Monday, 30 May 2011


It should have been a really good day: doing a 6-hour swim today together with Marcel van der Togt in the Madestein lake in The Hague. (Marcel Channel Swim is even the subject of a real TV documentary and he had brought a 2-man film crew!)
The swim went great, very windy, water quite cold (17 degrees Celsius or so). I was able to keep a good pace, and felt still pretty good after 3hrs/10 kms. Even the cold water didn't bother me much. Then, suddenly, Marcel's coach Gerard noticed that my blue sports bag had disappeared from the park bench right next to the water. And yes, it had really gone, and with it 5 pairs of Cressi goggles (the only brand that fits me), some spare swimming trunks and, more seriously, all my keys, including car keys, and a photo camera with recent pics.  Very fortunately I had decided at the very last moment to leave my wallet with bank and credit cards hidden in the car.
The theft was the end of the swim for me, and I spent the rest of the day reporting to the police, who also opened the car for me (ever heard of a 'slim jim'?), dismantling the car (well, taking the car battery out) to avoid theft, driving to Lith and back to the Hague with ever helpful Vikram coming immediately to the rescue all the way from Amsterdam (thanks!!!) to get a spare car key, and driving home to Lith, finally.
Not a good day, but it could have been worse (no papers or bank stuff stolen).
Will try and do my 6-hour swim tomorrow: Lith-'t Wild and back.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Mind games

Five cold water training days done so far, it is going ok, even if the cold is a real mental challenge, see below. 

The full week was as follows:
Sunday 22:     4h15m           17.5 C     Maas & Lithse Ham
Monday 23:    2h15m           17.5 C     Maas
Tuesday 24:    4h30m           17.5 C     Maas & Lithse Ham
Wednesday 25:   2h              18 C        Dode Maasarm
Thursday 26:   2h                  15 C        IJsselmeer (Medemblik)
Today is a day off, which is nice!.

The toughest was yesterday: 2 hours in app. 15 degrees Celsius in the IJsselmeer, with a cold hard wind and very choppy water. Good fun though, a real battle with the elements. I have figured out the difference between 17 and 15 degrees: in the latter case hands and feet will remain cold throughout the swim, whereas in 17 degrees they will warm up after appr. 15 minutes, only to turn cold again after 1.5-2 hours.

The hardest part is not physical, but mental: I can do the long swims without any problem as far as the distance is concerned, but the cold water plays nasty games with one's mind. The cold is always there, and doesn't leave you for a moment. This was clear on Wednesday when I intended to do a 6-hour swim but got out after 2 hours. I should have prepared better: I went into the water as if this was just another training, but these cold long swims take mental preparedness. I have now planned a 6-hour swim on Sunday with coach (and also aspiring Channel swimmer) Marcel van der Togt. Hopefully being in the water together will make it somewhat easier to stay in and bear the cold.

A picture of my favourite training location, the river Maas:

Monday, 23 May 2011

Survived the first dip...

I can tell you now what swimming in 18 degrees Celsius (17,5, actually) feels like: bloody cold, well, what a surprise!. Skin initially burning, heart pounding, it took me 10 minutes to enter the water... And yet, I managed to stay in and swim for 4 hours 15 minutes, some 12 kms! It took a 20-minute hot shower and a truck load of food to warm up again after that. Very encouraging though, I hadn't quite expected to be able to do that on day 1 already.

Only a two-hour swim planned for today, and I find myself procrastinating, I should have been in the water an hour ago. While doable, swimming in this water temperature is not exactly appealing yet... ;-)

OK, 'nuff said, off I go now.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Back in Lith, boot camp starting today!

Back in good old Lith, at last, after more than 5 months. Work had been very busy lately and I must admit I was ready for a break. Before leaving I sent out a mass mail to many friends and colleagues drawing (again) their attention to this project and its beneficiary, the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research in Bangladesh. I received some very nice messages in reply, many thanks for the encouragement folks! To know that this projct is followed by you is a great morale booster, and morale is what makes or breaks an endurance effort like this.

Three weeks ahead of the rest of the family, who have 3 more weeks of school ahead of them, I arrived yesterday in beautiful sunny weather after a long trip Dhaka-Karachi-Istanbul-Amsterdam. As usual almost no sleep on the plane, but I watched 3 movies and read for hours on end, what a luxury :-) Picked up from Schiphol by my ever helpful brother-in-law Vikram, who had also made sure that the family minivan had been maintenanced and reinsured. Thanks Vikram!

Back in Lith and after shopping for groceries I went for a quick late afternoon nap, only to wake up .... this morning after 13 hours of almost comatose sleep. My back is still stiff and painful: sitting still for 17 hours in economy class doesn't help of course. But no more excuses now: cold water training starts as of today. As I am typing this I look at the river Maas right in front of my house. The watertemperature is 18 degrees Celsius, according to Rijkswaterstaats (our National Water Board's) website:
I will tell you later what 18 degrees feels like coming almost straight from the plane from Bangladesh, brrr....

Monday, 16 May 2011

Monday 16 May

Five more days to go before I leave for the Netherlands and still tons of work. Looking forward to a period of intensely focused training without distractions.

Even if my endurance and power have improved a lot, I am not in great physical shape these days: last week's field trip (very inspiring by the way, will post photos later) included 900 kms in a car over sometimes dodgy roads and has left me with a sore back. Further to my earlier 'Channel-in-4-days' I had wanted to swim 33 kms over three days last weekend, but it didn't happen, because of my back and general post field trip fatigue. I have also come to the mental limits of how much I can train in a 25-meter pool: 10 kms = 400 laps = a grind. Swimming in open water from next week onwards will be such a relief!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Channel in four days

(Nederlandse tekst onderaan)

Just back from a late night visit to 'Doctor D.', the very friendly general practitioner of the British High Commission who did the last medical formalities for me to complete my registration with the CS&PF for The Swim. He found that I have a case of 'swimmer's ear' (external ear infection), which is hardly surprising with all the time I spent with my head under water these days. Fortunately it doen't bother me much.

We spent a pleasant and restful Easter holiday in Phuket, Thailand. Milan, Rohan and Tara enjoyed their new snorkeling sets, even if the coral was all bleached and dead due to rising sea temperatures, and perhaps the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami? I spent two days in bed with upset intestines and catching up on sleep, but managed to do a few swims, of which one of 4 hours, appr. 12 kms. The water was almost unpleasantly warm (> 30ºC), which felt like swimming in hot soup. Not very useful for the Channel.

Back in Dhaka, things are infernally busy at work, with an upcoming high level visit and a decision to have a high level meeting with the Government  to discuss bilateral cooperation, all in the third week of June. I try to get as much of the preparations done as I can before I leave for the cold waters of the Netherlands on 20 May: 3 weeks ahead of the family, perfect for a couple of weeks of the train-eat-sleep routine needed at this point in my preparations. First I will do two weeks of much needed cold water acclimatization in the Netherlands proper, mainly in my beloved Maas and the Dode Maasarm near Lithoyen, my favourite training places. I also hope to do some training in the IJsselmeer and in the North Sea with various long distance swimming buddies, not least the IJsselmeerbikkels. Then a long weekend in Dover to experience some really tough training (6-8 hours a day) in really cold water (13-14°C), a few days in Brussels for work, and back to NL to pick up the family from Schiphol airport. While it will be nice to focus 100% on training, I am not looking forward to being away from the family for three weeks. 

In terms of training, the last couple of days were ok, in spite of hectic work: I managed 33 km (Dover-Calais as the crow flies) in four consecutive days:
              Thursday 5 km,
              Friday 10 km,
              Saturday again 10 km,
              today 8 km.
So, the Channel in four days as it were, minus the cold and the waves though. All in all a pretty good training week, with earlier swims of 8 km on the previous Sunday and 4 km on Tuesday. Next weekend I’ll try the Channel in three days.

I’ll be off on a four day field trip in the North of Bangladesh from 10-13 May, which will give my rather sore body a few days of welcome rest. I should have some interesting pictures to share upon my return.

Beste NL lezers,

Zoals jullie zien is de blog een beetje aan het veranderen. Meer en meer Engelstalige vrienden, kennissen en collega’s (en (potentiële sponsors!) willen ook graag mijn project volgen. Ik wil dan ook vanaf nu tot aan de overtocht begin augustus de meeste van mijn stukjes in het Engels schrijven en ook (delen van) de rest van de website in het Engels vertalen. Hopelijk maakt het jullie niet uit.

Teunie, bedankt voor je berichtje. Zoals je ziet word je op je wenken bediend. ;)