In an effort to get in shape for the 16km Windermere swim, Doug Miller faced a boot camp at which he felt slightly out of place…
A few weeks ago, on Easter Weekend, I signed up to attend a training camp at Eton College, run by a legend of swimming, Nick Adams. Nick is a teacher, head swimming coach at Eton College and a well-known member of the Channel Swimming fraternity. He is president of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation. Nick first crossed the Channel at 16 years of age. Two years later he completed a solo two-way swim of the English Channel. As well as ten solo English Channel crossings to date, he has successfully completed many other long distance open water swims around the world. He knows what he’s doing!
However, I knew none of this when signing up, and foolishly presumed it would be a couple of gentle swims, some informal technique coaching and an all-round jolly. Unfortunately for me this was not the case. On the Saturday, after a 5am wake up and drive down, we were in the pool swimming a casual 5km (my previous best was a non-too flattering 150 lengths!). After this, there were several sessions run by Nick and other experienced members of the group. These were invaluable in both scaring me senseless about what I had embarked on, but also in giving me so much insight and knowledge in how to prepare and manage a long distance swim. The sessions even included a seminar on the 4 Ps of bodily functions!
We then did another 7km of drills in the pool before retiring from the luxurious surroundings of Eton College, to the Travelodge where the kind people who worked there had put our room above a hidden gem of Windsor – the Mantra nightclub, which pumped 80s classics into my room until 3am.
However, Saturday evening was what had kept me going throughout the earlier swims. Nick had arranged an excellent ‘all you can eat’ Chinese buffet for the group. I have never seen a restaurant owner so terrified as when he clocked that we were all long distance swimmers, had been swimming for much of the day and a member of the group said ‘we’re here to feed’ as we walked in.
After a whirlwind of plate after plate of glorious Peking duck and crispy beef, I retired to my hotel for six hours of heavily interrupted sleep. I should at this point mention that according to the itinerary that Nick had provided us with, we were set to do a “100×100 swim at 6am PROMPT” on Sunday morning. Not knowing what this meant, I was blissfully unaware of the trauma to come. It was not until we were driving to the swimming pool at 5.15am on Sunday morning that my mate turned to me and said “dude, I think that’s a 10km swim”.
Sure enough, upon arriving at the pool, Nick explained that yes it was a 10km swim, and that everyone would be doing it. Terrified, the only thing to do was to jump in and go for it. For the first 5km, I didn’t think it was too bad – we were kept fuelled up by an awesome group of helpers who filled up our water bottles, gave us jelly babies and bananas and generally kept us going with continual shouts of encouragement. However, by 7km in, I had literally run out of things to think about. The only thing that kept creeping into my head was the evil little voice telling me to give up. Thankfully, I didn’t and although exhausted and being one of the last to finish, I managed to swim 10km. The feeling of elation and achievement was awesome, and something which has since kept me going during my training swims.
Although still dreading the Windermere swim, the Eton weekend was invaluable in convincing me that I can do it. I must say a special thank you to Nick, his wife Sakura and the rest of the team, who gave up their Easter weekend to help give me a fighting chance in September. The rest of the group on the weekend, who were all from the Serpentine swimming club, are the nicest and most helpful bunch of people I’ve met. Everyone was eager to share their tips and experience and the whole weekend was absolutely epic. Onwards to Windermere!
Next week we hear from Alex, who swam Perth’s Rottnest Channel swim for the fourth time.