Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Een sympathieke bijdrage uit Belgie

Op 20 maart jl. organiseerde Henk Verbeke, een Belgische langafstandszwemmer die ik bij eerdere edities van de Twenterandkanaalrace heb leren kennen, een 100x100 event met zijn zwemclub. Hij was daarbij zo attent zijn clubgenoten attent te maken op mijn project, en er werd een leuk bedrag opgehaald. Het kwam er maar niet van elkaar dit jaar in levende lijve te ontmoeten, dus werden de geworven fondsen, 200 euro, deze week giraal bijgeschreven op de bankrekening van MvG Channel Swim ten behoeve van het CIPRB.

Henk en clubgenoten: hartelijk dank!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Swimming lessons: a life-long vaccination against drowning

An extremely hectic but also very satisfying (and, for me personally, unbearably hot and sweaty) monsoon week in Dhaka and in the field as European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and German Development Minister Niebel visited Bangladesh.

Today was more relaxed, and I was able to visit swimming lessons in Dhaka together with Dr. Aminur Rahman, Director of CIPRB's specialized department for anti-drowning research, the International Drowning Research Centre. I even joined the kids during their swimming class, see the pictures below. It was amazing to see how children can be taught to survive, and many even to swim quite well, in just 12 half-hour sessions. (text continues below the pictures) 

4 boys, 4 girls, 1 male and 1 female instructor. The instructors have received excellent training from CIPRB. The movable pool is a nice size: 12,5 x 6 m. The construction behind us houses the pump and filter. The pool is situated in the playground of a primary school.

A lot of fun swimming together!
Remarkable: all children can swim front crawl after only 12 sessions, starting from zero: putting just their faces in the water -  clearly the instruction must be very efficient.
The fact that in this pool boys and girls were being taught together with the agreement of their parents was a pleasant surprise for me.
A movable pool as shown in the pictures is really not so expensive: the complete set up, i.e. pool, pump, enclosure, etc. costs about 5000 euros and can serve appr. 1000 children per year, for several years. Salaries for instructors and consumables such as pool chemicals and electricity for the pump cost appr. 400 euros per months. Swimming lessons are even much cheaper in rural areas, where extensive bamboo constructions in fish ponds can be made for appr. 100 euros, although they do not serve as many kids and last only a year. It is clear that a little money goes a long way in this country. And Dr. Rahman and I agreed that swimming lessons should really be considered as a 'vaccination against drowning'.

As if to underline the necessity of action against child drowning, today the Daily Star published two drowning cases, a 10-year old and a 3-year old, reported in today's newspapers, see here. Two sad illustrations of the 50 daily child victims of drowning in Bangladesh.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Channel in two days

Back in Dhaka for a week of hectic work, after my biggest training week ever. After the 7.5 -hour training on Monday, I managed an 8.5 - hour (25 kms) session on Thursday and a 3-hour/9 kms one on Friday. The latter two workouts equal the Channel distance of 33 kms. So, training is going according to plan.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A 109 km swim

If you want to read about a really incredible feat of long-distance swimming, check out The Daily News of Open Water Swimming (click here): only a few days ago Penny Palfrey from Australia, 48 years old, swam the 68 miles (109 kms) between the Cayman Islands. It took her 40 hours and 41 minutes, in conditions that were not even particularly favourable (wind, currents, waves, and even 4 sharks fought off by her crew!). Unbelievable determination.

7,5 hrs in the IJsselmeer

Progressing well. I did a big, fat and ugly 7.5-hour training yesterday in a still cold IJsselmeer: from Medemblik to the 'Oude Zeug' harbour and back, appr. 19 kms.  Overcast sky all day, high winds and pretty bad waves, so a real 'fight' training, not so much speed. Shoulders got extremely painful at some point. I will definitely need to bring Ibuprofen for my swim. The water was 16-17 degrees Celsius at most: cold hands and feet all the way, but otherwise fine - the 3-day Dover shock therapy has worked well and cold water is much less of an issue now, physically and especially mentally.
No swimming today (soooooo tired!!) but a relaxed day off with Asha (kids are with their grandmother in Amsterdam): only gardening and extra sleep. For tomorrow only a short, slow training (and more sleep ;-)  ) to loosen up stiff muscles and get the juices running again. On Thursday and Friday I intend to do two more huge (each close to 20 kms) work-outs, back-to-back. I will have time to recover physically from this monster week all of next week, when I will be in Bangladesh for work and with little time for practice I'm afraid.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

11 June

No swimming after Dover until today. Trained today with Marcel vdT, who had come to Lith to swim with me in the river Maas. 4 days of rest had clearly been good for me: I experimented successfully with a faster stroke rate and did my appr. 12-km circuit 20 minutes faster than a few weeks ago.

After the swim, and over eggs and bacon, Marcel and I also discussed our 20 kms training next Monday in the IJsselmeer, our training schedules, and our expectations for our respective upcoming Channel swims, his in July, mine in August. For both of us this is such a beautiful and exciting adventure.

Monday, 6 June 2011


Dover was dus erg geslaagd, zie mijn vorige post.

Ik zit nu op een Brusselse hotelkamer (een paar dagen hersentraining voor het werk) en heb zojuist via internet de aflevering van De Wereld van Beau (van Erven Dorens) van gisterenavond bekeken waarin hij het Kanaal zou overzwemmen (klik hier voor de link naar het filmpje op de SBS6 website).

Ik begon er met de nodige scepsis aan: zo'n showbizman die even tussen de soep en de aardappelen een Kanaalstunt wil uithalen? Maar ik moet zeggen dat het me meeviel. De zware, lange en saaie trainingen, het permanent afgepeigerde gevoel, de spier- en peespijnen, het werd allemaal goed in beeld gebracht. De voorbereiding leek serieus, ne het was niet alleen maar show, maar ook echte ambitie (niemand komt voor de show om 4.45 uur 'sochtend zijn bed uit volgens mij).
Eigenlijk is het jammer dat hij koste wat kost zijn Kanaalpoging wilde doorzetten, hij had beter een jaar kunnen doortrainen: vijf maanden voorbereiding is gewoon te weinig, tenzij je al een getraind zwemmer bent (en dan nog...), de zee was ontzettend ruw, en hij zwom met een gekneusde rib (!).  Maar de geslaagde IJsselmeerovertocht (erg traag: 12h47m, maar wel gehaald, in vrij ruw water) geeft aan dat hij wel het karakter heeft om door te bijten.
De Kanaalpoging aan het eind van de aflevering was dan ook meer voor de buhne en om wat leuke filmplaatjes te hebben, lijkt me, ze stopten er ook al snel mee. Maar als ik hem vergelijk met sommige niet zo snelle maar wel solide zwemmers in Dover Harbour, dan zou het best kunnen.

Verder nog alle lof voor Daan Glorie, die afgelopen weekeinde maar liefst 83,4 km zwom in 24 uur. Glorie-eus, Daan!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dover - days 2 and 3 (6 hrs and 5 hrs swims)

Things got serious on Saturday and Sunday. I am very pleased with my progress now:

On Saturday I did, together with a few other Channel swimmers, an intensive 6-hour swim (appr. 20 kms) in Dover Harbour. The water tmperature was again 12 degrees water but with sunshine to lighten up the day and morale, and at the end I had still reserves left, I could have gone on for one or two more hours (but was happy not to ;-)  ), even if the water was cold enough to have numbed my fingers so I couldn't move them for the last hour of the practice.

On Sunday the situation was grim: I finished, with much more difficulty, another 5-hour swim. Temperature was again 12 degrees, though this time without any sunshine but in wind and rain and very choppy water, which made a world of difference for temperature perception and hence morale. My hands were numb already after 1 hour in the water, and the hours just wouldn't pass. A really tough swim, not just physically but especially mentally, as other swimmers agreed afterwards.

Though physically tough, Channel swimmers are a friendly bunch and very supportive of each other. The only thing that counts is not speed, but making it to the other side. Being in Dover for a few days allowed me to have a proper chat with several of them, and I am looking forward to getting to know others as I will be coming back in the next two months.

The weekend has boosted my morale: I found out that among the solo swimmers preparing in Dover Harbour I am relatively fast (while not so important for the crossing as such, it will get me out of the water more quickly!), and that in spite of having done most of my training in too warm water in Dhaka, my resistance against the cold is by now just as good as those who started their cold water training already in April. The past three weeks in Europe have been well spent.
My confidence is growing that I stand a good chance of making it in August, if I am lucky with the weather and manage to avoid injuries of course (insh'Allah).

Friday, 3 June 2011

Dover - day 1: swimming in water of 12 degrees Celsius

The meaning of 'cold' continues to shift: today I swam for 1h50min and then again for 50 minutes in water of 12 degrees Celsius (and lived to tell it)! Even better: I felt relatively comfortable during the second swim. Clearly something good is happening and my body is adapting well to ever lower water temperatures.

Adaptation is taking on other forms as well. My resting heart rate is now appr. 32 beats per minute, and rarely gets above 45 bpm.

Today I trained alone. Tomorrow a big group of (aspiring) Channel Swimmers will be gathering at 9 am in Dover Harbour under the watchful eye of living legend Freda Streeter, 73 yrs, the 'Channel General'. I expect to push my physical limits further and spend at least 4 hours in the icecold water.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Still sore

No swimming today either. Still sore beause of the 18,5 kms swim I did the day before yesterday (and the nasty fall on my back - I strained some abdominal and neck muscles), and I decided to take another rest day. Instead I had a session with Susanne Willemsen of SW Sportmassage who managed to get most of the soreness out. 

I'll do a short (2-hours) training session in the river Maas tomorrow morning and then drive to Dover, UK, for three days of hard work in Dover Harbour with a large group of other Channel nutters. After that three days in Brussels for work-related training, and a day in Liege to visit two friends and colleagues who have gone through a very rough time recently and whom I am looking forward to seeing. I'll be back in Lith on Friday 10 June, in time to pick up wife and children from Amsterdam airport the next day. The fun of my temporary life as a bachelor is wearing thin, and I miss the family.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

18,5 km van Lith naar 't Wild en weer terug!

Na de onplezierig onderbroken 6-uurs training van eergisteren heb ik gisteren een prachtige tocht in de Maas gemaakt van maar liefst 18,5 km, ook zo'n zes uur zwemmen. Nogal stijf vandaag, een dag later. Door het zwemmen, maar ook door een uitglijder en een harde smak op een spekgladde veerstoep bij het pont van Maren-Kessel (waar ik reservevioding had neergelegd).  Erg teveden dat ik zes uur met redelijk gemak heb kunnen doorzwemmen.

Vanuit het water kan ik de kaalslag zien die het stromende water aanricht bij de wortels van de 'bakenbomen'op de Maasoevers, nu basaltblokken zijn weggehaald om de oevers 'natuurlijker' (en goedkoper in onderhoud) te maken. Nog een a twee winters met hoog water, en die typische en prachtige bomen liggen om. Ik schrijf erover in mijn maandelijkse stukje (vandaag ingeleverd) voor het Brabants Dagblad, en die sturen morgen een fotograaf om het onheil vast te leggen op de gevoelige plaat, voor bij mijn column. Ik ben benieuwd of anderen zich de aankomende kaalslag net zo aantrekken als ik. (Als ik nog een fototostel had zou ik even naar buiten lopen om een foto van de blootliggende boomwortels bij dit stukje te kunnen plaatsen, maar daar is dus eergisteren een Haagse dief mee op de loop...)