Tag Archives: whales

More brief lessons from marathon swimming – II – Marathon swimming is like childbirth

I split what was originally a single list,  because well, if you are writing every week for over four and half years, you need to make your ideas count. Also, I found that the original draft just kept growing and likely will continue to so do, so this will easily allow me to add another part at some point in the future. (Which is already started).

  • No food in the world tastes as good as [Dooley's fish n' chips in Tramore] after a marathon swim. This works for your preferred location and fast food.
  • The water is always rougher than it looks and the wind is always higher.
  • But it was better yesterday.
This wave was as high as ahouse
This wave was as high as a house, and the wind was Force 11


  • Chocolate, coffee and porridge is practically a balanced diet.
  • Nothing is better than porridge, (even if you hate it).
  • Every marathon swimmer should crew at least once in their life to appreciate how essential the role of crew is to our swimming.
  • It’s not the length of the war swim, but the depth of the foxhole pain of the training and who you share it with that counts.
  • Marathon swimming is exactly like childbirth. You don’t know exactly when it’ll start, how long it’s going to go on for, or how much pain will be involved. You may also beg for drugs and try to punch someone. And it’s all forgotten mere minutes after the event is over. I make this comparison with absolute male certainty.
  • You have never farted like you have farted after six hours or more of liquid maltodextrin feeds.
  • The patch of warm water that embraces you, punishes you worse when you leave it. So it’s not entirely unlike divorce.
  • The way a marathon swimmer looks after six hours in sub-ten or eleven degree water is good evidence of the evolutionary link between humans and apes.
  • The way a marathon swimmer looks after 14 hours or more in salt water is good evidence of the close link between humans and whales.
  • All Carb/maltodextrin costs twice as much as you think after you have thrown out all the prepared but unused feeds.
  • When forced to poop while in the sea, make sure the wind and tide are going in the opposite direction you are and that there’s no-one behind you.
  • No swim ever goes 100% to plan. Ever.
  • The people who ask “why” will never understand your answer. The people who understand, will never ask.

Review: Ocean Giants

It is a fact widely acknowledged that the BBC makes the best television nature and science documentaries. David Attenborough’s name has become a global watch phrase for excellence. But it is always the whole BBC team bringing in the best nature writing and filming and locations, in this series using the Planet Earth Polar camera-man, and Jacques Cousteau’s front-line camera-man.

Recently the Beeb has begun using other presenters to fill void the looming void that will be left when Mr. Attenborough retires; Brian Cox, Alice Roberts etc.

In Ocean Giants, the BBC uses Stephen Fry to narrate a three episode series about Cetaceans, the charismatic megafauna of the ocean, to use a favourite environmental phrase.

It is of course stunningly filmed at worldwide locations. Fry is understated and doesn’t try to overwhelm the reason that we are watching. And the subject matter is more than just a images of whales and dolphins, with each episode taking a different theme. The first episode Giant Lives uses extremes as the subject, size, duration, temperature, depth, distance. The second episode, Deep Thinkers, focused on cetacean intelligence and was my favourite of the three, with some fantastic footage of dolphins who had learned and passed on skills appropriate to specific locations. The final episode Voices Of The Sea, is about the sounds of cetaceans and what we’ve learned of them.

It’s another fantastic series from the BBC and one which I really enjoyed.