The day after celebrating KGBs birthday on the 28th at the fantastic Whinestone View (and in doing so breaking all my promises regarding alcohol, late nights, warm water) I departed from home, alone, to drive the 280 or so my miles to Guildford where I had reserved a room. The journey was uneventful except maybe for the activation of a speed camera! Damn.
Prior to arrival at the Travelodge I attended the beautiful setting of Guildford Lido where several swimmers were already in attendance erecting tents, it was every bit as nice as it looked on photographs.
In the final weeks of build up to the swim for life I had announced my intention to swim each mile dedicated to someone or something, the reason being to keep me mentally intact and motivated, all but one or two miles were taken with some very personal, emotional, reasons associated with their selection. I will refrain from listing them all suffice to say loved and lost family and friends featured highly.
And so to Saturday morning, regular readers will know I don't do breakfast willingly, however, I managed to gulp down some muller rice, coffee and sports drinks prior to packing up and heading for registration, more hellos to Sally Goble, Colin Hill etal and final briefings. Before I knew it the swimmers for the first mile lined up, a little discussion regarding which racing snakes would lead the lane and we were off. I had every intention of recording the times for each mile as well as my thoughts as the day progressed. As per my entry form, I anticipated/hoped to be swimming each mile in around 28 minutes at least at the start of the day.
The first four miles seemed to fly by with the following times: 26:35, 26:46, 26:50, and then a crazy for me 25:45 swimming on the heels of swimmer extraordinaire Mark Bayliss, a routine was starting to develop of swim, shower, dry, dress, eat, drink, stretch, toilet and rest before the verbal "5 minutes" warning was called and we headed off back to poolside. We were informed the water was around 21c though it felt way colder on the parts of the body exposed to the wind. Out of the water the sun was shining to the extent that everyone was applying sun block...it was going well, I felt good, with the weather helping for sure.
By mile 7, timing each 1600m was binned, I was still showering at this point but that too was soon to be forgotten. I needed every minute possible to rest and attend to other matters, I managed to call home and tweet once or twice, I was aware the Donal Buckley and Lisa Cummins were swimming the same sort of thing in Ireland we therefore passed an occasional update with our status.
H2open came to see me and lifted my spirits, I remember him ask how I was coping, which reminded me of all the individuals to which I had dedicated my efforts. A short time later I noticed Colin Hill taking down his tent, we spoke briefly, he had called it a day, this shocked me into reality, bloody hell.... if Colin was going home to see his kids this must be tough.
OSS hot tub as Lesley fetched me more hot sweet tea, it was heavenly..that said it was a killer getting back into the pool after being almost cooked in that tub!
Around 5am one of the most welcome sights was the sky filling ever so slowly with natural light, it was a massive boost, I was allowing myself to believe that this was looking like a possibility. In my tired sleep depraved, hungry state, calculating we had four miles to swim on the one hand sounded great, on the other...that was 6400m! that in itself would be a good session on it own for any normal day. However, this was no normal day by any stretch of the imagination.
As the sun rose higher, so did the activity on poolside, retired swimmers, helpers and families were all returning to the lido, with just two miles remaining things began to get emotional, mile 23 was for Brendan Kennedy RIP with mile 24 being dedicated to my late mum. My mind was drifting whilst swimming and I was having to talk to myself out loud under water to get a grip. Two extra visits to the blissful hot tub and this was it...the final mile.
Thankyou one and all for your support