We were driving home from having swam the English Channel freestyle in 13 hours 42 minutes. My coach, Tom Watch simply asked me if I wanted to do it again, maybe a two way next year. I knew immediatly, I could not face up to the additional training. I remembered one session where I had planned a short 4 hour swim. I arrived at Weymouth and entered the water, only to 'bump into'
Kevin Murphy (King of the Channel). He had already been in for hours, training for a two way. As I finished my session and said goodbye to Kevin, he still had hours to do. I just couldn't match up.
Tom suggested, why not backstroke.......it hasn't been done before.
It's odd really, but I knew immediatly, I wanted to have another go, and backstroke would excite me sufficiently to struggle through another year of training. Just one problem, I hadn't swum a single stroke for nearly twenty years, and even then it was my third stroke. When I swam a medley, the backstroke always let me down.
Returning home, I spent a few weeks relearning to swim backstroke. The one thing that made it easy was simply a matter that I had already spent a year swimming. I was fit, conditioned and ready for a new challenge. I had no need to build up swimming hours, learn patience, resolve to train. I already had these in sufficient quantities. All I had to do was become comfortable swimming backstroke.
It wasn't easy. Or should I say, it got difficult once I transfered from the pool to the open water in April. No matter how I swam, I could not get comfortable with the waves flooding my face. Every small drop finding its way up my nose or down my throat. I tried everything, nose clips just fell off within minutes. If attached more tightly, they hurt and still fell off. I tried packing my nose wiith silicon to assist the clip to stay put. It worked after a fashion. Until my body heat warmed up, the silicon softened and got swallowed up through my nose into my mouth, and needed spitting out.
Training through the months was particularly unpleasant, involving many bouts of vomiting, until I solved the issue a few weeks before the swim. I simply stuck standard plasters across my nose and sealed the gap of my nostrils together. In order to facilitate exhallations through my nose, I put a tiny spot of vaseline under my nose, where the plasters would not stick. I could now breath out through my nose and water could not enter. It made all the difference. Once fixed, the plasters would last the whole duration of my swims without needing to be reapplied.
I spent the summer swimming with Trish, a lady seeking to become the oldest female to swim the Channel. It was so exciting swimming for Tom, and both of us seeking world first or world oldest status. Straight forward swims would ever seem to match up again.
Trish had a slow freestyle, a little slower than my backstroke. It made for relaxed training sessions, as I maintained a pace equal to hers.