With virtually no long distance open water swims in 2016 nor 2017 and pool training not great either would I be ready with less than eight months of training.
On the plus side, I was the fittest I had ever been in my whole life, and in particular for endurance events.
I thought of a spring break in Lanzarote or Majorca with husband in tow, but then started looking at specific swimming camps.
Swimquest – just the job “Long Distance Training”, Croatia 28th April. Specifically stated as Channel and Distance swimming building up to a six hour swim – perfect.
London Marathon was on the 21st April and my race weight was still just under 9 stone, would I tolerate the predicted 12-16 degree C waters, especially as they programmed two swims a day? I bought a Dry Robe and a neoprene swimming cap and packed my wet suit just in case.
Day One: Acclimatization Round the Bay
Flew to Split in the morning, 2pm Cat to Hvar where Palmizana Menehello, a bohemian retreat, sent a boat to ferry us across to our base for the week.
First dip in just my swim costume, a silicone hat and the neoprene one on top. After all you loose most of your heat through your head – or so I have been told. It was an acclimatisation swim of about twenty minutes in the bay that was just a few 100m from our accommodation. All was well, felt a bit ‘chilly’ but not ‘cold’.
Day Two: Another Tootle Round the Bay
Morning: An hour’s swim, again in the bay. No problem.
Luxury, we must have had the only bath on the island in our bungalow – time for a soak and warm up (the only real way I ever warmed up in the UK when swimming all year round).
Afternoon: Again in the bay for about an hour and a half, with some videoing of our swim stroke, both above and below water.
Day Three: One Swim OK – Two Swims – No Way!
Morning: Out on the boats to head round to the two bays to the west. We were going to swim back into our bay, but conditions were rather lumpy. A two hour, rather vigorous swim. I thoroughly enjoyed it and kept up with the faster guys and gals, ’cause once I get going I don’t stop, even for white water over the head – not that there was any on this occasion.
Back on shore, bath, changed and lunch that seemed to take forever, then back to the bungalow for a brief ‘snooze’. A habit I adopted during my Ironman training that had been really beneficial. However, it was cut short as we were due back in the water and I felt I had done enough for the day and didn’t really need another swim. But, I was there and it was on the programme, so off I went.
Afternoon: Due to the wind and sea state we went from the harbour, just a few 100m on the other side of the island. We broke into two teams, one boat with John covering the faster swimmers and Charlotte and Rachel covering the others from their boat.
I was with John and the faster swimmers, so didn’t hear the briefing given by Charlotte and Rachel in the other boat. Needless to say, no way could I keep up with the faster guys and ended up swimming stroke for stroke with a swimmer from the other group as we swam into the second bay. I was relatively happy, until John stopped us to say,
“You’re swimming so well together, keep it up.”
Almost immediately my buddy suddenly decided to swim across the bay, as she had been briefed to do, whilst I continued to swim down it as I had been briefed. After this my mood deteriorated rapidly, I felt cold and annoyed. Upon approaching the swimmers from Charlotte and Rachel’s boat, who had been stopped, I really did not want to be stopped again. I felt cold and miserable and I think I might have blasphemed had I been asked to stop I was in such a foul mood – so made the decision myself and call it a day. Only an hour of the two hour afternoon swim completed.
Day Four: The Demons are Playing with my Head
One swim of four hours planned for the day. I think they sensed my mood and was pleased to be kept with John’s group and we arranged that I swim across the bays to keep pace with the faster swimmers. My orange cap being of great benefit to John as he could see me ‘miles’ away.
It started OK but not long into it I was finding it difficult, I’m not sure why. The first feed at one hour came and went and but I found I was having to force myself to keep swimming and began to think of the 73 year old guy who swam the Channel to prove a point about age being no barrier. He said he’d never do it again – he found both the training and the swim so tough, which at the time I couldn’t understand. I now knew what he meant and was having serious thoughts of whether I should continue on my Channel challenge or not. Would I be able to keep going through such black moments? How arrogant was I to think I could do it? I struggled on to the second feed but could not facing swimming another stroke.
I would need to do some serious thinking and talking to myself. Did I really want to Swim the English Channel, did I really believe I could?
Day Five: Six Hours Swim
I woke up determined to do better and told John not to let me out of the water until I had done at least three hours, but hoped to do more.
One hour feed came and went, no problem, two hour feed, and then three hour feed. At this point John said,
“Out you get you’ve done your three hours,”
“No way,” I replied, I was feeling good.
I also made it to the four hour feed but when stopped by John to do a loop back to stay with the others I began to get annoyed, felt cold and my swim stroke had slowed right down so decided to stop at four and a half hours.
I didn’t complete the six hour swim, but was happy. I know both my body and my head, it takes each a while to adapt, no point it pushing it further and I was ready for a longer one next time.
Day 7: Relaxation, Fun, Games and Frustration
I woke up with a totally different frame of mind, and confident in what I wanted to do, but I was a day late. The programme didn’t allow for any long swims and I felt like a wound spring.
Despite my frustration on the last day, the trip had been 100% successful in giving me that ‘kick start’ that I needed. I was ready to start some serious training.
However, the proof of the pudding would be when I was back in the UK in water only 11 or 12 degrees !