Friday, 17 September 2010

Isle of Wight and a half!

So today I swam to the Isle of Wight. This swim had been pencilled in for a good fews months and I figured it would be more valuable open water swim experience plus it would be good to do a swim where I start at one point and finish at another. I had booked the fantastic Keith Plumridge to pilot my support boat and he had arrange a safety kayaker, Nick. I had asked Keith to make arrangements so that I could do a two way swim if I felt up to it but I wasn't sure if I would manage the 7mile total at this stage given my longest swim to date was the Double 6 weeks ago and my longest open water swim is about 75mins.

We couldn't have been more lucky with the weather, lovely and sunny and the water felt warm especially from the safety of the wetsuit. I will write more details about the swim once I had a bit of a rest as I pretty tired at the moment but I just wanted to write my key lessons learnt from the swim before I forget them.

I hadn't ever fed during a swim before so I didn't give any instructions to my support kayaker which was a mistake as it meant didn't feed at all during the first crossing which took a smidgen over two hours and I could feel my energy draining away towards the end and I knew that would affect the return crossing. I think a feed at the first hour and then every 30mins from then will suit me and it was a very timely reminder as to how important nutrition is.

I now even more firmly believe that the key to the Arch 2 Arc is conditioning the body to undergo the stresses and strains. Core conditioning and strength are going to be SO important and must be the key focus of winter training. I am quite lordotic in my lower spine anyway (my bum sticks out!!) and with the increased buoyancy in my legs from the wetsuit this put quite a large strain on my lower back. I think this would make me quit much sooner than shoulder pain would. I also got some discomfort in my hip flexors which I know are always tight so I need to work to get my leg muscles balanced and have a good stretching programme. My arms felt reasonably ok, my elbow joint was actually more sore than my shoulders but generally they held up well over the 3hrs. It also doesn't help that I only breathe to one side as my lower back was worse on the left side due to me only breathing that way. CORE CONDITIONING is going to be CRUCIAL!!!!

I got a lot of chafing at the back of my neck on the hairline - this has been a common problem in this wetsuit so I need to check I am pulling it up enough at the back and put loads and loads of grease there.

Right, desperate for a cup of tea, will write more on the actual swim later!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Gaining Channel experience....

So as you will know, last week Team Love 146 and myself set off to swim across the Channel. For me, it was another few hours to be spent gaining valuable Channel experience in advance of the Arch 2 Arc next year. Honestly, I wasn't really looking forward to the swim before I got down there - it seemed that the waiting had dragged on too long and interfered with my rest-period post-Double and I just wanted to get it over with. Plus, I was nervous that I hadn't done any cold water acclimitisation this year and worried that perhaps, like last year, I had been a bit arrogant in my lack of preparation. Still, there was nothing that could be done now and last Fridau just saw the last minute packing and food preparation before waking at 2.30am on Saturday morning ready for a swim at 6.30am. Of course, I had the added stress of being the team organiser this time around but I was actually quite proud that I managed to remember everything including stuff like taking people's NOK details just in case. I met up with the team at the Marina car park and they seemed a great bunch. We had two English, 2 Kiwis, 1 Polish and 1 Irish swimmer - quite a mix! Kasia, our Polish contingent is swimming a solo in a few weeks and seems supremely in control compared to the rest of us! Her swimming is a joy to watch and to the dulcet tones of Rule Britannia (ironic considering she's Polish!) she led our attempt out of the bay just after 7am on Saturday 5th August.

Thankfully I had remembered to drug myself up thoroughly this year and I did managed my nausea much better. It might have helped that we were on a much larger boat aswell this year which meant there was space to spread out and sit up on deck. It was also nicer to know I only had probably two, at a real push, three swims to do and I had 5hours off between swims. Those first five hours were a bit of a wait though as I watched the other team members get their first swims done. I had chosen to go last to maximise the amount of time other people got swimming - as it was their first time I wanted them to get value for money (!) and hopefully get the chance to swim in as many conditions as possible including a night swim. Despite all their assurances that the water was warm I knew I wouldn't be able to relax until I had felt the temperature myself.

Finally it was my turn and I lined up at the back of the boat to undertake a handover from Jane. I jumped into the water and despite the initial shock of cold which I knew would come, I settled down and actually the water was fairly warm. By the end of the hour my skin had started to feel a little cold but I had very few shivers getting out and warmed up quickly which was good news. There were periods where it was quite choppy and I certainly couldn't resist looking at my watch - people that say those hours pass quickly are quite frankly, liars, in my opinion (!) but I had two pretty enjoyable swims. A hugely more positive experience than last time. Not that I would change last time as that is valuable experience to have in the memory should I face horrible conditions during the Arch 2 Arc but it's nice to know the Channel can be kind when she wants! I did a few prayers to Poseidon and also to my Uncle who had sadly passed away four days before and I felt protected in the sea and strong throughout. I was also able to swim on the correct side this time (the one that matches my breathing side) and it was really helpful! I thought I wouldn't like not being able to see what was on my non-breathing side but actually I wasn't too bothered and it was nice being able to see the boat and be distracted by what was going on on-board! I also found that my ideal position was about 3metres or so off the boat and about mid-way down just past the pilot's window. I didn't like the periods where I got too far in front on the boat and this was also good knowledge for next year.

We did have some difficult points in the swim where we weren't moving against the tide and it took us a considerably longer time than we first anticipated. We finally finished just before I had to get in for my third hour (well done Jane!) in a time of 16hours and 11minutes. I felt happy with my swims during which I had felt strong and comfortable. I do wonder about my stroke rate though which was nearly 15spm lower than others at around 47-48 compared to Kasia's 62-63. I will take some advice from Dan, Steve, Lynn and Eddie about whether this will be a factor in my swim and see if I need to work hard to increase it.

All in all a good experience and really helpful for next year! Well done to my fab team - they were a great bunch to work with and I'm proud of them all. Good luck to Kasia for her solo - I am sure, given the right weather window, she'll do brilliantly!

Friday, 3 September 2010

We are a go!

So I finally heard from our boat pilot last night, Eddie Spelling on the beautiful boat Anastasia, that we are a go for 0630hrs tomorrow. Cue much frantic texting to the team to get organised with poor Kieran having to quickly sort out a flight over from Ireland in order to arrive in time! Didn't sleep much last night for thinking of things I have forgotten to pack! Hopefully I remembered most things and just have to do a food shop this afternoon before getting up in the middle of the night to head down to Dover. I figure so long as I have a cossie and goggles and definitely sea sickness tablets this time (!!) then I should be ok! It will be nice to get the majority of the swim done during the day light hours with hopefully a nice warm sun on our backs - it makes SUCH a difference if you are already warm before you plunge into the freezing water! Though it does lead to some contraversial tan lines! Poor Adam, I don't think he's seen me yet this year without a random assortment of criss-crosses! My best to date were those I had on return from Cyprus, I had sock marks then cycling short marks then running short marks plus fingerless glove marks - NOT pretty!

I am also regretting a Body Pump class I attended on Wednesday. I have decided that the best approach for the A2A is to spend the winter getting really strong and conditioning my body to be able to withstand the rigours of training come January. So lots of weights, body pump, body conditioning, pilates and core stability classes. So I hit the class with vigour on Wednesday! I was so rubbish - I could hardly do the exercises with even the lightest weights on the bar and there were all these tiny gym bunnies twiddling weights around without so much as breaking as sweat! Well, vanity led me to really go for it on the bicep set with the result that I woke the next morning unable to straighten my arms! Even today, I am still struggling to get them fully straight - useful when you're about to cross one of the busy shipping channels in the world! :)

So, here goes - I shall report back as soon as I have stopped being completely knackered - took a few days last time! Wish me and Team Love146 luck!!