Sunday, 30 August 2009
My left shoulder is still pretty sore, though - but to be fair, continuing to swim on it for several hours after developing the problem was never going to be the most sensible way to manage an injury. I'm hoping that a week or so more rest will do the trick. I've also been looking at some of the bits of film, and have noticed that I always sight forwards from the right, and it looks like this causes me to lever myself up on my left arm a bit - this is probably something I need to try and balance out to reduce the strain.
I've been trying to think about how to approach the next few months of training. I want to stay out of the water for a couple of weeks to let my shoulder recover; psychologically, I also think it's quite good to have a bit of a break before getting back down to it as I don't want to get stale - there's a long way to go yet. So, in the mean time, I've been thinking about what my training programme is going to be. One of the things I didn't do enough of last year was cross training, so in addition to swim training (mostly focusing on technique, plus speed training), I'm going to use the next few months to try and get back into the gym work, plus some running and a bit of cycling. It's frustrating, but although I'm probably the fittest I've ever been right now, I'm also very unfit where running / cycling are concerned, so it's pretty much back to the beginning there, but hopefully it'll come back slowly.
But here is my confession - I really don't like cycling... I find it uncomfortable and difficult, and am really very rubbish at it indeed - think Miss Marple, or Mary Poppins (without the gift of flight). The thing is, I really think that I should like it - outdoors, nature, exhileration, wind in your face...and all that. Plus, lots of people I really like and admire LOVE cycling, and I know there must be something there that I've just not been able to tap into yet. So, today marks the beginning of Project "Learn to Love Cycling". It has to remain very much a secondary activity to support the swimming for this year, but my goals over the winter are to (a) get myself a decent bike that fits me; and (b) get my strength and confidence up to ride it without looking ridiculous or wanting to leave it in a ditch and take the bus home. Watch this space.
As a rather nostalgic and sentimental aside, I saw my mum yesterday, and she had dug out this photo of me - aged five, on holiday in Majorca:
I remember that holiday really well - I swam my first unaided width in the hotel pool there. You will notice however that I am wearing a shirt in the pool - sunburn was always the greater threat in my mum's eyes than us being sucked under by clothing not designed for submersion. It's no wonder my brother and I became strong swimmers.
She had some great pictures of my grandad, Harry Cornforth, from the 1930's looking incredibly dashing in his full-body knitted swim suit - he was a splendid swimmer and a seriously good water polo player (even trialling for the Olympics). Once we've sorted them, I'll post some of them up. He would have loved all this Channel stuff.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Friday, 21 August 2009
Congrats to Tasmin who swam round on Wednesday in 11 hours 34 mins - fantastic effort.
Hopefully my next post will be good news!
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Having said that, this is really a first and last time for me to do a relay - me and boats are definitely not meant for each other. Once was fantastic, but that's enough for me.
I've put together some bits of video footage that I managed to take. It's not a very good representation of the swim as a whole, since I didn't get any of the first half of the swim because I was busy with the bucket. But hopefully it will give a taste of what it was like, what an incredible day it was, and how beautiful the Channel can be.
Both of our relay teams (made up of Coventry and Brighton tri club members) set off at just gone midnight last Thursday night. The team of three - me, Steve McMenamin and Jamie Goodhead - were on Mike Oram's boat, Gallivant, and the team of four - Martyn Brunt, Steve Howes, Robin Corder and Andy Heath - were with Lance Oram on Sea Satin. We loaded our stuff onto the boats, and chugged out of the harbour. I was nominated to do the first leg, and so when Mike pulled in close to the beach and gave the signal, I jumped into the dark water and swam to the spotlit point on the beach. Mike gave me a countdown, and off we went.
It was all incredibly exciting, but it took me a while to adjust to swimming with the boat and especially as we got out of the shelter of the beach and into the wind and lumpier water, I struggled to keep a steady distance from the boat. And then suddenly, the boat turned away from me at a right angle and seemed to be motoring away! A spotlight on the back of the was shone on me, but in a somewhat paranoid irrational panic, I decided that he must have lost patience with me and decided to go somewhere else! A more rational explanation, though... the wind was blowing the boat off course, requiring him to adjust our path occasionally. After the third or fourth time this had happened, I finally started to relax and begin to enjoy the swim. It was fairly choppy, but the wind was behind us pushing us forwards, which was reassuring; at times it felt like body surfing.
The first hour flew by, and before I knew it, I could see the flashing green headlight of Steve, perched on the side of the boat, ready to jump in and take over. He jumped in behind me and swam past me, and I made my way to the ladder and clambered out, relieved to have my first swim under my belt. I got changed as quickly as I could (not easy on a rocking boat), but almost immediately encountered the problem that was going to dog me for most of the swim - seasickness. It wasn't long before I had my head in a bucket, and all I could do between waves of nausea was to sit as still as possible, staring at the lights on the horizon.
Soon it was my turn again, and I was feeling pretty dreadful by the time I jumped in. A combination of dehydration and nausea meant that I was having real trouble orienting myself to the boat; at one point, I even swam under the prow, forcing the pilot to stop and wait while I swam back ahead of him so that he could get back on my right side. I was starting get really worried - I'd read about several relay swims where sickness had made it unsafe for someone to continue, and was mortified by the thought that our swim might fail because of me. So I tried to press on. Happily, I didn't have any problems with motion sickness in the water, so the swims actually became recovery time for me and I was always counting the minutes until it was my turn to get back in. So thankfully, by the time I got out at the end of that second swim, I was feeling much better again. Not for long though...In the mean time, Jamie and Steve were feeling rough but swimming really well and we were making good progress (although poor Dave, who had come on as crew, was horribly ill too and had to spend large parts of the journey curled up on a bench). And then things started to improve for me. Firstly, the sun came up, which really lifts your mood; secondly, as we turned with the tide, the weather began to settle a little; and thirdly, Marcy (our official observer, and very accomplished Channel swimmer) dug out some different seasick pills for me and gave me some dry bread and ginger jam to nibble on, which really helped (although I continued to be unable to close my eyes or go down below into the warmer part of the boat pretty much throughout the swim).
After about 10 hours, we passed through both of the shipping lanes and entered French waters. The conditions had completely changed, and the water was beautifully flat and calm:
And now I understand why they say tell solo swimmers not to look for the French coast - you see it quite clearly hours before you get anywhere near it. But the swimming got much easier because of the calm, even though we had to linger off the coast for a while, waiting for the tide to turn and take us in to the shore. We could see the other team's boat further in towards the coast, and it looked like they were definitely going to reach the beach before us; it was great to know that we were all going to make it to the beach.
It was already clear that we were going to miss the Cap (the ideal landing point), and as I prepared to jump in for what turned out to be my final swim (hour 13), the pilot told me that for every yard I could make forwards in this swim, it would save us 10 yards at the other side of the Cap. So, in I jumped and started swimming as hard as I could. I was soon in the Overfalls - an area of disturbed water about 500 metres wide, just north of Cap Gris Nez. This is where the tide from Wissant Bay meets the tide travelling up the Channel past Cap Gris Nez - two bodies of water hitting each other at 90 degrees. For me, this was the most fun part of the whole swim - it was really exciting to swim in, although challenging. Knowing that it was probably my last swim of the day, I was able to give it everything I had and it was completely exhilerating to be thrown about like that. And then suddenly, I popped out the other side of it and the water became completely flat, as if someone had flicked a switch - it was just beautiful to swim in. I got a big thumbs up from Mike, and I knew that we had made it. Steve jumped in at the end of the hour, and covered the final stretch at a blistering pace, and Jamie and I jumped in again behind him so that we could all walk up onto the beach. It was an amazing feeling.
We swam the Channel in 13 hours and 18 minutes, and the team of four on Sea Satin completed it in an impressive 12 hours and 58 minutes. Well done to everyone!!!
Many thanks to our pilot, Mike Oram, and his crew, James and Del for getting us safely where we wanted to be; to our observer, Marcy Macdonald; and to Dave for acting as crew for us.
Monday, 3 August 2009
And amidst the excitement, my own training continues. On Saturday, there was a regatta in the harbour so we weren't allowed in until 3pm - this gave us the chance, courtesy of Freda and the rest of the beach crew, to swim from 3-9pm, enabling us to try swimming in the dark. Learning from last week's food-related problems, I ate a bucket-sized quantity of pasta for lunch, and topped this off with sports drink half an hour before the swim; consequently, I had absolutely no problems with energy this time and I felt great for most of the swim. The darkness didn't bother me at all, even though I had thought that it would, and it was really funny looking up across the harbour and seeing the green flashing headlights of the other swimmers. I did get quite cold, though. I didn't really realise at the time, but by the time I was in the van, I was having a full on attack of the shakes. I drove home and had soup and more pasta and went out like a light.
The next morning, my shoulders were feeling a bit sore, and I also realised that I had a large, aggravated costume rub mark - about 10cm long, down my side from below my armpit. I'd obviously forgotten to put Vaseline along the costume edge, and the long swim, plus all the salt, really made it angry and sore. Stupid mistake... it seems like I make at least one really basic error each time - hopefully I'll get the hang of this eventually.
Still determined to stay on top of the food issue, I forced down a big breakfast of muesli, toast, juice and fruit, plus sports drink half an hour before swimming, and headed down to the beach for the 9am start. Part of me had been hoping that Freda would say that it wasn't a good idea to do another 6 hour swim since my longest back to back so far has been 3 and 6, but she immediately suggested 6. I balked at first, but that's just cowardly (and she was right - I need to try this), so off I went. This swim was harder than the previous day's, but my arms felt okay once I got going, and the first few hours were helped along by the beautiful calm waters and the warming sunshine. But by about 1.30pm, the same winds that had put paid to Julie's swim turned the harbour in a very different bit of water, and especially the harbour wall end, which is always choppier, became increasingly difficult to swim in (and that's within the harbour, so I dread to think what it was like for Julie, all the way out there). The last hour was a bit of a slog and I was desperate for it to end, but I stuck it out to the 6 hours, which felt really good.
After changing on the beach, I drove back to the campsite, where I ate yet more pasta and had a bit of a snooze. My arms were quite sore, and the rub on my side was really stinging, even though I'd slathered huge globs of Vaseline on it before the swim - I think I'm going to be paying for that mistake for some time yet. Later in the evening, I cooked up some stirfry and noodles with a mild chilli-based sauce - something that I quickly came to regret. After being in salt water for an extended period, your mouth goes quite furry and thick - I usually get a few mouth ulcers afterwards, and a bit of a sore throat, as well as a diminished sense of taste for a couple of days. So, why I thought chilli sauce would be a good idea, I don't know, but soon my mouth was completely on fire as the chilli (very mild though it was) hit the bits stil sore from the salt. Much cold water was drunk, and another useful lesson was learned.
I was pleased with my swims this weekend, and feel fairly confident thatI'll be able to give the round Jersey swim a good go. It was so sad that Steve and Julie didn't have the days that they were hoping for, but no-one can plan for weather like that. Their swims made my own solo seem so much more real. I'm not really sure how I feel about that - excited and terrified in fairly equal proportions, I think.
The next step in this exciting journey is the relay, which could go as early as midnight Thursday night. I'm armed with some industrial strength anti-seasickness drugs, and can't wait to see what it's like to be out there in the Channel. What fun!