Saturday, 16 December 2017


On previous saturdays over the last month or so, I've done a swim in the morning and a short run in the afternoon. Today I opted out of the run having spent an hour in the garden. I was tidying up after a gardner who is clearing some bushes. He'd left some timber for the poor burning stove and that needed trimming and moving into the shed.

There was also a small tree to remove that he'd not wanted to bother with, being too fiddly for a chain saw. Easy with a bow saw though.

Winter swim review

I've not written for a few weeks and no significant event has occurred. The weather has been a bit cooler and the roads icy, both of which have reduced my enthusiasm for staying for a swim after work or driving to Hatfield. There have also been a couple of Christmas 'dos' after work to limit time even more. All of this suggests that I've not been especially dedicated.

I'm trying to be positive in my outlook and so although I've not gone to Hatfield I have been to Heeley Baths and tried to focus on technique, including bilateral breathing. Since October I've been working on a more symmetrical stroke and roll so that there is more space for my left arm to leave the water, and hopefully reduce the risk of impingement. That approach may be effective as the slight pain I was aware of seems to be fading away. Today, when I did a few sprint lengths I became aware of my shoulder for the first time in quite a few weeks.

Over the summer I've very much lost speed with my swimming, both with and without the pull buoy. I think training for the Big Walk and thinking about the Costa Brava swim put me in a long and slow mode, exacerbated by the appearance of a minor shoulder injury. Today, in a 25 yard pool I managed 2:02min/100m as my best length; and that's my best in ages! Without the pull buoy my legs have become an anchor, apparently as much as ever they were. On my 200m 'warm-up' I was working towards the 5:00min 'barrier' but now I'm back to below 5:30 minutes with it feeling tough.

I have booked with a recently established local SwimSmooth coach in the hope that I can rescue my technique a little. I have been thinking about roll, high elbows and front quadrant techniques but so far I haven't had a gain, except perhaps the resolution of the pain. That's important though.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

7 degrees

This morning things were a little hectic at Hatfield as the 'winter swimmers' were doing a qualifier event for their Ice Mile. Working around them meant that the rest of us were a little delayed getting into the water, I was cold before getting wet! Anyway, that didn't seem to matter and I managed 4 small laps, which is around 1km in half an hour. As is so often the case, after one lap I nearly stopped due to feeling cold, tired and generally 'why bother?', but pushing-on gave a reward as I settled into the rhythm of the stroke, thought about hip rotation and set my sights on another few laps.

Once back in the cafe the sign noted a temperature of 7 degrees, over two degrees colder than last week.

Although my pace is ridiculously slow, at lunchtime I did reflect on this year's progress, 3km in the Mediterranean and 1km below 10 degrees, and both are within my comfort zone now.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Four day fatigue

Today's (very short) swim was exceptionally hard work and characterised by slow length pace even with a high perceived effort. I've run for the preceding 3 days and suspect that I've built up a bit of fatigue. Also my swimming practice has been rather lacking lately so I can't expect much. I didn't have the pull buoy and throughout my legs felt tired and my usually ineffective kick was weaker than usual.

At least I tried to keep good form.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

A bit chilled

It's the winter timetable at Hatfield from today and so I wasn't in the water until nearly 09:30. It was a lovely autumn morning with the pond surrounded by a palette of orange leaves and the water still, almost glass-like. This would have been a perfect day for some photographs but I've not really worked out how to do that safety (for me, the wetsuit and the camera), although there's a method here, it doesn't feel healthy for the wetsuit! Walking in was a bit of a shock, distinctly colder than last week's evening swim even though officially there's been only 1 degree reduction.

After a little breast stroke faffing I got my face in the water and completed 1km. I set off to do another small lap but decided that the cold was getting to me, my hands were stiffening and somehow the chill was penetrating. Previously I'd just felt superficially cold, but after the half hour it was feeling different. So I headed back to the beach and teetered back to the cafe and changing area.

It's possible I looked very wobbly as an assistant was dispatched with me to 'make sure I was OK' whilst getting tired and dressed. After a coffee and walk around the cafe I felt almost normal but wished that I'd taken my DryRobe. It's been a waste of time carrying it back and forth over the summer but now I do need it.

The heated seat in the car warmed me through on the drive home. I think that it's mild and consistent enough to complement the hot drink and give core warmth - showers are best avoided after a cold dip.

Some hardy should were swimming without wetsuits ('skins') in training for an ice mile, but that won't be me for a season or two...

Sunday, 29 October 2017

First test of Firefly Hawkeye 8 camera

Before my visit to Spain to swim I'd look for a waterproof camera having decided that my Panasonic LMC25 probably wouldn't survive a few hours immersion in salt water. After scanning many reviews there didn't seem to be a perfect device despite the vast variety of consumer electronics available!

Since then I look into things a bit more and found the Firefly Hawkeye 8s which was available direct from China at around £100 with a medium/high specification (for example it really does offer 4k 30fps). The online reviews place it well below the latest GoPro (model 6 at the time of writing) in terms of both ability and price but sufficiently capable to be useful.

Naturally it didn't come with a SD card and it needs a U3 grade to ensure that the higher video frame rates and resolutions have a chance of being recorded. So far I've been out at dusk and on a rather overcast damp morning, which aren't good for any camera. The  footage so far isn't very good. Currently I'm prepared to blame the weather! Incidentally, the edited mp4 hasn't been tweaked at all, and is definately better than the YouTube processed output below.

My key observations, most of which are criticisms, so far are:
  • The stabiliser doesn't work when running and hand-holding the camera, this is likely too much to ask!
  • The colour is poorly saturated, but maybe that is realistic
  • Low light level ability is almost non-existent 
  • The battery is reluctant below 10 degrees celsius and I can't see it offering the advertised 90 minutes of recording
  • Buttons are hard to press whilst using the waterproof case
I'll have to give the camera a few more opportunities to demonstrate its abilities in more favourable circumstances.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Looking after shoulder

Today's weather forecast was for blustery to become gale force and so I walked to the pool rather than driving to Hatfield. Ultimately the forecast was worse than reality and the really strong winds hadn't arrived some hours later.

Anyway the pool offers the opportunity for drills and practice in a more comfortable situation than in the middle of a lake. So, with my left arm being on the brink of problems it seemed a good time to focus on rotation to lift my left side more. Naturally this leads into breathing on that side too. After the usual 200m-with-legs warm-up I did 3 sets with favoured right side breathing, bilateral breathing and finally alternate lengths with left and right breathing. Naturally I was using the pull buoy to ease the load on my arms and retain good posture. Significantly I went at the same pace for both right-sided and bilateral breathing although I needed a single strike more per length. For the final set I was tiring (so out of practice) and so the slow pace for left-sided breathing is not conclusive.

In terms of technique I was aware of a falling right leading arm with left breaths, especially when working that side. My perception was also that I had an untidy body twist in that direction rather than a nice neat roll from the hips.

Over the time I was aware of my shoulder abut it didn't become troublesome, or indeed painful, so this intensity and volume doesn't seem to be a problem.