Hello everybody. Well that's it, I completed the Dart 10k, Swimming from Totnes to Dittisham in a leisurely but respectable three hours.🤗
Lets take a quick look back to how it all started. I had announced my intention to re-enter the running world by doing an ultra marathon, but was almost instantly banned by Gina until I had sorted out a gait problem she spotted during a run.
Instead we picked something I might find equally challenging....a long distance swim, we choose the Dart 10k .
Very challenging, in fact, as the furthest I had previously swum was 1.5k for Triathlon and that had been at least 10 years prior to this ludicrous decision. Those of you with a keen memory will recall my first visit to Clevedon Marine Lake in October 2017 and the single length of 250metres that left me rolling around on the side exhausted and somehow completely stuck in my wet suit (a random member of the public kindly helped me out). Then the winter months hit, with me spending up to an hour and a half in water temperatures below zero.
Training wise; my work/life balance allowed me only a couple of hours to swim on a Saturday morning, and not every sat either, so it was always going to be about technique and economy of movement over fitness. Luckily, as many people know and many won't know.........I am a qualified and very experienced swimming teacher.
So I have done a little calculation.....the total time spent training for the Dart 10 k over the course of 11 months comes to a grand total 30 hours, or just over one day 😲. The take away lesson here then is that no matter if its 50m sprint or a channel crossing.........get your technique sorted first then work on the fitness.👍
Now, for those who have been waiting soooo long for it, heres my Dart 10k report:
Event registration was taking place at 9.30am, so in a concerted attempt to ensure I could park at the start in Totnes I left Bristol at 5am 😣. I arrived in Totnes shortly before 7am. This turned out to be completely unnecessary as the car park remained virtually empty until 9am 🙄
I wandered off to find some breakfast and a coffee and then took a short stroll down part of the river. Once registration was completed, I discovered there was a very good stand serving bacon rolls etc. so a second breakfast was procured on the basis that 10k was a long way so needed energy, also it smelt sooooo good 🤤.
The leisurely wave (yellow hats) that I had entered was due to start at 11.30 so I spent a while making new friends and bumping into a few people from #ClevedonLake and #SeaSwimmers which was a lovely surprise.
Before I knew it the yellow hats were called for the final briefing, straight after this we would get in and start, just like the breakwater swim there was a moment of "OMG what on earth have I done".
To this point I had not had swum further than 5k and that had been only once, suddenly it felt very real. I stood listening to the safety briefing with butterflies in my stomach ,then all of a sudden we were being herded down a slip way and one by one we went in, no going back now! Despite my determination to relax into my own pace and not suffer the 'Plymouth Breakwater syndrome' of trying to keep up with everyone else; I was failing to relax and moving much faster than I was happy with in order to keep my place. This start was too fast and I had no confidence at all that I would complete 10k, there was nothing relaxed about this at all.
The first 2k passed before I began to relax and fall into a more agreeable pace, then all of a sudden the 4k feed station, a floating pontoon, appeared. Here you could get fresh water, jelly babies and flapjack passed to you as you clung to the ropes on the side. In hindsight I would have done better not to stop here, I wasn't really thirsty or hungry and had just settled into a paced that now it was relaxed was quickening up, allowing me to start passing people.
Within a few hundred meters of leaving the pontoon I had debilitating cramp throughout my entire right leg to the point I almost called over on of the paddle boarders to help me. But trying to swim 10k was a stupid idea anyway, so I opted to continue to be stupid, and just grit my teeth and trail my leg in the hope it would un-cramp at some point. Eventually after a further 1.5 thankfully it did un-cramp and by now I was really settled into a nice pace, I passed some people, some people passed me, I was feeling good and it was suddenly all very agreeable. Then the second and third waves appeared! These were the medium and fast paced swimmers, they started a little later but had now caught us up. The space that I had carefully maintained around me was suddenly full, one swimmer passed so close that his hand knocked my goggles off, but shortly after, in some act of karma I felt my foot connect hard....very very hard with the face of somebody who had come straight up behind me with no real consideration as to where my feet might be.
After a while things calmed down, the faster ones had passed and the slower ones were now going at pretty much the same pace as the yellow hats, so space began to appear around each swimmer again. I then had an experience I cant really recommend:
As we passed through a rough section and a wave hit my face right at the start of a breath. I have swallowed a little salt water in the past and coughed it off, this however was and entire stomach full and with no desire to do so or ability to stop it happening I was sick 🤢........🤢..........🤢.......🤮.
This was unpleasant enough but I had never actually realised how much your eyes water when you are being sick, I suppose you normally just wipe them......you cant do this in googles. My goggles were now, still to my amazement and wonder, really quite full of water from my own eyes 😭 which was washing now across them with every turn for a breath. Eventually I had to stop and tread water whilst clearing them and trying to have a good eye wipe, which was impossible as I could only wipe them with a wet and salty hand! It really was the most unpleasant thing ever.
Soon the 8k feed station appeared and this one I did need: Fresh water....yes please....lots of it. On leaving this feed station something interesting happened, almost everybody slowed down. I had expected a sudden surge of swimmers sprinting for the finish, but suddenly hats of all colours were just cruising, even at my cruising pace I passed a fair number of faster wave swimmers.
Then in the distance a giant, floating, 3D 10k sign on a pontoon appeared marking the finish point, wow! I was almost there, I had actually done it and to top it all I felt pretty fresh. If somebody had suggested a further 5k I wouldn't have baulked at the thought 😁.
As the finish drew near I explored for the bottom with my feet, I had a good reason for this. I had noticed on the Plymouth Breakwater swim that those who swam literally to the beach all fell over when they went to stand up.
I could see this happening ahead of me in this swim too, with a few marshals helping swimmers out of the water. In the back of my head I had developed a strange little goal....I wanted to 'stroll' out the water casually, calmly and without doing an impression of a drunken ape. I think some of this may have come from the fact I knew our four year old son, George, was waiting at the end and I suppose I wanted him to think how cool daddy looked 🤣.
I had figured if I got my feet down early I could gradually coax my legs back to accepting the full force of gravity without it being a complete shock. Well it worked, and I was more than happy with my 'cool strut'😎. George, I think, was also suitably impressed, he ducked under the spectators barrier (tape) and ran across to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss (which resulted in him getting rather damp!) to a chorus of Ohhs and Ahhs! of spectating ladies 😍. All in all it was a very satisfying day...... apart from the being sick thing.
Would I do it again...........Well, actually I fancy something a bit further!!! What exactly is wrong with me?