Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Shark had been on the look out for something, and that something became the Great North Swim. We entered it straight away not giving ourselves chance to change our minds. My son was too young to swim at the time we entered, but promised to train with us and enter himself the following year - provided we survived this one!
We entered the mile swim with no open water experience whatsoever and began our training over the winter in the pool. I asked for a wetsuit for Christmas, and with limited knowledge (I scowered the internet for advice) I ordered half a dozen to try on before deciding on one. In hindsight I may have been a little previous as the swim wasn't until June the following year. I'd need to keep my weight stable for the next 6 months otherwise it wouldn't fit. Easy enough to say, but when you've a sweet tooth and loved Jaffa Cakes (which will feature heavily in this blog) this may prove to be more challenging than the actual swim itself!
We spent the winter training indoors and in the meantime researched, over countless coffees and cakes, local open water places to train. As the weather warmed up the reality of what we had done sunk in. We would be swimming in water that was home to various aquatic livestock, and once friends and family heard what we were doing were very forthcoming with stories of giant migrating halibut (impossible in a land locked lake I know, but I believed everything at the time) and enormous resident pike. Despite my fears I needed to get training in open water and getting some much needed experience.
It was recommended that we went in an introduction to open water swimming course, from stuff I'd read it would be very different from pool swimming (it is in so many ways) so as the weather warmed we enrolled on a course at Swimyourswim in Hatfield, promising ourselves the biggest slice of cake ever afterwards by way of reward. The course covered so many things from the dangers for cold water, including recognising the signs your body showed of the cold, how to enter the water safely, safety procedures and stroke techniques (and so much more) including the confidence to get in and have a go. I enquired at this stage as the the marine life that lived in the lake, which included pike, and asked them if they had bitten anyone. There was a lot of exaggerated eye rolling and the promise that I wouldn't be bitten by anything. I was apeased for the time being.
Dressed in my new wetsuit I entered the cold water slowly, it was 14 degrees, I hadn't factored in how cold it would be. How could I have? Following all of the instructions, something strange and terrible happened. As soon as I was waist deep in the water an involuntary string of profanities spilled out of my mouth. It took me completely by surprise. I was assured that this was quite usual when people entered the water for the first time. Mortified I apologised again and again and got in. We swam 800 metres with one of the instructors, who half way round told us that his other job was as a vicar!!! I had said, amongst other swear words, the f-word in front of a vicar...You just couldn't write it could you?!?!?
Part 3 to follow.