My holiday arrived at long last. It is hard to believe that a year ago Ali Miche Kaz and I were returning from Swanage. I am going to have to be typically British and just mention the weather now. So bear with me.
The weather could not be more different to last year. 2013 was the longest winter ever. We had booked to go camping last year in the hope of having warm days (if not chilly nights). The plan was to swim the channel in a week. We could not have been more wrong. The sea was still between 7 and 9 degrees. The air temperature barely much more. And some mornings we had ice warnings on the temperature gauge on my car.
But this year! Wow. The sun was shining. The temperature was 20 degrees at 10am. There was barely any wind. Fantastic. When I met Ali at Leybourne I reminded her. “2013 was never going be my year” she said.
Pleased to have got my six hour swim out of the way last week. A good job as the temperature and eked up to 16 degrees at the edge. I had agreed to help Ali with the assessments. I had also arranged to meet Jane. A lady from the previous week who had started the assessment but could not complete it. I had promised to swim 121 with her this week.
We met at 11am for a cup of tea and a chat. The assessments started at 11.30am. There were 9 swimmers in total. Suited up (in a wet suit not my business suit.. or my birthday suit for that matter!) we entered the water.
16 degrees of course feels warm to us. Particularly in a wetsuit. But for those who are not acclimatised, it is still cold. Ali went through the acclimatisation drill. Every one looked happy with it. And we set off.
I swam behind as usual (to make sure everyone is ok) I was able to share my top tips with the new swimmers. I had already shared the cheap washing up liquid as a goggle de mister at the beginning. It also works for bathroom mirrors. Other useful tips included to stop eggs rolling off the table, place them in a bowl or other similar egg shaped receptacle. Bugger all use when you are swimming. Perhaps more handy when you are baking though. I am sure our swimmers have clear goggles and have reduced their broken egg incidents at home.
The assessments over I met Jane. She had already suited up. I decided to keep mine on just in case. I also used Flo (my swim safety device) Other models are available. But mine is from the states. It cost a fortune by the time I had paid the duty on it. But it is a useful swim device. It is both dry bag and a float. You attach it to your waist and it floats behind you.
I went through acclimatisation. I asked Jane what she thought the issue was. We talked about it for a while. Physical causes had been ruled out earlier in the week when she had seen her GP. So we thought about the things that make new swimmers anxious. Some don’t like the feeling of the wetsuit. It is constricting, grippy and usually tight around the neck. Others don’t like being splashed or swimming near others. The cold is an issue for some. We have a saying that it “only takes your breath away once”. But for some swimmers they then never really get control of their breathing.
Jane thought it may be the cold on her face. We talked about it for a while. It was more important for her to finish the swim she has planned. She was not worried about speed. So we decided she may wish to try breast stroke. She is comfortable with this and can then see where she is going.
We swam to the first buoy. She immersed her face between strokes. I noted that when she came up for air she was first of all exhaling. I advised blowing bubbles in the water and to practice breathing out under water. We did this for a while and then we swam to the next bouy. She was comfortable and smooth. And pretty fast. I certainly could not keep up with her doing breast stroke myself!
Having caught her up we swam back to shore to get rid of Flo. I thought we should try without. So we shed Flo and then carried on swimming. Jane swam beautifully. I asks Ali what sort of start Blenheim was. Apparently you have to jump in from a height. I hummed and ahhhed. Not my favourite thing jumping in. It is an air thing! Well a height thing. Ali said in a voice she was sure everyone could hear “you did it last year, JFDI!”
Shooting her a hard stare before collecting Flo (for safety reasons – her being a swim safety device) we set off to the pontoon. I said I thought it was about 150m from the jetty. I think that is wrong. I have no ideas how far it is. But it seemed to take us ages.
I said to Jane it was worth practising as we could use some techniques to help her retain control of her breathing. We did not really need to do that. She jumped in. Again. And again. And again. No bother. I was hesitant but also jumped in.
We then swam back to the jetty. I advised Jane she had passed her assessment. We had in reality swum much further than the assessment and been in deeper water.
I was delighted for her. I offered to swim the 750m course next weekend with her. Then she will be ready to swim her own race.
Fantastic. Someone who was so nervous (but smiling) last week came out of the water happy and confident. What could be better than helping others to have as much fun as I do!
Princess Fiona had arrived in the mean time. And Jamie. Ali offered up my services to have a look at his stroke. We set him off on 3x400m round the bouys. Catching him up for one of them so we could have a look.
I was able to give Jamie some tips too. Not baking tips this time. Swimming tips. I advised him about a few drills that would help his arm entry and rotation. And then I decided it was time to get out.
It is corny to say it but true non the less. I love helping others to enjoy swimming. I am not a coach. I don’t get paid. I have just learnt things along the way and enjoy sharing what little I know with others.
I had already invited myself to Ali and Miche’s or tea. I had also requested meat balls. I had a sandwich when I got out. Ali was not ready as she had some assessments to do. Fiona carried on swimming. Barely a peep out of her this week. She swam well and was much warmer at the end.
It is amazing how much better it feels getting out into warm sunshine. Actually, that is not amazing at all. It is evident. That sentence does not sound quite as good though. It is evident how much better it feels getting out into the warm sunshine. See? I shall stick with the original line. We did not shiver at all. Ali and I had been in 2.5 hours in total and Princess Fiona an hour.
The first thing to do upon arrival at Ali and Miche’s was to inspect the shed. (I usually have a wee as the first thing I do but not today) Miche has designed and is building a shed in their garden. To call it a shed is not quite right. Some may call it a summer house. Miche is calling it a cow shed for now. Either way it is a temporary erection for which one does not require planning permission. Their neighbour appears to have developed erection envy. I say that as while we were there we saw him measuring up for what we assumed is going to be an even bigger erection.
There will be a grand opening and there is a competition to name the shed. I was lost for ideas. Probably because I was so hungry.
The meatballs were amaze balls by the way! And I ate 4! Which I thought was a record. Apparently I have eaten 4 before. So I have equalled my record.