Back in November 2012 I started doing some additional training for an 800m time trial, which I managed to do in under 12 minutes, which is four kilometres per hour. This got me thinking about what else I could do, so I decided to enter the Lake Zurich Marathon swim. Unfortunately I didn’t get a place so decided to look around locally for an alternative. After a bit of research I reserved a place with Colin Hill of Chillswim for either a single or double Windermere swim.
To increase the training I, along with my training partners Sarah Cotton and Lawrence Naested, booked a SwimTrek long distance training holiday in Majorca for the beginning of April. This was fantastic and resulted in a six hour sea swim accompanied by many jellyfish in waters of 13.8 degrees Celsius. I met several famous channel swimmers including Kevin Murphy, Simon Murie and Anna Wardley and listened to their tales and ended up with a qualification certificate that would allow me to swim the Channel this season if I wanted. On my return I immediately confirmed with Colin that I would do the double Windermere swim.
I stepped up my training and entered the Guildford 24 mile in 24 hour challenge. I completed the event but suffered badly and found it exhausting. Partly this was down to my food intake, which I got wrong. I later discovered I’m fructose intolerant. My wife Beverley then did some more food analysis and research, and with pool set practice refined my food to liquidized rice pudding, carrot & potato soup and shot blocks based on rice rather than maize as per most carbohydrate supplement products.
As well as additional pool training sets I started daily morning sea swims as the weather improved. The sea was initially very cold – about nine degrees – but I soon adapted to this temperature and started not wearing a swim hat to acclimatize even further. My training partners were not quite so quick to adapt and cursed me with vigour and chattering teeth for not feeling the cold when we got out after our morning sea swims. I had also done several long lake swims at Lake Fritton in Norfolk. The organizer there, Simon Edwards, was always so enthusiastic. All the other swimmers thought I was mad being the only one without a wetsuit in 13 degree water. Doing my trousers up afterwards was a bit of a challenge and took best part of five minutes with very shaky fingers (no one offered to help though).
Following on from a chat with Anna Wardley who had also done the Windermere Double I worked out a plan of training and distances to time perfectly for the event. The final long training swim was to be a six hour set one day followed by a seven hour set the next. I did the six hour with ease at Shoreham in the sea having to come out every 30 minutes for a feed and drink and straight back in. I started initially on my own and was joined by Sarah after two hours for the next two, then Lawrence after four hours, and Nick Finch after five.
The next day was to be seven hours at Guildford Lido, a 50m pool. The first two and a half hours were brilliant. The pool was quiet and I had a lane to myself. Then the lane ropes were removed and the public came in. It was a hot day and more and more people started to enter the pool. This became a challenge to avoid them and it continually disrupted my stroke. I plodded on and by hour five was totally wound up by the density of people. I slogged it out for another hour knowing that this irritation was good mental training since I really wanted to get out. I completed 12 miles and was happy. This was the peak of my training and it was now time to taper for the event.
The following weekend I joined my training partner Sarah who wanted to complete a 10km three-hour sea swim, which was good training for me also. Over the last four weeks I did a lot of mental preparation. I pictured the start, the swim, the finish and the hugs and kisses afterwards most nights as I went to sleep. I felt good, I knew I could do the distance and had accepted that if I hit the wall I was capable of plodding along 25 per cent below my pace for the time needed to finish. Mentally I had prepared for a 12 hour swim which could go to 14 if I ran out of steam.
I was ready.
For details of the swim, please see part 2.