Things went a bit haywire over the last few weeks so the updates will come a bit thick and fastish.
There was a disco in the hotel on Saturday night and I had to sleep with the window open so that I did not get too warm (the rooms were warm and I now get very warm at night) so the kitchens/bar throwing the empties out at around 2 was very audible, none of which helped with the recovery sleep. When I did get off to sleep at around 2-3am I did sleep well but was half awake when Ash sent a message at 5:45 to see if I was heading for the HITtheWALL infinity Cure Swim. Much to my amazement I got up and headed down for the swim at around 6am. I had originally thought I’d be doing my 2 hour qualifying swim, so great not to have that pressure now.
I was still a bit stiff and sore from the Saturday swim so I decided to do one lap of the swim to loosen up. The wind had really picked up and it was a bit on the damp side. The increase in the wind delayed the start of the swim as the Infinity crew brought the marker buoys in to the relative protection of the shore between the two piers. Still the time spent waiting was another chance to chat and catch up with the other swimmers.
Once in the water the conditions didn’t seem too bad but I was glad to be only doing one loop and heading for a warm shower and breakfast. The back and shoulders didn’t feel too bad after yesterday’s efforts. Unfortunately Heather was taken out of the water shortly after I got back to the pier and the Infinity team whisked her off to one of the team’s mobile homes to get warm and change, despite her protestations. Not being able to help and knowing she was being well looked after, I headed back to the hotel.
I had a great shower, but had to take a quick trot back to the pier as I still had my numbered arm band; the absence of an armband could potentially have produced a bit of a panic as it could indicate a swimmer still in the sea. I saw Heather heading off in the car just as came on to the main road, it was good to know she was okay.
Next stop was a yoga session up at the Foye Centre. This was a brilliant compliment to the morning’s swim with a good bit of work on neck and shoulder mobility. Having got ourselves nicely relaxed we headed for the nearest cafe for a stimulation coffee and scone and a relaxing chat before heading back for a Q&A session.
The panel at the Q&A included King of the Channel, Kevin Murphy, Kathy Batts (Triple Crown swimmer amongst others), Nicholas Murch amongst other very experienced open water swimmers; I missed the start (the scones and craic, were good) and was at the back so I apologise for not naming all the amazing people on the panel. The longest conversation and discussion was over feeding, Kevin Murphy pointed out that there were no gels etc when he started swimming the channel and swimmers ate food in one case, meat pies, another was boiled eggs or chicken legs and he recounted one swim where breakfast was on the menu – having swam for a hour the swimmer received a piece of back, the next hour a sausage and so on through the breakfast (we didn’t get to the baked beans, though I’m sure they would help with propulsion). Nick Murch pointed out that the gels etc and their use is based on research carried out on runners and cyclists, swimming in cold water is different in that we exercise horizontally and the body reduces blood flow to the gut to prevent the vital organs (eg. brain, heart and lungs) from suffering the effects of the cold. The use of pain killers during a swim was raised, these can upset the GI tract to varying degrees. Someone asked about what happens after the successful swim, the panel admitted that there can be a sense of anti-climax but congratulations and messages on social media can help mitigate this. The recurring theme was practice food, pain relief before the swim and plan, including spreadsheets, a rota so everyone knows their roles and stuff does not get forgotten. This was a really useful session and highlighted the fact that members of the open water swimming community are on the whole a friendly bunch who are only too willing to share their experiences and any advice or tips.
Between the Q&A and the afternoon swim we had a rest and got our stuff together.
The name of the afternoon session should have been a warning about what was in store for us; Ice’n’Dice.
We headed down to the South Pier to find three large containers of ice and water at the end of the pier, in my naivety I briefly thought that these were preparing for fishermen coming in with fish – the fish in reality were us, the swimmers!
The aim of the afternoon’s festivities was to do a loop around the buoys between the tow piers and then get out for a refreshing dunk in the ice bath, the time spent dependent on a throw of a large inflatable dice, 10 to 60 sec. Before starting I was saying to myself that there was no way I was going to get in an ice bath – after the first loop out I got, queued up, threw the dice and fairly quickly got into one of the ice baths. The kicker was that the time didn’t start until you were in the bath up to your chin – so cruel – and on the first dunking we were given ice-cream to eat. The crazy thing is that the ice-cream was brilliant, loved it and if I could I’d have orange ice-lollies on the boat for the channel swim, it cut through the saltiness and helped relieve to slight pain of a developing ulcer on my tongue. On the third, dip we were told to submerge completely with a nice fireman to help get the head under! I’m never one for diving into open water, it was fun to realise that I was looking forward to getting back into the sea, even diving in at one point, after the ice-bath – it almost felt warm. This all sounds horrendous but, it was great fun – laughing at yourself and everyone else. The infinity guys no their stuff, I think they could tell if getting in up to your neck or completely submerging was a step to far they wouldn’t force it but they help make you go beyond what you think you can do.
We rounded the day off with a very long hot shower, followed by dinner, chat and a lot of laughing with Kenny, Jen and Stuart. I think we all slept well – I know I did!