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Sarah’s Log

Durling Castle

 

“ We’ve come all this way and you are looking at a fecking tree stump!” exclaimed Ali as she observed Kaz, Claire and Miche ponder if a tree stump had been hit by lightening. It is the delivery I know and you had to be there, but bent over double, I had to find a tree lest I wet myself. I laughed so hard the tears ran down my legs!

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The last day and we were visiting Durling Castle. Kaz had found this on a run reccy and promised us a flat stroll. Ah. We should have known better. As the steps led us down to the castle we were bound to have to walk up hill at some point!

 


The views were amazing. Dolphins can be sighted from the cliff tops and in addition to the tree stump we were sure we saw dorsal fins emerging in the sea. Funny how when you shout “dolphins!” everyone stops to look.

 dolphins!

Ali, with the weight of the world upon her pondered the swim she is to undertake in August. It’s not that blinking far. Barely a hand span.

 

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The tourist trap.

 

We had said at the beginning of the week that we would take some time out so that Kaz and Miche could do things that they wanted to do. Kaz and I also thought it important that Ali and Miche have some “couple time”. The off set of that is that so did we!

 

Kaz doesn’t do things by halves. She is well known for cramming a weeks activity into a day. We set off from base camp with the plan to visit Corfe Castle and to be astonished by the “blue pool”. Well so said the literature.

 

We were not to know that Corfe would be so enchanting.

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An Enid Blyton shop attracted my attention whilst the testers of marmalade and scones in the National Trust shop took Kaz’s.

 

There are not many doors that I cannot get through without bending over but I found one in the village of Corfe.

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A wonderful cream tea (you have to while you are in Dorset, Devon, Yorkshire, Cornwall, Lancashire… well anywhere really) in the shadow of Corfe Castle had us running inside to take shelter from hail stones the size of peas! They don; t half hurt when they hit you.

 

With all seasons in one day we were blessed with some sunshine for a steam engine ride. 2 minutes each way, it was an opportunity not to be missed.

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And never one to miss a photo opportunity, I decided I was not in service. The station master had never seen anyone pick up the sign before and invited us to look at his tea room. In 40s style, Kaz just had to take a picture of the PAC testing sticker on the wireless. How could you resist?

 

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Those that know me will probably have heard me say “ I never bring more than I can carry”. I am thinking of investing in a trolley similar to the one pictured below.

 

never bring more than you can carry

Or may be this one.

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The staff at Corfe station are all volunteers. If you are into trains what an excellent volunteer role?

 

We ran out of time sadly and were not to be astonished by the Blue Pool. Our swim was scheduled for 5pm and so reluctantly we had to head back. It is worth noting that during her run reccy, Kaz had found free parking for us. We had been able to see the car as we went over the bridge on the steam train.

 

We had all enjoyed our “couple time”. Kaz and I are not a couple but we may as well be I suppose. We bicker like an old married couple and can finish each others sentences. The only difference is, that we tend to laugh when things go wrong. Rather than fall out and swear at each other we tend to make the best of things and see the best in things.

 

So when I fall over or trip on some imaginary hazard and Kaz laughs at me, I don’t get into a strop. This I think is all the evidence you need to know that we are not a couple.

 

So why is this instalment called Sarah’s log? Well. With the current in the right direction and swimming in to it, I discovered that you could have a poo while swimming. And not risk running back into it. Cutting out the middle man, (that would be the toilet) it seemed that like Pavlov’s dog, entry into Swanage Bay led me to want to have a poo. Fortunately this was not the case at Durdle Door (where there was no discernible current). And in reality it did not happen every time.

 

It is good thing to practice though as on a channel swim there is every chance that you may need to have a poo while you are swimming. And although it is still the Channel at Swanage, the sea is so clear and blue you could be forgiven for thinking you were elsewhere.

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Somewhere over the Rainbow.

 

Buying groceries is an essential part of camping. Miche’s bistro turned out some excellent food. My highlight will always be Miche’s meat balls.

 

The Co-Op was relatively well stocked. And with a kitty of £50 each for the week (including wine and beer) with the option to put in more if we needed it (we did) we would venture to the Coop after the swim. No car park in Dorset is free including those at supermarkets. But Ali and I would stay in the car, under blankets and rocking steadily to keep warm. There was no fear that any one would steal the car. The heat when you opened the door would knock you out first if you were not put off by the rockers in the back!

 

One evening on the way back, we screeched to a halt, parked on a yellow as there was a magnificent rainbow. Kaz appeared to be texting and I (not known for my camera skills) said, “you are missing the picture –there is a boat in front of the rainbow, hurry up you will miss it!”

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Of course you can get out of the car and make sure that the boat is in the shot (but I knew that really!)

 

You know that you have reached a certain age when a) you have a chair in the back of your car and b) you stop to admire the scenery.

 

Kaz and I also did this on the way back from Wareham on the first day. I was driving and we were at the summit of a hill with a great vantage point of Swanage Bay, Studland and the whole area. I drove into the view point and parked behind the only bush. “that’s a great view” remarked Kaz sardonically. And we laughed. (This is evidence that we are not a couple for a couple would surely have argued at this point!)

 

Kaz did most of the driving while we were away. Ali generously let Kaz drive her new car. I am not sure how generous that was really as 9 times out of 10 Ali would be sat in the back with me shivering under a blanket. It would be fair to say that she was incapable of driving at this point. Even though her car is an automatic!

 

I did however want to drive home. I like motor way driving. And I am a nervous passenger.  Adjusting my seat, the wing mirrors and rear view mirror I depressed the clutch and put the car into gear. “It helps if you turn on the ignition”. Apparently. It doesn’t take much to make us laugh.

 

(I offer this as further evidence of us not being a couple. And, just in case you think I am protesting too much, I will not mention it again!)

 

I asked  the blue tits for highlights of the week. But in fact there were too many to mention. In spite of the wind, rain and cold, we had a great time. Ali has become a convert to camping! She even suggested an extra night.

 

Thank fully the pitch was booked out. I say thank fully as on the Friday night a group had arrived. One of them snored for England. He looked like a snorer (given his girth) and that was before he started drinking strong larger at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

 

And so it was with great sadness that we struck camp. And you can see us striking  a camp pose in the picture below. The purple wig got another outing. It is now possibly better travelled than its original owner!

 

something in the hair

The Swims

 

Each swim was to have its own challenges. 

 

Neither Ali nor I were all that well acclimatised to cold water this year. We had taken an occasional dips in sea or lake over the winter but had not been as concerted in our efforts as the previous year. We had spent alot of time building speed and endurance in the pool. And probably an equal amount of time dining in Miche’s Bistro on a Saturday team time.

    moody and cold 

Miche’s mobile bistro did follow us to Swanage. How happy was I to discover that Miche’s home made meatballs were the first meal of the camp? Lovely. I nearly ate a 4th one. But gave in as I really was full.

 

The lack of acclimatisation showed during the course of the week. Although the water was between 9.4 and 10, the air temperature and wind chill was the main challenge.

 

The residents of Swanage were sick of the cold wind that had continued to blow in for over a week. Or so a resident told us as she spied us getting into the sea. We were also sick of it and had only been there for a day!

 

It was biting. In the sunshine it was more tolerable but the early days were gloomy and over cast. Moody. Which was like Ali and I when we were getting up at 6.30am to do the first of 3 dips of the day. On an empty stomach!

  

its a lonely thing is swimming

The first morning I drove us down in my car. Big mistake. It is a diesel and slow to warm up.  It takes around 25 minutes for the heat to blow warm. Well maybe not that long but we were only a mile or so from base camp.

 

Consequently were chilled to the bone when we arrived back. The cars heat indicator had not moved from blue. This colour matched our lips, fingers and toes.

 road side changing

Kaz volunteered to be our driver for future dips. We also determined that we would go in Ali’s car which warms up quickly anyway. But how lovely to return to a car that has the heater belting out because Kaz is sitting in it with it going on full.

 

It has to be said that Michelle and Kaz were dehydrated, had dry eyeballs and their lips stuck to their teeth by the end of the week. Ali and I on the other hand sat under a blanket in the car marvelling that the outside temperature was as “high” as 8 degrees.

 

The shivery dance can hurt. When you mouth is clenched and your shoulders are tensed and you are holding yourself rigid in an attempt to stop shivering, it hurts. Relax into the shiver and whilst it would never be pleasurable it is more tolerable. This is easier said than done. In order to entertain ourselves and to keep our minds of the shiver, Ali and I misbehaved in the back seat. We fell out like small children and whined and generally made a nuisance of ourselves.

 

The swamkets are a “Kaz” send.  (see what I did there?) She made the prototype which has been universally copied amongst the Blue Tits swim team, (but never surpassed!)

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Made of  prada mark fleece they are warm and they dry very quickly. This is essential when camping and your next swim is in 3 hours. Especially when it is drizzling and cold.

 

Our plan to swim x 3 per day was soon thwarted by a massive storm that came in on Monday night. The gales were over 70 mph. I had to go out 3 times to batten down the hatches. Not one of us slept as the wind howled around our tents and camp site. Although we did not blow away, our tent (a little more exposed than Ali and Miche’s tent) was battered. The guys came out, the tent pegs lifted out. The storm strap broke. At one point in the night it felt like I was being clobbered on the head. The reality dawned. The side of the tent that had become unpegged and was now banging me on the head! A swear word or two later, I was out side, again, hammering in the pegs.

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Thank fully it was not raining all of the time. For the tent would surely have flooded. We were battered relentlessly for around 12 hours with strong winds and gales.

 

The next morning at 6.30am, I looked across at Kaz. She suggested having another hours sleep. (The storm had died down a little). She text Ali and Miche (in the next tent some 6 feet away) and made this suggestion. It would be fair to say it was gratefully received.

 

The rain arrived and it rained all day. The air temperature was now 5 degrees but the weather app said it felt like -1.7 degrees. We decided to miss our lunch time swim too as we were cold and tired. Kaz and I went for a rainy walk in Swanage. Wrapped in wet weather gear and willies, we tramped around Swanage and actually had a really good time. That said, when ever we go anywhere we generally have a good time. Finding humour in adversity, we usually see the best in things.

 

We discovered the pier. It had recently been refurbished and then a storm and taken out half of it. There was a fund raising effort to try and repair the pier. We also took a look around the pier museum. There is an underwater camera at the end of the pier and the feed is in the museum. All was quiet. Nothing to see here.

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That evening Ali and I went to Swanage to swim. Painful and cold, we braved the elements and swam our hearts out. It was hard work. Still tired and hungry (we were looking forward to Miche’s bistro upon our return) we struggled to swim against the waves. I love the swell and this was no exception. We were beaming when we came out although we were very cold indeed. Still the car was warming up. We had also decided that we would just take our cosies off, don our swamkets and be dropped straight off at a hot shower. A wise recommendation (made by Kaz) and one we adopted after every swim. We warmed up much more quickly than faffing around in the bus shelter getting dry and putting on clothes. Especially as the car was so beautifully warm.

This sort of swimming really does give meaning to the swim team name!  We were also blue in the fingers, toes and lips. The air was fairly blue too as we both suffered from cold water turrets when getting in.

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Funny how it helps. But it does. Also repeating “it’s ok it’s ok it’s ok” appears to help too.

 

Our getting in styles vary. Ali favours a dunk and plunge, I go for a fall. Either way once the move is made it is irreversible. It only takes your breath away once!

 

At the end of the week we added up our swim times and distances. Ali had a GPS watch which will have done it for her (if only she could work the blinking thing!)

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Ali will have swum further than me as she is a faster swimmer. She swims approx 1000m to my 900m. Having said that she suggested a tweak to my stroke which I adopted and I am on her feet now. Now quite as fast as her but I am no longer being left for dead!

 

The furthest we swum in one hit was 2km. The sea was approximately 10 degrees that day and the air temperature about 12 degrees. (This felt comparatively warm given the temperatures earlier in the week). We stopped mainly because we were hungry. It was fun and we were enjoying the feel of the sun on our backs. We could have probably swum a little longer but we had set out to do 2km and given that we were swimming x 3 per day, we thought this was enough.

 

The least we swum in one go was 500m in bitter cold weather with a sea of 9.4 degrees and a wind chill of -1.7.

 

Claire Russell joined us for the last two days at camp. I had phoned her in the week to give her a synopsis of the weather. We wanted her to make an informed choice if she was coming to camp. The weather was cold wet and windy. Such a good friend she is, she decided to come anyway to support Ali in her training endeavours.

 3 tits getting ready at studland

How glad we were that she did!

 

She brought with her some sunshine and for one day only a drop in the wind

 

This was the day that we went to Durdle Door.

 durdle door

A swim through the door was always on the cards.  You can’t go to Swanage and not visit the Durdle Door. This is a place that Kaz has always wanted to go. It is an iconic sight but to be honest the TV and pictures do not do it justice.

The pictures that Kaz took on the other hand do! She took some fabulous shots. Not normally one for scenary, I am sure you will agree these are worthy of being  a post card.

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It was a challenge to reach the beach. ¾ of a mile down a cliff face. The steps had been washed away for the final 100m. Those that know me will know that I am a bit of a wuss on steps anyway. But when they have been washed away……

 

I asked Kaz to do a reccy to see if I could do it.  Kaz been Kaz agreed. In spite of having a 10k race to run that evening! Well it was good training and possibly the only training she had done that week apart from a few runs out. That said they were useful to us as she kept finding interesting places for us to visit. Durdle door however was a 30 minute drive away and she had not had a chance to reccy that.

 

We had come down a chalk path already. Miche had slipped and whilst she had not fallen it had set my anxiety levels high. (I think the others thought I had not seen her trip but I did!)

 cliff top durdle door

It was Kaz’s opinion I could. I also did not want to let the others down. And so with lots of misgivings I went down.

 

We were all carrying stuff. Including an inflatable kayak (yet to be inflated).
It was treacherous but fortunately we made it without mishap.

 

And my goodness it was worth it. I think the pictures say it all. We inflated the kayak. Miche provided kayak support but Kaz stayed on land to take some pics. She did not want to risk getting soaked as she had a race to run that night after all.

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The swimmers waited for each other as it seemed rude to get in without each other. This played havoc with the wee plans. Suffice it to say we were all at varying stages of water entry before we weed. Some of us closer to the edge than others.

 

Happy swimmers and kayakers were we.

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We probably ruined the photo opportunity with our swimming shenanigans for those that were trying to take pics from further up the cliff. I suspect they did not expect to see swimmers.

 durdle door and swimmers

Or the moon!

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The roar of elation that we let out as we swum beneath the door echoed around the cove. Fortunately it did not set off another land slide and so we were able to make it back up the cliff in time for Kaz’s race.

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At the top of the cliff we ate homemade lemon drizzle (thanks Claire) and drank from our flasks. Ali had carried the kayak up on her back for much of the way. Or so she said! Kaz had carried it over the treacherous bit being the most sure footed and fleet of foot.

 

It had begun to rain as we were getting dry but fortunately it was only a clearing up shower. We headed off to park and ride for Kaz’s 10k race. Where I am pleased to report she achieved a PB and finished well under the hour.

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Although Kaz says I am good for the chat, she arrived back and was looking for a fellow competitor with whom she had been chatting while she ran. Ahem. Its a race! Some people came back short of breath from running!

Swanage Training Camp (literally)

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When you book to go camping in May you might not expect the best of weather. This is the UK after all. Perhaps it may rain; you may expect some wind and the nights being a bit chilly. But probably ok and with luck you may even get some sunny warm days.

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When you have storms, rain, temperatures below freezing, sleet, hail and a persistent cold wind, you may expect misery in the camping department.

 

Particularly when you are with aforementioned reluctant camper.

 shes never awake this one!

How wrong you would be!

 

With all that the UK weather could throw at us, we survived a whole week. A few glimmers of sun kept us from going balmy, but we managed the whole week. And without an argument or cross word between us!

 

It is my observation that you don’t often see groups of middle aged women camping together. Groups of men who are adventuring – mountain biking or walking. But not usually groups of women.  We were certainly the exception to the rule at Ulwell if nowhere else.

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As part of Ali’s channel swim prep we were embarking on a weeks swim camp.

 

How were we to know that the sea temperature was going to be unseasonably cold (being 1 degree under its previous coldest May temperature!)

 

The plan to swim 40km in the week was looking doubtful. With the sea around 9.4 degrees but air temperatures around 6-8 degrees with a wind chill making it feel closer to 1.7, we would have our work cut out. Perhaps if we were returning to bricks and mortar, central heating and a warm bath it could have happened. But not when we were returning to a thin layer of fabric, communal showers with a timer button.

 

Swanage our destination however provides beautiful sea swimming. Studland Bay is stunning and Swanage bay provides a relatively sheltered swimming environment. The sea is clear and you can see to the bottom. Fine sand and kerb side parking, it was literally a hop and a skip in to the sea at Swanage bay.

 

The first swim was at Studland. It is a National Trust beach.  We arrived around 7pm only to realise that the car park closed and was locked at 8pm.

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Ali and I were into the water with no hesitation at all. Truly. The time pressures meant we literally had to get a wiggle on. So that is what we did. Never have we moved quite so quickly with so little faff. It is amazing what the threat of being locked in a car park will do to a girl!

 

It was a beautiful sunny evening and although there was a cold breeze, the blue of the sea was inviting.

 

Oh my god! How cold was it?  At around 9.4 it was similar to temperatures we have regularly swum in but the cold breeze made it feel even colder. The thought of returning to a tent and communal showers also added to the challenge.

 

We entered the water and were swimming with big smiles on our faces (it was probably warmer in that out)

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We only had 15 mins swim time as we had to be dry and out of the car park but we were pleased to get our first dip of the week completed.

 

That said the cold was biting. I complained that I had never felt so cold. Sympathy was in short supply from Kaz who remarked “ well you have been colder. You are just a wuss”.  For avoidance of doubt, Kaz did not don her bikini all week so I am not sure how she could possibly know how cold it is to stand in your bathers in a wind chill of -1.7.

 

Shivering in the back of the car with the heating on full, we returned to have a hot shower.

 

They were as I said the kind where you press a button to start the flow.  

 

But I could not reach the button easily and stand in the shower. Not only that I found the showers far too hot for my comfort.  Ali a couple of inches taller than me could manage this contortion with ease and liked the shower temperatures.

 

We stayed in for quite some time to warm up. Cold to the core (as much from the icy breeze as the sea) it took quite some time. The under floor heating in the shower room helped a little.

 

Little did we know what mother nature was going to throw at us.

 

Bank Holiday Monday

Assessments first of all.  Ali, G (you just have to write it that way for fairly obvious reasons) and me (not I as that would not rhyme) were doing some assessments together. When there are a number of people I will get in the water to swim at the back. This is so the slower nervous ones do not feel like they are the slowest!

 

Needn’t have worried on Monday. They were off.

 

And so after the assessments we sat in our swamkets and had a hot drink and a natter. The plan was 2 hours swimming.

 

The temperature was 14.5 degrees. And it felt like it. The air temperature was around 20 I should think. It was the first time this year that we have got out of the water and being able to sit around in our cosies. Not that this is a sight for sore eyes. Or it is. I am not sure which. Answers on a postcard please.

 

G had to head off. Ali and I did 2 laps. She was well ahead. To begin with I was on her feet and then she warmed up leaving me for dead. She gains about 100m every 1k or so.

Ali did her first 2 laps in well under the hour. I was just over the hour (approx 1hr 2 mins) This is a great improvement on last year. And we then kept up the momentum.

 

You want to know something. It is really boring swimming round and round and round. If gold fishes had better memories they would all be in strait jackets. It is mind numbing. So to mix it up a bit we swam random circuits.  How maverick is that? (Well not that maverick really as Ali has a GPS watch so she knows exactly how far she has swum). Sadly I do not have that luxury. (A GPS swim watch I am told makes an excellent Christmas present or similar!) But given our known paces I know I will have managed 5K in the two hours.  

 

Leybourne has 4 00, 550 and 750m measured courses. But I didn’t stick quite to them either so I really have no idea. But you know what? I don’t actually mind. Swimming to time is good enough for me at the moment.

 

It had clouded over.  I am always pleased when that happens. Seriously. Water and sunscreen do not mix well. A light breeze began and although refreshing to those watching it made the air a little chilly. Still all good practice for channel swimming (and in reality miles easier)

 

This has stood us in good stead for our Dorset swim camp next week.

Winter Support Crew

A lay in for me on Sunday as I was not meeting Ali for sea swimming until later in the afternoon.

The tide was low at 2pm so with that in mind we decided to head for Hythe. Hythe is a great place to swim if the conditions are right. We met just near the Imperial hotel (by the crepe van!)  

We were inundated with “winter support” crew.  Melton accompanied me.  “Me Julie” (Ali’s sister) came with her hubby Andy and family. Michelle was there too and all settled down on to the shingle.

The temperature reading at Folkestone Weather buoy read 7.1 degrees. As we ventured in we both said “this is warmer than 7”.

 We had anticipated about 15 minutes but it was fantastic. The water felt bracing but comfortable. Swimming toward the hotel was tide assisted. But back toward Sandgate was against the tide. And yet the waves were with us. It was a peculiar feeling.

 We were a long way out and although the tide was coming in were were being pushed out to sea. At one point we found ourselves beyond the marker buoys.

I can no longer keep up with Ali (haven’t been able to for ages if truth be told). So we agreed that she would swim and do her own thing.

On the tide assist I could keep her in my sights but back toward Hythe not a chance.  

We were both beaming. It is a great feeling swimming into the waves. Being bounced about by the sea. Swimming strong.  And we were feeling comfortable at this point.

Although we had thought 15 minutes we were in for 40. I took a call to get out. This was mainly because the sea was becoming rougher and it was still cold of course. It doesn’t warm up that quickly!  As we were being pushed out to sea I believed we should come in before we got too cold and maybe not be able to swim to shore if the tide did more peculiar things. I felt just a tad out of my comfort zone. Ali reluctantly agreed. We both probably wanted to stay in longer. But sometimes it is important to listen to your instincts. The sea is not for messing about with. A healthy respect is required at all times.

The winter support crew (bearing in mind this is May) all thought we were miles away anyway. They were surprised by how long we stayed in. The temperature was recorded as 8.9 degrees on an alternative website. This felt about right. With the sun shining it felt ok. Cold but ok.

Getting up the shale is always a challenge. The shoes certainly help. It is steep and uneven. When I am warm and dry I struggle to stay upright. Seems Me Julie is the same! One minute she was there. The next she was laid out. Rescued by her son (who fortunately did not have to carry her far!) she was relatively unscathed from her winter support activity.

This is a relief as it is still quite a while until August. And there are fund raisers to organise and a fete. Whilst it would be true to say that walking on pebbles is not Me Julies forte, she is a most excellent organiser.  

We did not dally after getting dry as the wind had picked up and it was quite chilly. So we headed back to our respective caravans.

Assessments and Swim Shops

The sun came out and the sky was blue. There was not a cloud to spoil the view. It wasn’t raining.



The May Bank Holiday weekend started off with glorious sunshine. We met at the lake to do an OW swim shop and some assessments.

I think sometimes we may forget how experienced we are in the colder water. When you have been swimming through the winter temperatures in double figures begin to feel balmy and almost warm!

The lake was a balmy 13.5 degrees. The air temperature was around 16 degrees. It felt warm in the sun. It felt like winter was finally over. And my goodness it has been a long one.

The new OW swimmers found the water cold. And of course it is cold. Entering with trepidation they came out with big smiles on their faces. Yet more converts to outside swimming.

It is absolutely fantastic when people go away from Leybourne having had a go at swimming outside. Some are scared. Most are nervous. You cannot see the black lines. There are none. There are no tiles (although there are a couple of paving slabs to stand on when you first get in). And the water can be a little murky. So you cannot see what lay beneath. It is certainly not Jaws! But in Leybourne you will find a car, a dolphin and a skeleton to name but a few objects of interest! The car is real and rusty.

It sounds corny but I do get a real satisfaction from sharing the love of OW swimming with a new group of swimmers. Ali is a card. A qualified swim teacher she has a great way of putting nervous people at ease.

No wetsuit snobbery round Leybourne. If you want to swim with or without that is fine by us. So long as you enjoy what you do. It certainly is better when you are wetter.

not quite the high elbow there missus OW swim shop

Assessments and workshops over it was time to head round the lake for our own swims. We had been in the water for 2 hours already and the sun had gone in. Joined by Vicks she came to do a lap with us. I nearly did not get in but then joined them mid lap by swimming the wrong way round. I nearly frightened Vicks to death and certainly put her off her stroke. 

We were supported by our very own kayak crew. Kato not only managed to steer but also took photos and a video. Amazing considering that the wind was blowing her around each time she took her oar out of the water.

kayak support

The Reality of the Ribs

An excellent and understanding boss cannot be over rated when one is a channel aspirant or in fact a channel swim buddy.

 Meeting Ali and Vicks again on a Wednesday for an afternoon of swimming was again on the cards. But not before I had signed off my appraisal (which I did in the lake car park over the telephone. Not in my cossie I may add. This was before I had got in the water!)

 The weather was warm and sunny and it was certainly shorts and short sleeve weather.

 Ali was a bit under the weather as she had sustained some injuries at work. Vicks and I looked at her bruises in shock. “You are lucky he did not do your ribs again” I commented. I suspect that Ali was feeling anything but lucky as she sported the bands of bruises around her arms. The reality of the ribs is that if she sustained an injury similar to the one that she had last year, it would be game over for her channel dreams. She did however make a momentous decision (that most of us feel has been a long time coming).

 Feeling tender she was as ever up for getting in the water and swam fast and strong inspite of her bruises.

not quite the high elbow there missus

And so a fast perimeter around the lake. Ali’s time well under 29 minutes with Vicks and I just over the 30 minute mark.  I lost the love and got out at that point but Ali and Vicks stayed in to do a little more.

 Vicks was going mountain biking immediately after. It’s not mountain biking if there is no blood is a catch phrase that we have been heard to utter in previous conversations. She was going to practice some rocky descents. Vicks was carrying  a minor minjury (a minjury ahem) sustained from a previous ride. It did not appear to get in the way of her swimming.

 Ali and I stayed on for a chat. She had text a couple of people to say what she planned to do. Not one text said “are you sure you are doing the right thing?”

 She was regaled with a number of texts such as “yay” “about time too” and “good for you”.

 So with a plan in mind Ali set off to put her decision into action. As ever a woman of integrity she has handed in her resignation. She has done it in a way that will secure her own peace of mind.

 With a weeks holiday in between she only had 5 weeks to work. Hopefully they will pass quickly and without incident.

First perimeter of the year

Today was warm and mainly cloudy. Air temperature was approximately 18 degrees and the lake a tropical 11 degrees.

 Ali, Vicks and myself met at Leybourne for a swim. Pete and Paula are open now every day and have been since the beginning of this week. Due to the cold weather we have had they are later opening than usual. The lake has struggled to get over 10 degrees for weeks. (10 degrees in case you did not know it is the average temperature from a household cold water tap … apparently).

 Vicks full of enthusiasm and encouraged by the weather suggested we swim 2 perimeters and a 550m.

 I said I would be happy to do a perimeter. We are not as acclimatised this year as last having spent quite a lot of time pool swimming working on speed and distance.

 Vicks was ready first. This is the first time this year we have felt the need for sun screen.  Having put on insect repellent patches we were ready for the off.

 I over ruled the suggestion of the camera. (Bossy aren’t I?) “we are here to train not to have fun” said I.  Although I agreed that we could have some “camera fun” at the end.

 We discussed if we would meet at each bouy to check if we were ok. “we are here to train not to have fun” said I. Although I agreed that Vicks and I could chat if we wanted to. Ali just had to swim.

 It was ok getting in. The water was not as biting as it has been. Ali and I submerged our shoulders. Vicks managed to get in with only the slightest of whimpers. Fortunately there were no children present!

 the white bouy

To the white bouy to check ducky  (thermometer).  Sadly ducky is broken. Vicks said she would bring her duck next time. And then onward for the perimeter.

 Ali stormed ahead. I stopped a couple of times in the first 200m to do goggle faff.  How come if you don;t get them right straight away they are never right? Ali dropped us fairly quickly. I caught Vicks up and then swam past her and she stayed on my heels occasionally tapping them.  I had kept my pool shoes on and I will write a JF on one and a DI on the other.

 blue tits in action

We finished within a couple of minutes of each other and were beaming.

 “ Lets swim round the yellow bouys” suggested Vicks.  I was already out of the water having a drink.  Not one to deny a challenge I plunged back in and was off.  Ali caught me but I turned the final bouy before her. Not because I swam faster. I cannot and do not. (a ha! the gauntlet is down ) But I do look where I am going!

We went to change. Thankfully I remembered my trusty standing mat. The floor of the changing rooms is steel.  It means I don’t have to stand on the cold floor. Pete and Paula have provided some wooden bath mats to stand on.

We sat by the lake drinking tea and chatting CSS. (Critical swim speed) Vicks struggles with the concept. Having guessed her 400m time and then halved it she had had a go and given up. We asked to see her time. She had guessed that she can swim 400m in 6mins 40 seconds. I think she muddled it up with her running time! There are non of us that fast in the Blue tits, being mainly built for endurance not speed!

With the challenge of doing a properly timed 400m and 200m swim, we arranged to see each other next week.

So right at the start of rush hour, I headed back toward the M25. Joy!

Here we go again!

It has been quite some time since I wrote my blog. I have been deciding whether to try and catch up from scratch or to just start afresh.

A brief summary of the preceeding 9 months would be as follows

Swam Windermere (I may come back to this in more detail later. It is a funny tale but my memory is fading)

Swam over winter.

 

Boxing day dip  with Vicks. The sea a balmy 9 degrees. We swam for 30 minutes. Most people ran in and out. Our elf costumes were great but we had to take them off to swim for any length of time.

 elves

Swam in January in Leybourne lake. Blinking cold.

Swam in the sea in February. Tried to get in at Hythe. It was too rough to get in. The shale bank is steep. We realised that without crew we would be vulnerable getting out. Vulnerable in a getting thrown about on to the pebbles and sustaining an injury type of vulnerable. It was so cold.  So, not ones to give up so easily,  we drove to Folkestone in our swam kits, swimming hat  and goggles. Parked up in the car park and ran along to swim. It is sand at Sunny Sands. And flat. And more sheltered from the wind and waves. We swam. Then ran back to car. Laughing all the way. Blinking cold.

 

It snowed on my birthday. This is the first time I remember it snowing on my birthday.

Swam in the sea and Leybourne Lake in March. Blinking cold.

 

Swam in the sea and in the lake in April. It is still cold. Although the temperature is rising.

The sea dropped to a very cold 4 degrees in February and March. It is warming up a tad now as I write in April. It was a balmy 7 degrees at the weekend in the sea and an even balmier 10 degrees in the lake.  

Some people say we are balmy. But, this weekend ( April 20) the sun shone for the first time. Double dips on both days have seen the start of some very feint comedy tan lines. But also great big smiles.

It always feels like coming home when I swim in Leybourne after a break. And that is how it felt this weekend. I have to say, it is one of my favourite places to be. 

 

And so onward to Ali’s Solo Channel Swim.

She has been training hard over the winter. Upping her mileage and her critical swim speed she is leaving us all for dead!

Although somewhat plagued with illness her commitment to all things swimming is awesome. Getting in and out can be sometimes a bit of a challenge ofcourse!

We have done a fair few miles in the pool over the winter. Concentrating on building both speed and endurance. It seems to be working this training lark!

 

Getting nutrition right is hard. Taking crates of drinks to the poolside indicates that we are in it for the long haul. It is hard to take on enough calories to sustain the effort. Nectar Fuels is the drink of choice. Mainly because we like the container it comes in. Muscle milk (fortunately lactose free) is the recovery of choice. That is because we like the flavour.

 

The water rises as we swim! 

Christmas Special. Episode 2. Saturday.

Saturday 8 September

As we had hired power boats, we were due to attend a safety briefing that morning. Breakfast was at 8 ish. A cooked breky was available as well as an assortment of cereals, toast and preserves. Claire and Nicola’s dad had made some marmalade which they referred to as “Daddy’s marmalade” and thereafter so did we.  I think he had also made the bread that we toasted that morning.

Tim had got up first (having kept Wally awake with his snoring). It may have been the other way round but either way neither appeared to have slept well.  Chris had kipped down stairs in the living room as he also snores for England and deliberately kept out of the way so as not to disturb anyone.

Kaz had been for a run first thing and taken some photos. It was really foggy but warm she reported. She had not slept well. But then she never does. During the night I woke up and needed to use the bathroom. I crept out of my bed, crashed into hers and woke her up from probably the only sleep she had had all night!

We set off to the marina in the cars. It was around 11/2 miles away and too far for me to walk at that point. I had stumbled and twisted my ankle the previous evening and it was swollen and painful. I had dosed up with brufen and used ice. 

We parked up, paid the fees (even a disabled badge incurred parking fees in Windermere) and hobbled off to the marina. The boats were brilliant. We had a briefing and then wondered up to the village.

Tim and I stopped on the way to test out the water.  I went in for a paddle, as much to get some cold onto my foot which by now was swollen.

 

It felt ok and was going to be fine for swimming (I reported).

Nicola had stayed behind in the house. We had vague plans for a pub lunch and an afternoon swim in the lake. It was all a bit vague though.

We perused the shops. I found a “where’s Wally” coaster in a shop. I am not aware that anyone that weekend spotted Wally on that coaster. We did have a pretty good idea of Wally’s whereabouts on the whole. This was aided by the fact that his car alarm kept going off. Even when he was driving it.

Some of us found ourselves in Costa Coffee after perusing the shops. The time was slipping away. It was already nearly one o’clock. Chris asked me what time we may get on to the water.  I took this as a sign.

Not that I am bossy or a diva but…..

Suggesting buying a butty and having a picnic I tried to corral people into some activity. From my point of view there was no need for us all to do everything together. We needed to get food.  We needed to pick up the canoes (which were strapped to Chris’s car).  We needed to go back to the house to pick up the canoes. We also needed to walk back to the car park. Progress was slow.

We did all end up back at the house. By now it was nearly 2pm. Why does an hour on holiday always go quicker than an hour when you are at work?  Or an hour when you are swimming for that matter!

With no sign of any movement I suggested that Chris myself and Kaz went ahead. We would need to unload the boats. Time was cracking on. And in reality we had not travelled 293 miles to sit in a Costa. Or in a pub having lunch.  There was a big lake out there and I for one wanted to be in it. Chris wanted to be paddling on it. I appreciated that not everyone was ready but I did not think we had to wait for each other. There were 14 of us and if we did that we would never get anywhere.  Someone would always just to have to…. And if we waited it would be time to come back before we got there.

I was becoming increasingly irritated that we were not moving and I was pushing Chris, Tim and Kaz to get a move on.  I thought if we made a move it would prompt others to catch us up eventually. If that is what they wanted to do. No one was forcing anyone to do anything (as far as I was concerned) I wanted BIL to be able to spend as much time as he could on the water.  And I wanted to be outside. It was a beautiful sunny day.

Tim appeared to be sensing that I was stressed. (I was not stressed but I did not want to waste a beautiful day in Windermere faffing) I hate driving in a convoy and following others (or being followed) it is how accidents happen. Tim’s favourite saying appeared to be “rush rush crash crash”. I did not believe I was rushing anyone. I just wanted to get going. (Besides which I also thought that if we were in convoy we would be crash crashing with or without the rush rushing!)  People were most welcome to go at their own pace.  Time is a guide after all. But I was going to set off in my car and get to the place we were headed so we could get outside and into the water.

Ali, Miche, Kato Gurt and Ozzie were preparing sandwiches. Some of us were hovering in the doorway. Nicola was preparing herself for swimming the width of Windermere that afternoon. Claire was preparing to throw jelly babies at her sister’s head as she swam.

Eventually we did all arrive at the spot. Kaz went off for a reccy.  Fiona and I stood around looking pretty. Well at least we stood around. Tim and Chris unloaded the canoes and we had to wheel them down to the spot. I had to take my trusty sticks as the surface was uneven. Claire and Nicola were not far behind us with Wally. We were joined a little later by the others.

 

Most of us were eating our picnic. Chris tried to pinch my crisps but I was onto him.

Nicola was psyching herself to swim. She donned her wetsuit and hat and entered the water. Claire sat in with Chris in the open top with Tim to the other side of Nicola in the kayak. Off they set. A few minutes later we realised that no one had looked at the time. We were at one of the widest parts of the lake and it was approximately 2k across.

Ali, Fiona Wally and I decided that we would also have a swimble. Wally had neither hat nor goggles but between us we were able to provide him the requisite kit. Fortunately he had brought his trunks. We are all girls (hence The Blue Tits) and did not have a pair of trunks between us. Mind you, Wally appeared not to mind cross dressing in my new swim hat and was quite happy to pose for photos. You never know what may end up on the internet these days!

 

Kaz made friends with a girl of around 9 years old who was demonstrating her swimming ability. Not wanting to be beaten by a child, (not that we are competitive) we all decided to demonstrate ours.

Getting in was quite tricky. The ground is slate and uneven and sharp. Wally, Princess Fiona, Ali and I paddled in. It felt quite cold. I am not great at uneven surfaces anyway. I kept my crocs on and was going to throw them to Kaz once I was floating. My throw was well aimed. I managed to throw my shoe within 60m of Kaz (about 2 metres from where I was standing)  

We ummed and ahhed about where we were going to swim and then decided we should wait until we had a boat escort. So we got out. So much for our swimming prowess.

 

Sometime later we noticed that Chris and Tim were on their way back, accompanying Nicola. We decided that once they got to a certain point we would swim out to them.

Ali, Fiona and I all thought that the water felt cold. Wally reckoned it was quite warm. But then he was swimming in his own blood. He developed a nose bleed whilst he was swimming and could not get it to stop.

Nicola arrived back to shore to rapturous applause. Claire landed and quickly got changed and we said we would swim out to the half way point. Chris and Tim accompanied us and we set off at a brisk pace toward the marker buoy. It was absolutely fabulous. Once we got going it did not feel cold at all.

 

We swam to the buoy and back again. Wally was still bleeding and the Blue Tits were feeling invigorated and looking forward to our big dip the following day.  Fiona was miles ahead. She is really a very tidy swimmer. She has an even stroke and is quick. Claire, Ali and I are more evenly matched.

 

Meanwhile on shore there was picture activity going on. Miche had earlier cast a twig aside which had mistakenly hit Ali on the back of the head. By the end of the day this had morphed into a tree trunk, knocking Ali out cold. (I think it must have caught Wally on the nose too as he was still bleeding!)

It was a beautiful afternoon. And we were also aware that the forecast for the following day was even betterer. A still warm and sunny day was predicted. Perfect for swimming Windermere.

By now we were all beginning to relax with each other. Victoria (A.K.A Gurt) had been quiet up until that point was now more relaxed. Kato appeared to be having the time of her life.

Chris and Tim spent most of the time on the water although Tim relinquished the kayak to Ozzie so she could have a paddle. She had originally been chosen for crew because of her kayaking ability. Now we had power boats this was no longer a necessary skill. But she is also a paramedic and as I said earlier, Tim had a first aid kit. Unfortunately this did not contain a cauterisation kit and Wally’s nose continued to bleed.

 

We headed back to Boston House for the evening.

The beers were cracked open when we got back as we waited for dinner. There was a choice of salmon or chicken and chorizo with pasta.

Ali liked neither.  She had said that she did not eat salmon and did not like chicken with pasta. “It’s just wrong!” Ozzie prepared her own special needs pasta (as she has wheat intolerance) and we then helped ourselves to pasta and sauce.

Pasta had been chosen deliberately for the meal the night before.  Carbo loading is essential the night before the big day.  But, you have to like it to be able to load up on it and this was not Ali’s favourite at all.

Next came the feed preparation. Funny how when you are on land you have a drink. But when we are swimming it suddenly becomes a “feed”. Lots of activity ensued. I was trying out my new milk bottle system. Princess Fiona was trying out whatever she could get her hands on. Not being a subscriber to the “nothing new on race day” she was trying everything new! Including her crew who she did not know before the weekend!

 

Ali and Claire had tried and tested methods. It took some time but eventually we were all set.

Also in the feed preparation was the packed lunch preparation. We were all having something a bit different. Ham, cheese, cheese and onion, tuna.  (Sadly the onions were too strong for cheese and onion. So that would be just cheese then?)

 

The swimmers agreed that we would leave by 7.15am the following day. We knew it was 80 (ha!) minutes to the start in the power boats. We wanted to be swimming by 10am at the latest.