Saturday 16 July 2011

2 Swims in The English Channel in Brighton in 2 days - Loved it!

This week I have been in Brighton again for 3 days as part of my ongoing Advanced Clinical Massage training. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Wrist and Arm Pain was the topic. During the first day, I made up my mind that I was going to swim round The West Pier, Brighton's most photographed building which was destroyed by fire in 2003 but soon to be replaced by the incredible i360.

Swim 1 - Wednesday July 13, 2011

So nearly 11 months after getting in any sort of water other than the bath or shower, I left the course at 5:30pm, headed back to my hotel, changed into trunks, T-Shirt and flip flops, and headed for the beach, towel, goggles, hat and earplugs in hand. I was on a mission. It felt strangely exciting, like something I had never done before. I walked down the beach and got ready, heart thumping 13 to the dozen at the thought of swimming right round this mighty structure in front of me.

Above: The West Pier, Brighton, by photographer Nicole Carman.

I went through my usual (when getting in cold water) routine of stepping in, bending over and splashing the cold water over me. It felt frigging freezing! Yet, it was probably about 16 Degrees C. About the same temperature as I had spend nearly 14 hours in exactly 4 years and 3 days ago on my first English Channel Swim. I kept on walking in, then took the plunge. Literally. I dived in and started swimming slowly. The stroke was fine, water felt quite warm actually, and so I headed off for my trek around the pier.

I stuck to the outside of the buoys. I assumed they were there as there was steel on the seabed after the fire. I was a bit worried as I had no idea how deep it was or how far below the surface any steel may have been. But the sea was as flat as a mill pond, and I felt OK. Not very fit, but OK. I pulled up level with the end of the pier, then turned left and swum around the back. The vast rusty steel columns were very intimidating and really quite eerie. As I swum around the back, I had a feeling of being along way out, alone and not really very sea swim fit for being out here on my own. I kept going, then turned left and headed back towards shore. It felt good. As I passed the end of the pier, I cut in and headed back to my starting point where my towel would hopefully still be laying. I made it to shore feeling very pleased, but as I stood up, I felt extremely dizzy. I kept wanting to fall over to the left. It was all I could do to stand up. Like a type of vertigo. My head was spinning. I steadied myself and just stood there until it disappeared. Weird indeed! Never experienced that before. But I had done it! I walked back to the hotel in my trunks and settled in for the night, determined to do the same the next day.

Swim 2 - Thursday July 14, 2011

At the end of day 2 of the 3 day course, we were all invited out to dinner by the course instructors, Rachel and Sue. This was to be at 7pm. So I rushed back to the hotel and went through the same routine as the day before, heading off to the beach determined to swim around again. When I saw the sea, I couldn't believe the difference to the day before! The tide was coming in at about 45 degrees to the pier, and the waves were huge. I know we swimmers do tend to exaggerate about huge waves, but these were big buggers, especially when you are not sea swimming fit. I didn't care, I was going in. I went through the same routine and eventually got in, literally being battered and beaten back by the force of the incoming tide.

I started to swim forward and got hit again and again by the waves. This was tough, but the worst thing was I was getting swept towards the large steel girders of the pier at incredible force. I am never sacred of the sea, but I do respect it. I decided that if I swum behind the pier, I would be swept into the steel, so I decided to swim along to the end of the pier then come back again. On the way out, I swum away from the pier at 45 degrees, which compensated for the sea coming in at 45 degrees. This meant that I swum in a relatively straight line. Clever I thought!

On the way back, I did the opposite. I swum toward the beach at 45 degrees into the tide which meant again I swum in a relatively straight line. But on the way back, the waves picked me up and hurtled me downwards, one of them pinning me to the seabed for a few seconds. I didn't panic, let it pass, then carried on my way. I arrived back on dry land, experienced the dizziness again, but not so badly, then walked back to the hotel, showered and met up with the rest of the people on the course for a great dinner.

I am really pleased to have completed these two very contrasting swims, back in the pool now until I visit Brighton again in September for the advanced sports stretching part of the course.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Feeling the urge to swim again after 11 months out!

Above: Standing in front of the old Brighton Pier, June 2011, pondering my next swim.

Since March 2009, our life has been in a constant state of flux. We have had two beautiful sons, Luca and Nico, both Beccy and I have been elected to St Edmundsbury Borough Council and having changed career direction from 20 years in IT to Sports Injury/Clinical massage, I have been constantly on training courses to qualify in my chosen new career. This has taken me from Bury St Edmunds, to Grantham, to Birmingham, to London, to Dublin, and currently includes many trips to Brighton until January 2012. It was while on a trip to Brighton last month, that I decided that I needed to swim again. As I gazed across the English Channel, seeing France looming even larger than it appears from Dover, I decided on a swim I want to do, but will take some organising.

On my return to Bury St Edmunds, the first thing I did was to contact the excellent team at Culford School Sports and Tennis Centre, who once again agreed to sponsor me for my next challenge. My training base will be in the superb 25 Metre pool at Culford where it all started in 2006 when I announced to my wife that I was going to swim the English Channel. I can't believe that it was in fact 4 years ago on Sunday July 10th that I completed the first swim. Incredible how time flies!

I just have one small issue to sort out before I can start training in earnest - a hernia! I have had a small hernia in my groin for about 6 plus years. It hasn't hindered me in any way, shape or form. In fact, I swum the channel with it twice! However, due to the vigor's of my job, I have now torn it slightly and will be operated on on August 8th, followed by 10 days rest. Then it will be all systems go! For now though, I will need to start organising things to see if the swim is viable. It will be a river swim, and in Germany. That's all I want to say at present.

Off to Brighton again now. Hopefully will pluck up the courage to get in the sea. It will be tough as I haven't been in a pool or sea for all these months.