Sea Swims In July

Eureka – I’m over 10 stone !!

Doughnuts, double chocolate cookies, malt loaf,  bagels, toasted tea cakes, French loaves, fish & chips, pizza and chips, Snickers, etc, etc  alongside my ‘healthy’ diet have all paid off and I’ve still over a month to go !

Sunday 1st July

2:00:18    3.5 miles

As always the water was cooler than Friday afternoon and it was windy and overcast.  My feet and hands went numb, but a comfortable and strong swim for the duration.

Wednesday 4th July

1:00:00   1.5 miles

I enjoyed ‘writing’ my name.

Two days off, no running or cycling either!  Fresh and ready for fun on an early morning swim.  My Garmin recorded as I swam my name !

Still trying to work out how to dot the ‘i’.

Thursday 5th July

6:00:00.        10 miles

Sunrise SUP across the bay for two hours in the mist and the sea like a pill pond.

A few ripples, but little or now wind when I returned to swim at 1100.   Ideal conditions.  Feet still went numb, but eventually came back to life and the numbness didn’t return.  Felt as strong at the end, and even tried to dot an ‘i’, but was totally unsuccessful.   Only down side, my shoulders did ache a bit, will they hold up for 15+ hours?

8th-21st July – St Abbs, Scotland

St Abbs Harbour from our cottage window

St Abbs, a sleepy fishing village just over the border on the east coast.  Looking forward to come cold swims in the North Sea, temperatures 11-13 degrees C.

8th July – 15 mins

Evening swim in Coldingham Bay to put my toe in the water!  I always swim when I go to St Abbs, but have never swam for more than 20 minutes and usually come out cold needing a hot bath to recover.  I entered the water, and welcomed the cold on my body, mind and flesh were both prepared for it, and welcomed it.  So powerful is the mind.  Just fifteen minutes but not even a shiver!

9th July – 30 mins and still not ‘cold’!

11th July – 53 mins

Boy was that water cold when you first hit it!

Swim from St Abbs harbour to Eyemouth Harbour – two and a half miles.  Something I had been promising myself to do for years, but too scared to attempt – found it relatively easy.  Admittedly I chose a flood tide to have a little help, but the cold, out in the deep blue, dark shadows below and rough water as we approach Eyemouth didn’t phase me at all.  Had lots of warm clothing for when I got out – if I could get out – forgot, no fins and a little boat with no ladder – wasn’t easy.  However, I was slightly chilled but not ‘cold’.  Amazing photo from Jim Greenfield, he could read my Garmin at 50 metres.

13th July –  38mins  – Swim back and forth in Coldingham Bay, really not big enough – we are so lucky in Weymouth.

15th July -45 mins – Coldingham Bay again, saw some jelly fish trails in the water and got stung, dived to the left nearly headlong into a Lions Main.  Strong nettle sting that lasts about 24 hours.

17th July – 1hour 5 mins – St Abbs Harbour round to Petticowickick.  Passed a couple of kayakers who couldn’t get round St Abbs head against the pounding sea.  I missed nearly every other breath and my right arm kept ‘catching a crab’, but I made it.

19th July – 1 hour 9 mins

St Abbs in the background as we headed back

Pootle out with the boat, round the bay to Wuddy Rocks then headed off towards Eyemouth.  Jelly fish !!!!!!!!!     Just a few, all fairly deep and innocuous, then Lions Main all over the place, dodge to the left then the the right, got stung, then could hardly dodge them at all and got out.

21st July – 21 mins

Early morning swim before heading home.   Swam from Coldingham Bay round to the Harbour, again something I had always been too scared to do – rocks, seaweed, jelly fish and the Ebb or Flood tide.  Seemed easy!  Goodbye cold water and jelly fish – or so I thought!  Read on……….

Back in Weymouth

What a summer – every day like this ?

23rd July – 8 hours

Final long swim, or so I thought.  Loads of jelly fish and one stung me,  I didn’t even see it.  I thought I had left them all behind in Scotland. I had intended to do 10 hours, but the demons were playing me up.

“Why am I putting myself through this?”

“Do I really need to do 10 hours, would another 6 do?  Should I keep going – why should I keep going – will I be able to keep going in the Channel?”

Ideal conditions, no reason to stop, but stop I did.

Kate Mason, swim coach, asked how my training was going, and suggested a ‘back to back’ swim on 4 hours the next day.   Felt I ‘ought’, but not sure I ‘would’.

24th July 4 hours

Husband not available for feeds in the morning so set of in the afternoon.  Glad I did, steady pace, no angst, just got on with it – felt much more confident.

Sigh of relief – I think I’ve done all that I can.  I keep remembering that 90+ year old interviewed at the London Marathon when she couldn’t finish.  What did she say?

“I’ll just have to train harder next year so that I can finish.”

And finish she did.

A few shorter swims, and preparation for the BIG DAY.

Ten and a half stone – same as I managed last time round – thought I must be at least eleven after gorging myself for two weeks at St Abbs – but helas – not.

Sea Swims in June

Sunday June 3rd 1030

1:19:13   2.3 miles

Perfect conditions, beautiful, calm sunny day,  with a planned three hour swim but as I swam back towards WBSS I spied these three Musketeers, our grandchildren, on the beach.  Went to say hello and got out to join them for their first trip to the beach this year.

How could I swim past them? Yes – identical triplets!
I enjoyed the rest of the day with them. Eventually removing my DryRobe as I warmed up.

Monday June 4th 1515

2:06:44  3.2 miles

Tower,2nd Red Stick & back

The three hour swim I had planned for the previous day but a fight against the waves, the drift and a cold wind too boot!

No surprise that the beach and the sea were now empty.  It was cold and windy.  I chose to swim in the afternoon, as the wind often dies down and the bay can be like a mill pond late afternoon and evening.  Not so this day.  If anything the wind had picked during the afternoon, so I called it a day at two hours.

My Garmin recorded a rate of 1:43/100yds as I headed south and but 2:47/100yds against the drift going north.

I had to dig deep to get back round the Tower and the groynes at the 1st and 2nd Red Sticks.

Friday 8th June 1400

4:00:32  6.5 miles

Four hours planned, conditions seemed good.  In the past I used to try to get from marker to marker as quickly as I could.  Now with my Ironman hat on and relishing distances and time, I wanted each circuit to be as long as possible.  I hugged the shore line trying to eek it out as much as possible, hoping to only need to do one circuit of the bay.

Out to the Tower, down to the shoreline beyond Bowlease Pier, but I still had to do a fairly large loop at the end to make up the time.

The swim was reasonable, but I was not too happy as it wasn’t feeling ‘comfortable’ and ‘relaxed’.  Also my eye sockets had started to feel uncomfortable in my ROKA goggles, would I need to go back to my large Aqua Sphere ones? Way to go yet!

Sunday 10th June Weymouth Half Marathon

Not planned but the event was cancelled in March due to snow !  Surprised myself by running it in sub 2 hours.

Monday 11th June 1100

0:35:00   1 mile

Just a short swim to stretch out my arms, still feeling the effects of the half marathon the day before.

Friday 15th June 1220

5:00:33   7.8 miles

Hubby Nic on shore to pass me my feeds – no I didn’t walk inland, he paddled out!

A planned six hour swim, not ideal conditions as it was windy, but realistic.  Also it was low water and the wind was whipping up lots of small waves right across the bay.

Husband Nic was on the shore ready for my feeds, one hour then every forty-five minutes, or thereabouts.  Swimming down towards Bowlease the water became more and more turbulent.  I always wear my googles under my hat, just as well as the force of the waves crashing over my head would certainly have taken them off.  I quite enjoy swimming in the waves, but it’s tiring and was pleased I wouldn’t have to swim down that end again.

As I swam back to WBSS the Friday crowd was just getting in and I had intended to join them for the last hour but the wind had picked up even more and I decided to call it a day at five hours.

Also my back had started to play up slightly and I was wiggling in the water to try to ease it.  I had noticed this on my four and a half hour swim in Croatia.  I know I usually swim with my head too high, but thought I had corrected that, perhaps it needs to be even lower. Something to work on.

Sunday 17th June 0930

1:09:32       1.9 miles

As I was only going to do an hour or possibly two, I told Nic I didn’t need him.  How wrong could I be?

Wow, as we entered the water we couldn’t believe how cold it was.  Down to 14 degrees or lower, and no ‘warm’ patches.  Swimming south and against the drift we headed to the Weymouth Clock and despite the cold decided to go on to the Pavillion assuming we would ‘fly’ back but it made little or no difference, just slightly easier to swim going with the small waves rather than against them.  I maintained my stroke until close back WBSS  when my fingers gave up.

As it was going to be a relatively ‘short’ swim I hadn’t donned my neoprene hat.  Also I was practicing getting my head lower in the water.  Boy was it cold on the top of that head !

I came out far colder than I had for the previous five hour swim and returned home a shivering wreck!

Tuesday 19th June 1500

0:53:21   1.6 miles

Tuesday is my normal running night with Edgon Harriers but I decided to pop down just for a short dip.

I was pleasantly surprised as how nice it was.  I had the beach and the sea completely to myself.  I could see the bottom as I swam directly to the Tower and back.  A bit of a drift  2:02/100ft going and 1:48/100ft coming back but an almost calm sea.  A cracking swim !

Friday 22nd June

6:01:18    10 miles

Swim suit I hope to wear for the Channel attempt

Needed to get the qualifying swim done before the water warms up too much in the bay.  I was going to do it the previous day but there had been a bitter northerly wind.  Only problem was I had promised myself to join Sandsfoot Castle cyclists to meet a couple of guys who were finishing their ‘Rock to Rock’ cycle challenge (Gibraltar to Portland!) so ended up with a 20 miles cycle ride in the morning.  Probably accounts for the cramps I kept getting in my calves during the swim!

Set off for the tower, then down to Bowlease.  Had thought of just doing loops to the tower but once I get going I don’t really stop till I hit something !  Anyway, the temperature of the water in the bay is beginning to warm up whereas Bowlease is still rather ‘chilly’ and more realistic in that it’s always lumpy down there.

Hubby Nic was on the beach to feed me every 45-60 minutes or thereabouts.

One happy swimmer !

I deliberately set out at a steady pace as I was determined to do the time, if not the distance.  As always a bit of a drift, north-south today.  Unfortunately my Garmin 920XT, which has been remarkably reliable for my open water swims, decided not to record two legs of the swim.  However, I calculated my pace was just over 2min/100ft which makes for just over a 36min/mile.  Would like to keep under a 35min/mile, but I did keep the steady pace throughout.

Happy with that, felt good, no problems with my shoulders or my back and my ROKA goggles were fine.    All bodes well !!

Monday 25th June

1:06:46    2 miles

Just as well I managed six hours on Friday, with full sun over the weekend, the water has warmed up considerably and is above the 16 degrees, or below, needed for the qualifying swim.

Cadence  of 30 (strokes per minute), pace of 1:54min/100yds, making  33 min/mile.   This won’t be my Channel pace, but varied training is necessary if I am to sustain a steady pace for the whole swim.

Next session bilateral breathing?  I can, but I don’t, and it may be necessary with changing wind and tides as to which side of the boat I swim on.  So, practice, I must.

Thursday 28th June

2:15:56    3.5 miles

The waves were bigger than they look

Arrived at the beach ready for a long swim and decided to start early at 0700.  When we left home the air temperature was only 14 degrees and arriving at the beach the wind, as predicted, was fairly strong, from the west and cold.  The sea was lumpy with waves crashing on the shore line and further out as the tide dropped.

I got it, felt comfortable, not cold at all and I headed to the Pavilion.  Time and distance passed so quickly – I was ‘flying’ with the southerly drift – 1:47min/100yds south. Turned round and a battle against the waves – and drift – 2:33min/100yds north, but time and distance still seemed to pass quickly.  Still on for a long swim.  Down to the 2nd Red Stick and when I turned round, felt awful and cold despite going with the drift, somehow not as easy as against the waves.  Also the wind across my back had had it’s effect.   In addition I had forgotten to put in my ear plugs and my hat had ridden up which probably had something to do with how I was feeling, my head was not too comfortable from the outset.  Eventually back past WBSS to Nic at the Spire, who was by now fairly cold and told him I’d call it a day.

It was a strong swim for an hour and a half against the elements and apart from my head, felt good and I enjoyed it.  Interesting how the time and distances are melting away.

As with all things it’s 80% mental – and only 20% left for training and preparation.

Friday 29th  June

1:05:28      2.1 miles

Last swim of June, good strong swim, 32 minute mile.

In the pool the next morning I did a 1:29 for 100m.  Haven’t done that since my breast cancer five years ago !!!  All this swimming is paying off, might have a go at getting the British record for 1500m for the next age group up, 70-74, later this year, already got it for 65-69.

Sea Swims in May

A group of regular swimmers, using either Rod’s Hut or Weymouth Bay Sea Swimmers(WBSS), swim throughout the year on Sundays at 0930 and Fridays at 1700 during BST.   I vowed to rejoin them.  I hadn’t swum during the winter for a few years and hardly swam with them at all for the last two.

A typical turnout

Sunday May 6th 0930

50min   1.9 miles

Back from the Seaquest swim camp in Croatia the day before, this was going to be, “The proof  of the pudding.”  I arrived just with swim costume, plus my skin suit (no insulation, just protection against the wind) plus my neoprene hat.

We swam beyond Weymouth Clock

Despite it being only 11 degrees I dived straight in with the other swimmers.  I swam breathlessly for a few minutes before I began to relax.  I was enjoying the sensation of the bitter cold on my body!

I’d planned half an hour at most but stopping at the Bandstand to re-group a number of us felt so good we decided to swim onto Weymouth Clock and even went past that.  I was swimming well until on the way back my stroke deteriorated considerably as I became colder, but got back with a smile on my face – albeit shivering vigorously!

I only warm up again once home and in a hot bath.

Monday May 7th 1700

1:09:47  2miles

Still not sure if I was cut out for this, decided to go down on my own and have another go, but in the afternoon as the sea is always ‘warmer’ in the afternoons, especially after a sunny day.

Two miles completed

As I was changing, fellow swimmer Bob arrived so we decided to swim to the Tower and back.    With the sun on my back getting back to WBSS I decided to swim onto the Red Stick to make up the two miles.

I came out happy again and definitely cold.  However cold you are as you leave the water, you chill considerably in the following 10-15 minutes as the cold blood in your arms and legs is released into your circulation, thus dropping your core temperature further.

My husband Nic came with me, one for cover – not sure what he could do from the shore – but mainly to drive me home. I don’t think you can be prosecuted for being, “Under the influence of hypothermia,” but it’s effects are not dissimilar to alcohol nor, I suspect, illegal substances.

Friday May 11th 1700

00:43:15  1.2 miles

I had decided just a short swim with the others, so we went to Weymouth Clock and back.  I’d told Nic he needn’t come.

Sunday May 13th 0930

1:05:11  1.8 miles

Again I said to Nic I didn’t need him – how wrong could I be.  Why oh why is it always so cold on a Sunday morning  but even so we swam to the Tower and back.  I was definitely struggling to even have a stroke as we got back and driving home was certainly on the edge of safety.

Nic would come with me every time from now on to drive me home to a hot bath!

16th May: Dorchester Pool Session 4000m

Friday May 18th 1700

1:15:05   2.1 miles

Another two miles, everyone else got out once back at the huts, but I swam onto the Red Stick to make up the distance again.

Sunday May 20th 0930

0:44:31  1.2 miles

I didn’t even consider going further as it was Sunday morning and the water would be ‘cold’.  To Weymouth Clock and back.

22nd May: My last session at Dorchester pool session 100x100m !

Wednesday May 23rd 1420

2:00:05  3.1 miles

I re-arranged looking after one of our grandchildren to make the most of a sunny, almost windless afternoon. To the Tower back to the 1st Red Stick and onto the 2nd and beyond to make up the time.

First ‘long’ swim done and dusted, and it’s still only the middle of May.

Friday May 25th 1700

1:03:32  2 miles

I went in with the other swimmers, but hugging the shore line at high water, hoping for some ‘warm’ patches I swam onto the Pavilion, really enjoyable.

Monday May 28th 1210

3:01:24  5 miles

The sun had been out for almost a week.  The official Weymouth sea temperature was still only 11.1 degrees, but the bay warms up, albeit in patches.  So I planned a three hour swim starting a noon.

Avoid the ‘grockles’ swim

Only problem was it was a Monday Bank Holiday and ‘grockles’ were out in force.  Also it was low water so they were way out in the bay, knee or waste deep in water,  whether youths and lasses frolicking oblivious to anyone else as they flirted, parents and children, blow up ‘toys’ of all shapes and sizes, SUPs (stand up paddle boards) and, of course a plethora of pedalos.

Even north of the 1st red stick, where it’s normally deserted there were swimmers, more SUPs and the occasional speed boat and no way could I swim past the pier at Bowlease with its fleet of jet skis.  I hugged the shore line and was grateful for my bright orange hat.

I did one complete circuit of the bay and only needing a very small loop at the end to make up the time.

Summary for May

Happy what I had completed, but not happy with my swimming.  Often deteriorating or not feeling too good.  I was getting the hours in my it was yet to feel ‘comfortable.

Pool Training

From January 2018 in addition to Weyport Swimmers I started to go to Dorchester swimming pool where I could do some longer sessions.   A fairly new pool and lots of sessions with three lanes, a slow, a medium and a fast lane.  I often found I had the lane to myself or at most sharing with two other swimmers.

Weyport Swimmers, six lanes of various speeds and ability

I had been down to only one or possibly two swims per week, but started to up it back to three.  Weyport was one hour (2500-2800m depending on drills etc.) and the other two at Dorchester never less than 3000m and preferably 4000m,  5000m or 6000m.

Most were pyramids which are easy to keep in my head rather than having a written schedule on the pool side.  They comprised:   500m, 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m 500m, etc.

The first 1500m was usually a warm up:

500m freestyle

400m pull

300m kick

200m backstroke

100m fly (broken to 25m’s)

200m breastroke

Then a variety of  straight swims, 25 sprint 25 easy,  pull with paddles, breathing every 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 strokes,  or concentrating on one aspect of my technique – head position – hand entry – speed of stroke, more kick, etc. etc.

Another favourite was 100’s on two minutes which I would do after the 1500m warm up, a minimum of 20.

Prior to my operations for breast cancer I used to be able to churn out a 1:30 100m swim in the pool and always below 1:35.  After the operation my swimming seemed to become slower and slower and with my triathlon training I was concentrating more on endurance than speed.

Despite all the pool training I was doing, I found I was struggling to do the 100’s on 2 minutes, often only having 10 or even 5 seconds rest.  Then on a Saturday morning I suddenly did 1:31.  I was so chuffed and from then on most were under 1:40 rather than over.

My last Dorchester swim towards the end of May was 100 x 100m’s on 2 minutes.  Kevin, one of the other swimmers in Croatia had suggested it.

I dropped the Dorchester swims as I couldn’t fit anymore training in the week without sacrificing some rest and recovery.   That left me with the Satruday morning swim with Weyport, at least one cycle and run per week plus TRX (strength and conditioning) and yoga classes in addition to my open water swims.

I also tried to get back to an old favourite of mine that I had dropped since training for the Ironman.  Octopush (underwater hockey),  but it was difficult to fit in. Excellent for aerobics and breath control.

Octopush, I will make time for it after my swim ??!!

Imagination and Visualisation

Boy how powerful is the mind !

I’d been thinking about, and visualising getting into really cold water without my wet suit and by the end of my Croatia trip I had got my head around it all and was raring to go.  The previous year even in my wet suit (admittedly sleeveless) I didn’t manage a two hour swim due to feeling too cold even in the middle of the summer.

The water was 11/12 degrees it was bitterly cold, but I dived in, swam breathlessly for a few minutes, then relaxed – I was enjoying the sensation on my body.

I thought I would just be swimming to the Spire or the Bandstand (9-12 minutes) but I just kept going.  It was what I was expecting it, it was what I needed and ‘wanted’ to do.

Three years ago without realising it I had used imagination and visualisation to good effect when preparing for my first trip to Hawaii for the Ironman.  Up until then I had found the heat unbearable,  overheating terribly running my first 10k run at the end of a triathlon in Weymouth on an overcast day.

I like to know what I am getting myself into so I had immersed myself in hours of videos of the Ironman in Hawaii and imagined myself running in the searing heat along the Queen K highway.   I  arrived early allowing myself over a week to acclimatise, but I didn’t need it at all.  I was out running in the midday sun in Kona, Hawaii and loving it right from day one.

It wasn’t until I met sports psychologist Dr Karen Howells, at a South West Masters Development Day Swim, that I realised it had been scientifically proven to work.

It  had now worked yet again to tell myself,  and prepare myself, for the cold water.

But I did come out rather blue and was quickly home to a hot bath to unthaw those frozen feet !

Cold Water Swimming

Back from Croatia on a hot sunny Saturday, regular sea swims are in Weymouth Bay on a Sunday morning at 9:30.  I hardly joined them for one swim in 2017, and certainly none without a wet suit.

How to prepare myself for the cold.  Immediately after the London Marathon, just prior to going to the swim camp in Croatia, I started to eat, and eat and eat.  My aim was to go from just under 9 stone to somewhere between 10 and 1/2 to 11 stone by the time of my swim.

Contrary to popular belief the grease we wear is not to combat the cold, it just prevents salt sores.  I needed to put on ‘fat’ to keep me warm.

Typical ‘extras’ to my usual shopping basket
I often enjoyed a second breakfast of french bread, lashings of butter and apricot jam – something I only ever did when ‘carb loading’ prior to an event.

I also started to grow my hair (both it and I don’t like it long) in the belief that slightly longer hair under my hat will give me just a bit more insulation on my head.  It is well known that you loose most of your heat through your head and I would only be allowed to wear one regular swim hat on the swim.

For my initial swims back in the UK I intended to continue to wear the bright orange neoprene hat over my regular one, and don a ‘skin suit’, used by triathletes over their tri suits for non-wet suit swims,  just to keep the wind off my back.

In addition I’d always wear silicone mouldable earplugs, which prevent any cold water getting in the ear, plus, of course,  apply Vaseline to stop salt rubs on my neck and under the edges of my swim suit on my shoulders.

On my Channel swim, I will mix Vaseline with Lanoline, a thick gooey white mixture, and apply it on almost every bit of exposed skin.

Vaseline (& glove) Goggles (& demister), ear plugs, silicone hat, neoprene hat, swim suit, skin suit.

Now’s the time to put my toe in and test the waters !

Weymouth Bay

Looking north from WBSS balcony
Looking south

 

We are so lucky living where we do in the middle of Dorset and having Weymouth Bay to swim in.  Just under two and a half miles long, running north- south.  Being partially sheltered by Portland, it’s swimmable on all states of tide and weather.  Although in extreme conditions when fighting the waves the drift can mean we swim for 20 or 30 minutes in one direction only to be swept back to our starting point in fraction of that time.

The water warms up quicker than the main body of the sea due to the tides coming over the beach, but the temperature can drop by over two degrees overnight if the wind picks up.  Conversely in the winter with the sea coming over the frozen stones, it can get very cold!

Outside Rod’s Hut after a swim

In the middle of the Bay are the Greenhill Beach Chalets.  A number of us have been using Rod’s for years, a local keen sea swimmer who swims practically every day, enticed us with his heater and kettle.  Swimmers meet every Sunday morning at 0930 throughout the year and on Fridays at 1700 during BST.

Weymouth Bay Sea Swimmers

Then a few of the regular  ‘cold water junkies’  persuaded Weymouth & Portland Borough Council to allow them to use the long unused former lifeguard station and balcony above the huts to securely dump their swim kit, change, swim without worry and then warm up with a hot drink at any time.  A brilliant enterprise much appreciated.  Now known as Weymouth Bay Sea Swimmers (WBSS), enthusiasts can pay on line to get a code for the lock to use use it for either one day, a month, six months or a year.

WDSS Changing facilities

Most swims in the winter and colder weather are to the south, with a measured mile to the Tower and many interim points for shorter swims.

In warmer weather we also go North, but however calm the bay might seem it is always a bit lumpy up that end.

For the more adventurous, and with boat or kayak cover and favourable conditions, we can continue north to Osmington, Durdle Door and then onto Lulworth.

Weymouth Bay looking towards Lulworth

 

Kick Start to 2018 in Croatia

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.

St Klement Island just off Hvar, Croatia

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.

Loved my Dry Robe
Donning my (bright orange) neoprene cap

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’.

9 stone hoping to get to 10 or 11

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.

Round the headland to the next bay

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.

Time for a feed

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

Day 5: Trying out my Orca suit

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 did the shortest swim but wrapped up the warmest!

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.

Swimming across the bays to keep up with the faster guys and curtailed my swim halfway back

 

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 !

 

 

 

2017

Boy did I cycle that year, in fact it started at the end of 2016. All I could think of was to beat Cullen Goodyear at the Ironman World Championships the following October. I was on a mission.

Then,  somehow I ended up in  Flanders in April with eighteen experienced cyclists  from Weymouth.  This was a chance to see the Pros and then ride the course ourselves with it’s notorious cobbled hills.

I was way out of my depth and yet again came a ‘cropper’.  It was after lunch, inattention, chasing the faster guys and on a cobbled cycle path.  My left buttock blew up like a balloon and turned black. A grazed knee nearly down to the bone. But it was fortunate it coincided with my appointment at the tattoo parlour upon my return – so out of the water for 4 or 5 weeks.

Swim sessions were still down to only two a week with Weyport Masters.  I had cut out the late Wednesday session as I found with my training for the Ironman it was just too much.

Although one hour sessions, I frequently only swam for 45 or 50 minutes, often taking time to get in, chatting and generally procrastinating.  Unlike in September 2016 when I had been so motivated to get my swimming back on track, after breaking my collar bone, that in addition to full one hour pool swims, I happily did several two hour open water swims a week, albeit in my 2mm sleeveless wetsuit.  And in 2006/7 for my previous Channel swim I was always first in the pool and last to get out and did many extra sessions.

All bode well when I caught a cold early in 2017 and happily had a winter dip in the sea just in my costume (something I used to do all year round) to relieve the symptoms and boost the immune system.  So once the Spring came, I’d be in the sea regularly, or so I thought!

Spring and summer came, but try as I might – could I swim barely more than an hour in open water.

As with all sports its about 20% physical and 80% mental and it was so true in this case.

My head kept telling me I was cold and no way could I continue.  Despite the sun being  out, husband on the beach with feeds ready, and even keeping my wet suit on, each time I did one circuit of the Tower and back I got out, unable (unwilling) to continue.   It was a round trip of less than two miles.   I didn’t even get to do a two hour swim.

I was cold – I had convinced myself it was because I was now a stone lighter due to the triathlon training – down to just below 9 stone – but in truth it was my head – I just could not get myself motivated.

However, once in Kona my swimming felt good in the clear warms waters.  I also took the opportunity to book a session with swim coach Karlyn Pipes – what a lady – look her up – amazing.  She lives in Hawaii but travels the world coaching swimming, which is when I first met her in London years previously.

Karlyn Pipes www.aquaticedge.org

The 2.4 mile non-wet suit swim went really well in lovely clear water with the fish and turtles – but I saw non of these as I had perfected my drafting.   I was in a sea of bubbles for 1.2 miles to the turning point where I then latched onto one swimmer just a tad faster than me and I got a ‘tow’, following her feet, all the way back to the beach.  I beat my previous times and the ‘new kid on the block’ in my age group by less than two minutes.  Phew, that was close.  Then I smashed her and all the others on the bike – I had achieved my aim and thoroughly enjoyed it the whole experience – unlike the previous year.

I’m at the front, about to be swum over !
No chance of seeing the turtle this year

A  cycling holiday was booked in Tenerife for November so I promised myself that in the New Year I would have to seriously start swimming – but would I be able to – would I be motivated to ???????

 

Swimming Preparation 2016 for a 2017 Attempt

July 10th 2016 saw me in a pickled heap on the verge by a roundabout nursing a broken collar bone.  It was the end of a cold and damp ride where I had continually had to work hard to keep pace with the guys. I lost them when we got back to Dorchester and should have called it a day, but ‘red mist’ clouded my eyes and my brain and I ‘went for it’ down the hill onto the roundabout in order to catch them up which proved to be much tighter than I anticipated so I chose what I thought would be a soft landing.

What a mess !

That was three months prior to my second attempt at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.  In my first, the previous year I had come 3rd in the 64-69 age group.  Being a Moto GP fan (motorcycle racing) I was not deterred as when my hero Lorenzo had similar injuries he was back racing in less than two weeks – I had months – no problem!

My specialist was rather sceptical to say the least but he did prioritise my operation for a metal plate and was much more supportive and positive when I went back seven weeks later for a routine check.

Walking, hill walking, jogging, turbo training (indoor cycling) were all possible, but swimming was a ‘no no’ until the middle of September when I tentatively competed in the Weymouth 70.3 (a half Ironman) that I had already entered and paid for.

Fell walking for two weeks in Scotland after the op

Despite everything the Channel swim was still on the cards for 2017 until I was in Kona, Hawaii for my second year  at the Ironman World Championships.

I had trained hard, I had moved up an age group, now in 70-74, so it should be ‘easy’.  How wrong could I be?  It was my hardest race ever, I was in a very black hole on the run and swore I’d never do another.  Despite that I beat the two women who had come first and second the previous year but they were still in the 65-69 age group.  I had not bargained for a phenomenal cyclist in my age group, Cullen Goodyear,  who left me standing and I ‘only’ came second.

Then serendipity took over – of all the thousands of volunteers, who should I chat with but someone who knew Sue Oldam, the then current oldest women to swim the Channel and apparently she was aiming to swim it again in 2017.  But being a year older than me – I wouldn’t get my title back – not that that was the only reason to swim it.  Well, perhaps it did help to motivate me.

Also, after a couple of days I had recovered from the race and resolved to come back and beat Cullen.  Little did I know there would be a ‘new kid on the block’ to beat – and beat them all I did.

In addition I hadn’t managed any long swims that summer, as I had done in the year previous to my last attempt.   So …………………..the Channel attempt delayed to 2018 with some long open water swims planned for the summer of 2017.

Cullen Goodyear the winner and myself, we parted as friendly rivals.