In an attempt to establish my swimming fitness base line for the lake Windermere one way swim (11.5 miles) , which is only a few weeks away but has seen me swim no more than three miles, I am about to attempt to swim across and around Torbay offering a distance of up to 9 miles.
Today we pick up were last weeks blog left off.....I have just left Paignton beach. swum beneath the pier and am striking out for Torquay Harbour 🤞
This first section of two miles to Torquay served as a sort of warm up and went without incident, I swam this section about 500mtrs out from the shore. We arrived at the left side of Torquay harbour bang on the predicted time, a good start. Here I learned to drink water and eat bananas whilst treading water, which was something entirely new to me. Suitably fed and watered I turned and surveyed the Brixham coast, 4 miles across the bay, it looked rather far! We had discussed how far out from shore we should be and had settled on 1.5km as an acceptable distance for our respective experience, prevailing conditions, the presence of the VHF radio and the fact that the bay had Dinghy races going on about two miles out so there were various safety ribs around to whom we could speak if need be 👍.
The 1.5km out to sea route required a dog leg near to the opposite side of the bay to take us up the coast to Brixham, as it stood I felt good, Mike (my kayaking safety guru) was happy and we decided to drop the dog leg and just swim a dead straight line to Brixham, taking us up to one and a half miles off shore. I sighted on a break in the woods to the left of Brixham and set off. I adopted a slow steady pace as I had no idea how I would feel once passing the three mile mark so wanted to make sure I had ‘plenty spare in the tank’. On the leg to Torquay I had encountered no marine life whatsoever, but now within just half a mile of setting out across the bay a large....really large Jelly Fish swam or floated or whatever it is they do, right beneath me. To say it freaked me out a little would be entirely accurate, I had expected to find them at the surface, but this thing just appeared out of the gloom 😱. I was aware that at its depth I could touch it and it me so I jerked myself into a weird sort of starfish shape to get my limbs out of the way accompanied by an expletive that Mike would not have heard as my face was under water at the time 🤣.
Nothing was good about this! In a way, the fact that this only happened ten or twelve times in the entire crossing almost felt worse than if they had been a permanent feature as there was a constant suspense, with long periods of (almost) carefree swimming suddenly interrupted by a Jelly fish from out of the gloom and my weird and really quite physically jarring, starfish response. There was only one that I encountered on the surface which I became aware of when I placed my hand on top of it 😬.
Now at well over a mile offshore and with Brixham appearing no closer whatsoever we were suddenly approached by a sailing club RIB. The guys on board wanted to warn us to stay to the right of the orange race course limit marker. Actually, what they really wanted was to warn the lone kayaker they could see, they didn’t realise at first there was a swimmer too as I was on the other side of the kayak as they approached. Whist they were talking to Mike I appeared from around the side of the kayak to see what was happening and their faces will stick in my memory for a very long time. I think that were as shocked to see me as I was to see the first jelly fish 😲. Once they had recovered, they enquired as to where the 'insert your own expletive here' I had come from before pronouncing me to be mad but fit as a fiddle, they obviously couldn’t see my less the svelte form beneath the surface 😉
We continued on our way, dealing with what was now quite a swell and a few white caps on the waves kicked up by the fetch of the wind, I thought at least this is good practice for if Windermere gets choppy. Mike struggled a little to keep his boat in line whist I struggled to breathe regularly as waves kept smacking me in my face when I turned my head........in either direction🙄. However I finally found a rhythm that matched the wave length so the only problem remained sighting as I would lose sight of land when in a trough. After an age we came within a mile of Brixham and into one of Torbay's few tidal streams which started pulling us off course I didn’t fancy ending up at Berry Head, which was where the stream was running so swam at an oblique angle to the stream and made a ferry glide into Fishcombe Cove were we were greeted with equal surprise.
We stopped here and had a cup of tea from the beach café. This was an essential stop as on the Windermere swim there is a compulsory stop and exit at the halfway point another of my concerns was how would I feel once I had stopped and would I feel able to get back in and to all intensive purposes, start again. Well I can now answer that…..NO, having broken that rhythm I did not want to start again 😐. But, I stretched my limbs got back in the water and decided jelly fish must be deep sea creatures as I had seen non initially when closer to land. Therefore, I would swim back hugging the coast, the downside of this was it added an extra mile. On the plus side I encountered no more jelly fish but then on another down side I became aware that my wetsuit was rubbing in the back of my knees……the inside of my elbows………and the back of my neck 😣. This had never happened before as my mileage had never been this high, so tape and Vaseline needed for the Windermere swim.
As we were now near enough to the shore for me not to worry about boat cover, I suggested to Mike that he do a little rock hopping in his kayak to entertain himself. It must have been so boring for a kayaker of his caliber to have just been drifting along all day. Obviously this meant he took his eyes off me for a while, when he re-joined me he told me that when he first looked back around there was another swimmer with me...........then he realised it was a Seal 😀. I didn't notice it but I must have some kind of weird Seal attraction, as a couple have hitched a ride on my Sea Kayak deck before now, never the other people with me....just me 🤔
The wetsuit was rubbing quite badly now, but I was at the point where I didn’t care what hurt anymore, there was only a mile to go to the finish and I wasn’t giving up now. I can honestly say that last and ninth mile was the hardest fought mile I have had, but I am pretty sure that without the swell, the wetsuit rubbing and without jelly fish and a little targeted training I can add another two and a half miles once we are up at Windermere.
Thank you Mike for making the whole thing possible, without a safety boat it would have been unthinkable 👏.
As I sit writing this I have two substantial abrasions behind my knees, in my elbow crease and on the back of my neck, all of which hurt…a lot! Even clients have commented on ‘what on earth has happened to your legs and neck 😂 (I have been wearing shorts in this weather).
As for further training and recovery in the eight weeks to now go. Well this is The Reinge Clinic (Ha, managed to slip work in again! ). So let's start with a good sports massage to help me regain the ability to lift my arms over shoulder height 🙂 and design a high intensity programme along with some targeted resistance training for the shoulders and core.