Are You Swimtastic?

In a World Where Everyone is Fantastic.

In a World Where Everyone is Connected, I don’t have a Facebook account. There is ample evidence that social media can be an echo chamber or shall we say a distortion of the reality. We are all familiar with the online heroes, those who are fantastic at everything.

In a World Where Everyone is Fantastic. I’m not. I am not fantastic at everything. I am not even fantastic at anything. I don’t think that even where I am good at anything, that I am exceptional.

In a World Where Everyone Is Fantastic, I’m a real-life, real, live, average swimmer.

Not for me the extraordinary claims. I’m just a guy, who writes a swimming blog.

In A World Where Everyone is Fantastic and Swimtastic, the average ones are the rebels.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotation: To Be Yourself In a World That is constantly trying to make you someone else is the greatest accomplishment

I am really bad at life in general and bad at many things about swimming in specific. When I write, I write for the average me, and hope that by doing so, I write for some of you also. Some of you that I know, really are exceptional. Really genuinely exceptional. Exceptionally fast. Exceptionally skilled. Exceptionally smart and organised. Exceptionally tenacious. Exceptional filmmakers and photographers and writers. Exceptionally committed to helping new open water swimmers. Exceptional in swimming open water for 70 years. Exceptional swim organisers. Exceptional swim icons. Exceptionally butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke. Exceptionally Cork. I have a book of autographs of you exceptional people around the world.

In a World Where Everyone is Fantastic, you can be good at swimming, and yet be average or even bad at major elements of it. (The only school teacher I remember with any respect said I should never use the words good or bad).

In a World Where Everyone is Adaptable, I’m bad at breaststroke. I probably swim, on a good month, 1000 cumulative metres of breaststroke. Often less. Some months I never swim breaststroke and don’t miss it. But I feel guilty. I’m also poor at butterfly, but at least ‘fly is fun and you really want to be better at it.

In a World Where Everyone is Oxygenated, I’m really bad at breathing only on my weak side. I do it in case some day my life depends on it. I never get better.

In a World Where Everyone is Aquatic, I’m bad at underwater. I don’t even practice it. What’s the point? I swim a short course pool, and I swim open water.

In a World Where Everyone is Kicktastic, I’m terrible at kicking. I can’t even see the point as a long distance swimmer of ever getting better. I only do it when I feel I want to add another kilometre to a set, and I wear a snorkel to make it less hellish.

In a World Where Everyone is Speedy, I’ve never broken four kilometres in a hour by myself. I am really bad at starting hard in a race. I’ve lost count of the times when everyone seems to swim away from me at a race.

In a World Where Everyone is Thin and Looks Good In a Speedo,  I’m bad at diet control. I’m only lucky that I prefer home-made food, but I still eat a lot of sugary foods, and only a lifetime of exercise is protecting me from obesity and Type 2 ‘beetus.

In a World Where Everyone is Chlorinated, I have no interest in competitive pool swimming. Everyone I know expects me as “the swimmer” to be the expert. Michael Phelps as swim god? Nah, Kevin Murphy for me. I really don’t care about the US National Age Group Short Course Championships. I really don’t care who’s going 21:50 for 50 LCM free. I also don’t care enough to check if those numbers make any sense.

In a World Where Everyone is Fabulous, I have no natural talent for swimming. I think my stroke is absolutely average despite years of technique work. And I now know it will probably never get much better.

In a World Where Everyone is Getting Younger, I’m getting older. Sometimes it feels like I am the only one who is. I get injured more easily, take longer to recover. I got a ‘flu vaccination but I was still out of the water for the last two weeks due to ‘flu anyway, then a chest infection, then bronchitis. For feck’s sake.

In a World Where Everyone is Rich, I can’t do most of the swims I’d like, because I can’t afford them.

In a World Where Everyone is Relaxed, I think I will die from stress. I don’t know how to not worry about stuff. The only solution I seem to be able to find is to go swimming. No matter how rough the sea is, at least I am safe there.

In A World Where Everyone swims for charity and saving lives and changing the world, I swim for myself.

In a World Where Everyone can swim an Ice Mile in one degree and sit around getting a tan afterwards, I think people will die and thought I might die myself.

In a World Where Everyone is a Double English Channel Swimmer, I only know how to swim one way.


In a world where everyone is motivational and Inspirational, I only know how to keep swimming.


Mostly, that’s enough.



31 thoughts on “Are You Swimtastic?

  1. Oughh did I love this, big thanks you make me smile. I am not like you (you are few leagues above me) except I love swimming and I am 58 (do not compete in swimming) but I got a problem I just bought a new watch, Garmin Swim 2 and after checking if the HRM was close to correct then I did test it (first time testing HR in the pool) in the pool and after 4 occasions and total of 13 km later and found out that after warm up I was over 90% in the red zone and up to 99% and regularly over 180 bpm and max 190 bpm… then it is obvious that I am not perfect or fantastic and I got a problem… So BIG THANKS for your articles and I hope that I can down tune myself with your help, but I love blasting the 3000 m freestyle on fins and paddles. A kind of addiction….. kind regards.


  2. Ah bless. This really made me chuckle. Thanks for that. There is always someone better and always someone worse at swimming, and life, I think. More or less swimtastic than me or you. More or less fast, more or less lazy. And so on. Let’s just keep up at the thing that keeps us mostly sane. That’s al that counts.

    Merry Xmas.



  3. Dear Lone Swimmer I´m from Argentine and I like very much your posts, and I think, a lot of real swimmers from my country will also do.
    I´m asking you permission for translate your posts to spanish, and upload to fb or any where you want to. I think they are really useful, and sometimes touching…


  4. Lovely post thank you – I cringe at even defining myself as “a swimmer” – there’s always someone who’s faster, swims for longer, swims when it’s rougher, swims without a wetsuit when I start to don mine. It’s good to know that even proper swimmers like you have these kind of sentiments. Fully agree re fb too – it’s a double edged sword for me, the only way of getting my blog out there but I would rather be free of it……


  5. Donal, while you’re admirably modest, I’m pretty sure Channel Swimmer maps to World Class Athlete.

    I’m not trying to blow off your self-assessment (not being in your league as a swimmer, I’m hardly qualified to judge!) or anything, mind. It’s just that I read this and think of a conversation I had with my husband this very morning. We were coming back from the gym and I was grumping on my progress.

    “Noel, you swam across FREAKING BOSTON HARBOR this summer!”

    “Sweetie, it was a 1500 meter open water swim. Not that big a deal. Cool and fun and a small challenge for ME, yes, but not impressive. I swim every morning with much better swimmers.”

    I guess where I am going with this is, no you’re probably not the Best Swimmer in the World. But from where a lot of people sit (including me), your accomplishments sure do look amazing.


    • Than you Noel, now I’m embarassed because I really do consider myself average, not looking for compliments. I’m only returning to the water after three weeks and I am swimming slower than I have in 10 years. It sure doesn’t feel like I know what I am doing!

      I’m guessing a Happy Christmas and Happy Birthday is in order!


      • I didn’t think you were looking for compliments. I do think you might be underestimating the relative skill level of your comparison sample group to the general population of swimmers worldwide.

        And thank you. Yes, I’m a Christmas baby.

        A Merry Christmas to you, too!


  6. Donal,

    When I read it, I thought you were talking about me. I agree 100%. My partner read it independently and emailed me and said it was me. A swimming mate read it and cracked up laughing.

    Swimming is for the individual and cures everything.

    Thanks for your articles and wisdom. It brightens up my work day.


    Aussie Swimtastic


    • Kent, thank you, I am glad this post has found some small resonance with others. I’m not sure why it is, but when faced with rampant overbearing egos and trumpet-blowing, I prefer instead of trying to join in or up the ante of boasting, to go the opposite way. Best to you and years, you better be swimming on Xmas day with all that warm water!


  7. Great read. Optimistically honest (is how I read it). And I had to check back and see if you’d mentioned ‘blogtastic’. And you haven’t. This post is blogtastic, though I admit I have no metric to guide me on that (and it sounds like a godawful word too). As an aside, I’m smiling as I read it, as your average happens to be about twice as good as my average, when it comes to swimming. But none of that matters; what matters is that you swim, enjoy it with a passion, and write an excellent blog to boot. And I epitomise the average triathlete too, but I’m more than happy with that. As a postscript, I used to play in a band called During Stonedown… sure that will ring a bell…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Declan.

      During Stonedown is my new favourite band name, but probably as well you didn’t become famous, imagine the articles trying to explain about Thomas Covenant. I’ve never written this on the site ( I grudgingly use the word blog but hate it) but during the moderately well know story of my Channel crossing, when everything had gone wrong, and I was despairing, Stephen Donaldson’s books and characters came to mind.

      We should swim the Copper Coast in 2016. Have a great Christmas and New Year.


      • Cheers Donal. I had enough trouble explaining the name to the rest of the band… I think mostly they were happy it had the word ‘stone’ in it! Oddly enough, the old singer is back from the States this Christmas and we are dusting off the guitars and playing a local pub gig next Monday. I rebranded us ‘Senior Stonedown’.

        It would be – dare I say it – swimtastic to join you one day on the Copper Coast. I see the Irish Times has it down as one of the best places to swim. I wonder how that happened? 😉

        Have a great break yourself.


  8. As an overweight, middle aged, Not very good swimmer I love this.
    (Only gripe: a one way EC solo is something to be noisy about, even in a world where so many are twowaytastic)


  9. Thank you. I am probably worse, I am worse than you. I am swimming @ 60, in mud if I have to. I don’t even know why. I have been circled by a shark, bumped by a dolphin and been inspected by whales. I have been bitten, stung and wounded. But I still swim. Slowly. I have even seen a crocodile sunning itself on a bank when I drifted past. ( I swam a little better that day). When my mates are in the pub getting beer guts, I am swimming. Somewhere. When they’re whining about aches and pains, I go swimming.
    I swim because I can’t imagine not swimming.
    blue skies


      • G’day, 38dC here tonight. Bloody hot, blue sky and no wind. Stephen Donaldson eh? I think he wrote The Chronicles or something like that? I think I read one of his books when I was a teen. Does that help? Merry Xmas Shane


        • That’t it Shane. He had a character called Cable Seadreamer, a tortured mystic prophet!

          “38dC here tonight. Bloody hot, blue sky and no wind”. Know how much sympathy I have? 🙂

          Happy Christmas & new year to you also.


  10. Thought provoking and inspiring post. On breathing on your bad side in case one day your life depends on it. You would have taken that breath 10’000 times and what did Bruce Lee say about fear and technique?Just remember when the dark clouds begin to close and until the last breath is drawn you will find strength and power from your restriction to keep swimming. See you down at the Guillamene.


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