I flew to Crete on the Saturday, with the intention of meeting fellow swimmers on the Sunday as we shared a transfer from the hotel to the airport (I stayed near the airport on Saturday night). But soon after the flight had set off I heard two people discussing swimming behind me on the plane, and it turned out they were on the same trip. They were self-medicating for flight nerves with some strong medicine that seemed to deliver headaches the following morning!
We transferred to the resort the following morning and arrived to an almost perfect beach resort scene. So bags dumped we were on the beach in swimming suits almost immediately and the first swim of the week took place. To be fair, it was more of a ‘bob’ than a swim, but it was lovely.
The following morning was the start of the trip proper and the official acclimatisation swim saw us split into groups, based on speed. I was in the middle group and the first couple of swims saw me very much in the middle of the middle group.
The groups are a very important part of SwimTrek trip, as by swimming with people of a similar speed they allow the guides to monitor the safety of everyone. They also allow the guides to judge the groups and distances and have everyone finish the swims roughly at the same time.
The swims in Crete are mainly coastal hugging ones and for the first couple of days we would jump on the boat in the morning, find a new bay and then swim along it and the next couple of bays – then back on the boat and back to the hotel. All the while enjoying the glorious sunshine we had been blessed with. What a life!
Unfortunately the weather changed in the second half of the week – the danger of going at the end of the season. The wind whipped up and although it was mainly dry, it made the swimming conditions much tougher. It also meant that we couldn’t take the boat out as the coastguard wouldn’t let our pilot take passengers out to sea. However, the SwimTreks guides were fantastic and excellent plan Bs meant that as swimmers we a) didn’t have to worry about it; b) still got a great swim in.
From a personal point of view, for some reason I didn’t relax and couldn’t enjoy the first couple of swims. I came out of the water wondering whether I’m just not cut out for sea swimming and whether I should abandon my idea of swimming the Channel. I was genuinely concerned. However, something changed over the last few days and while the conditions got tougher my love of the swims increased dramatically. I loved it.
One of the main changes was that our middle paced group had effectively been split into two and I started at the back of
the quicker group, with the other swimmers generously waiting for me every now and then (although swimming off just as I stopped for a breather, like we used to do with the fat kid on cross country runs at school!). Then a combination of a couple of pieces of advice about my stroke and a realisation from me that I was swimming lazily meant that I could keep up and play (swim) with the cool kids.
All in all I swam just over 21kms in the week – so not a huge amount, but substantial. But most importantly I have made some more great swimming friends.