A huge thank you to everyone for their support over the last six months. I did it; completed the Great East Swim and raised well over my £300.00 target for Water Aid.
In January, a tweet came through via the Stradbroke Web site, saying that the swimming pool had updated their page. If people wanted to sign up for the Great East Swim, they could do so and train at Stradbroke pool. With an impending 50th birthday, it being winter and feeling like there was plenty of time ahead, I signed up. At this stage I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Although I knew I could swim like a girl; head out of the water and was not afraid of swimming in the sea, lakes or streams; I had no concept of how far a mile is when swimming. I walk and cycle, but at my own leisurely pace and have learnt that a mile is a very different thing depending on how you are propelling yourself.
A few days later I turned up at Stradbroke pool, bought an everyone active card and went into my first training session. Then the penny dropped. These people were very good swimmers, take part in competitions, do triathlons and there was me; never done crawl, never mastered face in the water breast stroke either. However, they were friendly, Len the coach was great at trying to turn my uncoördinated mass of wheeling limbs into some sort of stroke and steadily I started to make progress. Without the lovely James Zarro at Gilmour Piper, sorting my neck out, I may not have passed first base. Learning to breathe and turn my head, was testing parts that hadn’t been tested before.
A few weeks later, I signed up to use the pool at Framlingham College and started using the Take to The Streets website to provide training plans; which I followed religiously. From then on, I have swum three or four times a week, most weeks. Gradually building up my distance and stroke technique.
Then in early May, I swam at Spitchwick on Dartmoor and later in the month started swimming at Fritton Lake. I really wanted to swim crawl, having learnt how to; but despite changing to an Orca wetsuit from Wiggle I still struggled.
Along the way I have tweeted, facebooked, blogged and foursquared my activities.
Yesterday was the big day. Walking towards the lake it was clear that the day was squally, lumbering clouds, gusts of wind, patches of blue sky that whisked away as soon as they appeared.
Watching the Yellow wave leave, gave a fair idea of the conditions and I was lucky enough to meet another newbie who happened to work for British Gas, the event sponsors. We teamed up to get changed and generally support each other going into the holding pen and acclimatization zone.
Once the hooter went it was each to their own. I had taken the advice of others, held back and to one side to enter the water so as not to be swum over by faster swimmers. The route out to the first three buoys (about 600m) was hard work, into the wind, very choppy and a couple of stern chats to myself about ‘not finishing is not an option’ were required before finally making it round the bend.
Once being chased by the wind, a different problem occurred, a feeling of overtaking myself as my legs were lifted by the following waves. Around about 800m, I was convinced someone was splashing me, it was a torrential downpour.
At the 1200m point, I was expecting us all to turn for the orange buoys at the shore as instructed when we left, due to the weather; but we were told to keep going to the next yellow buoy and actually by then I was feeling in my flow. This was the point when the best of the white wave started passing me and by the time I went through the timing arch there were a few whites coming through too.
My time was 53:17, I don’t think the elites who do it in 14 minutes need worry. The light purples below are the sub 30 minute crowd.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me with chats and sponsored me along the way – you are great.
Would I do it again? Well, in a moment of madness I made an Olympic 2012 pledge to do it next year and the one after.
There again I might like to try something new. I am tempted by surfing the Severn Bore or riding Sustrans route 1.
What would you suggest?