Tag Archives: Swimming

Henley Bridge to Bridge Marathon Swim

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I undertook my swimming challenge for this year and I still can’t quite believe I did it!

Last November I signed up for the Henley Bridge to Bridge Marathon swim. This a 14km swim from Henley to Marlow. My swim coach took part in 2015 and decided to get a team together and make it a social event for 2016. This meant we could train together and set up days when we would all do long distance swims so we wouldn’t be alone.

It was a long journey of training, but it actually kept me going through a time where I really could have given up swimming. I gave up pool swimming and solely focused on the open water swimming. It made huge difference to my mental strength to just focus on the one thing. Taking the pressure off made it much easier to enjoy the journey. I also changed waves so I could swim in the middle one, rather than the faster one – best decision ever!

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It was a very early start on Sunday 8th August – 4am to be exact! I drove to a friends house so we could then car share to Henley. We arrived at Henley at 6am and registered, waited for the group to arrive and got ready. This is where my nerves started to kick in and I focused on thinking about swimming at my own pace and making it to the end.

The sign in the photo below was from the very start and it was a great reminder of what the event was really about. We didn’t need to worry about time as it wasn’t a race. it was run as a sportive and all focused on getting everyone to the finish.

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The swim we split into 4 stages with 3 feed stops at the locks. The first stage was 4km, then 6km, then 1.5km, then 2.5km. Each feed stop had drinks and a variety of food. Hand sanitiser and extra vaseline was provided and you had a to walk at least 100m from the exit to the entry points.

The fist 4km was easy and the stop came up to surprise me. It was a very busy section as everyone in the one wave started together. It meant getting clear water was hard and I lost the two friends I was swimming with (we caught each other at the stop) so I just focused on swimming steady and trying to notice where we were on the river. I felt good for this section.

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The second section was the big one – 6km non-stop. it’s the furthest I’ve swam non-stop and I was surprised at how good I felt. The river changed as we swam along. We passed green fields and very big houses and felt like there was no one else around. When we got in at this section we were asked to keep to groups with a kayak, but there was a steady stream of people that they didn’t make anyone wait to start (they did in the slower wave I was told). There were a couple of points along this route where you could have taken the wrong split, but the kayakers with us were great and kept us on course the whole way. My friend got cramp around 4km in and we pauseda minute, but got going again and this is where my arms started to feel it. My friend picked up speed and I started to slow, but we worked well together and kept going.

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We stopped for a little longer at the next stop to make sure we had the energy and were hydrated. I topped up the vaseline around my neck and then was ready to go. We had to cross the river and walk across an island before getting back in at quite rocky point, but the flow of the weir was a nice push off to start the last 4 km. I found this stage the hardest as my arms ached and it was not quite long enough to find my rhythm after the 6km stretch. Mentally I had to work hard here and kept focused on even arm strokes and moving forward. My friend was able to lose me here, but we caught each other at the last stop.

The last stage was started by a jump into the river after a lock and staying out the way of the boats. It was around 11ish at the time and there were many more boats on the river than the rest of the time. Also we were heading into Marlow so the it was generally much busier on the towpath and the river itself. This stage was easier in a way because I knew it was the last, but it was also hard, because it was the last 2km of a 14km swim! I focused again on keeping steady and getting to the end. Energy wise I was, just tired, but my arms were struggling a lot by this point. I definitely could have done some extra conditioning training in the run up!

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I was so happy at the end. One because it was over and also because I had done it! I had swam the farthest I’ve ever swum (and probably ever will). It was also much sunnier than when we started and I knew I would be able to relax for a couple of hours waiting for the others to all finish before heading home.

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While we were waiting in the glorious sunshine we talked about what other swims we would like to do. Our coach will probably put another team to together for this event next year, but I don’t think I want to do it two years running. I would come and support though as I think it would be a lovely walk along the river to follow the swimmers. Instead we were thinking about Coniston in the Lake District. That could be a fun trip!

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I would recommend this swim to anyone doing long distance swimming. It was fun and really well organised. The feed stops were well stocked and the volunteers at each one were super helpful. The kayakers and start/finish crews were also amazing!

As long as you put in the training and do not underestimate the distance or the mental requirements of this type of swimming then you will absolutely fine. I stuck to feeding as I did in my training, which mainly involved gels and chocolate to take away the taste of the gels. That works for me, and take time to figure our what works for you. Some people didn’t feed, others used what was at the stops, and others used fruit and nut bars only. As everyone has a wear a tow float I found it easy to carry what I needed and it got lighter as you swam further.

Training wise I progressed from swimming around 3km a time to regularly swimming 5km, with longer swims of 7km to 11km every couple of weeks. I didn’t have a set plan in the end, but rather worked out what I needed to get to and fitted into my schedule as well as making sure I took part in the group long swims.

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Overall this was a fantastic day and a great achievement for me. If you fancy doing it go to the Henley Swim website and sign up for 2017! They also do shorter swims, including one that end at a pub with the medal being a bottle opener – open water swimming is for everyone!

Keep on Swimming

I think I’m finding my love of swimming again after a bit of a turbulent year of not really feeling it. It’s funny how something that you love can become a chore so easily and then the love disappears and you wonder why you ever liked it at all. It was a horrible time as I do love swimming and being in the water is one of my major childhood memories. What I realised is that it was no longer fun. I was no longer the kid just jumping in to swim around and enjoy the feel of the water. I had a time to swim or a distance to get to. It was all about the goals and not about the enjoyment. So no wonder I didn’t want to go every single time!

I took the pressure off myself and stopped swimming in the pool with my swimming club and began to focus on only lake swimming and that has made such a difference. I reconnected with lake friends from last year and have been having fun building up to longer swims, while having a good time doing it. I still have a goal, but it is one goal, rather than 10!

I like to have something to train for as it gives me focus, but I don’t like events really. So this year I am not using other events as training sessions. I’m still planning on swimming the Bridge to Bridge Thames Marathon in August, but have changed my wave to the middle one, rather than the faster one so I can swim with my friends and take the speed pressure off.

I’m making the most of my membership to one of my local lakes and going as often as I like. There are also three other local lakes that I can use if there is an event on at my lake on the day I want to go. I usually go twice a week with one session being a long swim building up to 10km and one being a coached session working on skills. I would like to get in another session to have some fun and swim too, but timing is harder with that one. I’ve also started back at the gym and doing a couple of classes with my friend Helly and we are having great fun and it doesn’t feel like working out at all. We have a gossip and catch up while moving around and laughing. This means I am working out 4/5 times a week without trying too hard, which is nice and it feels good mentally and physically.

Come rain or sunshine I’ll be at the lake this summer!

Socialising with Swimming Club

In this last week I’ve been to two swimming club social events (and only one swimming club swim session – is that balance?) and had so much fun. I’ve been inspired by all my friends from the club and am rethinking my thoughts from the other week. I think I just needed to be reminded that it’s okay to do what I need to do and take part with the club when it works for me. It’s funny how we sometimes let fear control us without realising. I was afraid what I want to do wouldn’t fit in, but it wasn’t that at all. I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in anymore and I have no idea where that came from!

Anyway back to the social events as they are obviously just as important as the swimming itself, when it comes to being part of a club 😉

The first event this week was a big birthday for our social secretary. She is normally the one organising all of us to do different things outside of the pool, so this time someone else organised a meal for her and it was great fun and a chance to catch up with lots of people.

The next was the annual awards night. This links back to the swimming races I took part in back in November as part of the Club Championships each year. I did less in 2015 then 2014, but still did quite well and beat a couple of my previous records. I also won the ladies achievement award and jointly won the Ladies Overall Champion. It’s really nice to remind yourself of the work you put into the year and see the results a while later. It’s also great to see the kids I coach going up to get their medals and trophies and having a great time being kids away from the pool.

The night started off quite civilised, but being at the only adult table with the masters swimmers soon turned into drinking way more than I should and included drinking shots of jagermeister! One friend was kind enough to take burst of photos showing how much we loved this experience.



This was a great night and an excellent reminder of why I love my swimming club. It doesn’t all have to be about swimming and it’s okay to take some time out from the club sessions to work on what I need to work on. Looking ahead I see myself not doing all the sessions each week, but making sure one or two form part of my training as I fit everything around work and lake swimming. I’m feeling really positive about my swimming year ahead.

Video analysis take two

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This week I went back to my swimming coach from last year – Jason at South West Swim – and had another video analysis session. I was mean to do this after my Solent swim, but had a niggle in my shoulder so put it off and the next thing I know it’s 4 months later!

This time round I got to swim in an endless pool – side note, I’ve added one of these to my wishlist for what I want in my next house! It was a weird experience, but I picked it up quite well and was able to swim properly straight away. It’s like a treadmill and to begin with I kept trying to keep up with the speed as Jason adjusted it to get me in the right position in the centre of the pool. Once I got used to it and stopped worrying about being sucked into the motor, I was able to swim normally and then work on some drills.

I swam for a warm up and then a couple of filmed sets so that we could see what I was swimming like after a good few months of limited swimming. After that we looked at the video and recorded our conversation so that I can watch it back afterwards to remind myself of what I need to do. We looked at the things I need to work on to be more efficient and the ways to correct some issues, again to make me more efficient.

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We also looked at comparisons to some elite swimmers. As you can see below the angle of my arm is a bit different from that of Rebecca Adlington’s – something to aim for!

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What I need to work on:

  • Catch at entry – I have the tendency to push forward, then down, rather than back straight away. I corrected this last year so with a bit of focus this should be a quick win.
  • Breathing rhythm and head position – I seem to lift my head, mainly on one side, so we looked at my head position as I look forward quite bit, so I need to look down more, which is another quick fix.
  • Angle of arm on the pull through – as you can see from the screen shots above I sweep my arm quite close under my body and I need to adjust this so that my fingers point down towards the bottom of the pool.

Once we had looked at the video and also drills, I got back in the pool to give the drills a go so I could take them away with me to practice, all from the Swim Smooth coaching technique. If you google these you will find out more about them I’m sure, but I’m not going to risk copyright by telling you how to do them (Sorry!).

  • Unco (or uncoordinated)
  • Skull 1
  • Skull 2
  • Skull 3
  • Doggy paddle

Those are the main things and I have a number of drills I am going to focus on over the next month, while I work on my fitness, to correct those. I also need to do a CSS (critical swim speed) test to see where I currently am to be able to compare to in a month’s time. So I’ll let you know how that goes!

We also had a quick chat about the Bridge to Bridge marathon in August as I am taking part in that as part of the South West Swim team and Jason is going to help us by outlining the distance we should be doing by when, which is what I really need.  I’m feeling good about swimming again, which is nice. I’m stepping away from the swimming club to do what I need to do to train and focus and that is good right now.

I also need to get back into the lake soon. It’s currently around 4 degrees Celsius and I missed the last Chilly Dippers swim as I overslept, so it will likely be some ice breaker swims for the start of the season at the end of this month. I feel cold already!

What happens when we want to change?

I’ve never been one to fear change, get a little nervous maybe, but not in way that has stopped me from going for what I want. I find though that I when I am worried about changing anything it is usually because I am thinking about what other people might think, which is really stupid!

I’ve felt my life changing for the last 6 months. I’ve been promoted to a new role and really want to make the most of this opportunity to prove to myself what I am capable of and continue to progress in the next couple of years. I’ve been being more sociable over the last year than I was when I created the life I currently hold myself to. I’m also not trying to do everything fitness wise anymore, but rather picking one goal and working towards it. I still want to lose weight, but I know it’s the food that makes the difference, not the exercise for me, so need time to cook more often.

So why am I finding it so hard to leave the clubs I joined?

I needed them at the time and have loved being a part of a running and swimming community, but now they just don’t fit with my life. I feel I am forced to go or if I chose not too I feel guilty for missing something I have paid for.

I want to switch things up and re-find my love of being active without the pressure to fit in. I keep meaning to go to the local circuits’ class, but can’t stand the thought of booking myself up every evening of the week. I want the flexibility to cook, read, blog, or even go swimming when I want to, not when the sessions are. I want to swim at the lake more and become part of that community more than I have been. I want to use my weekends to explore and see friends, not to catch up on sleep!

I want to change!

But I’m worried about what other people will think. That is what is currently holding me back. I’m known for trying. I’m known for giving everything a go. I’m known for doing all sorts of activity. So, stopping or reducing my involvement could be seen as going in the wrong direction. I think I partly believe this myself, which is why I keep thinking that is what other people will think.

For me this is changing for the better. It is freeing up my time to do things I want to do. It will reduce the stress I cause myself through the internal struggle I go through every time. I still have goals to lose weight and swim a bloody marathon! They don’t go away just because I stop being a member of a club. I’ve absolutely hated the club politics I’ve been on the edge of this last year too and when you are volunteering that is not how I want to spend my time or waste more time worrying about it.

When I look at it, it just seems silly to try to keep the life that no longer serves me. I want to adapt to a new life that serves what I need right now. I then want to change things up again when that is no longer what I want.

I want to keep changing and evolving as a person throughout my life!

That is what is important to me. Wow, I just feel like a weight has been lifted just from writing this post. It’s helped get my thoughts in order and work out what was really bothering me and what I really want to do.

So that’s it. I’m going to not sign up to running club for this year (I’ve been procrastinating on this since the start of the month) and I am going to at least reduce my swimming with the swimming club. I don’t think I can fully stop this one as I’m not a fan of public sessions, so will see how it goes.

That feels better.

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