The pool saga rumbles on, but happily, much more fun things have been happening and earlier this week I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the 8 Bridges swim. I haven't been sure whether or not to sign up for something so ambitious and I was originally hoping to wait until February to decide once I'd got back to training, but it started to fill up within days of the registration opening, so there was nothing for it but to jump in with both feet. Billed as the world's longest marathon swim, it's a 120 mile 7-stage swim down the Hudson River, starting in the Catskills and finishing at New York harbour's Verrazano Narrows. I'm one of 6 swimmers attempting all 7 stages, along with lots of others doing smaller combinations of stages, so it promises to be a hugely fun and exciting week.
I've had my eye on the 8 Bridges for a couple of years now. Everyone I know who's been on it can't speak highly enough about the swims, the atmosphere and the superb organisation, courtesy of Dave Barra and Rondi Davies - both extraordinary swimmers in their own right. And then there's the leaping. Every year, the swim's Facebook and blog pages fill up with joyous pics of swimmers leaping , hurling themselves off boats with the kind of abandon that you only find among people who love the water. I'm not at all sure that my exuberant leaping skills are anything like up to this standard, but I'm willing to give it a go.
But I'm also drawn to the relentlessness of the challenge; while I've always enjoyed the idea (and reality) of a singular 'big' swim, I love the idea of getting up day after day and doing it all over again. And it's an intriguing training challenge as well as rather intimidating prospect. To be absolutely frank, even with good conditions, favourable winds and all the good luck upon which marathon swimming relies, I'm not convinced that I have all 8 bridges in me. At best, it's at the very edges of my capacities as a swimmer, and if I complete them all, I will have been very lucky indeed. But it's good to try something difficult; if I learned nothing else in 2013 it's that swim failure isn't a disaster, and this time, if I have a bad day and things don't go well, there'll be a chance to muster my resources, recoup and get back out there for more the next day.
So there's heaps of work to be done, and me and the big blue clock have been working hard at getting my fitness back up to the point where I can train consistently and productively. At the moment, I'm doing just an hour a day in the EP mixing up technique work, threshold sessions and longer, steady sets to build endurance, but will start inching that upwards as my fitness returns. If nothing else, you have to love the irony of training for my longest swim to date by going absolutely nowhere for hours. I don't know yet what the limits of the EP are in terms of training and at what point (if any) you simply have to get into a full length pool, but the foreseeable future, the logistics of work and commuting plus the privilege of having the pool, mean that this is an entirely EP-based training programme for now.
If you need me, I'll be in the shed, swimming, and thinking about bridges....all 8 of them.