Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Some weekends it's just not to be...

Off to Dover this weekend - my first trip of the year - for the BLDSA Champion of Champions, an annual set of three races (5 miles, 3 miles, 1 mile). This, it has to be said, was not my finest day in the water. I'd been under the weather all week with a stomach bug, plus have been working all hours recently, so felt quite exhausted by the time I arrived at the campsite at the end of what turned out to be a ridiculously slow 7 hour drive (I hate the M25). Not the best start.

Anyway, with forecasts of winds up to 40mph by lunchtime, we all pitched up ready to go first thing. There was a bit of a delay while the organisers adjusted the course to better accommodate the conditions (making a long, thin half-mile triangle course that gave us more shelter from the pier wall, rather than the usual 1 mile square), and we were finally ready to be counted into the water, instructed to do 10 laps. I felt fine for the first few laps, although not exactly full of beans, but as the swim progressed, I started to find it pretty hard going. This was partly the conditions - quite lumpy water, moving around all over the place - but partly just me being a bit out of sorts, I think. And then, as I finished my fifth lap, I looked at my watch - 1.39!! At my usual pace, I would have expected to be on around 1.20, so either I was being horrendously slow, or the course was long (which most people later agreed it was - probably 6+ miles in total). Anyway, I found this a bit soul-destroying, not least because it meant that the whole thing would take me about 3.20 to finish, which for me, is quite a long time to swim without nutrition. And then, to distract me, along came some of the most spectacular weather I've ever experienced in the water - a 10 minute hail storm that was so relentless that it flattened the water, and causing a band of white spray to rise off the water from the force of the hailstones. It looked absolutely extraordinary, and I couldn't help but just stop and look around me in wonder (also sparing a thought for the poor kayakers).

Anyway, I eventually floundered my way up to the finish boat in 3.17 and swam back in to shore, feeling pretty grotty but okay. I changed and then took myself off the van to refuel with a protein shake, soup and a bagel, but was struggling to find the energy to face the second swim. So, I have to admit to being slightly relieved when I heard the news that the 3 miles had been cancelled and that they were moving straight on to the 1 mile. This went off without a hitch, although I only managed to muster a rather mediocre 31.49. So, overall, I completed the event in about 3.49, coming 12th out of the 15 women who completed both events - not great, but I was pleased that I'd managed to finish.

Many thanks to the organisers of the event, and to the many volunteers who provided kayak and other safety boat support in some pretty gruesome weather. Thank you for keeping us safe and allowing the event to go ahead, even in such difficult conditions.

I went back to the campsite and decided to make the most of the evening to refuel, rest and get myself sorted for my planned 6 hour swim the following day, and happily, I woke up feeling quite refreshed after a good night's sleep and headed down to the beach full of optimism. However, it was not to be. I started to get a headache quite soon after starting, and pretty soon, my head was thumping. I decided to ask for ibuprofen at the 2 hour feed, but into the second hour, I starting to be hit by bouts of horrible dizziness where everything would spin about for a few minutes before settling down again. I'd had some problems with this the day before, but only when I got out of the water, so thought it was just the shift from horizontal to vertical. But it just got worse and worse, and in the end, I decided that even if I felt able to stay in (which I didn't) it probably wasn't safe to do so. I bumped into Thomas by the harbour wall and asked him to swim back with me to the beach (thanks for that, Thomas!), and got out. To be honest, I was relieved to be out of the water, but part of me felt gutted at not completing a swim so close to Catalina. I felt sorry for myself for a bit, but then went up to the campsite and ate and had a shower, then went back down to the beach to chat, help out with feeds and watch the others complete their swims - always inspiring, and especially since the wind was back up and the sea was looking pretty angry for the last couple of hours. And on a positive note, getting out early was also a really nice chance to catch up with old friends I haven't seen for ages, and to meet some new ones.

So, not my finest weekend of swimming, but just one of those things. I was worried that it's because I've not done as much training recently as I would like, but realistically, I think I'm just not 100% at the moment and wasn't up to it on the day. So now I'm concentrating on getting myself fit and healthy ready for next weekend, when I'll go back and get those 6 hour swims done - good training, plus it will hopefully restore my confidence for Catalina.

Well done to everyone in their swims this weekend - and let's keep everything crossed for some decent weather very soon (not least because the first swims of the season are due to go this week!).

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