Saturday 16th June 2012 – BLDSA Champion of Champions, Dover Harbour
I had been “persuaded” to enter this event by Jim Boucher. (Jim has swum the Channel twice, has been a member of six Channel relay teams and will be a member of my crew when I swim in July). Apparently it would be good preparation for my Channel swim….
The event was organised by the BLDSA (British Long Distance Swimming Association), and is a series of three races in Dover Harbour on a single day, and you have to finish all three races in order to complete the Champion of Champions. The winner is simply the quickest person to complete all three races. It sounds simple until you find out that the three races are 5 miles, 3 miles and 1 mile around Dover Harbour in June.
The event nearly didn’t go ahead. The weather was really rough with predicted mean wind speeds of 30mph and gusts of up to 49mph. It was enough to cause the ferries to operate a reduced service. Anyway, the “good” news for us was that, thanks to the BLDSA organisers liaising with the Dover Harbour Board, the event was allowed to go ahead with an amended course around the harbour. Basically that meant that instead of a 1 mile square lap, we had a 1/2 mile triangular lap.
Fuelled up on lovely delicious Maxim, I was called to the start for the five mile race. For BLDSA events, very strict rules are enforced on swimming costumes: 1 standard textile costume which cannot extend below the crotch, 1 hat and 1 pair of goggles. We were all shivering in the wind before we even got in! We entered the water, lined up behind the yellow buoy and the horn sounded for the start. And then it went wrong for me….. my goggles filled with water and I kept trying to fix them but water just kept pouring in. I was doing two strokes front crawl, then fiddling with my goggles etc.
After only 200 metres or so, a canoeist came over to check if I was OK. I rather pathetically told him that I couldn’t see a thing in these goggles and there was no way I could swim 5 miles in them. I also muttered something about not being pleased about paying £65 for a race to stop on the first lap! Bless him, he radioed my name and race number over to race control, they found my bag and a spare pair of goggles, canoed them over to me and I was able to swap goggles. This all took some time and meant that my first lap was a rather pathetic effort and I could already see the race leaders coming round to lap me. Oh dear!
Anyway, it got better from then. I plodded around the ten lap course, shouting my race number to the marshalls at the end of each lap. I was quite happy swimming my own little swim, just wanted to complete the course. I only had two low points during the race a) when I could see the leading pack getting out when I was just starting Lap 8, and b) the hunger caused by doing a 3 hr 30 minutes swim with no feeding stop. I didn’t feel cold at all, and I quite enjoyed swimming in the rough water.
I picked up my speed for the last 2 laps, once I knew I was going to finish it, and exited the water after my tenth lap feeling quite pleased with myself.
It was time to get changed, put on a dry costume, eat some cake and have something to drink. We were going back in for the 3 mile swim in less than 50 minutes’ time! I wasn’t too pleased about that prospect and fancied a little sleep instead!
Anyway, 50 minutes later I was lined up at the beach again for the start of the three mile swim. Only 6 laps this time! I was resigned to my fate, so got back in for Round 2. Ding Ding!
The sea seemed to be getting rougher for this swim, but rather strangely, I was very comfortable throughout the swim. Somehow six laps seemed like a nice number, and after three laps I was already half way there. On lap five I swear that I was stung by a jellyfish, but it didn’t really hinder me, just woke me up a bit. I completed the three mile swim and headed straight to the changing room to get dry and warm.
En route to the changing room my jaw nearly dropped to the floor. I was told that we were going in for the one mile swim in just 20 minutes’ time! I scrabbled my kit together, put on a dry costume, ate some dates, swigged some water and headed back for Round 3. Ding Ding!
I was shivering on the beach when we were called to the start of the one mile race. By this point I really didn’t care and thought that I could do another two laps as I had done sixteen already today. I entered the water, still feeling very cold, and we were under starter’s orders yet again! Miserable, miserable, miserable.
Once we were off, I had the best two laps of my day!
Finally the ordeal was over. I can’t say it was pleasant, but I did feel that I could have done another 5 mile race if I had been told to. I can see why Jim told me to enter it – it’s horrible getting back in for another race when you are tired, cold and hungry. However, it was a good mental battle because I could have stopped at many points along the way.
My overall time for the 9 mile course was 5 hours 57 minutes and 1 second. I wasn’t very happy with my time (and put a lot of that down to Gogglegate), but I was delighted to have completed the course and to receive my certificate.
Sunday 17th June – Dover training
I was asked to swim for six hours, but unfortunately that didn’t happen and I didn’t even come close. It was so rough in the harbour and I was being tossed around in all directions. At one point a combination of waves came in different directions and my legs seemed to go over my head – I felt this searing pain go down my back and I decided that was enough for one day. I didn’t want to risk a) drowning and b) a back injury.
So I got out early in quite a lot of pain. I was trying hard not to cry in front of Freda (I’m a big tough girl!), but she could see that I wasn’t faking it, and organised an immediate sports massage for me. It definitely helped, but I was in a lot of pain for the next few days.
Training Weekend 7 Summary:
- Water Temp: around 13.5C – 14C
- Four swims: Total time – 7 hours 20 minutes
- A bit fed up overall