After a 4km swim in Tooting Bec on Friday I took Saturday off to attend my amazing friend Elaine’s memorial service, it was a year ago that we lost her and as many of you know I am dedicating my solo swim next year to her memory. Having had a sad but nice day catching up with her family and other friends I headed down to Dover on Sunday in the beautiful sunshine with a view of doing a 4 hour swim.
The longest I have swam without a wetsuit was last year and was just under 3 hours (although I have done 3hrs 45 with a wetsuit) so I thought this would be a good stepping stone and having spoke to Freda we agreed I would aim for 4 hours. Freda originally challenged me to 6 but I negotiated down to 4 as this seemed more where I should be aiming for at this stage.
Dover beach is a great way to meet those that have already swam the channel and those that are currently training to as well as those with other swimming challenges including; Lake Zurich, Swim around Jersey and Loch Lomond. It is such a great source of information and as I am getting to know more people I am learning a huge amount about both the 2 way relay that I will be attempting with Paul, Parviz and Hilary this year and my solo.
As I would be swimming for more than 2 hours the team at Dover put in place a feeding scheme which meant that after 2 hours we would feed and then every hour after that. By feed I don’t mean a meal of any sorts! It compromises of a jelly baby (or piece of chocolate if you are lucky) and a maxi solution mixed with warm water and that is it!
The first two hours I was struggling to keep warm despite the sun on my back and swam on and off with my friend Charlie which although swimming is a pretty unsociable sport (during swimming not after :)) but it is good to have someone there from time to time. I had also bumped into one of my two way relay team as he had come down for a swim to see how he would get on in the cold water after being in the States for a few weeks.
As it came up to the first feed time I headed in and grabbed my jelly baby and drink and then off I went. After this each hour went very quickly and as I got to my third hour I started thinking that perhaps I should try for five hours. My shoulder was aching slightly but nothing too bad and as my fourth hour went really quickly I decided that I was going to go for it whilst I was feeling so good. I had a quick chat to the team as I came in for my feed and they agreed that I should go for my five hours. As I swam on I started wondering if I should go for six! The six hours would mean that I would qualify for my solo swim next year. As I got to the last 15 minutes my shoulder started twinging and I made the call to call it a day. This was by far my longest ever swim without a wetsuit and given that my training this year has all been under two hours this was a massive boost for my confidence.
I feel much more confident now about the solo and the two way relay. I know that I could have done my six hour as I came out feeling really good, which was in my head a huge task and my plan was to get it done by around August so I am well ahead of that…. perhaps this weekend. However, 6 hours is still a relatively small swim compared to the task in hand which could take anywhere from 14 plus hours depending on weather, tides, currents etc. so I certainly cannot rest on my laurels as I still have a long way to go but it was a big step for me both psychologically and physically.
This weekend I am heading down with my friend Vicky for both Saturday and Sunday (She has her solo attempt in just 3 weeks). My two way relay team will also be down on Saturday so although they don’t get in the water till 10am I will aim to be around the swimmers beach as they enter so I can swim with them for an hour or two.