In just four weeks I’ll be swimming the Solent. As with many challenges, it seemed so far away when I signed up, but the date quickly approaches!
A few people have asked me what and where exactly the Solent is (someone even thought it was in Bristol). The Solent is the strait which separates mainland England from the Isle of Wight. It’s a major shipping lane and is also used for yachting and recreational water sports. The width varies from 2.5 to 5 miles (4-8km). I’ll be swimming at the narrowest point- from Gosport to Ryde.
I’m feeling reasonably confident about my swim. I’ve completed several longer swims in open water, as well as shorter pool-based sessions. Here’s how my training has been going…
Great London Swim
I find it helpful to take part in a race as training towards a larger event. The Great London Swim had a range of distances so I opted for the 2 miles (3.2km) to build up towards the Solent. I’ve swam and paddle-boarded at the Royal Victoria Dock before so I’m familiar with the water there. It’s very deep and tastes slightly of diesel and salt.
Glen was taking part in the 5km, so we got down to the dock early for his wave. The atmosphere at the Great London Swim was much quieter than I was expecting. I imagined the it would be on par with the Great Runs, but it was quite subdued. I think the 1 mile swim was the more popular distance.
The course is two large laps of the dock marked out with buoys. I was alone for much of it as the pack quickly spread out. There wasn’t the frenzied rush you get at the start of a triathlon.
Swimming events are always a little strange. At a running or cycling event, you might chat to other participants, hear the noise of the spectators, maybe listen to music and see different sights along the way. When you are swimming, there is sensory deprivation in that the only sounds you hear is the water rushing past and your own breathing. You catch a glimpse of your surroundings as you turn to breathe, but for the most part you are in your own head completely. It’s about getting into a rhythm and just relaxing.
I finished in 1:05:23 which I was very pleased with. It was a confidence boost to complete a longer continuous swim in open water.
Aspire Training Day in Dover
The charity who I am swimming with hosted a training day in Dover in mid-July. It was a great chance to get in another long swim as well as have my questions answered and fears put to rest. Dover Harbour is where swimmers training for the English Channel tend to congregate on weekends, but due to construction works most of them had moved their training to Hythe.
We were encouraged to swim for up to 2 hours, as this is the maximum amount of time it should take to cross the Solent. I decided to aim for 90 minutes and see how much distance I covered in that time.
I had only been in the water for about 10 minutes when I felt a prickling sensation on my face. It was similar to the feeling of a stinging nettle. I realised I’d been stung by a jellyfish, although I couldn’t see anything in the water. I carried on with my swim hoping that I didn’t come across anymore jellyfish. There was no swelling or marks on my face when I finished, so it must have been a very mild sting. Luckily, it’s just a myth that urine soothes jellyfish stings!
I took it easy and swam slowly up and down the harbour, this was more about time in the water rather than racing. There were areas were we had been told to avoid as they have sharp rocks, so I was conscious of giving them a wide berth. The water was calm and flat- hopefully I get the same conditions at my Solent Swim.
In the 90 minutes, I covered 4km and felt as if I could have easily continued. We were handed jelly-babies as we got out of the sea, the sweet taste was amazing after being in salty water for so long.
Aspire talked us through the logistics of the swim. There will be 12 of us swimming, each with our own kayaker who will hold our drinks and any food. The RIB boats and kayakers will guide and protect us from any larger vessels in the sea, so the swimmers will be totally safe. Glen will be spectating from a motor launch boat, so hopefully he can get some videos and photos. The swim will only go ahead if the winds are below gale force 3, so I’ll be obsessively checking the weather in the days leading up to 2nd September!
I’ve also been swimming in local lakes every weekend, building up the distance. I hope to get in a few more 4km+ swims before the Solent.
My biggest challenge was meeting my fundraising target, but I’m delighted to have exceeded it already. The donations I’ve received total over £1000 and all go to support people paralysed by spinal injury. Thank you to everyone who has contributed- I’d still love appreciate other donations which can be made here.
Have you ever been stung by a jellyfish? Have you ever been to the Solent?