Category Archives: Humour

Water nightmares

It’s been a while since I posted any nightmare fuel for open water swimmers, so I thought I might collect a few of my favourites together.

We’ll start gently. Close encounter with a humpback.

One from years ago on the blog, the frilled shark, aka dragon shark.

Remember Brutus the giant Australian salt-water crocodile?


A subtle one, what is the super predator?

This one is fairly well known, and you know, a bit of a traditional swimmer’s scare.


Remember the conger eels?

A favourite on the Marathon Swimmers Forum, and Game of Thrones, the lamprey, aka the sea vampire.

As anyone who has ever swum into one knows, plastic bags can be surprisingly scary. What if they were alive?

And then of course, there’s this thing, and honestly, I don’t even care what it is.

and then there's this thing lampray eel

If only I could stop there. There’s worse though.

None of these are as scary as approaching the second corner at Sandycove during the annual challenge race, and seeing Finbarr Hedderman reach out to grab you. Sharks, jellyfish, Finbarr, crocodiles and eels, all pale in comparison beside the last nightmare, the one thing that unites open water swimmers in fear.





















These guys:


Introducing The LoneSwimmer Plan™©® to becoming a more goodlier Internet swimmer in 19 or 27 easy steps

Every so often I get asked by a runner or triathlete for a bit of stroke advice or help, which I’m always happy to do, (as, in my experience, is pretty much the case with every experienced swimmer in a public pool).

Here’s how it usually goes:

Hey, you seem like a decent swimmer. I have a triathlon coming in two weeks, can you give me some tips on getting better at the swimming leg?

I suppress my inner sigh at the allowed timeframe, analyse their stroke, give them the most essential advice (almost always; exhale underwater, and stop kicking like you’re trying for a drop-goal, give them a couple of appropriate drills* and tell them to just focus on technique for the next two weeks).

Two, three, six months, or a year later, having giving up the suggested drills after the first two days, because “well, they were slow and boring and making no difference“, they’ve made zero progress.

I finally realised the problem: I’m not T’Internet.

They are used to, indeed want, T’Internet to tell them what to do. What equipment to buy, what kind of swimmer they are and what kind they aren’t and what kind they should be. I’m just a ridiculously handsome, tall and svelte middle-aged guy in a pair of Speedoes. (As you know, I’m kind of like the Mark Foster of open  water swimming). And I’m right there. I mean if I was any good, I wouldn’t be in their pool, right? I’d be on T’Internet.

Former 6x 50m World Champion Mark Foster. Just give him to me for six months and I could make something decent out of him. A few scrapes off the reef of Sandycove's second corner would make something proper out of him
Former 6x 50m World Champion Mark Foster. Just give him to me for six months and I could make something decent out of him. A few scrapes of his face off the reef of Sandycove’s second corner would add a bit of proper manliness.

And further, I realised, the world does not have enough T’Internet Godlike Swimming Gurus.  So for all those people who want more Internet swimming and another guru, me ‘n the team here at LoneSwimmer™©® Towers™©®, having spent huge sums and committed vast resources to the development cycle, are finally unveiling the spectacularly effective LoneSwimmer™©® Internet Swimming Plan™©® (aka LISP ™©®)

The main features of LISP™©® are

1: More Swimming Acronyms (MSA), abbreviations and buzzwords.

2: A decidedly effective and concise 27** point  Personally Integrated Stroke System (PISS™©®) for easily and quickly making your frontcrawl more goodlier.

3: A Cult of Personality based entirely on me and comprising a growing network Collection of LoneSwimmers™©® Across the World (CLAW™©®).

4: New drills that are not-at-all like existing drills, tailored specifically for you with cool new names. In a breakthrough new feature not previously seen on T’Internet, every single CLAW™©® member will be given individual drill names for each drill, ensuring personalised personalisation.

5. A simple and easy rolling monthly payment plan through PayPal for your convenience, and for which you gain access to the labyrinthine archives, covering diverse subjects from open water techniques through social aspects of swimming to fashion and beauty tips, the value for money is extraordinary. The cumulative amount you spend will be far in excess of a visit to some local coach for basic stroke analysis who can actually see you swimming, or buying that decent swimmer a beer in exchange for their advice, but you know you are getting the best Internet advice. Let the losers get their advice locally.

6: For a modest extra fee of $14.99 per query, the team will answer all your incredibly difficult and never-encountered-before-not-ever open water swimming queries, including but not limited to:

Why can’t I swim straight?

What kind of goggles should I use?

My legs! What the hell do I do with my legs?

Are there bitey things in the water?

Does my arse look big in this?


I’m sure you are all excited as excited about this as I am. Years of giving out advice for nothing reciprocal is for fools.

Let it end, I say.

In Part Two we’ll look at my copyrighted and trademarked Twenty Seven Easy Steps To Becoming a Goodlier Internet Swimmer (TSESTBAGIS™©®)**.

And I’ll be rolling the awesome TSESTBAGIS™©® Franchise Coaching Opportunity (™©®) where you too can partake in CLAW™©® as a higher level for a very reasonable cost. And for every future member you sign to TSESTBAGISCLAWFCO™©® you will benefit in a financial reward that is not in any way like a pyramid scheme, and I have the lawyers and a Certification of Financial Compliance from Myanmar University of Financial Rectitude and People’s Agricultural Learning to assert such.


*Swim With One Leg in the Air Drill (SWOLeD™©®). I do it every day***. I proudly assert that I am the world’s best one leg in the air swimmer.

** Or 19. Or something. Actual number of steps subject to revision.

*** Really.

Review: Battle of the Jelly Babies

It was a genius idea by Dee.

Jelly babies are notorious favourites of open water distance and Channel swimmers. Tiny parcels of coloured and flavoured glucose perfectly anthropomorphised, that sate a craving.

Relatively waterproof and easy to pass to a swimmer, or for crew to snarf a few themselves, they provide an instant hit of processed dextrose for an quick burst of energy, an easily digestible treat to anticipate on a upcoming feed, and the source of one of the oldest jokes I know.

(“What’s the difference between boy jelly babies and girl jelly-babies?” Snaps fingers while saying “boy jelly babies have that much more!“).

But are all jelly babies made equal? Here at the Loneswimmer Demesne, we decided to finally end this perennial debate amongst distance swimmers with a, no … the definitive review.

In this article we pit the metaphorical Big Three of the small edible homunculi against each other and a token El Cheapo discount brand.

Don’t say does not strive to answer the big questions, to expose the most contested and controversial questions in the open water swimming world. 

  • Are Bassett’s Jelly Babies the Daddy?
  • What about Haribo Delicious Infants², (“Happy Happy Haribo, The Happy World Of Haribo)?
  • Or are the weighty non-humanoid creatures³ of relative newcomer The Natural Confectionary Company more morally acceptable?
  • How do vegans feel about Jelly Snakes and Monkeys?
  • In a fight between a Dino Mix Tyrannasourus Rex and a Haribo Brontosaurus, will the lesser mammal replicate the historical success of its lesser forebear over the mighty King of the Thunder Lizards?
  • What’s a Jelly Baby’s best stroke?
  • Does anthropomorphising sugar actually make taste it better?
  • What effect does the Jelly Babies colour have on its perceived taste?

We engaged in a two person two round competition, the winner of each round progressing to the final Jelly-Off.

Heat 1: A battle of classic Jelly Babies. Bassets surely go into this round as the 100 Pound Gorilla Baby favourites.

Bassets.rotated.resized.resizedBassetts Jelly Babies. Bag weight 190g. 345 Calories per 100g. €1.40 per bag.


Aldi.resized.resizedDominion (Aldi) Jelly Babies. Bag Weight 230g. 345 Calories per 100g. 55c per bag. By far the cheapest.



Heat 2: Between non-traditional shaped gums. Does not include testing those jelly and white “foam” mix confections, as these are abominations.

Haribo .rotated.resized.resizedHaribo Fantasy Mix. Bag weight 200g. 342 Calories per 100g. €1.00 per bag.




Dino Mix.rotated.resized.resizedThe Natural Confectionary Co. Dino Mix. Bag weight 200g. 320 Calories per 100g. Wide range of prices from €1.25 to €2.60 per bag depending on location. Usually €1.85. Significantly the most expensive.



The arrival of The Natural Confectionary Co. into the cut-throat (well, biting heads off anyway) Jelly market has changed the manufacturer’s messages. Each proudly now boasts Natural Colours, and all except Haribo also say Natural Flavours. This may be the reason Haribo has a shelf life six months longer than all the others.

But since this is high calorie empty glucose, so I don’t really care one way or the other.

Heat One

Heat_1 jellies.resized

Bassets’ twisted confections give names to the individual babies depending on colour. The Aldi Jelly were obviously never christened. Both contain among the other ingredients, Bovine Gelatine. The Basset’s Jelly Babies have more distinct facial features and have two different shapes, a standard jelly Boy or Girl. One shape is saluting before being ingested, another sick twist that I particularly enjoy. Though maybe it’s doing backstroke? Notably the Aldi Jelly Babies have no black colour child, thought the Bassets have. Bassets are of a more uniform shape which they hold better and are a very slightly larger size. Most important though is the Taste Test.

Our independent tasters could detect NO DIFFERENCE in texture or taste. Neither displayed any noticeable variation in taste between different colours.

This lack of taste differentiation allied with the significantly lower cost makes the Aldi Jelly Babies, ironically called Dominion, the Winner of Heat One5


Heat Two

Heat 2 gums.resized

The Natural Confectionery Co are the arriviste upstarts of the highly-contested Jelly market. Along with the laughable conceit that they are “healthier”, monkeys, snakes and shapes and dinosaurs enhance their politically-correct middle-class offering and no actual babies (Boo!).  But dinosaurs. Each bag usually contains two or larger Tyrannasaurs. Who doesn’t want to bite the head off a Tyrannausus Rex?

On the other side of Heat Two, Haribo are so well-known that we all know and hate that damn Haribo jingle. Swimmers in Dover rave about Haribo. The Fantasy Mix is a range of animals, including two dinosaurs, a zebra, a couple of white foam half alligators, a two-tone Triceratops, an elephant, a transparent monkey, a turtle, a race car (Le Mans winner 1959), an infant soother (because that’s the perfect message for new parents; sugar-shaped soother, right?), four of the dreaded abomination of childhood, that excrescence, that shame on the global gum market: The Cola Bottle. And of curse course proving before we start that Haribo are demonic, four green Devils.

Rather than pit the mighty Tyrannosaurus we pitted the slightly larger Haribo Brontosaurusagainst a lesser TNCC baby Raptor6.

The TNCC gum was firm yet yielding. It had a dense mouth feel7, and an actual flavour. There was a slight difference in flavour between colours.

The Haribo was dense. Almost impenetrable in fact. Not chewy in a good way. Chewy in a dog-toy way. It makes a good spare rubber foot for a laptop. It was vile. I shudder at the mere reminiscence.

Winner of Heat Two is The Natural Confectionery Co Dino Mix8.

Another shock!


TRex vs Baby.resized

In an extraordinary development it has to be admitted that both judges were pre-disposed to The Natural Confectionery Co. No supply of free gums was received in exchange for this favouritism though we are both open to any future bribing.

By-the-bye, dear American readers, I hope all this repetition of the words favour, colour and flavour, isn’t causing you too much distress!

The Brontosausus/Raptors having been dispatched, the Final pitted the mighty Tyrannasurus Rex versus the puny Aldi Dominion Baby.

Puny Aldi Baby put a good fight, armed as he was by his all-round Value For Money special ability which he used to fight the Mighty Thunder Lizard almost to a standstill. But the ThunderSuarus unleashed a devastating blow: The ability to retain shape better without melting in a hot car glove compartment during summer.  It was close. But then a shock. The bag only had ONE Tyrannosaur!

The gums of the TNCC were ultimately defeated however by the simple fact that jelly babies are smaller and softer so can be eaten in a single bite by a swimmer in the water.

Winner: El Cheapo Dominion Aldi Jelly Babies!

Well, that was utterly unexpected.

P.s. I’ve got a bag of Haribo Fantasy Mix left over which even the dogs won’t eat.  As to preferred swimming stroke, they’re made of sugar … so they sink.

I did all this just so I add this as new banner pic
I did all this just so I add this as new banner pic, Aldi are the left four, Bassett’s are the right five


May not actually be a real debate.

² Not the actual Haribo product name.

³ If you are a bluebottle.

Me ‘n Dee.

Except for you borderline cannibals for whom accurate sugary replication of human infants is important.

Yes, I know there was no such thing as a Brontosaurus. Paleontologists please use the site’s Contact Form to send me your classification of the TNCC dino’s.

7 I read heard this phrase on a cookery program.

Unless you are a fake-Satanist, in which case the Haribo is the preferred choice.

A Cynical Devil’s Dictionary of (Open Water) Swimming

In the early twentieth century, American satirist Ambrose Bierce collected his weekly newspaper columns into a book which he intended to call a Cynic’s Dictionary. His repeated characterisation as a devil by various US politicians of the day led to its publication under the title of Devil’s Dictionary.

I have neither the wit not skill of Bierce, but I thought it would be fun to devise a brief Cynical Devil’s Swimming Dictionary. It so transpired, such that I may continue to add to it.


Anti-fog: The biggest lie told by the swimming industry.

Butterfly: Vicki Keith & Sylvain Estadieu are nut-cases. More importantly, a type of post-swim cupcake. Mmm, cake.

Bioprene: The next big thing in celebrity diets. Just you wait. Sunday supplements and Horizon specials, here we come.

Bloating: A Channel Swimmer’s entirely-physiological process of becoming more like a whale from prolonged immersion in salt water.

Cake: See Butterfly.

Carbs: Cake in another form. Sometimes chocolate. Or just cake. Mmm, cake.

Catch: The nonsensical idea that swimmers grab onto and hold and pull the water, under water, with their hands, in order to move forward. Clearly they move by micturating prodigiously behind themselves. Or open water swimmers anyway.

Costume: Swimsuits, Cossies, Bathers, Budgies, Banana Hammocks, Speedos, Togs, Swimmers and “middle-aged men shouldn’t be allowed to wear those in public” are all various terms for wisps of artificial fabric swimming apparel that are changed and cleaned less often than a hobo’s underwear but cost more per gram than real fur.

Channel: A body of water stretching between Stupid and Broke.

Channel swimmers: A cult or a club. Or both.

Cold: No. No, it’s not, you baby. Get in.

Copper Coast: My paradise. My playground. Bloody cold. Full of bloody jellyfish. Few swimmers. Applications to swim must come through this office.

Depth: It’s not under me, it’s not under me. It’s not under me.

Diana Nyad: See Marathon Swimmer.

Dover: Why so many people swim away from England.

England: More people try to swim away from it than anywhere else in the world. See Dover.

France: Bloody hell. I suppose it could be worse. It could be Belgium. Or England again. I gave up my two-way attempt because I didn’t want to swim to Dover. Two-way attempt? Hey, if you ever have to swim from France for an hour to get back to your pilot, you too can reasonably claim it was a two-way attempt.

Feeds: The technical description of the vast quantities of infant food open water swimmers stuff into their gaping never-satiated mouths, like huge baby birds.

Fish: The Men in the Grey Suits. The Landlord. Does not include any other fish.

Fraud: See Diana Nyad.

Goggles: When asked the first time what is best in life Conan The Barbarian said: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. And new goggles. I love new googles.” That’s a Hollywood Fact.

Grease: The best stuff is made from baby dolphin juice. I can hook you up. Call me.

Imagination and Intelligence: Lack of. Why marathon swimmers keep swimming. How marathon swimmers keep swimming. Really, we’re pretty dumb. Ted Erikson said so and he’d know.

Ireland: Home of swimming Gods and Goddesses, Ocean Giants and Sea Conquerors, a coastal cold water heaven. And a lone swimmer.

Jellyfish: Boom. Right in the kisser! Who says the little bastards have no brains?

Kick: This is how you stop triathletes trying to pass you. In the head, for best effect. I do not condone this. On a completely and utterly unrelated note, triathletes can’t tell one skin swimmer from another, we all look alike to them. So if you accidentally kicked one in the head, that would have nothing to do with me and you probably wouldn’t get caught.

Lakes: Old-timey version of pools. No chlorine but you do get the urine and dilute cowshit for free.

Lengths: Not as commonly thought, a  pool measurement, but in multiple figures is the real distance in body lengths between a swimmer who tells their wife/husband they came third in a race, and actual third place. Cannot be a fraction.

Marathon swimmer: Not Diana Nyad.

Marathon swimming: It’s a dumb thing.

NST: Non-Shivering Thermogenesis. This is the technical description of the time just before  male cold water swimmer’s testicles become safely ensconced within their bodies.

Nude: Ned Denison’s scary predilection for swimming without togs on club swims. Never mentioned in his IMSHOF induction.

Ocean: Home. See Water. Also sea water. Free.

Observers: Hauled-out crusty old sea dogs. Bring your own food. Lock up your daughters.

Open Water Swimmers: the very zenith nadir of the swimming world. Above Below Tadpole Age Groupers.

Pilot: Someone you pay a lot of money to insult you, while you swim, just at the point when you already feel most stupid.

Pool: A box of urine and chlorine. Pay to use.

Propellor: Anyone who worries a lot about Fish hasn’t been too close for comfort to a moving propeller. Aka The Spinning Blades of Sharp Cutting Pain and Dismemberment.

Qualification: The complex and lengthy process of incorrectly and fraudulently  filling out multiple forms and questionnaires, forging signatures and lying about swim times in order to swim somewhere stupid so that next time, you won’t have to write the entire work of fiction from scratch.

Recovery: That morning you stayed in bed and still regretted it. The day you went swimming … and still regretted it.

Reefs: If you are racing, don’t get between us and them. See also Kick.

Swimming: A bad metaphor for life. A good substitute for life.

Sharks: The Landlord. The Men In Grey Suits. Bitey. Grey. Also gray. See Fish.

Swedes: Either butterfly nut-case Sylvain Estadieu’s fiancée, Great Greta, or a type of elitist swim goggle. Depending on your geographical location and preference. We all know Sylvain’s preference, right? Right?

Swugly: “Swimming yourself ugly”, the usual post-swim appearance of Channel swimmers. See Bloating. Term courtesy of Cae Tolman.

Technique: It’s a little-known fact that before Atlas was condemned to roll a stone uphill for eternity, he was first put to perfecting his front crawl swim technique, but it deemed too cruel a punishment. Any swimmer left to their own devices will rapidly devolve to the worst technique possible, except open water swimmers, who have none to begin with.

Tides: Often treated a fairy tale  by swimmers who swim on lakes. The variability in time, height  and location prove God is a woman. Or a man. I dunno, I’m no theologian or misogynist.

Under the boat: Don’t go there. I’ve been. It’s not nice.

Viking Princess: Reg Brickell’s Channel boat. You ain’t crewed till you crewed on Viking Princess. Unless, you know, you have crewed.

Water: Are you frequently damp? That’d be the water. You’ll find it’s wet.

Wildlife:  Technical swimmer’s collective noun for all things that are Not Jellyfish and Not Sharks.

X-Men: A supposed superhero team which has no swimmers. You know the rest of the world makes fun of Aquaman? That because they all can’t swim. Aquaman would kick Wolverine’s ass in the water. And I doubt that wheelchair of Professor X is much good as a pull-buoy. Also, begins with X. You try it if you are so smart.

Youghal: A coastal town in Ireland that begins with a Y.  Goddamn it it’s late!

Zip-line: Every open water swimmers’ favourite  race technique, that they pretend to utterly deplore and sworn they’ve never used. I’ve myself have certainly never used it. Ever. In unrelated advice, grease your ankles.


Related (humour) links:

Open Water Swimmer’s Fashion & Beauty Tips. (

Two Distance Swimmers meet. (

Swimming Taxonomy (


Introducing a precise open water  temperature scale (

Substance abuser

I have a substance-abuse problem.

Sometimes I’ve used it when I should have been doing other things.

I thought of it when I should have been thinking of other things.

I done it to extremes, by myself, often where no-one else can see me.

Sometimes I done it in full view of others and felt no shame.

I started casually. “This won’t cost much”, I thought.

But gradually it became more serious. I started doing more. I needed to satisfy the cravings and the craving got bigger.

I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. They led me further astray.

Then I started to push others into my questionable lifestyle. “More”, I said. “Do more. Get hard-core”.

I had no shame.

I’ve even enabled others.

And it’s worse, far worse…

…I don’t want to stop.

I’m a sea-swimmer.

I abuse salt-water.

Open Water Swimmer’s Beauty and Fashion tips

Classic elegance
Classic panda eyes offset by tones of Caucasian tan with a simple, pure towelling wrap. All highlighted by essential neon orange.

There was a discussion on Twitter amongst Irish bloggers that caught my eye, but when I checked it was for Irish Beauty bloggers. I see no reason why I should be excluded, the beauty of open water swimmers through the ages being well known.


  • Panda eyes are always on trend. A classic look that subtly indicate a zesty lifestyle.  Light occular highlights amplified by surrounding varying sienna and crimson tones.
  • Pasty-white fish-abdomen are back in fashion of the 21st century, harkening back to the classic days of the Romanov’s and reminiscent of northern latitude spring strolling on the Neva Prospect hoping for glimpses of the Tzarina. Decrease in pigmentation from back to front is graduated in men and more obvious in ladies, who use the classic cut high-back swim costumes. Ladies who bathe in low-back cut costumes will have an attractive contrépoint to an enframing pale skin.
  • Lanolin or Channel Grease are excellent skin-care products. Liberally apply to armpits and neck. The L’Eau de Mouton fragrance of the lanolin is an added benefit and considered quite heady in certain circles. Removal is ideally achieved via application of dish-washing liquid, applied liberally. Petrolé-Um Jelé is a modern but quite acceptable alternative and makes excellent waterproof makeup once applied thickly enough.
  • Experienced bathers will develop a fine motley of lines across their mien and many fine white keloid marks on their extremities. While either plebian or affected in other circles, amongst the swimming fraternity such lines are a mark of distinction and beauty.


  • In fabrics, both lycra or polyester are timeless bathing wear. Lycra speaks of commitment and polyester alludes to endurance, but neither to the exclusion of the other. Wool and cotton have however long become déclassé  and should be avoided by any well-bred bather as bathing attire.
The Royal Portrait of His Majesty, King of the Channel, Secretary of CS&PF, Official CS&PF Observer, Three-time North Channel swimmer, Conqueror of the West, Emperor of the Seas. King of the Andals of the First Men, Protector of the Realm.
The Royal Portrait of His Grace, Kevin, of the House Murphy, First of his Name, King of the Channel, Secretary of the CS&PF, Conqueror of the North Channel, Earl of Lough Ness, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Protector of the Realm and Lord of The Seven Seas –                                         Artist Kim Blick – By Royal Appointment 
  • Loneswimming
    Embrace your MAMIL – Middle aged man in lycra

    The cut for gentlemen ranges from perennial briefs through square-leg cut to contemporary longer-legged jammers. Gentleman Of A Certain Age should give due consideration to the entire ensemble before committing to jammers. Gentlemen Of A Certain Age should also assiduously avoid briefs of less than a four centimetre side panel. So-called board-shorts are a faux-pas in bathing circles and a sure sign of an arrivisté swimmer. The male swimmer should wear his Speedoes with panache and confidence and a wide-legged abdomen-forward stance is preferred. His Grace sets the standard for all lesser personages.

  • Colour trends will always include understated black as pre-eminent but splashes of vivid primary colours are quite de-rigueur at the moment.  Under no circumstances should white or yellow ever be worn, by either gender, as these are the epitome of vulgarity. Muted hues of pastel shades are quite risqué and skirt the boundaries of decency and respectability.
  • Casual aprés-swim wear for bathers includes the resurgent wool blends, especially the upmarket Merino grades, with towelling and modern micro-fibres also popular and yet acceptable.
  • The millinery arts yield an every changing yet ever paradoxically-static facet of bathing accoutrements. Silicon or latex are the artificial fabrics of choice as dictated by season and temperature.  In some less-fashionable countries it can be acceptable to go bare-headed or wear neoprene, but either can be considered gauche, especially during a début bather’s formal Dover swim.
  • Fragrances for open water swimmers have been impervious to changing trends with the aromatic Sal Du Mer eternally popular. It should be noted that Sal Du Mer both masks and removes the more common and stifling fragrance; Chlorine! It’s a Swimmer Thing. Some swimmers embrace the aforementioned L’Eau de Mouton, and others contrive a covering of aromatic Crème de Coconut. Admixtures of any or all are indicative of a certain ineffable swash.

Do you think I can now be nominated for Best Beauty and Fashion blog?

What the introduction of PED testing for amateurs will mean for all open water swimmers

You thought the whole Lance Armstrong saga was infuriating or frustrating, annoying or downright appalling? As have we all. Yet little did we know where it would lead or how quickly it would affect swimmers.

Last week’s news of an agreement between WADA (World anti-doping agency), USADA (United States anti-doping agency) and the European Non-Government Sporting Organisation (ENGSO) under the umbrella of the Anti-Doping Convention of the Council of Europe, slipped out without much coverage but it is surely the precursor to one of the most significant changes in amateur open water swimming in the 238 years since our sport began, (or any other endurance sport for that matter).

Historically, most swimmers adhere to the principle of honour, that we say what rules we are swimming by, then we either succeed or not by those by rules. The fact that we are by and large amateurs in a marginal sport has meant ordinary open water swimmers, even if there are now a lot of us worldwide, have never been either concerned by MDLs (Maximum Daily Limits) or even prohibited substances.

I’ve never personally seen nor heard of a distance swimmer using EPO or stimulant, steroids or masking agents, beta-agonists or any of the endurance PED cheating of professional sports-people though I am not so naive as to believe it doesn’t happen. Captain Webb and many subsequent swimmers used brandy or alcohol to aid their swims and though alcohol was until now almost never used anymore but still legal. Many swimmers use copious off-the-shelf and even prescription levels of painkillers or anti-inflammatories to remediate the extreme stress and pain caused by long distance open water swimming and all the associated training. The use of caffeine is extensive to combat early mornings and late evenings for pool training not to mention using it fuel actual swims, (I like the effective ergogenic (stimulant) properties of caffeine and regularly stop imbibing to maximise the effects for swims).

But this isn’t the point. Those days are now over. We’ll look back on them with fondness for the ease of our previous lives.

  • As over the beginning of March, all registered distance swimmers with any Association or Federation, in Northern America, the EU and Europe and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) have to register with WADA. Inevitably other global regions will have to follow.
  • Observers for the various Associations and Federations are currently or planned to be trained to take urine samples immediately post any swim with a registered association. This will obviously start with the big associations, CS&PF, SBSCA, CCSA, MIMS, Gibraltar. The others will follow.
  • Santa Barbara Channel Swim Association are first off the blocks with their roll-out of the announcement of changes.
  • Swimmers unwilling to provide immediate post swim samples will NOT have their swim ratified by the Federation. Observer reports will not be forthcoming.
  • The 2013 WADA Prohibited List of Banned Substances now applies to distance swimmers for registered or booked swims. REGARDLESS of when the swim was booked.
  • Swimmers MUST register and have Doctor’s Therapeutic Use Exceptions (T.U.E.) Certificates where applicable for substances which are being used therapeutically and which are on the Prohibited List, (such as my asthma inhaler Salbutamol).
  • Some no-longer much used substances (such as alcohol) will now have maximum limits such as the alcohol doping violation threshold (haematological values) of 0.10 g/L. This means a fundamental change to the “As Captain Webb did it” over-aching guiding principle of marathon swimming.
  • Though not yet ratified, it’s likely that caffeine will have its threshold set as concentrations in the urine to exceed 15 μg/ mL for a swimmer-athlete to test positive for this substance. (This equates to a consumption of about 500mg per day, i.e. a maximum of 2 average cups of coffee at 300mg per cup).

What you must do now:

  • Educate yourself.
  • Download the list of Prohibited Substances above.
  • Check yourself that you are not breaking any rules.
  • Arrange a meeting with your General Practitioner to discuss AND certify.
  • If you are taking any prescribed medication, you will need a Certificate to so state for EACH substance for EVERY instance. (Backdating is not allowed, that’s one of the ways Armstrong cheated).
  • The “I didn’t know” defence has long been the refuge of PED cheats. That day is also over.

What you could also do now (not mandatory)

  • Register as a drug-free athlete with your national swim association. You are expected to be PED-free and If you are drug-free then this isn’t an issue but it’s a statement of intent. Of course should you register and later be caught, you face a mandatory lifetime ban from swimming at any level.

EDIT April 2nd: P.S. Don’t you realise yet the Internet is the perfect vehicle for April’s Fools jokes?

Minutes of first Chris Bryan (International) Fanclub AGM

Special Guest!

Chris Bryan, Irish International Team open water swimmer

Attendees: Finbarr Hedderman, Owen O’Keefe, Donal Buckley



Item 1: Fanclub financials: Economist Finbarr appointed de facto Treasurer to start fundraising.

Item 2: Get some international members. Action Chris.

Item 3: Get some girls members. Action Owen.

Item 4: Owen’s pants. Special working sub-group convened to seek external consultation.

Item 5: Discussion regarding Chris and Owen returning Finbarr and Donal’s rightful Beginish Trophies before next year’s race.

Item 6: Possible conflict of interest over Donal and Owen’s membership of the International Trent Grimsey fanclub discussed. Solution: Trent to be invited to join Chris’s fanclub and visa versa. Action Chris.

Item 7: Chris Bryan International Fanclub members table motion that Chris Bryan is great. Motion unanimously passed.

Meeting adjourned. To the bar.

Next scheduled meeting: TBD.

Um, about the tan …

I’ve noticed something for a while now.

Years of cycling and surfing meant I’ve always had a tanned face and hands and arms (Farmer’s Tan). I also have somewhat sallow coloured skin for an Irish person, less obvious now than when I was younger, when I was occasionally asked if I was Spanish. (We Irish love the Spanish, ever since that whole Armada thing).

The winter of 2008/2009 was the first winter I swam through completely without a wetsuit. Since then I retain the open water swimmer’s tan longer into the winter, despite the chlorine bleaching, and due to the combination of sallow skin and mid-winter exposure, I gain it back quicker in the spring.

Heavily tanned shoulders and back, tanned arms and tanned back of the legs. Fish-belly pale front of the torso and thighs. Nose and forehead tanned contrast with white panda-eyes make the face healthy but odd-looking.

All my friends have similar asymmetrical tans.  That’s not my point.

My point, indeed my concern, is …

Why, amongst all these people who are also tanned, am I the one looks like a bloody large orange Oompa-Loompa?

The evidence:

Six of The Magnificent Seven on Channel year. Everyone exposed to a lot of sun. I’m the orange one
Rob & I after Sandycove Challenge 2010, Channel year. I’m the orange one.
2012, visiting Cap Griz Nez. Still the orange one. Though Craig has a bit of orange going on also.

Two distance swimmers meet on St. Patrick’s Street in Cork …

Swimmer 1: Well, how’s the training going?

Swimmer 2: Meh. Ok, I guess. Getting sick of it.

Swimmer 1: I know. Week after week of the bloody chlorine box.

Swimmer 2: How’s the shoulders?

Swimmer 1: I’ve got some twinges but they’re holding up. Had pain in the good one a couple of weeks ago, got a bit worried but seems ok again. You?

Swimmer 2: Yeah, the same. Dodgy shoulder is … dodgy, but holding. I’m on massages every two weeks to keep ‘em going. Fell like I’m losing my speed though.

Swimmer 1: All those bloody 400s, I know what you mean. It’s like crawling through the water by now.

Swimmer 2: I just want to go, you know? I just want to get on with it. It’s one thing while you are building up, it’s another thing staying there. I can smell the chlorine off myself before I open my eyes in the morning.

Swimmer 1: How are you doing versus the target?

Swimmer 2: I’m a bit off. Not far enough to worry, I hope. I got sick in …

Swimmer 1: … February?

Swimmer 2:  Just about, end of January. Chest infection. Didn’t swim for six days, got a bit panicked. Bloody antibiotics left me feeling knackered. You?

Swimmer 1: Middle of Feb. ‘Flu. Missed a week, felt crap for another week.

Swimmer 2: How are the rest of ‘em?

Swimmer 1: Good. Not all training in Source, but everyone has been showing up for the monthly meetings. You know what they’re like.

Swimmer 2: I loved the meetings. Despite seeing the month’s plan, I always felt more energised afterwards, good to sit and talk shite with the gang. Though I made a knob of myself at least one.

Swimmer 1: Nothing new there I guess?

Swimmer 2: No, I have a knack for it. Are you holding weight?

Swimmer 1: Just about, I’m eating like food is going out of fashion. Started on the ice-cream before bed.

Swimmer 2: Danny Walsh once said to me he was on his home for dinner, and he had to stop for dinner, on the way home.

Swimmer 1: Sounds about right. Weather sucks. We get a good week, get all excited, and forget we’re living in Ireland.

Swimmer 2: I’m looking forward as always to getting away from the pool. Ned’s 3/5/9 list starting filling up early. Then the weather went back to normal.

Swimmer 1: How’s herself?

Swimmer 2: Pain in the arse, you know how she is. She has a thing for repeats at the moment. Endless 100s and 50s. She made me do 200 50s one day! I thought I’d go insane. And no toys allowed. Haven’t used a paddle or pull-buoy in weeks.

Swimmer 1: I meant your wife.

Grant Proposal and Application – Toward a post-modern contextualization of swimming sub-cultures

To: European Union Centre for Anthropological Studies, Irish Department of Sport,  Irish Department of Heritage and Tourism, FINA, South London Swimming Club, Sandycove Island Swimming Club, Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, Irish Bankers Association, the wealthy guy from down the road.

Proposal: The advent of ubiquitous communication and democratization of publication has led to an explosion in discussion and participation in the sport of swimming. Formerly normative bicameral paradigms of swimming as principally pool or open water have divested into non-homogeneous externally identified cliques, and observers vest power through the actions of promotion and advertisement by further fracturing the tenuous nomenclature into new terminology.

Figure 1 postulates the current dialectic of nomenclature as a guide to this proposed research. Is this self-identification valid and symptomatic of previous disenfranchisement, or is it an attempt at further hegemony?
Figure 1: Toward a new taxonomy of open water swimming. (It’s a Zoo out there. Apparently.)
The new taxonomy of open water swimming. It's a Zoo out there. Apparently.
This researcher seeks to observe, identify and codify this ontological re-upholstering and search out the semiotics of natation and the ideologies of various tribal sub-cultures. Are the new modalities of signification phallogocentric posturing, intertextual multivocalities of post-colonial others previously excluded by a white male Western patriarchy or a new hyper-contemporaneous narrative?
Me? I’m just an open water swimmer.


There are NO circumstances in which it is ok to say “St. Patty’s Day”

I have been deputized to speak on behalf of the entire country of Ireland in this. We have  universal agreement. It may in fact be the only thing we all agree on.

March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, St. Paddy’s Day or just Paddy’s Day. It is not ever St. Patty’s or St. Pattie’s Day. Patty may have something to do with hamburgers or women called Patricia, but nothing to do with Ireland.

St. Patty’s Day is just … wrong. No ifs, ands or buts.

Also an Irish person can call themselves a Paddy or a Mick, because it might be their names. If you are not Irish, you can’t.

And here’s my final tip: Never, never, never, imitate an Oirish accent to an Irish person.

If there could be said to be a traditional St. Patrick’s Day, it’s spring lamb. Not bacon and cabbage or corned beef. Also, we don’t all wear green and fight for fun.

I couldn’t find a picture of a leprechaun in a tricolour cap, Speedoes and goggles to make this post fully authentic. :-) So instead here’s a photo of Irish two-time English Channel Swimmer Jim Boucher, sometimes called the Leprechaun, (but not by Irish people), from Emma France‘s blog.

This is your brain on open water swimming

Improved higher resolution version. (Also since this image has been claimed by others, this version has this website on it).

Edit: Some other people may have claimed to drawn this but this is my creation, (February January 2012). Any versions with other web-sites embedded in the image are at best mis-leading.

This is the older version:

Lewis Pugh

Introducing a precise open water swimming temperature scale

Next year’s Cork Distance Week will have a record number of attendees, many from outside Ireland. Some will be coming nervous or terrified about the potential temperatures especially if they heard any of 2011’s details.

They need a scale of reference for that fear and we need a common terminology!

Steve Munatones on Daily News of Open Water Swimming had a post recently on the temperatures at which people consider water cold.

I remember Finbarr once saying to me that; “10ºC is the point at which you can start to do some proper distance”. But that’s when the temperature is going up in the late spring. What about when it is dropping in the autumn and winter?

Jack Bright might have some input into this also. :-)

I think it would be fair to say that many, if not most (but not all), of the (serious) Irish and British swimmers would fall into the 7% category, it’s getting cold under 10° C.

So here’s my purely personal swimmer’s temperature scale:

Over 18°C (65°F): This temperature is entirely theoretical and only happens on TV and in the movies. The only conclusion I can come to about the 32% who said this is cold are that they are someone’s imaginary friends. Or maybe foetuses.

16°C to 18°C (61 to 64°F): This is paradise. This is the temperature range at which Irish and British swimmers bring soap into the sea. The most common exclamation heard at this stage is “it’s a bath”!!! Sunburn is common. Swimmers float on their backs and laugh and play gaily like children. They wear shorts and t-shirts after finally emerging. They actually feel a bit guilty about swimming in such warm water. Possible exposures times are above 40 hours for us. It’s a pity we have to get out to sleep and eat.

14°C to 16°C (57° to 61°F): Aaahhh, summerAll is well with the world, the sea and the swimmers. Exposure times are at least 20 to 40 hours. Sandycove Swimmers will swim 6 hour to 16 hour qualification swims, some just for the hell of it and because others might be doing so. Lisa Cummins will see no need to get out of the water at all and will just sleep while floating, to get a head start on the next day’s training.

13°C (55° to 56°F): GrandYou can do a 6 hour swim, and have a bit of fun. Daily long distance training is fine. Barbecues in Sandycove. The first Irish teenagers start to appear.

12°C (53/54°F): Well manageable! You can still do a 6 hour swim, it’ll hurt but it’s possible. Otherwise it’s fine for regular 2 to 4 hour swims. This the temperature of the North Channel.

11°C (51/52°F): Ah well (with a shrug). Distance training is well underway. Ned, Rob, Ciarán, Craig, Danny C., Imelda, Eddie, Jen Lane, Jen Hurley & myself, at the very least, have all recorded 6 hour qualification swims at this temperature. Lisa did 9 hours at this temperature. Swimmers chuckle and murmur quietly amongst themselves when they hear tourists running screaming in agony from the water, throwing children out of the way… 

10°C (50°F): Usually known as It’s Still Ok”. A key temperature. This is the one hour point, where one hour swims become a regular event when the temperature is rising. We start wearing hats after swims.

9°C (48/49°F):A Bit Nippy”No point trying to do more than an hour, it can be done, but you won’t gain much from it unless you are contemplating the Mouth of Hell swim. Christmas Day swim range. Someone might remember to bring a flask of tea. No milk for me, thanks.

8°C (46/48°F): The precise technical term is “Chilly”. Sub one-hour swims. Weather plays a huge role. Gloves after swims. Sandycove Swimmers scoff at the notion they might be hypothermic.

7°C (44/45°F): “Cold”. Yes, it exists. It’s here. The front door to Cold-Town is 7.9°C.

6°C (42/43°F): “Damn, that hurts”. You baby.

5°C (40/41°F): Holy F*ck!That’s a technical term. Swimmers like to remind people this is the same temperature as the inside of a quite cold domestic fridge. Don’t worry if you can’t remember actually swimming, getting out of the water or trying to talk. Memory loss is a fun game for all the family. This occurs usually around the middle to end of February.

Under 5°C (Under 40 °F). This is only for bragging rights.There are no adequate words for this. In fact speech is impossible.  It’s completely acceptable to measure exposure times in multiples of half minutes and temperatures in one-tenths of a degree. This is hard-core.  When you’ve done this, you can tell others to “Bite me, (’cause I won’t feel it)”. (4.8°C 1.4°C is mine, Feb. 2013). Carl Reynolds starts to get a bit nervous. Lisa make sure her suntan lotion is packed.

Ned Denison during the winter

2.5°C  to 5°C. South London Swimming Club and British Cold Water Swimming Championships live here. If you are enjoying this, please seek immediate psychological help. Lisa might zip up her hoodie.

1.5°C to 2.5°C: Lynn Coxian temperatures. You are officially a loon.

0°C to 1.5°C: Aka “Lewis Pughiantemperatures. Long duration nerve damage, probably death for the rest of us. Lisa considers putting on shoes instead of sandals. But probably she won’t.

*Grand is a purely Irish use that ranges from; “don’t mind me, I’ll be over here slowly bleeding to death, don’t put yourself out … Son“, to “ok” and “the best“, indicated entirely by context and tone.

Related articles

Rob & I after Sandycove Challenge 2010

Swimsuit models never look like Open Water swimmers

These are typical swimsuit ads, you see them all over the place. You know the only cold that this pair has ever felt was when he left his cashmere scarf behind that one time in that lovely little boutique in Chelsea after he came back from a weekend in a yacht in St. Tropez and he was feeling the chill of the April air and he met up with her for lunch after her fish pedicure and afterwards they walked her Chi-waa-waa in around Kensington. Or so I imagine.

Warning, get your sunglasses. Here’s me, 6 months ago, probably at my weight best! I weight about 4 kgs more at the moment after 6 months of open water swimming … but my tan is better!

Here’s another picture of Rob & I, just after finishing the Sandycove Challenge last year. We are the two without wetsuits obviously, and I’m the one without a cap. I was the exact same weight then as now, 78 kgs, and I’m 171cms (5’7″ … and a very important bit, which is technical height measurement term that IS NOT IN ANY WAY IMAGINARY). That’s the two of us in the centre of the picture. It’s sometimes called The Channel Body. Stereotypically handsome Irishmen! Not.

Rob & I after Sandycove Challenge 2010

Would you buy those togs after seeing that as an ad? Not those exact togs obviously, we’re OW swimmers, they get pretty skanky. :-)

And because I love opportunities to use these pictures, here’s my adopted Hungarian child. In his thong, same day.


Sometime earlier in the year I put up a post with pictures of the different types of athletic bodies across different sports. I was going to originally put the first picture of me above into it for the laugh, (which was why I’d edited in a black background). I think in theory everybody over the age of 30 dislikes the body composition issues we see in society, but at the same time, it’s difficult to be honest about ourselves when we don’t meet these bloody ideals. I’m not the most handsome man in the world. As a cold open water swimmer, I’m always a bit (to more than bit) overweight from carrying some extra fat for warmth (I had originally written little bit, without realising it, my subconscious still trying to compensate). You’d swear though that any fat was the worst thing that ever happened to humanity, instead of remembering that it has specific purposes, like insulation and energy storage, especially in our line of sport. Live an active life, and just keep doing stuff. In the long run, you’ll be fine.

So I guess all this rambling just means; get real, swim companies. There’s a whole world of real swimmers out here.


Announcing the Loneswimmer for President campaign

Given the farcical state of the Irish Presidential election, the dogs and I sat down and discussed it and I decided to throw my name into the contest.

Now I know many of you are overseas, and desperate as you are to vote for me, I thought I should explain the Irish Presidency is a Non-Executive role as Head Of State. For those of you in Ireland, this means that even with zero political experience, I still can’t mess up too badly. The worst I can is embarrass us all and spend all the expenses. Free grease and googles for every Sandycove Swimmer. Come on, you’ve given €75 billion to foreign banks, wouldn’t you like to see me using the expense account to support local swims? I’ll use it for free entry to all Open Water swims, with a state dinner after every swim over 5k! Free flights on the Presidential Jet for all Channel Aspirants, to any Channel. Do I get a Presidential Jet? How about a Presidential Rib?

But what’s my manifesto, you ask?

First – to ensure continuity with the two previous Presidents, I promise to change my name to Mary and indeed, I have already asked Dee to also start calling me Ma’am and Uachtaráin.

Second – The two previous Presidents set out to be Bridge-builders. To continue this theme, I promise to swim under those bridges. And bring others with me. We will swim in every* river in series of national free swims. I will initiate a national debate on the state of Irish Open Water swimming, and will put the Presidential Seal on free silicone hats for all swims.

Third – I will use my personal bodyguard (surely I’d have a bodyguard, right?) from the Army and Coast Guard to provide boat and safety cover for all swims over 1k. The LE Eithne will provide safety cover for the Sandycove Challenge. No more Swim Ireland!

Fourth – The use of Farmleigh House will be granted for the annual Channel Swimmer’s party. I will lobby for have the Monday after the Sandycove Challenge made a new public holiday.

Fifth – The Council of State will include Ned Denison and Eilis Burns. I will seek the introduction of a National Honours System, with everyone who has swam 10k or more guaranteed of selection for an award of Son, (or Daughter), of Manannán.

Sixth – I will lobby the Executive Branch of government for the removal of VAT on all swimming products. And to use National Lottery Funds to install changing rooms, toilets, hot showers and jacuzzis at all popular open water swimming spots**. All Channel swimmers will benefit from a special tax-exempt status and crew costs will be covered by a special EU grant scheme.

All I need from you is the nomination and the support of 20 County Councillors and a small donation toward my campaign.

At the start of this post, you were wondering about my sanity, but now you’ve seen the Grand Plan, you realise everything I say makes sense. You know it does …

Just remember: Vote early. Vote often.

* Except those rivers that are, you know,  too ichy.
** i.e. Guillamene, Clonea & Sandycove