After having bathed the kids on Friday, I left SJ to get them to bed and jumped in the car to head down to Dover.
Unlike previous weekends when I’d have to put up the tent at midnight and snatch a bit of sleep before the campsite rooster kicked off at 3am, this weekend was to be a LOT more comfortable thanks to Anna (one of Archie’s carers) and her very accommodating Mum and Dad!
After a relaxing sleep, I made up some maxim and headed off to Dover. It was very weird being in Dover to train on my birthday, but having already taken the last two weekends off for family holidays, I couldn’t possibly miss another session if I’m to stay on track.
When I arrived, the usual team of Freda, Barry, Irene and Emma were unloading cars full of provisions and chairs onto the beach. I greeted Freda, who fixed me with a wry smile and said
“Not seen you for a bit. 4 hours for you today my lad!”
Crikey. That was a jump up from my last swim at Dover of 1.5 hours. Still, the more swimming I do at Dover, the happier I am that I’m justifying the 12 hour drive to get there and back. One of my short-term targets is to spend more time in the harbour than I spend on the road getting there!
As the time drew closer to 9am, the bunch of cheerful/mad people had risen to about 25 red hats (solo swimmers) and 20 yellow hats (relay swimmers). The weather was beautiful – blue skies and warm sun. Perfect.
I got chatting to a fellow people, and was amazed at the efforts people made to get this kind of training. We had one guy who had travelled from Holland for the weekend and another who had come from the USA. It’s amazing to think that Freda and her team put in all this effort and that people come from around the world to spend time in the harbour and benefit from the wealth of experience to be found there. It’s awesome, and lovely to be with people who are happy to share their greatest tips.
When I was a competitive swimmer, few people ever gave any useful information out (presumably to protect their competitive edge).
On the swimmers beach at Dover the opposite is true. Everyone happily shares what works for them, give tips about anything you ask. It’s a breath of fresh air.
On the saturday I did 4 hours, which felt fine. It makes such a difference when the sun’s out!
On the Sunday Freda said if I did 4 hrs yesterday then today would be 5 hrs. Wow. A few months back that would have seemed too much, but when in Dover, anything seems possible. The weather in Dover on Sunday was very strange. Overcast and windy to start with and then very heavy wind and rain later on. I found it no more difficult swimming in the rain than normal – in fact, it somehow seemed warmer when it was raining!
In summary here’s what I learned this week
- Swim caps with straps on (to stop them coming off) are allowed on a channel swim (good news as I have a hell of a time keeping caps on!) – thanks to Alan Macleay for that one
- Milk cartons are great for ocean feeds (wide aperture, cheap, translucent, easy to handle) – thanks to Mike Ball for that one!
- SportSlick is a good alternative to vaseline to prevent chaffing
- Swimming in the far left of the harbour is always bloody freezing no matter what!
- 5 hours swimming in wind and rain can be a whole lot of fun!
- Dover is most definitely the place to be for training for Channel swim. It’s the only place I feel normal!!
- Don’t drive home straight after a big cold swim. I wanted to get back quickly to help SJ with the kids so jumped straight in the car. And promptly reversed into a wall. Whoops. I then waited to warm up a bit and let the brain thaw out before setting off back home! Next time I’ll engage my brain first, then the gearstick….