26 January 2012

An epic swim..for more reasons than one!

I'm a bit slow in writing this up but couldn't pass without reporting on the epic 5 hour swim last weekend!  This was and will probably remain the longest swim we'll do in the lead up to the Rotto swim.  I'll start with my preparation the night before.  I have to be honest and admit I do get quite nervous before these swims even though I've done many - especially leading up to my English Channel swim.  The anticipation mainly about what the conditions are going to be like makes me quite anxious.  My routine essentially involves drinking lots of water the day before so I'm fully hydrated.  Eating a good carb dinner like spag bol and most importantly getting an early night!  I lay out all my kit and 'feeds' the night before so I don't have to think in the morning.

For this particular swim I was picking up Marty, a fellow Rotto aspiree and we made our way together to Balmoral Beach.  We got there just in time to organise our feeds with Charm - ensuring that our bottles and gels were labelled with our names and the number corresponding to the hour we wanted feeding!  I can't help but make it sound like feeding time in a zoo...which is basically is!

Our course for the 5 hours covered a 3.5km lap.  There were about 15 of us that started together at 7am.  We tend to form ourselves into smaller groups based on our speeds.  I'm generally quite slow so don't always complete the 3.5km lap before the faster swimmers come back.  On this occasion we had a few paddlers with us which was great!  It's reassuring to have a paddler next to you and means you can 'get in the zone' without having to worry too much about boats or those 'guys in grey suits'!

We practiced our 'feeds' in the deep water which meant that every hour Charm came out on her paddle board with a floating 'bar' full off gels, bananas, drinks and sometimes chocolates!  We hustled around the floating bar like seals knocking backs our feeds so we could be on our way again.  It's good to practice quick feeds as when you're in the Channel, it's easy to drift off course if you're not head down swimming.

Feeding time!

Yes, that's me...!

A question I get asked all the time with swims of this distance is 'What do you think about?'.  It's actually hard to recall what exactly I think about on these swims, mainly because the thoughts last only a minute or maybe less until I'm thinking about something else.  They vary from things like...'Is that a boat engine I can hear?'...to...'I wonder what I should call my next blog post?'.  I learnt very early on in my English Channel training that I can't expect to really think something through while I'm swimming.  I remember trying this on a four hour swim in Dover once.  I was trying to solve a work issue, but it drained me and meant I couldn't find that comfortable zone.  I ended up getting out after an hour and sitting on the beach watching everyone else complete the swim.  I was devastated and from then on, I decided that on longer swims I would 'switch off' and not commit to thinking about anything.  Just swim.  

I felt great on this 5 hour swim.  I found my rhythm and after about 2 hours I felt myself getting stronger which is exactly where I want to be.  The first couple of hours are always a bit tough.  the body is warming up, everything feels sore and the body feels like it's fighting the water a little.  I enjoy longer swims, as you hit that moment when you feel at one with the water.  I love this quote which sums it up...
"The water is your friend...you don't have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water and it will help you move." - Alexandr Popov
So, a wonderful swim but it wasn't without it's challenges!  The biggest one for me was dealing with all the sea lice.  These aren't exactly 'lice' - they are immature larval forms of parasitic flatworms - they become trapped underneath your bathing suit and proceed to penetrate your skin and sting you!  They were everywhere!  And I felt them stinging for the entire 5 hours.  I then proceeded to do all the wrong things when I left the water and spent the following two days wanting to rip my skin off!  Needless to say, I now know what not to do when I get stung.  If you haven't heard about sea lice..check it out especially if you're prone to allergic reactions!

Oh..it's all a learning experience and I'm embracing it all!  4 weeks to go!


  1. You go girl!!! Cheering for you from Toronto! Just stay away from those bugs... yuck! Are they in every body of water? Will definitely read up on them and gross myself out.
    Keep these coming and stay strong.

  2. Thanks Elizabeth! The sea lice aren't everywhere..just happened to be out in droves last weekend! I think they hang around seaweed and like warm water. I'm itching just at the thought of them!! :)