Tag Archives: St. Michael’s Mount

St. Michael’s Mount Swim

19 Jul

Back in January, Stuart and I signed up for a 2.5km swim around St. Michael’s Mount in aid of the Chestnut Appeal, a local cancer charity. We thought it would be a good step towards the Scilly Swim Challenge and also an opportunity to go home to Cornwall for the weekend. We chose this event because the Chestnut Appeal is a men’s cancer charity that supports men in the south-west – Stu’s dad is a cancer survivor and my dad died of cancer.


The day of the swim finally arrived and after a morning in St. Ives, we headed into Penzance for a bit of shopping before travelling back to Marazion. We registered for the swim and got our numbers written on our hands: 26 for me and 27 for Stuart. We then had an hour or so to wait before the event, so we went to the Godolphin Arms, a nearby pub, to have a (non-alcoholic) drink.

The race briefing was at 5:30pm. It was relatively informal and we were asked to be considerate of swimmers of other abilities. Fast/competitive swimmers were asked to line up at the water’s edge, with slower swimmers a couple of steps back and the slowest swimmers a bit further back on the beach.


Last week there has been some concern about how rough the sea was, but it looked very calm and still as we were waiting, which helped to calm my nerves a little.

St Michael's Mount

St. Michael’s Mount is a tiny Cornish version of France’s famous Mont St. Michel. On the island there is a historic property that used to be a monastery and is no home to the St. Aubyn family. It’s managed by the National Trust and is a beautiful place to visit. At low tide, it’s possible to walk across a stone causeway to the mount, but it is cut off when the tide comes in.

tams and stu2

Stuart and I at the water's edge

Stuart and I at the water’s edge

There was a bit of time to acclimatise to the water and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite warm. Most swimmers had wetsuits on, but there were a few brave skins swimmers, including one lady who was sporting a fetching red polka dot number with matching lipstick!

tams and stu3

Stu and I got chatting to another swimmer whilst acclimatising

At 6pm, we went and lined up – Stu at the water’s edge and me a bit further back. The horn sounded and we were off. Marazion looks deceptively flat, but I was only able to wade about 5-10m before I had to start swimming. It wasn’t the usual rough triathlon start, but quite a few people ahead of me were doing breast stroke, so I had to watch out for feet, which is tough when you are also watching out for stray clumps of seaweed. Farmers regularly gather seaweed from the beach here to fertilise their fields – there are large beds of bladder wrack and my enemy, oar wrack, which seems determined to strangle me.

SMM swim

After the group had thinned out a bit, I really started to enjoy my swim. The water was calm and clear and there was a lot to look at underwater, including the cobbled causeway that can be used to walk to the Mount at low tide. I found that I was swimming a group with quite a few others, which was reassuring.

As we got towards the rear of the mount, the water started getting really choppy, and it was hard to see which way to go. We had been warned not to go too close as there are a lot of dangerous rocks, but I couldn’t see any of the safety kayakers who were meant to be guiding us away from the rocks.

choppy at the back

Choppy sea behind the Mount © Karen Wolff

I did a couple of strokes of breaststroke to get my bearings and felt a stinging sensation in my foot. I put my face back in the water and realised that I had swum into a smack of moon jellyfish 😦 They were quite small (7-8cm diameter) and very pretty, but I didn’t want to touch any more of them.

the view from the rear

It was a beautiful evening and we got to see the rear of the Mount © Karen Wolff

swim in

© Karen Wolff

There were some very large waves, which made sighting hard and my stroke became quite erratic. I was really glad when we finally rounded the corner and I could see the long harbour wall along the side of the Mount. I managed to catch up with a group of three local swimmers and although I thought I could pass them, I decided to save some energy and draft them for a bit. The sea is much deeper on this side of the mount, and although there was still quite a lot of seaweed it wasn’t possible to see the bottom. There was a schooner anchored just off the mount, which was interesting to see.

We had been told to head back to the slipway to finish the swim, but high tide was at 7pm and so it was really hard to see the slipway, so I decided to follow the others… But then I realised that their sighting was worse than mine, so I struck out on my own. After a few minutes, a kayaker pointed out to the others that they were going in the wrong direction, so they started following me.

Soon we could hear the cheers of the supporters on the slipway and beach wall. I got out of the water in 57 minutes and was handed a medal by a young lad, before collecting a bottle of water and a delicious Philps pasty – why aren’t pasties given out at the end of every race?!

Made it!

Made it!

tams SMM swim2

just finishing

The end of my swim © Karen Wolff


I really enjoyed this event and would strongly recommend it to others.


My longest ever (continuous) swim

25 May

I’ve been stepping up my swimming recently as it’s only 3 months until Scilly Swim Challenge, which is a bit terrifying. 10k is often described as the ‘marathon’ of swimming events, so I guess that makes the Scilly Swim Challenge an ultra… and I’m someone who hasn’t even managed a half marathon swim (5km). As analogies go, this makes it even more terrifying as I feel like someone who has only completed a parkrun (5km)  but is now being expected to complete Marathon des Sables.

Anyway, onto more positive things…

I’ve been doing a lot of lake swimming recently, which is fun when it’s warm and less fun when it’s not! There’s also a new system in place at the lake – we’ve had to register with NOWCA (National Open Water Coaching Association) and have been provided with wristbands to register when people are in the lake. In theory, it’s a good system as it should flag up whether anyone has sunk to the bottom (!) as well as giving each swimmer some data… however, each swimmer has to count their own laps and the time includes however long it takes you to walk to and from the lake (which can be quite long if I see someone and stop to chat!)

Some time after the swim, an email arrives with the data:

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I’ve also received reminders from RunKeeper about how well my swimming is going:

Swimming statistics from runkeeper

swimming PB

I failed to record some lengths on my Garmin, so my total recorded activity was over 24.5km, however, I’m quite confident that I recorded over 25km of swimming this month, which is a record for me!

So… onto the big event of the month: my 3km swimming race at Eton Dorney 3km swim race.

The view of the lake

The lake looked beautiful when we arrived

The boat house at Dorney lake

The boat house at Dorney lake

Unlike Stuart and Katherine, I didn’t feel ready to tackle a 5km swim… and unlike Katherine, I’m certainly not hardy enough to swim for very long without a wetsuit, so I signed up for the 3km Human race event.


My group photo

Eton group

Selfie@ ©Liz Carter

Eton pano

Liz was our amazing support crew, which was great, as my wave wasn’t scheduled to start until 11:15am. This meant that I had someone to chat to for a couple of hours.

Stu and Katherine

Stu and Katherine

We cheered Stu and Katherine off and then wandered over a bridge to watch the swimmers. Fortunately, Stu has quite a distinctive wetsuit with red stripes around the arms, so we managed to spot him quite easily and Katherine was one of only a few non-wetsuit swimmers wearing a blue hat.


A smile from Stu before the start of his race


Thumbs up!

Liz 'Super-spectator-with-field-glasses' Carter

Liz ‘Super-spectator-with-field-glasses’ Carter


A shot of Katherine from on the bridge.

We were able to see Stu and Katherine a couple of times before we headed back down to the Start/Finish. Stuart came in well ahead of his predicted 2 hour swim time (in 1:26, I think), so I was able to have a chat with him, before heading off to my pen.

My hat and timing chip

My hat and timing chip

My race started at 11:15am, and was the last race of the day. It took place on a different course from the 5 and 10k races – I had to do 4x750m loops.

I’m not a fan of mass starts, so I positioned myself towards the back, which is where I remained for the event. The water was lovely and clear and wasn’t as cold as I was worried that it might be. We had been told that it was 18.2C and I can believe it was at least 17C.

I quickly spotted the orange rope and followed it for the entire race. This meant that I didn’t have to worry too much about sighting, although I did have to contend with being lapped by many of the faster swimmers.

The wind had been picking up throughout the morning, so the water felt very choppy on the swim away from the start, however, it was much easier on the return leg.

By the time I had done a couple of laps, a lot of swimmers had finished and the number of swimmers on the course thinned out, which I preferred. It also meant that the water was less churned up and I was able to watch the shoals of tiny fish (*I’m not sure this is recommended – it distracted me and I think I spent a lot of time day dreaming and not putting in maximum effort!)

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By the time I was on my 4th lap, I had got into a rhythm and was enjoying myself, however, I was terribly slow, which doesn’t bode too well for my crazy 17km sea swim in September. I finished in 1:20 – not quite last, but definitely back of pack.

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Eton Dorney 3km swim

Eton Dorney 3km swim

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This was a really enjoyable event that I would recommend to anyone.


Everyone loves a montage!

Everyone loves a montage!

I also had a reminder about the St Michael’s Mount swim that Stuart and I are doing in about 7 weeks time. It’s quite exciting and I think I’ll enjoy being in the sea, even if there are no ropes to follow and I’m sure I’ll get paranoid about jellyfish, sharks and other crazy things!


The start of the St. Michael’s Mount swim in 2014.


A photograph taken at last year’s St. Michael’s Mount swim. The diagonal line that you can see on this picture is the causeway to St. Michael’s Mount. To the left of the rock, you can see the swimmers.


An aerial view of St. Michael’s Mount.

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