The end was in sight. I knew I was going to do it. Just a swim to the headland in front, round the corner and I would be home. It took an eternity, not that close at all, still over 2k to go. The chop gradually lessened and as I finally turned the headland with Dittisham in sight I could once again get into a relaxed easy stroke. We were now swimming against the tide and the finish line seemed a long time coming. My swimming was feeling surprisingly strong but I was tired of the choppy water and the burning salt taste. I was ready to finish. The tide had gone out so far that the last few meters were a wade through mud to the shore. And there was Schmunks and Barlos waiting for me. I felt fantastic and as they told me I had done 3hrs 40mins I totally forgot I still had to cross over the timing mat as I gave a big hug and whoop whoop!
I did it! I’m still grinning and now addicted to swimming.I'm not a crap swimmer, I'm a 10k swimmer.
The Dart is not a clear calm river. It’s a swirling dark brown muddy uninviting stretch of water. But all around hopes were high and the atmosphere was relaxed and happy. I was in the first wave “leisurely”. About 200 of us ventured down the slip way and the adventure began. I had memorised bits of the map and planned where to take rest breaks. I quickly got into my stroke and settled down for a long swim. It was choppy with so many of us in the water, and a lot overtook me but it was fine. It was lovely to just swim, not having to turn round at buoys or go in circles. I looked at my watch and half an hour had gone already. It felt like 10 minutes. The river started to widen and the first bends came into view. I stopped to breast stroke for a short time just to look around me. It was beautiful and the long line of yellow hats in front of me was awesome.
Reached the top of the first bend which was my cue for an early gel. Didn’t know how I would react to it with the taste of salt in the water but it was like nectar. I’ve never enjoyed the taste of a gel so much. I’d only ever done one short sea swim and the salt was starting to get unpleasant. Round the bend with assistance from the safety crew on what to sight on to avoid a reed bed and there was the first feed station at 4k on the opposite bank of the river. My watch said 1hour 18mins but couldn’t fathom if I was on target for my aim of sub 4hours or not. It meant nothing for some reason.
Then came my first big wibble. Just as I swam towards the feed station it hit me. Cramp. Agony in my calf. Noooooooooo. I had read somewhere that cramp is often caused by anxiety so I told myself to get a grip and relax. It was only about 500m to the feed station so I let both legs just float behind me and swam there just using my arms. Ouch it hurt but I couldn’t give up now. I stopped and had some Lucozade and a few jelly babies and the pain thankfully started to ease. Off I went quickly before I started to wibble again. Had to keep positive.
The next few bends made the swim interesting and I the camaraderie along the way was good. Round the final bend and into the wide estuary. Then it got tough. I was totally unprepared for the amount of chop in the water as we left the shelter of the river banks. To make it worse we had to cross a wide entrance to a creek where opposing currents met. Every stroke had water splashing over me and I swallowed loads. It was hard going and a few of us were struggling. One chap gave up and a jet ski picked him up and whisked him off. Damn that looked good fun! I notice a number of people had crossed further over to the other side of the estuary, obviously in the know. (Note for next time). It seemed like an eternity getting to the next feed station. Couldn’t get into any rhythm and my mouth was burning with salt. Then a strange sight came into view. Was I hallucinating? People were walking to the feed station. Hahaha – the river was shallow, I could stand up. To be honest walking was harder work than swimming but it gave me a break from the chop in my face and I walked to the feed station. They had run out of Lucozade and jelly babies so I was glad of the gels I had stashed up my wettie leg. My watch said 1hr 14 from the last feed but it still meant absolutely nothing to me.
Hello again. I did it. As promissed here is my swim report. Sorry if its a bit long.
From crap swimmer to 10k swimmer
Preamble As many of you will know I’ve had little confidence in my swim ability for years. Usually last out of the water, it took me about 3 years after finally finding a coach I clicked with to manage 1500m without stopping for a rest or resorting to breast stroke. I’d also gone through a training wilderness, lost all focus and confidence and something drastic needed to be done to stop the descent into couch potato. I needed a fresh new challenge. Something to push way out of my comfort zone but a single sport. Any sport. The Dart 10k called me. So it was time to get back to my coach and thrust another wad of money in her hand with a new brief – get me to Dittisham.
Training As soon as the lakes opened in April I donned my wettie, and went for it. Just 400m at first then slowly increased the distances. As my confidence improved and the temperatures rose I ditched the wettie, feeling a remarkable sense of freedom. I got to swimming 5k by August. Then a few blips. Getting back in my wettie I couldn’t breathe. Not only had I put on weight, my swimming had improved so much that my legs were sticking out of the water from the extra buoyancy. I couldn’t swim more than 500m in it. Cue new wettie with neutral buoyancy and about 3 weeks training lost taking into account a holiday too. Started to doubt. Just 3 weeks to go and my longest swim was still 5k. New wettie a success and I did an easy 3k. Then asthma took hold 400m into my next long swim. I’ve not had asthma for 10 years! Still don’t know if it was allergy or anxiety but a trip to the doctors for a puffer was in order. The next day I took to a 50m pool and ground out another 5k. Yep, I could still do it. A final 5k the following week in the lake saw me as ready as I could be. I felt good, like I could have easily gone on further had the lake not closed. Gels up my wettie leg worked and I was set. Bring it on!