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Keyvan’s 14k swim for Alzheimers – Update 20


The goal that I set myself 6 months ago training for 2 swim marathons in 1 month, and raising £5,000 for Alzheimer’s Society, became that much more real with a 2 mile race earlier today.

Was I nervous? Heck, no! I had no idea what was coming my way. The last time I raced was way way back. Back in Iran, around 1978. And that was skiing, not swimming. So my experience of competitive sport, and in particular swimming, has been non-existent.

To prepare for this race, I turned for some sound advice to my swim buddy Nicola the Mermaid-come-Torpedo. Fortunately for me, she has been on holiday sunning herself, giving me a chance to rest my achy arm and shoulders…[Of course I mean this in the nicest possible way…after all she will be reading this and I will be in real trouble when she gets back next week.]

A few days before the race I sent her a note: “Hey Nicola! What are the do’s and don’ts of racing? Give me some advice.” And I get this insightful set of rules back.

Rule #1:

Stick to the edge at the start. There is a reason they call it the washing machine. You really don’t want to be in the middle unless you are one of the quickest in the field..too many arms and legs!! Be prepared for the fact that you might not get clear water until after the first turn (sometimes even the second). Just get your breathing under control and keep calm! Don’t panic!

Rule #2:

At the end of the first lap / mile, you will probably think “holy crap…why didn’t I just enter the one mile…I could be finishing now”. But you didn’t, so dig deep and chant “Rule 5” to yourself as you start the second lap. If you haven’t been told yet, Rule 5 means “harden the …. up”

Hmmm…I have a quick scan down the list for Rule 5!

Rule #3:

Go to your legs on the last turn for home. It is only 100m ‘ish from the last buoy to shore. Kick all the way…it is only 1:40 mins of pain and I’ve always outkicked a few people in that last bit.

I know that kick, when we head into the back straight and I fall into this false sense of security that I have kept up with her….and then BANG! Off she goes.

Rule #4:

The clock doesn’t stop when you stop swimming, it stops when you cross the timing mat. So get your ass out of the water and across the line!

Rule #5:

Most importantly. The Nicola Mermaid-come-Torpedo philosophy.… Don’t Be Rubbish (DBS). Write it on your hand if it helps – OK. Those of you who have read this blog so far have figured out DBS is short for something else!

And she signs off with:

Good luck…you will be awesome (or at least not Rubbish, anyway!).

Race Day


Armed with these handy rules, I turn up at the event all relaxed. With 30 mins to go that I begin to feel excited, but no nerves….and off we go.

Start off gingerly, but find that I have much better pace than the folks around me. Soon enough we are on the first buoy and I am now in the middle of the washing machine with 20-30 swimmers all packed in a tiny space round the buoy. Lots of argy-bargy going on, but I feel really relaxed and at ease with myself. On the long back straight I find myself leading a pack chasing 20 or so swimmers, constantly thinking I can go faster, but reminding myself …DBS…DBS…hold back…DBS!! Second lap comes around very quickly and I am smiling and really enjoying the pace and experience…and the fact that I have passed Rule #2!

It is at that point that I hook up with two young swimmers in skins and the 3 of us draft most of the second lap in, occasionally swapping places….until the last 300m. As we caught up and overtook the pack in front of us, things got a bit hectic and I started to fall back from my skinny swimming partners. Kicking hard (much sooner that I should have) I tried to catch up with them, but I had lost momentum [and technique].

Then with only 100 meters to go, I had a massive and painful leg cramp causing me to swallow a lot of water and unable to breath. Head up for 2 breast strokes to gain composure and back down again carrying my stiff right leg back home. That last bit cost me 3-4 places and about 20 seconds, but I don’t care as I know I had their measure for 2 miles! I ended up with:

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Time: 54 mins 54 secs
  • Overall position: 45/130 entrants
  • Age category: 12/29 in my age category
  • Gender category: 36/86

And so, the first of 3 big summer events for me has come to a joyful end. Back to the lake tomorrow for a long session, while the Mermaid is tanning herself.

Big week of swimming ahead!

Fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society

I am training for the Henley-on-Thames 14K swim marathon and the Dart 10K this year, while attempting to raise £5,000 for Alzheimer’s Society. You can donate toward this amazing charity via JustGiving: justgiving.com/keyvan-shirnia

I am grateful for all your support and thanks very much for reading.

Keyvan Shirnia

By Daniel Swann