June 27, 2005

Warm bile and floating chunks

The week of glorious sunshine we had abruptly turned bad on Friday as the sky opened up and a huge thunderstorm pounded down on us. Soaking wet, I stumbled to the bus stop and spent the journey down to Dover occasionally looking out the window and drumming my fingers worriedly about the weather conditions. Most of the time I was absorbed in The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco, a fantastic book. It not only depicts in great detail the lives of the clergy in the middle ages but also brings to life how they thought and felt. It's quite incredible.

Anyway, my fears came true as the weather was windy and overcast on Saturday morning. I walked onto the beach and the crowd on the beach was noticeably smaller than the previous weekend. At 9am, it was still cold and I felt nervous as I stripped down to my trunks. It was low tide, and so to start swimming we had to walk quite far out. I waded into the water, and after about 50m out the coarse sand underfoot turned into what felt like slick mud, squelching as I slowly made my way into deeper water.

Finally, about 100m from the shore, the water was around my waist. I pushed off the bottom and started swimming for the far pier. It wasn't as bad as I feared for the first two hours, although as usual my ribs ached and my legs cramped up slowly. As I approached the two hour mark, however, the wind picked up and began to whip up waves around us. The water, already murky and impenetrable, started crashing down on my head, forcing salt water into my lungs and up my nose.

About that time I recognised a friend as he was swimming by- the chap who started bleeding from his rash a few weeks ago- and so we decided to swim together for a while (misery loves company). Shortly after, we ran into a couple we both knew, and so the four of us stopped to exchange notes.

"How are you?"
"Not bad. What's new?"
"Nasty weather, isn't it?"
"Yes... doesn't look good."
(and so on).

It crossed my mind that we all sounded like typically English people having a chance meeting on Oxford St. and making the usual small talk about the weather. It may be the middle of Dover Harbour, but stiff upper lip!

Things, sadly, got steadily worse. At the three hour mark, I swam in for a drink and my hands were trembling so violently that I think I spilt more than I got down. Someone on the beach tossed me a small chocolate cupcake to swallow and I forced the little bite-sized piece down gratefully. Twenty minutes later, after all the excessive saltwater in my stomach, nausea finally overcame me and it all came up again. It was oddly comforting, because as I swam through the vomit it was warm. The chunks of cupcake brushing against my legs as I kicked didn't bother me in the least. I had reached the stage where I'd have swum through urine if it was warm. I really didn't care.

In a way, it was good to practice vomiting, because inevitably while I'm swimming the Channel I will need to vomit while on the move, and so I should get some practice in it while I can.

Just past the four hour mark, I swam in for a drink and while waiting for it, loudly and noisily threw up again. Fifteen minutes later, I was done. I stumbled up the shore, assisted by a friend, and collapsed in a heap by my bag.

Four hours, fifteen minutes. I need to be able to swim ten. I've got a long way to go yet. However, it's still a step forward, albeit a very small one.

Posted by pj at June 27, 2005 11:20 PM

wow, i'm kinda amazed. i just started learning swimming a month ago so you know, like the deep end of the pool is still kinda scary for me so all this sounds kinda crazy-amazing to me... so i'm curious... how does one vomit while on the move? it seems so odd to have to do that... but yup i really admire your determination, and good luck!!

Posted by: olivia at July 15, 2005 09:03 AM

great to recall epic events from last summer regards nick thomas

Posted by: nick thomas at December 28, 2005 10:42 PM
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