Investigations into my high dependency relationship with food continued after the last post, yielding the most surprising and pleasing outcome. Tara, upon reviewing my food diary, said I had a really healthy diet… for a normal person. Not so much for an aspiring Channel swimmer. For that, she said, I’d need more calories. She prescribed rice pudding and custard on a regular basis. And I, a model patient, have complied. This is the best sport ever.

We swam at Balmoral the week after Coogee. Ben Freeman, an incredibly accomplished Triple Crown swimmer, was kind enough to paddle for us. What a pro. Like clockwork, he paddled up next to me every 30 minutes and delivered my bottle, urging me to drink quickly and get back to swimming. I had two men on my heels – Mike from Austria and Francesco – both unknown to me at the time. Perhaps for his own amusement, Ben wanted me to lose them. He could see that they would be taking some time at the feeding station, which I could bypass. He instructed me, in no uncertain terms, that I was to sprint when they stopped and I wasn’t allowed to let them catch me until the next feed. This was just a training swim, not a race, but I followed his orders and kept them at bay for 30 minutes. They stayed with me for the rest of the swim, until Francesco decided to sprint the last 400 metres. I let him win. I was warming down… obviously. We finished 14km in 4 hours. I was really pleased with the pace. Having the guys on my heels really kept me, well, on my toes, and I could sustain the pace quite comfortably.

The following week was our longest training swim – 16km. We swam lengths from Shelly beach to Queenscliff / Freshwater - about 4km return. The wonderful Mischee provided kayak support. Mischee will be on my boat in the English Channel, so although we swim together most days, we are trying to find a few opportunities for her to see me from above the water. Like Ben, she’s a total pro. Conditions got pretty hairy out the back of Queenscliff, with some kayakers struggling to keep up with their swimmers in strong wind and big swell (sounds familiar) but she battled on. Francesco was back, so he and I paired up for the whole swim. He is super strong in rough water, with a very different style to my own, and I fell behind a bit. I was relieved when we got back into the shelter of Shelly Head. I even had the advantage of a brand new race suit. These things cost hundreds of dollars, last only a few wears, and take 45 minutes to put on. It seemed to work though: we finished 16km in 4 hours 24 minutes – a pace of 16:30/km. We were SO CLOSE to being able to get a bacon and egg roll at the café before they closed the breakfast menu at 11:30. I was devastated when my friend reported that we were a minute too late. 

That brings us to taper time. The best of times. I was really tired after Shelly. I had an extra massage on Sunday. My head was not in the right place at Tuesday squad, and my arms wouldn’t work on Wednesday. On Thursday, Rich indulged me with 45 minutes of foam roller which was pure heaven. I have done three hours of stretching over the weekend, including two hours of a “hip opening” workshop yesterday at Flow. So I think I’ve been doing the right things.

My Rottnest Channel Swim race number is 1. I do not take this lightly. Although it is a reflection of my enthusiasm and the ability to click “Enter” quickly (rather than talent), it has been held by some champions of Vladswim in years gone by, including Dean and Rachelle. I hope I can do it justice.