It’s already March!

It’s already March!
It’s already March!
It is already March
I am sure it was just yesterday when I was celebrating New years Eve, yet here we are at the start of the 3rd month of 2015 with 64 days left until I stand on the edge of Saguaro lake In Arizona with the first of four swims – in four days Ahead of me.
Over the last couple of weeks since I last posted, I have been doing my regular week time training and during the weekends I have been focusing on getting my Support crew up to speed. As She is not a seasoned kayaker – or water baby, To say “SHE HAS CONCERNS!” might well be a monumental understatement. As the person who she will be supporting. I do not share those concerns. Last week, we braved the lovely British spring afternoon. The sun was out — intermittently (more like hardly!)
the wind was blustery, and the air temperature hovering about 2 degrees Celsius.
Being as Ill prepared as only I can be, we kitted ourselves out in what little “Hardy weather” Gear that we had, yes, we were covered up, but fitting 2 people into one pair of state of the art £4.50 waterproof longs was always going to be an insurmountable challenge. I won the toss so at least I was going to be waterproof. With Audra in her Gym leggings and surf boots with light socks on, we were off to go and get the kayaks From Sue. The lovely neighbour who has offered us the use of her Kayaks free of charge for Audra to get her experience up.
Audra testing the equipment before she finally hits the water with them.

Audra testing
the equipment
before she finally hits the water with them.

After getting the kayaks in the water – without falling in!! We were off. A very pleasant start to the whole affair as the current was flowing quite fast so the effort needed to kayak the first 3 km was not immense. Drifting along the River Wey, past historical monuments like Old Woking Palace, we had rapidly covered the distance to a point where the River separated out and we turned right into the river which runs parallel to the Canals. We chose this route as it saved us a portage over a lock and, we had never done this route before.
At his point it become trickier as the current was now against us and the Wind was also howling along the river so we were having to, not only deal with the current, but also the bracing wind that howled straight at us. after about 4 km I looked at Audra and, the cheeky smile had subsided from her face and a slight grimace was starting to replace it. Stupidly I asked is everything alright?

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It was at this point that I was now enlightened to the fact that Gym leggings ARE NOT WATERPROOF. and neither are surfing booties with thin socks. The sit- on- top kayak that Audra was in was not the most water tight vessel on the water either, so she was sitting in a pool of water that was about 2 degrees. Feeling had long since left her feet to be replaced with numbness. As I was IN a proper kayak, my legs were shielded from the bracing wind, oh and I at least had those £4.50 waterproof longs.
As Audra will probably be using a -sit-on-top kayak in Arizona, she had opted to use the kayak she was in. This comes with Pros and Cons – as follows
1 – They are infinitely more stable than a proper kayak – resulting in –
2 – They have Far more surface area on the water to act as resistance.
3 – They are Not that waterproof with water always getting into them
4 – As you are sitting on top – as opposed to inside, your whole body
      is exposed to the elements. It was about 3 degrees with a bracing, head on wind.
5 – Emptying water out of them is difficult without a baler of some sort.
6 – They are heavier than a standard kayak so propelling them is far harder with a current
      and wind against you as they are less aerodynamic in the water.
This stretch of the trip was hard work. As we did not know exactly where the River went, We turned around after about 4.4km Deciding it would be best to try and get back rather than freeze on the river.
Audras grimace turned into a smile again as we were on the home stretch. This smile, however was short lived. We then had to turn back onto the River that had happily carried us down in the first part of the Trip. Now the 3km that seemingly flew by in the first part, was a gruelling slog against the current with a wind against us. I tried to keep Audras spirits up by saying “we are nearly there! Just around the next corner.”  In reality, I did not have a clue and, there are a LOT of corners on this stretch of River. I think after hearing “Just around the next Corner” For about the fifth time. Audra soon realised that I did not have a clue -which only added to the grimace and now she resorted to trying to Ram my kayak into the shore or weeds.
The only good part of this last 3km – apart from the scenery – which we both did not really care for at that moment. – was the fact that we were going against the current and had to work hard. This generated much needed body heat to stop Audra freezing completely. I am not too worried about myself as I have done this cold water malarkey often enough and, I was at least not sitting in a pool of near frozen water. I must admit, It was pretty tough and I would have been happier doing a 15km swim than kayaking in those conditions. I offered Audra the option of resting for a while – more for me than her – but she was having none of it, so we pressed on relentlessly
After 2 hours 40 min, we finally passed under the bridge just near where we were to stop.
Passing the finishing post
8.7 km kayak. For a First time in a While that is Dam good.
Now, although the battle of kayaking had been won, The war against the Wey was still raging on. lining up the kayaks to get out was a bit tricky without smashing into Sues Big Boat, that was moored right in front of us, Thankfully in a floating dry dock, otherwise it might have ended up with a few unwanted holes in it. We finally managed to get ourselves, and then the kayaks out of the river Wey. At this point, we were now not expending much energy, Audra was out of her freezing pool with Appendages that were attached to her body but basically did not exist due to numbness and cold.
Whilst I wasted precious time tidying, cleaning and packing the kayaks Away, Audra was trying her utmost to help, but with little feeling in any of her extremities, The last thing I wanted her to do was to injure herself whilst packing away the kayaks. With the lack of feeling she would not even have realised it. Whilst she waited  – in the cold – for me to finish up. She experienced what all Cold water swimmers are very familiar with AFTER-DROP.
This is when you get out of cold water and about 15 minutes after you get out, you start to shiver uncontrollably and your body temp keeps dropping. There is a good sign to this in that, when you can shiver you are not suffering from hypothermia. BUT you do need to warm up quickly as shivering requires a lot of energy.
When I noticed this, it was time to URGENTLY get her home and Warmed up as quick as we could. I think it took about two hours for her to start feeling her feet again but fortunately she was fine after that.
So, after the lessons learnt from the above adventure, with new waterproofs, gloves to stop Audras hands chafing, some vestibule to remove water from her kayak and some sustenance, we tried again and The weather played its part. The wind was still a big hassle but we got through a 6 km kayak relatively unscathed apart from me gashing my ankle whilst getting back in after portaging our kayaks over to another river system. All in all we are getting there.
I do not share the Concerns that Audra has about her kayaking ability.
She looks comfortable on a kayak, a bit like she has done it her whole life.
The water temp will not be 2 degrees in Arizona
There will be backup in the form of motor boats. These can be used to transport kayakers ahead of their swimmers should the wind come howling through the canyon.
She will not have to kayak at a fast pace. her speed will be dictated by the speed i swim at and I am not a very fast swimmer.
I do However have other concerns for her kayak.
8 hours on a kayak can be pretty gruelling, not necessarily on your muscles that you use for propelling yourself but more on your core muscles. Sitting in the same position can be pretty hard on your core and Bum.
I think for us having just arrived from London I have a shared concern about the sun on both Audras and my skin.
Keeping both kayaker and swimmer well hydrated and fed throughout the swims is going to be pretty important.
How will I catch her attention when she is listening to her Ipod? and I need feeding?
Back to my Swimming
last week saw me in the pool nearly every day for distances between 4 and 6 km. I have had another breakthrough in that I got a personal best for 1km in a 25 m pool. I got my time down below 14 minutes finishing my last km in 13 min 40 seconds which is about 1 min 20 seconds faster than I have been able to sustain in the past.
This was done in a set where I did 500m warm up followed by 6 x 500m after each one doing 100m slow breast/crawl as an active recovery rather than rest. My time progressively getting faster by about 5 seconds per 500m. I then did a 1km set in 13 min 40 seconds (Audra Does not agree with me when I say that I am not a fast swimmer) At the end of this I was not out of breath at all – which is a pretty good sign.
This does not relate to the speed I will be able to sustain in a purely open water swim. My cruising speed in pure open water is probably now at about 14 min 30 per km, maybe a bit slower. My last 10km swim I did last year I was on 16 min 30 per km.  Overall, I am happy with my progress so far and just need to keep up this regime as often as possible – without scratching my skin off or ripping my hair out in the process. On that note, I think I might have stumbled on something to stop the chlorine drying out my scalp and my skin by repeated exposure. One of the sponsors of SCAR is a product called  TRISWIM
A product designed specifically for people who spend a lot of time in chlorinated/salt water. So I will be trying that out over the next few weeks, thanks to the company SBR Sports ,who have offered me some of their products, to see if it helps. I will report back soon
This week I will spend less time in the pool and try and work on my core muscles with pilates and a bit of surface based exercises.
Other News  
I have now booked a few days post swim in Sedona, Arizona – where we will spend a few days just relaxing and going on a few tours around the city, famous for its Red Rock formations, and a trip up to the big hole in the ground commonly known as the Grand Canyon. I have heard rumours that it is fairly impressive.
Recently I have also been following a good friend Lewis Pugh as he tries to highlight the plight of the Ross Sea around Antarctica. His latest swim was the most southerly swim Ever in the world undertaken by just a Boy in Budgie smugglers. Pretty impressive stuff. I urge you to follow him on facebook or twitter or his web page Lewis Pugh Blog
This must be the most extreme case of “Driving Global Change Through Human Endeavour” I have ever seen.
If you thought our 2 and a half hour kayak on the River Wey was a bit mad, Then read his blog. The “After Drop” that Audra experienced becomes particularly perilous. A huge admiration for Lewis
On that note, I would like to extend my thanks to Audra – who is about as mad as Lewis is, in agreeing to support me on my swims. Also to Audras neighbour, Sue, who kindly lets us use her kayaks as and when we want to. Colin Durrant from Colins IT, My masters Class at David Lloyd gym and the Nemes Nutters for keeping me focused.All who are helping in many ways so that I can carry out my passion. Without them and so many other people, I would be nowhere in this world.
To end this blog, and upon hearing the Passing of The Great Leonard Nimoy, I would like to use a quote of his.
I think it’s my adventure, 
my trip, 
my journey, 
and I guess my attitude is, 
let the chips fall where they may.

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