Category Archives: RCN Foundation

Sabbatical Part 1

The sabbatical is from 30 June to 3 August inclusive. 5 weeks to swim, sleep eat and train. I had thought it was 4 weeks but July is a long month and so there are 6 weekends in total. Yipee.

Weekend 1 was in Leeds. My Mum wanted to throw the Anniversary lunch and so with that in mind I went up to Leeds to join in the festivities.
A swim in David Lloyd Leeds on Saturday morning meant that I still did some training. But it was a lovely family fun filled weekend.

It was great to see my Cousin Linda who has also taken up swimming outside. Mainly for triathlon she is an excellent cyclist.

I travelled back to London on Sunday evening and made it in 4 hours. I knew I had to go to the office on Monday to finish of a piece of work. So Monday morning I was up early packing my bags for the following 5 weeks.

Day 1
Via the office to finish the work I set off to the van about 1pm.

I knew that I probably would not have time to swim that day. And in all honesty I was quite tired from the epic weekend of driving. I had accepted a random invitation to join some swimmers at Varne Ridge for a pasta party. They said it would be at 7.30pm. I offered to make chilli and salad. Along with Stuart Gleeson (my second favourite pilot, Eric being my first!) we went to Varne Ridge. Any qualms about finding the right caravan were soon put to bed as there was a big Irish flag in their van window.

We knocked on the door and they were already washing up! Ah well, we had Chilli, salad and Nachos so Stuart and I had a feast while we talked swimming.
Mindful of the time I excused myself at 9.30pm. I like to swim first thing in the morning and had planned to swim at 7 ish.

Day 2
My swim plans for day 2 were to double dip. I planned an hour first thing and then an hour later after high tide. The purpose of this to test out the shoulder but also I have 6 weeks and I have a gradual build up of time over each week. The sea was choppy and there was an outward tide in the morning. It felt warm as the sun was shining. There were some really cold bits. And on the way into the sea the small jelly fish were on the beach. Rumour has it that some larger jellies are going to be swept up the channel when the wind turns. I hate them. It is not so much the sting (although I don’t like that either) they are just so alarming to look at. Plus I do not really know which ones are stingers. Still I did not see any but there was lots of seaweed which would brush against me and wrap around my legs. No stings though on either swim.

I swam with a big smile on my face. The sea is my favourite place to swim. Cooler than the lake by around 5 degrees (the lake was 21 degrees last time I was there) it still felt pleasant. The winter swims ultimately pay off. That and a layer of bioprene! Natures own wetsuit.

In the evening I did a work out with my “gym stick”. It is a stick with resistance bands. I watched the DVD and followed the workout. It was quite simple to use really. Some of the exercises require more coordination than I presently have. However the DVD promises that some of the exercises will improve your balance. We’ll see.

Gym stick sessions will be 3-4 times a week during this training month. It was quite good fun. Unlike most exercise equipment it would not have a multi use as a clothes horse. But it saves going to the gym. The nearest David Lloyd is in Maidstone which is a drive a way.

Day 3
I planned another double dip on Wednesday. I thought that I would have crew but the weather stilled and Stuart (second favourite pilot) went out with a solo channel swimmer. (Cae and he completed in just over 13 hours). The plan to swim for 2 hours and then an hour later. I arrived at the water at 9.30am today. I normally go earlier and swim on an empty stomach but I thought that 2 hours would be pushing it. So I got up at 7 and had breakfast and then allowed it to settle. The myth of swimming after eating has been busted. But it does make me feel sick and I find I need to wait at least 90 minutes.

The sea was flat calm. The tide was due to turn and become inward. So placing my kit strategically (so it would not get washed away mid swim) I entered the water. It was beautiful. The sun was shining and whilst there was a current swimming one way it was an assistance on the way back. I was feeling good and quite quickly decided I would swim for the full 3 hours. As I had no crew, I planned to have a drink at 90 minutes, then an hour after that and then at the end. I wanted to reduce drinking time as without crew I have to leave the water. I had previously thought that 2 hours would be as much as I could manage without crew. But if I time it right and with some careful kit placement I could perhaps swim up to about 5 hours without crew.

The beauty of an inward tide is that there is not so far to walk at the end. The water was approximately 5 feet away from my kit. I got dry and by the time I left there was only a foot to spare.

I do train with more focus when I am alone. No one to chat to. It felt like a quality session. My arms were aching a bit and I realised that it would be the after effects of the gym stick session the night before. My elbow held out too.

The temptation was to carry on. But my kit was about to be submerged and there is no point over doing it. I have written myself a plan and that is what I shall stick to.

When I got home I checked my email. I had an email from Clare at Nursing Standard who was asking me to write a reflective piece for publication. Another chance to promote the RCN Foundation so I called her and began writing. I was limited to 700 words. I have a Mac Book Air and also not a clue how to find word count on it. I know I wrote far to much but it gave her plenty to edit.

It is due for publication toward the end of July. I shall be sure to buy my Mum and Dad a copy!


Apologies that this is rather late to be published. Sadly my site was hacked. It has taken some time to retrieve it but here it is. I shall take us back in time to mid June. And as if by magic…….


Regular readers will know that I am swimming the Channel this year. That is the main reason this website is called “channelswimwithsarahd” after all. Those that have been paying attention will know that I am also raising money for the RCN Foundation. 


There is a link on the right hand side of the page if you want to know more. 


Why am I raising money for the RCN Foundation you may ask. And even if you are not asking, I am about to tell you. 


Dinah Cox (who is an OBE! I could not believe it when I saw it on her Congress badge!) is the Head of the RCN Foundation. She came to talk to us at work about a year or so ago. She is a funny and inspirational speaker. After hearing her speak I decided that I would raise money for the RCN Foundation. But not only that, as I was due a sabbatical I would make a pitch to use my sabbatical to train, in exchange. 


The pitch was successful (Thanks Patricia Marquis and Tom Sandford) and the whole RCN Foundation thing got off to a start. It was  slow start to be fair as there did not seem a lot of point making a song and a dance about it until nearer the time. 


But how they have got behind me. They (at the Foundation)  arranged for a fringe event at Congress (where I was able to show case the Foundation and the Big Swim”.)  


Lewis Allett (Grants Manager but not an OBE.. yet) was incredibly enthusiastic. Somehow the concept of using a static bike to get Congress delegates to cycle stationary miles was born. The plan to see how many times the channel could be crossed for the duration of the Congress Exhibition. 


A map of the Channel was on display with a magnetic swimmer who was moved along each time a KM was passed. (It had to be in KM not miles as no one knew how to change the settings on the bike!).  I supported the stand (and did my fair share of cycling). We attracted famous cyclists such as Peter Carter (Gen Sec and CEO of the RCN) David Harding Price (Council Member)  and Celia Amin the RCN Deputy President. Wiggo did not turn up but in fairness he had not said that he would. 


Peter Carter on bike

















It was a huge success and there was over £300 in the bucket. There was  text number too and not forgetting my Just Giving page. 


Clare at the Nursing Standard also asked if I would write a reflections piece. I have written that and it will appear in a future edition of Nursing Standard. 


For raising awareness the Foundation stand was hit. It was referenced in RCN bulletin each day. My fringe event got a great write up and other fund raisers were also profiled in the bulletin and in the films that were on display. 


I have not as yet set a target. There is not a “as much as possible” target. What I do know is that the Foundation does some really good work and is a life change for the people who use it. But in order for it to continue to offer grants and loans it has to keep money coming in. You don’t have to be  a RCN member to access the support (it is a charity after all and is more about the greater good). 


So if after reading this you are moved to donate, you can either text “swim45£3” to 70070 or visit my Just Giving page. 


All donations gratefully received. Particularly from the people whose lives you change.