As the 0637 from St Pancras wends its way through the lush green countryside lit by hazy early-morning summer sun, I am steeling myself for a 7-hour swim today. Imagine my delight, then, when I arrive on the beach and Mandi instructs me to do just 5 hours. Remember last week when I was grateful for 4 hours? That madness now extends to 5.
This week is Pirate themed. Although I forgot my eye patch, cutlass and novelty stuffed shoulder parrot, everyone is allowed to join in with the TREASURE HUNT! The beach crew have hidden various items around the course, and it’s our job to collect them. At feeding time, we get the chance to trade in the items for a prize of either an extra treat or time subtracted from our swim. BUT, we are warned, some of the items bring punishments such as extra swim time or no feeds.
This presents me with an intense dilemma. On the one hand, extra treats are extremely tempting. You know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a Battenberg. But do I risk everything, given the very real threat of no feeds at all? This is unchartered emotional territory.
I find a treasure (yellow microfibre cloth) on the green buoy and stuff it down my costume. But by the next buoy it’s scratching my tummy too much and what if it’s a no treats treasure? So I leave it there for the next swashbuckler and arrive at the beach empty-handed. Probably for the best, don’t want to risk no fig rolls.
But temptation eventually gets the better of me. Just before the second feed at hour 3 I loot the buoy bounty, clipping the washcloth to my costume, as well as a single flipper (which is sadly too small for my foot, I obviously checked). On returning to the beach, Mandi stuffs half a banana into my mouth and Emma shouts to me that together they’re worth 1.5 hours subtracted off my swim total.
This feels weird. I know I should be grateful, but if I’ve got in for a 5 hour swim, 3.5 hours feels like a cop out, especially as I was expecting to be doing 7 today. So I swim the allotted 5, thankful that my luck has changed from last week’s ExtraLapgate. With 10 minutes to go until the end, a jellyfish sting on the wrist reminds me not to be so smug about my luck changing.
I’m staying at the same lovely AirBnB as last week, and have grand plans of going to the cinema to watch Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this evening. But as soon as I shower and sit on my bed I concede that I’m now stuck here in Comfy Town until tomorrow.
Sunday dawns and it’s another beautiful sunny day. I’m expecting to be given 6 hours, and again I’m surprised by 4. What have I done to deserve this?
The first lap is calm and smooth. I’ve picked up a slight twinge in my wrist from last week, and I realise it’s because I’ve been pulling with my left hand at a funny angle. If I concentrate really hard I can pull with my hand straight and make it stop, what did you do with your Sunday? Was it as exhilarating as this? I bet it wasn’t.
At the three-hour feed I come in with the treasure of a blue flag, and Emma says this is worth minus 10 minutes of swimming. Firstly: inflation, am I right? Secondly: as we have established, minus minutes are worth nothing to me, so instead I enquire as to the treat-minutes conversion rate. Turns out 10 minutes = 1 extra treat at this time. My friend Nichola calls me a Treat Tart for this exchange, I call it being Business Minded.
The rest of the swim passes uneventfully, and I spend over an hour afterwards in the sun chatting to swimmers on the beach, eating a slice of Sue’s incredible cake (left, thank you Sue!), as well as chips kindly donated by the beach crew. I say au revoir and bon voyage to Jac whose swim window starts next weekend. It’s rather exciting that the actual channel swims are starting now, and my own is looming ever closer.
Although I feel like I’ve gotten away with much less swimming than I deserve this weekend, I think am still recovering from last week. I frantically wrote my talk on the plane to Sweden on Monday morning, and the hour time difference, together with the midnight sun over there, means that I’ve been playing catch up with sleep all week and didn’t do any swimming.
This training has been affecting my life in more ways than I expected. I’ve become clumsier and more forgetful, and I’ve opened my mouth several times this week for just pure nonsense to come out. But 5 days without swimming has done me good because when I arrived at the beach yesterday I was yearning to get into the water, a feeling which has deserted me of late.
On the train on the way back to London, France was the most visible I’ve ever seen it, which feels like a good omen and a nice confidence boost with 4 weeks to go. Tonight I’m meeting Captain Sally who will be First Shipmate on my boat for the swim. On the agenda is logistics, timings and, most important of all, treats.