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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