Sabbatical part 2

Where does the time go to? It is Tuesday July 15 and I realise that I have no written for just under two weeks.
I am not sure how I managed to find time to work and to train. In reality the last few weeks have shown me that I did not really.

I am very lucky to have been granted this time off. Two weeks and a bit in I am realising that it would not have been possible to achieve my Channel dream if I had not had the time.
In the first two weeks I had swum 54 miles. I had also done weights and resistance between 3-5 times a week. Plus I had been up to Leeds to take my Dad to the hospital for his review after his surgery.

Day 4 – Day 7

The first weekend of the sabbatical was scheduled to be a double sea swim. 4 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. I was lucky enough that Kaz was willing to be crew for the whole weekend. The weather forcast sadly was not great. Rain was forcast and the temperature was due to drop. This is the UK after all and as preoccupied as we are with the weather (and I more than many I will concede) it is for a reason. In Australia if it rains one day people just put off they were doing until the next. Not so in the UK. You have to get on with it.

I managed to persuade Kaz that an early start on Saturday would be advantageous as we would then be able to use the afternoon to go and see the Channel Swimming exhibition in Dover. Kaz does like this sort of thing (honest) and in fact it was her who told me about it. I planned an 8.30am start.

It was absolutely chucking it down first thing when I went to pick her up. As she is not Australian she had packed her waterproofs. My sister Janet had re named Sunny Sands. She believed Rainy Rocks would be a better name. And on this day that was certainly the case.

Funnily enough, given the time and the weather we were the only ones on the beach. My friends Claire and Princess Fiona had agreed to join in about 10.30am. Kaz wondered if they would come as the weather was so awful. I anticipated that a bit of rain is not going to put off swimmers. You are wet already as it is.

The sea was quite bumpy when I got in. It looked quite calm from the beach but when you are laying flat the waves look huge. They were also “waving” (rolling) quickly. I had on my tinted goggles. They were a bargain at a fiver. Prescription lenses too. But the sea knocked them off a couple of times so I got out and got my trusty Eagle Aqua Spheres. Back in again. I swam the first hour and then asked Kaz to bring feeds in between 30 and 40 minutes. I gave her my watch so I had no idea what time it was.

Claire and Princess Fiona arrived. I had not noticed them arriving (as it was hard to see over the waves) and the next thing I knew they were beside me. Claire commented how bumpy the sea was. The tide was out and it was taking about 7 minutes to swim away from the harbour but 22 minutes to return. (I had timed it before I handed my watch to Kaz)

We were cheerfully swimming along and something crashed into my ribs from the side. It was another swimmer. (not known to us) All that room and we still manage to bump into each other! Well in fairness he bumped into me. It didn’t half wind me and I had to stop for a little while to catch my breath. But on the count of 3… we were off.

Claire got out as she had planned to do an hour. I had no idea how long I had been in. Time is a guide and I had no idea what time they had got in the sea. Fiona stayed in with me.

When Kaz gave the call for us to get out I had no idea. I thought I had been in just over 3 hours. I had not been able to count by feeds as she had delivered them between 30 and 50 minutes.

The sun was shining and it was really quite warm. The opposite to what had been forcast in fact. I was really hungry so Kaz and Stuart went to get me chips. I devoured them.
We were joined by Nicki and Ali (two other channel aspirants) who had been swimming at the Rotunda that morning. I do not like it there as it is a steep pebble beach. Hard to get in and out. I have swum there (and it is a really good long swim) but I avoid it usually and certainly on an outward tide.

We exchanged swimming stories and I agreed to meet them the following day.

Kaz, Stuart and I went to the swimmers exhibition to look at the photos of swimmers from a bygone age. We got in at student rate too as I was a channel swimmer! Stuart is a channel pilot and Kaz, well she is just a Channel groupie!

Sunday saw us on the beach by 10.30am. Nikki and Ali were already in the water. Kaz was coming down with the grandchildren for the day. And it was raining again. In fact it was tipping it down. We used the arches to keep the kit dry and I went into the sea at 10.40 and joined the others. It was flat calm.

I swam with Ali and Nikki. They had to get out as Nikki was returning to Edinburgh and Ali to Brum. I asked them to let Kaz know my feed would be at 11.40. And sure enough it arrived. I gave her my watch again.

It was absolutely tipping it down. Kaz had arrived with Jamie, Harry and Louis. Stuart’s daughter Serena was also there. They did not appear to care that it was raining and were having fun and games on the beach.

The schedule for drinks was every 40-50 minutes. Alan and Jamie arrived and swam for an hour. But for the most part I was alone. The sun did eventually peak out. I had no idea how long I had to go when Kaz told me it was my last feed. I said that I would like another in 30 minutes.

I had nothing in me. This was a valuable lesson. And one I really already know but had “forgotten”. I was able to keep going at this point but I had no energy at all.

I burn approximately 900 calories an hour when I swim. And that is in a pool. Factor in the cold water and the chop and it could be around 1000 or more. My drinks only have 120cals per 500mls and that is all I was drinking every 30-50 minutes. It is just not enough.

I could keep going but if I am swimming for 15 hours + I am certainly going to have to take more on board. I like tinned peaches, kendal mint cake and bananas. I can also experiment with making the drink ab bit stronger. And I came to the conclusion that some of the gels may be a good source of fuel.

I chose Honey Stingers (other energy gels are available) mainly because as the name suggests they derive from honey. Which I like. Well at least on porridge. I ordered them from Amazon that evening so they would be ready for my next long swim.

My first week saw me clock up 44km of swimming over 17 hours. In other words, I swam the equivalent of the Channel in a week!

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