Swim the Big Blue – Four Shark Encounters in one week. Life gets exciting!
Of these two months June and July, I have spent all except for 16 days in the UK, training in Key West, Florida. In June, I was not fuelling enough during swims in terms of hydration and after 8 days of good training, I succumbed to heat stroke for 72 hours. Perhaps it was swimming during the midday sun, where temperatures were already 88-90F with water temps almost matching in pool, sea only one degree or so cooler. More likely, it was a combination of the heat and lack of hydrating properly. Lesson learnt, June training returned to normal and was simply a case of hot and increasing paces, with volume creeping up, whilst drinking over 8-10 litres per day of water, milk, MyH2Pro hydration supplements and other amino supports, as well as increasing my protein intake to over 145g per day (chicken, supplement, oats, milk, nuts).
However, to say I was not happy at the end of the June trip was an understatement. I had spent three weeks here preparing, fighting the heat, to swim around the island as part of the FKCC Round Island swim and was on course for 5 hours approx. time depending on current. But of course, the US Coastguard would not sanction the 20KM swim around Key West due to lightning storms and choppy seas which could up end kayakers – I felt so bad for FKCC’s Lori Bosco, an awesome coach and person, who had no doubt put huge efforts into this, only to be beaten by mother nature. With mind-set shifted, lightning on-going, the very next day, I had no choice but to fly straight home to the UK and into our STBB Schools week in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire UK. The schools week was amazing! Our next schools week is scheduled for mid-September 2015.
Of course, the temperature in Key West during those few weeks of being in the UK between end of June and July 4th, had now increased to 90F average and water temperatures of 88-90F; Humidity varying between 75 and 90% with huge thunder and lightning storms. This was tough and training continues to be hard, with the sun bringing such a unique dimension to my training which is required for where we are going. This brings with it chaffing, burning skin and dry skin, needless to say not fun when is salt water BUT I am combatting this with moisturiser, baby creams and mouthwash during sea swims.
Then of course, there is marine life. Lest we forget our beautiful oceans are teeming with life. In one week alone, I had four shark encounters off of Smathers Beach and out towards Sigsbee, in Key West. I am not sure who was more afraid, but needless to say I kept swimming, and the black tips and whatever the other big arse shark was, buggered off and left me to my swim set – thank you guys, thank you Poseidon! It was a close one last Friday however, close to calling it, and getting out of the sea. I saw at least two-sharks, shadowy and long lurking in amongst the reef in low-visibility either side of me, in seas that were wind chopped up to 5ft at some points. I chose to carry on but I can tell you, I have much respect for our bitey friends as they clearly are free, large, and a beauty to perceive as much as they instill a bit of fear. That said, I am in their home, and we must respect our oceans and their occupants. Amazing, a real sight to behold but none the less, a little close for comfort when you are 800m from shore, water is deep and visibility low and your fellow swimmers are up to half a mile apart from each other.
I got stung by jelly fish several times since I have been out here; moon jellies, sea lice, Medusa’s but still I carried on – The Atlantic can only be worse. Despite the fluctuating conditions, I continue to complete double-sessions and single long sessions of 14km – 20Km. Training is on track, if only that was all I had to worry about. This expedition organising thing is difficult, and not at all easy to bring on-board sponsors, whilst training and doing PR.
The highs and lows of this period have been many. Some are of being challenged physically, combatting mental fatigue and resilience to sponsor rejection when there appears to be so much support for this epic swim in both the USA and UK. Others include missing my daughter in the UK and dealing with personal life changes, reflecting on errors and regrets of the past – swimming gives you so much thinking time, I guess this is where my sports science support and Richard Collins Sports Psych strategy comes in. All of this, as he would say, has to feed in to my psyche to build my resilience for The Atlantic swim ahead, and only confirms what I have known all along; that I can achieve this and I will get to Brazil for The Olympics. We can do this and inspire the world!
Are you looking for perfect clothing for your training? Take a look here!