Monday, 3 August 2009

A weekend of ups and downs

Off to Dover again this weekend, with the aim of getting in a two long back-to-back swims, and also of sharing in the excitement of the solo swims of two friends from the Malta trip - Steve Weatherley and Julie Ryan. Both were fantastically well prepared and ready for the challenge, but in the end, the weather got the better of them. Steve left on Saturday morning, but it soon became clear that the sea was unswimmable and his pilot pulled him out. Such bad luck, and a huge disappointment after all his work. He's going again sometime this week so I've got everything crossed. Julie Ryan set off on Sunday morning in beautiful swimming conditions. She had four really good hours and was making excellent progress, but the wind got up unexpectedly and it soon became clear that it was not feasible to continue in those conditions and the pilot pulled her out. Again, such incredibly bad luck, and I feel for both her and Steve. Fantastic effort all round, though. Julie - you couldn't have put more into this and are an example to all of us still waiting for our swims; Steve - don't let this setback distract you. You can do it!

And amidst the excitement, my own training continues. On Saturday, there was a regatta in the harbour so we weren't allowed in until 3pm - this gave us the chance, courtesy of Freda and the rest of the beach crew, to swim from 3-9pm, enabling us to try swimming in the dark. Learning from last week's food-related problems, I ate a bucket-sized quantity of pasta for lunch, and topped this off with sports drink half an hour before the swim; consequently, I had absolutely no problems with energy this time and I felt great for most of the swim. The darkness didn't bother me at all, even though I had thought that it would, and it was really funny looking up across the harbour and seeing the green flashing headlights of the other swimmers. I did get quite cold, though. I didn't really realise at the time, but by the time I was in the van, I was having a full on attack of the shakes. I drove home and had soup and more pasta and went out like a light.

The next morning, my shoulders were feeling a bit sore, and I also realised that I had a large, aggravated costume rub mark - about 10cm long, down my side from below my armpit. I'd obviously forgotten to put Vaseline along the costume edge, and the long swim, plus all the salt, really made it angry and sore. Stupid mistake... it seems like I make at least one really basic error each time - hopefully I'll get the hang of this eventually.

Still determined to stay on top of the food issue, I forced down a big breakfast of muesli, toast, juice and fruit, plus sports drink half an hour before swimming, and headed down to the beach for the 9am start. Part of me had been hoping that Freda would say that it wasn't a good idea to do another 6 hour swim since my longest back to back so far has been 3 and 6, but she immediately suggested 6. I balked at first, but that's just cowardly (and she was right - I need to try this), so off I went. This swim was harder than the previous day's, but my arms felt okay once I got going, and the first few hours were helped along by the beautiful calm waters and the warming sunshine. But by about 1.30pm, the same winds that had put paid to Julie's swim turned the harbour in a very different bit of water, and especially the harbour wall end, which is always choppier, became increasingly difficult to swim in (and that's within the harbour, so I dread to think what it was like for Julie, all the way out there). The last hour was a bit of a slog and I was desperate for it to end, but I stuck it out to the 6 hours, which felt really good.

After changing on the beach, I drove back to the campsite, where I ate yet more pasta and had a bit of a snooze. My arms were quite sore, and the rub on my side was really stinging, even though I'd slathered huge globs of Vaseline on it before the swim - I think I'm going to be paying for that mistake for some time yet. Later in the evening, I cooked up some stirfry and noodles with a mild chilli-based sauce - something that I quickly came to regret. After being in salt water for an extended period, your mouth goes quite furry and thick - I usually get a few mouth ulcers afterwards, and a bit of a sore throat, as well as a diminished sense of taste for a couple of days. So, why I thought chilli sauce would be a good idea, I don't know, but soon my mouth was completely on fire as the chilli (very mild though it was) hit the bits stil sore from the salt. Much cold water was drunk, and another useful lesson was learned.

I was pleased with my swims this weekend, and feel fairly confident thatI'll be able to give the round Jersey swim a good go. It was so sad that Steve and Julie didn't have the days that they were hoping for, but no-one can plan for weather like that. Their swims made my own solo seem so much more real. I'm not really sure how I feel about that - excited and terrified in fairly equal proportions, I think.

The next step in this exciting journey is the relay, which could go as early as midnight Thursday night. I'm armed with some industrial strength anti-seasickness drugs, and can't wait to see what it's like to be out there in the Channel. What fun!

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