I have never swam so far in all my life, to be honest I didn't even think I could. It is amazing what you can achieve with some training and a little bit of self-belief.
Two summers ago I took my two children Isabella (12) and Charlie (8) swimming and was appalled at their ability or rather inability, despite having been on a course every autumn half term since they were little, and resolved to get them up to a decent level. So I booked them onto weekly lessons with Aquazone at the Magnet leisure centre in Maidenhead.
For the first few weeks I sat at the side and twiddled on my phone with all the other parents, watching them have their lessons, and then one day I thought what a waste of time this is, I could be in there getting fit and better still set an example. The next week that’s what I did, I took my trunks, we all got changed the kids went to their respective lessons and I started doing lengths. Just 30 minutes, no more, no less, the rule was to see how many lengths I could fit in before the kids finished.
My first goal was 30 lengths, and I really struggled to do that, after every two lengths I was dying, and would spend more time resting than swimming. By the end of the third term, I had really improved and I was aiming at 50 lengths in my 30 minute slot, sadly I did not make it but I was getting close. I was massively inspired by this chap called Ian, I had got chatting to him once and found out he did a lot of marathon swims, in the river for miles. It didn’t seem to matter what time the kids lessons moved to, as they do each term, he was always there up, down, up, down, just non-stop, awesome really. He gave me some really useful tips to help improve my stamina.
Back in the autumn, when I started thinking about the challenges for ADCCT, 100 lengths in an hour seemed like a pretty steep mountain, despite the fact that I had reached my goal of 50 in half an hour. I really had to push to do that and the thought of doubling the distance seemed really too much.
One lesson this term, I started swimming, and because I had got in late and was short of time I decided not to stop every 4 lengths for a breather and just carried on, up and down up and down, I was gob smacked at first, bosh 20 lengths just like that, I made myself stop, it was a real confidence boost, if I didn’t need to break every 4 lengths the 2500m seemed like a real possibility, the following week I swam 30 lengths back to back, It wasn’t that long ago just swimming 30 lengths was an achievement, and still felt great, I did it again and completed 60 lengths in 34 minutes, this was the week before the challenge, but wow, the 100 really was on.
My last training session I decided I was going for 80,’ I set the goal in my head, and completed it in 46 mins. Each 20 was taking me 11 minutes, definitely possible, as long as I don’t cramp up, I had managed the 80 well and still felt good so I was feeling confident about the 100 now.
On the Friday, the day of the challenge, the lovely ADCCT ladies had brought me a pop-up banner to put up at the end of the lane, and I checked in with Jes the Windsor Centre manager, and he put it up for me. There was nobody to cheer me on, despite telling everybody at work and my wife had phoned and said she wasn’t going to make it, Jes started the stopwatch and I set off on my first 20, still no body, a 30 second break, and then into the second.
I had just started the second set and was getting really bored, when I noticed that someone had sat in the seats and was watching I realised that it was two people a woman and a child, Fiona Devine and her son. Wow what a lift that was, I doubled my efforts I was so chuffed and so inspired and really remembered why I was doing this crazy thing.
At the end of the set I waved and said ‘hi’ but I couldn’t stop so was straight back into the third set. After the first couple of lengths I noticed one Amanda from work had arrived and again I felt a real lift at just the right moment. Again at the end of the set I waved and said ‘Hi’, and then carried on again.
And then right at the same point in the fourth set I looked up and my wife had made it. I redoubled my efforts yet again, and then I was at the final set and still no cramp. I had a vague idea that I was on time but I could feel myself tiring and slowing down but I figured I had been consistent enough through out to make it as long as I didn’t cramp up.
The cramps in my legs came eventually and I have swam for quite a while with them before, being really careful not to put any pressure on them even just kicking off the sides on each turn. It really takes it out of the arms because they have to do all the work, but….it was length 99, I figured I’d make it.
I was shattered but the stopwatch read 57:29 by the time I had got the goggles off and worked out which was the right button to press. So 100 lengths/2500m and 57½ minutes of continuous swimming, February's challenge was complete!
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