It was a beautiful sunny day, and there were lots of people milling about getting ready. I was a bit late, but got myself sorted and asked someone to put some sunscreen on for me. I said hi to Freda, who asked about my plans and suggested that I do 6 hours. All the way down in the car, I'd been thinking that I would maybe do 4, possibly 5, but this was just cowardice on my part, so 6 it was. I collected my red hat and my plan to do 6 hours was logged alongside my hat number on a clipboard...and I was good to go. I dropped my new, desperately gareish lime green crocs into the black bag, and in I went, heading left towards the ferry wall. The water was flat and a comfortable temperature, and I quickly settled in and got my rhythm. After two hours, I headed in and beached myself gracelessly on the pebbles, where called out my hat number and was handed a cup of warm maxim, which I chugged down before heading back out. Hours three and four were less comfortable - fog rolled in, the temperature dropped, and the ferry end of the harbour became choppy and difficult to swim in. I was starting to feel quite tired, and my arms were getting sore, probably from the loss of rhythm and the extra effort required to swim through rougher water. Still, all good practice, I thought, and forged on. At the end of hours 4 and 5, we got chocolate mini rolls to go with our maxim - heaven! - and by hour 6, the fog had lifted and I was paddling along nicely and felt like I could go on for another couple of hours (not that I did, of course, but it was nice to feel that I could!).
So, all in all, a success. I was pretty tired by the time I got back to the tent, and ended up napping in the early evening, until I was woken up by the jubilant return of Julie and John - she'd just completed a 10 hour swim, which is pretty impressive to say the least.
By the evening, I realised that I'd got pretty burnt during the day - on my back, shoulders, the backs of my legs, and my face (including a fantastically strange-looking head stripe - the mark of the open water swimmer). I had used a water-resistant factor 30 from Boots, but it's obviously not enough, so I'm now in search of something more protective. I was also feeling quite fatigued, and slept like a log, in spite of the very noisy group of young people camping nearby (I am turning into a crotchety old fuddy duddy).
I almost didn't go back down on Sunday. I was feeling pretty tired, and psychologically, the 6 hour swim felt like a real boundary because with the other two 6 hour swims, I've always taken a day off afterwards before doing more, and even then, have taken it easy. Also, I needed to get back home to Coventry to see Peter before he went back to Spain. But I gave myself a talking to, and agreed (with myself) that I would do 2 hours, then come back, pack up and drive home. I was expecting this swim to be really hard, but I felt great, and am sure that I could have done 4 hours - I will next time. Still - c. 16 miles, and 8 hours, of swimming over the weekend - a definite step up.
It's so great to be able to swim in the sea, even if it's a bit of a way to travel. The lakes around here are good local opportunities, but Bosworth was 25 degrees on Thursday (!!!), and is verging on uncomfortably warm (and also quite smelly now as vegetation in the water starts to rot).
As an aside, I bumped into Lucy Roper on Sunday, who I recognised from our first Swimtrek holiday (5 years ago?) in the Lake District. I remember being horrified that Lucy was swimming without a wetsuit and couldn't imagine anyone being foolish enough to do such a thing. On the second day, she persuaded me to try it, which I did, and I loved it - and a seed was planted.
So, a good week. I'm still in the process of seeing if I can organise a swim round Jersey later in the year, but if it's not possible, it can wait. And in the mean time, I'm off to Bala next weekend, then Coniston the weekend after. And this time, there'll be no tent or mountains of camping equipment because yesterday I finally went to collect our new toy:
It's quite old, a bit slow off the mark, and is pretty loud, but should make my life much easier! It'll get its first outing this weekend at Bala, so fingers crossed.