7 and 6 hour back to back swims

A 7/6 weekend

It Doesn’t sound too harsh if you say it quickly a seven hour swim on Saturday followed by a six hour swim on Sunday, so within 30 hours the idea is to cover a similar distance and time to a channel swim. How difficult could it be? Well, let me elaborate a little.

So the lions share of my training is complete, yet there’s a few crucial swims still to go. One being this 7/6 weekend.

My coach informs me on Tuesday that this weekend she wants me to do a seven hour swim on Saturday and then follow that with a six hour swim on Sunday. I knew this was on the cards, but neatly pushed it to that space in my mind that doesn’t want to think about what sounds like an almost impossible task. Hearing Tracy ‘suggest’ I should do this was one of those moments that is both good, in the respect of this is what I’ve been training for, yet is bad in that I’ve got to do it now. Any plans that I might have had for the weekend were rearranged around thirteen hours of swimming.

The call went out to the amazing Sea Palling Seals and Norfolk and Suffolk Open Water swimmers on Facebook, for any company during the day, to swim with me and generally give me the motivation to keep going. They didn’t disappoint and arrived en masse in their support. Now as an aside Open Water swimmers are a totally fab bunch, crazy for sure, but really a better bunch of people you’ll struggle to find.

To enable anyone to do this requires a little forward planning, with the best will in the world it isn’t possible to do this without a bite to eat and something to drink. Flasks of hot water, sachets of instant porridge, energy drink concentrated solution, fruit, energy bars and yep, a pork pie. What more does a channel swimmer in training need? Well copious amounts of sunscreen and vaseline apparently.

Saturday morning and a 5:30 am alarm is really a little unpleasant, but I hoped up and got the last few things together and drove to Sea Palling. There greeted me the ever wonderful Sea Palling beach and coast, a quick change, chat with a few swimmers and start the stopwatch to get into the sea and start swimming.

With every long swim, the thing that I learnt is to not think about how long I’ve got to swim, that is a sure way on the first step to insanity. Hold on, I’m solo swimming the English Channel and I was in the sea all through winter, I’m perhaps a couple of steps along that journey. So don’t think about the time, don’t think about the cold, don’t think about anything that isn’t positive – Think ‘I’m Doing this now’, ‘I feel alive’, ‘I’m energised in the sea’… the list goes on.

So the swimming starts, with friends alongside it does feel easy and after 40 mins or so I stop for a drink and feed. It’s then quickly back into the water and off again. The sea conditions on the Saturday were good, a slight choppiness that varied through the seven hours but generally very pleasant. A couple of inquisitive seals make for interest to pass the time of day. Yet, the arrival of jet ski’s meant that my swimming was reduced to a small bay and doing short laps to pass the time, which if it wasn’t for more friends coming along at the end would have been a real challenge.

Saturday evening it was home for food and an early night before a very rude 6 am alarm clock call to start this all over again. The difference on day two was having a super helper in the form of Danielle and more friends along to push the day by. By coincidence too, there was a summer fun day on the beach, which meant lots of people, Singing dancing and the smell of a BBQ.

However, after a couple of hours I was really struggling. Not because I was tired or because I hurt, but the though of not being half way yet and another three plus hours still to go was a real challenge. Added to this it was the only hour in the 13 that I didn’t have anyone swimming with me, yet seeing Gary on the beach helped me along back to the start and a much need bite to eat from Danielle. Bring on the smell of BBQ, burgers and bacon and I’, back on track. The same issues with Jet Ski’s force us into the small bay again and lots of laps backwards and forwards. Maxine once again is there at the end of the day to push me along.

Getting out having done this I realise it wasn’t all about the physical part of swimming, it was about the mental aspect of channel swimming. Thinking of that one reason to keep going and pushing aside those hundreds of excuses for stopping.

A beer and Chinese take away was the perfect end to a long weekend’s swimming.

Now I feel ready to swim the channel.

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