Champion of Champions!

Dover Harbour
Saturday, 15th June 2013

After all the talk of temperatures being lower than normal for the time of year and will we all last in that temp, it was time for my first BLDSA Champion of Champions event. So after finishing work it was time to head down south stopping first to pick up Helen Beveridge at Gatwick then to our not so luxury hotel. We spent the evening preparing maxim and catching up. I was already feeling very nervous at the thought of the event the following morning. The event would start with a 5 mile swim around a buoyed course in the harbour. This would be followed by 3 miles then 1 mile……or so we thought!

Waking early the next morning I faffed around checking and re checking my stuff. This is a good sign that I am nervous as I always think I will have forgotten something and then it will all go horribly wrong. Kit sorted we drove the very short distance to the harbour where we met up with other equally nervous swimmers. The conditions looked ok but it was very windy and the forecast was more wind throughout the day. The decision made to change the mile long laps for half mile laps. This might sound like no change but psychologically for me that was a big difference….swimming 10 laps instead of 5! Anyway, more faffing on the beach commenced…..more thoughts of ‘it’s cold’ ‘will my shoulder last the getting in and out?’ ‘can I swim 5 miles without any feed stops?’ etc. etc. I just wanted to get started now.

start

My plan was to get through the first 5 miles thinking that this would be the toughest part of the day and everything after that would be much easier…..how wrong could I be?

I was quick into the water, not because I was eager but I wanted to get the first part over! So off we went….10 laps 5 miles…..as I started swimming I felt a strange tingling on my legs which at first I thought was down to the temperature of the water. I later realised that this was some of the many jellyfish that were welcoming me to the harbour. The conditions weren’t great but ok and I’d swam in worse. Just needed to keep going and stop thinking about food. The 10 laps took forever and were nowhere near the time I was expecting it to take. It was taking forever……although I kept telling myself that the aim was to finish, I was also very aware of the cut off time. If I was very slow then I wouldn’t get chance to get warm and have a hot drink and food before the 3 miles started. I finished after 3hr54mins….nearly 4hrs to do 5 miles! It seemed as though everyone else was out, dressed, warmed and had been there ages. Then I started to hear that the course wasn’t the half mile laps that we thought. Many estimations from various swimmers but we later found out that each lap was 1k so we had already swam 10k or 6.2miles. I wasn’t really focussing on the talk around as I knew I would have little time to put on a dry swim suit and warm clothes and eat before the 3 mile started. Luckily Helen’s brother was there to help me co-ordinate all of this!

We had a longish break before the 3 mile started and told that we had already swam further than 5miles and because the course was longer we wouldn’t be doing the 6laps but 4…4k. This made me very happy. Just needed to swim 4 laps then this event was near enough done….the hard part done, right? hmmmm. Off we went again. The 4 laps took 1hr44mins…which was slow but I felt tired and had little energy…just needed to finish. I was hoping for enough time after getting out and get ready for the final lap…eat and drink etc…but I hadn’t even taken off my wet stuff to put on a dry swim suit when they were calling us for the race briefing. Argh! I was cold and tired. Shivering. No time to warm. I’d have to just get back in and swim the last lap. Just one lap. That’s all it was. It was obvious that I didn’t want to get back in and I stood at the water’s edge not even wanting to dip my toe in. Dee Llewellyn managed to catch this magnificent moment as a series of photos….thanks Dee 😉 The thoughts were, I can’t do it…I can’t get back in…I can, come on, I can….I can’t…..etc etc right until the moment a lovely breaker covered me and took me in regardless! Thanks

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So I was on my backside in Dover Harbour and only had 1 lap to do…I felt like crying…I didn’t have time to cry and the last lap had started and I had to get going. Even before I’d made the first buoy I’d been hit on the head by another swimmer passing by. At the buoy I was stung by another jellyfish in my arm pit….this one hurt. It hurt enough for me to shout a few words at that particular jellyfish. That was a mistake as he would be back to give me another later. Just keep swimming. I could now see the last stretch….I was nearly there. It was nearly over. Final few meters before making it over the pebbles to touch the finishing buoy. In my rush to finish I got too close to a swimmer in front and received a lovely (accidental) kick to the face followed by the revengeful jelly who reminded my why it’s never a good idea to shout profanities at them! LET ME OUT NOW! I crawled up the pebbles and touched the buoy and was reduced to a quivering, crying mess! The final lap had broken me but luckily Helen and her brother were there to pick me up. I uttered the words ‘never again!’ But I had done it…..completed Champion of champions in 6hr5mins 🙂

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Looking back it was a fantastic day and chance to catch up with a number of other swimmers. Well done to all swimmers and thanks to all race organisers and safety crew. See you again next year 🙂

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