I just got back from a fabulous week in Jersey, helping out on Sally Minty-Gravett's swim camp...plus enjoying quite a lot of time in the water while getting some serious training in for Catalina.
As I've said in other writing about the various training camps, in my view, this camp is an excellent opportunity for those who are relatively inexperienced in sea swimming, but who are planning a long swim, to build their skills and confidence and to start notching up some time in the open water. It's a good chance to learn how you deal with the cold, the movement of the water and the various discomforts and sensory deprivations of longer periods of swimming...as well as to start to experience some of the many pleasures of open water swimming. This year's camp was no exception, and there were quite a few participants in precisely that situation, most of whom quickly found their feet (flippers?) and were clocking up multiple hour swims by the end of the week and walking out with barely a shiver. Inspiring to watch - well done everyone (and many thanks to Sally, and everyone else involved in the camp, for making it such a success).
In addition to the everyday training, we also had a fantastic night swim in St Catherine's bay...I just loved the sight of all the light sticks, tucked under goggle straps, bobbing around in the water. Everyone should try this once - it's hilarious.
As for me, towards the end of the week I started to do some longer swims, trying to get some distance under my belt in preparation for Catalina (which is now only 6 weeks away!). I just love swimming in Jersey - the water is beautiful, and after a winter of swimming pools, and my usual early season of laps at Bosworth and Swan Pool, it's just wonderful to be in the sea. In the first few days of the camp I did 2-3 hours a day across two swims, and then I did four hours on both Thursday and Friday...a plan which happily coincided with some gorgeously sunny weather.
With the exception of an absurdly pronounced swim hat head stripe, I was remarkably unscathed by these swims, so on Saturday, decided to go ahead with my original plan to do a 6 hour swim.
Sadly, the good weather didn't last and it was howling a gale on Saturday morning, and St Catherine's bay was very lumpy and whipped up when we arrived. But that's no excuse, so in I went anyway. It has to be said that the first couple of hours weren't very pleasant, but happily, as the tide turned and started to ebb, it flattened out a little; and then, just as my mood was beginning to drop and my shoulders were starting to ache, the sun finally broke through, lifting my spirits and turning the water a delicious turquoise. I later found out that poor Sally had tried to join me in the kayak after a couple of hours, but had been unceremoniously tipped in by the waves, forcing her to retreat to dry land until the conditions had improved! Nevertheless, in spite of it being a rather grotty day, especially earlier on, I was supported from start to finish by Sally, and many other of the local swimmers who dropped in to offer an encouraging word during feeds or to join me for a dip. Amazing. Many thanks to everyone.
Having done 14 hours of swimming in three days, and still being in reasonable shape at the end of it, I feel much better now about Catalina, and am confident that with a few Dover sessions over the next few weekends, I'll be good to go when the time comes.