Another year, another challenge (or two..)

15 June 2011

2010 proved to be quite a big year. There was definitely more than one occasion where I thought I might have bitten off more than I could chew. At the start of May my first ironman was approaching fast (too fast) and soon after would be the channel swim. Success would mean a trip through Russia happy with a job well done. Failure would mean six weeks of constant jokes, at my expense, through the rough terrain of Mongolia. Failure really wasn’t going to be an option!

Several friends, who are themselves far more accomplished athletes than I, thought I was pretty crazy to attempt my first ironman and channel swim in the same year. But if you don’t try you’ll never know.. right?!

If you’re remotely interested in the preparation and how those events went read the bottom of this blog. First to details of this year’s challenges!!


2011 – Manhattan Island

With a lot of research and preparation work (not all mine!) at the end of last year I was accepted to swim in this years prestigious Manhattan Island Marathon Swim on Saturday June 18th. The event is an annual race between 35 swimmers to complete a full circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York City. The race starts and finishes in battery park, first heading north along the east river and ending with a sprint(!) down the Hudson. Ok, so it’s 28.5 miles and therefore the last thing I’ll be doing it sprinting down the Hudson, but it’s an amazing event and I’m honored to have been accepted. It’s not everyday that the Staten Island ferry will have to dodge me swimming past so I hope I’ll do the event organisers and myself proud.

As usual the training has been long, cold and painful. Having lived in NYC for a few years I remembered how cold the winters are so I won’t be raring to jump into the icy waters next Saturday. Wetsuits are again banned so I’ll be wearing my skins and hoping the sun is on my back!

Once again I’m doing this all for a great cause. Any money that I’m able to raise will be split 50/50 between SwimFree and FollowThatFireEngine. Swim Free is an excellent charity based in NYC that is dedicated to the health improvement of children and adults through swim. For more details please see

The support last year from family, friends and colleagues was incredible both before the big day and with the words of encouragement during. I was amazed by the generosity and will be humbled once more by any money that you are able to give this year.

Please donate through the website or through the link below


2010 – Lanzarote Ironman

The lanzarote ironman took place at the end of May. My excess swim training proved strong as I exited the water in 5th place. The race commentator called out my name (in some confusion as an amateur!) so this was a definite highlight. But I was only 50 minutes into a 12 (ish) hour slog. The bike course in lanza is legendary as the volcanic island boasts some of the toughest climbing on the ironman circuit. My lack of bike hours started to show with about 150km complete. My left knee blew up but the course was, by this stage, in my favor as the last 30km is largely downhill. Very lucky but the obvious concern was the marathon just around the corner.

Moving into the transition area I’d seen 600 riders breeze past me over the past 6 hours. However I was actually doing ok and was roughly on track for a 12 hour finish time. More importantly I was still able to walk my bike to its stand. As I left the transition area I felt good. Just 26 miles to go!

The sun was beating down hard. It was peaking at 36 C for the toughest part of the run course but at the half way point I knew I was going to make it.. even if I had to drag myself on my hands an knees for the next 13 miles. It was now all about the time and attempting to break 12 hours. Ross came through like a train with 6 miles to go. All I could do was throw more water over my face, concentrate and savour each aid station, and then push on. The finish line came into sight and I crossed with huge relief and satisfaction at 11 hrs 58 mins. The feeling was incredible having completed one of the most difficult things I’ll ever attempt and being there with friends with whom I’d spent the winter slogging it out on the roads of the south downs.

Unlike previous feats sadly this one couldn’t be celebrated with a big night on the beer. This wasn’t due to the swim around the corner but more to sheer exhaustion. Going to the toilet that evening I could tell I’d pushed my body to the limit as my urine came out black! There was blood for over a week as I assume my liver had been under a lot of strain trying to process all the electrolytes and energy in the extreme heat. Thankfully no long term damage was done and I was back in the pool almost as soon as I landed down in Gatwick.

2010 – Channel Swim

The six weeks following the ironman were going to be all about weight training. Actually they were about weight and training. Turkey had taught me that the channel wasn’t going to be possible at my ironman weight. 15 or 16 degree water requires mass to prevent your core from cooling. The easiest way to add this ‘mass’ was going to be via a strict diet of krispy kreme doughnuts, snickers, crunchie and various other chocolate delights. it was tough but I really didn’t have an option!

The training part mostly involved trips to Dover, Brighton or the serpentine and freezing.. however, slowly, slowly, week by week it was getting easier. How much of this was due to the diet, due to the acclimatisation, and how much due to the water actually warming was difficult to say. But it was working.

When the big day came round I was feeling good. Stepping into the ice water the previous week wasn’t gut wrenchingly horrific. And the diet had achieved the desired effect within an additional 12 kilos.

The biggest issues were work and the weather. Things had been super busy at work but contact with the boat captain, Reg, had meant the planned swim date of Thursday July 8th was looking good. I finished work late on Wednesday and raced to Dover for a few hours sleep. I was ready, maybe not as rested as I wanted but I was ready. We headed to the boat early and started loading. Reg then turned to Tim and announced it was over. From nowhere the fog had come through and it wasn’t going to clear so we couldn’t cross.

The honest feeling was relief. The months of training had been impacted by a few tough work days but now I had the chance to get 24 hours rest and give it my best shot. I headed back to bed!

We woke the next morning in the caravan in Dover. The fog had cleared and the sun was shining. It was going to be a good day.

The swim started about 7am. The first few hours were great. The build up had been immense and I was feeling good. The sun was out and I wasn’t cold at the 5 hour point. I then knew the temperature wasn’t going to be the biggest factor today.

Looking up with 6 hours gone the french coastline was very much within sight.  Even from my perspective in the water I could tell I was making good progress.

Hours 7, 8 and 9 ticked by and they were tough. I was stopping for feeds every 30 mins and but the coast wasn’t getting any closer. I was also hurting bad. In the training swims my shoulders would click painfully past 4 hours of swimming and the same had happened today. I was getting aspirin with my drinks but the lack of progress was destroying me mentally. Far worse than any physical pain.

At the 9.5 hour feed the boys were still offering amazing encouragement but I had to ask the question that had been going through my head for 2 hours.. “Boys, is there any point? Am I making any progress”. Unanimously Johnson and Ross responded “Yeah buddy.. you’re doing really well.. making amazing progress”

This was the boost I needed. The simultaneous response couldn’t have been planned so I must have been doing OK. I kicked on hard through for the next hour. As I came in for the 10.5 hour feed Tim shouted.. “Dave.. you listening.. this is your last feed”

The coast had been getting very clear but I’d given up guessing how long it was going to take. A million thoughts had been going through my head but now it was now just about putting my head down and smashing through the water that kicks up around cap gris nez.

I remember pushing on for what seemed like hours without Reg releasing the dingy which would take me to shore. Tim’s words came into my head of “just release the damn boat Reg!”. He did. Finally. Tim jumped in shortly after as we’d talked about and we swam it into shore. I could see my parents standing on the beach and the emotion was incredible. The months, weeks and then hours were finished. It was done.

Thanks again for all the support. You can’t begin to imagine how much it helps and how much I needed it.





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