By Sophie Etheridge, the Founder of Adaptive and Disabled Open Water Swimmers (ADOWS), and with STA’s support aims to become the first person with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome to swim the English Channel solo this year. In this month’s blog, Sophie provides an update on her personal progress in June, which focussed on distance training.
Going the Distance
If I thought May was busy, June was even worse, or better depending on how you look at it!
June has been all about distance, time, and consistency, and over the month I swam an incredible 80km. The month started with a few days off because it was my birthday, but I was back on it with a long consistent pyramid set at Peterborough Lido the next day.
I swam 8700m in 3 hours 40min. I struggled a bit towards the end of the session with the 100m sprints, but I managed to stay under 2 minutes 10 seconds for every single one of them – all 30 of them! Even 2 months ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that! Other than that long swim the rest of the week was pretty quiet as I was saving myself for something exciting – my first swim camp!
When I started training for the channel, I knew I needed to get as much sea time as possible and the best way to do it was to actually do an intense few days somewhere – it just wasn’t worthwhile travelling to the coast for one swim. I decided to sign up for the Bristol Channel Tusker Swim camp, it was the first one that they had held, and it sounded like it was going to be fairly small and flexible in comparison to some other camps I have seen advertised. I had a chat with Tom Chapman, the coach running the camp and he said that he would be happy to have me there and even agreed to pick me up and drop me off at the train station so I could attend! You can read all about the camp over 3 blogs on my website (www.sophie-adaptive-athlete.com/blog-feed) but to sum it up, over the 5 days I swam around 23,000m. It included an incredibly tough 6-hour swim and swimming for over 2 hours in the roughest sea I’ve ever been in!
After Wales I thought, it was going to take me a week to recover but the day after I travelled back, I had an easy personal training session, Wednesday I did a nice evening river swim with a few friends, Thursday I was in the pool working on technique and Friday I was in the lake – so much for resting! I felt incredible and on Saturday I managed to buddy up with a paddle boarder who kept me safe for almost 3 hours in the river. It was a great swim as my pacing was spot on and the water just made me feel at home; I was in my happy place. The only downside to doing a long river swim on a sunny Saturday is there were quite a few boats about and most of them were speeding past us. In the end, I did a great 7km where I managed to swim at a consistent pace, and I finished the swim with a hard push to try and get used to the feeling that even when I am tired, I can still push that little bit further than I first thought.
The following day I went to the Lido with a friend and her daughter and swam a total of 300m… a bit of a difference but it was great fun, after all, there is no point in swimming if you don’t enjoy it!
My plan for the 3rd week of June was all about distance, nothing about speed or technique, just long swims. I had a strength and conditioning session on Monday, Tuesday was a 2.5km swim and Wednesday was the big swim day. I recently got my long river swim buddy back and it’s amazing, I also invited another swimmer who wants to do longer open water distances. We did a swim that I haven’t done this year yet and the reason for doing 10km was so that I could try out and practice feeding whilst swimming.
My 2 pals and I got in and started by swimming downstream and unfortunately, they had just cut the grass, resulting in there being stinging nettles floating on the surface of the river and I got stung by them on my hand. It actually really hurt but I think the issue was the shock of being stung whilst swimming rather than the actual sting itself. For some reason, in my head, stinging nettles wouldn’t sting when you’re in the water…. anyway, the swim continued and we had several boats pass us but other than the people on those boats we saw no one at all, it was so peaceful, the river gently flowing with little current and the sun shining through the trees, there was so much life living in harmony, it was beautiful. When we reached St. Ives lock after an hour and 20 minutes, I decided to have a feed and that helped me decide I will have my first feed on my channel swim after 1 hour and 20 minutes because it worked, and I felt fully fuelled all the way through. We headed back upstream and once at the entry/exit spot we got out and walked over the lock. We got back in and swam upstream for 3km before enjoying a slight swoosh downstream on the way back. A decent, solid 10km, and for the first time I felt I had got my feeding spot on.
That evening I decided that despite being tired I would join the Bluetits for a Summer Solstice swim and see the sunset over the river; it was only a short social swim but I loved it all the same.
The following day I felt a little unwell and put it down to being tired but by the evening I was being sick; it’s not often that I am ill in a ‘normal’ way but I have since heard that someone else had been in that section of the river and then had a few days where they were vomiting so I am putting it down to pollution and count myself lucky it wasn’t worse! However, it did mean no training and no swimming for 5 days, which is the longest I’ve gone without a swim since the start of the year!
I was determined that despite being ill for a few days, I would finish the month off strongly and thanks to swim buddies being up for long swims on short notice I could! I was back in the river on the 28th June and swam a section that I have not swum this year. It’s a strange swim because the train bridge goes over the river so it can be totally silent and suddenly you have the loud banging of a train going overhead – it’s a little disconcerting. Despite that, it was a good swim and we even bumped into some friends from Huntingdon BRJ Run and Tri Club who were swimming the same route but in the opposite direction!
Finally, I finished off the month with a swim supporting a friend that is currently training for The Thames Marathon Swim in August. She has struggled to get any long training swims done and needs some work and advice on her technique, so the swim gave me a chance to see her swim and offer some advice on technique to give her the best chance possible to complete her swim.
I didn’t want to do too much in the final week as I was off travelling for training again in the first week of July. Train tickets were booked, my suitcase was packed and I was ready for a long journey and a week of sea swimming!
My Monthly Stats:
- Distance – Approx 80km
- Time in the water – Approx 34 hours