Tag Archives: Marathon Swimming

New Blog: A Lotus Rises Meets Lynne Cox…We talk about her new book ‘Swimming in the Sink’, the power of love, and realising swimming dreams

Lynne Cox is an American long-distance open-water swimmer, motivational speaker, and author. Over the course of more than 35 years, spanning a period equal to 8 Olympic Games, Lynne has accomplished swims setting world records and opening borders, contributed to medical research, supported environmental causes, and inspired people to overcome great obstacles. She is best known for her swim across the Bering Strait from the United States to the Soviet Union 7 August 1987.

She twice held the overall record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel from England to France and has completed over 60 challenging swims around the world, including being the first woman to swim the Cooke Strait and first person to swim off Antarctica in 32 degree water, for 25 minutes!

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It is fair to say Lynne puts her heart in to everything, and in her latest book “Swimming in the Sink. An episode of the heart” Lynne tells the story of facing her biggest challenge ever – a broken heart – dealing with the grief of her parents passing, the loss of her beloved Labrador and diagnosis with atrial fibrillation, placing the real possibility of her own death before her.

As her world unravels, she becomes estranged from the water, but courage, patient determination, friendship and love take her on a healing journey, reconnecting her to her heart and mind, rebuilding and making her whole again.

Why did you want to write this book

My goal was to write a book that would help people in many ways. I explain the process that I went through to become an elite athlete, how the stress of life made me lose touch with my body and heart and how I nearly died. I write about the process I went through to recover my health so other people may adapt that process to their lives to recover from illness and thrive. 

What have you learned about life both in and out of the water from this journey of the heart?

I have learned that life is a gift and that it’s important to remember each day is precious. I have learned that love heals your heart. And there are many forms of love – romantic love, love of family, friends, love of the ocean, love for oneself, and love for other beings. Love is a powerful emotion and force that connects us and makes us happy we are alive

Your book explores the mind-body connection. How important is that for open water swimming?

The mind-body connection is essential for open water swimming. You have to be constantly aware of your body when you are making a long swim or a cold swim. You need to continuously monitor how your body is performing, to adjust your pace and you need to continuously maintain a positive attitude. 

“Each day I told my heart that I was happy that she was still a part of me, and I was grateful for her. I told her that she was strong and powerful and that she would endure like she always had. I told my heart that I loved her, that I always wanted her with me. We still had great things we would do together, and I wanted to do them wholeheartedly.” Lynne Cox, Swimming in the Sink

What advice do you have for other people embarking on new challenges, facing a broken heart or a loss of swimming mojo?

I would give different advice for the three things you’ve listed. If people are embarking on new challenges I would suggest they determine the level of their commitment to the challenge, figure out how much research they need to do, and focus their training to meet their goal. As for facing a broken heart, I think there are so many components to consider when people are doing that, and there are so many possibilities and options.

That’s why I wrote the new book because you can’t advise people in a few sentences. If people are losing their desire to swim the best thing they can do is to get out of the water, do something else, take a break, enjoy hiking, kayaking, going to the movies, do something different with friends. There will be a time when the water calls them back and it will be impossible for them to resist that invitation.

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What next for you? 

I am doing speaking engagements for: companies, physicians, libraries, and associations. I’ve begun to work on a new writing project, and I am swimming whenever and wherever I can as I continue to travel to promote Swimming in the Sink.

Finally, as you may be aware A Lotus Rises is working in partnership with the International Institute for swim Cake studies to answer the critical question: what is the best cake for optimum swim performance? What is your favourite swimcake and why?

A slice of moist rich dark chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream frosting was a swim cake that I’d dream about when I was doing a four hour ocean swim 🙂

Thank you Lynne!

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water: We celebrate their successes in the water, inspire others to embark on swimming adventures and raise awareness of the social and environmental issues that are entwined with our love of water.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebook, Instagram, Twitter @ALotus_Rises and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

The name ‘A Lotus Rises’, comes from the Chinese proverb 芙蓉出水,“Out of the Water a Lotus Rises,” used to described strong beautiful women in water and overcoming challenges and coming into bloom.

Swimming Robben Island, A Lotus Rises Meets Natasha Dyer

Natasha Dyer is a London-born and based open water swimmer, working as a communications specialist for international development, focused in Africa. She is passionate about social justice and ensuring people have equal access to quality education. She’s currently conducting research into the drivers of conflict behind xenophobic violence in South Africa.

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On May 4th 2016, she swam 11.3km around Robben Island, becoming one of less than 10 women to have completed this swim. This was her first swim over 10k and in challenging temperatures of between 13 and 16 degrees.

A Lotus Rises spoke to Natasha to find out what it takes to break through the 10k barrier, acclimatisation and the story behind her inspiring swim!

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Natasha and her swim crew!

What’s your swimming background?

I always loved swimming, especially in the sea, but had never considered taking up open water as a challenge until I moved to South Africa in 2010 and was looking for ways to fundraise for the educational charity I was working for. The first South African to ever swim the Channel Peter Bales, suggested I swim the 7.5km crossing from Robben Island to Cape Town (Big Bay). I initially thought he was crazy but then I met the rest of the Cape Town open water swimming community and never looked back! I completed that swim on my second attempt (1st go I was pulled out 500m before the shore due to hypothermia) but when I moved back to London I let my inner fish lie flat for a while, while I did other things. Luckily, last year I joined the Serpentine swimming club, a collection of weird and wonderful people, and my swimming took off again! 

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Why did you choose a circumnavigation of Robben Island?

This year I set a goal for myself of swimming over 10km in open water. As South Africa was where it all began for me, and I knew there were several 10k+ swims around Cape Town, I wanted to do it there. Robben Island is of course a very significant landmark, as its where Nelson Mandela and many other struggle heroes were imprisoned for almost 30 years during apartheid. It was quite something to contemplate while swimming around it. Definitely provided motivation, as did swimming towards Table Mountain! 

 I was in town to be a bridesmaid for my swim buddy’s wedding and with all the celebrations had given up hope that I’d get a swim in before leaving. Especially as the crossing I’d planned to attempt – from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay – was off the cards because of a recent storm damaging the landing area. However, the day before my skipper Derrick Frazer – head of Big Bay lifesaving club  and the man who had pulled me out when I was hypothermic during my first crossing (and thus saved my life) – suggested swimming around the island, so I jumped at the chance! It was all pretty last minute, but I think that’s the way to approach it as you can never be sure a swim will actually happen. I was pretty nervous about the temperature and whether my mind was up to the challenge, but everything happened so serendipitously, I knew I had to make it! 

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The water temperature ranged between 13-16 degrees. It’s also famed for having a few exciting inhabitants. How did you prepare to swim in those temperatures and were you nervous about sharks at all – if so how did you overcome that?

The sea life on the day was amazing. On our way out to the island we met a pod of more than 100 dolphins. It was such a thrill to see them jumping in and out of the water at breakneck speed! During the swim my crew also saw penguins, seals and a couple of whales! People always think of great whites in the Atlantic, and they are there, but are hardly ever seen around Robben Island as they prefer the warmer waters at Seal Island and around Fish Hoek where the seals, are found. Occasionally they mistake surfers for seals in the waves, but human attacks are pretty rare. We just hear a lot about them when they do. People like to hype up the shark element to Cape Town swimming to make it sound impressive, but the truth is that the cold is the biggest challenge. 

Saying that, the thought does sometimes enter your mind that you might meet something, so you have to push it out and carry on. At the beginning of my swim, I had to skirt quite a lot of jellyfish which freaked me out at first. But I soon realised they weren’t stinging, so I focused on avoiding the kelp (thick sea weeds) instead! 

In terms of training, I swam at the Serps during the winter, where the temperature got down to 3 degrees at one point, so I felt fairly acclimatised to the cold. I’d done a half an hour sea swim the week before however and felt pretty shivery, so I was still nervous. And on the day, it definitely was cold! 

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Was the swim difficult to organise independently? What logistic considerations were there? Who were your support crew and what role did they play in this swim?

I was lucky, as I already knew the people who could make it happen quickly. I had submitted my forms to the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association who verify the swim, but my skipper organised the logistics. If you’ve never done a swim like this, its wise to connect with an experienced skipper who can help beforehand and brief you to make sure all you need to worry about on the day is swimming! 

You can’t underestimate the importance of having a good support crew. As said, Derrick was my skipper and my second was my great friend and newlywed Zani Taitz, who swam the second half with me. It was a great boost, as I was definitely cold when she got in and its always nice to swim with someone, especially friends. Looking up at dear people that had helped me get into the sport, cheering me on and enjoying it as well was such a thrill. Also the thought of how good I’d feel at the finish and how happy I’d be to tell my Serps teammates, with whom I’ve signed up to swim across the Channel and Lake Geneva this year. So I (literally) gritted my teeth and just kept swimming!  

What advice do you have for any other swimmers wanting to break through the 10k barrier?

A month or so before, I’d gone on a swim camp organised by Nick and Sakura Adams, very experienced open water swimmers who do an enormous amount to prepare aspiring Channel and other open water swimmers to succeed. During the camp, we’d done a 10km straight session in the 25m pool which, although brutal, had shown me that I could swim the distance in one go. 

Having done other sea swims before also helped, especially because the sea is very different to river swimming. The salt water dehydrates you and makes your throat quite sore and you have to learn to swim in the waves. Completing other swims had also showed me I could stay in for a while and cope with the cold, though I knew it’d be tough. I just thought about how far I’d come from that first Robben Island crossing. There’s no magic formula however, just time in the water, learning from other experienced swimmers, gritting your teeth and enjoying it! 

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What next?!

As mentioned, in August I’m swimming in a relay across the Channel and in September another across the 69km Lake Geneva. Next year I’m considering swims around the bottom of Africa at Cape Point (where sharks are more common), between the Fjords in Norway, crossing the Gibraltar straits or swimming at Alcatraz! But I haven’t decided yet. For me, a huge part of open water swimming is not just about testing my limits of duration, distance and mental strength, but also getting to explore different parts of the world and its nature through swimming. 

As you know, at A Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance?”. What is your preferred Swim Cake and why?

The best swim cake I’ve had so far is the Guinness chocolate cake fellow swimmer and butterfly swim nutter Sam Mould made for my birthday. It melts in your mouth and is absolutely divine. What a great study! Please invite me to try the shortlist.

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Thank you Natasha!

At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

Oceans 7 in 1 Year

In September 2016, British Endurance Swimmer Beth French will commence her world record setting challenge to swim the Oceans Seven in one year. She will be swimming to highlight the relationship humans have with our fragile but vital oceans, looking at environmental issues in the marine ecology as she goes.

French is no stranger to overcoming incredible challenges. In 1993 ME had caused her to be wheelchair bound, but she recovered after almost a decade since contracting this debilitating syndrome. As such, she has, “different parameters for coping.”

Her previous swims include, the English Channel, the Molokai Channel – a British female first and the 26 mile Scilly Island Channel from Cornwall to St Mary’s – a world first. A Lotus Rises spoke to French about this incredible challenge and the power of mind over matter both in and out of the water.

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Beth in her element

This is EPIC! What inspired you to undertake this challenge?

I concocted the mad notion that I could swim all oceans seven channels in a year when I was up a gum tree, about 5miles from completing my solo crossing of the Molokai channel in Hawaii.

A couple of miles earlier, I had hit a wall… Recent heart-break meant I fell off the wagon psychologically, and I’d been beating my pain into the water for about 7hrs before that. My left elbow had twinged previously and all of a sudden, I couldn’t move it at all. My left shoulder froze- I could no longer get it out of the water to swim front crawl, nor could I put any resistance through it via breaststroke.

But this channel swimming lark is not for the faint hearted (or sane) so I one arm doggy paddled the last 7 miles, which with the Pacific swells, took me a further 12 hrs.

I’m not ashamed of holding the longest crossing of the Molokai channel to date- I swam for 24hrs 10mins, non stop. I realised that I loved channel swimming, but wanted more than an expensive day trip- I wanted to see if I knew how to drive my body well enough to recover quickly for the next one…. And the next one…

Having recovered from ME, which is relentless, I have different parameters for coping, I guess.

Beth French

What order will you complete the swims? What are the logistical challenges?

The order I am attempting the channels is to begin with the north channel from Ireland to Scotland. I want that one in the bag – It’ll be the coldest and I don’t want to have to attempt that without a full tank of gas. Then the Catalina channel in California, then the Molokai channel, the Cook Straits of New Zealand, the Straits of Gibraltar, Tsugaru channel in Japan and finishing with the English Channel in time for my 40th birthday.

How do you prepare physically? What does your training schedule look like and how will you avoid injury and ensure you have time to recover between swims?

Preparing for something like this is a pretty individual thing – I train a lot less than people expect, due to my ex ME health and hyper mobility.

I can’t train twice a day, or even every day like some competitive pool swimmers. I’m a single mum, which actually helps with the mental training and dealing with sleep deprivation, so they are not new experiences. I have a very physical job, 9hrs of deep tissue massage back to back 3 days a week and I’ll go train after at least one of them to really get the endurance going.

I sporadically torture myself with random sets of say, an hour and a half legs only, or towing my son in a dinghy in the sea.

You use what you have, so I get my son to sit on my hips and do lengths of front crawl with a 7yr old on me- great resistance training and efficient use of time.

Avoiding injury would be nice- because of my job I am pretty clued up with body mechanics so I go to the gym a couple of times a week to work on specific areas that need strengthening.

I also avoid over training. In this kind of event, one channel becomes training for the next, so it’s a perpetual taper once you are in it.

Beth French

You were ordained as a Buddhist nun. Please can you describe the relationship between your meditation practice and swimming. In particular, the importance of mindset for endurance swims.

In my 20’s when I was wandering the world learning different indigenous answers to ME, I ordained as a Buddhist nun in Thailand in order to intensively study vipasanna meditation, which has been popularised as mindfulness.

The mind is such an incredible weapon, but without training it easily works against us. The monastery was such an amazing experience and taught me so much about inner strength.

Swimming is a dichotomy of sensory deprivation and overload at the same time. You are forced to come face to face with your internal workings both physically and mentally and it is invariably your emotions that end a swim. You are immersed in your experiences moment to moment so you have to have a really strong grip on how you handle highs and lows to ride them out regardless in order to keep going.

Euphoria may feel great, but allow it to bubble up too much and you’ll be exhausted the next minute or hit a depression and slump. Learning to shepherd your emotional state means you can channel anything back into your swim.

Beth French

After 6hrs, you rely on your mind about 50%, I reckon. After 12 hrs it goes up to 65% mind, then when you are talking 20+ hrs, I’d say 80% is mental. Think it and your body will follow.

As you know, at A Lotus Rises we are working in partnership with the International Institute of Swim Cake Studies (IISCS), on a global research project to answer the question: What is the best cake for optimum swim performance?  Please can you help us with this critical research – What is your cake of choice for your Oceans 7 Challenge?

I am happy to help with this important research.  My cake of choice is a malt chocolate coconut fudge brownie. You can read a blog post I wrote about that on my website here.

What’s your favourite swim spot and swimming cossy?

My favourite swim spot in the world is kealakekua bay on the big island of Hawaii. The water is so stunningly clear, spinner dolphins come in to play and it’s utter heaven.

In England, I think you’d have a hard job beating the Isles of Scilly. Gin clear water, stunning scenery.

Beth in her favourite cossy
Beth in her favourite cossy

My fave cozzie is a metallic fish scale print little number by the finals. I’ve seen an awesome one that has your internal organs printed on it- would love to get my hands on that! I enjoy a collection of novelty hats too, including a minion one that says have a nice day of the back of it and a good old candy skull one.

Thank you Beth and thank you for letting us be part of your wonderful adventure!

You can follow Beth’s incredible journey on Twitter and Facebook.

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

 

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.

Swimming!
Swimming!

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

Get in touch:

At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and even swimming marathons.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebookTwitter and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!