Nutters!

Paula and Dave run the Nemes Diving and Watersports Acadamy at Holborough Lake in Kent. I had spoken to Paula at the lake to book my induction on Sunday before heading home from Devon.

I woke up early, keen to head over for 11am when my assessment was booked. The whole family was coming for moral support and I’d heard that there might be some Easter treats at the lake as well!

We arrived at about 10.30am and the facilities looked great, proper changing rooms rather than the empty shipping container I’d seen at another lake I had visited earlier in the year. This lake was primarily a divers lake but it looked perfect for swimming with a well-marked circuit.

Debbie (my wife) and the girls immediately decided to take part in the Easter treasure hunt and various other activities that had been laid on. I paid my £15 and proceeded to change into my trunks. Dave was dragging his small rowing boat towards the small slipway that allowed for an easy entry to the lake. He was to escort me up to the yellow buoy and back (the pre-requisite distance for the swim assessment).

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The whole circuit is about 400m and I was planning to do at least a lap, just to get my monies worth. Dave was sitting in his inflatable dingy, oars in hand, waiting for me to lower myself into the water. I think I might have sworn on entry as it felt much cooler than the sea in Budleigh.

I later read somewhere that the sea, when compared with fresh water at the same temperature, feels warmer. I would agree with that based on my experiences that day and since.

I slowly stepped off the slipway and into the waist deep water by the wall. I lowered my goggles over my eyes and splashed myself a little in order to acclimatise and then I just decided to go!

Head down I swam as fast as I could (I may even have kicked a little) all the way up the side of the lake to the furthest yellow buoy, Dave keeping pace as best he could in his dingy. I stopped at the end and Dave had a puzzled look on his face declaring that I only needed to go as far as the smaller buoy that bisected the two larger yellow turning buoys. I didn’t really understand what he was on about as I didn’t remember seeing the other buoy on my way past. I asked if he was happy for me to finish the lap, he smiled and left me to get on with it as he rowed back to the slipway.

induction

At the end of the lap there was no sign of my supporters so I decided to swim another lap before getting out. I beached myself on the small slipway, clambered to my feet and made my way up the path to the changing room, I was offered a free cuppa en-route which was nice and as I got dressed Paula kindly wrote up my membership card.

card

I hadn’t paid much attention to the noisy group of people eating cake as I exited the water but it turned out that they were all Nemes Nutters, a friendly bunch of scuba divers, swimmers, kayakers and long-suffering partners of the above. By completing my swim assessment it would appear that I was now a Nutter too!

I soon realised however that it was not quite as simple as that. The Open Water Swimming faction of the Nemes Nutters had their own special initiation practices.

It was absolutely necessary for me to engage in a lot of chatting, hugging, kissing, helping each other get dry and in some cases dressed, eat vast quantities of cake, drink tea and of course partake in a healthy amount of swimming!

In reality being one of only a few male Nutters, I was readily accepted into the group and I couldn’t have imagined the friendships that would develop over the coming months and years. Without exception all of the Nemes Nutters are lovely people and I’m proud to call them my swimming family.

Little did I know at the time, but the Nemes Nutters Swimming Club is legendary in Open Water swimming circles and as at 14th July 2014 the roll of honours looked like this!

  • 19 successful Solo Channel Swimmers
  • The World Record Holder for the longest ever Channel Swim
  • 4 successful 2-way Channel swimmers
  • Over 30 successful Channel Relay swimmers
  • Record holders from the Oldest Channel Relay Team
  • Ladies from the FIRST round the Isle Of Wight Relay Team – record holders!
  • The first UK Ice Mile Swimmer
  • The oldest Ice Mile swimmer in the world
  • Gold, silver and bronze medal winners at the 2013 UK Cold Water Championships
  • A World Championship Qualifying GB Triathlete
  • One of only 19 people to have swum Loch Lomond solo
  • The only person to have swum 2 miles in 0 degree water – record holder!
  • The first place in the UK to hold an official “Ice Mile” event
  • 2012 World Cold Water Swimming Championships Latvia 450 @ 0 degrees C. Gold in category
  • 2014 World Cold Water swimming Championships Finland 450 @ 0 degrees C. Gold in category
  • 2014 World Cold Water swimming Championships Finland. 150 @ 0 degrees C. Silver in category
  • Relay in Bering Strait, Russia to America, 6 days, two Nemes Nutters in the team!
  • First ever English women to swim 1,000 meters winner overall in the Arctic Circle @ 0 degrees C
  • First relay of the Great Caledonian Way 49 miles one Nemes Nutter in team

Compiled by Nemes Nutters Swim Coach and now good friend Giovanna Richards.

I was in awe when I realised the scale of the achievements from within this group of people and I wanted to learn from their experiences and add to the list of accolades.

The truth of the matter however, was that before I was able to do anything worthy of this list, I would need to train harder than I had ever trained before in order to prepare myself for my next daunting challenge, the BLDSA Champion of Champions!

 

 

 

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It’s all in the planning

I had a thirst, not only for a drink (I’d been off the booze for a year) but for knowledge. Whilst I was researching everything I could find related to swimming Loch Lomond, I stumbled across a blog that would change my life forever!

There was this guy, Mark Sheridan who swam the Loch in 2012, having read his story I knew that I needed to track him down, buy him lunch and as my American friends would say ‘drink from the fire hose’.

You should check out his blog here:

http://reminiscencesofalongdistanceswimmer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/bldsa-loch-lomond-216mile-swim-2012.html

Eventually after much online searching, I managed to track down Mark’s email address. Luckily it turned out that he worked in London not ten minutes from my own office and I dropped him an unsolicited email with an offer of lunch, and hoping that he would agree to meet and share his wisdom. I was excited when Mark agreed and felt that finally I was making some real progress.

We met for lunch in Wagamama’s a week later, it was a bit like a first date. Mark trying to get a feel for whether I was really up for the challenge, or just another wannabe Loch Lomond swimmer. He was probing for the tell-tale signs and searching for common ground. I remember, when mentioning to Mark that the swimming and the distance would not be a problem for me, the wry smile that lingered from across the table.

Mark gave me some solid advice about choosing my crew wisely, and sorting out a boat early. We discussed the best route and the challenges of navigating at night, all invaluable for planning my swim the following August. Mark also mentioned that he often trained with some Nutters at Holborough lake in Kent. I told him that I would check it out as it was only about 30 mins from my home, and much closer than a drip to Dover. I paid the bill and we parted company.

Over the next couple of months in the lead up to Christmas 2013 I started putting plans in place to recruit a crew, book a boat, and propose (sell) a great holiday in Loch Lomond to the family, which would by chance, coincide with the swim.

As with the previous year Christmas was the time for planning but it became quickly apparent that this coming year, things needed to change.

My family suffered in 2013, I was single-minded, selfish and didn’t include them in my plans. I had tunnel vision and did not realise the extent to which my training and state of mind was impacting my family. My wife and I had a long and emotional discussion, the outcome of which was that I promised to find balance, to make time during the year for them and to include them in my plans. It dawned on me that they were really invested in my endeavour emotionally and wanted to contribute and feel part of what was to come. It was no longer my swim but our swim, and I realised I could not do it on my own.

This reset manifested itself in a written plan of activities for the next eight months to include not only all training swims, key milestones, events and associated travel but also dedicated family time, short breaks and holidays.

My simple aim was to swim further and faster every month than the previous year. I planned to swim in the pool until April then the lake at Holborough or the sea either in Dover or Devon. I also planned to swim my first BLDSA swim in 2014, the notorious Champion of Champions, and decided that a successful ten-hour sea swim off Budleigh beach prior to Loch Lomond would give me the necessary confidence going into the swim.

I stuck a daily planner on the wall of our study and used various colour coded dots to indicate progress.  I was ready to execute our plan to the letter..