Back to reality before the summer disappears.
Time has marched on pretty swiftly over the last couple of weeks and LOTS has happened in my life, not a lot of swimming but a lot has gone on.
Since the summer started in the northern hemisphere, I have been eagerly and jealously following people on various swim related challenges and managing a few of my own. I managed to do the Jubilee River swim as a team of Happy Hippos, where Tom Rogers, Nerys Pearce, Vicky Hassel and I had a great time in the river
Then I was whisked away from society by the amazing Slimhippo and she finally made an honest man of me by agreeing to become my wife. The last month has been a bit of a whirlwind with emotions running high, and family arriving from across this little planet of ours to help celebrate the Hippo Hitchup. We had a truly amazing 3 day wedding in Dorset followed very swiftly by a jolt back to reality when, we could not find our passports 36 hours before we were due to go on honeymoon. Finally we did but the house suffered a bit and it looked like the latest hurricane had popped in for the day and turned everything on its head before disappearing.
After ten glorious days in Zanzibar, relaxing with the Slimhippo, it was back to reality. As soon as I landed I realised there was a wee little race at Shepperton – the lake where I do some training. As I was about to run out of free passes, I needed to enter this and WIN it as prizes usually involve more free passes! So 4 days after touching down I was due to race. This was not any little race for me as Ma and Pa Hippo were in town so they would come down and watch me. For that fact alone I was excited. They were on the boat to France when all this swimming madness started nearly 9 years ago. Them dressed for the arctic, me in my budgie smugglers. I put in one last training swim to see that I could still swim and was all ready for a 3km dash – not races I particularly enjoy but good to blow the cobwebs out and work on my sprinting ability. What I did not realize at the time of booking was how my sustained sprinting ability would be tested.
Roll on Thursday evening 6.30pm: I was rushing back from a client site, confident I would make the 7.30pm start. I arrived just before 7pm, sat in the car listening to some tunes, then decided to go and say hello to everyone so got changed in the car, then slowly wandered to the registration point when all of a sudden I heard a Horn. I thought, oh well, they testing the Start gun. This was followed by a lot of splashing. OH CRAP my timing had been wrong! I ran over to the registration table, checked in, whilst I was putting on my cap and goggles, they were putting a timing chip around my ankle. By the time I dived into the water, the leaders were already nearing the first Buoy. My thoughts were, oh well, seems I will be chasing the whole race.
47 minutes after the timing chip start, I picked my way through the plethora of swimmers and ran up the finish ramp. I had finished 4th overall and 2nd in the Bioprene category, I was at first gutted and pissed off with myself for not READING THE BLOODY INSTRUCTIONS. My distaste with myself soon melted as I ran up the ramp as there, at the end was MA hippo and PA hippo. I could have cried at seeing them there but the previous 4 weeks had pretty much dried out my tear ducts. It is such an amazing feeling having my parents at events. Not a common thing as they live on the other side of Planet Earth. Simon, the organizer who was on the kayak, came up to me and said that is one of the best swims he has ever seen from me. Just goes to show what you can do without all the wallowing and faffing around and you actually FOCUS on swimming. I do not know my real time as, in the rush to get in, I forgot to start my watch. So it seems like I will be paying for my swims until the next race.
My parents then stayed for a few weeks longer to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with their children and grandchildren – who are all in the UK. Then we had the emotional task of getting them on a plane back to Africa. Not something I relish but this is the life I have chosen.
So back to Reality.
In a little over three weeks I will be taking on the 14km Bridge to bridge swim along the Thames, so I have to keep the training up and – alas – actually pay for my swims – hopefully only until next week.
6 weeks of no training and far too much partying and enjoying life has taken its toll on the Bioprene levels but it seems not so much of an effect on my wallowing ability. I am consistently chugging around the lakes at between 14 min and 14 min 30secs per km. It seems that although the scales might be complaining at my extra baggage, my swimming seems to be slightly quicker than before I went on holiday/ honeymoon. Thus echoing what I have always believed, sometimes little or no training – or taking a break from training altogether can actually do the world of good for you. Lately I feel so much faster in the water than I did before I went on holiday. I am swimming with far more energy and enthusiasm than I did before and I can hold my sprint effort for much longer than I could. I call it “effort” as I think I only really have one speed – slow and steady! Why do I think my sprint effort is far better? A few days ago, while down at the lake, after wallowing through a slow lap, I came to the start again and there was one of my old Coaches from Teddington: his words, “how about a race!!” Not having a competitive bone in my body, I thought well, there is no real harm in it. So off we charged. I thought he might be joking until I saw the pace he was putting in. I thought -Bloody Hell! This is going to kill me. I think that at every mass start I ever do by the way. He led me for the first 500m then I started reeling him in and overtook him and led until a sprint to the end where we finished together. The next lap we slowed the pace down – by about 20 seconds and then we did a final blast on the last lap. We finally called it quits after 4 laps for me and 3 for him. It was a fun evening out but again showed me the benefits of taking a break every now and again.
What to do next
Well, this week I have signed up for an 8.4km Long Reach swim in the River Thames, another new one on the block, run by the same team that run the Jubilee 10km swim. I have also been doing stuff that I don’t necessarily agree with and have discovered another reason why I try not to read blogs.
I came across an Article about Avram Iancu – the first attempt to swim the Danube without fins or a wetsuit. Now I have met Martin Strel who has swum this stretch of water in the past but with a suit and fins. This article whisked me off into my dream world again and soon I found myself looking for a wee little challenge for next year. I have survived the challenge of actually getting married and going on honeymoon without killing the Slimhippo so I need something small to look forward to and focus on.
Well, soon enough, my mouse miraculously clicked on a link to the 70km swim down Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). After reading a bit about it, my mouse took on a life of its own – and miraculously clicked on the register your interest. I then found myself filling in the form and it asks for a date – well, it seems fitting that the 28th September 2018 would be exactly 10 years since I swam to France and before I knew it – Oh dear, I have registered my interest to swim 70km. Ssssshhhhhh – DON’T TELL THE SLIMHIPPO!!!!! At this point it is only registering my interest but I usually know where these expressions of interest end up. Maybe this time next year I will be well under way in preparation to do the longest swim I have ever done. It is only 30 plus hours out of my life so should not be too bad. I am sure I can talk the Slimhippo round to supporting me on a yacht for the weekend – as long as it involves prosecco and chocolate, I am fairly certain it won’t be too hard.
The worst thing is that I have no idea about how the heck I am going to afford to do it, it is not the cheapest swim on the planet so I now need to go about finding a few thousand pounds. The swimming part will be easy, the paying for it a little bit more of a challenge.
So, the seeds have been planted and now we wait to see how things pan out. It is a great little challenge and will be something for me to get my heart and soul into and something positive to focus on for a while.
So whilst I have missed out on so much this summer, I have found myself a soulmate that loves the fact that I am a bit mad and loves being part of this madness as much as I love creating the madness that is my life. I have however been following trackers and swims around the world with envy. The weather so far this summer in the northern Hemisphere just calls to me to get into a lake and I love my evening swims in the lakes at the moment.
This weekend I popped along to support Juliettte Piesley, Emma Elengorn and Kirsty Johnson in Juliette’s 50th birthday celebrations. Yes, I do hang around with some awesome people – odd but awesome! Her idea of a celebration – swim 10km a day for 5 days. These girls really know how to throw a party. I will do a few km with them. I will then go again tomorrow and keep them company.
I have just got the information pack through for the 14km Thames marathon swim. Reading through, it, this made me chuckle:
Wetsuit requirement: Compulsory. A small number of pre-approved non-wetsuit spaces have been allocated. These swimmers will be issued with a coloured wristband to identify them as non-wetsuit swimmers.
Last time I attended an event, the Bioprene Brigade are pretty hard to miss.
Stay well, Happy swimming and I look forward to seeing some of you at the Thames marathon in a little over 2 weeks