I went to Mallorca in May for the 70.3. Bit of competition, two other women in my age group. But despite being just a tad worried – no problem. Fifty-two minutes in front of my nearest rival and the other woman didn’t make the cut of at the end of the bike ride.
I enjoyed the swim in my new wet suit. Since I started triathlons in 2014 I have been looking for a sleeved wet suit, but they have all interfered with the way I swim and uncomfortable, so I have been wearing a 2mm Speedo, sleevless wet suit. THEN this year I found the new Zone3 Vanquish wet suit. Paper thin arms, thin shoulders, thick and sumptuously padded on the tummy and quads for buoyancy where you need it. Doesn’t choke you round the neck, doesn’t gape at the back flooding you with water. Easy to get on, and so quick to get off. BUT, it holds you in perfect form in the water so it’s FAST!
I haven’t enjoyed swimming since the Channel, often not even making a swim once a week with Weymouth Swimmers and when I did go rarely completed the whole one hour session. I had to force myself to swim twice a week building up to Mallorca. My times have been really slow in the pool so wasn’t expecting any miracles and was a bit dumbfounded to find I had done a PB! Has to be the suit!
The bike went well on my Cannondale Dura-Ace Di2 Slice from TRI UK. I had hoped to gain more time coming down the mountain as I am so so slow up the hills, but all the downhills were technical, either hair pin bends or through narrow streets in the towns. In addition I needed to keep an eye out for fellow ‘kamikaze’ competitors! So 16.1mph average was OK.
It didn’t help when I overtook some back markers of a peloton grouped together on a straight road against the wind (drafting?). I chose to go over the white line just as a Marshall on a motorcycle was passing. Blue card, “Qui moi?” “Yes, 5 minute penalty!”
Was pleased that my elastic bands on the shoes worked well at the start of the bike, and wondered how I’d cope, when tired at the end. But took my feet out of the shoes just like a professional – well not quite, but so much easier than unclipping and running in shoes. Looked forward to the five minutes complete rest in the Penalty tent! But it didn’t help as I left transition without my race belt on – whoops – disqualification if not rectified – so quick dash back – extra 3/4 mile and 8 minutes. Could have done without that as my legs just didn’t want to work, but managed a fairly consistent pace of 11:11 minute miles. Everyone was complaining about the heat – what heat? You should race in Kona, Hawaii – now that IS hot!
It’s our heads that tell us we can’t achieve and as as we grow older this becomes a reality if we don’t continue to challenge our bodies.
71 years and 305 days a World Record !
Over £4000 raised for Cancer Research UK
I think I could write a book just about the swim, but I will try to keep it brief.
Agreed with my pilot, window weather looked good Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Confirmed anytime 1600-1900 Tuesday evening to beat the bad spell coming in late Wednesday.
Forecast changed, he re-arranged things an now meet at Dover Marina 0600 Tuesday morning. On our way to Dover Monday night, message, “Can we make it 0430?” That’s good, with a bit of luck I’ll be in France in the daylight. So only five hours sleep.
Arrived at the marina and it looked good, but as we motored out it looked a bit ‘lumpy’ to me. But this was the weather window and I’d hate to put it off till September.
I’ve had very mixed feelings about this swim. It was a childhood dream when I was 60 and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and I always said I’d do it again. But, in reality I never would had I not been diagnosed with breast cancer. “Life after cancer,” I said to myself and immediately I set myself the challenge with Cancer Research UK as my charity. A second purpose also evolved which was the reason the oldest man, at 73, swam it. That is to inspire people that our bodies can amaze us as we age providing we keep active.
I jumped into the water and swam to Samphire Hoe to start my swim. “I’ll be alright once I’m in the water and swimming,” I said to myself.
I started swimming and that ‘lumpy’ sea was horrible. I’ve swim in seas like it many times on fighting the ‘drift’ in Weymouth Bay, but not for a whole swim, and, “Please not my Channel swim.” I assumed it would ease off, but if anything it worsened right to the other side. Standing on the beach waiting for the signal to start my heart was thumping like it never has before.
My mental state was in a turmoil, “Relax, stroke the water, just get to feed one in an hour.” I was having to talk myself for the first two hours – they were horrendous.
After my second feed, “I’m coping, I feel cold, but am not cold, and I can’t let all those people supporting and cheering me on down.” So mentally I began to be in a much better place. But I wasn’t enjoying it one bit.
My right arm kept catching the water. I breath every other stroke on my left side, frequently it had to be every forth or even sixth and when I did breath salt water would spray into my mouth. Not too much of a problem on the swim, except the one that shot straight to the back of my throat. But after a swim, you can have salt sores for days, if not weeks.
Oh and the jelly fish, I was stung during the first hour and the last. But they are just like a nettle sting, not like the Lion’s Main I had encountered in Scotland. The jellies were dotted around all the way across and at one point there was an enormous swarm of hundreds in every direction. Normally I would have enjoyed the distraction as the are beautiful to watch – but in the mood I was in, “Let’s get it over and done with.”
I counted the time by the feeds which were hourly for the first three then every forty five minutes. Towards the end they went down to every thirty minutes, not because I needed more carbs, but you swim from feed to feed and mentally it was reassuring to have them closer together. I had promised myself not to look for France until twelve hours into the swim. But I saw France at ten and a half hours, so I calculated it must be about 1530, and was overjoyed, but little did I realise that the wind was effecting the already weak ebb flow. Normally swimming bang in the middle of a neap tide should be good, less movement of water, but I needed the ebb tide to get me towards the best landing point, Cap Gris Nez.
As time went on I realised that I wasn’t going to make it in daylight as I headed up towards Calais, away from Cap Gris Nez, and was resigned to accept my clear goggles with a flashing green light attached. But seeing the land did give me the impedance to do it for myself. I didn’t care how much my arms ached, I was going to make it, even if I had to resort to breast stroke, which, thankfully I didn’t otherwise I’d still be swimming! Your muscle are given instructions from your head, they are not fatigued, you think they are so they stop working. I had some serious talking to myself to do. “How badly did I want it?” I would regret it for the rest of my life if I bailed out now so close to my goal and just keep imagining myself walking onto a French beach. “Get those arms turning over,” I said to myself.
The rest is history, and a World Record, but hopefully it will inspire others to go out and challenge themselves – perhaps not a Channel Swim. But in particular us women, of mine and subsequent generations, who were discouraged or not even allowed to do many things together with society in general that often implied not the sort of thing women should or could do.
We had hoped to finish the swim in daylight and head home that evening. Once back on board I suggested back to the Premier Inn, a meal and a bed for the night. We got back to Dover at 2am and set our alarms for a 6:30 get away that morning, both Julia and Graeme had to be back at work.
I actually slept, unusual for me after an endurance event, I had down loaded a box set to watch all night. However, sleep proved a problem for the next week, either not getting to sleep, waking every hour or so, and/or often not getting back to sleep for a couple of hours. Glad of my box set!
Once home on Wednesday I spent most of that and the next day horizontal, resting.
A short cycle ride Friday morning for coffee with my cycling chums. No problem until I tried to do arm signals. My arms still did not want to lift up.
Saturday and Sunday quiet days, Monday walking round the Great Dorset Steam Fair. Tuesday out on my bike. My new TT one, so trying our aero position. Not too comfortable, my arms still aching. Otherwise felt good going out, about 30k, but tired and steady on the way back. Absolutely whacked once I got back and an hour and a half afternoon snooze. Quiet day Wednesday with Yoga in the evening. Much easier than I expected, but no ‘planks’, felt much better after it.
Thursday, feel ‘human’ again! Probably not fully recovered but feel back to normal.
Weight went up to 10stone 10 after the swim, pounds falling off after, lost half a stone in a week.
Been doing a bit of swimming, a bit of cycling a bit of running. Not sure how much to do, just ‘ticking’ over.
As with all endurance, or in fact anything, if you say, “I can or I can’t,” you are probably right. I have learned just how powerful the mind is. Generally speaking I am a positive person and always assume ‘I can.’ But, this waiting for the weather has been playing havoc with my mind. It’s difficult to keep focused to image and visualise the swim, because it’s that which will get me to the other side, not my arms, they will just do what my head tells them they ‘want’ to do.
Good news. Hope to be going on the 21st. Will start late afternoon or early evening. Night swim – poo! But not really, sea is usually calmer with no sea breezes caused by the land warming up during the day.
Excellent tides, ride bang in the middle of neaps – when there is less tidal movement.
Was going to do one ‘lap’ of the bay, approx 5 miles but a bit rough and wind surfers to the north so a 2 mile swim via the Tower and the red stick. Flew back, 28 minute mile, but could hardly make it back to the hut from the red stick. Then a bit of fun in the waves body surfing.
11th August – still waiting for the weather
Having put on weight and really looking forward to getting back to my racing weight. Not knowing when the swim will be, anxious for it to happen but with some trepidation. Somehow it all reminds me of being pregnant!!!!!
7th August – So frustrating !!
I’ve been following the posts on the Dover Swimmers facebook page and the conditions have been ideal with so many swimmers being succesful. Frustrating in not going and with the inactivity – how much should I be doing ? Normally I’m used to training hard almost every day.
Went for a 60 mile social cycle ride on Sunday, but tried not to push myself too hard. Will go for a swim this afternoon.
Hoping to set off next week, Springs Tides ( mean stronger currents) so hopefully towards the end of the week as we get near to the Neap Tides and fingers crossed this wonderful weather lasts.
2nd August – News Flash !!!!!!
Was due to be in the water at Dover at midnight tonight. On phoning to confirm details found that my boat has broken down. They had been working on it all day and had hoped to get it going. Looks like it may be a long job, so the swim is postponed until at least next week, or more probably to weeks time.
I was so geared up and ready to go – really wanting to get it behind me. C’est la vie ! Qu’est sera, sera !
A roller coaster of emotions, firstly almost sh….ng myself at the thought of actually going, then looking ahead to when it was all over, then completely gutted at the delay.
Out for a 40 mile cycle ride to Portland Bill at 5:45 this morning to clear my head………………………………………..
This is the worst bit, just like packing for a holiday, only you are usually looking forward to the holiday and I have mixed feelings about my swim. Give me an Ironman any day ! I don’t quit easily but this time round is going to be hard both physically and mentally.
I’ve started my packing list and getting my bag ready. Just like pregnancy – I’ve put on weight and have a bag packed ready to go at a moments notice!
Well not just a bag. I have a long list of things that are needed.
Feeding will be done via a 1 pint plastic milk bottle attached to a cord – you are not allowed to touch the boat.
I will have one feed every hour for the first three, then every 45 minutes. Last time I had a variety of feeds, but this time I have stuck to ProFuel, a tastless carbohydrate powder with no electrolytes with Summer Fruits cordial. I’ll mix it up double strength and my crew will top it up with hot water. 175ml of drink and 75ml of hot water.
I’m hoping for 15 hours or less, but could be 20 so that’s
Current world record holders are:
Male: South African Otto Thaning age 73 (2014)
Female:American Pat Gallant-Charette age 67 (2017)
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
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, 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
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 –
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
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.
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.
Monday June 4th 1515
2:06:44 3.2 miles
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
100m fly (broken to 25m’s)
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.
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 !
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.
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.
Now’s the time to put my toe in and test the waters !
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!
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.
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.
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.