Not one to give up easily, over the past few weeks I have consulted a broad spread of the medical practitioners Sydney has to offer. I kid you not: GP, Sports specialist, ultrasound (x2), X-ray, hand therapist, physios (2), accupuncture, osteopath, sports massage, and finally, a hand surgeon. Of all these talented people, two have had particular impact, but it was the hand surgeon who really saved the day. After a one hour wait in his waiting room, where I struggled not to walk out as work pressures were mounting, I had a brilliant talk with a very wise and experienced man.
The other issue I have been quietly dealing with is that I have been diagnosed as being "pre-diabetic" and insulin resistant. Essentially, gaining weight (~8kgs) to prepare for the swim began to tip my body over the edge towards diabetes. Insulin resistance means it's hard for my body to regulate blood sugar levels, and cards and sugars get turned to fat rather than processed (hence my rapidly expanding Channel tummy!). Thankfully it was spotted, and I am being medicated and have managed to lose 4 kgs in the last few weeks and am feeling much better. Symptoms include (this will be particularly funny for anyone who works with me) "grumpiness, lack of energy, headaches.............". Common feelings for me, especially after my daily pasta lunch!
So, after three weeks unable to swim, fearing I would have to postpone the Channel until next year or beyond, I was able to commit 100% to the goal of crossing this year, knowing that my hands would be fine and my energy levels would improve.
My window is 23rd-29th September, so I now have exactly 12 weeks do do absolutely everything possible to prepare myself. Knowing it's going to happen is surprisingly relieving, and having always been someone who loves a bit of pressure, the imminent deadline is probably just what I needed.
I started training with a vengeance again last week. Vlad, Charm, and the rest of the squad have been brilliant and encouraging. Last week's usual routine of pool sessions with a couple of cold water adventures in Redleaf Pool (harbour ~15 degrees), was followed by a monster swim yesterday. Eight hours at Balmoral, where the water is a degree or two colder than the ocean. Yesterday it was 15.8 degrees Celcius, and surprisingly I didn't feel the cold badly at all. As usual my body got off to a relatively sluggish start, but after two hours I felt good. I had a brief lull at about 6 hours where I knew I hadn't eaten enough. A couple of "gels" later and I was feeling tip-top, and according to my GPS the last hour was where I did some of my fastest swimming.
I had a really deep change mentally during this swim. I spent the first half feeling I would be too slow to cross the channel at all, having heard a friend who's a much better swimmer suggest it may take her 12 - 15 hours to cross when she goes in a few weeks (good luck Tori). Then after a few mid-swim chats with Collie who crossed successfully in 2007, and is a wise man, I realised something profound. If my mind is up to spending 18 or so hours in the water, my body will be fine. I have read so many books about the mind of the athlete recently, but nothing sinks in like the words of a friend.
I believe, in my heart of hearts, that I am physically and mentally strong enough to do this. I am going to cross the English Channel in September 2012. Definitely. It will be hard, miserable at times, and probably the toughest 24 hour period in my life to date, but I will achieve what I've set out to achieve, and I will come through it. I have gained complete clarity of purpose, and I am really excited about the next 12 weeks. I will push myself through as much pain and training as possible, but I believe it will all be worthwhile.
Thanks for listening. It's always massively uplifting when I see one of you and you talk about something I've written. It means a lot, as I've often assumed that people don't read these long missives.....................Thank You!