We'll try!!

We’ll try!!

Swimming a mile, on the hour, every hour for twenty for hours. That sounds interesting. Cate and I had chatted about entering the 2Swim4life event a couple of times but the event filled quickly and we missed out. All was not lost; there was a cancellation so we managed to sneak in the back way. The membership of the team was rather fluid, some were dithering, some had other commitments, some had a life crisis to deal with. A one point Cate and I were contemplating doing it as a pair. A few days before we were a trio and finally we had four team members. We all met for the first time at pool side as we set up the base camp and prepared to start the challenge.

This untidy mess is out base camp for the next day

This untidy mess is our base camp for the next 24 hours

This event is not a race. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go, the achievement is completing. You either do or don’t there is no concept of how well, this appeals to me. There were all type of swimmers there, all shapes and sizes. Throw a stick into the crowd and you’ll hit at least half a dozen channel swimmers and possibly a fair few “names” in the long distance swimming world. We were under no illusion quite how hard this was going to be.

Cate does planning

Cate does planning

Whilst the tents were erected Cate worked out the schedule. We had a few issues: Amy had to leave at five in the afternoon due to another commitment; Cate had to be boarding an aircraft at six in the morning. Linda and I would be the only ones left by the end of the 24 hours. It worked out that Cate, Lynda and I would be swimming seven miles each, with Cate taking the night shift of four miles. Amy would do the other three miles. It was a plan. The time had come to execute.

The team

The team

The pool looked so calm and peaceful until the first wave of swimmers hit the water, then all hell broke loose with the initial surge of lambs to the slaughter. The morning passed in sunshine and the rhythm was established. Someone would yell “5 minutes” one of us would amble up to our lane. At the allotted time they would start their swim. Half an hour later the next wave would enter the pool making the lanes a little congested and soon after our swimmer would get out. Along the way we would nibble on our supply of unhealthy food and watch the world go by.

There's a storm coming

There’s a storm coming

In the first four hours we all swam one mile but after that we decided we should double up as this gave everyone else a longer rest. Rest was good, we all knew that. Cate took the first double so that she could try and get some sleep before her night of exertion. We were no sure quite how she was going to sleep though the pumping music that was being blasted over the Lido. Amy was next; we wanted to make the most of her contribution as without her help we all would have had to go an extra mile. No one really wanted to do that. She came out the pool with a big smile and was offered a hot chocolate by a swimmers husband. In her words, the hot chocolate was “a magical experience”. It had been lovingly hand made with bars of Cadbury’s dairy milk, served in a plastic mug and topped with cream. It was the nectar of the hot chocolate world and just the thing to revive a flagging swimmer.

The Chocolate Man

The Chocolate Man

The swimming wasn’t the hard bit. It was the constant in and out of the pool that really took its toll. Doubling up gave us a small taste of what it would be like to do the event solo. The key problem was staying warm in between swims. As darkness came and with it the rain this became the major concern. Nearly everyone wrapped themselves in the ubiquitous Dry Robe. Failing that it was lots of warm layers and waterproofs. Woolly hats were the order of the night. There was a hot tub, which was lovely, right up to the point of getting out, when the night air would seem to be a few degrees colder and so much more piercing. It was almost a relief to get back in the pool and start swimming. The water always felt a bit chilly to start with but after the first few lengths my body would warm to the task. Very soon I’d settle into the stroke and make my way up and down the pool. The flow was only broken when I had to pass someone. Sometimes I was lucky and they would let me pass at the end of the length, other times I would meet someone less than halfway. Sometimes it was really hard to slow to their pace without sinking. Then it was a case of trying to get past as quickly as possible, looking out for people coming in the other direction. Most of the time this was accomplished with the minimum of effort but sometimes it went horribly wrong, leaving me with a guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Counting to 32 was impossible. I usually lost count on the third or fourth lap. It probably didn’t help that I normally count in meters rather than lengths. I’ve no idea where I’ve picked this habit up from. At the beginning of the day overtaking was guaranteed to make me lose count. By the end of the 24 hours losing count came naturally. Mostly I lost a lap so the 500 meter beep from my watch came as a surprise but sometimes the distance between beeps seems far too long. Mostly I forgot about counting and just swam for three beeps and 100 meters.

Hurry Jill 26 sharks are chasing you

Hurry Jill 26 sharks are chasing you

Night time is always a different world and strange beasts abound. I found them in the urinal. As I stood there I noticed a whole host of slugs climbing the walls and going about their sluggy business. It almost put me off the purpose of my visit.

Night Swimming

Night Swimming

Slipping into the water was always a time to evaluate the speed of other swimmers, there was no point setting off behind someone slower or holding up some one faster. Body shape was no guide, someone with the classic triangle could be painfully slow where as someone of a fuller figure could move with the speed and grace of a dolphin. The easiest way was to ask; but that was no fun. Deborah asked, it turned out we were both aiming for around 30 minutes, so we set off together. At every turn she was just behind, following effortlessly in my wake. She had a lovely free ride for that mile. It turned out that we would be in the water together again; she suggested that she returned the favour by towing me round the next mile. I had no objections.

Anyone can see a sunset but you have to earn a dawn. Sunsets are the grand last gesture of the day whereas dawn is a much more subtle affair. It creeps out from the shadows slowly bringing the new day. The sky lightens, a few birds stir, the sun emerges from behind the horizon, the birds get vocal and the air warms. The deathly chill of night gets replaced by the comfort daylight. We swam into the dawn after a night of cold and exertion and it was the most glorious feeling. The night was over and we were on the last stretch. Finishing the challenge was now a very real prospect.


It was so good to swim the last mile. There was no need to rush; no one else would be getting in the pool; just a leisurely swim up and down for the last few times. The end of the last length was heralded with a round of applause. We had done it, between the four of us we had swum a mile, every hour for twenty four hours.

They think it's all over...

They think it’s all over…


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