At this time of year I like to look back and review what challenges were set at the beginning of the year, and see how many I was able to succeed at. Here are the goals I set in January:
20 km pool swim. FAIL – this is not the first time this goal appeared on my to do list. Nor is it the first time that I have failed to do it. Again, it’s a totally arbitrary goal, that doesn’t really prove anything very much, but I set it once upon a time and have never actually done it! I’ve done 20 km or more on several occasions, outdoors, in cool sea water, so I am not going to beat myself up about it. But it remains unswum, and will be back next year!
1 km Endurance Challenge in Windermere in February. FAIL – I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I was also completely underprepared for it. While Helen and I had been taking dips in cold water every week or two throughout the winter, I just didn’t have the level of acclimatisation that was going to make this a safe swim, so I scratched. Happy Helen Lin from Boston was able to take up my spot and, of course, nailed it with aplomb!
My not even starting this swim was definitely a sensible move. I had been in colder water earlier on in January. Helen and I had a couple of evening dips in the Cam when the air temperature hovered around freezing, and the water around 3C. Proper hurty, bone-chilling stuff. But they were only short swims, and we were only in for a few minutes. Cold water deserves a great deal of respect, as it can bite you in the bum if not taken seriously, with potentially damaging consequences.
Scratching from this event became a bit of a theme, as I also scratched from the endurance event at PHISH, for the same reasons. The last thing I want to become is a liability at an event that is supposed to be a joyous, fun celebration of swimming!
Gibraltar Straits swim. SUCCESS!! A valuable early season success, and an unexpectedly fast time (3h 16mins) in nice conditions. Helen is now the second fastest woman in history (sin neoprene) to make this crossing, having spent reasonable chunks of her swim doing backstroke so I could catch up (we shared a support boat). Who knows how close she could have come to Penny Palfrey’s record of 3h 2 mins if she hadn’t had to wait for me? I am very grateful I was able to tag along on her ticket (Helen had been trying to organise it for a couple of years), and share in a wonderful day swimming to Africa. Interestingly, one of the most viewed blog posts I have ever posted too (Here), with 859 views. I think the Gibraltar Straits Swim is a really nice swim, rather short compared to your average channel swim, so, as a great ‘entry level drug’ for the aspiring marathon swimmer, catches people’s imaginations.
2-Way Catalina Channel swim. SUCCESS! This was every bit as hard as I had been expecting, but I managed to land it in the end, limping home on 1 engine, and pretty much at the limit of my endurance that day. I wordily described the day (and a bit’s) events here: (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Lessons Learned) I even broke a couple of records, for the oldest double crossing of the Catalina Channel (I was 45 at the time), and the slowest double crossing (28 hours 10 minutes). Interestingly, I did not break the record for the longest ever ‘swim in the Catalina Channel’, as believe it or not, there are several old swims which took longer, to swim one way!
This week I will pass the 1000 km mark of swimming in all forms for the year for the second year. It still amazes me that 65 of those km occurred on a single swim!
There were also a few of ‘bonus tracks’ to my 2015 CD. There was a 2-handed relay of the Guildford 2Swim4Life with Helen, the June Solstice Overnighter in Dover, and the never-swum-before Loch, Lake, Llyn relay with Helen, Debbie, Helen and Sam in July.
Next year it will be good to take a break from hard, long swimming. I have talked with Helen about maybe seeing if I can train to swim short distances much faster, by joining with her a masters squad, rather than the training I have done for the last 4 years, which has been almost exclusively on my own. I will probably lose quite a bit of weight in the process which wouldn’t be the end of the world…….
It will also be good to have more time to give back to others on their Marathon Swimming journeys. Crewing for Helen on her Catalina Channel Swim and Menorca Channel Swim, and for Bojan on his English Channel Swim in July were wonderful experiences. I would like to do some more of this (work and holiday allowance willing).
So I set no goals for 2016, apart from maybe that pesky 20 km pool swim! Instead, I just give thanks for nailing some of the ones I set for 2015, and for receiving such wonderful support in doing so. The Marathon Swimming Community is small, dedicated, but incredibly supportive of those who seek to push themselves to achieve their goals, under the most stringent set of rules.
P.S. One swim that I will be doing, however, will be a swim for Great Ormond Street Hospital, as part of the GOSH Dream Team. GOSH have teamed up with Gordon and Tana Ramsey Foundation to create a team of 100 people to compete in the Stoke Half Ironman in June. For a special sign-up fee, 100 entrants will get unique training sessions in all disciplines with the likes of the Brownlee Brothers and other star Triathlon names, physio advice, training advice, and a top of the range Huub wetsuit. The Dream Team comprises James Hatchley on the bike leg, Annie Foulds on the run, and me in the lead-off role, in a wetsuit!! All three of us have raised significant amounts of money for the hospital, and are privileged to participate in the event.
The kick-off event was held last week in one of Gordon’s London restaurants. If anyone is interested in joining the event, the link is here.