Ever fancied spending most of your Easter bank holiday swimming at Guildford Lido? Then this is the event for you!
The challenge: swim 1 mile, on the hour, EVERY hour for 24 hours. Simple.
The sun dance worked and the weather was on our side- a forecast of beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures during the day (although the clear skies meant for a chilly night). I was really looking forward to catching up with some friends, some who were supporting and some who were swimming solos and relays.
We put our tents up on Friday afternoon and it was fantastic to pitch with the rest of the Tri Surrey team, Stacey, Martin, Pete and Jem as well friends Kosh and Neal and our friend Tasha.
7am Saturday morning and I left to drive to Guildford via Starbucks, arriving far too early but with plenty of chatting time. The klaxon sounded at 8.55 and we walked to Lane 1, meeting our lane buddies for the next 24 hours.
The lane consisted of myself, Stacey Angliss from Tri Surrey, Tasha Morey, Hayley(whom I had swum 100x100m with last December) Andy, Niall and Chris. The 7 of us started out strong and stayed in a train for the first mile. As the day and night progressed, we differed in pace but everyone made sure that someone else had a pair of feet to swim on!
The day was stunning, the sun was strong and the miles ticked by nicely. Mark came down with the boys and they played with Tasha’s daughter. It was good to see them knowing I was in for a long night!
My routine remained the same. Swim, get out and dry off with a towel/change costume, put on towel/dry robe, make a drink and grab a snack from the tent, sit on camping chair on poolside and post photos of chosen snack on Strava, reapply suncream, get ready to go back in the pool.
This routine worked well and I felt great. My pace was dropping off from 25 min miles to 26 minutes and I was losing the feet of the people in front. At first this bothered me, that I was the weakest link and couldn’t help the others, but I soon realised that we were in it as a team and even though I was regularly finishing behind the lane, everyone stayed standing at the end to welcome me in at the end of the mile.
Just before the 8 pm(12 mile) swim I had a bit of a low. Maybe it was the sun going down; maybe Mark turning up and a rush of emotion; maybe the white chocolate milkshake….whatever it was I suddenly felt very sick. I let a little bit of panic rise up and felt my emotions take over.
I got in the water and just concentrated on not being sick in the pool and eventually the feeling went away. It however took another 2 hours of just having water and green tea to stop feeling bad.
It was a relief to put my wetsuit on after 12 miles…I was starting to get cold as the sun had gone down and it made a difference to have a safety blanket!
The whole lane were motoring along beautifully…I was struggling to keep hold of feet and so found myself on my own for a fair bit. This did mean that I added even more time onto my mile without the effects of drafting but I was happy enough and didn’t swim slower than 27 minutes for a mile. Niall was an amazing person…he was quicker than the rest of the lane and so lapped me around the 800m-1000m mark. He would overtake me then slow right down so I could sit on his feet. He would stay there for the remainder of his mile, just dragging me round. It almost brought a tear to my eye at how someone could be that selfless and I hope that I can help someone out in the same way someday! Niall would also be the last person from our lane to leave the pool, waiting for us all to finish and then for us all to get out- true sportsmanship.
I decided to go and try to sleep in my tent after mile 15 so at 11.35 I crawled in and lay down. I slept almost instantly and was dribbling when Mark shouted 7 minutes to go until the next swim! Having the sleep had felt good so I decided to do it again after the next mile. I stuffed a bit of food down my neck and slept again at 00.35 until 00.53!
Miles 17-20 were tough but I treated myself to the heated marquee. It sounds like a fantastic idea but being warm and snuggly makes getting into the water so hard!Plus, sitting on a plastic garden chair at 2am when you just want to sleep is like torture!
Tasha was doing amazing. I only found out after the event that she wasn’t intending on doing it until I had text earlier in the week when I saw her name on an email. Then she was only going to do 12 hours. She completed all 24 hours with no wetsuit and completely looked after me in and out of the water, especially in the last 3 miles. Champion.
I kept eating little bits after each swim and the night was a bit of a blur. I decided to lay down in my tent again at 4.35am. The sky was still black but as I lay down I heard the most glorious sounds; birds singing… dawn was coming!
As I crawled into my tent again at 5.35am the sky was getting light- it was an amazing feeling but I was still so exhausted…only 3 more swims to go.
I looked at the hot tub longingly as we lined up for mile 22. Stacey told me she was going to sit in it after mile 23. I thought this was an amazing plan and vowed to meet her there!
Mile 23 and 24 were just about getting the job done. Tasha was suffering with cramp as she pushed off the wall and said she was staying with me. We took turns to lead 200m each then rotate round. It was the most lovely feeling to know that we were in this together and, although I knew that my swimming speed was much slower than hers, she was unequivocally going to be with me until our last stroke.
The last length of mile 24 was wonderful. Tasha and I were trailing nearly 100m behind the others and swam side by side down the final length. I could hear people clapping and cheering, their support flooding the poolside. As we reached the end of the length, the rest of our team were waiting. handshakes and high fives at the ready. Someone suggested a group hug and we all bundled in. I’m not usually one for a group hug but there was something very special about looking everyone in the eye with the full appreciation of what we had all gone through. The highs and lows, be it at different times, were all very real and we all knew what it had taken to get us through the last day and night.
The benefit of being the faster swimmers meant we got first dibs on the hot tub and piled in! It was just so glorious knowing we didn’t have to swim again.
Soon it was back to real life and everyone was taking down tents, getting dressed and saying goodbyes. Mark and I had separate cars and managed to drive to Mark’s parents for an Easter egg hunt with the boys before I passed out for a few hours. The sleep deprivation is tough and on Monday evening I’m still catching up. The shoulders are sore but relatively ok. My face is peeling- senstive skin and 24 hours of chlorine, sun and suntan lotion doesn’t do it much good!
This is an amazing event for anyone wanting to test their endurance, mental ability and fitness. Its manageable if you can stay warm and stay focused- the beauty of 24 miles is that there is a mini finish line at the end of each swim- you can use the breaks in between to laugh, chat, cry, question your sanity verbally to others… there’s not many events where you can do this sitting in camping chair in the sun with a fresh coffee 🙂
My main advice:
- Be organised with your kit- put your hat and goggles in the same place. Hang up wet gear and have your warm stuff ready to go.
- Be prepared to be flexible. Change your food, clothing, pace- it doesn’t matter as long as you keep swimming.
- You will feel sh!t at some point. It’s normal. As Mark told me “embrace the misery” (I told him to F*** off with his advice at the time but he did have a point)
- Smile. It’s just swimming 🙂
Some people I would like to mention:
Mark- He said when I had finished that I could have done it without him but I honestly wouldn’t have wanted to- even just having him sitting beside me was a comfort and none of this would be possible without him.
Stacey, Martin, Neal, Kosh: seeing your resilience after each mile was inspiring.
Stacey, when you looked at me wide-eyed at some point in the middle of the night I thought you were going to cry and tell me how much your shoulder hurt. Instead you looked like you were going to cry and questioned how on earth you were going to get a brush through your matted hair!! It made me laugh so much!
Martin- as much as we very rarely take you seriously, you battled some serious demons and the smile on your face after you put your wetsuit on was the biggest relief!
Neal and Kosh- kudos for going non-wetsuit, Kosh for continuing with innuendos and Neal for throwing up at the end- you left it all in the pool…and the bin.
All the other soloists including Sheridan, Kate, Jason and probably others I have forgotten. I am so thankful for your friendly faces and chat- you continue to inspire me in what I do.
Well done and thank you to everyone-relays,solos, support crew