The Outdoor Swimmer Henley Swim Festival takes place on 14 July. It's going to be a fabulous day of river fun with a range of activities and retailers celebrating the best of a British summer Sunday by and in the water. In advance of this year's event, we're following the preparations of three swimmers as they get ready to take on one of the Festival challenges, and offer them advice to make the best of the day.
(And remember to book your place before the end of April when prices go up)
Introducing James Deehan
James Deehan (24) works long days in London as a software developer while struggling to fit in training for the various physical challenges he takes on to raise funds for good causes.
Why did you sign up to the Henley Mile?
This year four friends – me, Rufus, Lirim and Charlie - have formed a team called the Dorabros (after the Dorado fish) and in December we will be rowing the Atlantic while raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
One of us (and we can’t reveal who) had this thought:
“I should probably learn to swim, you know... just in case!”
And so we set our sights on the Henley Mile as our “mile” stone.
What is your swimming background?
We are a mixed bunch in the team. Rufus was born and raised on Jersey and so practically has gills. Charlie’s dad is an avid water polo player and as fathers do, coached him into a fantastic swimmer. Although Lirim has come late to swimming, he has been called the Golden Bass on occasion – even if it is he who says it – and I am the biggest improver, swapping out the classic breaststroke for the more modern front crawl. I can even breathe on both sides now.
Regardless of the level we started at, dedication has been absolute from the outset and no-one has missed a session.
Have you swum in open water before?
Lirim and Charlie and I are all Londoners and haven’t had much exposure to open water swimming, although the Thames often threatens to swallow us when we're rowing. Rufus, being an islander, spent his summers in speedos and his winters in a wetsuit, never going a day without visiting the beaches of Jersey.
How are you feeling about the challenge? What are you most looking forward to / most dreading?
We’re all very excited. It was great fun last year and it’s cracking to be able to have your family come down and support or in the case of Charlie’s dad, show us how it’s done.
How is your training going?
Training is going very well. We haven’t missed a session since starting in February and we’re hoping that we’ve done enough to take on the 4-mile challenge.
Find out more and follow the Dorabros on Instagram @dorabros or visit their website at dorabros.com.
Compared to your other challenges, doing four one-mile swims in a day sounds trivial, but therein lies the potential for a mishap. Given the training and preparation you’re doing, you shouldn’t have any problem with the distance. I suspect the bigger risks for you will be an injury picked up in training before the event, a panic attack during the swim or perhaps debilitating cramp. I therefore suggest the following:
- Training for multiple sports at the same time is great as you vary the load on the body but it does come with a risk of injury. I’m sure you’re taking advice from people better qualified than me on this (and if you’re not, you should be) but make sure you increase your training load gradually, listen to your body and back off if it starts showing signs of wear and tear, and make sure you include appropriate strength and conditioning exercises. Secondly, take care on the bike. Obviously you can’t rule out all risks but remember your bigger goal. You don’t want to break a collar bone (or worse) coming off on a hairpin bend in the Alps for example.
- Panic in open water is quite common and can be made worse in event situations because of the crowds and the additional pressure. The best way to reduce the risk is to swim as much as you can in open water and in different settings. You could also devise a couple of mental scenarios to help you cope if it does happen. For example, prepare yourself by saying: "if I start to panic, I will float on by back and focus on exhaling." Also, remember you're a team so stick together and be ready to help each other if needed.
- Swimming with fatigued muscles seems to increase the risk of cramp (it does with me at least). I would therefore suggest backing off on the running and cycling in the few days before the swim and using the time instead to stretch and rest your legs.
- Finally, you don’t say whether or not you’ll be swimming in wetsuits. I guess not, judging by your picture (and your plans to do a Channel relay later in the year). The key thing will be to warm up and stay warm between each of your four mile swims and while walking to the start, so make sure you have appropriate clothing for this.
Simon Griffiths is founder and publisher of Outdoor Swimmer