Well a weekend somewhat reminiscent of my first trip to Dover at the start of May. Saturday started with the Champion of champions race in Dover Harbour - a 5mile race at 9.15am, followed by a 3mile race at 1.30pm, followed by a 1 mile race at 4.30pm. Before I start bragging I suppose I better fess up, yes, I was beaten by a girl. My total aggragate times of 3hrs 39min left me first male and 2nd overall, 1 and a half minutes behind last years' winner Caroline Ball. Although I am chuffed at winning another oversized trophy I suffered in the 3 mile race after over cooking it somewhat in the 5 mile. I finished 1st in the 5 mile by a couple of minutes and had pushed hard at the end to try and maximise my over-all lead and about half way through the 3 mile race my muscles were so lactated up that I had a struggle to even finish feeling physically exhausted and cold. The last 1 mile race was a comfortable "sprint" and although I made up some more time on Caroline I had lost too much in the 3 mile finishing behind some of the youngsters who hadn't already done the previous races (having chosen only to compete in the shorter events). I learnt some useful lessons though. Firstly - the cold water is not very forgiving if you fatigue yourself by sprinting when you need to be conserving. Secondly although they describe it as a 1 mile circuit, they also described it like that last year when the same swimmers where swimming 6-10minutes quicker per lap, so either it was very short last year or somewhat long this year. Personally it felt like a long mile to me (especially the 7th and 8th miles).
I stayed in Dover Saturday night in preparation for a long training swim on Sunday morning. I had hoped to do 4 hours in the water but after only two I was really suffering in the cold. I didn't feel significantly fatigued but I couldn't warm up and as I stopped for a 2hour feed it took all of my willpower to push off again and after just under 3hours I got out. I guess the 9mile race had probably taken more out of me than I cared to admit, I certainly hadn't felt the cold after the 5mile race the day before which I had swum in just under 2hrs, but I was dissapointed not to have been able to keep going. So much of the long cold swimming is about mental fortitude and knowing you can keep swimming when your body doesn't want to. I still have much to work on. I think my fitness is very good but as they say it's 20% physical and 80% mental. The water temperature now is about 14.5 degrees but will be 3 or 4 degrees warmer when I make my attempt in September. My goal now has to be to do more and more long cold swims and build up my tolerance and mental strength in the cold water. A few more kilos of fat wouldn't hurt either.