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didds
20-09-14, 13:09
If you've 10 minutes of your luife you don;t need, grab a coffee and a comfy chair and read what lunacy i got up to this year...

What to say? I could start with "The hardest F*****g thing I have EVER done". I could say "a humbling and life enhancing experience". I could say "THE UK's premier swim event".

But I could start at the beginning - which as Julie Andrews once pointed out was a very good place to start....

I know a git called Andre Roberts. A total and utter git. A swimming, total git. He is actually a very very nice guy, and his mum and dad are super nice people too and I am delighted to know them. But back in something like February Andre posted a link to http://www.scillyswimchallenge.co.uk on his Facebook page, the seed was sown and the rest is history. Of course HE didn't go and sign up and do it. OH NO. He just hung it out in the breeze and watched me, sucker to the core, take the bait. NO - HE didn't sign up for the most hellishly wonderful swimming experience devised by man (for total numpty swimmers like me). NO. He went off and did some totally dweeby, hardly raise a heartbeat type effort. He went and swam the channel instead.

Andre Roberts is a TOTAL Cop Out!!!

I mentioned this isles of scilly concept to Mrs Didds (aka Tracey or T). She thought it sounded quite fun so we bother signed up. Booked a B&B, and a ferry crossing, and some leave. The longest swim was ONLY 3 miles - we both done half as much of that again and i've done double. Not a problem.

Well... maybe a tiny one. For totally understandable safety reasons, the minimum speed requested was 40 minutes a mile. I've been somewhat lazy with my swim training over the past couple of years and my first time trialled swim check after i signed up, in a pool was... 50 minutes!!! OMG!

So - first step was to improve on that. Off to a swim smooth coach, Steve Bailey in Salisbury
http://www.stevebaileycoaching.com/

Poor old Steve - he must have wondered what he had done in his life to deserve such a woefully awful client! Armed with a few drills the next three or four months passed in 1Km blocks of said drills... bubbling to breath out constantly, shorter arm entry to the water, fingers-below-wrist-below-elbow, not over rotating. All things real swimmers do naturally! Eventually the winter gave way to spring and lake 32 beckoned . The pool work, tedious and monotonous though it had been had done its trick, and i was down to very very low 40s minutes per mile. I needed more help, but SB had been quite a drag to get to and wasn;t cheap. Enter stage (or beach) left - Jason Tait of southwestswim.co.uk. Jason had coached a couple of friends for their upcoming foray into half distance tri and had achieved some stunning results for them. And he worked out of lake 32 which was convenient. I really can;t praise Jason enough here - Steve had given the better foundation s of course and they had been invaluable, and Jason just finished it all off. Higher head position in the water created a bow wave for the first time ever - which now meant breathing didn't involve hauling my entire torso out of the water! Then a second session and work on my recovery elbow and hand position in the push. Worth every bloody penny I paid. And really not expensive anyway. It is fair to say that without Steve and Jason's help I could never have attempted this swim.

The spring moved into summer and the lake distances increased. 4Km became a standard swim length. The water got warmer, but the wetsuit stayed on. The Scillies Swim was to be in 13 degree water, and I needed the wetsuit as a huge aid to my swimming. train how your "race" as they say... so the wetsuit stayed on as the temperatures rose. It was a bloody tease though using a wetsuit when the water was so wonderfully warm. Though training was going well, the niggly voice at the back of the head was reminding both me and Mrs Didds that this was not a lake event but a sea one... and some sea swimming was needed. We hitched up with a Facebook group "Beyond the Blue" that swim out of Sandbanks (near Poole), and we drove down there one Sunday morning for an excellent swim with them. Heavy swim into the current for a mile or so, then back with it. A few weeks later we tried from Southbourne, east of Bournemouth, swimming west into the current this time and back with it. 4.4 Km in 2hrs 45 minutes, - the return 2.2Km was done in just an hour of that! Training was going exceptionally well at this juncture, and we were both really rocking. But then August arrived along with colleagues family holiday commitments and i couldn't actually get to anywhere but maybe a lunchtime pool splash for almost 3 weeks. When i returned to the lake eventually with just 3 weeks to go it felt as if I had never started swim training at all. Then my wetsuit, which was in its 4th season and I was desperately hoping would last the season out split on the left shoulder and the crotch was all but through. There was no way i could hope that this would all hang together for the Scillies, so an emergency purchase of a new Helix was done. The courier then "couldn't find us" on the Friday after shipping and i missed the first of only 2 weekends available to test drive it. Tracey's own swim training had been similarly affected with regards to work requirements though she did manage another couple of swims down near Southbourne.

And then... August turned to September, and the realisation was upon me. This was really going to happen. I spent an evening printing off the B&B details on St. Mary's, the ferry bookings to the Scillies and the event info. It was really going to occur.

Oh bugger.

Thursday 4th... finished work @ 1730.. I am lucky enough to work from home, and the campervan was prepped. By 1740 I was on the road, down to Warminster to collect Tracey from work. Tracey is Mrs Didds. I'll call her "T" henceforth to save on my crap typing. Got to T's work, had some tea/supper/dinner (delete as per geographical preference). She got rid of the white and green and put on mufti.By 1900 we were Penzance bound. I drove the whole way cops I is well 'ard innit. . Got to the overnight parking with Scilly parking (http://www.scillyparking.co.uk/). I'd spoken with then when booking and they'd said turn up whenever, let yourself in the front gate and kip overnight - result! Highly recommended.

Friday 5th.... Scilly Parking man opened up prompto at 0700 and we parked the van. Got the kit ready and it was the first minibus out to the quay for us from the SP place. nice and easy. Kit dropped at "collection" (rather than "delivery"). Our B&B on St Mary's was the closest B&B to the pier (by luck!) but the delivery service will drop your bags at your accommodation if preferred for 1.35 an item. Off to a nearby cafe for some coffee having already breakfasted but the full english (for the benefit of Stu Crawford) looked really good! We realised as the weekend went on, everybody bar three people in the cafe were swimmers of kayakers. of the three in there, two of them were locals that had just swum off Penzance! The ferry crossing went well... the weather was beautiful and the water was flat calm. We sat seals, dolphins and a whale into the bargain. chatted to several lovely people also crossing for the swimming,. and one rather bemused chap that was a bit confused by the concept! We dropped bags at the excellent B&B (Pier house - http://www.pier-house.co.uk/). Being lunchtime we looked for some lunch - the Atlantic Hotel beckoned with its terrace overlooking the lovely harbour - unfortunately the food was #@?#. It was the worst excuse for a pub/hotel meal i have had in 20 years. 9.50 for a tin of beef stew topped off with a frozen puff pastry "lid", potatoes and peas. Bloody awful. We then registered and picked up hat, goodies and tee shorts before heading home, dozing briefly then heading back to registration where the evening's acclimatisation swim was to be held at 5pm+. The brief was fine... major emphasis on this being a challenge and NOT a race. explanation of the safety systems in place. Then a 1 mile swim to just check out the "tick on and tick out" registers and no doubt a chance for the organisers to check out anybody that couldn't swim at all! Needless to say - with BCTTTs at heart" I was the last man in No doubt my card had been marked! This all followed by fish and chips from a chip van near Porthcressa beach with Ant, another swimmer, and his wife who was dog handler for the weekend and thus not swimming. Then back to the B&B to number up our wetsuits (transfers) and to bed... because we had an early off...

Saturday 6th... Up at 4 am. It was dark.. It was quiet. We breakfasted on bits we'd bought, I suited up to the waist. We prepped our day bags and headed out to the rendezvous for 0530. As we walked though town numbers swelled as other swimmers joined the throng. Finally we were all together. 0530 happened... and we were off. The longest walk of the day was first up... 1.5 miles to Bar Point. I was sweating cobs by the time we got there with a dry robe on, suited to the waist and it was warm enough weather. On with the wettie, bags to the drop zone to be transported on... and onto the beach. the check in system consisted of everybody walking though two flags on the beach and giving their event number to be ticked off. Then a quick brief as to the general swim direction and we were off.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfyoaAnHSPM

The first swim was 2.2 miles of cool shallow sea to the next island, St Martins. ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipNnCrYWK7w


... pretty much last! - and got ticked off the register as i climbed the jetty steps ... to get thigh cramp! I never ever get cramp !! Thence to breakfast where I had missed the bacon butties but to be honest my mouth was already so clagged with sea water that I didn't miss the salty bacon for the first time in my life! Lots of hot sweet tea and some fruit rejuvanated me, and i met up with somebody I had trained with earlier in the summer and had forgotten was also swimming. And then a walk across the island - more sweaty times and chatting to other swimmers.

This soon became pattern - check in, swim, get out, check out (no more cramp), eat, walk, check in, swim... and on we went.

St martin's to Tresco... 1,8 miles. Some of this was so shallow I scraped the bottom with my catch!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThhOfLqb0-U

Food was provided on each island by locals... hot drinks and cake sort of thing though in Tresco's village hal;l we also got hot soup and pasta. The weather by now was glorious... brioght, sunny, warm. conditions couldn't be more perfect


Then to Bryer... 1 mile... more food, more walking.... but it was about to get serious. So far we had swum just under half way, in half of the swims. The 4th swim was next up - at just half a mile. This to the uninhabited island of Samson, with a very short walk over a sandy beach. We had in effect done all the walking to be fair... aside from a few dozen metres on Samson. But what did await us after the short swim there was a 5 miles swim, followed by an easy 2.2 mile swim.

There was an almost immediate sea change as we left Samson... the water immediately felt colder, and the surface was far choppier. The wavelets never got anything above a very few inches but it seemed to underline the fact that until now it had been easy sailing - short swims in mild water. I ploughed on.

now 5K is not a measly undertaking, and I've swum a few in my time. Even one iin a pool which much rate as the ost mind-~#*$ experience you could wish on anybody. Even the CIA outlaw it.
But I am not a quick swimmer and while the distance was never going to be an issue in itself at about the half way point I got the tap on the shoulder and the broom wagon picked me up. That's cool - everybody's safety is paramount and the line of swimmers had stretched too far and I was lantern rouge (albeit only after two other's got pulled). Then came the comedy of getting didds-with-a-scuppered-hip into a boat. Lets just reduce the farce into me impersonating a beached whale rolling around the deck of the safety boat having broken my nose against the gunwale as I was lifted from the water!

This however did give me an opportunity to sit with two girles and kutsch up together in the back of the boat. Then a guy I'd met on St Mary's , Andy, also got pulled and I had to kutsch up with a big bloke from Surrey. Not quite the same thing. It also gave me the opportunity to listen to the safety chat on the radios... and it was impressive. The organisers were looking for reasons to KEEP people in the water not pull them. Really top stuff.

We pulled into St Agnes, and we had to step ashore through the normal ferry that was already alongside the jetty... onto the ferry on one side, cross over, and step off. And applause from the passengers! I felt a bit of a fraud!

The stop on St Agnes seemed to last forever. Mrs Didds had swum the distance (I knew she would). She was however very cold by now and shivering, trying to stay in the sunshine to say as warm s possible. One of the organisers came past and asked if i was still swimming the last leg as was still suited up. I of course replied in the affirmative - bless him, he looked really chuffed!

And so ... the final leg. St Agnes to St Mary's ... 2.2 miles with a current running left to right that would sweep us around the headland and stick us in line with the final beach. An easy current assisted swim - lay flat in the water, turn the arms, and its all over.

Well... that was the plan...

Getting out of the harbour was a good tough swim in itself... the incoming tide and the wavelets let you know this bit wasn't so easy but, hey- that eastward current would soon pick us up and off we'd go. It never seemed that easy but I was maing progress... the SW corner of St mary's was getting closer... but I wasn;t being swept to the right. I saw a pod of swimmers justy head and tried to catch them./ I seemed to almost be getting there then they'd dmoce away. Repeat several times. The I slowly realuised that theer was a bloody great yellow pole sticking out of the sea that i wasn;t getting any nearer to. Nor were the pod. Eventually I sat uyp in the water and asked the earest kayaker for some advice. "Swim left of the pole" was the general advice. So I did. or rather tried to. the pole didn;t move. I cgecked with the kayeker again. "Seems the tide has turned earlier than expected - try to swim left of the pole and get clsoer to land for aa less syrong current". So i swam to the left of the pole. Only I didbn;t. i still wasn;t any closer. I gave it 5 minutes of balls out. No closer. I looked at the kayaker. he looked at me. it was clear wghere this was heading. There as no way I cold beat the reversed current which was now running right to left. I bailed. I felt disapponited - but I know it was the right - only! - option.

the safety boat came around to collect me - the same boat i'd broken my nose on earlier! This time I had a little more joy with the ladder though still did some awesome flopping around the deck. We collected the pod of 3 i'd been trying to catch up with who were also getting no further and headed for the final beach. We passed swimmers that had managed to get to the first but of headland, in order to avoid the current. the swimmers wer climbing up onto the riocks, trying to climjb over them to get to clearer water the opther sdie. some werre climbing up to the land above to walk in.

The safety guy - one of the orgainsers as it was - gave us the option to be dropped into the bay of the final beach to swim in. We all grabbed the opportunity... and o with a handshake and thankyou, I jumped back in for the final 400m.

I could see the flags on the beach getting larger... then the sea bed getting shallower,... until i could atnhd. I graoped the hands of the pod that had swum in with me. we grinned. We waved at the beach. the beach waved back. I fell over into the water !!

A few steps and i was on the beach. Waking up to the flags and the clip board girls.


"Number 51" I said.

They ticked the sheet for the last time.

I walked through the flags. Job done.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zaB2z3t_yo


Emotion... what emotion? happy. ecstatic. there was something in my eye. I couldn't breath - something was stuck in my throat. Henman like I punched the air at waist level. I fell over. I got up - laughing. It was 1915 hrs. 8 hours in the water out of just under 14 hours total.

So I didn't make the whole 10 miles in the water. Though with my crap sighting i probably came close to 10 miles. I did the whole 6 miles walking. I took on a challenge and while I can't say I beat the Atlantic, for a fat, balding bloke aged 51 that really is a quite a poor swimmer i gave it good run for its money.

I was lucky enough to play rugby in 8 countries in the world, including against some elite teams. I played a Grand final in New Zealand. II have run half marathons and completed a half ironman. A few reasonably long swims. This was the HARDEST thing I have ever done. And i won't be doing it again.

Tracey came in about 10 minutes later. She was in front of me in the water - but had progressed no further wrt to that bloody yellow pole. She'd been pulled and dropped same us me. In act about a third of the field got pulled and dropped. Another third were quick enough to mostly beat the tide change and made it to the rocks....

People's stories were amazing - of clambering over rocks with waves almost knocking them back to where they came. Or swimming at bloody yellow poles. A guy saying as he fought towards the rocks having chatted to his safety kayaker "please don't go away. if you go away I will cru". Then realising the kayaker was stil, there minutes later - si he cried. Overheard comments "I'd rather do two full ironman triathlons back to back than do that again".

Maybe if the tide hadn't turned we'd have all swum home perfectly. it would have still been an amazing adventure, and great day, a phenomenal achievement. But the tide turning and the mini dramas (which in reality were all controlled and safe) added that extra frisson.

Highly recommended. Just not for me again I do know one thing though - I _AM_.

And I know... because... I was there.


didds

Rushforth
20-09-14, 14:09
And I won't be doing it again.

You've convinced me. Whatever you do, don't follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean%27s_seven