September 2, 2015
Well, the adventure has a started 🙂
It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. I’ve been busy trying to get everything ready for work as it’s the start of the academic year, whilst also preparing for two conferences, and also getting stressed about the Big Swim. Disaster has also struck… I first bought a MacBook Pro in 2006 and was very happy with it, but in 2011, the battery overheated and warped the laptop, so I got it replaced. Sadly, my newer laptop has befallen a similar fate. It has overheated and has damaged the graphics card, so it has gone away to the Apple Store to be repaired. This is hugely inconvenient for many reasons, but it also means that I’ve been struggling to blog (I am in awe of anyone who regularly manages to blog on a phone).
Since getting back from Dublin, I’ve done nothing but swim. There have been no running sessions, and my cycling has been limited to my daily commute. Unfortunately, I was more fatigued from Dublin than I realised and I’ve had some awful swims, which has dented my confidence a little. I also went to a tri club swimming session with a coach I hadn’t met before. I knew I wasn’t swimming well. At the end of the session, the coach asked me how long I had been swimming for and I replied, “Two years”. His response, “Hmmm. I just don’t know where to start.” which didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
I sat down with my coach, Olly, and worked out what training I would do in the fortnight leading up to the swim. I decided to go for more pool sessions, rather than lake swimming as I’m more concerned about my speed than my endurance and I know I’ll be OK in the sea. Olly reassured me that I would be fine, but I know how slow I am.
Sunday was Lymington Sprint Triathlon, which was my club’s championship race. I really wanted to do it, but Olly firmly advised against it (“No!” Was his exact guidance), so I was sensible and just spectated. It looked like a lot of fun, with a 500m swim in the saltwater baths.
Monday was a Bank Holiday, which was great as it gave me an extra day at home, but it also meant that there was no Tri Club swim in the evening. As a consequence, Roelie, Stuart and I decided to go to Boscombe (where I recently did a 3.8km swim) for an hour of swimming.
I thought Boscombe should be relatively safe as it’s where sea swim events are held. There is a long promenade with some brightly coloured beach huts, and also a shower area. On Monday, there was a beach volleyball tournament taking place… However, it was raining, so most participants were wearing more than skimpy bikinis!
There were quite a few jellyfish in the sea when I last swam here, but the sea was a little colder and it was overcast, so I didn’t see any. Another positive, was that it was not at all breezy, so the sea as beautifully calm and still and it was easy to see the bottom. As we walked down the cliff path, we could see a couple of open water swimmers in the sea.
We arrived on the promenade by the lifeguard hut, which had red and yellow flags outside, however, the area marked out for bathing is only about 25m wide, so we decided to ignore it. As there were no waves, we knew that we did not have to go very far out to swim. We chose to swim parallel to the shore, so that if anyone had a problem, it would be easy to get back to the beach. I also agreed with Stuart that he would loop back to keep an eye on me as he’s a much stronger swimmer than I am. (Although I’m a terrible swimmer, I’ve always felt reasonably confident about my ability to float or do backstroke. However, the tragedy of Paul Gallihawk – a novice triathlete who drowned during the swim of his first race – has struck a chord and has reminded me of just how dangerous open water swimming can be). The positive of swimming close to shore is that there were no boats or jet skis around, so I wasn’t afraid that I would be run over and die like Kirsty MacColl (one of my greatest swimming fears).
I had realised in the car that I had forgotten my Garmin, but Stuart kindly agreed that I could borrow his, as I wanted to see what my pace was like.
We started by the pier and swam 500m down to the lifeguard hut. I had a quick look at my watch and was pleased to see that I had swum the 500m faster than in 2:29/100m (40 minute/mile). I wasn’t sure which way the current was going – this had also been the easy section during my last swim here. I turned around and saw that Stuart had joined me. He decided to do some lazy backstroke and I followed him. I didn’t think I was drafting particularly, but was amazed to find that my pace for the second 500m was 2:01/100m – that’s faster than I do in the pool!!! I did 500m in 10:04 🙂
I turned around and did another 500m, pausing briefly to smile and wave at another open water swimmer. At the lifeguard hut, I turned around and swam back, keeping an eye on Roelie who was swimming to my left. Roelie and Stuart stopped, but I kept swimming around in circles to get the final 10m that I needed to finish at 2000m. My final time was 45:23. I really enjoyed this swim as a I had felt calm and had not pushed too hard, but had swum at the necessary pace. Bizarrely, when Stu uploaded the data onto his computer, it said I had only swum 1999m, and we he exported the file and sent it to me, the data was different again. How can that happen?!
Yesterday evening, we drove down to Cornwall. There were some very slow drivers on the road (30mph in a 60 zone!) so we didn’t arrive until nearly 11pm. This meant we had enough time for a quick cuppa before going to bed. This morning we had an early start and were quayside in Penzance by 7:40am.
In the queue for the Scillonian, we met another swimmer. He said that he has swum 5km in a pool, but his longest open water swim is 1 mile, which has made me feel a bit better.
The weather was relatively good and the sea wasn’t too rough, but I felt really queasy, so I spent quite a lot of the voyage up on deck in the fresh air.
It was such a relief when land came into view!
There were also a few sailing boats.
After we disembarked, we walked across the island to our apartment. We spent a little while unpacking and then headed out to find some lunch. Fortunately, there was a cafe not far away, with beautiful sea views.
Then we went for a walk into town. We intended to go for a practice swim, but it had turned a bit cold and we were feeling tired, so we decided just to go to Co-op to buy some food for our evening meal and for breakfast. After walking a short distance, e found we had some followers!
So, we’ve had our first day on St Mary’s. Tomorrow, we’ll probably go for a short swim and then on Friday there is an acclimatisation swim where we will be put into groups. I know I’ll be in the slowest group, but hopefully there will be others who swim at my pace.