Vidösternsimmet 2014 – (Un)finished business

We had left Värnamo defeated two years prior. This had been my longest swim to date in my new stroke, but 6h30 and 13km only took me to Vidösternsimmet’s third checkpoint, 3500m short of the fourth and about 8km away from the finish line. I had been cold, tired, but happy nonetheless.

Summer of 2014, the situation was slightly different. I was still on a high from completing the Channel in September 2013, but my training had been slowing down considerably since then. I had transitioned from almost-daily sessions to barely-weekly visits to either the pool or the lake. As a result I could not tell if I still had enough endurance and/or cold tolerance. Did I mention that I lost about two stones since September, falling from the mid-80s (kilograms) to the low-70s? Let’s consider it mentioned! In brief(s), the challenge was going to be to try to just complete the 21500 meters.

We drove to Värnamo on the Friday afternoon along with Nicolas Bathfield, another froggie-swimmer living in Gbg. Oh, he also won the race last year … but for him too, training had been, hmm, erratic. He seemed however determined to make the challenge ahead even more challenging by swimming the 2 kilometers from the campsite to the starting line (didn’t happen) and by deciding to drop the wetsuit and make this swim his longest in togs (did happen).

At the Friday evening briefing we also caught up with the third frog, Jacques Tuset, who’s in the middle of his latest challenges, the Seven Prison Islands challenge, where he is attempting to escape from, you guessed it, seven prison islands all around the world. Lake Vidöstern didn’t feature any prison, so maybe we should have offered to chain him up before the start?

Other familiar faces, usually on top of pairs of wide shoulders, were present at the briefing. The organiser, Adam Svensson, whose goal is to develop the swim into an even more popular event (almost 90 participants this year after 20 and 35 in 2012-13). The winner from two years ago, Ryan Provencher, always up for a challenge, would take part in both the 21km AND the 5km races …. if he managed to finish the first one in time to drive back to the start of the second race (he did it). Speedster Ted Molin, third the year before and showing great speed in the past few months in my favorite training pond of Lake Delsjön.

Fast forward to the next morning. We arrive just before 6:30 at the starting line. It becomes immediately clear that there are WAY more swimmers (and crew) than in 2012. We say Hi to a few friends, get the latest news on who is going to swim without a wetsuit (7 out of about 80) and go and collect the Safeswimmer buoy that was assigned to me. Apart from myself, the swimmers competing in only togs are the following: Jacques (of course), Nicolas (who had brought his wetsuit in his bag, “just in case”), Pawel Dudek (a Polish swimmer who has completed Vidöstersimmet twice already), Sale Savuel and Manfred Spitzwieser (two swimmers from Austria) and Anders Blomgren (one of my training partners, whose wetsuit broke the week before but who decided this would not stand in the way of his completing his second Vidösternsimmet!).

We all gather by the starting line, a drone is in stationary flight 20 meters above our heads, presumably filming us’all (I hope we’ll get to see some footage), countdown to the start … and … BOOOOM! They fire an actual cannon. Everybody is stunned for about a second or two but all end up taking their first steps into the lake. That part of the lake is very shallow, it takes perhaps 100m, maybe more for it to be more than knee-deep.



There starts the navigation. The concept of the swim is that one shall take oneself to four checkpoints, three of which are on land, and the navigation is up to the swimmers. The organisation has posted 20+ large yellow buoys over the 21.000m of the course, some of them indicating the best line, some of them indicating some shallower areas and some others having been accidentally displaced!

I have a tendency of starting races/crossing rather aggressively, but due to the lack of training I decide to take it relatively easy, focusing on my technique, counting my strokes. After about one hour I reach the first stop, a pair of large rafts featuring loads of food. I take in a sort of gel (more liquid than an actual gel) and most of a Snickers plus a couple of cups of water. Pawel and Nicolas are on my heels coming at this stop and leave before me.

The second stage was swam partly in fog, which I really enjoy. There was just enough to make you feel like you were flying in the middle of a cloud but at the same time it was still possible to see (just barely) the next buoy in the distance. Sighting, adjusting the direction, taking twenty strokes and repeat. During this second stretch I was taking quite an outside lane, not ideal for racing I guess, but I was not too far away from a couple of other swimmers (not completely off course then) and at least it didn’t get too crowded around me, plenty of space to swim freely and most importantly ENJOY the experience. I was still taking it relatively easy, not being too worried about things and my body seemed happy with everything. The excitement came from a viking ship (I ship you not) passing the lot of us on its way to the second stop.

The second stop got reached by myself and a few other swimmers. I grabbed a liquid-gel-thingy, held it up and proposed a toast to the amount of fun we were having, only to press it a bit too much and end up with half of it – sticky yellow substance – on my chest. Fabienne, Jacques’s wife suggested that we get back in the water quickly. It turned out that Jacques had been staying no more than one minute at each stop when I, for instance, was spending a good 4-5 minutes chatting happily with Greta, other swimmers and swimmers’ partners.

The third stage of the swim was a 5500m. I don’t remember too much apart from swimming alongside reeds for seemingly forever. I had counted my strokes up to about 5000, thinking that this would bring me to a point where I could see the next checkpoint. Not quite. I had yet to reach a yellow buoy marking a sharp-ish turn to the left and leading to the last (long) stretch. When reaching the checkpoint I was significantly more tired than at the previous one but still turning my arms happily enough. Another 4-5 minutes to feed, talk, stretch a bit, catch up with Nicolas and Pawel and off we went for another 3400m.

This was for me the hardest bit. For about 30 minutes I felt completely drained, I tried to slow down my stroke some more and focus on pulling efficiently but it didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. That’s the mental part of marathon swimming. Just keep on going, you’re actually still moving forward despite how it feels, so just keep at it. And then all of a sudden I was on the other side of it, I was once again able to increase my stroke rate and my pull wasn’t feeling too weak anymore, yay!

I didn’t quite manage to catch my two non-wetsuit colleagues before the final “depå”. Pawel left not long after I arrived and Nicolas was there pondering if he should call it a day as he was starting to get cold. We talked a bit, decided to get back in (“It’s warmer in the water”), start swimming strongly (“Turn your arms like a windmill”) and use other warming-up strategies (“Did you pee recently?).

There were only five kilometers to the finish line. After a little while focusing on passing the buoys from the right side to avoid the very shallow and rocky bits I took a quick look at my watch and, assuming that I had covered about half of the 5000 meters, calculated that I had a chance to break 7 hours. Unfortunately I was off by a consequent amount and surely wasn’t close to the half-way point when I did the math. I could still see Nicolas in the distance, my advice of turning one’s arms quickly had backfired on me and he was now a couple of minutes ahead of me!

I was sighting on a large house close to the bridge we were due to pass under right before reaching the end of the swim. As always it took much longer than I thought to actually reach it. But at that stage I didn’t care anymore. I was so relieved to know that I was going to finish the swim and didn’t have the pressure of pushing harder to either catch up with someone, not letting someone pass me, or break the seven-hour barrier, as none of these scenarii were now likely. I reached the finish line at 14:17, climbed onto the wooden pontoon leading to the “Interview zone” and more importantly, the jacuzzi!

Final impressions, in no particular order:

- I managed to swim from A to B to C to D to E to F without complaining once!!

- Got really surprised at how my body reacted. I thought I had lost most of my endurance since last September, turned out I had a bit left.

- Greta wants to travel to Värnamo again next year. She got a lot of fika from the organizers!

- Seven non-wetsuiters at the start, seven at the finish. Well done to Anders and Nicolas who managed their longest bioprene swim!

- Finished 33rd out of 66 (overall) and 4th out of 7 (speedos). Right in the middle. “Lagom” like they say in Sweden. I’m a real Swede, liksom.

- There was a very friendly/family atmosphere throughout the day, in spite of the massive increase in the number of competitors.

- The winner, Ted Molin, broke the course record by over 30 minutes and got it down to 5 hours and 19 minutes, impressive!

- A great number of swimmers increased their PB dramatically this year even if the conditions weren’t much better than last year. Among others, Maggie Timossi and Jarek Figas!

Here’s the link to Vidösternsimmet’s website. They intend to increase the number of competitors even further next year. See you there?!?

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Goals for 2014

In an attempt to bring back this blog to life, here’s a short list with goals for this year. They might evolve in the next few months, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Goal One: Break the minute barrier for 100m in SCM (haven’t timed myself in a 25-meter pool in a long time, so I’m not quite sure where I’m at …)

Goal Two: Finish Vidösternsimmet! (after giving up after 13km in 2012)

Goal Three: Finish Vidösternsimmet … in style, i.e. fight for the win among the non-wetsuiters (very dependent on who actually shows up)

Goal Four: Do a “Not-quite-a-Sub-32-Marathon-thingy”.

The original concept is to manage a swimming marathon (10 km) under 3 hours as well as a running marathon (42.195 km) in under 3 hours. I’ve never been a runner, so I can forget about running a marathon that fast, especially since I’m not willing to train as much as last year. I’m not going to go for a marathon at all, actually. I will try to give it all on a 10k though. My ultimate goal could be to do the swim-thing in under 3 hours in the Delsjön lake and then (the same day or the day after) run one lap around the lake at the pace of a 3:00-marathon. Which would mean …. 10 kilometers in 42:40!!!!!! Very ambitious, and I probably won’t get close to it, but I’ll have fun trying.

Goal Five: Swim-a-sketch … more about it soon.

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The video

Finally done with the video … time to rest for real now …

Butterfly across the English Channel from Sylvain Estadieu on Vimeo.

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Teaser

Butterfly across the English Channel – Teaser from Sylvain Estadieu on Vimeo.

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16 hours and 42 minutes

DONE!!!

More information and media to come soon. In the meantime, it is still possible to donate to my two charities, Hundar Utan Hem (for abandonned dogs) and APEI Centre Alsace (for handicapped children).

Thanks for the support!!!

__________________

My two charities of choice:

Hundar Utan Hem


Click Here to Donate :)





Hundarutanhem.se (translated: “Homeless dogs”) is a website that presents homeless Irish dogs in need of a home in Sweden.

In Sweden we don´t have any stray dogs. Still many people want to help a dog in need or prefer to adopt an older dog instead of buying a pure breed pup from a kennel.
People in Sweden treat their dogs like a member of the family and many are heartbroken when they hear about all the dogs being put to sleep in Ireland. Helping an Irish dog has become very popular and we can home almost any dog to a great new home in Sweden.
Most of the dogs coming to Sweden have a family waiting for him/her at the airport. If we haven´t found the right family, the dog will be taken to one of our caring fosterhomes.

(Source: Hundar Utan Hem

__________________

Association des Parents d’Enfants Inadaptés (APEI)





L’APEI Centre Alsace is a territorial assoction that promotes the advancement of handicapped people, their social integration as well as the maintain of the familial bonds.
The commitment of all professionals and volunteers allows for the values of solidarity, dignity and respect of the individual to lead to concrete actions within the 9 institutions and wards (350 persons taken care of, 240 employees and 230 members). L’APEI Centre Alsace has been registered as being of public utility since 2001.

(Source: APEI Centre-Alsace)

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Starting at 9:30am tomorrow, here’s how to send messages!

Okay people, in case you want to follow the swim, read again the instructions from the previous post. Most of the information is in there somewhere.

The last nugget of information that might be useful is the phone numbers that you can send messages to. We will have two mobile phones on board, an Irish and a French one. Please feel free to use them to send CHEERS!!! Lisa, Donal and Zoe will try to pass on the message, either verbally or via the white board. Keep in mind that long sentences probably aren’t a great idea as it might be difficult to communicate with me! Don’t really expect a reply, as everyone will be quite busy.

Here are the numbers:

Irish number : 00353-87-66-81-369 (ONLY AVAILABLE ON THE ENGLISH SIDE)

French number : 0033-67-43-71-374 (ONLY AVAILABLE ON THE FRENCH SIDE)

There’ll be messages on Twitter/Facebook about when we reach the French side.

EXCITING TIMES!!!!!!

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How to follow Sylvain’s swim?

At some stage between the 12th and the 17th of September, I will be trying to swim the English Channel using only the butterfly stroke. This has been achieved by only two persons before me. It’s going to be a long day in the water as the crossing is expected to take between 13 and 18 hours depending on the conditions. In order for me to manage to reach France in one piece I will need as much support as possible. Here are a few ways of following the swim as well as ways of sending me support messages and/or donate to my chosen charities!

Thanks in advance and enjoy the show :)

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TWITTER

You can get the latest news regarding the swim via Twitter. Things like the date and time of the start, the latest news during the swim and possibly some pictures and short videos will be published on my Twitter page.

It’s really easy to follow via Twitter, you don’t actually need an account, just click on the following link: http://twitter.com/SylvainSwims

The latest news appear on the top of the page.

If you want to send messages to me, then you need your own account. You can create it via http://twitter.com. The next step is to follow me by looking for me via the search field. Once it’s done you can send messages to me by including “@SylvainSwims” in your message.

Most messages will be in English … unless I manage to teach my crew French or Swedish in a really short amount of time. We shall see.

It might also be possible to send cheering messages to me during the swim via text messages (I’m gonna need some cheering!). The messages will hopefully be passed on to me via the white board we will be taking on the boat. I’ll make sure to communicate the right phone number(s) before the start.

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FACEBOOK

There will be the same updates on Facebook as on Twitter. The only difference is that it might be easier to interact via Facebook than with Twitter as more people have Facebook accounts.

The swim’s official page is the following: www.facebook.com/SyllesSwimsFly

You may also send your best butterfly pictures on the event page: We’re all butterflies (Send a picture!)

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GPS TRACKER (Option A)

There’s a GPS tracker on every support boat. There are a few websites that allow to access data from these trackers. The easiest is to use the CS&PF (Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation) website: www.cspf.co.uk

Click then on LIVE TRACKING

A map centered on the Channel will then appear. There should be a few colourful triangular symbols. These correspond to the support boats from the CS&PF and CSA (the two associations that ratify the crossings).

My boat’s name is Gallivant and shoud appear as a green triangle. If you want to know where exactly it is on the map, just click on the checkbox beside the name “Gallivant” and a text box with a picture of the boat will appear close to the correct symbol on the map.

If you click on “Latest Track” in the aforementioned text box, the equivalent of twelve hours of GPS markers will be displayed over the map.

The easiest is actually to constantly keep the first page open. The symbols will automatically move and the tracks will drawn as they move forward.

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GPS TRACKER (Option B)

The second option in order to follow the boat is the following page: http://www.ais-doverstraits.co.uk/

Click on the first link: SATELLITE TRACKER 1 – GALLIVANT

You will be redirected to a new page showing the Channel. There should be a certain amount of numbered markers. The highest numbers are the latest boat locations. There’s a maximum of 50 markers displayed at all times … every time a new position is transmitted and displayed, an old marker will disappear.

On the screenshot above, the path number 1 corresponds to a swim across the Channel. There is little space between the markers (it’s possible to see on the left side of the screen to what time each of the marker corresponds), which indicates a relatively slow pace. You will notice that it isn’t a straight line. This is due to the fact that the tides change direction every six hours.

The second path is simply the boat ride back to Dover. It’s quicker and quite straight.

NB : When you follow a live swim, you might observe “leftover markers” from a previous crossing. Remember that you need to follow the markers with the highest numbers.

NB2 : This page refreshes itself automatically, no need to serve it a drink to click on F5.

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CHARITIES

I’m collecting funds for two charities: Hundar Utan Hem and APEI Centre-Alsace

Donations are (gladly) accepted and can be performed via Paypal by clicking on the following link:

www.sylleswims.com/charities/

Hundar Utan Hem


Click Here to Donate :)





Hundarutanhem.se (translated: “Homeless dogs”) is a website that presents homeless Irish dogs in need of a home in Sweden.

In Sweden we don´t have any stray dogs. Still many people want to help a dog in need or prefer to adopt an older dog instead of buying a pure breed pup from a kennel.
People in Sweden treat their dogs like a member of the family and many are heartbroken when they hear about all the dogs being put to sleep in Ireland. Helping an Irish dog has become very popular and we can home almost any dog to a great new home in Sweden.
Most of the dogs coming to Sweden have a family waiting for him/her at the airport. If we haven´t found the right family, the dog will be taken to one of our caring fosterhomes.

(Source: Hundar Utan Hem

__________________

Association des Parents d’Enfants Inadaptés (APEI)





L’APEI Centre Alsace is a territorial assoction that promotes the advancement of handicapped people, their social integration as well as the maintain of the familial bonds.
The commitment of all professionals and volunteers allows for the values of solidarity, dignity and respect of the individual to lead to concrete actions within the 9 institutions and wards (350 persons taken care of, 240 employees and 230 members). L’APEI Centre Alsace has been registered as being of public utility since 2001.

(Source: APEI Centre-Alsace)

__________________

SPONSORS

I would like to thank my sponsors AQUADEUS and IDEA MARINE AB for their support in this adventure.

Aquadeus, swimwear for trendy swimmers, resistant to cooking oil … because we’re not battered fish.



IDEA MARINE AB We deliver custom tailored solutions for everything in marine propulsion technology!

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Trailer

Sylvain’s Butterfly Swim – Trailer from Sylvain Estadieu on Vimeo.

In the past week …

  • One 8-hour session in the lake. Approximately 21.5 km of butterfly, which is my longest fly swim to date :)
  • One very unpleasant Midsummer swim: water and air much too warm, the sum of the temperatures almost reaching 50°C, no good …
  • A couple of stroke rate experiments, upping it from the usual 22-23 to a manic 28 spm. Doesn’t sound like much but I could feel the extra heat and muscle tiredness. Managed two hours at that rate. Bring on the cold water!
  • Some shiny new Donate buttons and an easier way to donate to my two charities !!
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Sändykåv Ön

You know it already, of course, I started swimming open-water in Cork City, and more precisely close to the town of Kinsale, where is located the beautiful Sandycove Island. It’s the favorite training spot for many a Channel swimmer. The conditions and temperatures can vary a lot within one single lap of the Island, the inside part of the Island (where on can swim the pensioners’ triangle) is usually fairly protected and calm, whereas the outside part, exposed to the Atlantic can at times become quite, choppy/lumpy/messy. The water temperature rarely exceeds 16°C (more like 12-14°C during the spring and summer). One lap is approximately one mile, which is quite convenient.

You can spot Sandycove Island on the following picture:

It the little rectangular-ish thingy close to the right edge of the picture. It doesn’t look like much from up there … so I’ve decided I’d go back to County Cork this summer in order to take better pictures of it! I’ll be taking part in Ned Denison’s torture camp from the 6th to the 14th of July along with other Channel aspirants from all around the world, looking forward to this :) Oh, and I’ll take part in the Lee Swim, the popular 2km swim in the center of Cork City, for the first time since 2009 … in butterfly this time, of course.

In the meantime time, I’ll keep on doing laps of my own Swedish Sandycove Island. It’s one of a couple of islands in the lake of Stora Delsjön in Gothenburg … it doesn’t get as rough as in Kinsale, and the temperature (unfortunately) often exceed 16°C … but at least it’s about one mile starting from the pontoon, circumnavigating the island and going back to shore!

Plus, like the original, once you’re on the way back, there’s a little red house acting like a lighthouse and showing you the way back to shore!

It IS red, not the best picture of it, I miscalculated the position of the sun …

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One can always dream…

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