Sunday 27 October 2013

ASA Nationals 2013 Day 3 (thank god for the ending of British Summer Time)

One of the great things about the Sunday session of the nationals is the ending of British Summer Time and the extra hour in bed which was much appreciated this morning.

The 100 free was given a body swerve in this morning's session, thought I would save myself for the 400 free; shouldn't've bothered.

Clearly I wasn't focused on this meet as I went to change into my racing gear and discovered I'd packed it away in the car. Fortunately I found an old training suit in the bottom of my bag and hastily bought and assembled a pair of Speedo Swedish goggles and I was set.....

For a fairly spectacular personal worst only about 20 seconds slower than Eindhoven which was long course!

But despite my pool performances I had a brilliant weekend with great company 1199 others actually.

I often think that the mark of a great meet is by how long it takes you to walk around the pool, as you keep having to stop to catch up or chat to friends. In terms of navigating about the poolside, this weekend was simply epic.

"Too Tall" Twyman wrote about the attraction of the event and being a masters swimmer extremely eloquently in the Guardian's Swimming Blog on Friday see "holding back the tide"

I love the phrase "the orderly management of decline" which pretty well encapsulates what we're trying to achieve, although at times there's not very much order or management in evidence.

Days yardage!
400 free

(Thanks to Terry Wright (Spidey) and Robert Egan for the photos)

ASA Nationals Day 2

Well I missed some fantastic action from Friday's sessions, with some incredible swimming including a couple of world records for Loughborough's Olympic swimmer, Amy Smith who made her Masters debut in the 25 years 50 free and rattled out a 24.73 to add to her senior age group record from 2007.

In the 40 years age group Kiwi, Kirsten Cameron of East Leeds demolished the 1500m world record recording a 17:04.61 and collecting the 800 world record with her split time a mere 30 second improvement.

So from the sublime to the ridiculous, my first event was the 50 breast, and I have to confess I was feeling pretty ropey after my late and alcohol fuelled evening. Also since Eindhoven I reckon I've put on about 10lbs in weight and struggling into the racing suit was a painful and patience sapping experience.

Now that Fiendish FINA organisation have changed the breaststroke rules and over a 50 metres there are now two further opportunities to be dq'd!

I was therefore being ultra cautious at the start mindful of this so I politely let everyone else dive in before I followed them and then completely buggered up my stroke count approaching the turn and was all over the shop at the finish. Aargh...

I made the fatal mistake after the swim of going to the loo and removing the racing suit, only to be completely defeated trying to put it back on, so I swam the 200 free in an illegal suit. Managed to avoid the eagle eyes of the officials though.

Note to self must do more (or even some) training!

50 brst ...
200 free
50 fly
300 metres

ASA Nationals Day 1 (Oops Missed Again)

Having to work around a two day hearing scheduled for Thursday and Friday my national's programme was thrown into disarray.

As I was filling in my entries I was quite pleased to note that there was no chance of making Sheffield for the 1500 or the 200 breast, but traffic willing I might just be able to arrive in time for the 100 IM.

Sadly that was not to be, A1M car park turned a 2 hour journey into a 4 hour journey. I arrived and rang Judo and Sumo to discover they had finished and were walking back to the hotel.

Ah well, at least I was in time for dinner, we caught up with the stars of Binge's adventures in Eindhoven at Ask and whiled away a beer or two and a bottle of wine or three before returning to the hotel. Now if I had been sporting my sensible head I would've gone straight to bed but....

Matt the Cash and I spent till the wee small hours of the morning contemplating the likely fate of Newcastle United this coming Sunday.

Three more beers and getting to bed after 1am is not a clever way to start a National's campaign.

Too Little Too Late

There's a phrase that Judges and Magistrates just love to use in their Judgements in care cases when your client (usually a hapless parent) has finally realised the seriousness of their situation, and that these nasty social workers really are going to remove baby Jayden or Baby Britanny and have at the last minute knuckled under and started to listen to what is being said.

It is of course "Too little too late" and sadly that phrase is all too applicable to my National's preparation as having covered 2000 metres on Sunday I made it to training at Gateshead on Tuesday albeit for a short swim.

Well fine tuning for the National Championships is a delicate business and I was anxious not to get too carried away and overtrain!

200 warm up 150 brst 50 free
16 x 50 @ 55 free
5 x 150's @ 3:45 50 pull, 50 kick 50 swim
5 x 100m


Sunday 20 October 2013

Long time No Swim (a complete wash out)

The war wounds from last Saturday's efforts have just about healed, and it no longer hurts when I raise my arms above my head. So I was feeling like I could enter the fray again....

I therefore made it to Consett Masters this afternoon, my first pool session for 5 weeks, and I can confirm that (a) the swim was very painful and (b) I was absolutely hopeless.

It all bodes very unfavourably for the Nationals next weekend. But to quote Lao Tzu the ancient Chinese philosopher "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" and I guess I've got to start somewhere.

So back to today but where was everybody? I was in a lane on my own which was good because it meant I wasn't in anyone's way; but bad as there was no one to draft off. I also (very unusually for me) dipped out about 10 minutes early, citing and this is an entirely novel excuse for me "I need to do my laundry" oh my god! whatever next.

3 x 100 free @ 2mins (should've been 4 but I was late)
4 x 66 free @ 1:30
4 x 33 free @ 60s
3 x 100 free @ 1:50
3 x 66 free @ 1:20
3 x 33 free @ 40s
2 x 100 free @ 1:40
1 x 66 free @ 1:10 should be 2 x 66 @ 60 s but too knackered and missed 2nd repeat
1 x 100 free @ 1:30
should be a 1 x 66 @ 60 s but too knackered and missed turn around time
1 x 33
233 swim down
2000 metres

Monday 14 October 2013

The Flog on the Tyne is all mine all mine (oh and 23 other blokes!)

Tony makes a stylish entry
This is not "the Great North Swim" was the opening line of the safety briefing given by Mr Tyne River Swim Tony Greener himself and boy was he right. In every way there is just no comparison between what we achieved on Saturday and the popular one mile paddle in Windermere.

I had watched the start of the 2nd Tyne swim (see here) and was a little carried away with the atmosphere, the glorious sunshine and sparkling river which inspired me to try it out this year.

I had a similar experience in Montreal at the World Masters Swimming Championships; when I was watching the open water event which took place in the rowing basin in fabulous sunshine and thought "that looks great must do that next time;" of course the next time was a very wet and miserable Saturday morning at Holme Pierrepoint.

Binge takes the plunge!
Well history was about to repeat itself because after a conversation with Tony Greener (who does a fantastic job organising the event) I was in.

Hmmm it didn't bode well when bad weather meant we had to abort the original swim date at the beginning of September. The event was rescheduled five weeks later when of course the weather and water temperature would be less forgiving and was likely to invoke that Saturday morning in 1996.

Now, just to make sure I was properly prepared for this swim, as regular readers of this column are aware I have followed a dedicated regime of training (well ok I took part in one of their training swims two weeks ago  which was pretty challenging and details are available here, this just happens to be the last time I swam anywhere; obviously saving myself for the big day!)

and yes the water is "unsuprisingly" not very warm
The day started with my having to drive teenage triathlete to an open day at school and dashing back to collect my gear, chop Snickers bars and stuff them into ziploc bags to secret in my wetsuit, make isotonic drinks and very sweet drinking chocolate in a thermos; not to mention collect Bob who valiantly offered to provide support (carry my gear).

The pre swim briefing took place in Maersk Shipping offices on the Quayside, very swanky and with a ladies loo to rival Henley Rowing Club.

As I signed in Tony said "you're the only girl left doing this! " no pressure there then! Although at my age (rapidly approaching my mid 50's) I was quite chuffed to be described as a girl! Liability waivers signed, and briefing over we collected our coloured hats and walked down to the marina under the shadow of the Tyne bridge to be assigned our safety canoe.

The white pod and Captain Stu strike out
I was in the first wave and was being chaperoned by a wizened and weather beaten canoeist called Stu, (who bore a striking resemblance to a clean shaven Captain Birdseye) and at times during the swim puffed on a pipe.

A fairly dodgy hooter sounded the start and we were off, nothing for it but to take a deep breath and jump in. (some of us with more style than others) The water was unsurprisingly cold, but unlike last month, we were assisted by a strong current (which we noticed standing on the pontoon as logs and other bits of the flotsam and jetsam of life streamed past)

We made great time under the Millennium Bridge and past the Baltic. I know I keep saying this but you do get a radically different perspective from the water and there are some great buildings on this stretch of the river.

The general scenery moved seamlessly from modern urban, to riverside park land, to deserted ship yards and industrial docks as we approached the commercial waterway at the mouth of the Tyne

In a strange sort of way I was thoroughly enjoying the swim; but after about four kilometres the river bends and flows northwards and at this point we hit our first patch of rough water with a headwind and a heavy swell.

a "gel" break; to admire the scenery!
This heavy going continued and on the approach to the DFDS Ferry at between kilometres 11 and 13 the river widens out and navigating through that stretch gave everyone a real battering. The waves were probably two or three feet high and we were being relentlessly pummelled and slammed by them.

I'm not sure that I can accurately or eloquently articulate what I was feeling at this stage, but it was hard to avoid the conclusion that I was locked in some David and Goliath type struggle as this pretty insignificant speck being tossed around and toyed with by the power of the river which seemed huge and absolutely overwhelming.

It was strangely exhilarating; as if you're battling with nature, and there's definitely something elemental about the whole thing. Fun's not quite the adjective I would use but the experience was so far away from the day to day sanitised and safe stuff of life that in a perverse sort of way I was still enjoying the swim.

No doubt the fact that unlike the training swim, the strong downstream current meant that we were still making decent progress contributed to the positive view I had at this time. Also crucially my pod mates (fellow white caps) Jonny Heron and Dave Lant were great company and we encouraged each other during the occasional gel stop, not to mention the fact that Bob popped up on the bank to shout encouragement, at the Tyne Tunnel site (just over 10 kilometres) he'd parked the car at South Shields and was running back along the riverside to meet us.

Mr Tyne River Swim and Binge exchange
mumbles about numb extremiies
Captain Stu did a fantastic job supervising our mini pod (as did all the other canoeists) he was particularly good at finding little calm backwaters where he could pour cups of hot chocolate.

There's a bit of an art to treading water and trying to grip a plastic cup after 3 hours in 12 degree water. But (at the risk of sounding like an Enid Blyton novel) I can tell you steaming hot cocoa in these conditions is quite the most fantastic drink you've ever taken.

By the time we reached the South Shields ferry we were really on the last leg, most of the rest of the field had caught us by this point and there was quite a pack as we rounded the last bend.

We swam between the moored boats on the South side of the river in a bit of a procession and there was a fair bit of shelter from the waves. I was heartened by the view of Tynemouth Priory which popped up sooner than I was expecting.

The finish was on the slipway at  South Shields sailing club and Sparky Walton and Jimmy Bridges who were in the last wave were the first swimmers home and rewarded with having a microphone stuffed in their face and being asked for their comments by a BBC reporter. I'm not sure if I could've been anywhere near coherent  at that stage but they made a pretty good fist of it.

I followed them home about an hour later  and after negotiating some pretty nasty rocks I did eventually manage to stand up. It must've taken me around about 4 hours 10 minutes to complete the swim.

I came away with impressive war wounds, including swollen hands and face, and some fairly nasty friction burns on the back of my neck and under my arms.

I reckon I spent around 30 minutes in the shower at the sailing club trying to feel human again (the one advantage of being the sole female swimmer was no queue in the showers!)

It was a fantastic day, the camaraderie and support from the rest of the guys was terrific and completing the course was immensely satisfying. As I drove home I was reflecting on Tony's opening comment at the briefing, and how he was dead right. It wasn't a mass participation event, over a mile in beautify scenery. It was a brutal 10 mile slog through an industrial wasteland in the company of a great bunch of blokes with fantastic support both on and off the water. it might not be the Great North Swim but it certainly was a Great North Swim.

We also raised over £3,000 for the RNLI there's still time to contribute via

Monday 30 September 2013

Ferret Flogs on the Tyne Part 1 (Newburn to Newcastle Quayside 11.5 km)

I've had an interesting weekend, which started on Friday, when I quickly abandoned any thought of cooking supper, resorting to our local Domino's Pizza place.

I'm not sure if it says more about my clarity of speech or the quality of the staff, but somehow Verity was transposed into "Ferret" by the weasel behind the counter.

Saturday was spent between work and the police station, where my hapless detainee had allegedly assaulted someone while they were taking a dump. You can imagine the fun the detectives had with that one. (I couldn't make this up could I?)

So could Sunday top that, well with the postponement of the Tyne River swim, the Tosser's (well the truly mad ones) were planning a training swim from Newburn to the Quayside. For some reason I thought this was a good idea. I turned up at the Quayside car park with the rest of the gang and we left our cars there and car shared to Newburn Riverside Park.

I'm a stranger to the riverside north of the Scotswood Bridge and I was growing increasingly uneasy as I realised just how far this was. The water was a chilly 11ยบ and we broke into groups with a staggered start to try and keep the field compacted. Not as cold as the North Sea and I soon warmed up. The first obstacle was negotiating the rowing squads that were out on the water but we managed that pretty well and even gave a friendly wave to a tourist (I know it seems incongruous) pleasure boat.

I had been informed by Open Water Guru Sparky Walton that we were swimming on a neap tide (the reality of that i.e no down stream current, hadn't quite sunk in at the time!)

The Scotswood Bridge seemed to take a long time coming and we were passed by the Kamikaze squad of Sparky Walton and Jimmy Bridges as we approached the bend in the river just before it, they were absolutely flying and disappeared off into the distance very quickly.

Rounding the bend there was a fair degree of chop and a horrible head wind. This made the stretch of river from the Newburn Bridge to Dunstan Staithes bloody hard work, and it seemed to take forever to swim past the old BAE systems tank factory. I know this may sound really obvious but you really don't appreciate how big the bloody river is or just how much water there is in there until you're stuck in the middle of it.

I was swimming with Joe and James who very caringly stopped every 15 mins or so to let me catch up with them, (thanks guys you were immense). We were all struggling on this stretch and every time I lifted my head to try and navigate all I could see was a wall of green water coming towards me. The gels I had stuffed up my wetsuit were gratefully consumed in this section, I wished that I had also included a Snicker's bar in a ziploc bag.

By the time we reached the Staithes (which took an eternity) spirits lifted, we'd been in the water for around 4 hours at this point and still had around 30 minutes to go.

I've never ever swum non stop for 4 hours and certainly not in those conditions. My left shoulder was really beginning to hurt and each stroke was pretty painful but my resolve to finish was strengthened by the sight of the home straight.

I knew that I was going to finish and plodded on painfully as Joe and James set out on the last lap. Despite the pain in my shoulder that final stretch is just something else. I was ticking off the bridges as I swam under them, mercifully the water was much calmer here, the Redheugh, the King Edward, the Metro bridge, the High Level, the Swing and finally the Tyne. You really appreciate how big and solid they are as you swim under them as an insignificant speck.

Teenage Triathlete caught up with me on the riverside walk beside the Copthorne and shouted encouragement the last few hundred metres. I tried the odd bit of backstroke on the swim in as it seemed to ease the shoulder. I was also a little wary of missing the steps outside the law courts where we climbed out, but a bit of dog paddle and breaststroke and I made it.

I have never been so pleased to set foot on solid ground all I had to do was walk barefoot to the car in the Quayside car park. It was just a bit surreal to be wandering across the front of the law courts, and sitting on the steps of Great Coffee, rubber suited, shoeless and dripping wet while Teenage Triathlete provided me with a much needed latte. Hopefully I was unrecognisable!

So I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself having endured that, the big question remains......can I do part 2 in a fortnight's time?

Sunday 15 September 2013

Memories of Eindhoven evoked by "minging" canal smelling costume!

At 1:30 this afternoon I was expecting to be diving off the CityMarina under the shadow of the iconic Tyne Bridge and making my way under the Millenium Bridge to South Shields (a mere 10 miles).

The weather kiboshed that, gale force winds were forecast and the harbour master deemed it too dangerous for the canoe safety cover, not the swimmers mind you!

So at 1:30 this afternoon I found myself diving into the Consett Masters session. The "big" swim has been tentatively rescheduled for the weekend of the 12th/13th October. Hmmh what's the temperature going to be like then I wonder? not too warm methinks, (although fortunately I have a fairly decent layer of natural insulation!)

Motivation to keep jacket on!
Now having arrived back from Binge's adventures in Eindhoven on Monday I was still bearing the war wounds of the dash down the canal last Saturday (see here); because the tattoos,(we used to call them Billy Stampers as kids) were proving rather difficult to shift off my body.

I returned to a posh business lunch, and disembarking from the ferry around 9:40am discovered I had about 2 and a half hours to get home, shower, change and travel back to Newcastle. Fortunately I'd managed by then to scrape off most of the marks from the back of my hands but didn't have the time to sort out my upper arms, so I resolved to keep my jacket on!

Thankfully by lunchtime today I'd removed most of the marks from my upper arms but I'm still working on my shoulder blades! I did however discover a further unpleasant souvenir of my trip. A foul canal smelling costume which had of course benefited from festering in the bottom of my bag for almost a week!

Dashing out for the pool this afternoon I grabbed my costume and goggles and jumped in the car. I was pretty appalled by the smell emanating from my Speedo endurance suit which hung like a cloud around me as I walked onto the poolside. I was hoping that no one would notice but it was pretty overwhelming and caused my sole companion this afternoon Clarkie (another refugee from the cancelled swim) to wrinkle his nose. Now he's a custody sergeant so trust me he has plenty of experience at dealing with the great unwashed. Fortunately the chlorine seemed to sort out the problem. (or he was just being polite!)

Evil Mutant Swim Coach gave us a choice as to whether we wanted to do his set or just a straight swim! I had had enough of straight swimming last week so we opted for the set.... and yes devotees of this column will know what's coming: It's Sunday so it's hundreds.....

400 free warm up 66 swim, 66 drill
4 x 100 @ 2 mins
3 x 100 @ 1:55
2 x 100 @ 1:50
1 x 100 @ 1:45
1 x 100 @ 1:40
2 x 100 @ 1:45
3 x 100 @ 1:50
4 x 100 @ 1:55
200 swim down
2600 metres

Binge's Adventures in Eindhoven (the 1 length dash)

The Start at Eindhoven
Final day of swimming today and the European Masters Championships ended with the open water event.

Sadly we weren't blessed with the fabulous weather we'd enjoyed all week, and as you can see from the pictures it was a little grim.

The build up to the race wasn't promising, some people take this sort of thing very seriously and had ventured downtown to have a look at the course, and the brave ones had even been in for a swim!

Tales of large patches of weed, general muckiness and oiliness abounded not to mention the Eindhoven authorities pulling a couple of old cars out of the water, and there were also some pretty ugly photos of dredging going on in the week leading up to the competition. This didn't dampen the spirits though.

Just a tad more professional than magic marker!
We were in the Netherlands and therefore somewhat predictably the race was a straight 3km down a canal. No problems with navigation there then. The organisation was fantastic, from the shuttle bus service to the start, to the provision of your race pack, containing cap, timing chips (two) and tattoos (6)

Although one downer was the provision of loos at the start. As we queued for the ladies (there's always a queue in the ladies isn't there) we had a pretty good view of the guys urinals! Unfortunately as I reached the front of the queue a German lady came out proclaiming "no paper" I decided that with a little willpower my trip to the loos wasn't going to be that essential and joined the queue for the tattooing! eventually emerging from the registration marquee with my nails checked and the number 330 (my race number) tattooed on the back of both hands, both shoulder blades and upper arms; I was ready for the off.

I did however discover that just because you are marked up like Keri-Ann Payne doesn't make you swim like her....sadly. The start was at a rowing boat dock and marked by a lane rope which you had to hold onto. It was cleverly positioned in a rather large patch of pretty prickly weeds, and after navigating through them we were off. At the 50 metre mark I realised I wasn't going to be competitive so I settled down to a pretty leisurely pace and enjoyed the rather urban scenery.

Having let most of the field bash on ahead, I found myself in a solitary and peaceful stretch of water, between the speedsters and a handful of stragglers. I was eternally grateful for this as despite being urged by the race referee to be a "good sport" there were some pretty dirty tactics going on.

As I approached the finish, I was becoming increasingly concerned that I would be run down by the wave behind me, (who started 15 minutes after us.)

Sure enough about 10 metres from the finish line the 60-64 year old guys came charging through and boy was that physical! Funky Trunks Riach was being bounced all over the course and was knocked off his line for the finish by the ultimate winner, an Italian with pretty scary eyes who looked like a Bond villain. You really didn't want to mess with him.

There was a great atmosphere at the presentation area and a last chance to buy EMSC 2013 merchandise. The site included the obligatory chip van (I have come to the conclusion that the Dutch national dish is chips!) Not to mention the beer vendor just to make sure that such finely tuned athletes could properly refuel.

The Brits had probably their most successful open water event with 11 medals so there was plenty to cheer about. Including fellow Tosser Nick Parkes who flew in just to swim the 3k and in a close finish out sprinted a German to win the 50 years age group. He was buzzing having come back to swimming 12 months ago focussing on thisl! A great way to end a brilliant week.

3000 metres

Monday 9 September 2013

Binge's Adventures in Eindhoven Day 7 (and the quest for a disposable barbecue.)

The Leisure Pool
Final day of the pool swimming today and Area 51 was celebrating Sumo's second gold of the meet in the 200 breaststroke, although with the greatest of respect to his performance the excitement in the pool centred around the appearance of Inge de Bruin in the 40 years 50m freestyle.

The Dutch heroine from Sydney went 26.64 to set a new European record, it was awesome to watch, although not quite fast enough to grab Dara Torres's world record.

On a more mundane level, Area 51 and the Ren 96 crew decided to combine forces to celebrate the end of the pool competition.

A barbecue was suggested and the Funky Trunks pair and Binge were dispatched to a local supermarket to lay in the provisions. The moral of this story is don't buy a fortunes worth of barbecue food without checking that you can buy a disposable barbecue first.

This led to a rather frantic chase around the suburbs of Eindhoven in a bid to locate this rather essential piece of kit! Success in a the Dutch equivalent of "downstairs at John Lewis" known as "Blokker" The evening degenerated from there on in, way too much red wine led to an attempt to eat a "Super Dickman" without using your hands. There are some very ugly photographs!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the delights of Dutch cuisine, a super dickman is a cross between a walnut whip (without the walnut) and one of those chocolate snowballs you used to eat when you were a kid.

The pool swimming ended and Jane Asher and Geoff Stokes were part of the closing ceremony and received the symbolic handing on of a flag as the next European Championships will be held in London. So all of you ex swimmers there's no excuse you've got about 30 months to get yourself back into shape.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Binge's Adventures in Eindhoven Day 6 ( the competitive debut of Funky Trunks)

There was clearly a limit to the amount of domestic godessness that could exist in Area 51; and we had clearly reached it this evening (Thursday).

After a second glorious day spent sunbathing under a water slide, the occupants of Area 51 had frazzled any culinary brain cells and we were reduced to take out pizza and left-overs.

Which I have to say were actually pretty good and included muscles in white wine sauce, not that I've ever cooked them before but with a little imagination garlic paste, onions and white wine and Bob's your uncle, we had a pretty tasty starter.

So moving smoothly on from muscles in white wine sauce to muscles in Funky Trunks although I'm not sure if these two amount to a tasty starter; the unveiling of the Funky Trunk as modelled here by Fast Eddie and Sumo, caused great excitement on the pool side (allegedly).

It was a relay day today and these trunks made their debut on the REN 96 team. The team concluded that they did exactly what it said on the tin (expressed to be NOT racing trunks). Trust me it was not a pretty sight. Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened today was the opening up of the water-slides at 5pm, which created a welcome diversion from the competition.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Binge's Adventures in Eindhoven Day 5 (Area 51 medal glut)

Swimmer's chill out area and leisure pool
For the three readers who have been following this recent binge of blogging you may have gleaned that  my endeavours in the pool came to an end with the 50 breast yesterday. I spent the day back at Area 51 catching up on a bit of blogging and writing a short report on the first couple of days for the comic. (The Swimming Times for the aficionados of you out there)

Now ordinarily I would've at some point trundled up to the pool to support my team mates, but the IT surrounding this meet is absolutely terrific. I was able to sit in Area 51 working and watching the live feed of the meet. I watched Judo, McClean the keen and Sumo all win European titles whilst eating my breakfast...fantastic. 

Mind you the live feed froze with Sumo 5 metres off the finish having chased down a fast starting opponent and I had an anxious few moments trying to confirm the result. No worries though a Gold Medal and European Record to boot, brilliant swimming. Judy and Janet's gold rush came in the 200 fly (yes they are both certifiable firstly to even contemplate this distance fly and secondly for getting up at some stupid o clock to ensure they had a proper warm up!)

Binge's adventures in Eindhoven Day 4 (accreditation where it's due!)

Andreas Prayer Competitor's Steward par excellence
Now I've been doing these meets for long enough now that you would think I'd have the marshalling down to a fine art.

Obviously not, my second event the 50 breaststroke comes around and I took my bag down to find a spot to leave it while I swum. Andy Gristwood kindly offered to play bag monitor for half an hour, as I made my way to the call area.

My heat was called by the adorable Andreas Prayer who always greets you with a smile. I made it through two rows of chairs and was sitting in the marshalling area in the corridor (didn't you used to dream of sitting in a corridor?) when one of the officials started to check our accreditation.

Uh oh no accreditation, I had very cunningly left it in my bag. I tried the usual Binge blagging technique to try and wangle my way out of this but it rapidly became apparent that "no accreditation no swim". So I had to dash out of marshalling and fight my way through the scrum of people waiting to get into marshalling smashing my toes on the foot of the railings, to locate my bag and my accreditation.

On returning my heat had made it to the back of the blocks so not long to compose myself and dive in. Swimming in lane 8 I couldn't really see anyone else but I knew speed merchant Hayley Bettinson would be in the mix on the other side of the pool. I finished second in my heat (to Hayley) and 9th overall. A big improvement on the Plymouth time but still pretty rubbish.

Now what do I expect after not training for about 3-4 months!

Binge's Adventures in Eindhoven Day 3 (Sandbagger Binge?)

Monday 2nd September: Okay you've noticed I'm playing a bit of catch up here with the blogging as after yesterday's exertions in the warm up pool we returned to the twilight zone and spent the rest of the afternoon in the leisure pool (which brings to mind the phrase "Busman's holiday")

The water slides and white water ride were great fun, although I discovered the Dutch aren't big on health and safety as I suffered a rather nasty scrape to my ankle when it came into contact with a strategically placed concrete block inside a shipwreck as I dived down to look at the sharks. (oh for goodness sake grow up I hear you say)

So day 2 of the meet and the competition opens for me with a 400 free. I had carried out the half hearted theme even into my entries so rather than do the usual 5 pool swims I chose to enter only 2. I was surprisingly mindful when filling in the entry form that my usual events the 100 and 200 breaststroke can be exquisitely painful at the best of times and excruciatingly painful when unfit.

I had also made a minor miscalculation in my entry time. I figured that my Plymouth swim was awful and with no further preparation I adopted a very scientific approach by simply adding 4 seconds onto it (that's a second for every 100 if you hadn't guessed) Sadly I didn't check what time I had swum at Plymouth and wrongly assumed it had been a 6:36 so I entered a 6:40 (it was actually a 6:16). I found myself in an early heat keeping 70 year old sprint specialist Jean Howard Jones company oops.

I was sitting in the cafe area enjoying the sunshine and the craic when I realised that heat 5 were in the water, (I was in heat 8) a bit of an adrenalin rush and a dash to the loos where I (amongst other things) struggled to drag on the suit. Made it into marshalling with time to spare, just as we were released onto the pool side.

I was in lane 0 at the far end of the pool and I sauntered across to my lane to discover there was somebody else in it! In my blind panic I hadn't noticed the cleverly hidden penultimate line of marshalling chairs just to the right of the pool side entrance. After all of that my swim definitely  exceeded expectations. Not quite sure where it came from and it's still a rubbish time but whilst it's sadly not, as the announcer said "a new personal record by 38 seconds" it is a 14 second improvement over Plymouth and I'll take that. I celebrated with a 200 metre swim down!

Binge's adventures in Eindhoven Day 2 (Area 51 and the squawking parrots)

The irony that we had by chance landed in Cabin 51 dawned on me when Janet McLean (the pain)'s mobile phone ring tone of eerie extra terrestrial sounds spread throughout our cabin.

Park de Kempervennen; A twilight zone all of our own; well apart from a couple of thousand other swimmers we keep bumping into around the place.

We came in from the drinks party and with a distinct lack of imagination decided to test out the Pizza and Pasta place adjoining Area 51 for dinner last night. It seems that the lack of imagination is a common trait amongst swimmers as the place was crammed with them. The food was pretty adequate, but we were a little underwhelmed by the entertainment in an adjoining bar which we could overhear from our seats.

In fact it wasn't so much the entertainment but a bunch of squawking parrots which felt obliged to join in with "the turn".

The din was unbelievable, but I now realise why Month Python wrote about dead parrots cos honestly if they'd got within striking range of me I could quite cheerfully have shuffled off one or two of their mortal coils.

There was a team decision to test out the shuttle service to the pool, and try out the warm up facilities. Not that I had any intention of doing a warm up electing to use Binge Swim Tactics 101 (especially tried, tested and honed to perfection here.) But it seemed to me to be a good opportunity to add a few yards to my total for the year so I tagged along.

Now the first day of these events is 800 day, which means it's pretty low key, well can you imagine 50 heats of 800 freestyle, it's mind numbing and the phrase watching paint dry comes to mind, unless you have a  team mate swimming in one of them then it can get quite exciting (or frustrating depending on your team mates performance.)

Despite the gentle pace of the competition pool, the 4 lane 50m warm up pool was fairly busy. I spent a few moments contemplating which lane to swim in, trying to weigh up the relative speed of each lane. The Dutch had helpfully placed one sign on the end lane which said "snell bahn". Now sadly the translation app on my phone doesn't do Dutch so I was left to puzzle out what that meant.

My fear was that the word was pretty close to the German for schnell and at my level of unfitness the last thing I wanted to try was mixing it with a load of speedsters; but, looking at the quality of swimmers it seemed to me that it could also mean a rather unpolitically correct but quite accurate "snail lane". This seemed tailor made for me so I dropped in and worked my way through a whole 800 metres just fine tuning myself for the 400 tomorrow.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Team Binge Voyage to Eindhoven Day 1

Now if swimming the British Masters Championships on no training was a little ill advised, then abandoning work, England, Bob and TT for almost 10 days to compete in the European Masters Championships on even less time in the water is little short of suicidal.

Truthfully I had adopted a rather half hearted and somewhat indecisive approach to whether or not I would do the European Championships this year following my big fail in my 2013 Binge Challenge.

However. as an after thought I sent off a limited entry the day before the meet's closing date and didn't really give it much more thought until Sumo rang me last week to discuss the travel arrangements. Easy really just get myself to the Strawberry Farm on the A69 near Hexham around about 3pm on Friday and we'd be off, via the North Sea ferry.

There was the usual compete and utter panic about trying to clear up from work to get away,  and given my ultimate destination the phrase about sticking fingers in dykes could never be more appropriate.

We arrived at North Shields Port and drove onto the ferry, any good intentions of being sensible through the week, were dispelled as we came out of our cabin and wandering on deck discovered a very sunny Mermaid Bar.

Leaning against the railing with a beer in your hand on a sunny late summer afternoon is quite a civilised way to do a preliminary recce of the closing leg of the Tyne swim (although there must be a serious question as to whether or not I'll make it this far downstream).

We decided that as we were stuck on this boat until 9am the next morning we'd better make the most of it and we joined the various hen and stag parties bedecked in fluorescent day-glo splendour and embarked on a pub crawl around the various bars on board before sitting down to dinner.

A rather fitful night's sleep in a bunk, a couple of hours drive at the other end, (as we only went wrong once I decided that our navigational skills had improved immensely and we've obviously cracked the navigate by iPad after last year's efforts see here ) and we arrived at our new home for the next 10 days...Center Parcs Dutch style.

The pre meet arrival ritual of find the pool, collect accreditation, test the pool out, (a mere 400m as I didn't want to over do it,) then off to find the venue for the British Drinks reception, (better get there early because the bill was going to land on my credit card) I managed to persuade one of the shuttle bus drivers to drop me off outside the hotel, an unscheduled stop but saved my legs for the challenge of 400 free on Monday.

400 metres

Sunday 18 August 2013

Henley (an abridged version)

So where were you at 8am last Sunday morning? drinking latte and reading the morning papers? taking breakfast in bed, walking the dog, still blissfully asleep?

Well I found myself simultaneously in that rubber suit and the River Thames skulking under Henley Bridge (as you do). I did have company though with about 300 others awaiting the start of the Henley "Bridge to Bridge" swim. A mere 14 kilometres, quite a daunting prospect when the furthest you've ever swum in one go is is 5km (see here)

Now Bob, who of course has been on great Binge Bashing form recently has taken his training very seriously and done any number of 5 and 6 km open water swim, had given this event quite a lot of thought and came up with a cunning plan: Suggested that he was going to avoid the usual scrum at the start by hanging at the back and then just working his way through the field.

I thought this was a smart tactic and would stop me from going out too fast and at an unsustainable pace. So we hovered at the back until things got going, and then tentatively set out. The swim runs 14.1 km from Henley Bridge to Marlow Bridge. The Leander Rowing Club is the race HQ and has quite the poshest pre race bogs I've ever experienced. They still hummed a bit as the old flight, fright or s***e syndrome is seriously in play here

Now I'm still relatively new to these things but thought that the organisation was pretty good. The race has a mass start, and at the first feed station ( 4 km down stream) you are sorted into groups (rather endearingly referred to as pods). By then I'd settled into a comfortable pace and was swimming with people pretty much my speed.

The descent downstream was then controlled as you finish off the swim in your pod, whilst being shepherded down the river by a couple of safety canoeists, (who did a pretty good job of fending off pleasure craft and barges.)

There are 4 feed stations 3 of which are situated at points where you need to exit the river to navigate around a lock. The first feed station came up really quickly just as I was beginning to get into a decent rhythm, working my way nicely through the field. I had lost Bob by this stage and couldn't tell if he was in front or behind me.

By this point I was glad of the lumps of Mars bars, Malt loaf and Boost bars which were on hand in bite sized pieces to refuel. Teenage triathlete was doing a sterling job on the tow path as the support team and I was encouraged by the news that Bob was in the pod behind.

The next stop was at just over half way at Medmenham, and I was quite surprised at how rural the scenery was over this leg (at one point I even saw some sheep).

The third feed station popped up at Hurley Lock, by now we had covered 10k. After a cup of hot chocolate and more Mars bar I discovered some bits of Snickers amongst the offerings, I had no idea how divine the change in texture and saltiness of a peanut could be.

Hurley also presented the biggest challenge of the swim as to avoid the lock we had to swim across the southern most part of the tributary, climb out and then walk across a little island, (very painful on the feet despite the odd bit of matting here and there) and then re enter the water on the northern side below the lock.

The re entry point was very shallow and rocky and there was a tendency to wobble and stagger which of course only enhanced the pain. In the end it was all too much for me and I lay down in the water on my tummy and dragged myself into the deeper part, doing a pretty good impression of a beached whale, (I was a bit worried that Greenpeace might pop up and halt proceedings by slapping "save the whale" stickers on my bum) not a very elegant but an effective solution.

After Temple lock it was a couple of clicks to the finish and the usual spurt to the finish line as Binge discovers her leg kick.

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the swim, there wasn't a single spot where I had thoughts of getting out.

I have to say however that by the end my upper arms were beginning to seize up and trying to lift my arms above my head for the next 48 hours was excruciatingly painful.

A great day out and well worth the effort as the natural order of swimming was restored in the Binge household as I watched Bob finish! which makes us all square at two each for the year!

Monday 5 August 2013

Bored Beyond Belief come back EMSC 1.0: 31st July Last Session before Consett's summer break

After Sundays straight 3.2k swim you would think I would appreciate a bit of variety in Wednesday night's swim.

I dropped into the "joggers" lane and set off, followed by "Madders" probably the one triathlete on the planet that I can stay in front of (but only just!).

It felt really and truly terrible and I very quickly passed my boredom threshold and took on the persona of moaning minnie. I discovered I wasn't the only person being challenged by the session.

Madders came up with the line "this session is so boring, it could've been written by Bob!" Which made me chuckle, as whilst it's entirely untrue I had a great image of an incandescently outraged Bob who would be mortally offended at the suggestion that he could write a non-interesting session and undoubtedly found that comment almost blasphemous.

I kept going till the end so I guess that's a bit of a silver lining.

Warm up 4 x 200 200 swim, 133 pull 66 swim 133 kick 66 swim 200 swim
4 x 200 @ 3:45
3 x 133 @ 2:40
2 x 66 @ 1:35
3 x 200 @ 3:45
3 x 133 @ 2:40
2 x 66 @ 1:35
2 x 200 @ 3:45
1 x 133 @ 2:40
2 x 66
33 swim down

Sunday 28 July 2013

Weather halts first Flog on the Tyne

Saturday evening brought a torrential downpour on Tyneside not quite as bad as the June 2012 flooding, but serious enough to cancel the Tyne River training swim.

I was hoping that I would be able to check off about 11k in my challenge today as we were planning a swim from Newburn to the Quayside.

But the risk of the sewerage systems overflowing with the volume of water resulted in our swim being cancelled on elf and safety grounds. Gross.

Bother, turned up at Consett and "elected" to swim the aerobic set with Clarkie a 3k straight swim. Actually squeezed out 3200 metres in just under an hour which gave me my first green week since April.

It was mind numbingly boring though! but I'm quite relieved I was talked into the swim at Ellerton yesterday.

3200 straight swim
100  swim down

Saturday 27 July 2013

Gentle Paddle around Ellerton

I am allegedly planning a training swim down the Tyne tomorrow, it is reputedly about 11 - 12 k and I'm a bit concerned as the furthest distance I've ever swum is 5k. My plan today was to have a day off and rest up!

I was then talked into doing a "gentle" 3k event at Ellerton Lake in North Yorkshire. On the basis that it was a very low key affair.

I decided beforehand that under no circumstances was I going to be drawn into a race with Bob and also that as it was such a lovely day and the temperature was a very pleasant 22 degrees that I was going to save my neck from any further vicious wet suit rubs and swim in my cossie.

I set off at a fairly steady pace and was happy to let Bob get on with it when he passed me at the first turn. (Happy may be slightly overstating my views about the situation but I wasn't going to chase him down).

A swimmer in a rather fetching pink cap also passed me at this point but managed to go spectacularly off course and started swimming back the way we'd come. My aim then became to stay in front of this navigationally challenged swimmer (believing "it" to be female). I was helped in this aim by a repeat of this error the second time around.

By the third and fourth lap I was beginning to get into my stride and picked up my stroke cadence to make sure I stayed ahead of Pinky and I was also pretty sure that I was catching Bob down the back straight (although I will concede this could simply be my wishful thinking).

So despite it being two-nil according to Bob, (who conveniently forgets about the 20 years worth of defeats I've inflicted upon him) a great morning out, a lovely low key event and I even managed to swim through some weeds without worrying about what was lurking in them! I also discovered that Pinky was a guy called Martin, as we swopped experiences about the race afterwards.

Fantastic morning but will this have completely bu**ered me up for tomorrow? Only one way to find out!

Thursday 25 July 2013

Surfs Up ! (Inspired by a Spire swim)

Talk about "wild swimming", turned up on the boat ramp at Tynemouth at about 7 pm this evening  with a handful of other Tossers. Most of whom eschewed wetsuits!

What a bunch of animals, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and stuck with the rubber suit. We struck out for a swim along the beach to the Spire and back a quick 2k.

It was pretty choppy on the swim out but as we turned and headed for home a pretty big swell sprung up which made swimming hard work but great fun, and really challenged my sense of direction.

It was great fun and I caught a couple of great rides onto the beach body surfing. A fantastic evening I didn't want to get out. All in all well worth leaving the sofa and telly for.