Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Dover weekend

Down for my second Dover weekend of the year. It has to be said that this was not my finest performance, mentally or physically, and my confidence took a bit of a knock. I had been feeling tired, post-Ireland, all week, and did very little swimming, except for a gentle skills and drills club session, and a lazy hour at Bosworth, so felt like I should get back down to it. So, there I was on Saturday morning, well-fed and ready for what I assumed would be a good, long swim - 7 hours, as we were soon instructed. Part of me had reservations about doing such a long swim 9 days before Jersey to France, and in hindsight, it may have been a mistake, but I set off, determined to consolidate the work I'd done in Ireland. However, by the three hour mark, I was in trouble - my shoulders and back felt achy and uncomfortable, and my energy levels kept dipping quite erratically. My stroke felt awkward, especially as the water became increasingly choppy. It was a beautiful day, and I tried to concentrate on the sunshine, swimming from hourly feed to feed, but it was getting hard to ignore my aching shoulders and upper arms, and the muscles in my groin and lower back were cramping really badly. I finished the 7 hours, but it was a real struggle, and I was pretty disheartened by the end of it - if I was in that state after 7 hours, what would I be like after 10, 12, 15...? Would I even be able to keep going for that long?

After I got back to the campsite, I did everything I could to maximise my recovery with a view to having a better swim the following day - protein shake, lots of water, beans on toast, a nap, then pasta and an early night. However, by later in the evening, I couldn't ignore the niggling pain in my right shoulder and upper arm, and started to worry that I'd pushed too hard whilst too fatigued from the Ireland camp, and had injured myself. I spent the evening getting myself into a bit of a negative frame of mind, but had a long chat with Peter who advised me in the strongest possible terms not to swim the next day, or for the next week - that I needed to let myself recover fully for Jersey, and that, contrary to my tunnel-visioned panic, missing one swim now wasn't going to ruin the whole Channel attempt (I have problems with perspective sometimes!). Good advice....and a welcome voice of reason for my swim-addled brain.

So, on Sunday morning, I went down to the beach as normal, but with no intention of swimming. I'd decided instead to use it as a research day - a chance to observe the swimming from a different perspective, to chat to people on the beach, to help with feeds etc. This was a good decision, as my shoulder was still niggly (although not as bad as it had been the previous evening, which gave me cause for optimism)...even if I had to fight the recurring urge to get into the water because it was such a scorcher of a day and the water was deliciously, alluringly cool and glass-flat. But I held out, and instead, enjoyed the opportunity to see what it all looks likes from the beach. It was also a rare chance to take some photos, which I never get to do because I'm always either getting ready to swim, swimming, or recovering from swimming...

The six hour swimmers head out:


Freda prepares to give instructions to the yellow hats:

Neil gets greased up by Barry:

The beach crew are truly amazing - keeping track of who's in / out of the water; greasing everyone up ready to swim; preparing and delivering feeds; offering encouragement (and occasionally threats) to wavering swimmers. And for anyone who is crazy enough to think they're not getting good value for money....you should see the amount of stuff they get through taking care of us...


Barry's clever cup-holder:

Cliff looks very chirpy at hour 5:
Tired swimmers warm themselves up on the hot stones:
So, even though the weekend didn't turn out quite as I'd hoped, by the end of the day, I was feeling reinvigorated and much happier. My shoulder felt much better for the rest (and has continued to improve to the point where it is now no longer niggling at all), and I managed to turn a missed swim into a productive research observation day (on a beach in the blazing sunshine... how fabulous is my job!). So, all in all, not a bad outcome.
And now I need to get myself ready for Jersey to France...lots of rest, good nutrition and hydration, and lots of positive thinking for the big day, which looks like it could be early next Monday morning. Very exciting.

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