For 9 weeks I’ve been coming down here without fail. But this (hopefully hopefully hopefully!) is my last full swim weekend. I actually feel quite sad about it, but also relieved. I think my bank balance can relate.
As expected, it’s finally time for another big 7/6 back-to-backer and I’ve been watching the weather forecast like a hawk. As UK readers will know, we been enjoying a heatwave, so I’ve had lots of comments about how nice swimming this weekend is going to be. NO IT’S NOT I think silently, whilst nodding politely in assent LOOK AT THE WIND! YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA HOW BAD THE FORECAST IS FOR SWIMMING.
The theme this week is Party (happy birthday Mandi), and so the beach crew have got us party bags! I blow my party horn and it sadly and silently unravels, halfheartedly sagging forwards with a gentle hiss. My friend Fiona says this is indicative of her general mood. I’m inclined to agree. Glibly, I observe that we’ll be getting out at 4pm and now it’s not even 9am. That’s a whole working day of swimming. People can fly to New York in the same time as we’re going to be going round and round and round in Dover.
The first two hours pass and I’m feeling great. At the 3 hour feed I turn to Fiona; “at least it’s the afternoon now”. At least it’s the same half of the day in which we will eventually stop swimming. That’s where we’ve got to, people. Not 4 hour relief, not 5 hour relief, but am/pm relief.
On the next circuit I collide with another swimmer. I could blame this on the waves but actually I’m just not looking where I’m going, that’s why that happened. Nobody is harmed, and as soon as I swim on I get stung in the face by a jellyfish (right). Talk about swift karma! It’s a bigun too. I know this because I kick it with my foot on the way past and it feels about the size of a large grapefruit.
As the hours tick down, my arms get gradually more tired and sluggish. I’m feeling somewhat unwell and really quite sad. At the 6.5 hour mark, I have a little goggle cry. I can’t imagine ever being able to swim any more than 7 hours right now. Which is of course what I must do in just 3 weeks (unless I accidentally break the world record #unlikely).
One record which I think I could probably take a good crack at is the number of cupcakes consumed whilst getting dressed and fighting off seven seagulls. Will somebody please call the guys at Guinness and check if this is one?
Because my life is a joke right now, I have 20 minutes of stand-up comedy material which I need to write for Wednesday but also, because I’m a sucker for peer pressure and also chips, I go for dinner with some swimmers at The White Horse. We have a lovely time swapping feeding regimes, and I realise we’ve become Those Sports People.
But I don’t care. I share my struggles of today’s swim with them all and Anita immediately says how different it actually is on the day. She tells me it goes so quickly and that it’s nothing like the slog of Dover training. God I love swimmers.
On Sunday morning down at the beach, my pilot (the one driving the boat that’ll be next to me on the day) Lance pops by and we have a brief chat. I am incredibly awkward and don’t really know what to say, though it’s nice to put a sense of humour to a name.
I’m apprehensive, because getting in today means picking up from the bad place where I left off yesterday. But actually, today is a new day, and this is a new swim. That’s very profound isn’t it, I should probably get that printed on a t-shirt. My arms feel strong and the sea is calm.
I fly round the first lap but on the second, I realise that I’ve forgotten to sign in to the swim with the beach crew. This is required so that they know how many swimmers are in the water for safety reasons. I’m bricking it all the way round – they’re going to be well cross. Might they be already on the phone to the coastguard? I keep an eye out above for rescue helicopters. Back at the beach, I explain the situation. “Okay, no worries” says Emma “that’s fine”. I wonder whether brain tissue is soluble in sea water.
At the first feed I take one look at the CNP energy drink and intuition tells me that this isn’t what my body needs, so I ask for a big water instead. I look at the mini chocolate roll and my intuition tells me that this is exactly what my body definitely needs. Isn’t it amazing how bodies can bypass your brain like that?
At some point – I can’t remember when (I know this blog makes it sound like the swims are a laugh every minute but in reality, hours roll into hours uneventfully) – I swim over a jellyfish and get stung all the way down the arm and then all the way down the front of my leg. Why is my life like this?
At the 3 hour feed, Fiona and I recognise our new tradition by celebrating the start of the afternoon. Since I know you’re wondering, this new feeding regime on just warm water and snacks has made me feel great – the CNP is quite bloating for me so swimming six hours without stomach cramps is novel and nice. Actually I feel better than great, the hours fly by and I feel strong right up until the end, despite the chop.
When I get out, I do some more training for my cupcake world record and observe another tradition of sitting in the sun with Mike, watching the ferries in the harbour come and go. Today marks the start of the “taper”, where you ease off the training a couple of weeks before so that you’re fresh for the big day. As such, I’m only coming down to Dover on one day for the final two weekends before my swim. As smelly, sleep-depriving and draining as it is to be doing this every week, I’m going to really miss it. But it can’t last forever, and the best is yet to come.
Now I have to think up 20 minutes of stand-up comedy because obviously I spent 13 hours this weekend thinking about how cool it would be if someone wrote a gender-bending version of The Phantom of the Opera, instead of thinking about the imminent 20 minutes of stand-up comedy with a microphone in front of my face. But to start your week off with a good slice of schadenfreude, here’s my face right now: