¡Vaya Idiota!

It was late on Sunday afternoon and I’d had a bad swim in that day – feeling very sick after the feed I was given didn’t agree with me. Not only that, but I could only find one shop open in the small town in Mallorca and I could already my skin getting sunburnt.

That’s my excuse anyway.

While I was out shopping I bought some moisturiser as I could forget to get some in the UK before I left. I could feel the sun cooking my skin and I knew that I had a lot more swimming to do, so I’d be in the sun for a long time that week. The only shop I could find open was a small general store, but they had a “health” section. So I studied the bottles. I didn’t want to get anything too scented and feminine – I just needed manly moisturiser!!

Now I’m no expert in Spanish, but I saw “Nutricion Intensa” and the Dove brand and it looked good to me. So off I went.

I spent the rest of the week applying it to the many areas of me that burnt – especially my back and shoulders, my face and behind my knees. Even with liberal applications of suncream my pasty white skin suffered the effects of sun, especially during the long six-hour swim we did. However, this Spanish cream didn’t seem that good and it was very sticky and hard for the skin to absorb. But I just assumed that it was a Spanish “flavour” and got on with it.

I carried on applying it once I was back in the UK as the sunburn and then peeling were really bad. More moisturiser can only help right?

That’s why it was near the bathroom sink and that’s why I was able to study the bottle again as I was brushing my teeth this morning. Today, for the first time I read the words “gel de ducha” underneath the intense nutrition stuff.

I’m still no expert in Spanish, but I think I’ve been liberally applying shower gel to my sunburnt body! It may not have helped the sunburn, but at least I was clean!

Gel de Ducha

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SwimTrek Day 5

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

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The final day started with yet another swim. But this one was much shorter and much more relaxed. We met up before breakfast and wandered down to the beach and spent almost as much time taking photos as we did on the 15 minute swim we did.

A group shot just before the last swim of the week

A group shot just before the last swim of the week

It was lovely though. The water was beautifully clear again and it was a great way to start the day but end the week.

It brought the total swim time to the week to 14 hours for me:
- 1 hour followed by 2 hours on Sunday (although I’m only counting 1:45 for the second swim as I felt so ill I hardly moved for the last bit)
- 2 hours and 3 hours on Monday
- 6 hours on Tuesday
- 15 minutes on Thursday

My normal pool speed is about 21 minutes per kilometre, so if we assume that with the addition of feeding, the cold water and fatigue I slowed down to an average speed of 23 minutes per kilometre, which gives me a weekly total of 36.5kms.

That said, one of the things that I’m most pleased about from the week is the fact that I felt strong in the water for nearly all of it. I may not be that quick, but if I can keep steady then I’ll hit my targets. If I can maintain a pace of 23 minutes per kilometre for Windermere, then I’ll be getting home in around 6 and a half hours.

The rest of the day involved lazing by the pool, chatting, having lunch, getting to the airport, waiting, flying, driving home and then eventually sleeping!

Who is that swimming God?

Who is that swimming God?

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SwimTrek Day 4

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

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Today was intended to be a gentle recovery swim, but my sunburn was so bad after yesterday’s swim that I couldn’t face even being outside. It was so frustrating as I had done all I could do yesterday – I had applied* factor 50 before we had left the hotel room and then before we got into the water I had applied* another layer of factor 30 on top. Yet I guess six hours in salt water will rub most of that off and my back was in agony.

* I say I applied it – I had it applied to me by other members of the group – thanks guys, especially James.

So instead of going out for the swim, I stayed in the room and read for a bit. It turns out that hardly anyone stayed in the water for the full two hours, but it was quite an eventful swim as it was the group’s first experience of jellyfish. Nearly everyone got stung it seems (helping their decision to get out) and so, while not wanting to be stung, I do feel that I missed out on an “experience”.

The afternoon was time for another seminar and more chats from the guides. I got some training advice and general pep talks about future swims. For others it was a chance to ask vital questions about channel experience.

Then finally we had the chance to go out, let our [salty and bedraggled] hair down and have a few beers. A group dinner and then onto a bar saw the group come together even more. And over dinner we got awarded our certificates for the six-hour swim that we had done.

The full group, with shots on the bar waiting for us.

The full group, with shots on the bar waiting for us.

 

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SwimTrek Day 3

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

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Today was the day of the “big” swim – a six-hour non-stop swim that for anyone doing a solo channel crossing needs to be fulfilled and verified before they can get in at Dover. So for many of our group today’s swim was the main reason to attend this week’s camp.

I could afford to be a bit more relaxed about it. For a channel relay swim you only need to do a two-hour qualifying swim – and I had done that yesterday… However, it would of course be good practice… But I was tired and didn’t want to ruin myself… But of course to work through my demons would give me a great boost for Windermere… But that’s months away and I’ve already done it, so I know I can.

In the end I decided that I was definitely going to swim for four hours and then see how I felt.

The day started with an early breakfast and you could tell that we were a bit more apprehensive as there wasn’t quite so much chat. We caught the boat again and went a bit further round the coast to Mondrago Bay. And again it was beautiful. We actually had a double bay to swim around, with some buoys to mark the edges of our course and the boat in the middle which was acting as the feed station.

Suncream and vaseline applied we got in the water at 9:20am – it was only once we set off that I realised that meant we would be swimming until after 3pm! Madness.

It was another beautiful day with the weather and the first hour or so was pretty nice. There were some cold patches, but I just swam hard through those and back into “warmer” water. I was extending my feed time slightly to about 40 minutes and the feeds were working well. It was cold and I was stiff from all the week’s swimming, so it wasn’t ever easy, but the first 2-3 hours happened and I was soon at half way.

But then after about three and a half hours it got tough. My swimming had felt slow throughout – which I think was partly due to all the work we’d already done, but this slowness meant that I seemed to feel the cold more. I convinced myself to soldier on to at least my four hour target, but I wasn’t happy.

After four hours I was just swimming loop to loop. I could actually feel myself shivering in some of the patches of cold water – something that I have never noticed before and every time I came past the boat I wanted to get out. It was only the encouragement from the boat (some of it less gentle than others) and in particular one of the other swimmers, Robin, who was a similar pace to me so we kept meeting each other at the feeds, that kept me going. That and my own stubbornness and the fact that I didn’t want to lose face in the group.

I hated that section of the swim. Really hated it.

However, by five hours, although the swimming didn’t get any easier and the water didn’t get any warmer I knew I would do it and so I got happier. We had joked before we set off about songs we should sing to keep us going and that was when “Don’t stop me now” by Queen got into my head, along with “Dignity” by Deacon Blue (a song I sing to my son).

The last ten minutes of the swim were a very strange mixture of desperately counting down the minutes willing for it to end, while swimming really strongly and quite enjoying it.

In the end of our group of 16, all but two of us completed the six hour swim. And those two, a couple, didn’t need or intend to anyway. They are signed up to a relay, so didn’t need to do the six hours. But both of them, after really struggling with the cold all week, completed their two hour requirement.

It was a fairly subdued boat ride back – but this time due to exhaustion. We had a couple of hours before a group dinner and when we got to the restaurant you could tell that we all wanted to eat, drink and be merry, but none of us could quite manage any of them – due to tiredness and fat tongues / lips caused by the salt water. But I think we all still managed to be pretty satisfied with a good day’s work.

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SwimTrek Day 2

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

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After worrying about my feeding issue I really wasn’t looking forward to today. The plan for the day was a three hour swim, followed by a two one, with lunch in between.

To get to today’s swim location we all got in a little, local cruise boat and traveled down the coast for a couple of kilometres. What a beautiful coastline, with some very impressive properties. If anyone wants to give me one…

Then we were quickly into our first swim, the three hour one. The day was overcast and it had the look of a nice day if only the sun would burn through the clouds. Unfortunately it refused to do that throughout our morning swim – which made everything just feel so much colder.

But, and most importantly, I did it. Using my own feed and not the Maxi I swam the three hour swim and almost enjoyed it! It was possibly too cold (water temp about 14 degrees C) for enjoyment, but for me at least it was a MASSIVE relief.

Lunch was a quick grab of pasta and bread – but amazingly presented given the confines of the boat, especially as there were 24 of us to feed. But then it was time to get back in for the afternoon swim – only two hours back in the cold water!

The bay for today's swim

The bay for today’s swim

Fortunately, while we were having lunch the sun had burnt through and so it was gorgeous afternoon which put us all in a better mood. The afternoon seemed to go by in a bit of a blur, but again I was very close to enjoying it. I actually felt quite strong in the swimming and even on the last lap of the course (probably just under 1km) I “raced” my roommate who is significantly quicker than me (he didn’t actually know it was a race, but it still counts for me). He beat me by about 25m in the end, but I was pleased that my fastest lap of the day was the last one.

A post swim selfie

A post swim selfie

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SwimTrek Day 1

This post is a summary from last week’s SwimTrek trip. As there was no [working] internet last week I’m posting these one week on.

- – -
The day started early (7:20am) with a quick dip in the hotel pool – this wasn’t to get any extra miles into our shoulders, instead it was to film our stroke so it could be analysed later. The pool was ‘fresh’ and it was certainly a refreshing start to the day.

The real swimming started after breakfast with a one hour swim in the local bay. The course was marked out – along the bay wall out to a red buoy, back into the bay to go round a yellow buoy, then back out to another red buoy. We went round the third buoy and headed back in along the opposite bay wall, along the beach and round again. We were feeding every half hour (so once in an hour swim) and for me the lap took almost exactly 10 minutes, so I stopped to feed after my third lap and then completed the hour after my sixth lap.

To say the water was warm would be overstating it, but it certainly wasn’t cold – and we were swimming on a beautifully sunny day in a gorgeous spot in Mallorca – it was lovely.

The lovely bay we were swimming in.

The lovely bay we were swimming in.

We then spent some time in a small group of 8 analysing the videos of our early morning pool swim. Each swimmer was filmed from three angles – above, underwater from the side and underwater from the front. I was last to be analysed, so it was interesting to hear the comments about other people’s techniques. Never having gone to any coaching I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for and even what some of the terms meant. It was interesting to see my stroke and again, I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. What I did see was quite a smooth stroke, with a lot more leg kick then I expected (although I think that was a lot to do with subconsciously trying to warm up in a cold pool). However, the main coaching point I was given was that I don’t rotate my right side enough (if at all). So, I’m going to go back to the pool and try again with bilateral breathing.

The afternoon swim of day 1 was a bit longer, but still only 2 hours. So we started from the same beach, but this time swam around the headland and into the adjoining bay, back across both and then into the first beach again and out. It was lovely and for the first hour it felt great. The lap was about 14 minutes for me, so again it was easy to judge my 30 minute feeds and then off again. However after about 1 hour and 20 the wheels started to come off. I felt sick. I thought I was going to throw up, but I felt weak as well. I slowed right down and when I stopped for the final feed I was close to getting out. However that feed went down (slowly) and with some words of encouragement from Kevin – “just swim it off” I set off again. By this point though I was really struggling. I had no power and felt sick every time I sighted. I was a bit concerned – had I caught a bug, was I getting sunstroke – I couldn’t work it out. The only thing that kept me out was wanting to complete the two hour swim, just in case I couldn’t swim again in the week. I was going slowly anyway, but I decided that I could only manage one more lap, so I didn’t rush and just plodded round. By the time I got out, I was convinced I was about to be sick at any time. in the end I just stayed looking very white for about 15 minutes.

That evening we had a seminar on nutrition, which given how I was feeling felt slightly ironic. My biggest lesson from that was that I’m never going to use Maxi – what was being fed to us on the swim. Fortunately I have brought some of my own Science in Sport sachets, but when I looked tonight only two. Bugger.

I must admit that I went to bed quite despondent and a little worried about the rest of the week. If it’s not the feed and something else then not only might this week be over, but I might have to seriously reconsider my swimming plans in general. A bit worrying.

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SwimTrek Summary

This week I’ve been on a SwimTrek trip to Mallorca that involved about 14 hours and just over 36.5km of swimming. It was hard work, but probably the most gratifying thing was that it wasn’t *that* hard.

This is what we all came for: the six-hour swim certificate.

This is what we all came for: the six-hour swim certificate.

The trip is SwimTrek’s Long Distance Swim Training (or LDT for short) trip and is designed for those that want to get a lot of miles in – especially channel swimmers, with a six-hour swim being the focal point as that is the mandatory qualifying swim for a solo channel attempt.

The group I went with contained not only some amazing swimmers, but some lovely people too. It was great to share experiences, learn from those that have already got a successful channel swim under their belts, but also support and work together with swimmers with less experience.

The guides were great, the swims were beautiful, the accommodation good, the organisation second to none and the whole week amazing. And I’m not just saying that because SwimTrek’s General Manager was on our trip and I was trying to persuade her to use my PR agency!

The group of swimmers before we set out for one of the day's trips.

The group of swimmers before we set out for one of the day’s trips.

If you’re tempted by a channel attempt or another long swim I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s not for the faint hearted, but if you put in the effort you’ll be rewarded.

For me it has given me huge confidence for my summer swims. I now have experience of sea swimming for the channel relay (as well as more cold water exposure). But for the other swims I now have the confidence that I can not only complete them (which was my only ambition last time round), but I can actually compete this time. The competition may only be with myself, but I can attack my target times with a sense of purpose and belief.

And not only that, but I now have a group of swimming companions that I can chat to and swap stories and advice with should I ever need a morale boost.

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