Sport relief swim, Mark ll…smashing targets, achieving challenges and a test of determination!

On Friday, 29th April, I headed to the pool to undertake my second “Sport relief challenge”.

I had, originally signed up for “swimathon”, with the aim of raising £100. I, quite quickly, doubled that. So I decided  to double my challenge. As you do!

Swimathon is an organised event, you turn up at a set pool, on a set day, at a set time. With “simply swim” you choose a date, from the middle of March to 30th April, a time that suits you and the most appropriate pool.

So, on the 29th April I went over to Blaydon Pool. As informed on my paper work, I went, literally cap in hand; carrying my swimming hat I informed the gentleman on reception of my intentions. His responce was “what’s that? Never heard of it”.

I changed and headed to the pool, I had a quick chat with the life guard on duty, fortunately he was a bit more clued up and knew what I was referring too. He advised, where in the pool would be the best place to swim as to avoid the “Aquafitters”. He then informed me, “it was a long way”, yes I knew and I felt slightly sick at the thought of swimming 100 lengths.

So off I went, breaking it down in to small chunks, 25 sets of 100 metres, only think about each 500 metre set, set little challenges, don’t think about the time. It was made even even more challenging, by the absence of being in a lane, I had to keep swerving to miss others and I had to contend with two children who kept leaping in the pool next to me, as I swam, which really tested my patience.

I started out with breaststroke, I’ll do 500m to warm up, now can I do 800m of breaststroke? yes I can. Can I manage 1000m? How about 1500m? At 1200m the pain started to kick in, can I work through the pain, distract myself? I focused on the sunlight, dappling through the water, the pounding music from the Aqua fit group. I made it to 1500m, can I do a mile of breaststroke? Yes, I made it, my first mile swimming a single stroke. One thousand, one hundred metres to go…

Time for some backstroke, rest the bits that ache, my swim watch got confused, I got confused. Three times it claimed I’d done two lengths, when I did only one (the time it claimed I’d swam the length in would of made me Olympic standard), another length, it clearly didn’t recognise me turn and push off the wall!

Nine hundred metres to go…feeling good, then I had a wobble. My energy levels dipped, I felt dizzy and struggled to focus. Thirty second rest, a drink, feeling better I’m off again. Determined. A couple of lengths front crawl, a bit more breaststroke. Feeling much better now, focused, the light outside is fading. Two thousand metres done.

Another couple of lengths backstroke, the flags strung across the ceiling a clear indicator of another length nearly finished. I’m happy with my swim, enjoying it. Two thousand one hundred, the ends in sight, I feel like there’s plenty in the tank, maybe I can get to 3km, my penultimate goal!

Two thousand, two hundred metres, I turn, another breaststroke length. Halfway up the pool, agony…cramp hits in the back of my right calf. I’m in trouble. I make my way to side of the pool, my right calf solid. I deal with it, I set off again, with a metre or two, the cramp hits again. I make it to the steps, frustration kicks in, my swim is over. I hit the pause button on my swim watch, but accidently save it. So near, yet so far. I’ll have to try again tomorrow.

The life gaurd comes over, she knows straight away what’s wrong, I express my frustration to her. “Rest” she says, “give it a few minutes, you can do it”. I believe her, I have to believe her. I stretch my leg out, I don’t want to get out the pool. The cramp eases, tentatively I set off again, no cramp. I’m off again.

Two hundred metres completed, my leg twinges a little, I keep going. One hundred metres to go. Time for front crawl 25, 50, 75, 100 metres….I’ve done it, I’ve swam 2500m, I’ve achieved my challenge. I smile and keep swimming.

I’ve never got much beyond 100 metres of front crawl, how far can I manage 100 metres, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400 metres. I’m delighted with this, I’ve over doubled my PB front crawl distance, so many challenges achieved in one swim. Now for the big one 3km, by this point I’m exhausted, in my fuddled brain is realise I need to swim only another 100 metres to achieve this challenge. I push off from the wall, water rising either side of me, I can do it and I know I can. I have confidence, I trust my abilities. I achieve it.

I decide to keep going, just enjoy swimming, I’ve achieved so much tonight, now I just “want to swim”, I manage another 225m, I decide it’s time to get out. I’ve swam a total of 3.3km tonight, I’m exhausted, I’m wobbly, I’m sore, but I’m happy, exuberant. There’s no fanfare, no sense of occasion, but I’ve done it……and I’m happy.

My aim was to swim 2.5km in under two hours, I came home and uploaded my swims onto my computer, I then calculated my time from my two swims…one hour, fifty minutes ad 28 seconds. I’m as delighted with my time, as I am my achievements.

Now I need some new challenges…


Today, my first day off prednisolone, my asthma is still a little grumpy and my peak flow “so-so”.

I have to get back in the pool soon, I need to, I am missing it. I need too be in the pool for my mental and physical well-being.

Plus there’s the slight issue of Sports Relief, Swimathon Mark II challenge! Yes, that’s right, I am planning on doing it all again, only this time 2.5km!

I had planned to complete this on the 21st April, the day we celebrate two very special girls, my nieces, birthday. I doubt that this will be possible now, as it’s a distance I am yet to successfully complete and I’ve been out the pool for three weeks. I did swim in the week, following swimathon challenge 1, but only short distances.

I am pretty fit now, thanks to swimming regularly, but it really is, going to be a massive challenge. Three weeks out of the pool, combined with a forced reduction in physical activity, means that fitness has been lost.

I need to come up with a training plan and stick to it, I also need to have a date set in mind, for the swim.

It’s not going to be easy, but I am determined  to do it, to find a way and then, proudly pass my medal on to, one of the most amazing ladies in my life nana.

Final training, swim

Tonight, I headed back to the pool. This time to Washington Pool, where I will undertaking,  my Swimathon.

I wanted to be confident, that I knew where to go, what the parking was like, what facilities were available what the pool was like.

It soon proved to be a good move, as it took me ages to locate it, round the back of Asda. Parking, I discovered, was horrendous, with little room to manouver round the car park, no disabled bays were available, filled with, as so often happens, several people not displaying blue badges. If you want my parking space, you can have my disability! It infuriates me!

Once I’d  parked  up, I spent a few minutes outside,  just thinking and centemplating. It’s over-whelming, to think that in a couple of days time, I’ll be back here for swimathon. Where has the last 10 weeks gone?

I headed indoors and first, had a perusal at the range of swimming goodies on sale, but didn’t purchase anything. I then wandered up to the reception desk, offering my “Sunderland Council Active Card”

I was informed, the card was no longer valid, as the pool is now ran by “Everyone Active”, would I like a replacement, without thinking, I replied “yes”. I nearly had heart failure when I was charged over £17, for a card and a swim. Talk about taking your eyes out and coming back for the sockets! My Sunderland Active Card was only 10 months old!

I really don’t mind paying £16.00 for a lesson, because it’s worth every penny, but I thought that, that was a tad excessive. It’s all relative, I guess.

The “changing village” proved to be, an experience in itself. The cubicles, each, have two doors, come out the wrong one and your faced with a metal fence, it was a bit of a nightmare, to negotiate, to be honest. However, the changing rooms had one advantage; a shelf. A shelf for bunging all your essentials on, as you get ready, no scrabbling around, trying to locate everything you need, in limited space, dropping stuff on the floor, into puddles, as you go


Eventually, once changed, I located a locker, stowed my gear in it and headed to the pool.

On entering the pool, two things caught my eye. The pool was rammed and secondly, the two amazing and fun looking slides. Can adults have a go, I thought? On Friday, I may bomb down them both, in celebration of completing my swim. They looked ace!

I leapt into the pool, to a bit of a suprise, the deep end, is at the opposite end to what I’m used to.

Thankfully, there was a lane avaliable and I bagged it, it was good to see people observing lane etiquette and not using the lane for their personal space, for a natter with their mates, as happened a few weeks ago.

As soon as I started to swim, I was able to recognise that tonight’s swim, felt much better than what it had the previous night, maybe because I felt better, more confident and assured.  A few lengths to warm up and then I then I set off, on a longer swim. I set myself the target of swimming for forty-five minutes continuous.

It was, at times, hard going. I am learning now, if breathless becomes an issue, to always switch to a “slow breast stroke” that way I can focus on  getting my breathing, back under control. At the same time, I’m thinking, in my head, relax, relax, relax! as advised by J. I am beginning to recognise,  that trying to speed up, to reach the end of the lane, when I am feeling puffed, actually makes it worse. It’s a continual learning process and not one that’s easy. It’s about being aware of me, my body, my stroke, everything.

The time, crept round, I kept going, up and down the pool.  At the same time, identifying the landmarks, telling me where I am in the pool, how far up the lane I am. Washington pool, I found is great for this, it has a number of posters along the side if the pool advising parents and participants of different ASA levels, where to meet. I just need to remember, which way round they go, That’s not to say, I don’t know how to count!

As I swam, I felt myself, fall back into my regular rythym and pattern, it started to feel really comfortable again. The time slipped by, suddenly fourty  minutes had elapsed.  I determined to swim another six lengths. And then I stopped.

Fifty two minutes had elapsed, since I had started, I had swam 1250m. I was happy with that, pleasantly suprised in fact, yet disappointed at the same time. I had another 10 lengths to complete, to reach 1500m,  meaning that I would not of completed my challenge sub-one hour, my goal.

However, there is little point, in me being unhappy, with where I am. It’s not a race, it’s a challenge, 10 months ago I could barely swim, three months ago I could manage 800m,  I’ve come a long way. I need to be proud, happy, not disappointed. Last week, I was unwell, too unwell to swim, this week I’m better, but asthma is still not great.

I finished with a cool down, of a few more lengths, meaning that I totalled 1650 metres. I decided, that this was it, enough was enough, it’s time to call it a day on my training.

I’ve trained for 10 weeks, I’ve worked with my tutors, I’m continuing to make progress. My technique, is better every week. This week, I’ve swam three days, another day will make no real difference, I know I can do it, rest would be better.

So, my decision was made, rest on Thursday, there’s no point taking a tired, aching body into the pool, on Friday. A rested one, will be far more productive, so my aim for Thursday: eat well, drink plenty, rest lots.