Friday, 31 December 2010
Monday, 13 December 2010
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Saturday, 20 November 2010
Sunday, 14 November 2010
Friday, 12 November 2010
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
Sunday, 24 October 2010
The Sandwell Lifesaving and Channel Swimming Club (based at Swan Pool in Walsall) have an cup, awarded annually, for the longest swim by one of its members, and my 16 hours and 9 mins in the Channel took the prize this year! There is a pleasing symmetry to "the long swim" winning "the longest swim", and I couldn't be more delighted.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Saturday, 16 October 2010
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Thursday, 30 September 2010
[5/5/12: this picture has now been removed from this post. Following a dramatic spike in hits, I discovered that members of a football club fan site had linked to the picture as part of a thread about female athletes they'd like to have sex with. This sort of proves my point about sexualisation, but I've also taken the picture down so as not to contribute to that process.]
I wrote to ST, who subsequently published the letter, with a reply, both of which I have copied in full below:
"I was really disappointed to open my most recent copy of the Swimming Tiems to see that it included a highly sexualised centrefold spread of synchronised swimmer, Jenna Randall.
This picture has absolutely nothing to do with swimming, and simply perpetuatues the idea that women are there to be looked at. Why did we not see a picture of this athlete performing or training? All this picture does is tell young women that how they look is more important than what they can do."
Reply from editor:
"I disagree that the picture referred to has nothing to do with swimming. The whole point of us using it was to emphasise that Jenna is a swimmer and an athlete, and to show that in addition to how she is normally seen in the environment of her sport, she is also a glamorous young woman out of the pool - who could be attractive to model agencies and to sponsors. It was also something different for the magazine as we could always (as we have many times before) print action pictures (of Jenna) from synchro or other athletes from swimming or diving, but we wanted to show one of our athletes in a different light, and raise their profile slightly beyond the action in the pool.
And we are pleased to note that Jenna has recently received sponsorship from Kellogg's"
Now....my first objection to this is that contrary to the editor's defence, the picture itself does not, in any way emphasise that she is a swimmer and an athlete (although the small text box on the next page does mention her sport....and the fact that she is curling her toes in the picture like they do when they swim to make their legs look longer). Secondly, the picture is highly sexualised in both clothing and posture, and consequently, highly out of place in the official magazine of the ASA. This is not an argument based on prudishness - more one of context. That she is pictured in a semi-recumbant, come-hither posture with her clothing sliding up her legs and down her shoulders would fit perfectly in a soft porn publication, but in a sports magazine engaged in the promotion of swimming, it's just gratuitous and offensive. Young women should not have to sexualise themselves, and be sexualised by others, in order to gain sponsorship or paid employment, and it's a shame to see ST endorsing this as a legitimate way to view female athletes. What a young girl can learn from this that it's great to be good at sport, but that to really get on, you also need to be sexualised and beautiful...and another generation of body-dissatisfied young women is born.
I realise that this is not necessarily a popular view in some quarters, but this stuff drives me nuts. Oh well...at least that's a magazine to cross off the list.
Monday, 20 September 2010
Perhaps I'll decide when I've decided what, if anything, to do next....
Sunday, 19 September 2010
There's a lot of advice out there about Channel swimming, a lot of it very contradictory, and one of the ways I've been using to sort the wheat from the chaff is to try and identify those tips that get repeated across a variety of training contexts - don't look up for France; don't ask how long you've got to go; swim from feed to feed....all good examples. (Practise sprinting during long training swims - that's another one, but we won't dwell on that for the moment... Acting on good advice once you've identified it is a whole different story!). But everyone says that you shouldn't rush straight into making big "what's next?" decisions after your swim; that you should let it all percolate for a couple of months so that you don't end up biting off more than you can chew.
Of course, I'm thinking about what I might do next, but there's a lot to consider, so for now, I'm enjoying the fact that I completed my swim; that I'm not having to train; that I'll get to spend some time much-missed time with Peter at the weekends; that I can catch up on some long overdue reading, writing and research; and that the first thing I do when I wake up is no longer checking the wind forecast. These are all good things that, for now, are next.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Friday, 17 September 2010
Greetings from Sydney! What a gorgeous city this is. Honestly, if I could move here, I absolutely would...but Peter and I still haven't managed to get jobs in the same city in the UK, never mind pulling that off in Australia. Never mind...visiting is fun too.
The Fat Studies conference at Macquarie was fabulous, especially once I'd done my presentation and could relax and enjoy myself. And after that, I started my intensive programme of sauntering about Sydney. A couple of days ago, I went out to Bondi and walked down the coastal path for a couple of hours - it was a beautiful day, and I was hoping for a swim at the Icebergs pool (below), but it was being filled. Fantastic setting, though.
Unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably, the physical strains of swimming the Channel, then flying almost immediately out to Sydney, and then working for four days without really being able to catch up on lost sleep finally caught up with me. With my immune system in retreat, I came down with a cold, which last night deteriorated into a feverish, fluey thing, so I'm now temporarily holed up in the flat drinking Lemsips and hoping that it passes soon. With luck, and some good pharmaceuticals, I should be able to squeeze in at least one or two more play days before I fly home.
Monday, 13 September 2010
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned from the experience…and what I think I perhaps got right, and what I would do differently.
In terms of preparations, I chose to train for two years, and did a lot of training camps and a lot of miles. I don’t think everyone needs to do this much (and not everyone has the time or financial resources to do this either, of course), but for someone as profoundly risk-averse as me, this was a huge and necessary confidence-builder. I also found the Round Jersey and Jersey to France swims invaluable in this process. As it turned out, given what happened on the swim, I don’t think I would have made it without the experience of these long swims and some of the more intensive periods of my training. Following manifold snippets of advice from various training sites and experienced individuals, I’d addressed in almost obsessive detail as many sometimes seemingly trivial aspects of the swim beforehand as I possibly could – feeding regimen and delivery system; what foods I can and can’t eat in the water; what make of goggles, caps, costumes, suncream etc I like… and so on. Getting all that stuff sorted out, with nothing new on the day and spares of everything, just in case, took a lot of the stress out of it all. I think I did reasonably well on the self-discipline front on the day too – swimming from feed to feed; not asking where I was (even though I REALLY wanted to); not looking up for France; doing as I was told. These are the things that I think worked well for me that I’d been able to learn through both trial and error, and from more experienced others.
But there are two things that I felt unprepared for…mostly, I should add, through a woeful failure of imagination on my part on both counts.
The first of these was the delay because of the weather. Of course, even though I knew that it was always a possibility, I think that deep down, I had assumed that being first on the tide in mid-August would mean that I would probably get a swim on that tide. It would probably have always been a difficult period, but I don’t think I’d anticipated how disruptive it would be, and how stressful…and also, the practical problems that it would cause in terms of losing support crew, or trying to maintain fitness whilst never quite knowing when I would get the call to go (if at all). A bit more realistic thought on this front beforehand would have been helpful, I think.
The second, and much more serious, mistake I made relates to the sprinting…and my lack of mental and physical preparation for it. I had always framed my swimming in terms of me as a plodder – slow but steady. Of course, I had heard lots of stories about people having to sprint, but I had somehow persuaded myself that that would be for the faster swimmers, and that I would be left to plod on. Consequently, although I’d done sprint training with the masters club over the winter, in the open water, I pretty much stuck to ingraining my habitual pace, cranking out the hours and habituating to temperature and distance, but holding a steady pace and stroke rate. This makes me a bit of an idiot because I had been advised on several occasions to do intervals during the long Dover swims, but somehow I had decided that this didn’t apply to me… probably because I really hate sprinting, and love plodding. Well…didn’t that just come back to bite me! I’m very grateful that I’d done all those gut-busting sprint sessions over the two winters, because at least that gave me something to draw on when the time came, but if I had my time again (or if I ever do another long swim…?), I’d definitely be adding interval training to my open water sessions.
So that’s it – from signing up nearly two years ago, to one amazing, unforgettable (in every sense) day in early September: my English Channel swim.
But the last thing that I have to do is to say some thank-you’s. These are not in any particular order, and I hope I’ve not left anyone out, but I really want to thank:
- Paul Foreman and his crew for their skill, expertise and determination to get me across, no matter how long it took; Sam for coming on as crew quite late in the day, and for being so amazingly generous and positive throughout; and Jamie and Neil for offering to come on as crew in the earlier weeks and juggling their schedules accordingly.
- All of the people involved in running the training camps I’ve been lucky enough to attend – everyone at Swimtrek, Sally, Charlie and the JLDSC, Ned Denison and the Sandy Cove mob.
- All those who work tirelessly down on the beach in Dover – Freda, Barrie, Irene, Louise, Emma…. What can I say.
- City of Coventry Masters Club….especially for the sprinting, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time; 1485 Tri Club for putting up with me staying in until the very end of every sessions, even when everyone else had got out; Dan Earthquake and the SLCSC; Coventry Triathletes. Thanks for all the help with training.
- Penny – my winter swim training partner.
- The ESRC – for funding the research that has enabled me to travel around so much and meet so many interesting people during my training.
- And finally…Peter – who has tolerated in good spirit my frequent absences; my appropriation of “our” campervan; the fact that most trips we’ve made together in the last two years have at some point involved him sitting in a kayak or a boat for hours; and my endless Channel talk. Plus, he was a complete hero on the day and I cannot imagine having done it without him there to support me.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Around that time, Paul came out of the wheelhouse to talk to Peter and Sam. They were in earnest conversation for several minutes. At one point, they all pointed towards the French coast, talking animatedly; then, confusingly, they all turned to face the opposite direction, pointing again. In my over-interpreting, slightly paranoid mind, I thought they were saying “well France is over there, but she’s not going to make it, so we’re going to have to go back that way”. At 12 hours, I asked if there was anything that I needed to know, and Paul told me to just get on with swimming, so I did…but I was starting to worry, as there was obvious some concern on board, although I didn’t know what it was, or whether it was serious.
Then at 12.5 hours, Paul came out to tell me that I needed to start sprinting in order to push as far in as possible before the tide turned, in order to maximize my chances of hitting Cap Griz Nez (a rocky promontory that is the ideal end point for a swim), rather than getting swept past it – an outcome which could extend the swim by several hours. I was grateful for the information, but also quickly realized why the tantalizing promise of information (that it will somehow make what’s left to be done more manageable) is a trap for the unwary, because it just generates more questions – how long will I have to sprint for? How likely am I to hit the Cap? I told myself that the tide would turn soon, hence the urgency from Paul, so I should just knuckle down to the task of full effort swimming for now. I lifted my stroke rate, tried to lengthen my stroke and increase my pull; I even started kicking – a bit of a shock to my usually lazy legs. Everything started to hurt – my arms, shoulders, back and groin muscles were burning; I felt nauseous; my lungs felt ready to burst. Peter and Sam were amazing – they were rooted to the spot on deck, clapping and cheering, punctuated by the occasional spontaneous, gloriously non-sensical YMCA arm gestures from Sam – a welcome burst of light relief.
At the next feed, they left me no space for doubt or questions, and as I forced down the maxim, I was showered with encouragement – that my stroke looked great, that I was flying, that I looked really strong. These were, I suspect, very generous assessments of my situation, but I took heart from them and pressed on….Surely the tide would turn soon… But no…and 2.5 hours after the original instruction to sprint, there was no sign of a change of direction, or permission to let up. By this time, I was running almost on empty, and a new doubt started to rise – what if, after all this effort, we got swept up past the Cap, but I’d used up all my energy and couldn’t manage the last few hours. Part of me wanted to just pull back and accept the fate of not hitting the Cap in order to give myself the chance to recover a bit; I also knew that after pushing so hard for so long, sailing past the Cap was going to be pretty crushing, and I wondered how I would cope with that. I was feeling pretty miserable by then; everything hurt, I didn’t know what was happening, and it felt to me like the swim was hanging in the balance. I tried to just stay in the moment, and concentrate on swimming as strongly as I could possibly manage; I thought that if I wasn’t going to make it, I wanted to have given it everything.
I found out later that, anomalously, the tide just never turned and we never got pushed back up towards the Cap. Instead, I was forcing my way across the tide, into a strong headwind, and we were now aiming for the coast below Cap Griz Nez. Paul came out at the next feed and told me that I was progressing at 1 mile an hour across the tide, and that I would be on the beach in an hour if I really pushed hard; he said that the further in we got, the weaker the tide’s effect would be. I drank down what I now know was an industrial strength maxim, courtesy of Sam, who was now super-charging my drinks to give me the much-needed energy to push through. I asked if they really thought that I could do it….meaning, whether it was really possible, or whether this was just a last ditch hope. I was rewarded for this with a stern “talking to” from Paul (see the video for this). I heard Peter say that I could definitely do it, that I was going to make it. I was sure he would never have said that if he didn’t believe it, and this gave me the resolve to commit everything I had left and strike out for the beach. Sam yelled “The Hour of Power” (a reference to when he and some of the other swimmers would pick up the pace during the 6 hour beach swims in order to push through the difficult fifth hour – something he’d told me about before the swim). Everyone laughed, giving me a much-needed boost in mood and confidence.
By this time, the sun was starting to set, and I could see the cliffs of Cap Griz Nez when I breathed to the left, starting to glow red. When I stopped for a feed half an hour later, I could see the beach we were aiming for, and individual houses. This was the first time since the sprinting had begun that I realized that I was going to make it; I wanted to cry, with relief, with exhaustion…but there was no time for that yet. By the next feed, I was feeling extremely sick from the hard effort and asked how far it was…the only time I ever asked, knowing that I was very close, and hoping that I was close enough to be able to skip the feed and just swim in. Sam said it was a length of the harbor, so I declinee the feed and started the final stretch. I’d done so many harbor laps that I knew I could knock one of those out, no matter how exhausted I was. Soon, I saw Sam and Peter getting changed, and then the boat stopped while I kept on swimming. Peter and Sam soon appeared to one side of me – I couldn’t believe it was nearly over.
I soon began to see rocks in the clear water below me, and then my hands started hitting the stones. I pulled myself in over them, until I was in very shallow water. Unlike Jersey to France, when I got to walk triumphantly up a gentle sandy beach, the rocks were too uneven to walk over easily, and I had to crawl up on my hands and knees until I found a patch flat enough to get to my feet. (This makes for some very elegant video footage of the finish!). I hauled myself upright, and lurched for a big, flat rock that was clear of the waterline. I could hear Peter and Sam shouting and cheering; I stood on the rock and raised my hands in the air. I’d finished. Then everything started to spin and I had to lower myself onto the rock, head in hands, unable to quite believe that it was over, and I’d done it. I heard the boat’s horn blow. We’d made it.
We hugged and celebrated; we collected pebbles and took pictures. I was starting to shiver now, and longed to get back in the water where it felt warmer, so crawled back in and swam out towards the boat with Peter and Sam in the gentle evening sunlight. Standing on deck, I looked at the beach in amazement; I’d swum to France!
But now that my work commitments have ended for a while, I've been able to take some time to start writing the experience up. There's a video too, but at the moment, I can't get it to go up on YouTube - I'll keep working on that. But for now.... here's Part I.
Channel swim – Part I
It was nearly 3am on Thursday 2 September, and I was standing on the rocking deck of Pace Arrow, under the watchful eye of pilot Paul Foreman and his crew, Jack, as well as my A-team crew of Peter and Sam. It was time to go. The shore was faintly illuminated by the lights of the several boats out that morning, but the water looked inky black. I did a quick last check to make sure I’d not forgotten anything that I might regret later – suncream, Vaseline, a few dobs of Channel grease on some particularly nasty chafing spots, clear goggles, head and tail lights on. I perched on the edge of the boat for a brief moment, and jumped in. It didn’t feel at all cold, and I swam in to the shore and hobbled out onto the stones, took a deep breath and raised my arm to signal that I was ready. I heard a shout to start, strode in, and dived forwards, taking several long strokes before sighting forwards, looking for the boat. And here came problem number one…which boat? There were two quite close together in front of me, and I wasn’t sure which was mine! I started to go for the one on my left, but then heard some shouting and headed for the other one. As I approached, I had to ask if it was the right boat! Not quite the calm, dignified start I’d been hoping for!
But once we’d established that I was actually swimming alongside my boat, things got better, and we quickly settled into a steady rhythm. I found it much easier to keep a steady distance from the boat than I had during the relay the year before, even though it was probably just as choppy – mostly because Paul has a spotlight pointing into the water, rather than directly at the swimmer, which makes it easier to maintain a sense of perspective. Mentally, though, I was bouncing all over the place for the first hour. I couldn’t stop thinking about how long it might take, whether I would make it, what the conditions would be like, whether the feeds etc would go okay, whether Peter and Sam would get seasick, or whether I would… on and on. I’m always very unsettled during the first bit of any swim, so just tried to calm down and try to find a quieter head space, waiting for it to pass. Peter and Sam were both wearing glow sticks on lanyards round their necks, and it was lovely to see the two vertical strips when I breathed; very reassuring. We were passed to our left by another boat, which dazzled me with its lights, and then left me sitting in a fog of its diesel fumes for a while, which I didn’t appreciate, but it soon passed.
After an hour, Paul flashed a spotlight at the back of the boat to signal feed time, and I swam in to grab my bottle, which I had tied rope wound around a spool from a gardening store (thanks for the tip, Cliff). It all worked perfectly, and to words of encouragement from Peter and Sam, I guzzled down my drink, threw the bottle to one side and paddled off as they reeled it back it. Clockwork – and one less thing to feel anxious about now we’d all seen how that was going to work.
Sometime during the second hour, I noticed that there was only one glow stick at the side of the boat, but couldn’t tell who it was (I should have bought different coloured ones). I started to worry that either Sam or Peter had got really sea sick, and I felt a bit guilty for inflicting this on them. During that hour, the sun started to come up, and I realized that it was Peter who was standing on deck, but no sign of Sam. On the other side of the boat, I could see a solid shape with a flapping jacket and two legs coming down from it; it looked like someone leaning over the railing to be sick. And the shape didn’t move from its spot. Poor Sam, I thought – he’s so ill that he can’t move (I’m like this when I’m very sea sick… talk about projecting). So then I felt really guilty…and also started to feel quite sick myself – I’m very suggestible where seasickness is concerned. However, about an hour later, Sam suddenly appeared, throwing his arms in the air in a gesture of triumph and cheering. I looked again at what I had thought was Sam, and it was still there – in what was now the full light of day, I could see that it was a life buoy in a cover, supported by a frame….Sam had just been catching up on some much-needed sleep. Time for me to stop flapping about everything and calm down.
By hour three, all was well. I felt really strong and increasingly confident; I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. And here I was – swimming the Channel. How exciting is that – really the first time that day that I’d started to enjoy the crazy novelty of what I was doing. This was starting to be fun.
Hours three to six were uneventful. The feeds shifted to half hourly, and were slipping down with no problems. I was having the occasional bit of banana or a couple of jelly babies, but I didn’t feel much like food and generally stuck with the maxim. At hour six, I switched goggles from my clear ones, which I don’t really like, to my super-comfortable, utterly leak-proof mirrored Blue Seventy goggles. In my mind, I put the previous six hours behind me, and started afresh – but with none of the anxiety that I’d had at the start. I enjoyed this period of the swim enormously. I felt really good, and was having no physical problems in terms of injury or trouble keeping the feeds down. Peter and Sam had become impressively slick with the feeds, holding the bottle and spool up in the air, the rope taut between them, as a signal that it was feed time; both of them doing it if they also had a cup with a snack in it – it made me laugh every time. As I fed, they would call out the names of people who had sent text messages, and it was a huge boost to know that people were following me and encouraging me to keep going. As I was swimming, I could see them tucking into the food from their supplies, and chatting and laughing…and always keeping an eye on me. In all this time, I never really had a serious dip, or a painful patch; I was quite happy not knowing where I was and just trusting that we were inching towards where we needed to be. When we passed 9 hours, I noted that this was the longest time I had swum this year (passing my Jersey – France time), and was pleased that I still felt pretty good…although I was starting to notice some general aches and pains and asked for some ibuprofen at my 10 hour feed, just dampen that down. By my 11 hour feed, I was getting tired, but was excited that this was now my longest swim ever and I still felt strong and focused.
It felt like it was all going to plan….
Saturday, 4 September 2010
I'm going to write it up properly over the next couple of weeks, but have been in a bit of a befuddled daze since finishing and need a bit of time to digest it all first. Plus, I'm about to fly off to Sydney, and have a packed few days immediately after I arrive, so need to focus on that for now. But for now, I will just say that it was an extraordinary, brutal, intoxicating, frustrating, exciting, painful, exhilerating, exhausting day that I will never forget.
Thank you so much for all the e-mails, texts and tweets of support - it made a huge difference. And apologies to all those who we inadvertently kept in suspense by not sending the final tweet to say we'd made it!
Much more later...and in the mean time, I'm going to get back to the pressing business of eating and sleeping a lot.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Hopefully, Peter will be tweeting from the boat, which you can follow either on the blog or on Twitter.
I don't have an individual tracker, but you can track the boat here - scroll down and select "Dover" in the dropdown box on the left hand side, then select the boat "Pace Arrow". Don't worry if it's not always there - it doesn't mean we've sunk. If you check later, hopefully, we'll have reappeared.
More news as and when.... but in the meantime, all positive thoughts gratefully received.
Monday, 30 August 2010
Watch this space - I'll post more news when I have it.
Friday, 27 August 2010
I'm not very good at this....,the waiting. I like to plan and prepare; I like certainty and control. And I'm not enjoying this one little bit, but am working hard to hold my nerve and not to let too much doubt creep in. After almost three weeks of only swimming 1-2 hours a day, I feel quite unfit and ill-prepared for a Channel swim, but hopefully, there's enough in there still to get me across. And in the mean time, we all wait and think calm, windless thoughts...
Monday, 23 August 2010
Unpacking my boxes this morning was pretty depressing; the weather forecast for the week is even more so...although it is starting to look like there might be a window at the weekend (but I've seen that before).
In absolute terms, Sunday is the last day of the spring tide, and after there's a fully booked neap tide with four swims on it. I'm flying to Australia on 6 Sept, so even if it was a splendid swimming week next week, I'd be lucky to get a swim in after the other four swims have gone before I have to fly. So, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that I'll squeeze in a swim before I leave, either towards the end of this spring tide, or the end of the next neap tide, but it's not likely.
So... the alternative plan is to start more intensive training again - get some longer swims under my belt to build up my endurance after a long taper and a week of sitting about not doing much, taper down while I'm in Australia, and then trying to get in a swim at the end of Sept. The air temps are much lower then, and there's not as much daylight, but if I'm lucky with the conditions, it's plausible. Another problem is that I don't tend to travel very well and get incredibly jet lagged, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. If I'm not fit to swim, then I won't and will just have another go next year. But it's worth holding out for that last chance if I can.
So from now, I'm going to pick up the training this week, building towards (depending on the weather) either getting a crossing in towards the weekend, or going down to Dover to do a couple of long training swims in the harbour. I'll do long swims again the weekend after too, before heading to Australia. It's hard to muster the enthusiasm to get back into the hard training, but hopefully I'll be able to find it from somewhere once I get going.
Thanks to everyone who has sent messages of support, and especially to Peter who came down at the weekend to save me from going bananas. And my sympathies to all those swimmers who are kicking their heels and waiting for a chance to swim....
Thursday, 19 August 2010
It's unlikely that anyone will get to swim before the weekend, but there's some hope for Sunday... but the weather is constantly changing (although not in the right direction so far), so it's hard to say. I continue to wait (im)patiently.
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
I've swum in the harbour every day, just for an hour or two, and am trying to concentrate on eating well, getting lots of rest, and not going bananas.
More updates when I know anything, but the general expectation for now is that Wednesday and Thursday are out due to strong winds, but we're living in hope for the weekend...
Sunday, 15 August 2010
Looking at the positives, physically, I feel great, and had a lovely swim this morning - it was low tide, so the water was pretty "thick", but it was quite choppy, which made it a fun couple of hours.
So.... now there's nothing left to do but wait...
Thursday, 12 August 2010
I was on in discussion with Catriona Morrison - winner of Lanzarote Ironman and all-round amazing athlete. We chatted about the impact of sport on our bodies. It's a bit weird to be talking about my big shoulders and body fat on national radio, but an interesting experience - good practice for thinking / talking about the research. AND I got to spend a day in London, which was fun - including a splendid lunch of Thai food, courtesy of my friend and former LSE colleague, Claire.
And today, I'm off to Dover for what I hope will be the last weekend before my swim (the window opens on Tuesday). I've been tapering - lots of sitting about and feeding up.... at last, the part of the training I'm properly qualified for - but am starting to feel really stressed and anxious about the whole thing. Part of me really wishes that I could just keep training and never do the swim - I've loved the training so much, but am not enjoying this bit very much to be honest. I remember feeling like this about my PhD - I loved the years I spent working really hard on it, but was horrified when I realised that I actually had to finish it and be examined on it.
But I've got my dream team of a crew all lined up ready to go - Peter, Jamie and Neil - and my boxes are packed, and I'm feeling in good shape. So, fingers crossed for calm seas.
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Amazing swims all round.
Monday, 2 August 2010
Now I need to really get down to finalising my crew and generally getting my head straight.
In the mean time, several friends are either out or on their way out soon - Donal Buckley, Jen Hurley, Ali Longman... plus Julie Ryan on a two-person relay (it wasn't meant to be two, but she got horribly let down at the last minute...but I'm confident that she and Dave have got what it takes). Good luck everybody - despite my vow to stop following swims, I'll be watching online!
Congrats too to Nick Adams, who broke Ali Streeter's 1989 Round Jersey record a couple of days ago - well done.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
I went down to Dover this weekend, with a view to a getting a couple of decent length swims in before beginning my taper in earnest. On Saturday morning, Tom, Neil, Marty and Trevor were already in doing an 8 hour swim, and Jackie was off on her solo crossing, but I agreed with Freda that I would do a much more modest 5 hours. I had a lovely swim and felt really good when I got out - like I could have done much more (but glad I didn't have to!). Then I hung around waiting for the others to finish....something that took a little longer than I (and they) had anticipated because earlier in the day Freda had spotted them chatting by the wall instead of swimming while she was having breakfast, so she sent them out for an extra half hour! Freda knows everything. But great swims, guys.
By the evening, Jackie, whose swim had set off early in the morning, was still swimming. I woke up around midnight and checked online (these things get a bit compulsive) and she was still swimming. I have to confess that as I went back to sleep, I assumed that by the time I woke up, she would either have got out, or have got across. But no...when I woke up, she was still swimming.
As we prepared for our swim on Sunday morning, we were all completely awestruck by how long she'd been in the water - around 25 hours at that point. I felt faintly ashamed that I was only going in for 4 hours....and that I had a bit of a whinge when I got in because the water felt a bit chilly. The water was almost eerily flat when we started, but by hours three and four, it had picked up to quite a chop, especially at the harbour end. At the other end, we had to play dodge the kayak as scores of children with very poor attention spans and limited directional control ploughed about.
At our three hour feed, Barrie announced that Jackie had just completed her swim successfully - in 28 hour and 44 minutes. 28 HOURS!!!
The six hour swimmers were told on their 5 hour feed that they could get out 15 minutes early (no complaints about that) so that we could all go down to the marina to welcome Jackie back. We weren't at the marina long before the boat chugged into sight and everyone cheered and clapped as it pulled up alongside the pontoon. As Jackie was helped out of the boat, I have to confess that I was a little bit shocked by her condition - she was extremely pale, and her face and especially her lips were swollen from the salt water. She was very unsteady on her feet (who wouldn't be after that), but, clutching the huge bunch of balloons that the beach crew had given her (each with "happy birthday" on them - there's a limit to what you can get on a Sunday afternoon!), she made her way up the steps into the carpark, surrounded by well-wishers. It was an amazing sight, and I still can't really get my head around what she did. I don't know where will like that comes from. It's just phenomenal.
I was also pleased to meet Joe Bakel on Sunday, who also did a successful crossing this week, and Luke (from Swimtrek) was down on the beach on Sunday morning for a dip, looking in fine form. Well done to everyone who got across this week (and commiserations to those who didn't). And well done to all of those who did back-to-back 8 / 6 hour swims this weekend - great training.
As for me, I'm finding the swims completely compulsive, and am following them online to the point of obsession, but it's starting to give me the heeby-jeebies. I think that I'm going to have to hold off a bit for the next tide so that I can try and keep my focus and stay as positive as I can be.
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Lots more swimmers out right now on what looks like a really good day. Fingers crossed.
Monday, 19 July 2010
Some of the comments people have sent in are pretty rude, as you'd expect, but there's some interesting thoughts about whether it's an "extreme sport" or not - I wonder what those out there swimming today think!
Anyway, I was gloriously idle last week, doing just one short pool swim, plus an hour at Bosworth last Thursday evening. It was nice to have a break, and I needed the recovery time, but by Friday (10 days, post J2F), I was feeling ready to start building back up again and regaining my focus. So, off to Dover I went, complete with a rejuvenated Bob, who had spent the week in the garage - it turns out that a persistent rattle and bubbling roar on acceleration aren't the sounds of a healthy van, but thankfully, it's nothing that a Visa card and a helpful mechanic couldn't fix.
Saturday was overcast and windy, andd it started to absolutely throw it down just as we were picking our way down the stones to the water. The tide was low and the water was very brown and uninviting; the rain and the dark clouds made the scene even more colourless...plus tinted goggles didn't make it seem any cheerier. I felt terrible for the beach crew - poor Irene got an unexpected soaking and had to go and buy new clothes. But happily, the weather cleared after an hour, and although it was pretty choppy, especially at the ferry wall, the sun started to poke through and lift our collective moods. The water was so low that you could stand up just about anywhere within the swimming area between the end of the groynes and the white marks on the harbour walls; I tried not to touch the sea floor though, as I'm a bit squeamish about what's down there.
But I did have my first major run-in with jellyfish. I've been stung before, but only little zaps in passing, and just into the second hour, I got a couple of small hits on my legs. But then I swam straight into one, drawing its tentacles right across my cheeks, mouth and chin, and then my arm and thigh (as I turned away to try and get away from it). I could feel the tentacles trailing across my face and felt completely freaked out by it. I was surprised by how upset I was - firstly because it hurt, especially on my lips, but secondly, because I got really freaked out by them being there but me not being able to see them. I started imagining them everywhere, and seriously contemplated getting out to escape what I was now imagining to be a sea thick with jellyfish. Drama queen? Me? Thankfully, the shame of getting out and having to tell the beach crew that I was too squeamish about jellyfish to stay in was too great, and I finished my planned two hour swim before gratefully exiting the water.
In spite of my jellyfish encounter, and the fact that my top lip was numb for several hours afterwards, I was pleased with my swim - just a short one, but a good start to the build-up, and a chance to stretch out my well-rested muscles. My wrist was a bit sore, but nothing to worry about. I hung about to help with the feeds and to catch up with fellow Swimtrekkers John, Sam and Julian - congrats to Julian who did his 6 hour qualification swim. We also bumped into Liam and Eddie (from the Cork camp), who were over for Liam's crossing (he's out there as I type - Go Liam!).
By Sunday, it was still windy, but it was a lovely bright day, and I told Freda that I would do 3 hours. I felt a bit guilty because the others were doing 6 hours, but I need to stick to my plan of a gentle build-up - I'm working on the basis that, once I've recovered fully from J2F, I'm ready to go, so just need to stay well and hold steady, rather than hammering out more really long swims. This was a lovely swim for me - it was a sunny day, and the harbour was a nice mix of choppy and calm (to stave of boredom). And three hours is a really nice length of swim - long enough to really settle down and enjoy the rhythm of swimming, but not so far that everything starts to hurt. I felt great.
So many people are down in Dover now ready to swim - including Andy Williams, who is hoping to go on Tuesday or Wednesday. It's so exciting following the swims and thinking that that might be me very soon. Just four weeks to go now!