… not the whole thing, at least not yet, but as part of a relay team next summer.
Since completing Windermere last year I’ve wanted to be part of a channel relay team. I don’t [yet] think that a solo attempt is really within me, but swimming the English Channel is such an icon of long distance swimming that it would be great to be part of that. And so that’s where a relay comes in.
Traditionally a relay team would be six swimmers, although the rules on numbers have relaxed a bit and you can have any number up to six I believe. But the way it works is the same: each swimmer swims for an hour and then gets out and the next member of the team gets in to do their hour… and so on. You keep taking turns until you reach the other side. To me it seemed like the perfect way to be involved in such an iconic swim without having to swim it all myself!
So when I was up at Windermere this year as a spectator I was chatting to a few people about my desire to do it. Someone then mentioned that she might be putting a team together and suggested that she took my contact details. Of course I gave them, but thought nothing of it, for a start being such a novice swimmer I assumed that a team of “true swimmers” (my words, not theirs) wouldn’t really want me. And a couple of weeks later my thoughts were confirmed as I got an email that started with “We’ve got a team now..” I read on expecting to see a “thanks and good luck” type sign off. In the email she listed the names of the team members and they were all names that I recognised from the days that I used to watch these swims with my parents, names of the people that used to win these swims. And then there in the middle of the list was the word “you”.
I had to read it again a few times to check that she actually meant me. But she did and I was included in a relay team with some of the great names of the BLDSA. I felt excited, but to be honest I mainly felt daunted. I wasn’t sure that I deserved to be in such esteemed company and I wasn’t sure that they truly realised how much of a novice I am, how much of a weak link I could be in the team.
Now I am more than confident of the fact that I will do everything I can to be a full and equal part of this team… and I know that it’s something I really want to do. But that said, I don’t have anywhere near the experience of the other team members, yet alone the swimming miles under my belt.
So last night I met up with one of the team. Before I felt truly accepted as part of the team I wanted to explain my concerns to someone face-to-face.
The person I met up did his first solo channel crossing at the age of 16. He has swum the length of Windermere over 50 times – including about eight two-way swims. This is a PROPER swimmer.
And we met and chatted and had dinner and a couple of pints with his wife and my family. And we had a lovely evening. He waved off my concerns (“if you’ve done Windermere, you’ll be fine”) and made me feel much more relaxed and confident about it all.
So it looks like I’m going to be a Channel [Relay] Swimmer.
It’s booked for early July next year, so I have a bit of time to train up for it – sea swimming is a must, but so is just getting the miles done and building up my general strength and ideally speed.
Wish me luck.