Camp Eton: The Best of the Best!

At the end of January an incredibly exciting email arrived from Nick and Sakura Adams, announcing Camp Eaton 3: The third year of their swim training camp held at Eton College in April, and aimed at aspiring long distance swimmers from the Serpentine Swimming Club and beyond. It costs £60 and any profits are donated to the RNLI.

Over the course of the weekend, workshops include: Feeding and Hydration; Hypothermia and Fatigue; Mental Preparation; The Four ‘P’s; (Channel) Pilots, Booking, Tides and Swim Course; and A Guide to Swims Around the Globe.

Swimming! Credit: Nick Adams

Camp Eton Swimmers in action. Credit: Nick Adams

These are long days and in between workshops there are swim sessions, helping participants notch up 20km of swimming over the weekend, including an epic 100 x 100m session starting at 6am on the Sunday morning.

100 x 100 Never Forget your Abacus! Credit: Nick Adams

100 x 100 Never Forget your Abacus! Credit: Nick Adams

I know this may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but to me this was the long distance swimming equivalent of Top Gun meets the excitement of Snow on Christmas Day.

But was I ready? 18 months of injury, fatigue, rehab and health checks made me think perhaps not.

“This is wonderful – fingers crossed, one for me for next year I hope  :)”

To which came Nick’s response: “Why next year? Get on it now, and learn now; you’d love it.”

Good point.

Although every time anyone mentioned the words “Camp Eton”, the Top Gun guitar rift started playing in my head, participating in this weekend isn’t about being an elite; Camp Eton is about the swimming community pooling resources, knowledge and experience to inspire one another and equip people with the information they need to realise their swimming dreams and support others to do the same.

That’s what makes it the best of the best.

It’s a truly special learning opportunity and scrolling through the opening credits it’s pretty easy to see why.

Nick is president of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation and has swum the channel ten times and across a lot of other intrepid stretches of water in between. As you can imagine, he can provide one or two helpful insights…

Sakura has swum all over the globe, including the Channel. She is also a doctor and talked us through her research on hypothermia and fatigue in cold water.

Swimming! Credit: Nick Adams

Swimming! Credit: Nick Adams

Swim analysis and technique sessions were provided by the wonderful Ray (Swim Canary Wharf) Gibbs and SwimQuest‘s John Cunningham Rolls, (solo Channel, Manhattan Island and Zurich swimmer and Vice President of the International Winter Swimming Association), shared his insight on the mental preparation for long swims:

“People can be ‘Drainers or Radiators’, surround yourself with ‘Radiators’.”

Wise words JCR!

Big Fish, Little Fish with Ray Gibbs. Credit: Nick Adams

Big Fish, Little Fish with Ray Gibbs. Credit: Nick Adams

Deirdre Ward (Manhattan Island, Zurich, two way Windermere and Channel swimmer) shared her experiences of organising support crew and throughout the weekend big smiles, sustenance and support were provided by the awesome Rod (he’s got your back) Newing, Doyley (taking Maxim to the max) and Tory (I’ve just come back from swimming Rottnest, because the Channel didn’t have enough sharks) Thorpedo.

Not a bad line up, and the participant swimmers were an eclectic and inspiring bunch too, including Doug embarking on his first open water swim (he had a few beers in a pub and ended up committed to swimming Lake Windermere) and Wendy Trehiou (two way Channel swimmer and all round swimming legend).

I had no idea where my swimming was at, and went into the weekend with a completely open mind. I would learn as much as I could, participate in the swimming as much as possible, and promised myself that I would get out of the water if I did not feel comfortable.

The weekend started at 7am with roughly 5km of swimming, so by 9am I had already completed my longest swim since summer 2013.

And I was already learning. Learning about setting a pace, swim sets for long distance swim training and taking my first gulps of Maxim. With each kilometre, faith in my body and swimming ability was restored.

Anything else from here was a bonus and I couldn’t stop smiling.

So what else did I learn?

So much. So, so much. Luckily a lot of the info is contained in the Camp Eton handbook (aka the Channel Swimming Bible). Everything from what brand of squash mixes best with Maxim, to suggested feed plans for swimmers, how to actually feed a swimmer, support crew briefings, directions to Dover Harbour swim training and Directions to Shakespeare beach (you wouldn’t want to get that wrong). It’s essential reading for anyone contemplating the Channel or any other ‘big’ swim for that matter.

The British Coast is that way

The British Coast is that way [NB that’s not Shakespeare Beach]

Other key things I took away from the weekend:

  • Long distance swimming is a team sport and is about way more than just swimming.
  • There are challenges and risks and it’s a lot of hard work, but good preparation means that you and your team can make good judgment calls.
  • I love swimming. Even 100 x 100 in a 25m pool.
  • I can do anything once I put my mind to it.
  • Don’t leave me alone in a room with a selection pack of Pringles.

It also reinforced how classic swims and things like the Oceans 7 can inspire, motivate and provide reference points, but overall long distance swimming isn’t about ticking boxes.

Ticking Boxes

Ticking Boxes

Just like Top Gun there are no points for second place, but unlike Top Gun there are also no points for first place, or any position for that matter. It’s about exploration: personal, physical, geographical.

Lampay Island, Isle of Skye. OSS Adventure Swim with the NWSSSG. Photo Credit: Gill Williams

Lampay Island, Isle of Skye. OSS Adventure Swim with the NWSSSG. Photo Credit: Gill Williams

One of the slides from the workshops that really stuck in my mind was a picture of a whale leaping out of the ocean, taken by Nick and Sakura on one of their swims. EXACTLY!

A world of swimming awaits and thank you everyone for a truly inspiring weekend.



芙蓉出水: (fúróng chūshuǐ) Out of the water a lotus rises

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