I just got back from a couple of weeks working for Swimtrek on two of their long distance training camps in Gozo, Malta. These were my first guiding trips, and I was on a pretty steep learning curve but a few things stand out. Firstly, I only learned to drive a powerboat on a weekend course a couple of months ago, so becoming more comfortable with boat handling was a top priority. I was a bit like a driver who has just passed her test - basically safe, but lacking the spontaneity and embodied comfort that comes with familiarity and practice. So, I was assigned lots of boat time to get my hand in, and after just a couple of days, was feeling so much more comfortable and confident at the helm - a nice feeling after the awkwardness of the beginning. One of my tasks was to pick up the buoys out of the bay at the end of the swims - the perfect chance to practice pulling alongside an object (or person) in a controlled manner without mowing them down. However, necessarily erring on the side of caution, I didn't always get it quite right first time, requiring some very undignified leaning and reaching...on this occasion with a camera-wielding audience!
But when I wasn't dabbling about with the buoys, I was pootling around the mouth of the bay in the gorgeous sunshine, keeping an eye on the swimmers. Glorious.
When I wasn't in the boats, I was helping out with feeds, offering encouragement and occasionally helping to shepherd wavering swimmers back into the water. I loved this part of the trip - it's quite inspiring to see the swimmers really pushing themselves to stay in and complete the swims.
It was also amazing to see how much support the swimmers gave each other, and I lost count of the times that other swimmers paused to encourage a wavering swimmer to keep going, or when swimmers who had already got out jumped back in to do a few extra laps alongside someone who was having a wobble. I think that one of the finest moments of the entire trip was the sight last week of four women swimming the final hour of the six hour swim together, all side by side in a line, supporting one swimmer who had already far exceeded her own expectations of herself that day but who was starting to struggle a little. From my position on the boat, it was utterly inspiring to watch.
And perhaps my favourite moment of the whole trip - our little jaunt out of the bay and along the cliff base during the six hour swim in the second week. Sadly, the conditions had been too rough in the first week to do this, but for the second group, the weather was blissfully calm and they were able to enjoy two hours of glorious sea swimming, free from the more psychologically challenging task of swimming round and round the bay. The scenery and conditions were just breath-taking as you can see below (I'm in the little white boat you can just see in the middle of the picture).
Sadly, it wasn't all plain sailing, and a relaxing day-trip to the island of Comino in the second week proved to be something of an ordeal for me. The wind was howling, and the hours on a rocking boat took its toll on me so that by the time we were heading back through the swell, I was virtually incapacitated by seasickness, unable to focus my eyes or move. It's so frustrating, and embarrassing, but I just can't find anything that stops it happening. All suggestions gratefully received.
But hats off to all the swimmers over the last couple of weeks for their hard work and fantastic swims. And thanks to Mia, Nick and Freda for their support and advice during the trip.
And now, it's back to training...and with just 3 months to go, I need to pick things up a bit and get some serious work done. Exciting, though....especially now that the open water season is about to start. Let another summer of swimming begin.... plus, I may have some news soon about exciting future plans which I'm currently cooking up...