One down, one to go [playlist here]. This year’s Great East Swim was excellent. Once again the event was very well organised and the weather was 100% better. In place of gales and squalls there was relatively little wind and at various times the sun shone creating golden bubbles in the crystal clear water, I swear I saw a huge fish at one point too. I was pleased that my time was about 7 minutes better than last year. I was also thrilled to be able to have Paddy and Scotts coffee and a burger prepared by @gthebutcher from Suffolk Food Hall. The challenge now is next year do I try and improve my mile time again or go for the two mile course? Huge thanks to those that have donated to my Justgiving Page. Diabetes UK were on hand on the day dishing out Bananas and other goodies.
After the thrill of the swim on Sunday I cycled with a friend into Ipswich to experience the Skyride. They closed streets, stopped traffic with marshals and generally created a fabulous family atmosphere, samba, steel bands, clowns the works. It is thoroughly reassuring that despite what the tabloids might tell you there are still plenty of families, who given half the chance will get out on their bikes and take exercise. The route encompassed the New College site, Waterfront, ITFC ground and the Town Centre creating a great advert for the town.
All good practice for the Dunwich Dynamo the 127 miles overnight on 16/17th July.
On the route back I was brought to a halt by a lady tractor safari that was taking part in aid of charity. A bunch of bedecked tractors in pink balloons coming down the hill. Certainly made me pedal fast to hit the Framlingham co-op before it shut!
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.
What would you suggest?
The theme is W on ‘Something Completely Different;’ any shape or size but must be based on a ‘W’ [Spotify playlist here]. I have chosen to create a bookmark, I seem to have a dozen books on the go at any time. The idea behind this image is the bottom of the pool when I am swimming. Last night the sun was bright and low in the sky, there were fantastic golden patterns from the ripples on the surface. I swim in goggles, as I look ahead the lines of the tiles are clean and clear, but lower in my field of vision, the lines are distorted; the aim is to create a stream of bubbles so that as I turn my head to breathe my body takes in air almost without thinking.
In January when I started my preparation for the Great East Swim, I could not do crawl and had to count to three to remind myself when to breathe. I also didn’t have my face in the water much. Now I swim with my face in the water most of the time, and as I learn to relax can take in the patterns, random tile distributions and sounds. Finally, I can stop counting to three, but have become obsessed with counting the number of strokes to a length. Still far to many, I am hitting about 18 in a 20 metre pool; I can get down to 11 or less in breast stroke.
I am working my way through the training schedule on the website Take to The Streets. Today, I completed session 26 a total of 940 metres. Since starting and logging my walking, cycling and swimming miles I have done 200 miles under my own steam. I have kept off the weight I lost earlier in the year despite now eating what I was eating before, drinking wine, eating cheese and other lovely things. I suspect I do self moderate my diet more than I did before though. I still haven’t launched my self like a great cargo ship into the sea, but I will have to soon. If you live near Framlingham and know anywhere where I can swim in open fresh water I would be delighted to hear from you.
So now for the plea for help. I have decided that my charity will be Water Aid; if you are not already familiar with their work take a look. So many people in the world do not have access to safe, clean, water and sanitation; this is my attempt to show my gratitude for what we have and to put a little back.
I have created a Just Giving Page please visit and donate, it is a very worthwhile cause.
The theme this week on Illustration Friday is ‘expired’. In my mind was the image of all the chocolate people have given up for Lent, being burned on a pyre. Earlier this year when I started my #f450 campaign to be fit for fifty I gave up a variety of foods; I did feel better for it and now stay off meat during the week. The rest of the foods have crept in and my weight has stabilised at the new level. I might have another bash at losing some more. For now, I am hoping that swimming longer distances the weight will come off without the need for more dieting.
Today I completed the next block in my swim training. That was a 600m crawl, continuous without breaks. When I started this I could not complete one length in crawl so I am quite pleased. However, I did terrify myself by watching part of the great swim TV programme on Chanel 4 this morning perhaps that spurred me on……. The YouTube below is from last year’s Great East Swim; just remember to substitute the rather fit young people in it for a middle-aged woman!
In a moment of madness I have entered the Great East Swim; training starts 8.30 Sunday morning at the local pool. The event itself takes place at Alton Water a cold lake on the outskirts of Ipswich in June. Think of me while you are tucked up in bed.