Monday, 9 June 2008


At 8pm Friday evening, after seven gruelling hours of bumper to bumper traffic, rain storms, surface spray and enforced reduced speed limits, we finally arrived at Hubert House, our accommodation for all our visits to Dover this year. A brisk freshen up and off to Chapters8 for a Chinese buffet, into The White Horse pub next door to the hotel for a nightcap then off to bed. Kelly and I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast throughout the week, we kind of expected and accepted the rain and cloud for the journey but hoped for blue skies Saturday and Sunday, afterall its always warmer down south…isn’t it?

An early start next morning to force down some porridge banana and coffee with a dose anti inflammatory medication for the shoulder which was still bothering me (I hate eating first thing) we drove the very short distance to the harbour where we saw many swimmers already gathered, getting instructions from Freda Streeter and being greased by Barry. The atmosphere was good, we bumped into a few regulars most of whom we don’t know, said hello to those who we could identify (Chris, John, Paul, Sam etc) then had I a momentary flap when I thought I had lost my ear plugs, soon located them and went to speak with Freda, she was very welcoming and told me to try four hours for this my first visit of the year.

On the stroke of nine a.m. I entered the water, it felt chilly initially after two weeks off, I was dreading what the shoulder reaction might be and just hoped it would hold up for more than a few minutes, following several other seasoned swimmers, I tentatively made my way toward the eastern dock wall. I tried not strain as I pulled the water, wanting to ease the joint back into full use, it felt tender and stiff but seemed ok enough to carry on.

By the time I reached the end of the harbour the throng of people had spread out, so I was more or less alone, but for the odd cap or arm splash that could be seen somewhere off in the distance. Four laps to and from the Prince of Wales pier, then at last I was heading in for a feed, I swam into the beach and felt sore in the shoulder and forearm and was beginning to feel chilly. I reached the pebbles on swimmers beach to see KGB standing there, I told her how I felt and soon began to shiver as I stood in knee deep water, the air temperature was probably cooler than the water. She gave me ‘the look’ and told me to get going, I was miserable by now, bored with being alone and just hoped to make it back to the Western end of the harbour and back to swimmers beach.

I did however swim another loop and came back to shore at three hours ten minutes and called it a day. I admitted to KGB that I could have possibly managed a final loop at a struggle, though this was said after I had warmed up. There were however some positives, the shoulder was better than I anticipated after the lay off from both cold water and any form of swimming. It was a step in the right direction from 2hours 20mins in Cork and I was learning a lot about the whole set up here in Dover.

That evening we ate pasta at an Italian restaurant and headed for an early night hoping for a glorious start to Sunday morning as per the forecast.

Alas after a poor nights sleep interspersed with dreams of swimming with the sun on my back, we awoke to a foggy, cloudy, miserable morning, not impressed I struggled to eat my porridge, before heading once more to the waters edge, today Freda said with a grin, ‘You are going to be here a while today..6 hours’ I nearly fell over, did she know it was me, did she remember I was just a baby with a poorly sick shoulder and that my longest swim in the harbour was 190 minutes, I knew this was not a good idea, straight away I started to doubt myself, I was convinced she was going to say four hours maximum, but she was giving out 5s and 6s like there was no tomorrow. Thinking I would aim for four hours with anything else being a bonus I headed into the water, it felt colder than the previous day and my shoulder was much the same, I managed a pathetic 2 hours and ten minutes, Freda was not impressed, she gave me some ‘advice’ and does not expect anything like that again. I was really disappointed at Sundays performance, I just couldn’t get going, my mindset was all over the place and I have beating myself up since. The 340 mile drive home was in the most part not a happy one as a result.

We are back to Dover this coming Saturday (14th) for more of the same, I must do some mental training this week and prepare myself for the worst in terms of conditions, weather, and swim times. Today I still don’t think I am ready for six hours at 13. something degrees but lets see how I feel at the weekend, its not all doom and gloom and I am trying to seek out the good points, so that I don’t drop into a depression.

Freda’s parting words were, ‘You have time so long as you knuckle down, Its good that you feel cold and yes its boring, see you next week’


Vasanti said...

Hi Mark,
just tell yourself you did great under the conditions. There is plenty of time to get used to the not so cold water in August - Freda just has to be "strict" for the sake of many, but you also have to listen to yourself. I wouldn't have lasted two hours in that water right now..


Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) said...

It's a pity you live so far away. I grew up in Surrey, so Dover was never such a long way, although we always took the train (when we went to Belgium to see grandma). Anyway, by the looks of the people in the pictures I would need to eat huge amounts of oatmeal and bananas to survive five minutes in that water. At least if you can do two hours, with a few more goes at it, you will probably get up to six no problem. Anyway, try and get as much sleep as you can.

Hoffy Swims said...

Mark - Well done for what you did. Reading your blog, the way it's written, the entire weekend sounds like it was a 100% mental reason why you didn't achieve what you set out to do. You failed before you even got in the water. As Ally has said many times, getting across the channel is 80% mental and 20% physical. Think of this week as your "introductory week" and next week, no matter how cold you feel or how much your shoulder hurts, just get in the water with a positive mental attitude, and do whatever Freda tells you to do. I promise, that if you do, you will successfully cross the channel. One of Freda's favourite sayings last year was "Get back in the water! No one ever died of a painfull shoulder!". I hope this helps!?

Well done anyway and good to see you again. C U on Saturday, although I will be doing Champion of Champions, not training.



p.s. I always stuff my face to the hilt before I swim, so much so that I feel sick for most of the swim. That way, Idon't feel so cold or hungary.

Mark said...

Cheers for that Paul, I am sure it was the mental side that needed more addressing than anything else, I will be taking the blender next week so that I can get what I need down my neck easier, I am used to necking down the shakes so it makes sense to get the calories in this way. was reading your post of early June 2007 and hope for a better time next weekend.

Vasanti, thanyou for that commment..positive as ever..

Bruce, thanks..not much chance of sleep though as I am night tonite and tuesday then two afternoons before the re drive to Dover !

Hoffy Swims said...

Mark - Just read that one again myself. Wow! It's almost the same as yours! LOL! Just goes to show, you can talk yourself either into a swim or out of it.

Whenever I get into the water now, and Freda says "6 hours" or "7" or whatever, I think of it in terms of feeds. i.e. Into the harbour, over to the Eastern Dock, 4 lengths, then in for a feed. 2 Hrs. 10 Minutes. Over to P.O.W. Pier, 2 lengths, in for a feed, 3 Hrs. 10 minutes. etc., etc. I never think in terms of "hours in the harbour". I just think of what I've got to do, until the next feed. I have learnt, that this works much better, than thinking in terms of hours in the harbour. It's also what you need to do in the channel when you're swimming.

Hope that helps.

Hoffy Swims said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Enda Kennedy said...

Hi mark

Just read the blog. That was great considering the injury. I dont struggle mentally but just get bored. I am going to put a question on the group out ref mentally and see waht everyone thinks off.

Well done and keep positive. As hoffy said work to feeds.
Enda Kennedy

Lisa Cummins said...

Hiya Mark,
Don't focus on what you didn't do at the weekend-focus on what you did do-you swam more than you had before in the cold water and you did that on your first training session back after injury. Well done!
Try to stay positive, you have trained hard, don't let bad thoughts set you back!
Hope that next weekend is better both for your swimming and for your peace of mind :)
Cheers, Lisa

Mark said...

Lisa, thanks for that, I am trying to do just that, and am actually looking forward to the weekend so that I can try to right some wrongs, thanks for the well wishes, hope you are well.

Benjy, great to see that you have resurected the blog, shame you are not in Dover this week as Joni is going to be there too, thankyou for the positive input, hope your shoulders are good, speak soon, have emailed you also.

best wishes to you both


Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) said...

I read a bit about ginkgo biloba (銀杏) on the Internet and also asked my wife about it, who to my surprise was quite familiar with it. She said that you can buy the flat dried beans at any Chinese medicine store, and then you can use a blender to grind them into powder. There is a "north" variety and a "south" variety, and the "south" is preferred as it tastes less bitter. On one site I read that if you already take aspirin (like I do), then you should ask a doctor before deciding whether to take ginkgo. In normal weather conditions (like Taiwan), I am considered to have warm hands generally, although my wife's hands tend to feel cold more easily. Reminds me of the 10-mile motorcycle rides to school in the 6th form in the UK in winter (often without gloves). It would take me 30 minutes after getting to school before I could hold a pen and write. In the UK I would imagine you could get that stuff by visiting any largish Chinatown. It sounds pretty good, and I think the Chinese generally favor it. However, thinking in the UK will mostly be in favor of Western medicine. At the moment, the pool temperature here is 27 C and the outside temp is 32 C, so my hands have not felt cold recently.