What type of year is it going to be?
It has been a while since I have written a blog, mainly because I feel that I have nothing to offer anyone but this year is a special one and there are a few events that have gotten me to write this blog. Some that I have been thinking about and others that have recently happened that put life into perspective a bit and just call for me to sit back and look at life and realise that we only have one so lets make it a great one.
The first event that brings me to write this is a happy event. This year sees my 10 year anniversary of my very first foray into Open water swimming. Not to do anything by halves, it is 10 years ago I decided to take on the “Mt Everest” of swimming events. the English Channel. I was one of the lucky ones that year to be successful and it changed my life in so many ways moving to where I am now.
The second event is a pretty horrific accident that recently happened to a friend of mine. She is equally as mad as I am and could often be seen taking on some of the most intense running events in Southern Africa or doing somthing equally insane. Sadly, as the new year dawned, her, her partner and some friends were on their annual holiday to Matopes in Zimbabwe. She left her partner on the shore with her mother and her and a friend went for a kayak in an inflatable kayak on one of the lakes. little did she know that her life was about to change forever.
Whilst out paddling, a big crocodile lunged out of the water and tried to take her. it punctured the kayak and she and her elderly friend were now left with an irate crocodile, no paddles,as there were lost in the unfolding horror and a sinking kayak. In the melee, she was grabbed by the crocodile which broke her wrist and then with the other hand she tried to fight it off. She then got bitten by the crocodile again and got her other arm broken. Now she really was up Sh%t Creek without a paddle. She had to paddle the 600m with two broken arms whilst trying to fight off the crocodile whilst her partner, who was on the shore watching all this went off to find help – not an easy thing in such a remote area. Finally they got to shore and an ambulance arrived to take her and her injured friend to hospital. Sadly her friend did not make the journey. She however is now stable in the high care unit with two broken, badly lacerated arms with multiple puncture wounds on her chest. Surgeons are pretty amazed that 1 – she is still alive and, 2 – that the attack did not hit any arteries as there were some that were exposed. She needed 4 pints of blood – which she had to haggle for and finally ended up having to pay about 190 US dollars per pint. God i am so thankful for the NHS in the United Kingdom. In a video that I saw of her two days after the attack, she is in hospital smiling and jovial. I wish her a speedy recovery and her and her family are in my thoughts. That is exactly how I know her to be, always jovial, always happy and always active, although she is a very slight lady, she is tough as nails and this event proves just that. My condolences to the Family who lost their loved one.This is
So how to put things into perspective? LIFE IS VERY TENUOUS. We only have one! MAKE IT COUNT!! I cannot let this anniversary go by without some form of challenge to remember it. In the 10 years since I took on the Channel, Open water swimming has flourished and we are not short of a swim or twenty to choose from so the decision has been tough but I have had to settle on something a bit low key and local. With other things going on in my life, my budget is limited so after looking at some really big swims like Lac leman (Lake Geneva) a 70km swim, It would be a great challenge but at about 5000 Euros, a little out of my budget so it was back to the drawing board. I am now looking at Loch Lomond, this will equal my Channel challenge 10 years ago with slightly different challenges attached to it. It will be colder and it will be a night time swim and also fresh water. I have my boat booked and now I just need to get my mind focused and enter the swim. There are a whole lot of questions that I do not know the answers too in my mind right now but As I have done so many times in the past, I will figure them out with the help of friends, family and the amazing Slimhippo.
I have no training plan. This is the least of my worries as I never have a training plan as I adhere to the “Total Body Confusion” plan. Basically make it up as I go along so my mind and body never know what to expect. My fitness is a bit lacking right now and with other financial commitments, the cost will be a stretch, but one that I am willing to work with. Nothing in life is easy, if it was then everyone would be doing challenges. More than anything, I need to do this challenge as I feel as if I am stagnating in this life. The same thing happened before my Channel swim and it was my brother who dragged and kicked my lazy backside off the destructive road I was on. Now it is my turn to make the changes that I need. My Wellbeing is my responsibility!! The more I stagnate, the more it drags my emotional wellbeing down.
Over the last couple of months I have been trying – with not much success to keep my fitness up. In December I Signed up for a few 10km swims. The first being an invitational swim in remeberance of a great athlete Steve Wand, the format 100 x 100s in a 50m outdoor heated pool. Due to injury, my training was well below par. I managed to do in my back, elbow and wrist all at the same time so the best thing to do in that scenario is rest and rest I did.
I managed to get through the 10km in just over 3 hours, again, with the help from friends in the speedster lane, we did it. It was a nice swim with decent rest times between the 100s. As it was outdoor, the outside temperature was pretty frigid making it ideal as the temperature of the pool was pretty warm. about 26 degrees celcius. At least during the Rests I could cool down a bit and refuel.
I had also signed up for another 10 km, similar format with the Downunder girls in Norwich. 100 x 100s, this time in a heated 25m indoor pool. After the last 10km, and as it was coming up to the Festive break, I was knocked down with the lurgy for a few days so, yes, you can imagine what happened to the training. Not much was done.The Slimhippo and I travelled up the day before and then went off to the pool to sign in and when I went in for the briefing, I figured that it was going to be a very different experience as even before the briefing ended, I was boiling and sweating.
Again I was in the speed lane, I honestly do not know how I end up in these lanes but I seem to end up in them all the time! The turn arounds were brutal this time. where the last 10 km I did a few weeks prior, we were turning round on 1 min 45 secs. This time, we were doing
10 on 1 min 40,
10 on 1 min 35
10 on 1 min 30.
Times that by three = 90 and then the last 10 on 1 min 40.
The quick ones were virtually a straight swim with very little time to refuel and more importantly for me, COOL DOWN!!! After about 6.5km in the sweatbox, I started to get a headache. I tried loosening my goggles but it progressively got worse the further I went till, at 7.5km, I called it a day as I could not shake off the headache that I had.
I think the most alarming thing for an ambulance crew outside ( who were there for another reason) was me in just my shorts in near freezing temperatures outside the pool just trying to get cool. I was not unimpressed with the swim at all, it was a pretty good pace, but it was just way too hot for me.
Slimhippo and I then headed to the Peak districts to catch up with my brother and his family for the New Year where the Slimhippo got to do something she had always wanted to do. Being a fan of Pride and Prejudice, She wanted to go to Chatsworth house and that is exactly where we went.
The following day My brother and his wife – having two young boys to wear out, took us for a very blustery hike up a fairly large hill overlooking Ladybower reservoir. Paths!! Who needs them, lets just take the road/direction less – rather never – travelled. It was interesting to say the least with me only landing on my backside twice trying to come down from the hill. On our way back to our cottage a bit of family History was in order. I finally got to see the memorial with my Grandfathers name on it in Over Haddon
So what other plans for the year ahead?
As with many things, I like to live spontaneously. This adds a bit of a dilemma as I normally leave booking anything to the last minute but in the world of open water swimming, this is often not possible, especially with some of the bigger swims that Open for registration in the November of the preceding year and sell out in a day or two. So, reluctantly, in November, I had to sign up for some of the swims that I want to do in 2018. As I am plannig a relatively big swim at the end of the year, all the swims I will take part in will stand me in good stead. so the year ahead sees me booked and paid up for the following swims.
Guildford 12 – A 12 mile swim over 12 hours. 1 mile on the hour ever hour for 12 hours. This is a shorter version of the 24 hour 2Swim4Life – which I have only ever done as a team. The challenge with this swim is the Getting in and getting out after every mile. A format that has, for a long time, been my Nemesis and I have generally steered clear of.
Thames marathon – A 14km swim along the Thames river near Henley. Last years event was great fun and I came 2nd in the skins category. The biggest issue I had last year was the bugs seemed to love me to bits. lets hope it is not the same this year
Jubilee River Swim – An event I have taken part in both individually and as a team. It is a 9.85km swim along the Jubilee and is an event I really enjoy. This year the Skins Field will be very competitive with some awesome swimmers that I will be battling against.
Loch Lomond – 21 mile overnight swim. Only 60 people have ever done this event with the challenges being the cold water, the Overnight swim and the fresh water.
I will be taking part in other swims along the way and the usual 3km races at my local lakes and possibly the 8.3km Long Reach swim where I need to defend my title.
All of this added to the fact that the Hippos hope to hop on the property ladder, it is looking like a pretty busy year. Now is the time to get my head in the right place. As with any endurance sports it is 70% mental, 20% physical and 10% luck. So the next few months will be focusing my mind into the right mindset and getting in some well needed time in the water focusing on my technique and stamina before the Lakes open and the Temperature rises enough to get in some longer training swims.
To all out there, I wish you a Happy, healthy fun filled 2018. Whatever it holds for you, just remeber, You only have one life and you never know what could be around the next corner.