Friday, 13 August 2021

The SwimyourChannelswim relay swim has FINALLY been swum!

Finally, after three cancellations, I can say that I was part of a successful Channel relay crossing. Here’s my account of when was literally one of the best days ever.

 

We arrived at the jetty at 5:30am and getting my priorities in order, immediately began quizzing our pilot Andy about the recent ‘alleged’ orca whale sighting in the Channel. To be honest I was expecting him to laugh it off and tell me it was rumour and scaremongering. I was not expecting him to offer to show me real footage of them… I realised that the scenario of actually coming face to face with an orca had not been considered in my ‘guidelines for a safe crossing’ list, and began making a mental note to swiftly conduct an emergency exit strategy as soon as I was able to, just in case it was on one of my swim legs that they decided to reappear. I also instructed swim buddy to be on orca watch when I was swimming and alert me immediately of any possible sighting and to jump in and sacrifice herself for me should the need arise. 

 

Team SwimyourChannelswim

Richard took the first leg, which seemed to fly by. We had taken a white board which enabled us to keep in constant communication with the swimmer without yelling to them (the whole reading a message on a white board whilst swimming thing definitely took some concentration and coordinating), and used it to let him know he was half way through his swim as well as some motivational quotes like for example ‘this way for the Brie.’ We realised quickly that you needed to write in large bold letters and also not joined up, because on one of the messages we were alerting him of a large patch of seaweed we had noticed up ahead, and had written ‘seaweed ahead’ for obvious reasons. I also added a small (realistic) diagram for reference, which I personally thought Bob Hoskins himself would have been proud of. Sadly, Richard mistakenly read it as ‘sewerage ahead,’ and told us that although he was unable to unpick the meaning behind the picture, and had assumed it was some type of modern art, and was an absolute mystery to him as to what it was, he had nonetheless subsequently spent the remainder of his swim with his firmly mouth shut. I think art is very much subjective. 

 

The white board was provided by Richard for the swim. The purpose of which started off being to allow the folks on the boat (us) to easily get an urgent/must know/helpful/encouraging message such as the ‘seaweed ahead’ one, or ‘orca at starboard’ or ’30 minutes left’ to the swimmer. However, as the swim continued, it also became the primary source of entertainment (after Jonty’s singing), with Richard inventing the new, must play ‘over the side quiz’ quiz, a rather tense game of noughts and crosses and a French food and drink inspired word search, along with the ‘as the crow flies’ mileage to France. The swim buddy told me, after her second leg, she was delighted with the message I wrote complementing her on headbutting the blue jellyfish, as her one and only other headbutting incident prior to that involved a football and a trip to A&E! I was just hoping that any sting she received from the jellyfish would be minimal and we would not be requiring the services of A&E, as on this occasion this would also probably need include the lifeguard, their helicopter and possibly Border Force and we had a swim to finish… 



Make good use of the whiteboard to get a motivational message to the swim buddy. 

 

As Richard was swimming, I decided to fully embrace the spirit of the swim and put on my beret – and tucked into a croissant ready for my first swim, although it is only right to point out that I had already devoured one of the Fat Rascals that (the most amazing café in my hometown) Betty’s had donated to us (they are fellow supporters of Saint Michael’s hospice, who I was raising money for) on the way to the harbour and probably didn’t actually need one. Richard’s first swim flew by, and before I knew it, I needed to start getting ready. As I did, Andy reminded me of the rules of the relay when getting in (no touching swimmer already in the water, or the boat. He also warned me that other swimmers had told him the water was quite ‘fresh’ at the moment, however I was more concerned about jumping in without a costume malfunction, losing my goggles or swallowing a nasty mouthful of salt water, however was able to confirm relatively quickly that the water was indeed as fresh as they had said. And also, salty when you accidentally do some kind of unexpected nasal flush.

 

I settled into the swim relatively quickly, although was always really aware that I was swimming in water that was home to some pretty large creatures, which if hungry, would not hesitate in attempting to eat me whole, and therefore stayed as near to the boat as I could… just in case. I was also aware that during Richard’s leg, along with the blanket of seaweed, we had also spotted a handful of lone jellyfish, and it wasn’t too long before I had also forgotten about any orcas and sharks and large stuff that could, if they so choose, eat me, because I had more important things to worry about, like for example the smack of jellyfish that I could see directly underneath me. By some stroke of luck rather than any technique, managed to avoid them all, and there was a lot…  unfortunately, there was no way of letting Jonty know when he got in without me swallowing half of the sea through my nose, and as I had swallowed a lot already, left him to it. He would find our soon enough one way or the other…

 

My second swim was a completely different story. On one hand the water was definitely warmer, but on the other, rather a lot of jellyfish had appeared. I lost count of sightings after I got up to about eleventy billion, and instead turned my attention to the sting I acquired down my right arm after a collision with a blue jellyfish, and several nasty ones on the back of my left leg by some small white ones. I realised at that painful point that I had not followed the swim buddy’s advice which was to take an antihistamine before I got in, and spent the remainder of the swim regretting it. Much of the swim was then spent mentally running through the symptoms associated with a jellyfish sting that I had extensively researched on the internet, like: weakness, feeling lightheaded, bleeding and difficulty breathing (yes, I had spent A LOT of time on the NHS website), in fact because I was so busy looking for them that I missed the ’30 minutes to go’ notice, and only realised once I saw Jonty on the side of the boat ready to get in. After what had been an eventful swim dodging jellyfish, the swim buddy (thankfully fully trained nurse) did a quick once over and confirmed that I was indeed stung, told me off for not taking the medicine, and informed me that I would survive and to put on some cream. Richard also offered some practical advice, by way of suggesting the services of the whole team in a collective wee to ‘help reduce the sting.’ Thankfully, the swim buddy stepped in and informed him that she was 100% sure this was NOT recommended by the NHS as an effective way to treat symptoms, and as I had spent A LOT of time doing the research, was able to confirm that this was indeed the case. 



Apparently the ship you can see in the background had to go all the way round us, at that distance, to continue its route... 

 

Shortly after I had got out I needed to eat – yet more food – however, I began to feel a little queasy, which quite frankly was not great as I had my eyes on another Fat Rascal. THey were turning out to be very popular and I needed to grab another one before they all disappeared. I had bought some travel sickness tablets despite never suffering before, and was confident that I wouldn’t actually need them, and therefore hadn’t actually bothered to take one. Unfortunately, the Fat Rascal I had planned to eat at this point would need to wait, as according to the packet, it would take a couple of hours before I would feel any improvements. I turned to the swim buddy again looking for a recommendation for a faster alternative as was standard on all swims previously, she had covered all possible alternatives of scientifically and less scientifically proven effective preventative measures for motion sickness, which included a mixture of over the counter remedies combined with old wives’ tales. Unfortunately, – none of which appeared to be working for her as I found her too suffering. This didn’t fill me with confidence that my tablets would work all that well, as she had the good sense to have taken hers before we had even set off and yet was still looking very green around the gills, still, on the plus side, we had enough packets of ginger biscuits and mint tea bags on the boat that although I suspected could have sparked an international shortage, would have also kept us sufficiently covered if the swim were to take us to Christmas to complete… I must add that despite feeling ‘a bit sh*t’, she managed to battle on, whilst also proving two things: 1) you can successfully swim in a Channel relay on 2 Dextro tablets and half a ginger biscuit, and 2) the excessive carb loading, which basically continued without break since our last swim date in the previous October that she did, had stood her in very good stead after all. What an absolute legend!

 

It is customary in all good swim teams, ensuring that every team member in the water was safe and doing well was of paramount importance. This involved ensuring that a risk assessment be done should the swimmer appear to be in any kind of danger (or basically, in our case, a lengthy chat about said possible danger from the safety of the boat, before collectively deciding we should do nothing about it aside from wait for instruction/guidance from Andy)– whether imaginary, from a blanket of seaweed or indeed in this instance, from some unidentified sea creature that on Jonty’s leg had surfaced not far from him. After much discussion, deduction and guesswork (aka the aforementioned risk assessment), by process of elimination we collectively agreed from our observations that it was either dark grey or black, but that also it didn’t have any white on it, and that it was quite large making it definitely not a haddock or a jellyfish, a squid or a seahorse. It also ruled out orca, but not shark or narwhal, and whilst after a quick sweep of the immediate vicinity, Richard and the swim buddy quickly went back to the job in hand- watching Jonty, I did not. Instead, I began to google every possible combination of the phrase ‘how do I outswim a shark or a narwhal?’ just in case when I got back in in three hours time it was still lurking… As it turned out, afterwards, Jonty informed us that he was not oblivious to our ‘emergency team meeting,’ although had no idea what it was about, and told us that he assumed that we would let him know, via the white board, if there was any need to panic, and so continued unbothered. We didn’t bother to inform him that due to all of the whiteboarding we had been doing, the pen had actually run out which rendered the white board completely useless from then on in, and actually, the only way we would have been able to gain his attention using the whiteboard was if we threw it at him stopping him in his tracks, and anyway, by the time he was back on the boat the whole incident had been downgraded from high drama to low farce on the back of Andy calmly suggesting that it was probably a seal.

 

My third leg the water was slightly less calm, and thankfully only a smattering of jellyfish, although there were some frankly Baltic cold patches that went right through me, which Andy informed me afterwards was due to the change of tide churning up some of the lower colder water, and not because we had gone dramatically off course to the North Pole or Siberia, as I had initially suspected! In addition to this, whilst I was in the water, the crew on the boat suddenly appeared at the side of the boat with huge binoculars and a camera with equally huge lens on it, and my team mates were leaning over the side of the boat with equal interest. Now, I am not saying I began to panic – more like inner hysteria happened, when I remembered there was still some unidentified creature that we saw near Jonty earlier, and that our whiteboard was out of action, due to overuse, and whilst I waited in vain for the instruction to get back on the boat – and fast – I was about to plan my exit strategy when they all retreated back, leading me to think that that I was either not in any imminent danger, or they didn’t care…Turned out the they hadn’t seen a lost orca, but instead were watching the French Navy launch a drone towards a migrant boat. 

 

A friend, Claire – also Channel relay swimmer, had told me that when you were around half way, if the weather was favourable, we would notice that the sea appeared to change colour to the most amazing shade of blue, and she was right. Noticing this prompted much excitement, and to celebrate we donned our 100% pure wool berets (courtesy of Jonty), despite the 27oc heatwave, and erupt into some rather tuneless long forgotten French songs (including Jo le taxi and the 1970’s classic Chanson d’amour) whilst tucking into some croissants. This also gave us false hope that we were nearer to France than we thought, and the second half of the swim was spent in various discussions as to whether we could actually see land, or whether it was some sort of trickery of the light or mirage, and as with most of our swims, the talk revolved back round to food and a heated debate over whether any French cheese could rival our beloved Wensleydale ensued, before we returned to singing yet more French inspired songs until eventually I needed to use the mouthwash I had brought for the salt, to help with the sore throat I had acquired from attempting some rather high notes that were well above my range. 

 

By this time we had all swum three times, and Richard was due back into the water for (what we hoped was) the final leg, on the back of the fact that we could definitely see land – that we assumed to be France. I was so convinced he would be the one to make land, that I confidently began rooting round the bottom of my food bag for the small bottle of now tepid champagne that I had brought with me to celebrate. Andy, pilot and Channel crossing expert, was not as confident as me, and suggested that I didn’t open it as I would definitely be getting back in. As it turned out, this was excellent news, despite the worrisome recent large, still unidentified, aquatic livestock sighting and the multiple jellyfish, because although I was convinced it would be Richard, I had in our little sweepstake bet on me being the one to reach France, and if I did, I stood to win twenty of your British pounds (unless someone else had also bet on me too – all bets were placed in secret, so we wouldn’t find out until the end) for my charity. In addition to this, Jonty had informed me that he would prefer to not get back in again, and if I could land it he would shout me afternoon tea, as well as a Fortnum and Mason hamper, and so although Richard had picked up the pace and was ploughing towards our destination in some now choppier water, I was confident enough to begin my google search as to which hamper I liked the look of the most… (liked the look of/must expensive – same thing really!).

 

As I began to get ready for my next swim, Andy came for a chat. He told me that I would need to swim like I was being chased during this leg due to the tide. I informed him that I had been doing that the whole swim already, although when he laughed I was not all that convinced he believed me. To ‘help’ make this leg pass quickly, Jonty had offered to ‘add some much needed ambience and joie de vivre’ to the swim by singing yet more catchy iconic French songs to me over the side of the boat. Having heard him earlier, I was thankful to be wearing some ear plugs and therefore despite what he promised to be one of the greatest interpretations of the tunes, didn’t hear a word of it – unlike my fellow team mates and the crew, who later admitted it was a ‘rather unique experience’ with Richard also describing it as ‘somewhat moving’ with ‘not a dry eye on the boat.’ Now I was back in the water, I hadn’t appreciated how much the swell had got up, and although tiring trying to negotiate it whilst not swallow any more of the sea, it was all really thrilling - aside from the moment I thought I had seen a fin...

 

After what felt like the longest time being busy trying to swim to France, rather abruptly the boat stopped. Unsure of what to do next I turned around to find the rig making its way next to me. This meant several things 1) I would be landing the swim in France. 2) I had won the sweepstake. 3) I would need to go back online as soon as I was back on the boat to choose my F&M hamper – I would definitely be going in at the top of the price range as I had selflessly swum through a lot of chop for the last hour so Jonty didn’t have to. 4) I would cry the rest of the way to France. 


Arriving in France I had heard that some Channel swimmers were lucky enough to be greeted with clapping and a glass of chanpagne at Cape Gris- Nez when they arrived. Something I was very much looking forward to. Unfortunately, I landed a little further north in what could only be described as a rather overly dramatic fall onto France's most pebbliest and quietest beach. Despite this, I decided that I would cheer and clap loudly by myself and even considered singing the national anthem - before remembering that it was six verses long (of which I was fairly confident I was word perfect at just one of them) and that new covid rules only allowed a swimmer on French ‘soil’ for a maximum of ten minutes, and I still had to find a souvenir pebble – each, as the swim buddy told me not to bother coming back to the boat empty handed… Not a problem on this beach, although trying to choose a pebble that you felt that your swim team would like turned out to be quite difficult. The only consideration was that they needed to be small enough to fit down my costume, although after much deliberation as to where I should actually put them, I came up with a genius idea, which was to take off my swim cap, put the pebbles in it before putting it safely down the front of my costume whilst I swam back to the rig for a ride back to the boat. 

 

French pebbles safely down my costume, I discovered that getting back onto the rig to head back to the boat and my cheering team mates, was completely different experience that I had envisaged. I was informed, by Andy’s son who was piloting it, that getting onto it to get back onto it with already tired arms was often more difficult than swimmers realised and if I needed some help, just to let him know and he would (more politely put) haul me up by whichever means necessary. Undaunted, confident and feeling invincible after our successful crossing, my first (and only) attempt at climbing up the side of the rig - unaided- was successful, although I did manage somehow to rock the boat to the point of tipping it over, before a rather excellent faceplant of the bottom of the rig. Despite being aware of my unsteady feet, I disembarked from the rig with a level of carefulness that again almost caused it to roll onto its side. Richard broke off from his celebrations to offer an arm as I rather unsteadily set foot back onto the boat. In reality I should have been untroubled by the unstable footing, as prior to the swim I had taken the time to Google ‘emergency capsize and recovery drills’ and felt confident that should a ‘man overboard’ scenario happen, I knew the protocol, however, I suddenly felt woefully unprepared for such an event and grabbed onto Andy and Richard to steady myself. Once safely back on board, there was much merriment with my fellow team mates cheering loudly and also demonstrating some rather questionable dance moves that led me to suspect that they had opened some celebratory (alcoholic) beverages already. 

 

Once I had got changed, I checked in on the swim buddy, who told me (thankfully not in any great detail) that she was still feeling very worse for wear and was going to try and sleep it off on the return leg. Richard informed me he was going to have a well- deserved snooze, which left only Jonty and I to continue celebrating, with warm champagne and a packet of my (reluctantly given) Jaffa Cakes, the fact that we had done it! 

 



We had set off from England at 06:21 and 14 hours and 58 seconds and later arrived in France after swimming a collective 30.49 miles (a tad further than the crow flies 21 miles) to collect four of France’s finest – and smallest – pebbles (which I distributed amongst the team once I had chosen the best one for myself first of course). 

 


The official time!

We (well Richard anyway) had swim through a blanket of seaweed as large as a continent, swam into some cold patches that had probably drifted straight from Antarctica, we had sung some popular, iconic, catchy and sometimes unidentifiable French songs together, we had become an expert en fromage, marine experts (despite being baffled by the one unidentified creature that Jonty almost came up close and personal with), become able to identify several species of jellyfish by sting alone, eaten our body weight in Fat Rascals and had one of the best days out that I would not have wanted to spend with anyone else. 

 

One final thing, I’d like to say to my family, friends, Saint Michael’s, Betty’s, Swim your Swim and the online community that have supported me on throughout this journey a huge thank you for being the best cheerleaders, motivators and encouraging bunch of people. You have all been amazing!















Friday, 18 June 2021

Channel Relay Qualifying Swim... Done and Dusted - Again!!!



Bearing in mind, we have known since last October, when our 3rd chance at getting across the Channel was not going to happen, not due to Covid restrictions this time, but instead due to some pretty unswimmable, wintry seas, that we would be attempting it again this year (lockdowns and adverse weather allowing). CSA rules state that we would need to re-do our 2 hour qualifying swim, and in order to stand the best chance at success, we needed it to be as near to 15.5 (but under) as we could get. Having said that, so far this year, the water temperature had been consistently pretty chilly and not managing to raise over 12.6oc up until now, and so I was fairly confident that nothing short of an unseasonal heatwave miracle would elevate the temperature to anywhere near to the required ‘below 15.5oc’ this week. I was so confident in fact that although the swim bud called me to remind me to pack my regulation costume, hot drink, water resistant snacks, along with several gazillion spares of everything, “just in case” that although I did, I actually put on a non-CSA regulation leg suit anticipating just a regular short, chilly swim session. 

 

And so, when we arrived lakeside, standing with a thermometer in his hand, Jo announced that the temperature was indeed 15.4oc, which, as I was not expecting it, sent me into a flat spin. The swim bud promptly reminded me that I didn’t have time to faff about moaning about unpreparedness; I needed to get my kit (and my act) together with a neck breaking dash to get organised and lakeside in enough time to get the swim done before the session finished, it got dark and the chip shop closed.

 

Once I had changed, and we had handed out supplies to Chris on the boat and were in the water, there was suddenly no rush, and as we had to just be in the water for 2 hours, with no set distance to have covered, the whole of the first lap (all 800 metres) the swim buddy and I spend most of it trying to take our minds off the cold patches of lake and the long swim ahead, by mulling over some of life’s big questions, such as: do we have a regular portion of chips once we got out, or go all out and go big? Were cheesy chips better than chips and gravy? And as my goggles had misted over the moment I was the furthest distance away from my spare pair at the other side of the lake, we discussed the best trick to quickly demist them mid-swim without swallowing water through my nose and having a sneezing fit, however with limited resources (lack of washing up liquid, baby lotion and toothpaste) I went with the spitting option, which I had limited success with and needed reapplying every 20 minutes or so. The topic of conversation varied wildly, and also included some heavy theoretical discussions like: how deep is the Mariana Trench? (neither of us were anywhere near with our guesses, which were in truth so far away from the actual depth that I shall not be revealing our answers, other than to say we were miles away! And for those reading that are interested, a swift National Geographical search post-swim revealed it to be 36,201 feet - you're welcome) , How deep is the Titanic wreckage? (the swim bud came up with the conclusion that it was “pretty deep,” which she was awarded half a point for (12,500 feet)) and what are the actual chances of us seeing a shark whilst swimming the Channel? Which led to the discussion about extraction from the water versus catching it on camera should we actually see one close up  - or even in the distance for that matter!

 

This swim was turning out to be, above anything else, informative on so many levels, and the learning didn’t stop there, as once we stopped for our first feed, the discoveries continued, and between us, Chris (best baker of Guinness cake ever, pilot, all round good egg) and I made some interesting discoveries: 

 

1.     I am very indecisive. Despite taking only 2 bars on the boat to eat during the swim (1 chocolate chip, 1 raspberry), I still faffed around for some time deciding which flavour I wanted before Chris got fed up and decided for me. 

2.     Despite me instructing Chris to “just throw it at me” I hadn’t actually checked whether my drinks bottle actually floated.

3.     (Thankfully), Chris has a very bad aim and did not render me unconscious by actually following my instructions of “at me…” and instead landed just out of arms reach, which made me panic thinking it may not actually float.

4.     It does float.

5.     The protein bars I chose for this swim were awful wet. Also, they were awful dry too.

6.     I need to work on my treading water whilst eating if I were to avoid drowning.

 

Once fed and watered I continued with my swim at more of a stately pace, probably because it felt cold, which only picked up when a lake snake (later identified as a piece of old rope which was once attached to a buoy) appeared in my eye line, and fearing for my life I took off at neck breaking speed combining the use of several different strokes in a bid to escape. The (to quote the swim bud) “overly dramatic” reaction mean I had drawn attention to Chris on the boat, who on being unable to identify any kind of stroke, decided to come and check I wasn’t in any actual danger from said piece of rope. Making the most of the opportunity of having the boat on hand, I had another drink and the remainder of my bar, and another discussion with the swim bud where I declared my disappointment at not choosing something a lot more delicious, like a scone for example, which naturally then moved onto the jam THEN cream debate, and also whether chocolate digestives would also have been a better choice, which THEN opened up another discussion as to whether the chocolate should be in the top or the bottom when you eat them, and despite McVitie's stating that the biscuit should be eaten with the chocolate on the bottom, I unanimously decided that, it taste better when you ate it 'upside-down' as has been the way for most people for millenea ...

 

We were once again on our way, by which time all the cold patches had disappeared, basically because the whole lake was now cold. I was starting to feel chilly and quite fatigued, which was when the swim buddy decided that warm thoughts were the answer, and told me we were to sing Club Tropicana on our heads to help this happen, and after informing the swim buddy that I could no longer remember the words as decades had passed since I last sang it at the school disco in the 1980's, much time was spent by her intermittently bursting into the song, which I have to admit, instantly transported me to sun lounger by a poolside somewhere where the sun was shining and the skies were blue. I must add that she was truly convincing, and easily surpassed the vocal talents of George Michael, in fact, I would go as far as to add that she really outshone the original version, and actually seemed to speed up the time, and before I knew it FINALLY, and much to my relief (for so many different reasons) the 2 hour mark had arrived! 


We had completed it!

 

English Channel here we come!!!






Monday, 1 February 2021

Open Water Woman - Worlds Greatest Hoarder of Swim Kit Finally Turns Mrs Hinch to Tackle the Growing Problem...


  

Lockdown #3, and with no swimming allowed (aside from a short dip in the river near my house), I had time on my hands to be able to do other things – like for example become Mrs Hinch and organise, put things into neat piles, colour coordinate everything and tidy every drawer and cupboard in my house…  for the 3rd time. 

 

In previous lockdowns though, the exception to this was my swimming drawer, which hasn’t been touched once, basically because I honestly didn’t think it needed doing, however with time on my hands, and some pretty horrid weather that involved some kind of severe weather phenomena type snowstorm cyclone thingy, putting a halt to any outdoor activity or indeed opening the front door at all, I set to work on it, expecting to be all of 10 minutes before I settled in on the sofa to binge watch something on Netflix that would inevitable end in a nanna nap.

 

I was that confident this would be a short task on the back of the fact that I am not a hoarder, that I had put the kettle on to make a cup of coffee. Unfortunately though, once I had opened the drawer, it was clear to anyone that could see that it was not as neat and tidy as I had made out, and would probably be inclined to disagree.

 

This was not going to be the quick job I had anticipated, there was so much stuff, some of which I have no recollection of actually buying in the first place, let alone used, which were nestled amongst loads of other stuff I also no longer used, including some Speedo flippers which have been worn only once, on the back of the fact they were involved in a nasty entanglement incident involving my right foot, a lane rope and the swim buddy’s tow float. They also gave me a nasty blister, and on the back of this were banished to the drawer for all of eternity, 3 pairs of new goggles I didn’t realise I had (yay!) and 1 pair that had enough mould on them that I suspected could probably successfully cure someone of a nasty infection, 1 Pair of fleecy socks with what I assumed was once a perfectly edible Jelly Baby secured to it. I could only assume that it was a green one I had saved for the swim buddy, as it’s the only colour I don’t like, and also I’m not wasteful, I would have definitely eaten all of the others, 6 swimming costumes, several of which were absolutely unwearable, and the others, bar 1, probably not advisable to wear either unless I was to risk arrest under some kind of indecency law… 1 towel from an event that I have no recollection of doing. I have no recollection because I didn’t actually do it in the first place, and yet have a towel for my non-efforts. Rather worryingly, the drawer was also the home to a tube of tomato paste and a surgical glove (worryingly because I can say with certainty that I have never had the need for tomato paste during any swim I have ever done, and nor am I a surgeon…).

 

Unfortunately, the tidy did not yield much in the way of cash. £1.12 to be exact, and nor did I find my missing membership card to one of the clubs I swim at, or the training notes I made for the run up to the Channel relay  (fingers crossed Covid will allow and the weather gods are with us this time - 3rd time lucky). I did however find 1 bobbleless bobble hat, 1 non-swimming head band (not mine) that had no business being in the drawer, and 1 squished and out of date, packet of Jaffa Cakes – very upsetting to find this really, and a complete waste (although in the interest of not being wasteful, I did open the packet to double check as to whether they could be resurrected in any way – they couldn’t, which was a great shame). 

 

Although tidying out the drawer was exhausting, time consuming and heart breaking (Jaffa Cake wastage), it also highlighted the need for some post-lockdown replacement gear which I felt was important to strike whilst the iron was hot, and so instead of spending the remainder of the afternoon sofa surfing (of which there was actually limited time in the end anyway, as the drawer took an age to get through), I would instead put my time to better use by spending it shopping, or restocking as I liked to call it, ordering replacement Jaffa Cakes and swimming costumes (in that order), doing my bit to help keep the swimming costume and Jaffa Cake businesses afloat during lockdown!


Always a silver lining!







Monday, 18 January 2021

Finally Discovering The Joy of Cold Water Swimming





The wonderfully patient Kim and I.



It was 3 years ago when I attempted an ice mile
 (a one-mile swim in water temperature of 5oc or less, wearing just a standard costume, goggles and one hat - under the International Ice Swimming Association rules). It was my first cold season, and after nailing a mile at 10oc a few weeks prior, and then the qualifying swim, I was feeling confident, and I’m embarrassed to admit, I really thought I had an ice mile in the bag. I was taking this very seriously. I’d had my medical, I’d swum every weekend and in between swims, had daily cold showers, turned the heating down at home (I’m not heartless, I bought my family hot water bottles), I’d done the research, I knew the risks, I’d sought advice/tips from previously successful ice-mile swimmers, and I was determined. I was ready. Or so I thought.

At the time, I was swimming a (non- cold) mile in around 28 minutes, and knew that this would take longer, however hadn’t banked on how much so. The cold had such a dramatic impact on the swim that after swimming 1,250 metres in 4.5oc, which had already taken me 40 miserable minutes, I called time on the swim (unbeknown to me, the boat had just radioed to the shoreline they were calling it). I realised, after one of my ‘checking in with myself’ moments, that my stroke was all over the place, as well as my thoughts. I knew I wasn’t going to complete it. 

 

I was shocked at how only a drop of a few degrees in temperature could have such a massive impact on my capability to swim. I hated every long, difficult second of it, and so decided after a frightening long and horrid recovery, of which the first part I have no recollection of, but am assured by the swim buddy that my dignity remained intact, apart from the bit where I spat out the Mars Bar that someone attempted to get me to eat (Sorry Claire!), and how long it took me to come round (I thank goodness I had such an amazing and experienced team around me), that cold swimming was not for me, and that I wouldn’t be doing it again. 

 

And I didn’t, but skip forward to this winter season, and I have no idea why I changed my mind, but I did. To be honest, it could have been on the back of being deprived of open water for most of the year, or just that I realised that I could swim through the winter, and if I didn’t pressurise myself into doing a certain distance or time, I could still get my fix… that’s if I could manage to get in in the first place.

 

I wanted to swim, but I also didn’t want to suffer for it again, and so wondered if I needed to approach it from a different angle. Was there a way of getting in without the involuntarily need to swear or gasp or want to immediately get out again?

 

So, basically, I did 2 things, firstly downloaded Wim Hof’s free ‘Win Hof method explained,’ then bought his book (more about this another time), and secondly, spoke to a swim friend, Kim, who lives locally to me (handy) and happens to also have competed in the IISA GB Championships last year in the 1km event (and by all accounts did pretty well winning her age category and 5th lady overall), and so if there was anyone that could show me the way, I felt confident it was her.

 

Thankfully she agreed, but wasn’t giving me any time to change my mind, arranging to meet the following morning – really early, which on the bright side meant I had the luxury of only one night to over think and over pack several towels, flasks, hot water bottles, snacks, socks, gloves, hand warmers, hats and silver blankets (they go everywhere with me) – all of which were transferred to a spreadsheet ready for transferring to my car. There was also enough time to re-familiarise myself with the dangers: cold shock, hypothermia and after drop (I’ve written blogs about these before), refresh my memory as to the signs I needed to get out, read several papers by Professor Mike Tipton (et al), have a stern pep talking to by the swim buddy, who informed me that as she didn’t want a replacement swim buddy and I was to return in one piece otherwise she would be mad as hell, and to start reading my Wim Hof book.

 

Kim arranged to meet me on a country lane, in the middle of I have no idea where (even though I live not a mile from the ‘venue’). I was busily unpacking the gazillion items of kit I had brought in readiness for every eventuality, when I noticed Kim had pulled out the smallest bag out of her car, and began walking towards me. Glancing into my car, she raised her eyebrows and instead of complementing me on my organisational amazingness, suggested that I just bring what I actually needed, instead of multiples of, however I decided that on this occasion better to err on the side of caution, and brough everything with me on what felt like the longest, off piste, and frankly difficult walk in the world, to the riverside.

 

I have to say, the setting was amazing, and as we got ready we discussed an emergency exit plan, she told me the location of the nearest defibrillator, we text our location to a relative, and swapped emergency contact details, and then despite me already deciding that I would put no pressure on myself to stay in the water for a certain period of time or distance, I found that old habits die hard, and informed her of how long I would be staying in… Kim informed me that there would be no such timings going on, and that we would get out when we felt we needed to, if not before, and because I was scared she would change her mind about swimmig with me, I agreed. 

 

By the time I was ankle deep in water, I was already making a huge fuss, Kim was half-way across the river at this point (yes, that’s how long I was taking), and after hearing my colourful wording she swam back towards me, and told me to calm down and just breath. No drama, no big deal. Just stop faffing about and steadily get in. And because I wanted to impress her, and to stop upsetting the wildlife, I did. 

 

It was utterly amazing, and after a minute of focus and controlling my breathing (quietly and calmly as instructed), I was actually swimming, and loving it. Not only that, I was able to appreciate my surroundings, and the wildlife, including the huge bird that flew over that I mistook for a pterodactyl, but Kim, who suddenly turned into Bill Oddie, assured me it was actually a heron, and the large body of foam that seemed to be increasing the nearer it got (I’m talking Triffid fast), that I was determined to avoid, even if it meant elbowing Kim out of the way… fortunately, it didn’t come to that, but I also learnt that the foam was nothing to worry about and was ‘probably nothing more than dissolved organic matter’ – so dead stuff basically.

 

Kim suggested that once my breathing had normalised, I should join her in the middle of the river, but I was having none of it. I was happy for her to explain about our surroundings from nearer the water’s edge – even if it meant she had to shout them to me. I wasn’t yet confident enough to venture that far out – even of it was probably only 10 meters away. 

 

After I don't know how long, my hands had started to claw. Knowing that was a good indicater it was time to get out, I made my way to the side. Getting out and changed was a challenge. I had forgotten how uncoordinated and clumsy I became until I stood on my trainer, drenching it in river water, and then went to reach for my top and accidentally dislodged my gloves, which I discovered when rolled into a space saving ball was able to travel unexpectedly quickly into the river. I would usually have chased after them, however my state of half undress prevented this. Thankfully seeing the events unfold Kim appeared, like the shop keeper out of Mr Ben, and retrieved my wet gloves further down stream, but to be honest, it was no matter – I had a spare pair. 2 spare pairs in fact…


Sitting on the river bank afterwards, having recovered from a distressing river side episode where Kim had to rescue my toe from my sock, drinking the coffee out of the world’s biggest flask, with one wet foot (no, I didn’t think I would need spare footwear either), and wearing my spare gloves, I couldn’t have been happier. I had managed to get in with little fuss (after my initial huge fuss), I had followed Kim’s guidance and thoroughly enjoyed my time in the water, however long it had been, it hadn’t mattered, what had mattered was that more than anything else, I wanted to swim again… The transformation has been quite remarkable really, from not wanting to get into any water under 12oc, to looking forward to it. No pressure, no expectations, just swimming, and so huge thanks to Kim, her endless patience, fascinating nature facts, company and very quick reflexes. 



Thanks once again for reading, and for more regular swimming updates, please head to my FaceBook page and group, Instargam or Twitter @ Open Water Woman




Monday, 28 September 2020

The pre - Channel Swim essentials test run... or swim as it were!

I would say that the worst time to have a kit or euipment malfunction is just before, or during a swim. Whether it’s costume, of which I have had one that I would consider to be in the completely mortifying category, and won’t ever be repeated, thanks to me learning my lesson, and on the back of it have incorporated a pre-swim rigorous checking regime, or whether it’s a piece of equipment you have planned to use, especially if it was for safety purposes. 

In the pool, for example, if my goggles suddenly started leaking, or I broke my cap (on more than one occasions), I usually have a spare to hand and carry on, or I would get out early and be frustrated with myself for NOT having a spare one to hand when I know better…added to that, if the equipment I used in the pool wasn’t in good working order, it also wouldn’t compromise my safety. The worse would probably happen was I become entangled in my own hair!

 

But swimming in the sea was a completely different animal because in there, having a malfunction could mean there was an increased safety risk, not ony for me, but for the peole I was swimming with. For our Channel relay, the risk of having a malfunction whilst swimming could only be either costume, goggles, safety light, earplugs or cap, as that’s all the Channel Swimming Association (CSA) allowed you to swim in, but I would have a spare (or several hundred spares) on the boat which I was alongside. 

 

Before the actual swim though, I still needed to check that these were all fit for purpose in the first place, after all, there were so many other things I would be worrying about, like had I packed enough food to sustain me for the swim, and probably into the following week as well, and had I packed enough warm clothes to sustain me in case a freak Arctic blast happened in the middle of the English Channel mid swim, and was the boat actually big enough for all my excessive stuff, because you could be sure that as much as I had packed, the swim buddy would have twice as much as I, so I didn't want to be worrying about things like would my costume would break on the day. To make sure, I swam these training swims in the same kit as I would take with me for the relay, with the addition of my tow float, because basically whilst on a training swim, I didn’t have a boat next to me that had spares in it, or could rescue me in the event of an equipment emergency, or indeed a large, grey fish with lots of sharp teeth type of emergency also, and so needed to not only be seen, but to also hold some of my personal belongings, rather than leave them on the beach. 

 

These training swims turned out to be really invaluable. They afforded me the time to iron out any issues, check that my equipment was working correctly and learn some valuable (and sometimes expensive) lessons before my big day. Examples of which were:

 

1) the swim buddy had bought some relatively expensive sun lotion that included a jelly fish repellent. We both tried it, and both got stung. Some (me) more than others (her). Initially, she decided that it was just a fluke, and would give it another try (unlike me, who called it a day after one fail), I admired her determination, but was only after the 3rd training swim, where Shark had been stung on her neck, arm and leg that she decided it seemed to be attracting them, rather than repelling them, and it was most definitely not worth the king’s ransom she had paid for it, and nor the pain she was in! 

 

2) trying out the safety lights as soon as I bought them, meant that I knew they weren’t working in the first place… and whilst I didn’t have enough time to get some replacements for the first training swim, I did have time to get some for the second one… leading on to point 3.

 

3) don’t wear your new goggles (£20) and your new, working, safety light (£15) on top of your swim cap when the waves are successively rolling in, sending you back towards the beach that you were swimming away from. My equipment, and I were to never to be reunited with each other again, after we were separated by one particularly large wave. I spent a lengthy period of time dedicated to looking for them both afterwards, but alas, this maiden voyage was to be our first and last together.

 

4) make sure the waterproof bag you have put your dry clothes in doesn’t have a hole in it, because if you don’t, you will go home wearing wet pants!

 

5) don’t be over-zealous with your Vaseline, whilst it does a great job, it also can get everywhere, including the lens of your goggles if you’re a bit slap dash like I am, a large smear will leaving you unable to see so well – *note to self- pack disposable gloves. 

 

6) Sometimes stuff works when you set off, but malfunctions can happen at any time… like mid-swim for example, as was the case with my trusted tow float became broken. This could have been caused by the quick succession of 4 waves that I really should have anticipated because I’d spent the previous 30 minutes trying to swim in/through/around/over/under. The exact moment I realised it had broken was when I saw it overtake me on the way back to shore without me attached to it. A massive scrabble to get it back followed, because basically it had in it my car key and a small towel. The day could have ended with a long drive home on the 840 Coastliner bus had I not inelegantly launched myself on top of it like I did! 

 

 

Thankfully I’ve had time to replenish my faulty/lost at sea equipment. I have new (different make of) lights, and thanks to the CSA (channelswimmingassociation.com/shop) for the speedy delivery. I also needed to get yet more goggles, despite having a gazillion pairs at home already – just in case… as well as a new tow float (there are so many now!), and I thank www.drybags.co.uk for not only pointing me in the right direction of a floating dry bag that, not only had a clasp that remained closed after some stringent checking, but was also large, and bright enough to be seen pretty much from the moon (basically, I established that only a tow float the size of a barge would be large enough to carry ALL of the clothes that I liked to bring to the beach with me, so opted for one that was a bit like the Tardis as it turned out, had held more than I could have hoped, big enough to hold some of my personal belongings (car key, phone, credit card (for post swim coffee), small towel, a hat and if I'd wanted probably lots more), so that IF the clothes I had brought to the beach with me to change into were taken, at least I would be able to drive home again, with the heating turned up to full, in just my costume and hat, which was infinitely better than the bus option! 


 With my
International Space Station approved
tow float 





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Monday, 14 September 2020

Alternative ways of rewarming after a cold swim - on a boat, in the middle of the English Channel...

Our Team Logo

In the last 2 weeks it feels like Autumn has well and truly arrived. The water in the lake has become cooler. In reality it has dropped only a couple of degrees, and yet I’ve been getting out feeling quite chilled. I soon realised, through chattering teeth, that no amount of wishing it would give us the Indian summer I would like for our Channel swim, and I’d just have to get on with it.

 I’ve learnt a lot these last couple of weeks of cooler temperatures, some of which has been invaluable. For example, on Saturday, I spent a chilly hour thinking about the cold, which could be thought of as counter intuitive, as many suggest thinking warm thoughts to help take your mind off it, however actually I actually wanted to think about it. To remind myself of how my body responded to it, and make sure that I had all the kit I needed afterwards to get me warm again, because for me feeling cold would be unavoidable, and so whilst I needed to get comfy with being cold, I also needed to make sure that I was prepared afterwards, and had all the resources I needed on the boat to deal with this. 

 

And so after our swim last Saturday, the swim buddy and I decided, over a socially distant coffee and cake, that we needed to do one of my favourite things- compile a list. This included what you might expect: hand and feet warmers, hot water bottles, Swimzi XK, hoodie, leggings, hats, scarves, gloves, thick socks, fur lines crocs (my contribution and I will not be embarrassed by this, and actually Shark had banned the whole crocs and socks combo, so this was as near as I could get), thermal vests, salopettes (the swim buddy’s contribution – I don’t own any now. They were confiscated by some friends that I went skiing with several years ago, after an incident involving my ski and a snow plough at near enough 0 feet above sea level caused mayhem, and brought one French ski resort to a standstill for 40 minutes!) and a sleeping bag.


In addition to this, Shark had already confirmed with Andy, our Skipper, that there was a kettle and a microwave on the boat for hot drinks and certain food, but refused to ask as to whether their kitchen also included a deep fat fryer for the chips we loved to have after a cold swim. She told me that she was terrified he would think that he had a boat full of divas. I didn’t say a word, although I did look to see if JustEat or Deliveroo was an option, surprisingly, it wasn’t! 

 

We decided that really it should be belt and braces. We couldn’t risk forgetting something important, and so we set about researching alternative ways to keep warm on a boat whilst crossing the English Channel. A good half an hour later we reconvened to see whether some of our findings were actually viable…

 

First, heated camping chairs. I Googled to see if they were a thing, and I admit I was feeling very hopeful that they were after Google revealed 6,500,000 results. I can confirm that heated camping chairs ARE a thing, but there are not 6,5000,000 of them! Shark pointed out that the length of time we would be on the boat, we would definitely need a battery recharger… which would probably be huge and take up half the boat.

 

I did wonder if this was a little – extravagant, and whilst I didn’t rule it out altogether, I carried on searching, and after not very long the search took on a different direction, when completely by accident I found a recliner and, wait for it, a double camping chair (pretty much a sofa then), which when wrapped up in a sleeping bag would probably be pretty cosy, I showed the swim buddy, who immediately reminded me that we were not swimming with a super yacht as a support boat, and also that we would still be socially distancing, and me selfishly rocking up at the harbour with pretty much a three piece suite would leave less than the government’s recommended 2 metre social distance rules… 

 

In our quest for warmth Shark had a top find - fur lined leggings, and just like that, we thought we'd found the ultimate item of clothimg to keep us toasty warm. The hunt was over! And as we were thinking we had pretty much cracked it, I was sent a Tweet informing me of an alternative, and much better option – actual heated clothing. I have to admit, I was sorely tempted by this, and voiced my excitement to the swim buddy, who immediately banned me from getting one in case I blew up. She explained that a) if I was injured by said item of clothing they would pull the swim or b) (she didn't want to frighten me but...) if the boat caught fire because of a malfunction caused by electricity and water, we would all be doomed, or worse would have to jump overboard to save ourselves, and probably into the jaws of multiple sharks that had sensed our panic stricken selves in the water. 

 

We also agreed that a patio heater idea was most definitely dangerous. We finally concluded, after our second coffee, that our searching had become rather outlandish, and our suggestions were rather ambitious and not actually viable after all, and we should really stick to our original list, although there was one other thing that we touched on during our discussions/cake fest. Shark also mentioned the need to warm up on the boat before we each got in. I assumed she meant some stretches (as we would be short of space – especially if I were to be bringing the 2 seater camping chair that I hadn’t altogether ruled out as an option), however the swim bud had a much, much better idea.. to watch 'Mr Motivator in da House' from YouTube and do that instead. Literally THE best suggestion by a long mile…fingers crosses the boat has an internet connection! 




Finally, here are a couple of previous blogs I wrote about hypothermia and the after drop for reference. 


https://openwaterwoman.blogspot.com/2017/09/hypothermia-what-i-needed-to-know.html

https://openwaterwoman.blogspot.com/2017/11/swimming-in-cold-water-and-struggles.html

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Whitby training sea swimming #2/3

 

Two weeks ago - The swim buddy and I returned to Whitby for our second swim. I were all too aware that part of our training needed to include more sea swimming, because there are open water skills needed in the sea that weren't the same as in a lake, which was where we had done almost all of our training for the swim, and as we needed to be adequately prepared for our Channel relay, we needed practice more in the sea. 

Thankfully after our last swim in Whitby, Ally, who very kindly offered to accompany us last time, offered to swim with us again. We basically bribed her with the promise of coffee and cake afterwards. Ally, an experienced sea swimmer, was really familiar with the sea in Whitby, so we felt confident that we were in really safe hands. She also happened to mention that she had swum the Channel, something I wonder if she would regret sharing with us later as we chewed her ear off for a whole hour and a half after the swim… 

 

The drive to Whitby was pretty much through pea soup. It crossed my mind that we may not be able to swim after all, and if we were, it was clear (or not as the case was) that this swim was going to be poles apart from the last, very sunny, one. I would be getting no tan lines today! Nonetheless, the swim buddy told me she was taking no chances and would be lathering up in sun lotion regardless (remember, the one with jelly fish repellent in it that didn’t work that we used last time? – well that one). Fortunately, as we arrived into the town the fog lifted and we were good for the swim, although as we walked past the harbour and the RNLI lifeboat, I noted that the wind was whipping up around us and it had become a little chilly. I had to remind myself that the Channel could be like this on the day of our swim, and was one of the reasons we were there. To prepare for the worst.

 

As we arrived on the beach I could see that the waves looked really rather high. We were reassured by Ally that we were fine to swim here. She also added that our relay swim would be likely to go ahead if it were like this on the day, basically, if it was, we had to just get on with it! 

 

I spent the first 10 minutes in the water acclimatising, trying not to swallow large amounts of sea water, being paranoid about jellyfish and trying to not be knocked off my feet, which despite only being up waist deep at the time, I failed at. Rather spectacularly as it went! I’m not sure I’ll live down the face-plant, but it makes me feel a whole lot better about the whole thing knowing that the swim bud took in a mouthful of sea water whilst she stood laughing at me. 


We set off swimming in the shallower water, Shark was already having swim goggle issues, and my new green safety light wasn’t working – despite me turning it on off and on again several times. I was also having a small, okay large, panic after feeling something slimy brush past my leg whilst I attempted to swim. As was usual, before any swim, I had already researched what creatures favoured this shoreline- I researched sharks basically, of which none chose knee deep water under the west cliff of the Whitby shoreline as its home, but despite this, I managed to convince myself that today was the day that a shark would relocate or swim off course and swim right next to me. Finally, after much deliberation, I plucked up the courage to brave a look under the water, only to discover a large tangle of seaweed with my leg in it and not a shark after all!

 

Ally told us we needed to go through the breakers to get to the calmer and deeper water on the far side. Easier said than done. My first encounter with one of the larger breakers did not end well for me… or Shark for that matter. I have no idea why I thought that I would be able to swim straight at it and come out unscathed. I was instead tossed backwards and landed rather unceremoniously on top of the swim buddy. After a quick check that Shark was only shocked and surprised and not injured, and that my costume was still attached and covering everything that needed covering, we set off again.

 

On the back of my failed attempt, Ally kindly showed us how to dive into the waves which would stop us from being tossed about. Despite ALL previous diving attempts that have gone before this moment not once going to plan (but that’s a whole other, really long blog, dedicated to the very, very long list of injuries/embarrassing moments/costume failures on the back of many really bad diving attempts), I had a bash, and actually, if you discount the dislodged goggles and the mouthful of wave that I took as I grappled for air, it all went unexpectedly rather well! 

 

For 20 minutes we swan through and beyond these waves, with Ally offering advice and suggestions as we went, and once we got a better hang of it, it felt absolutely amazing, and not half as frightening as I first felt. I learnt a lot too, like for example, I would not win against the large breakers. Any and all attempts to, ended in a face plant on the seabed or being pushed back to shore. It was easier to swim beyond them – nearer to the preferred habitat of the porbeagle shark (yep, I did really did do the research) which were usually found 10 miles or so out to sea (although knowing that they were so far away didn’t stop me planning for an emergency evacuation), because that’s where the good, and shall we say less turbulent, swimming was to be done. I also learnt that in these conditions that my bilateral breathing came into its own, breathing only to one side was necessary in parts to avoid a mouthful of salt water. I was glad I’d taken the time to learn how to do it. I learnt that because there was no obvious pattern to these waves that I needed to continually adjust my stroke. It became easier in these conditions when I shortened it. I was also used to swimming in a lake, but because salt water was more dense (because of the salt and other substances dissolved in it) I found it a bit easier to swim in once I had adjusted my body position to suit the environment, which was handy because if I WERE being chased by aforementioned great white's cousin, I would need to be able to swim real fast... or at least faster than everyone else!


By mutual decision we swam not too far out, I say mutual, Ally said that with the fog being visible on the cliff top still, there was a chance that it may come down, and quickly, which meant spotting us could become difficult should we get into trouble. I was a bit scared so absolutely agreed, and half hour later we decided to head back to the beach to get dressed, and then the warmth of a nearby café to pick Ally’s brains. First though, we had to do a quick photo shoot amongst the waves, that turned out to be not as quick as we would have liked, because taking my eye off the ball (or wave as the case was) for a second, I was hit in the back by what felt like a wall of water, which I thought had only managed to knock me off my feet, but as I watched my tow float head towards the beach without me, I realised that my tow float and I had parted ways. I quickly charged after it, finally catching up with it further down the beach, by throwing myself unceremoniously on top of it. The manoeuvrer wasn’t all that pretty, nonetheless I caught it!

 

We headed back to the beach to get dressed, me, tightly holding onto my useless tow float, and swim buddy holding her neck after yet another jellyfish sting. After administering some anti-sting cream and lots of sympathy I carefully suggested that like my broken tow float, her sun cream was not really all that fit for purpose, and we remined ourselves that’s why these training swims were invaluable. They weren’t just about swimming, they were also a great opportunity to check our equipment and kit was working correctly, and whilst I wouldn’t be swimming the Channel with a tow float, the CSA did recommend a safety light, and assuming they meant a working light, and I now had time to get a replacement one sorted. 


Today - Todays' swim was completely different in comparison. I say swim, barely any was done (the back of the fact that the breakers were coming in so fast that by the time I had managed a single stroke another one was bearing upon me, and knocking me off kilter and by the time I had caught my breath and pulled myself together, yet another one caught me off guard. It was like the waves were traveling in packs, and were continually engulfing me and then spitting me out. At first it was fun, but actually being tossed around like a rag doll was exhausting. I can’t actually believe how easy it was for the sea to dislodge parts of my clothing either (by which I mean my costume!?!?). Another casualty was my goggles and new green safety light, which were dislodged, and after a frantic scramble around to look for them, I resigned myself to the fact that they were lost to the sea. I returned to the shoreline to get some spares, and assigned Dawn who was spectating and taking some photos, to be on the look out for them, and do whatever it took to retrieve them (also this would ensure that she was doing something that meant she was unable to take any photos which would most likely be quite unflattering). Dawn told me that she would probably be willing to get the bottom of her ankles wet, but that was as far as she would go on the back of the fact that she didn’t have a change of clothes with her. Without checking it was okay, I offered her the swim buddy’s spare trousers, unbelievably she still said no…

 


I have to say, these preparation swims have been worth their weight in gold. They have been about building up our confidence, our endurance and our mental resilience, they have also been about ensuring our equipment was fit for purpose, and that we packed spares, and yes, I am still a little bitter about the whole losing my goggles part of the swim, especialy since I know better. Ally had lost hers (temporarily) in the first swim, and so what possessed me to attach the safety light I had just purchased to mine, when I knew there was a risk they may come off, I have no idea. Having said that, it was best to have cock ups prior to the swim, even if it has cost me a small fortune in replacements, and the swim buddy a small fortune in useless sun lotion...

 


Thanks for reading, and in the countdown to our Channel relay, there'll be more blogs, and I'm hoping photos and videos from the boat (Louise Jane Charters), which I'll share on my Open Water Woman facebok group page, found at: 


https://www.facebook.com/groups/219068846449080 


Our swim window is W/C 23/9 (3rd wave), so not long now!