distance having deliberately not counted loops with no watch either. I suddenly noticed it was just Jim, Hanno & me left, then Jim got out. Hanno is tough, trying to outlast him in his wetsuit is a tall order but worth a go. We called a truce eventually, I had a little bit left, can't say how he was but he recovered quicker than I did. It turned out we did 1hr 10mins. Another one of my best efforts, I will at some point compare it with others - time, approx distance, temp etc.
Several layers, 2 hot chocolates & a dinner later I resumed normal operations, not too hungry surprisingly & very tired. Prolonged exercise in cold water is great for my muscles, the after glow is well worth the initial punishment.
After lunch we went our separate ways, most of us had to get home, but Hanno & Nicky managed another swim to finish the weekend off. It was non wetsuit (can't blame them for not wanting to put on a wet wetsuit, after all) - Nicky did eleven minutes whilst Hanno did thirty covering about a mile.

An excellent weekend, great company with thanks to Tamsin, Stuart Gleeson & @Coastal_Man Mick Collins who kept us safe on the beach today. Good to have a Doctor, Channel Pilot & Superhero on hand just in case.

Thanks to Victoria Hill for additional photos.

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