How To: An Introduction to the Pace Clock for Beginner & Improving Swimmers


Following my review of Brilliant Swim’s PaceWatch, it seemed an appropriate time to do an introduction to the Pace Clock commonly seen in most pools. Along with my guide to the different types and uses of swimming googles and the perennially popular understanding lane swimming etiquette, these articles are intended (mostly) for newer and developing swimmers. While is about open water swimming, I consider both learning the basics in a pool and continued pool training an essential component for almost all open water swimmers.

The pace clock, often called a lap clock, is an item that often causes confusion and even apprehension to beginning and some experienced lap and fitness swimmers. This nervousness means that many avoid learning its use, seeing it as tool for purely fast or advanced or competitive swimmers.

The pace clock is actually the single most useful tool for swimmers to improve, and ahead of…

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How To: Building an Open Water Swimming Toolbox


This is my open water swimming toolbox, come and have a poke around. Okay, hang on, watch where you’re putting that finger.

The toolbox is made of lycra, silicone, plastic and flesh and brainstuff. I constructed it myself because you can’t purchase one off the shelf, regardless of what some salespeople will have you believe, and you can’t borrow someone-else’s.

The tools inside are pretty cluttered but all pretty well maintained.  Like most toolboxes there’s some useless sand and greasy stuff and sticky bits  in there, the shape has bulged a bit and the exterior of the box is getting a bit old and battered and faded but looks aren’t everything and all the scratches and dents have stories of their own.

This weird-shaped thingamajig here is called Experience. It’s the tool I use every single swim. Every swim sharpens it, and makes it fit the next job even…

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Why is a “pool mile” not an “actual mile”?

Throw Me In The Ocean

If you are not a swimmer, you may not be aware of the fact that swimmers in the US swim for 1650 yards and call it a mile. If you are a swimmer in the US, you may not be aware of the fact that what you are calling a mile, is not actually a mile. In fact, it’s 110 yards short of a mile.

mile in yards

Finding an explanation for this was not easy. The most “thorough” answer I could find seems to be this blog post, but reading and re-reading it, there is information missing that makes it almost impossible to decipher. So, combining information gleaned from this post with other information found through Internet research (there’s not a lot out there on this subject), I have put together the following summary. If you are reading this, and you see something I have written that you know to be…

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Manx Y-DNA Study: – Preliminary Results provide tantalising new glimpses into the early origins of Manx families.

not swimming for a change!

Manx Research

Three years after its start, the Manx Y-DNA study is making slow but steady progress. More than 67% of the indigenous Manx family names are now included in this study, either fully tested or in part, and some new insights are beginning to emerge.

From our knowledge of Manx history we would expect the majority of the population to be of Celtic origin and have early connections to Ireland or Scotland. Also we would expect there to be a proportion of the Manx people who are directly descended from the Scandinavian settlers who occupied the Isle of Man one thousand years ago.

This indeed is the picture that is now starting to be seen in more clarity. Almost a quarter of the Manx population of 500 years ago were still of Scandinavian origin with the remainder of the population at that time showing genetic links to early families in Ireland…

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Channel Relay – Training Swim

Good luck to Irish friends in their two way SIX man relay in a couple of weeks – and to UK friends on their two-way FOUR man relay next week.



As the ‘GO’ time is getting closer, we decided we would take an evening spin out on a boat and practice our Relay Changeovers. As we are swimming to France and Back, we could be doing up to 24 relay changeovers during our swim, so it’s important we understand what we are to do when in the water and when you are the swimmer taking over. Messing it up 24 times is valuable time wasted.

We know our order (Carol-Owen-Caitlin-Lynne-Maeve-Eoin x repeat), so we headed out into Cork Harbour, looking for some ‘space’ (and some waves to test Maeves seas sick medication!). We stopped just before Churchbay, and I jumped in to start off, Lisa insisted I make an entrance into the water, so I obliged (not going to argue with crew, am I..)


I know this made it look like a lot of fun (and it was!), but we are well…

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Swim stroke rate analysis – what a difference!

Due to a combination of hospital visits, holidays and hangovers (no names mentioned JP!) this monday’s squad session was low on numbers. We took the opportunity to look at three swimmers stroke rates in detail. I had surreptitiously counted the swimmers average stroke rate the week before without their knowledge so they had not consciously or unconsciously altered it.

Using the Finis Tempo Trainer Pro, the swimmers were given different rates to swim at for 50m – some fast, some slow – again without any kind of pattern to influence their perception of what ‘should’ happen. They were asked at the end of each how much effort they felt had been involved at those rates.

stroke analysis 20130617

All the swimmers in this particular study found that by slightly increasing their ‘normal’ stroke rate they were able to swim faster, without becoming too tired, most likely due to eliminating ‘dead spots’ in their stroke.

It was great, if a bit scary, to see Gary swim off into the sunset (literally!) at a fantastic speed a couple of days later – he confessed after to having the Tempo Trainer under his hat, and what a difference it made to his speed through the water!

Port Erin 20130619

Entries Open for Manx Mile Swims

It’s that time of year again when the sea is looking bewitchingly tempting – as long as you ignore the temperature and jellyfish!

The first of the EMCS IOM Bay Swim Series is on 29th June 2013 at Port St Mary as part of the Queenie Festival, followed by the Port Erin Sports Festival & Regatta swim on 13th July. Both are 14:00 sign-on, 15:00 safety briefing for 16:00 Start, with all entries to be in by the Monday before each swim (at the very latest!) to give us time to sort the start-lists with Graham at . It’s all computerised due to the electronic timing chips used, and we therefore can’t take any late or on-the-day entries, so please enter promptly to avoid disappointment. If you’re thinking of swimming in either event, entries are limited to 100 and we’ve got a lot of off-island interest already, so get your entries in ASAP.

For all details, and to enter,  please see this link: Enter Online . There’s 800mm Junior (12-U16), 800m Novice (16+) and 1600m Senior (16+) events, with categories for wetsuit/costume and male/female.

If you’ve helped out in previous years with the Queenie Festival / Port Erin Regatta, as or boat/kayak support,  then please e-mail me back if you’re able to help this year. We’re particularly looking for boat support as breakdowns and problems getting round from Port St Mary to Port Erin meant we nearly had to cancel the Port Erin event last year.  We also need people to help marshall / stopwatch, so don’t worry if you don’t want to get your feet wet there’s a place for everyone!

You’re welcome to swim for charity, or by all means donate to this year’s chosen charity, the IOM Children’s Centre:

At the end of June this year regular IOM swimmer & triathlete Richard George of EMCS will cycle from Lands End to John o’ Groats as part of a team raising funds for The Isle of Man Children’s Centre –, an Isle of Man based independent charity focussed on the support and well being of local children through numerous initiatives. The event will involve cycling over 1000 miles in 9 days solid. If you would like to donate you can do this directly as part of your event entry for the bay swims, or email Richard on , or bring some money down when you come for your swim and chuckit in a buckit!

The swims are run under BLDSA rules, with the exception that there is a wetsuit category as well as costume swimming.
If you’ve got any queries or can help out, send me an e-mail by all means. Our Child & Vulnerable Persons Officer is Carole Laporte, our Race Referee is Jill Bunyan, and our Lead-Safety-Kayaker is Steve Watt, thanks to all of them for their help again this year.
Please feel free to forward to anyone you think my fancy it or be able to help with support boats/kayaks, or stick the “sientries” links at the top of the page on your sports club website. Apologies if you get this e-mail more than once, or don’t want to receive e-mails on the swims, let me know and I’ll remove you from the list.

If you need a bit of practice beforehand, we’re still swimming every Sunday at Port Erin, 10:30am, meeting at the top of the slipway just past the Bay pub for a lap around the bathing beach. Please note though that Sunday swims don’t have any boat cover and are a group swim at your own risk, not an organised event, and under 16′s need an adult present on the beach or in/on the water while they swim. Other swims are posted on our Facebook group.

Lastly, thanks to Steve & Richard George at EMCS for their generous sponsorship of the event, following on from sponsoring last year’s Port Erin Sports Festival Regatta swim, and to the Mannin AnglingClub for the loan of their inflatable turn-bouys and ManxPaddlesports for Kayak cover.


Mark Gorry

– See more at:

EMCS Manx Mile Open Water Swim, 29 June 2013. 14:00 sign-on, 15:00 safety briefing for 16:00 Start
Enter Online:

EMCS Port Erin Sports Festival Regatta, 13 July 2013. 14:00 sign-on, 15:00 safety briefing for 16:00 Start
Enter Online:


“How much do I need to swim for – x – open water distance?”

hope this reinforces what I have been saying to my swimmers – I AM NOT MAKING THESE THINGS UP GUYS!


With the Northern hemisphere open water season getting underway, and temperatures in many locations edging around the magic number, (10C/50F) , open water related questions inevitably arise as each year brings new swimmers and more triathletes.

A common question is some variation of:

I want to swim 1.5k/3k/3k/10k, can I do it or what should I do to prepare?

There are different answers for this depending on many factors:

  1. What is your swimming experience?
  2. What is your current swim training?
  3. What is your open water experience?
  4. Wetsuit or not?
  5. Sea, river or lake?
  6. How long do you have to prepare?

I have covered many aspects of these questions, such as getting started, essential rules of cold water swimming, basic skills, swimming in different conditions, etc. (The How To category has more of these).

  • To swim any significant distance in open water the first requirement is regular swimming…

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