Last year I blogged about my first ever proper sporting event, the 2017 Swim For Logan in aid of Cystic Fibrosis Trust. It’s a lovely one-mile fun-swim for a great cause and people really enjoy it. However, when I did it, I was in the middle of a series of operations and I found it startlingly painful. Afterwards, a friend asked if we could do it again next year and although I’d spent most of the swim in a state of near panic, she’s my mate so I said yes.
I managed to block it out of my mind for a whole year, until yesterday, when the same friend texted to ask if I was doing it – holy crap – TOMORROW.
Now, I really value friends who show up no matter what. Doesn’t matter if they’re clever or sporty, in a fancy outfit or jeans, or if they own a Jaguar or a crappy old bike: if they turn up, they’re REAL. Any asshole can mwah-mwah kiss the air beside your head and call you “lovely” but not everyone’s prepared to get sweaty. So here’s my sporty mate, asking if I’m going to show up. Of course I am.
Please don’t let it be as painful as last year. Oh God, it’s going to be, I can feel it…
First up, I have a cold. I’m a total snot monster. Clearly I’ll die.
Secondly, I’ve been using my 15y/o cheapo wetsuit as a handbag and it’s knackered. (Yes, really. I take a camera with me and when I’m done taking photos, I shove the camera down the front. The neck of my wetsuit now yawns like a basking shark’s mouth. This is NO GOOD for any kind of fast swimming. Or keeping warm. Or anything.)
So I go to the shop to buy a new wetsuit and because I’m stupid, I let the shop guy convince me that I’m a size 8. E-i-g-h-t. Well, that’s what I did.
I now own a wetsuit that’s so tight, it pushes all my body fat up into my face.
Sunday morning arrives. I text my friend to say I’ll be there at 9am and she’s happy so I get happy and yey, we’re off (yes, still panicking).
I turn up at 9. Rather than get changed on the seafront, I’ve pre-squished myself into the wetsuit because I have to wrestle handfuls of fat into the right bits of suit and no one wants to see that. A couple of friends are milling about on the slip and the air temp is already 18 degrees. My body is cooking. I wonder which bits of my skin the never-used-before wetsuit (oh God, this is SUCH a bad idea) might chafe and a friend rubs some sort of waxy lubricant on the back of my neck. (Friendship gold.)
By 9:15am I’m a boil-in-the-bag human. I decide to dunk myself in the sea to cool off and test the suit. I hobble down the slip and hop in and there is something VERY WRONG WITH THE SEA. Seriously, it stinks. Whaaaaat? So it’s just a raft of slightly rotten seaweed and the world isn’t broken but, ew… I hop out, and now I’m the woman who smells weird.
Loads of people show up to swim (57 – whoo!) or watch (hundreds). There are bacon butties and cakes for spectators (and swimmers after). It’s sunny and the bay looks GORGEOUS. Everyone’s excited or nervous or both. The sea is flat calm and shiny and could not be more beautiful. The gear pole looks close (liar). We all put on our numbered yellow swim hats and the honky thing honks and Logan counts down from ten and we’re IN.
We all swim like nutters for the first hundred yards. By 200 yards, I’m gasping and this is when I realise that my suit is too tight for big breaths, which is FINE. PEACHY. Who needs air? I yank at the neck seal and the water floods in, cooling me and loosening the suit. Now I’m a water balloon but I can breathe.
We keep swimming (go, Dory!), and this year, I’m not left behind. Yey! It’s a faster swim for everyone as there aren’t any waves, and my freestyle is still rubbish, but I’m with the group and it’s all good. We swim to the gear pole and back, and although my natural slowness is shining through, I don’t die. My stomach doesn’t hurt. My suit doesn’t chafe. It IS tiring and even though I switch to breaststroke, by the last 300 yards, I’m proper floppy. I remind myself, ‘If anyone asks you to do it again next year, just say “maybe“.’
I land in a heap on the slip, coughing and wheezing but 6 1/2 minutes faster than last year (36:21 vs. 42:51) and mostly alive this time. My friends peel me out of my suit while others take photos. I no longer care what I look like: I’m free of the terror of today because we have done it. DONE. IT.
A new friend arrives, spectating and wondering if she could do it. ‘You should come with us next year!’ I say.
Yup. That’s what I said.
And she said yes.