After competing in triathlons for 9 years, I decided it was time to try something different. In the back of my mind I had always had this idea that I would try to swim the English Channel some day. Now, after almost 2 years of distance swimming training, that day is almost here!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Swimming in Dover Harbor
Well, I made it to Dover. I had some computer challenges so I was unable to post anything until now. I should be able to keep up daily now hopefully.
As usual, I could not sleep on the plane so I arrived pretty beat. I picked up my car and drove about 2 hours to my new residence for 2 weeks. Just like my last trip, the drive was beautiful. And fortunately I am improving my left-side-of-the-road driving skills. The European SD card I purchased for my GPS unit is working wonderfully. I would literally be lost without it. Ask anyone who knows me even a little. I am terrible with directions.
When I arrived I checked in, put my things in my room, and got ready to swim. Getting ready means getting dressed in swim suit and sweats, mixing my energy drink (Maxim), diluting mouthwash (to ease the rawness in my mouth from the saltwater bath), packing Vaseline, goggles, timer, towel to degrease, towel to dry off and then chewing a anti-seasick tablet. Then I drove about 5 minutes down the hill, past Dover Castle (which is incredibly beautiful) to the Dover Harbor (pic above). Then, before I have much time to think about what I was about to do, I took my loaded backpack and walked to the "beach". Beach is different here. No sand. Just golf ball sized, smooth stones and a steep slope. Then I stripped off my sweats to just my Speedo (there will be no pics...ever), put on my swim cap (did I mention no pics?), and greased up my arm pits, shoulders, and between my legs. The grease is not for warmth but rather to prevent severe chaffing caused by body parts rubbing together in the saltwater. Then I walked down to the water's edge. It's tricky to navigate barefoot on the stones and a bit painful as well. Just imagine walking on golf balls! To get in, I prefer to walk in at a kind of fast pace. I'm afraid I will gasp and swallow a bunch of saltwater if I jump in but I really don't like to dilly dally either. Just get in an go. The first minute is the worst in terms of shock. I get a brain freeze every time. But that goes away and then I get into the swim. I do laps around the harbor. One lap is about 1.5 miles. On the first day I only made it about 2 miles and had to get out due to the cold. The waves were rough but not as bad as it will be on the swim. I swallowed a healthy amount of saltwater. I think the jet lag affected me too but I was very disappointed. Last night I kept thinking if I had to get out that early there's no way I will make it across. But I just didn't have it. When I got out I was so cold I could hardly put my clothes back on. And my frozen feet walking about 30 yards on those darn golf balls!!! Dang that hurt. So when I got back I went straight to the sauna at the place I am staying. This place is awesome by the way. I will write more about it later. It's such a polar opposite to the channel. Like heaven and ... After the sauna I got a warm shower and then ordered room service. I organized all my clothes and swim stuff and got everything in its place (surprise, surprise). Then I went to bed whooped and disappointed with my performance.
This morning I woke up and felt a lot better. I think I slept about 10 hours. Must've needed it. I made a cup of tea in my room (very English of me), looked out across the fields out my window and saw hundreds of sheep grazing and quietly making sheep noises. It was absolutely beautiful. I decided I wanted to swim in the middle of the day, after breakfast had digested but before lunch. So I went to the conservatory and ordered the "full English breakfast". That consisted of eggs, sausage, bacon (ham to us), half of a large mushroom and tomato, fried toast and jam, and black pudding (which was like a dense black fried bread). And more tea of course. It was delicious. Lauri, can we have that every day at home? I will pay for that. The music in the conservatory was light and airy which matched my incredible view of the courtyard and fields of sheep in the distance. The main building of the hotel is over 300 years old. The service is excellent. I picked a great place to stay!
After breakfast I drove to Deal to get some food for the room and an adapter for my computer. The one I brought from home probably would work just fine in Belgium but not so much here. Deal was a neat seaside town. I didn't explore much because I was on a mission and wanted to get back to swim but I did manage to figure out how to park the car, not get towed and find my stuff.
So a little before noon I made it back to the water. This time I figured out a way to tie my drink and Scope to a buoy far from land so I wouldn't be tempted to stay on land at feed time. (Thanks Bonnie C. for the carabiner clips! They already came in handy.) I also left my cool finger timer in my back pack so that I wouldn't constantly check how long I had been out. I decided to my goal was to do 2 laps (3 miles) or 3 laps (4.5 miles) if I could take it. Today I am happy to report my swim was MUCH better. It was still cold as heck but I got though it in pretty good condition. I did 3+ laps or between 4.5 and 5 miles. Not much for a pool swim but it was good for a channel swim. I even felt good enough afterwards to pick up a rock to bring back and to take a few pics.
My routine after the swim was the same. Whirlpool, sauna, and hot shower until my body gets back to normal temp. I am so glad this place has those facilities. Got to run to dinner now but I will try to post pictures from today later. Bottom line though... today was a good day!
Posted by Allan at 1:16 PM