I returned home, loaded the car and before too long KGB and I were on our way. Around one hundred miles from home, I received a text message asking me to call Charlie’s mum, eventually I managed to get hold of her, only to be told that Charlie had hurt himself playing football at school and was enroute to hospital in a great deal of pain. X-rays revealed that he had broken his forearm and that he would require surgery to correct it. I was racked with guilt that I wasn’t there to hold his hand and be a good Dad, it was bad enough that I was going to be away for Fathers day let alone this. He was in good hands with his mum and I was told to continue my journey to Dover but to keep in touch.
Continuing onto Dover, we had arranged to meet with Joni Storer who was attending for the BLDSA Champion of Champions event. We arrived at Hubert House much earlier than last week after a relatively easy 6 hours or so, Jenni had a surprise for us, as she led us to the Georgian Suite, it was very very nice. Eventually Joni arrived, we showed him the harbour, the statues and off course The White Horse Pub.
We then returned to Hubert House in order to eat at the Bistro, where to our surprise Ned Dension and Eddie Irwine were seated and eating, it was great to see them again after Sandycove, (they too were in town for the BLDSA race) we had a good chat and laughed a lot especially at Ned’s dietary advice of “its doesn’t matter if it takes your fancy or not, just eat it!” This kind of encouraged me to sink a few more calories just prior to getting into bed in the form of mullerice and fortisip.
Next morning usual business of forcing down porridge, bananas, coffee, maxim etc before heading to the harbour to see Freda. The others headed to the West end of the harbour as the boot camp swimmers were greased up by Barrie, we all gathered around Freda as she announced the timings for each swimmer, it was at this point that she publicly informed Barrie that he was to “TAKE NO CRAP, THIS IS MARK ROBSON, HE IS DOING 5 HOURS NO MATTER WHAT!” I said a few words to Megan, Chris and Sam and headed off for my swim, entering the water again at 9am, the temperature felt much the same as last week though the weather in general was much nicer, with the sun breaking out from the clouds throughout the day, I had no shoulder pain, I was mentally in the correct frame of mind and enjoyed my first two hours before the first feed. We were restricted in our swim area due to part of the harbour being taken up by The Champion of Champions, that, together with several sailing boats and the odd ferry made for a rather busy place to be.
During the first few hours in particular I was desperate to get some news about Charlie and my mind started to drift to thoughts of him laying in a hospital bed. After the feed at two hours, feeds then take place on the hour, and consist of a small plastic cup of warm maxim with maybe a chocolate roll or milky way, it was really nice to see Kelly running knee deep into the water to hand out the drinks, she looked like she was having fun with Barrie and Sam. I remember coming in at four hours and seeing the delight on Kelly’s face as she knew I was entering new territory time wise in the open water, I said to her “Just one more hour and then I must phone Char.” Also around this time my hips began to cause me some pain which became more and more uncomfortable as time went on, I found that I was almost unable to kick which meant I began to cool off a little, I told myself that in less than an hour I would be in a steaming hot bath! At last the 5 hour point arrived by which time I was getting cold and my hips felt like they had completely locked up! It was then as I lay in the shallows that I noticed Freda had approached the waters edge, she asked me to do an additional hour for my qualifier swim, I took some ibuprofen from Sam and tried to set off toward the Prince of Wales Pier, within 5 minutes I knew it wasn’t possible today, I should have had the tablets hours ago, and now I was cold, I returned to the beach and got out. I had no regrets at all though I do wish I could have done it for Freda.
I almost see her as my Dover Mother. I find it quite moving how this community on swimmers beach are so desperate for people to achieve success, they offer their time and experience free of charge week in week out, they are a top class group of individuals who together form a unique team. I had an excellent recovery and was warm in no time at all, I called Charlie to find that he was going to theatre any minute, I was again sad that I wasn’t home. Soon I was cleaned up, we returned to the beach, offered Ned the use of the car to recover from his second swim of the day and had time to watch their final race. We had a pasta filled evening and returned to Hubert House for an early night. Next morning more of the same, though I only swam for two hours and 45 minutes, the water felt a little cooler than Saturday, but it was much sunnier, after my feed at two hours I had a flare up of the shoulder injury, and decided to get out the next time I passed the beach. I was not cold and stood talking to Barrie on the pebbles, before approaching Freda to tell her the tale. She was ok and understand also that we needed to be home. I gave her a kiss and we departed for the usual boring 340 mile drive. Overall I covered in the region of 15000 metres Saturday and 8000 metres Sunday, total of 7 hours 45 minutes in water around 13.9C. A fantastic couple of days training only dampened by the events of Friday The Thirteenth...As Enda says...boys will be boys!