I awoke this morning to grey skies and strong winds, not the day to be on schedule for a 4 hour swim, but hang on a moment, if it’s cold, wet and windy, then Freda will have changed her mind, I wont have to do 4 hours after all! I headed to breakfast with Simon and Chris and then walked down to the beach and met Ian on the way. On the beach we looked ‘hopefully’ as the clouds swapped about positions with patches of blue sky. Getting changed, I wasn’t convinced so I still put all my gear into a waterproof sailing bag. We gathered around Freda and she gave us our instructions… “watch out past the sloping groyne with this wind, it’ll be like a washing machine down there, watch out too for the rowers, don’t go past the 3rd breakwater, and ‘be warned’ its going to be harder to swim against the wind”. “Right most of you are on 3 hours… Simon, Chris, Stuart and Howard you’re on 4 hours”
So much for Freda, showing some remorse for the weather!
In we got and off we went, I started swimming with Ian and when we got past the sloping groyne, Freda was right, up, down, left right, roll this way sway that, there was no way you could get any kind of stroke pattern in this – it was horrendous! We swam on and touched the wall, pushed off and headed back – OH MY!!! that wind! Yesterday’s, plan was well out the window, todays plan was to get back within the next 3 hours! (exaggerating a bit maybe) Ian and I did 2 laps and we’d been in 1 hour 20 – “Off you head, I can tell I’m holing you back” Ian suggested, “See if you can get another lap in before the first (2 hour) feed. I agreed and set off trying to generate some warmth from a fast stroke rate, wind assisted, I did a fast length and touched the wall before again being hit by wave after wave trying to get just a fraction of rhythm in my stroke. Streamline! Head down! Cut through the water, High Elbows! Low wrists, Hard Leg Kick! I tried them all, but this was hard work. eventually I made it back, I was one of the last swimmers in for the 2 hour feed. It’s amazing how good a cup of warm Maxim and one Jelly Baby can feel whan you’re that cold and tired! Oh well off we go again. After the 2nd feed (3 hours in the water – onto the last hour) I was really cold and tired and set my target at no more than one more lap. I headed first to the 3rd breakwater, into the wind before turning. On this last lap I counted how many strokes between the two groynes – wind assisted 62 – As I passed the second one, just past the Premier Inn – I entered into the washing machine area – tossed about for several minutes before touching the wall and heading back! Boy this is silly I thought to myself, every stroke I tried to make, bang, slap, splash a wave would hit me from every angle, I was breathing to my right and saw a woman on the beach with her dog, she tried to throw the ball but into the wind, it went about 6 yards, bounced a few times and the caught by the wind and chased by the dog, it went about 60 yards in the opposite direction. With the dog out of sight, I refocused on the lady, who I noticed walking into the wind was poised at an angle of 50 degrees, trying to make headway. I really felt cold and tired now, I pulled strong strokes and made it to the groyne. Right – head down, lets see how close to 62 strokes I can make it back… I focussed on the Premier Inn, as I have done a number of times before, but this time each of the 21 windows (per floor) didn’t pass along smoothly, I seriously wondered at one point if I was going backwards! My mind flashed to the stunning endless pool I have recently visited at the SwimShed, Keith who runs the SwimShed based in Towcester has an awesome set up and brilliant facility for helping swimmers of all abilities, and I’d been to see him recently, we enjoyed a coffee together and made plans for me to book a session in the multi camera’d endless pool, as I say a great facility for viewing every aspect of your stroke and really getting some brilliant feedback on how you swim (as opposed to how you think you swim). Anyway more on Keith and SwimShed another time, for now I had to focus and count these strokes, slowly I did make some progress and all in all counted 158 strokes on my return!
I was now focussed on one thing and one thing only! The beach.
I exited the water after 4 hours and within minutes was delighted to be wrapped in my beach towel. “Good swim Stuart” said Nick Adams, “Thanks, I am starving” was all I could muster, then within minutes, Irene has passed me a piece of chocolate cake and Sukura, Nick Adams’ girlfriend passed me a mug of hot-chocolate and a piece of millionaire biscuit – Thank You guys!!!
After a dry off, change of clothes and another warm drink I headed to the car and made my way back to Silverstone.
So, as I was asking, if you need an endless pool… you can either join me on a cold, wet windy day in Dover, or you might just prefer… Keith at www.theswimshed.com