All hail the swimmers! Despite the slightly challenging weather on Saturday, it has been an incredibly strong start to the season. Well done everyone.
The start of the season has shown that the Class of 2019 are a force to be reckoned with! Those of you who have been following the activities within the group in previous years will have noticed that we have themes each weekend. As well as a bit of fun, these themes have been known to be the difference that makes a difference on a tough day. With the first day of training being on May the forth (Star Wars day), the opportunity for a Star Wars theme was too good to miss!
Well done to everyone who joined in the fun in a small or a big way.
Next week is the first week that the ‘Aspire’ charity relay teams will be training with us. As their hat colour is green, we figured that the theme has to be ‘Green’. There is almost endless scope there, so why not join in the fun?
Volunteers - thank you
Thank you to:
Saturday: Stu Bowman; Jon Southey; Claire Russell and Mandi Bodemeaid. With support from Kelvin Davies; Paul James & Kevin Mullarkey.
Sunday: Melanie Holland; Ann Bodimeade; Kelvin Davies. With support from Paul James, Nick Murch & Kevin Mullarkey.
You were all ace and I for one really appreciate the assistance. The beach was very busy and only worked as well as it did because of you.
I’d highly recommend volunteering for a day or more. You get to see things from an entirely different perspective. If you’re interested you can sign up here.
Water temperature: 11.1C
Air temperature: 7.8C
Conditions: Force 5, gusting force 6 from the north leading to some swell. Rain and hail showers (ouch!).
Water temperature: 11.3C
Air temperature: 8.6C
Conditions: Force 4 from the north leading to some swell with occasional welcome glimpses of the sun
NB, temperatures taken at start.
There are some very simple things that you can do to minimise your chances of getting too cold in training.
Cold water shock
Diving straight into cold water is dangerous if you’re not used to it. My advice is to walk steadily in and get yourself into the water and swimming gradually (but not slowly). Focus on breathing out. The getting in process should take less than 2 minutes. I find that once your bits, pits and neck are wet, then you’re good to swim. In the earlier part of the season you may find you get ‘ice-cream head’. To me this feels like I haven’t pulled my hat down far enough. I’ve learned that I always have and the quickest way to get over it is to swim, it will pass.
If we feel you’re taking too long to get in, you may hear loud words of encouragement to ‘Swwwwiiiiiimmmm!’. I’ve been known to faff a lot, but I have found that when I’ve just followed my advice above that I get in and settled more quickly.
Even on a sunny day, Dover is not the Caribbean! Water conducts heat far quicker than air, so every minute that you are in the water, it will be removing heat from your body. This is why we start with short swims in the early part of the season and build up duration as the water and air temperature increases and as your acclimatisation improves. NB, there is a massive difference in how your body will react to 11C on a cold and windy day and 11C on a hot and sunny day, it’s not just about the water temperature.
If you just bob in cold water you are doing nothing to retain heat. Moving will slow down the onset of hypothermia by creating energy. This is why you will hear shouts of ‘no bobbing’ if you just bob around in the water, and also another reason for the cries of ‘swwwiiiiiimmmm!’
Quite apart from anything else, with a lot of people in the water people bobbing also become a hazard to people who are swimming.
Earplugs will make a significant difference to how you perceive and handle the cold. You can get them in all shapes and sizes. Find ones that work for you.
The other thing that will zap heat from your body is standing with a wet body in the breeze. When it comes to feeding we will encourage you to be quick to reduce the bobbing effect above, and you may also hear us tell you to put your shoulders under the water, this avoids the wind zapping heat from you. The same is true when you get out of the water, the quicker you get the wind off your wet skin the better.
As you leave the water your core body temperature will continue to drop. There is a golden window when you get out to get dry and wrapped up before the after drop is at its worst. I find I have about 5-6 minutes before the shivers start. Use them wisely. Whilst it’s so tempting to chat about what a great swim you had, maybe recount some fun memories, please leave this until you are dressed.
We work as a team. From time to time a swimmer may be colder than they realise. Please offer to help someone you feel may be like that. If that swimmer is you, please accept help from others. If you are unsure, please alert the beach crew. Nick Murch’s blog is useful to read so that you become familiar with the signs of hypothermia (and learn about other non hypothermia related medical considerations). Look out for the mumbles, grumbles, fumbles & stumbles in others.
So you’re out of the water and out of the wind, the next bit is really important. The best way to warm up is slowly. Firstly, get your wet kit off quickly, it will keep cooling you if left on. Then, lots of layers, especially around the core and head. When I came out on Sunday I put on two merino wool base layers (tops and leggings), a t-shirt, trackie trousers, a hoodie, socks, a woolly hat and a swimzi. Once that’s done sips of a warm drink. Keep yourself gently moving if you can.
It is essential to warm up slowly. It is dangerous to try and warm up fast. The last thing you want to do is to open up the vessels near the surface and take cold blood back to your core, it’s then that problems start.
As tempting as it may be, no heated seats in your car, no full blasting heating.
Shiver - it is your body’s way to warm you up, it is completely normal. Enjoy it and your natural high afterwards!
Expect the unexpected
From time to time, I will throw you a curved ball. You may be asked to do more than you had guessed that I would say. You may be asked to do less. You may even find that you find yourself about to get out and at that point I suggest you carry on a bit longer (sometimes quite a bit longer). This is all part of the plan! One of the challenges of channel swimming is that there are so many unknowns. For example, you may see France (don’t look by the way, it doesn’t help) and think you’re about to finish, only to realise that you’re too far out to reach Cap Gris Nez and you’re actually heading into the bay, with another few hours of swimming. By being asked to do more on the beach, we are training you for this eventuality.
Recovery is also an important part of training. Not every weekend will be a big back to back swim. If you turn up regularly you will have the opportunity to enjoy shorter swims later in the season too. It may seem inconceivable to think that in the not too distant future that you’ll think of 3 hours as being a short swim (soloists only!!), but that time will come, believe me!
Some of you may have thought that I went in too softly with some of you this weekend. I take many factors into account when working out what to plan. This weekend that included the predicted high winds and low air temperature. It’s also really good to spend time in the early days getting to know other swimmers on the beach.
I may repeatedly ask you to remind me of when / what your swim is. I will get there, please remember that there are a few hundred subtly different dreams / goals to remember. Your training is tailored to you.
The times set will ramp up quickly. Enjoy the short swims whilst they last.
It’s unusual for me to set extra time on week 1. However, I looked at some of you at the end of your first Sunday swims and you were looking very good, so I gave the option of additional time. Congratulations to you all, there were no hesitations, you all did it. That is a very strong physical and mental start. Well done, well done, well done!!
At or towards the end of both sessions I also took the opportunity for a swim. Thank you so much to those of you who created an arch for me to go through to the sea on Saturday, what a lovely touch! Thank you to those who encouraged me in and enabled me to also enjoy some training.
With teamwork like that so early in the season I think we’re going to have some fun times ahead.
If you are training for an English Channel solo or relay, or a swim with similar rules, it is worth ensuring that even from day 1 that you are following the swimwear rules. Main points are:
One swim-suit - see CS&PF or CSA information for more details on what precisely is allowed
One swim hat - no neoprene or other heat retaining properties
No MP3 players - you can wear earplugs though
If you are training for a swim that requires you to wear a wetsuit, it is absolutely fine to wear one in training. If not, ditch the wetsuit, it will not help you physically or mentally in the long term. There will never be a good point to ditch it! The same is true with the temptation to wear two hats in the early days.
Shoes lined up neatly
Are yours personalised?
When you are cold, it is really difficult to coordinate toes with delicate shoes. Whilst definitely not a fashion statement, I recommend getting yourself a pair of crocs (other brands available!), they slide on easily, even with cold toes and can be passed to you in the water (walking on pebbles is really difficult!). I tend to also walk into the water with mine and throw them back out to the beach.
However, if you have opted for the same style as everyone else, please do something to make them look a little different. ‘Mine are the navy blue ones’ is a bit tricky, as is ‘I put mine on the left side’ as we move shoes up and down the beach with the tide! Well done to those of you who have already personalised theirs, it really helps. I have some croc bits, donated by Deborah Vine, if you would like something to add to yours, just ask!
Start times and Safety briefing
Despite the chilly weather it was brilliant start to the season. Just about everyone arrived nice and early, ready to sign-in and get in the water on-time. There were a couple of stragglers, but that came down to a misunderstanding. To be really clear for anyone who is not sure, timings below are the time you get in the water. Before that you need to get your suncream sorted, sign-in, attend the mandatory briefing, get greased (if you’re going to be in long enough to need it) and actually get in the water. I suggest arriving about 30 minutes early to allow a relaxed start to the day. The briefing tends to be around 15 minutes before the start.
New starters (1st session only): 9am
Previous swimmers: 10am
All swimmers: 9am
There is a lot of information to take in during the briefing, much of it remains constant. I’ve created a document which contains the static information, you can download it here or pick up a hard copy at the beach. Make sure you listen out for information that is relevant to that session only during the briefing (e.g. use of kayaks & boats, any special feeding arrangements, changes to swim zones to accommodate weather or other events).
Online applications & membership cards
The change in registration process is one of the most significant changes that I have made in the last few years. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who got on board with this change and completed their online declarations well in advance - you made my life so much easier! I hope that those of you who now have your shiny new membership cards like them.
If you attended for the first time this weekend you should now have received an email confirming your application, along with a request for payment (unless you are a drop in swimmer, in which case you just pay a drop in fee each time you attend). Once that is paid you will be able to pick up your membership card the next time you arrive.
Please can you attach your membership cards to the outside of your swim bags. This is part of our safety procedures should we need to identify bags in the even of an emergency.
I’d like to say a big thank you to our sponsors - the two organisations below sponsored the printing of the membership cards.
Pacific Open Water Swimming Co: Take a look at their website. If you find yourself in that part of the world, I would highly recommend getting in touch to arrange a swim.
Alexander James Contracts: If your organisation, or the organisation you work for is looking for support for a construction company, Alexander James Contracts could be the answer for you. Kevin Mullarkey can be found on the beach most weekends and I’m sure would be happy to have an informal chat.
You’ll hear more from both organisations in the form of cake as we progress through the season.
NB, as a reminder, it is mandatory to complete an online declaration before swimming with us. A couple of people slipped through the net this weekend, I’ve changed the process and that won’t be possible in the future. To the lady who didn’t complete the final step and needed to complete the online declaration on the beach on the iPad, apologies there was a final confirmation step which we missed again, hopefully third time lucky!
If you haven’t joined us yet and still plan to, the online declaration can be found here. It’s far easier to complete it in the comfort of your own home rather than on the beach on an iPad or mobile phone!
Keith Oiller is the CSA Swimmer Liaison Officer. If you are swimming with the CSA, make sure you say hello. He can be found on the beach at some point most weekends. He’ll be able to answer most of your questions. Even if you’re not swimming with the CSA, he’s a great point of contact on all things related to rules / observers etc.
Facebook have created the option of a mentorship programme which I think is a great idea. Head over to our Facebook Group and you’ll be able to sign-up to offer your time as a mentor or speak with others who have been where you are now to receive some mentoring. It’s completely free to use.
If you don’t already realise, you soon will come to understand what a fantastic group we have with Dover Channel Training. Your training subscription is an absolute bargain given that it covers all your feeds, encouragement and grease etc (depends on subscription option of course). The mentorship programme above is free to use. There are many experienced swimmers on the beach and in our social media community who are willing to share their experiences if you wish to hear them. Use every avenue that works for you. We all have one goal - your success.
If you want more formal support than can be offered in a brief conversation on the beach, please get in touch with me so that we can discuss if I can provide additional assistance outside of what is offered through Dover Channel Training. You can find out a bit more at Emma2France. As well as the qualifications and experience that you’d expect I’d have, I’m also a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and a Hypnotist. We talk about how swimming the channel is 80% and 20% everything else. Much of the 20% is covered through Dover Channel Training, some of the 80% will feature (e.g. expect the unexpected above). If you have unhelpful self-talk, beliefs that are not real and are limiting your progress or a desire to have more 1:1 support, please get in touch. We can discuss what would be of benefit for you.
Alternatively, if you’ve got a group of friends training together and would like some group support, we can discuss the masterclass options for a bit of extra support as a group of soloists or relay swimmers.
Calling all observers
If you are interested in being an observer for solo or relay channel swims with the CS&PF, please contact Kevin Murphy for more information - firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few photos captured at the weekend.
See you next week!!