Sunday dawned cold, cloudy and windy. This was the date I had set for my six hour qualification swim. In order to be allowed to even set up on a channel swim there are rules. One of them is that you must have completed a 6 hour swim in water below 15 degrees.
I set this date quite early. One because the lake where I swim would still fit the temperature criteria. But also because if I did not manage (for what ever reason) I still had 12 weeks left to fit it in.
I was not feeling the love. I had planned to be at the lake by 10am. I was running a bit late. This was mainly because I had not been able to park near my caravan. The torrential rain the night over the weekend had left the grass soggy. So it took me longer to get all my kit from the van to the car.
I arrived at the lake and rang my Mum. My Dad had been poorly over night and I just wanted to check on how he was. My plan to start swimming at 10.30 was not going to happen.
Nick another channel swimmer was signing in at the same time as me. He had one bottle with him so was not in for the long haul. I chatted about my prospects of completing. To be honest I was not all that hopeful. It was cold and the wind was bitter cold. “if I don;t complete it it is not the end of the world I still have plenty of time”. Nick (his swim is early July) is counting training sessions. He still has 50 sessions to go. His is 6 weeks before mine.
I went to sign the safety book. My coach and friend Ali was there already. She had assessments to do. We hugged and she could sense my doubts. Full of sympathy as ever she said, “you don;t have to do it. But you have planned to. So JFDI!”
She took some film with the RCN camera in which I was not all that positive. But I ended up saying I was doing it for the Foundation so I would have a go.
There is not arguing with that. She boiled the kettle and offered to pour it in the lake for me. Not one to miss a photo opportunity (although I don;t like my photo taken!!) I decided to pose for that one myself. With the RCN Foundation arm showing!
I then went to get my cossie on. My new goggles had arrived so this was their first outing. They were clear as a bell a they were not scratched. Comfortable.
Princess Fiona arrived full of apologies as she was running late! She had come to swim the first lap with me. I said I would get on with it and see her in there. I entered the water at 1055. Princess Fiona joined me about 2 minutes later and we set off at 11am. My task to keep swimming until 5pm.
I pushed my mini bar to the bouy and attached it there. This held my drinks, jelly babies and jaffa cakes for the day. It saves me coming into the jetty. This saves me from a) standing up to drink and b) getting caught up in a chat. Those that know me well will realise I am always up for a chat and can be easily distracted. I can also focus. I have made no friends at the pool where I swim. On a morning I just get there at 6.30am, get in and swim and then go to work. I have not joined the women who stand at the end of the pool chatting.
The wind was blowing a gale. There was stiller water at the entry but round at the back it was choppy and hard work. The wind felt cold on my arms. I know Fiona agreed. It was probably warmer in that out at that point.
Our first lap was 30 minutes. I was swimming steady at a pace that I can keep up for hours. No point starting out too quick. I was pleased with that effort. Princess Fiona swam in but promised she would be back for the last lap. I decided that I would try and swim out of the wind. So I swam randomly around the lake not following any particular route.
I had said I would swim in at midday and swim with the newbies who were there for assessment. This I did. The pace was a bit slow as there is lots of stopping and starting. Princess Fiona (teeth chattering) offered to help Ali. Again full of sympathy Ali said “she’s in for six hours anyway it will be good for her!”. I accompanied them around and did begin to feel a bit cold. I did not put my feet down (it does not matter if I did as the 6 hour swim is about cold water tolerance rather than swimming) . After it had finished I swam briskly to warm up and soon felt a bit warmer. Ali (bless her soul she can be kind really) swam out with a cup of tea in a flask. I had a drink of this and felt much better.
I carried on swimming further Round and round and round. Randomly. I was aware that Kaz and Miche had arrived. I swam in to wave and shout greetings. I then assisted with another assessment. Again I got a bit cold and again Ali had a hot cup of tea in a flask for me. (Well a vaguely warm cup of tea which felt hot.)
At three hours in I realised that it was on the cards that I could finish. I only had the same to go again. Three hours thirty is the most time I have swum this year. So this was another milestone. Claire Russell joined me around 4 hours in. (I am not sure of the time at this point. We swam together for around 40 minutes before she exited. She was very happy with her swim. She has been having some dizzy spells in the water. She swam strong and it was a pleasure to have her. Not that we talked (except at the mini bar). But when you breathe it is good to see someone by your side.
At 5 hours and 8 minutes something in my elbow twanged. I had a sharp pain in my joint. It swam to the mini bar and took some brufen. Swimming with a clenched fist helped the pain. But then the brufen began to work. By the time Ali and Princess Fiona joined me with 30 minutes to go it was tolerable and I could swim again with an open hand. Ali said she would bring our boat in. (We have part ownership of the vessel so she was keen to protect her investment) I swam in and there was a lovely welcome committee.
Sadly the RCN Foundation camera had run out of battery. Kaz filmed it on her phone. And so in I swam. I had done it.
Upon completing I did feel a bit wobbly. I was not too cold at that point but struggled to get my balance. I posed in my red swamket for a few photos and then went to get dry.
I surprised myself by having enough coordination to do up my bra. Often when you get that cold you lose the fine motor movements that are required for that type of task.
Kaz had a surprise for me. My multi season swamket was ready. (ish) Fashioned from a shower curtain (the granniest one she could find!) she has been making this for some time. She was worried that the stitching was not of good enough quality. I suggested that most people would be so overwhelmed by the pattern they would hardly notice the stitching.
I was made tea and offered jelly babies. A great post swim snack. Someone had bitten off all of their heads! I have my suspicions as Claire Russell had been waiting by the minibar for me to come in. I enjoy her swim company but not the jelly baby abuse.
Kaz showed us her photos and filming. There was a piece of film where I am swimming past and a little girl asks Kaz if she believes in Mermaids. Kaz replies that there is one in the water.
Pete and Paula (the proprietors of Leybourne Lake Watersports Centre) congratulated me. They have been incredibly supportive of my swim endeavours at the lake. So a big shout out to them!
We then had a group photo of the swim crew. Helen took the picture and the other Blue Tits assembled in the picture. I still have my swim hat on as I could not find my beanie. I am privileged to have great friends who are nuttier than me. I am swimming the channel. There is a reason for me being in the water and hanging around a chilly lake all day. These people just follow me around. I could not do it without them. We do have fun and I lucky to have found them. Not that they were lost.
There is that saying Reason Season or for life. For me there is certainly a reason. But I also suspect that The Bluetits will be friends for life!
I sent a text to Melton to let him know I had completed.
I nailed it!