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Monday, 2 July 2012


Written historically, hope you enjoy!
Having participated in open water swim races in Capenwray Dive centre, i have been desperate to organise a private swim there all year, but been told a variety of things, maybe, no, only if its a race! Now those of you who have raced in Capenwray you will be able to testify to gliding along the surface of the water, breathing hard, trying to beat a time or the person next to do not have time to take in the sights in the water below you. In between breathing you catch a glimpse of something that takes your head out of its usual swim position as you fight to maintain your pace but also try to continue to see that precious sight. There is a myriad of sights to be seen there, planes, deck chair complete with umbrella, large carnaval  horses (big enough to sit on) boats and even for the divers gnomes. Now this site boasts clean, clear water and it certainly is. Who could ask for more!! Clean changing rooms hot showers, a cafe with a balcony overlooking the swim area, and the added bonus that swimmers can get out of the water, go up to the cafe, get hot drinks lounge around then go for another swim....without having to get dressed in between...imagine that on a hot and sunny day!!

It turns out that a decision has been made to allow swimmers to use Capenwray any time it is open....oh that got the brain going.....could we still fit in a swim before the winter set in....of course we could.  Disappointed that the decision to open it up to swimmers only filtered down to me literally when we were nearing the end of October.....just think of the swims we could have organised there over the summer. After discussions with the owners they were very receptive to a social swim being organised....we were on! Fingers flying over the keyboard, a quick check of the diary and it was done, a mass private swim!!! The water temperature was hovering at a steady 14 to 16 degrees....please let it stay that way for this swim!!!!

Now for those of you that have not read it you need to stop reading this and read my blog on the LONE SWIMMER CASTING COUCH  as this is pretty much the follow on (and more from that). For those of you have have read it you will recall a certain young man was coming up to be trained in the art of open water swimming and acclimatisation by me, i had organised the Mass Private Swim and what an ideal place for him to start, clean clear water and extremely safe!!!!

He was due to arrive on the Friday night, so we sat at Durham train station waiting but also praying that the man dressed as the joker from the film the Black Knight would disappear before he got here!!! This fair haired 18 year old got off the train looking shattered and more than a little nervous, his name Tom Litten. Did he realise that we were just as nervous as him, lets hope it did not show, i really needed him to trust me, after all i was about to introduce him to the wonderful world of open water swimming.

One first thought, this young man arrived with a huge suitcase...good he had got the message about lots of warm clothes......the first thing i noticed...he wasn't wearing any socks....that would change within an hour i told him....we were dressed in full northern kit...multi layers the lot!!!

Tom it turns out has a good sense of humour and wasn't afraid to show it! After dropping him off at his hotel to dump is suitcase off he came back to the house for some food, bless him he looked shattered, he had come up from the south of England on a train, not the most pleasant methods of travel. Emerging from the hotel several layers of clothing heavier plus socks!!! We ate then departed to the local watering hole for light refreshments! Now being a southern lad and also an athlete in training i expected him to be a light weight in the drinking department after all those that do sport are known for their low tolerance, but even the local inn keeper suggested that he could serve 'mans' drinks as he places the lager top in front of Tom, thankfully he took it in good humour and a fab evening was had. Depositing Tom back at the hotel we returned home for the night.

The following morning i was up and ready to head towards Capenwray, i had organised the swim so as will all swims i like to be there early (tardiness a personal dislike of mine), kit secured in the car i awaited Dorothy Mills arrival, a woman who has truly become a firm friend, she was to travel with us. Dorothy secured  we picked up Tom and headed to Capenwray, the humour flowed the journey, Tom desperate to sleep had been warned by me that if he did he would go in the gallery of sleepers with the others....this young man was now determined to stay awake!
How nervous!!!!

Arriving at Capenwray, the car park was full, divers in various states of dress and undress!!! We paid the man on the gate and headed indoors to register at the venue. Cards in hand it was time to introduce Tom to his new swim venue. Capenwray is a wonderful place, clean clear water which holds its temperatures well, today it was 13 degrees, not the best of temperatures to start off with but good enough. Pretty soon the cafe was filling up with swimmers some of whom had travelled great distances to be there. It was brilliant to see swimmers of all ages including children getting kitted up ready to get in. It was great to see some new faces too, Rebecca Jarre, Sarah Robson and several others that normally contact is limited to facebook encounters. And as is normal, there are those that do not state that they are attending but turn up any way, its all good and we had in total about 30 people there to swim with many bringing friends and family to watch.

Tom quickly got changed into his full wetsuit, hood, boots and gloves, the air temperature was not too bad and the sun was attempting to show its face. Letting everyone else it in the water, a chorus of gasps followed by wow's as the clarity of the water reached the swimmers attention. Neoprene clad swimmers and some sans wetsuit went off in various directions to try to find the goodies awaiting them under the turquoise depths.

Tom gingerly entered the water, he's not a novice to open water as he is a keen surfer, so the fish around him were not a bother.

 Some look more eager to get in than others!

As the water crept into his suit the breathing quickly sped up, staying in the shallows until Tom had it under control, which he managed as if a seasoned pro, he was a faster learners and took in all that i was telling him. Once he was comfortable it was time to start swimming, a bullet out of a gun would have been slower than Tom shot off....holy cow how were we mere mortals meant to keep up with him.....and then it hit.....the icecream headache! And just like that he came to a grinding halt. Every open water swimmer knows the pain of an icecream headache and Tom had just learnt one valuable lesson on the differences of pool to open water. Alternating his stroke from crawl to breast stroke, we managed a lap huge grin on Toms face, was he feeling i am fine apart from my face he responds.

Now for the film that Tom was starring in he needed to be out of his wetsuit.....trunks only!!! Getting out of the water still full of swimmers, the jetty area overcrowded with divers watching. I am sure that all that were watching him came out in a sympathy shiver as the wetsuit came off. Gloves and boots quickly back on and it was time to get back in the comes the hard part!!! Never have i seen such a look of pain on someones face as i did as he slowly entered the water, inch by inch the water went higher up his body.

Ok....i AM trying to sympathise!

 Holding them so does stop them disappearing!

The divers weren't slow in calling out words of encouragement that went along the lines of ....don't do it mate, fook that, you are nuts, grow a pair....Tom despite breathing rapidly managed a grin or maybe that was a grimace!

But in he got, breathing hard as he fought his bodies reaction to the cold. The time came to push off the bottom and swim, we would aim to get as far as we could, mindful of Tom's body not used to being in such temperatures was rapidly closing on him. But on he swam and even started to relax, his sense of humour quickly returning as he became more at ease with the water. Tom is a pool based swimmers, trying out for the olymics and also in training for the commonwealth, so is used to warmth! But as had become his nature he took the ribbing he was getting and added alot of his own to it, even permitting a pic or two under the water!


Before long it was time to get Tom out of the water, he was keen to remain in but it was clear that he was loosing logical thought and was starting to become unaware of his surroundings, ignoring his words of i am fine, i insisted that he got out, wrapping in foils and a towel, then it was a gathering of bags and shoving him into the shower. Now this is an experience i am not sure what to make of, if anyone had told me that in my life time i would be watching a male model (oh yes he does that too!) and top athletic swimmer in the shower i would never have beleived it but there i was doing just that, as soon as he warmed up enough i promise i vanished out of the changing room but watching a shivering male in the shower will stay in my memory...i did tell him that i wish i had brought a camera to prove it!!!

Pretty soon Tom emerged from the changing room, dressed i think in the entire contents of his suitcases! Still looking chilly, it was into the cafe for hot drinks and some food.  It was lovely to see so many rosy faces grinning from the exhileration of a cold swim. Although this blog has been written historically, i can with delight say that those that turned up have swam with us many times since and some have become great friends!

After much giggling and warming up fully it was time to head home, a meal and a few glasses of lemonade with Tom later that night showed that he can more than hold his own!

The next day brought new adventures for this budding open water swimmer, a trip to Ellerton lake near Catterick, Richmond! Now this lake was considerably colder at 9 degrees, but the lad was prepared to get in (saves me pushing him in!) and swim. This lake was darker water than the previous day, a much larger water area and the whole area more exposed to the elements, thankfully the rain held off. But it did not stop a chilly breeze. Arriving in the carpark the nerves kicked in again, its a healthy reminder of how i first felt knowing i was going to be getting in a cold lake. Surprisingly enough though he was in good form and although not jumping with joy was keen to get in and see what this swim would bring. Some of the regulars turned up to swim with him and support him which was good, David Donaldson option for sans wetsuit as well!

Now not one to let an opportunity pass out came the had to be done and don it he did!!! Pictures of which were posted on facebook to ensure all his mates could see! A reminder here should they have forgotten.


Again there were divers, these a little more sympathtic to the young man wincing as he entered the water, the cold quickly making him shiver even though he was not fully submerged. Adusting faster both physically and mentally ment swimming was easier this time round for him, and we were soon able to set off out into the middle of the lake. All this Tom took in his stride!

 The look on the divers faces say it all!
But in he got and swam he did, the centre of the lake having some seriously cold spots that can take away even the most acclimatised swimmers breath!
Eventually retreating from the water to enjoy the delights of cake and coffee, once warmed up Tom found the last picture highly approprate!! Has it helped him prepare for his role in the up and coming film, i hope so, i and a whole host of others are looking forward to seeing it, simply entitled 'Swimmer'!

I have had the pleasure and exhileration of watching Tom race and hope that some day he will come back and swim with us again!!! Never say never Tom!!

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