Long Distance Swim Training

This week I have had the privilege of swimming amongst some of the greats and great-to-be’s of the long distance swimming world during one of Swimtrek’s Long Distance Training Weeks held in Mallorca.

To say some of the conditions were challenging would not be an understatement.  The first few days were stormy and we had lashing rain, washing machine sea conditions and jellyfish.  Indeed day 2 provided one very memorable 2 hour circular swim in jellyfish soup where I caught the small weed-like jellyfish with every stroke and could feel them bump and sting along my body as I swam and these were accompanied by a smattering of larger jellies which provided an occasional lash-type sting, a tough swim but a great test of mind over matter.  Despite the above, the water was a lovely temperature at somewhere between 15 and 16C and I enjoyed diving from the boat into the blue/green sea and being totally immersed in swimming, no family or work pressures to distract.  When the sun peeked out on day 4 we cheered.  The experience just got better.  What a difference a few rays of sun on the back make.

Of the 15 guests, two had already swum the English Channel and were training for a Gibraltar Straits crossing with a third guest.  Five are due to swim solo EC this year and all bar one had long distance swims planned. Me? well I have a 10.5 mile Windermere swim planned for August.  I was in the company of some very special people: (UK) Susan Taylor, Sue Croft, Tracy Robson, Barnaby Rudd, Kathy Batts, Chrissie Thirlwell, Rob Deakin, Andrew Robins, Robert; (Aus) Jackson Carroll; (Canada) Deborah Durbin; (SA) Otto Thaning; (Germany) Stella Pechmann. Jorg Buttner.

Our three guides, Kevin Murphy, Cliff Goulding and Fiona Southwell are all EC soloists and have many other marathon swims to their credit.  Kevin has completed an awesome 34 successful EC crossings.  I was prepared to listen to what they had to say and through the week I soaked up all the experience in the whole group.  Advice was offered freely and motivation was high.  Being a slower category swimmer I found it hard to believe the compliments about my stroke and hereby apologise for my scepticism during the week when the lovely comments were completely intended as said.  I have to trust experience and stop berating myself for being so slow and plodding.  I may be a tortoise, but I now know I am capable of getting there.

I started the week undertrained and uncertain about how I would cope with repeat long swims.  I have a Windermere swim (10.5 miles) booked for August 2013 and it felt like a real challenge, a big step up from my longest swim of 6.5 miles in 2012.  However, after comfortably swimming about 10 miles during the continuous 6-hour swim in reasonably challenging conditions I now feel confident that I can complete Windermere and I’m already thinking of the next step on the distance swimming ladder.

What a revelation…I am actually OK at this swimming lark and can definitely cope with long swims in cold water.  I’m not up there with the speedy folk, but I can hold my own when it comes to immersion time and consistency of pace over hours and hours.  Most importantly I am very happy pootling about inside my own head when all other senses are dulled by the water.

I finished the four big distance swim days (17 hours of swimming) in one piece and very positive.  I have found something I can do and that I love to do.  The feedback I got was amazing with all saying I was more than capable of an EC swim, something I have wondered about and hoped to discover during this year.  I left for my flight home with my head in a whirl and with friends keen to encourage my channel swimming ambitions and help bring them to fruition.

What a lot I have learnt about myself and almost all positive.  A couple of things I still have to do are: 1) learn how to accept a compliment, and 2) learn to listen more before jumping into defensive mode.  It was pointed out that I tend to deflect compliments to someone else or play it down in some way or reject it altogether.  I’m working on that.  It’s partly a confidence thing and perhaps a lack of self-value or self-belief.  There will be plenty of thinking time in the long training swims to come to mull this aspect over.  And I’ll work on speed sets too.

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