Tour of Torbay? (Part 1)

Hello everybody, it's time for another post that's all about my ongoing long distance swimming attempts, instead of the spectacularly useful information we normally give out 🤣. It may not be of much use but it does allow you to have a good snigger at my expense 😁. So welcome to a two part instalment of freezing waters and terrifying Jelly Fish 😱.

As many will recall, after completing the Dart 10k Last September I decided to throw common sense to the wind and look for something longer....Lake Windermere One Way came up at 11.5 miles and with no real thought as to the seriousness of this I went on the computer and pressed ENTER 🙄!

The main issue was I had no more time to train for Windermere than I had for the Dart.....that amounted to once a week for a couple of hours on a Sat morning at Clevedon Marine Lake.

For the Dart I had swum three miles in the lake (once) and no further, as the time to swim further simply was not available available. Therefore, we worked on the kind of stuff we do all the time here at The Reinge Clinic (Yep! you can always slip a bit of work into a personal blog if you try 😂) we targeted my biomechanics and efficiency of technique rather than all out fitness. It worked and I finished the Dart with fuel still in the tank.

My main concern on first entering Windermere however, was that of the cold. Although I

swam the Dart in a wetsuit, which was more or less compulsory, I had been quite cold by the end of 10km and for Windermere I would be in the water for at least double the time. So a plan was formed, to adapt my physiology to the cold by spending the winter swimming without a wetsuit (skins is the official term). So the winter and spring was spent swimming in just my shorts (not just jumping in though, you do need adapt safely) 🤪.

My progression to this was a cause of much mirth amongst the already hardened, all year round 'skins' swimmers as they were used to seeing me in a wetsuit and my first attempt was in a really quite warm 11 degrees water but it might as well have been zero. It took numerous attempts and several minutes to successfully enter the water. After six weeks however the shoe was on the other foot and I was strolling casually into sub 4 degree water with much less fuss than some 😉 and staying in significantly longer too👍.

On the downside was that I was limited by cold as to how long I could stay in, meaning the distance I was covering was short, varying between between 500m to a couple miles depending on the temperature of the water, which at one point dropped to 2 degrees 😮. Of course here at the Reinge Clinic we are exercise physiologists too, so fully understand environmental physiology and how the body adapts. (Hey, look at that! I managed to slip work in there again 😁)

As spring arrived the next part of the plan was to up the milage as the water got warmer, then we suddenly realised it was only 12 weeks until the swim (how did that happen!). So the wetsuit went back on with an intention to increase both time in water and distance, but by the end of a month I was still only swimming three miles and this was because there really are only so many times you can go around and around and around the Marine Lake before you lose the will to live.... and now there were only eight weeks to go. (less by the time this blog goes out!) So a modification to the plan was required: Remove the shackles of the marine lake and strike out across a large expanse of water seeing how far I could actually go at my current fitness level, in order to establish my current baseline.

Torbay ticked the box nicely for a number of reasons:

  • Here I could, if able, complete up to nine miles with the motivation of not going around and around in circles.

  • It is possible to get out on a beach for around 70 percent of the route.

  • There are almost no tidal streams / currents in the bay.

  • There was a direct and measurable challenge in crossing from Torquay to Brixham.

  • My friend from the RNLI suggested it ...😁

On the photo above and if you magnify your screen view you can see the route plan with mileages, compass bearings, distances, wind speed and direction etc. You will also notice a few very important items: a VHF Marine Radio, a yellow Tow Float, Anti Jelly Fish sunscreen and Sea Sickness Pills. I am a complete wuss when it comes to sea sickness, many people look ill and groan a lot, they even turn green , but they deal with it. I in the other hand turn into a whinging moaning and groaning pile of uselessness. No quips about what's new there 🤣

Fundamentally the route broke down into the three sections:

  • Start at Paignton and swim to Torquay Harbour ( 2 miles).

  • Turn around and swim directly across Torbay to Brixham (4 Miles).

  • Return to Paignton (straight line 2 miles or follow the coast 3 to 3.5 miles).

Armed with this and my friend Mike and his sea kayak (Mike is a veteran sea kayak instructor so really knows what he is doing) We set off from the beach next to Paignton Pier.

I had asked Mike to act as safety rather than a guide and not to correct me if I went off course, unless I was heading into danger. I wanted to sight for myself and correct my route myself using the sailing techniques of ‘dead reckoning’ and "piloting'. I picked a transit to the left of Torquay Harbour and set off, swimming straight under the pier 🧜‍♂️.

So, as Saturday morning shows used to say when I was young...."Tune in next week for another thrilling instalment!" ...........and discover how far did I actually get and did the giant jelly fish get me!

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