Well, I have started writing this blog at least 5 times! I thought I was low on time before the summer holidays but over the last six weeks pretty much the only ‘alone time’ I’ve had is when I’ve been asleep!
But, the kids are back at school and I have some daytime, so, without further ado, let’s get this posted!
Just over a month ago I completed a pretty mammoth swim. My longest swim yet, which means I have now officially swum further than I have ever run! Ha!
The Rampion Windfarm – love it or hate it? I think it’s pretty impressive; renewable energy firing up a few hundred thousand homes in Sussex. 116 turbines, each one around 140 metres tall at the blade tip and weighing a few hundred tonnes! Yeah, I got a bit geeky about them 😊 The turbines make up the first windfarm off the south coast of the UK and, at the closest point, they are 8 miles offshore.
A friend of mine suggested we do the 8-mile swim and I was in! Perfect training for the Channel!
After a few months of planning and training (there’s a whole world of spring and neep and high and low tides that I am still trying to get my head around) me and the husband packed a bag full of snacks, carb drink and warm clothes and climbed aboard Clan Chief II. We joined our amazing skipper Vince, lovely photographer Josh and my fab, new swim buddy Jo. We set off from Brighton Marina around 8.30, reached the windfarm just after 9am (the turbines are HUGE up close!!) and me and Jo jumped in!
The deep, dark blue of the sea was shocking and stunning all at once. The sea was so clean and clear and every jellyfish seemed extra eerie as they glided silently beneath us. (Thankfully there were no stings on the day!). The rough plan was to swim and stop every 30 minutes to refuel until we got back to the beach, which suddenly seemed a long, long way away.
By the time we made our first stop, floated around in the sea trying to catch bottles of drink and food being thrown to us, we realised that the conditions were not ideal. Beautifully sunny and warm, yay, but 15-20mph winds and 6ft swell at points, not so much. I was glad to be in the water! The boat was pitching and rolling and nearly everyone felt sick.
I felt pretty good both physically and mentally. I had been cold at points but warmed up, snacks were going down well, shoulders and arms felt good, I had been thinking happy thoughts, sing-thinking happy songs, praying and I felt positive. The swell was big but I had decided to enjoy the waves and think about how each one was just pushing me closer to the shore!
4 ½ hours
We were losing our landmarks and heading east, well past the pier and towards the marina. I was feeling slightly less happy. The tide, swell and wind were pushing us much further than we anticipated.
I entered a quiet, dark place. There was talk of landing on a beach near Roedean and I didn’t want to hear that. Despite the encouragements from the boat, the thoughts of giving up were starting to surface in my mind. I was struggling.
5 ½ hours
The face says it all. Physically and mentally things were really tough now. My arms and shoulders were hurting, I kept trying to do 100 strokes of front crawl but couldn’t get past 20 before I had to stop. The time was going on, the distance was going up, I didn’t feel I had anything left in the tank. ‘I want to give up’, ‘I cant do it’, ‘I’ve swum far enough already’, ‘I’ve done the distance I set out to do’, ‘conditions are too tough’, ‘no-one would swim the Channel in this’… On and on they went. The beach seemed so close but didn’t seem to be getting closer. The husband said it was my call to decide whether I stopped or carried on. Somewhere deep down I knew there was only one call to make; I had to finish. I tried to remember everything and anything I’d heard Ross Edgley talk about and carried on!
11 miles later I crawled out of the sea in Ovingdean. It was surreal. People at the café, people chilling on the beach, a man collecting rubbish asking me ‘Is this your cushion?!’. I managed to feebly reply that it wasn’t my cushion and that he had done really well picking up the rubbish but I kind of wanted to punch him as well 😊 Jo made it too! Yay! But I don’t think it fully sank in until we were back at Brighton Marina on solid ground marvelling at the most brilliant and difficult swim either of us had ever done.
And there you have it. I swam back from the windfarm. I look out on it nearly every day now and smile. Is it pride? Maybe a bit but I don’t think so. I think its gratitude. I’m grateful I get to swim, grateful for friends to swim with, grateful for friends who are generous and support me, grateful for a husband who loves me and says the annoyingly right thing at the right time to help me keep going, grateful to live by the sea, grateful to live.
And I like this…
‘Don’t save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.’ Mary Engelbreit.