Wow, what a challenge.
From 9.30 am on Saturday 30th April when we started, until 9.30 Sunday 1st May when we finished was a 24 hour test of mental ability.
The weather was lovely and so the first 7-8 miles went relatively quickly as we were able to sit out in the sun relaxing between swims and constantly grazing on sausage rolls, coffee and pink wafers!As the sun started going down, it started getting hard. Mark had decided to call it a day after 10 hours so fortunately it meant he could be my helper.
The air temperature dropped and as a consequence it was very hard to get warm in between swims. We would all line up along the side of the pool, shivering, with 5 mins to go until our swim and then get the jackets,joggers etc off quickly when the call for 1 minute to go came. Getting out of the pool after the swim(which was actually the easy bit!) we had to get dressed, get wrapped up and try to continue eating and drinking. I was going very strong and leading the lane a lot of the time, we were doing each 1600m somewhere in between 24-25 minutes.
Mile 14 started testing me mentally. It was 10.30pm, cold, I had done 14 miles but had 10 more to go. I felt sick and was unable to eat which only made me feel more sick. I was miserable and had put on a speedsuit to try and keep me warm as I was shivering lots(partly due to the air temp and partly due to being drained, physically and mentally). I had been told by one of the girls in the communal(heated) marquee that all I had to do was get through 1am,2am and 3am and then it was nearly dawn. So I set this as my goal. Miles 14,15 and 16 were incredibly tough and I hated every one of them. I felt demotivated, cold and ill.
Soon I realised that it was nearly 3am and could see light at the end of the tunnel. I had started eating small amounts and was feeling a lot more positive about the whole thing. I had a power nap arranged for after my 4.30am swim, so from 5ish until 5.20am. When I curled up in the tent at 5am it was dark, when I was woken at 5.20 for my next swim the sky had lightened. This lifted the mood and from that moment on I knew I was going to get through it. The last 4 miles were excruciating, everyone was tired, it was a new day and we had all proven we had the mental ability to get through the night but yet we had to finish these last 4 hours.
I plodded through taking it length by length. The final mile saw our lane of 3(out of 7 starters)swim in convoy. We each took a turn to lead 400m and for the final length we swam 3 abreast up the lane all finishing at the same time. I don’t know whether it was sheer exhaustion or just the unspeakable respect we all held for each other but it was quite an emotional moment and I think we were all so relieved it was over!
The swim has left me with sore wrists and shoulders and I’m struggling with the sleep deprivation. The mixture of sun and chlorine has irritated my skin. I think this is the hardest thing I have ever done and other than giving me an excellent training weekend it has made me mentally tougher and ready for the next challenge.