After a couple of short weeks for racing, it was back to some distance work this week, so off to Dover. Unfortunately, I hadn't realised that there was an event down there all weekend to celebrate the centenary of Bleriot's channel flight that meant (a) parking was a complete nightmare because the sea front was closed off, and (b) we'd have to get out of the water at 12pm (because various aerial displays were planned and these can't take place over spectators). There had been a note on the website, but I'd missed it, so when I pitched up at 9am, there were only three swimming hours left. I met Lisa and her husband, Jonathon, and Freda said that we should do a three hour swim, without stopping for a feed. It was a lovely sunny morning, and it was a really nice swim. Lisa's training for her crossing later in August is clearly paying off - she's really speeded up and at first, I tried to keep up, but eventually reverted to my familiar plod-pace. She's in great form for her crossing. We hung about on the beach for a bit, expecting some planes to fly over, but nothing materialised, so I went back to the campsite for lunch and a snooze before meeting L and J, and Steve Weatherly (from the Malta trip - his tide begins on Tuesday) for dinner.
The next morning we were down at the beach at 6am for a 6 hour swim. This is my first early morning sea swim, and although it was light, the sun was too low to provide any warmth and everything was a bit grey and uninviting, and the water had quite a nip to it when we got in. After a couple of hours, things started to go a bit wrong for me, as I had made the mistake of not having enough breakfast. I find it so hard to eat that early in the morning, but the two small slices of toast I'd had were nowhere near enough, and I really started to flag. We mistimed our turnaround to go in for the feed and got in a 2.20, by which time, I was having a major energy crash. A cup of maxim and two jelly babies later, I was back in, but felt really rough, and the next hour was a bit miserable. Probably because of my lack of energy, I was starting to really feel the cold and wasn't swimming well at all; I felt really miserable and started to think about getting out. Lisa was on great form and swimming wonderfully, but I decided to go in for my next feed a bit early to try and top up my energy stores. Another cup of maxim and half a banana later, and I was off again, trying to concentrate on just swimming to the next feed. It was another difficult hour, but after the next feed (maxim and a chocolate mini roll), I finally started to feel better and I felt really good for the rest of the swim (never underestimate the power of a chocolate mini roll). Lesson learned (again...) - I need to stay on top of the food and have a proper breakfast, no matter how early it is.
The other important thing I learned this weekend was that it's not feasible / sensible to drive home after doing a long swim. I was really tired, and in Bob (the campervan), it's a 5 hour journey. I had to stop twice at service stations for a snooze, but have decided that from now on, when I do long swims, I'll stay over and drive back the following morning.
So, it was a challenging weekend, but feel good about having got 9 hours (c. 30km) of swimming under my belt. Many thanks, though, to the support crew down on the beach for being down there so early in the mornings and for being so unfailingly cheerful and encouraging.
Back down for more next weekend, and then it's the relay the weekend after that!