There’s something that happens after a successful long swim…. a small vacuum opens up. The consuming intensity of training, organizing and swimming lingers as a pleasurable recollection, any fatigue or discomfort is conveniently forgotten, and a successful outcome gives rise to a deceptive self-confidence in future capacities. As you rest and recover and bask in the happiness of a good outcome, you find yourself with far more time than you had before now that you're no longer trying to squeeze several hours of training into the working day – time to think, to imagine, to plan without the immediate consequences of implementation. And so, since nature abhors a vacuum, you start to summon up future adventures, each more ambitious than the last. It’s an obvious response to the end of an exciting experience, and there should be a compulsory moratorium on concrete planning for a sustained period post-swim. But still….it doesn’t hurt to think about it… And it’s not just me. Everyone asks “What’s next?”
I have no plans yet, and I don’t know what’s next, although I’m surer now than I was before the 8 Bridges that there will be a ‘next’. Concerned about my latent shoulder injury, I saw the 8 Bridges as something of a test case , but having emerged unharmed, I feel dangerously liberated to plan and imagine in ways that I couldn’t so confidently do before. This liberation, combined with the dangerous post-swim period of infinite possibilities, means that it’s been impossible not to start thinking about what might come later.
And so….I’ve been thinking with the summer of 2017 in mind – the next realistic opportunity for an adventure. The SantaBarbara Channel Swimming Association has some appealing swims, and Monterey Bayis also a possible. But at the moment, I’m more drawn to fresh water swims, since my current location lends itself to lake more than sea swimming. There are a few swims that have been on the bucket list for some time that are likely candidates in the next couple of years - SCAR and Lake Zurich spring most readily to mind, if they’ll have me. I’ve thought about Lake Tahoe, Loch Ness and Loch Lomond, but I was also hugely inspired in the last year by Elaine Howley’s pioneering length of Lake Pend Oreille (32.3 miles, 20 hours and 25 mins), and have been thinking for a while about whether I should try to find a long (l-o-n-g) lake swim to have a crack at. The longest I’ve ever swum for is 16 hours (for my EC swim), but I wonder if I could do more with the right preparation… Several conversations while I was in New York about the Finger Lakes have fuelled this particular fire, but of course, none of this counts while I’m still in the dangerous post-swim zone of over-confidence in my imagined future capabilities.
So I don’t know what’s next, but the field of possibilities, however seductively unrealistic, is delicious. More prosaically, however, I walked / ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes yesterday and had to lie down for two hours afterwards - a blunt reminder of the legacy of fatigue of a week of long swimming, and a useful brake on my post-swim imaginings.