English Channel Swim: 6 More Weeks

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Six more weeks until I swim the English Channel! What seemed like a distant challenge when I signed up is getting more concrete every morning and six weeks seems … awfully close. You wouldn’t believe how many swim blogs I’m reading, as if the simple act of reading about someone else’s journey brought mine closer to fruition. I’m being delusional, of course, so I make up for it by training. Mostly via email, I’m also getting to know my team and that’s kind of awesome, as I’ve never been part of a team before.

My Training

Unless you want to read my whole Twitter feed, here’s a summary of what I did last week when my goal was to complete 4 miles. On Tuesday, I woke up at 6.20am and was in the pool at 6.35am with the three other members of my masters class. As you can see, I’m very close to my pool and I literally just get up, get dressed and walk out the door. I’d be 3 days without swimming, hiking with my family over the weekend, and the 1.6K felt like crawling through treacle. Exhausting! So much so that I gave myself a day off on Wednesday. Rest day, I called it.

On Thursday, I was back at it with the 6.35am masters class and powered much more easily through 2K. In fact, I was so happy about my achievement that Friday morning saw me in the Serpentine at Hyde Park. Right after dropping off my girls at school and still digesting a hearty bowl of oatmeal with cranberries and walnuts, I walked to the Lido, got changed and swam 1.2K in about 30 minutes. I was elated! Not by my ferocious speed (I’m a slow swimmer), but by the fact that I was getting away with no shivers for the first time since the winter. So it’s true, there really is a 14C/57F threshold. Hurray! That brought my weekly count to 4.8K and I still had some more to go before reaching my weekly goal.

Oatmeal - breakfast of the champions

Oatmeal – breakfast of the champions

On Saturday morning, I took a light toast-and-jam breakfast before biking out the door (opening the door was challenging, I so wanted to stay in and have breakfast with my girls) and headed once more towards Hyde Park. Just as I reached the Serpentine, dozens of swimmers completed their Saturday morning race. The changing room was packed! “Not a good time to swim,” observed a lady who was trying to put on her pants while standing on one leg and holding a towel with the other. Good thing I’d changed earlier. I just stacked my jacket, pants and underwear on the top shelf, found a free hook for my backpack and was about to walk out when I recognized someone dripping wet next to me. It was Sakura Adams, my team captain! She was coming out of the Saturday race and introduced me to her husband Nick, a Channel swim veteran. Somehow, I was proud that I’d kicked myself out the door that morning. At least, my efforts wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Feeling happy, I walked swiftly into the Serpentine, started with a few water polo strokes (to warm up) and exited the buoyed area at the end of the first 110 yards. Out in the open, I adjusted my goggles and got on with it. Luckily, there were a couple other swimmers doing 200m-laps like me so I just followed them. It was easier that way, easier to motivate myself to keep up the pace and sight in the right direction. After 50 minutes, I had completed 1.8K and noticed that my right hand fingers were beginning to shake under water during the recovery phase. Time to get out! The so-called “claw hand” is one of the early signs of mild hypothermia and I didn’t want to ruin my good spirits. With that, i’d reached my goal and two cups of hot tea warmed me to the core.

My Team

As I’ve said, I’ve mostly exchanged emails with my team (full description of who they are here). They don’t all live in London, in fact, and apart from Sakura and Nick Adams, I’ve only met Robert Fisher once at the Serpentine. Two others are San Francisco swimmers and they will be coming to the UK just for the relay. How great is that? I love reading about their training at Aquatic Park,it feels like home. One of them is a South End Rowing Club member and I’ve been wondering if she knows my friend Greg. Maybe she does. Wouldn’t that be a small world?

Meeting other UK-based swimmers is a struggle as many of us have to juggle work and childcare to go swimming. Weekends are best for that and last weekend, four of the team headed to Dover despite stormy weather forecasts.

Dover MSF on the beach

Angela and Alice, in black, at Dover

Here’s a photo of them on the beach, after being greased up by volunteers and before entering the water at the Dover Harbour. They completed what is called a double dip. Let me explain.

Dover MSF gettting in the water

The water temperature was 11.5C/52.7F and Alice and Angela were accompanied by Nick and Sakura for a windy and wavey swim. In Sakura’s words, “the Dover virgins were nervous to start with but got into the water without a complaint, completing a 33-minute swim on their first dip. It was choppy with waves everywhere, they got on with it and (retrospectively) enjoyed it… apparently :) With a second swim looming, the girls shivered, huddled for warmth however carried on, getting changed and back into the water an hour after the first swim to complete a second 35-minute swim without a peep of negativity.”

So that’s what the double dip is all about. First you get in, you swim, you get cold. Then you get out, get dry and get warm. Until it’s time to get in again and swim until you can’t. Well, I’m just guessing the last part.

As far as the team, I also know that:

– Angela did 1.6K at the Serpentine on Saturday,

– Danielle has been swimming in the SF bay which, coincidentally, happens to be the same temperature as Dover. She’s have been swimming for an hour plus, sometimes smooth as glass and other times choppy and whitecaps..Last weekend was stunningly beautiful.

– Stephanie has been lake swimming 1-2 times a week for 45 mins- 1.25 hours, and then doing 1 sea swim a week, in for 30-40 mins then out for an hour and back in for 30-40 mins. She agrees, it is very cold! Last Sunday was very choppy but she managed an hour in the sea. No idea how far they went but it felt good afterwards, though her feet took a little time to return to normal!

– Mike (with whom I share a last name) is also lined up for another Channel relay in August and a solo swim in 2016. He has been swimming in the sea in Sussex and in an unheated pool for some bracing aquatic fun.

This Week’s Goal

Goals are good motivation – are they not?

My goal this week is:

– to swim over a hour in cold water in water under 15C – 1 hour 15 minutes would be great but I’ll have to see how my fingers feel

– to swim 5 miles total, mostly in cold water

– head to Dover and give it a try

– to start doing core exercises so my lower back won’t yell at me if I swim too much

– take a rest day for my shoulders to catch up with the swimming

My friend Ashley can’t wait to call me Beekcakes. I’m so looking forward to that:)

Last but not least, THANK YOU TO MY SPONSORS!

PLEASE DONATE HERE TO SUPPORT OUR SWIM AND MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES.

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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