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No Zurich Race, So What Is The Focus In 2017?

No Zurich Race, So What Is The Focus In 2017?

So despite being my 3rd entry into Zurich (which should increase my chances), yet again I am not going to be swimming one of the big European lakes in 2017. The confirmation came through late last year but with all the madness of Christmas and the start back at work (which has been insane) I have only had a chance to put finger to keyboard now, as I sit on a flight to the office in Chicago at 34,000ft….

So what am I going to do, what is planned…two races are certainly on the calender….

    The Bridge to Bridge, or the Thames marathon as it is now known -14km down the Thames from Henley to Marlow, a great iconic swim – this will be my 4th year

      Windermere One Way – over 10miles (17.5km from last year’s swim) the length of the longest lake in England. There are lots of ways to swim this lake, as a single swim, in the BLDSA swim, or with a group who don’t mind wetsuits….I am going with them and see if I can improve upon my 17/106 placing from last year 🙂

      So long distance speed is the name of the game this year….I know what the distance requires for training to complete…now I want to race. In addition I will probably do the Great East 5km as it is not too boring and a good pace swim, and I have said to Chris Read that if he can get me a super 6 slot (6 miles of swimming different distances in one day) I will race for him at the Surpentine Swim at the end of September….fingers crossed!

      So now this year is all about speed and pace whilst swimming so I need to start planning….periodisation and also nutrition….more to come on this…in the meantime – my view whilst I type this 🙂

      Zurich Swim entered….

      Zurich Swim entered….

      Eek…..not only have I already entered the Windermere swim for 2017 with the intention of going faster, but today I submitted my application to swim the Lake Zurich Race….


      This is a world apart from what I did this year, Windermere is a relatively short 10ish miles, albeit chilly……Zurich is 16.35miles/26km from Rapperswil to Zurich…that is a loooong way….over 1000 laps of a 25m pool…or in ultramarathon running terms about about 60miles…

      If I get in (and they prioritise people who have applied 2 or three times and not got in (I have applied twice before)) I think I will have to do some serious swim training….I blew up 8 miles into Windermere, this is twice as long….also if I do get in I will most certainly be raising money for a charity, I said I wouldn’t in 2017 but if I get a slot for an endurance event that will take 9-10hrs I might change my mind.

      Always like a challenge…now to wait until December to see if I get in…

      A Chicago commute…

      A Chicago commute…

      One of the good things about being based in the UK but working a lot in Chicago is that I have had the chance to drive around and explore the city a bit, I have also worked out a good commute 🙂 it takes the same amount of time as the Interstate but it is prettier and although not fast does mean that I am moving and not sitting in nose to tail traffic…

      As I was sitting in the car the other morning last week I thought I would take some pictures to show what some of the places I drive through are like…including some insane amounts of Halloween decoration…..sadly I missed taking a photo of the neo roman pad which had been swathed in fake cobwebs and 8ft spiders…I am not joking….enjoy….

      Rolling onto the runway
      Chasing the sunset across the pond
      Night overlooking the Tribune Tower
      Leaving the hotel garage and heading through the back streets of the city
      Michigan Avenue and the Water Tower
      The Hancock Tower
      Lake Shore Drive
      A bit Ferris Bueller….the ‘burbs
      The houses are not small….
      Northwestern Uni
      One of the Frat houses…they are HUGE….
      and another…
      the local Ba’hai Temple…the stonework detail is amazing…
      They take Halloween seriously here….
      The scary pumpkin man in a nursery garden…really….
      Another pumpkin collection (at a church???) along with a pumpkin person diarama around the tent….
      Cobweb wrapped hedges….
      and anything is better than the endless interstate…
      Heading back into the city along Lake Shore
      Getting nearer….
      The Drake and Hancock Tower
      Michigan Avenue from the other direction, almost back to the hotel


      Views of the world

      Views of the world

      SO i have a different sort of job…it is not a 9-5/5days a week kind of role, I work from a home office in our garden, and I travel quite a lot, this year I have been to China, Argentina, Canada, Korea, Spain, Hong Kong, Austria, Germany and the USA, lots. As a result I have a lot of jet lag (and airmiles, 500k of them) and a pretty terrible diet…..

      But I just thought I would share a few experiences of travel….

      On board the 787
      The only bit of Seoul I saw
      The Oceanografic in Valencia
      Valencia Science Museum
      The Thames
      Driving into the Windy City
      Sunrise in Chicago
      Chicago City scape
      Cloud Gate, Chicago
      The Intercontinental Pool
      Chicago Sunrise Again
      Ready to take off
      BuenosAires by night (all I saw)
      Heading to New York
      Sunrise over the US of A
      Lac Tremblant
      Going for a spin on the Lac
      Clouds heading East
      Sunrise at 40,000ft
      Shanghai from my hotel
      Sunset from the top of the Ritz-Carlton
      Rain in China
      Shanghai from the Bund
      The congress centre park and the (rainy) Shanghai cityscape
      What is American Classic Flavour???? Yes, ready salted….
      Swim strength training

      Swim strength training

      I have been thinking about how to build some additional speed over the long distance and strength training seems to be the thing that comes back when I read into this….this is just a holding post whilst I try and find some good workouts….

      (Borrowed from

      Stretch cords are a versatile, underrated tool to use for developing strength and technique in the water. Many elite athletes (including Olympian Gwen Jorgensen) carry their cords with them while traveling to facilitate an entire swim workout if a pool is not readily available, or to use for a race warm-up when not allowed in the water before an event.

      Keep your cords in your swim practice bag to use before you get in the water. Attach your cords to a fixed object on the pool deck, like a starting block or fence post. Perform a few minutes of light muscle activation with the following drills to emphasise good technique.

      Strength Workout
      You can replicate an entire swim practice if you don’t have access to a pool or if you missed a swim after a busy day of work. After 15–20 minutes of these exercises, you’ll leave with a bit of sweat and a lot of fatigue in your major muscles. Do 10–15 reps of each exercise and each arm when applicable.

      1. Scull


      2. Catch
      Position yourself just like the scull drill. With a light pressure on the cords and while maintaining a high-elbow position, pull your hands and forearms down and back until they are directly underneath your elbows. Slowly release to the starting position for an eccentric exercise.


      3. Finish
      Face the attachment point and bend at the waist. Position your biceps against the side of your body with forearms and hands pointing straight down. Extend both hands backward to engage the triceps and mimic the finish movement. When performed before training, keep a light pressure on your hands to engage the muscle without fatigue.cord-3.png

      4. Recovery
      Face away from the attachment point and bend slightly at the waist. Simulate a freestyle stroke where the cords will assist with the pulling phase but be under load during the recovery motion. The emphasis during this drill is on a quick recovery and the constant core engagement during rotation. It’s a particularly good drill before any wetsuit swimming.


      5. Triceps Extension
      Perform this the same as the finish drill but with more pressure on the cords. Or face away from the attachment point, stand tall and extend arms overhead for an alternative triceps extension exercise.


      6. Single-Arm Pull
      Position yourself just like the scull drill. Slowly pull one arm all the way back to your thigh focusing on each phase of the stroke (catch, pull, finish). Release that arm to the front and pull with the other arm. Emphasize technique by performing this drill slowly, or build strength and endurance with very quick and constant movements.


      7. Double-Arm Pull
      Same as the single-arm pull but performed with both arms simultaneously. The focus is on a constant acceleration of the hands from the catch to the finish.cord-7-1024x351.png

      8. Chest Fly
      Face away from the attachment and stand tall. Raise arms into a “T” position at chest height. With a slight bend in the elbow, pull arms together to meet in the front. Control the speed of the release for an additional eccentric exercise.


      9. Reverse Fly

      Perform the same as the Chest Fly, but done while facing the attachment. Focus on the eccentric loading by resisting and controlling the speed of the cords as they retract.



      Windermere One Way 2016

      Windermere One Way 2016



      So this is what it was all about in 2016. One of the longest lake swims in the UK, the longest in England (apart from a Windermere 2 way!). When I finished the Dart 10k and the B2B for the second time last year I was looking for a new challenge, and this was it, over 10miles of beautiful and challenging swimming.

      For those who don’t know swimming in lakes is harder that river or sea swims, why? Well, rivers have a flow and the sea is salty, so you are more buoyant (however it tastes horrible and has currents, so more challenging than a river), lakes are just, well, lakes and when they are this big they have waves/currents and respond to the weather. The Windermere One Way is frequently the first step on the way to an English Channel swim (and no I am not doing that…), and is considered to be roughly half a EC. The swim itself is just over 10miles from Fell Foot to Low Wray (or Waterhead for the BDLSA swim), and MyTriEvents have a compulsory pause/safety check at Storrs Hall to hand in the green wrist band as a head count. Another thing that needs to be/should be considered is the kayaker you choose/end up with – they are the second half of the team and important….more on this later.

      So…with all that in mind and my taper complete we set of from Great Abington to Windermere last Saturday, the weather had been gorgeous for a few days, sunshine, no humidity, lovely. Last Saturday it was lashing rain and windy, all day, everywhere. We arrived at Fell Foot at the same time as Kathy and Ben for registration. Kathy is a fellow open water (OW) swimmer, we met through the BCTTT – a tri club I am a member of and Kathy raced for it once – and have kept in touch through FB as we have walked our way through the world of OW swims, meeting occasionally at Events. Ben is her husband and he was her kayaker/photographer/moral support/rock for this swim.We both registered, I met up with David Horn (my paddler)  and Team Sainsbury headed off for our digs – a hotel on the south of the lake which is stuck in the 80s (Newby Bridge Hotel – don’t bother staying there). After the compulsory fish and chips supper we hit the hay for a terrible night’s sleep before the race.

      0445 – Race day

      The alarm went off and after sorting things out and forcing some Bounce Bar into myself I met Kathy and Ben at 0530 for the brief trip to the start.It was pitch black and the path to the lake was lit with cylumes/or glowsticks – quite atmospheric. IMG_9758.JPG

      After logging myself in I found my start pen and began readying myself for the off.


      I managed to find the start with ease and tried to smile for the camera….


      After the compulsory race brief, including warnings on boats/waves/etc we had 20mins to kill….this went remarkably fast….


      I spent most of it considering the physical side of the next 5-6hrs (that is me in the green/black Yonda wetsuit) – very contemplative…

      0645 – The start

      As 0645 arrived the first wave lined up to head into the lake – no mass starts here – all setting off 1min apart an individual effort throughout….

      Wetsuits are not the most glamorous items of sporting apparel as modelled here by me…letting Dave know I was ready he sprinted to catch up…and off I swam into the mist in the rather chilly (I doubt it was the advertised 17deg) Lake Windermere.






      So that was the start – no gun, a cheering crowd of other loons who were about to embark on the same journey…

      Fell Foot to Storrs Hall

      The first hour of the race was probably the bit I most enjoyed, transitioning from early light to daylight, the bottom of the lake gradually receding into the green murk and the shoreline slipping past easily.

      Following the first 2miles, 3.2km I stopped to tread water and have some food. I committed the cardinal error that I should not have done and tried new nutrition in a  race…I have never really swum on gels, occasionally I will have one before a short (3-5km race) to get things buzzing a few mins in), but I decided this would be easiest for the kayak and for me as I paddled in the water. To be honest they were unsatisfying and left me empty – something I used to love swimming in pools – “the empty fast feeling” but in a cold lake it is not that enjoyable…but IsoGels it was…for over 5hrs…hmmm…

      This was also the time that I realised how much of part of the team the kayaker is. On the BDLSA website, in the longer swim preparation it talks of the boat/kayak and the crew being part of the team with the swimmer and I can understand that. Dave did a great job, by the end trying to keep me going as things were getting tough but as we had only met the day before we had no rapport at the beginning, he didn’t know how I swam and I hadn’t been clear enough on nutrition/how I liked to swim, this made the beginning/middle of the race harder than it needed to be. This is something to work on for next time.

      After the gel and a sip of High5 Caffeine drink I set off again with my sights set on Storrs Hall (about 4.5 miles). At this point I was still on my own – there were no other swimmers around me, no-one caught me until Storrs Hall – it was quite weird being on my own.






      Between 2 and 4 miles the wind picked up and the water surface became quite choppy – I hate this, I don’t mind waves but chop just annoys you after an hour or so..


      Eventually after about 4 miles swimming I considered gel 2 and briefly discussed it with Dave but decided to push on, a big mistake as I left the nutrition plan and it took me some time to get to Storrs Hall, by which time I was cold, fatigued and cramping badly. I hadn’t intended to stop by I had to to try and release the cramp (incidentally it didn’t stop I had it until the end).


      Storrs Hall itself, I am the swimmer second from the right.


      The Storrs Hall checkpoint roughly 2hrs into the swim – I am the swimmer in the water on the right nearest the Jetty and bank.

      Enter a caption
      Me leaning on the jetty (left of photo), trying to release cramp in my legs whilst being fed banana and malt loaf by Amanda (and her daughters)  from FRANK Water

      Storrs Hall to Low Wray

      After Storrs we pushed on into the most challenging bit of the swim from the kayaker’s perspective, crossing the chain-link ferry path, Dave was fabulous and guided me through it.


      Although not me swimming here you can see the ferry we went past – it moved at some speed!


      It was at this point of the swim we really started to pick up a lot of traffic – the lake cruises were the worst (along with jet skis) as the wake was significant off them.


      After the ferry and 2km I don’t remember swimming, Belle Isle came into view – David and I stopped on one of the small islands near it for a biobreak and a bite to eat – I actually ate solids (mars bar) and it felt better.







      At this point we also had a Lancaster Bomber fly over us – very cool!! There is a film of this from the Lancaster’s point of view, you can just see the swimmers in the water and their support boats:

      After the excitement of the Lancaster fly past we kept to the left of the bank all the way to the finish, the banks got higher and more rugged here and at 14.448km my Garmin decided to stop working, it simply decided that was too far, it also stopped the LiveTrack feed which Liz and the girls were following…all rather frustrating…

      What Liz saw on Live Track until Low Wray
      What my Garmin tracked…














      The other impact this had was on my mental state, long distance OW swimming is a lot about how long you can keep yourself going mentally – it is not just sky, water, sky, water….it is what you do to stop going nuts….I think a lot about the stroke and technique, especially in bad weather or during a physical race, but I sometimes think through holiday plans, sing songs in my head (lots of people do this I found out), think through work/family stuff….anything to keep the mind active….when I lost the Garmin track at 14.4km I had no idea how far I had swum…had I done 15 or 16km….or was it 14.6km….it became really challenging, especially when Dave turned to me at a feed stop and said – only 2 miles to go…I thought I only had about 1 left…it was really tough. Also around the same time, 8 miles in my arms became really really tired, very heavy and sore…everything hurt, this combined with the mental stuff made the last 2miles the hardest thing I have done since IRONMAN Switzerland.








      Ultimately at this point is was just about keeping that thought in your head “…just keep swimming, just keep swimming….”.

      Eventually the waves/boat wakes and endless corners of Lake Windermere gave way to the most magical sight, the red Zone3 buoys of the finish…the last few hundred meters were quite emotional and when I saw Lizzie and the girls after racing to the finish line (yes  another guy ran and I raced the last few feet) I was in bits, I couldn’t talk, I just collapsed on the bank of the lake…a really tough challenging experience.


      Overall I came 17/106 swimmers, I finished in 5:20:51.9, and going by several kayaker’s Garmins (which didn’t stop) it was a total of 17.5km. To top it all I came 3rd in my AGand I got a spot prize from FRANK Water, a rather beautiful slate with the swim logo on it:

      FullSizeRender 2.jpg

      So the last question is where do I go from here – as I drank a pint after the race I thought, never again….but….after getting 3rd in AG with poor nutrition, cramp, not enough long training I am now thinking….maybe….

      If you haven’t and you would like to support the Charity I raced for, FRANK Water, please head to:


      So that is it….

      So that is it….

      After just over 12months of training I am now in my taper for my Windermere One Way (or WOW for short)…

      Two wetsuits, countless lengths of Newmarket pool, Jesus Green Lido and Milton CP Lake, over 500km swum in 12 months, over 550,000 calories burnt…..

      Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 17.54.47.png

      My last two swims were:

      110x100yds in Jesus Green Lido – which looks like this:

      Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 18.39.12.png

      and 110×100 looks like this in Garmin…Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 18.34.21.png

      Beautiful, but after 2hr 59mins does get a bit samey…..and a brief dip in Milton Country Park Lake, including a bit of sprinting, which was quite hard after 10k the previous day

      Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 18.35.00.png….and now all that is left is a crash taper, probably 2×2-3k and a 1.5k on Friday…

      When I started the swimming focus chapter in my endurance sport experience I was forced into it due to injury (see my earlier post on my ankle injury), when I chose to enter this last year it was a conscious decision to improve my long distance swimming capability. For the past few years I have been building the distance I have swum, in 2014 it was the Bridge to Bridge, last year was similar, but I did the Dart 10k as well as the B2B. This year, it is the back to back Inn to Inn and B2B with WOW to finish the year. Depending on how it all goes I may apply for Zurich again (Zurich swim link)….we shall see…

      I hope it is all worth it, I have heard that it is a great swim, I just hope the weather plays nice and the rain/mist stays away….but then it is the Lake District, I guess there would be no lakes without rain/mist….

      There is also still time to sponsor me if you so wish, FRANK Water Projects ( is a small charity (Registered charity no. 1121273) that funds sustainable clean water projects in developing countries across the world. Since it started in 2005 it has funded 116 village projects. In a world where more than 4,000 children die EVERY DAY from a lack of clean drinking water, it’s clear that help is needed – please help me support this worthwhile small charity:

      My JustGiving Page:



      Soo….11 days post Bridge to Bridge and I finally think I am over the delights of Lepto, only the fun after effects of antibiotics to manage for two days….


      On the whole I don’t recommend going down with Lepto, I am sure one of my Friends, Kathy will agree it is unpleasant, CNS effect (vertigo/nausea), Gi effects,  muscle aches and the real winner kidney pain/infection….let’s not do that again….


      Steady 4k in the pool this morning, 10x500m including 2k of paddle work – these are my new paddles – they are amazing, not too big to stress the shoulders but no straps so you have to work improving your stroke – genius…


      I wish this was me swimming but it is grabbed from the finis site…

      Just keep swimming…..

      Just keep swimming…..

      So the majority of my swim season is done, one more big swim to come – Windermere, but before I get to that – a recap on the year so far….

      Jun – Great East Swim 2016 – 5k (

      A great season opener – all the Great Swim series swims are enjoyably and well run. They have chip timing and normally a good mix of abilities. This time there was most of the Cambridge Tri Club including pro athletes like Lucy Gossage – great swimmer. A relatively uneventful race and it felt fast – all the base training over the winter and in the early season paid off. If it had not been for my lack of ability to count the number of buoys I would have been faster…I turned on the buoy for 1200m not 1400m on lap2…as a result I thought it was really quiet…sadly not, I was on my own and dropped about 400m on the pack I was with…


      Once I was back with the correct course I got back into the swimming hard, this resulted in a good time/place for me – 2nd in AG in 1:23:35 and 31st overall…I was really happy…race 1 done:

      Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 17.57.3313445421_10154298244189048_5210691125476496552_n

      A new wetsuit – Yonda Ghost

      Just after the Great East 5k I noticed that the under arm area on one side of my wetsuit was wearing heavily – after discussions with Wiggle they agreed to take it back, upon examination it needed to go back to Orca, I am still waiting for the outcome of their review….

      I needed a new wetsuit and fast, in the past I have tried: Orca (2 types of Alpha), Huub (Archimedes I and a prototype of the II), I have tried on Zone3 and ROKA – both too tight. After looking through the various forum sites and magazines I emailed Yonda, a small startup from Yorkshire, who only have one wetsuit, the Ghost. This has got very good reviews and after a few emails Angus, the company owner, sent me a suit to try.


      Wetsuit fit is a really personal matter, I have tried loads of suits and none have fitted quite right – this one is perfect, well almost, a little tight on the neck and long in the arm but the chest/body length is perfect. Also in testing in the lake it came out much faster than the previous Orca and Huub suits – over 10s/100m faster….


      Aug – Inn to Inn Swim 2016 – 2.8k (

      The next swim in the diary was the Inn to Inn – a fabulous local swim in Cornwall from one pub to another. Tapering for this was a challenge as the day after this was planned I had the Bridge to Bridge (14km swim) so I just planned this in a pre race set. My taper during this week was:

      Sat – last long set (not really long – 3k – I did 110x100yd in the lido on the Tue before)

      M0n – 3k in the pool

      Wed – 2k in the lake

      Fri 1.5k in the pool

      On the Wed I swam at the fabulous Kernow Open Water Swimming Centre ( – the water is crystal clear and the staff so friendly – a great build swim:


      So race morning arrived and it was really lovely to have both Dad and Anja take me to the registration 🙂

      The swim itself was a fabulous down river sprint – approx 2.7k from the Devoran Old Quay Inn (well the Quay down the hill) to the Pandora Inn. It is a small local event but with lots of good swimmers as you would expect from a Cornish race!

      This is the swim start – beautiful:

      Start of the Inn to Inn

      The race went 100% to plan – get out hard and keep a fast pace – I had my new Yonda wetsuit (more on that later) on and felt fast – I kept the lead pack in sight for the entire swim but could not bridge so settled with a slightly low spot that I think I could have got…

      Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 18.04.48

      Coming in to the finish at the pub it was great to see the family 🙂 a fab race – and I came 9th!! Swimming it in 35:16 – four mins faster than 2yrs ago – quite T-Shirt as the moment…it really is very bright…


      Aug – Thames Marathon 2016 – 14.8k (

      The next day was the first of the ‘big’ swims – the newly named Thames marathon – or the former Bridge to Bridge, approx 14+km of swimming from Henley Leander Rowing Club to Marlow Rowing club (or now the park opposite).


      A fantastic swim, only three locks to navigate on the banks. The first 4k stretch is fast and furious in the pink wave as everyone ‘shakes out’ into their own place based on pace. In years past (I have done this twice before) the 4k mark was where you were put into pods – this year it was down to you if you wanted to swim alone or together, I tried to get a pod together and run it as a chain gang with each swimmer taking time on the front, but only 3 of us did this before it fell apart – as a result I swim the longest stretch of 6k on my own, cramping 40mins out from the next feed stop (at 10k) in both the from and back of my calves. I had to stop for 7mins to try and get rid of it, eventually I accepted that I could not free it up totally and started swimming again, having watched all those I had passed go ahead of me. The last 4km passed quickly and I overtook 10 people in the last 2.5km stretch before turning on the last buoy and reaching the park. I finished in 3:23:57, coming 91st – last year the time would have put me in the top 20…a lot of quick swimmers this year, but still a 14min PB!! Happy with that…

      Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 18.19.4113923562_10154440720114048_8028686489686894809_o

      Since the B2B I have been recovering – all was looking good until about Thur and then I began to develop nausea/vertigo and muscle aches, by today this has developed into lower back pain – I fear I may have succumbed like may this year to what looks like Leptospirosis, common in rivers and lakes – hopefully it will pass soon as I don’t want it to develop into Weil’s Disease, which could have me out of action for some time, particularly as my next race is the main event for the year:

      4th Sept –  Windermere One Way 2016 – 16k (

      It has been a while…and lots of swimming…

      It has been a while…and lots of swimming…

      I keep starting these updates with “it has been a while”…well it has, nearly 18 months since my last post…a lot has happened, I have finally started running again, now up to 6k (wow….) and I have put triathlons on hold for the meantime….well I cannot run enough for an old let alone a half or full….and

      I have entered and completed my second Thames Marathon (formerly the Bridge to Bridge) and the Dart 10k. Also I am currently training for my Windermere One way in Sept, as well as a few other races….

      Jun – Great East Swim 2016 – 5k (
      Aug – Inn to Inn Swim 2016 – 2.8k (
      Aug – Thames Marathon 2016 – 14.8k (
      Sept –  Windermere One Way 2016 – 16k (

      From the bottom to the top….10miles…..that is a long way – over 5-6 hours continuous swimming…just try to think about that….640 lap of a 25m pool….and in variable conditions depending on the weather…

      All in all a fair number of swims – plus I have raised £748 for FRANK Water (You can donate here 🙂 …so far 🙂

      As to training…a lot of swimming….yes that is a lot in May…

      Over 60km….just wish I could find the time every month….

      I will try and update this again a bit later 🙂