This weekend in Dover was different to all the others so far this year. The reason was that I was in "taper down" mode prior to my Jersey to France attempt, which weather permitting, will be next Monday, August 11th 2008, my wife Beccy's birthday! Last year on her birthday, we were swimming in the 2007 Dover Regatta 2000 Metre Freestyle Sea Swim. So swimming on her birthday is something she is very much getting used to.
Day 1 - Saturday August 02, 2008 - Training
Arriving on swimmers beach at 10.20am on Saturday morning, it was a dull, miserable and wet day. The sea did not look inviting, especially as being Dover Regatta weekend, we could only swim from swimmers beach up to the Eastern Dock and back again due to all of the events going on up towards the Prince of Wales Pier. This I duly did. 8 times in fact in some of the roughest sea I had swum in since the swim on Bank Holiday Monday in May. I swam for 2 hours 20 minutes, arms getting smashed to bits, and covering 6,400 Metres. After such a swim we then deservedly spent the rest of the afternoon having 'afternoon tea' with fellow channel swimmers Rob, Nicola, Rob, Megan, Chrissy and 2008 channel swimming aspirant Chris Pountney. It was nice to be able to chat to them for a change. Normally after a 7 hour swim, everyone disappears and you never get the chance to chat. Today, was a special day and 'Afternoon Tea' lasted for the best part of four hours, leaving me with a strange 'buzz' in the head afterwards. It was very pleasant, and both Beccy and I enjoyed the afternoon immensely.
Having showered and rested, we went back to the promenade to enjoy the fantastic firework display at 9.30pm, before going back for a good nights sleep prior to the 2KM race on Sunday afternoon.
Day 2 - Sunday August 03, 2008 - Race Day
The 2KM race was at 14.30 hours, so we had the unique opportunity of being able to lay in bed later than 06.45 Hrs. which is our normal time of rising when we are doing 6 hours training on a Sunday. In fact we were able to get up at 10.00 Hrs. Awesome!
We went down to watch the training on swimmers beach which was another unique experience as I am normally one of the ones being watched! I bought some Maxim Electrolyte for Jersey, then went over to the Dover Life Guard club HQ for our briefing at 14.00 Hrs.
There was a little bit of controversy. Under ASA rules, you are allowed to wear "all in one" suits or "leggings". Under British Long Distance Swimming Association rules, you are not. Long story short, you could wear what you wanted, but had to wear the yellow hat with your number on (mine was No. 14), but due to them being extremely thin, you could wear 2 hats. All very confusing but we got there in the end. We lined up on the beach, and waited to be called in by race organiser Lee Wakeham (son of Barrie and Irene).
Above: Assembling for the 14:00 Hrs. briefing at Dover Life Guard Club HQ. I was talking to Danni Callahan from the Dorset Open Water Swim Team, who was in Dover to do a Channel Relay this week.
Above: Me, no. 14, lining up at the start waiting to be called into the water to start the race.
We were instructed by Lee to enter the water as our name was called out, and swim to the right hand side of the yellow buoy. There were a massive 63 entrants, and we all had to squeeze in between the buoy and the speed boat which had the starter on board. Everyone was jostling for position in the water, and I felt I had a good position. To my right was a girl, and to my left a man. I was positioned perfectly waiting for the start.
Above: Swimming out gently to the start position to the right of the yellow buoy.
The whistle went, followed by "ONE MINUTE UNTIL THE START!" from the starter. All eyes watched him eagerly. He raised the yellow flag, then "BANG!". The flag came down and we were off. Well the man and girl beside me were at least. I went nowhere. As I plunged my right hand into the water. It struck the girls back. Undeterred, I plunged my left hand into the water. It went straight into the man's back. They had squeezed together and I couldn't swim! Somehow I managed to get going. There were elbows, arms, legs, bodies smashing into me from all over the place. This was bloody tough. I just went flat out 100% to try to make up some ground, but for the best part of 500 Metres I was being hit by all body parts imaginable. I was kicked in the face I don't know how many times, but funnily enough it was great fun! I was battling mentally with my competition and eventually, as I always seem to end up in races, I was out on my own with just the sea to do battle with. And do battle with it I did!
Above: The start of the race. I am in there somewhere!
Now training for a Channel Swim in rough sea in Dover Harbour is one thing, because you swim at a sensible pace to try and get a rhythm going with the waves. Sprinting through these waves at 100% flat out pace is another thing, because you have difficulty in breathing. I would like to apologise to the Dover Harbour Board here and now if the ferries are 300mm lower in the water than usual. I hold my hand up and say that I inhaled both nasally and orally, the top 300mm of water yesterday. God I have had an upset stomach today! Even during my 19KM swim in Serbia in July, I did not swallow as much water as I did yesterday. I was heaving all over the place under water trying to get rid of it. However, and this I am pleased about, I did not ease up once. I just kept swimming at 100% effort for the entire 2KM.
Arriving at the turning buoy next to the 'Slopey Groyne' two swimmers seemed to ease up to look where they were going next. I just swum in, rounded the buoy and overtook them. That was a great feeling. About 200 Metres on the way back, I was panting heavily, my heart was hurting, I was merrily inhaling water, but up to the right I could see a big pair of male arms racing a girl to his right. It was my mission to overtake them both.
Flat out, I slowly came up behind the swimmer, who I could see was swimmer no. 6. God he was huge! I pulled up behind him, and he was concentrating on the girl to the right, only breathing to the right. I caught him, then "smash" he kicked me in the face. 'That's very impolite' I thought, so I pulled out a bit to overtake him. He cut across and kicked me in the face again. He then started looking to the left and took his concentration off the girl, and concentrating on me, who after all was the one he was racing. I pulled up along side him. He had an immense stroke. I can still now see his arms coming over at full steam ahead, smashing into the water. It was interesting to watch. Then, he put a spurt on, and we both pulled away from the girl, swimming alongside each other for about 2-3 minutes. Then, somewhere from deep within, I relaxed but in a flat out manner, and I just knew I would beat him. I can't explain it, but there was no way he was going to keep up with me. I just pulled away, and he appeared to just cave in.
Still flat out, I reached the yellow buoy where we had started from, turned and headed towards the beach. I was out on my own again but sensed someone behind me, and so did not ease up at all. I sprinted towards the beach. Now this was going to be the tough bit. We had to get out of the water, run up the coconut mat, and the race finished when we ran between the two cones.
Above: I swim into the beach closely followed by another swimmer at the end of a gruelling race.
I got to the beach, found my footing and ran up the beach panting heavily. I was knackered! However, I was not overtaken, and shouted my number out as I crossed the line.
Above: Running out of the water at the finish of the 2KM sprint. This was the tough bit.
Remarkably, after about 5 minutes, I was totally back to normal, no panting no aching muscles, just feeling fine. I had one disappointment though when we were given the results at the end of the afternoon.
Entering the race, I had three goals which were as follows:-
1) I wanted to beat last years time of 28:16.99 (MM:SS.ss)
2) I wanted to beat my total position of 21st lat year, even though there were far more swimmers here this year.
3) I wanted to retain my 'Over 40's' title which I had won last year.
I am sad to say, that I only achieved 2 out of these 3 goals. My time was a very pleasing 26:48.18 (MM:SS.ss). That's over 1 minute 28 seconds faster than last year, in far worst conditions. I came in 17th overall, that's 4 places better than last year, but against far more competitors. I also came in 9th in the men's race, 6th in the over 18's Men's race, BUT! I came in 2nd in the over 40's age group! I was really disappointed by this. However, I know one thing. I couldn't possibly have gone any faster. I was flat out for 2KM and 26:48.18 minutes. So at least I know I did my best. You can do no more than your best.
At the World Winter Swimming Championships in February, I met Danni Callahan from Dorset. She also competed in the 2KM event, as was in Dover waiting for her Channel Relay.
All in all, it was a pleasing weekend, and now is the big taper down, with perhaps just one or maybe two swims before I attempt my Jersey to France swim next week. The next blog, will hopefully be from Jersey.