The last days of the last Boy Scout

Michael Teys calls me boy scout in swim squad… I am the sort of person who tells Coach if I don’t think we’ve done a full set (“but Charm, we still have 200m to go”) and am usually the last one in the pool in the mornings, knocking out extra kms to hit the magic 8 km! That has been the basis of my training and I think its done me proud; I feel pretty confident I’ve done everything I could have done to prepare for the challenge ahead.

Over the last 20 weeks I have averaged nearly 40 km a week to total about 785 km in pool and ocean. I was pleased to hit 40 km in a recent week when I had gastro after a swim at La Perouse (forever known as La Poo-ruse): training every day and keeping weight on despite constant nausea was a herculean effort!  Last week, leading up to leaving Australia felt a bit of a slack one with 2 farewell breakfasts: Friday at Toby’s Estate cafe after squad and on Saturday a cake, champagne and bacon egg roll BBQ at Shelley Beach with the Frosties and Squirrels, in honour of me, Ben, Miles and Michael, all swimming on the first tide in July. To receive a send off like a departing hero was remarkably heartwarming: best wishes from friends and swim buddies those I love, those I respect; encouraging words from those who have successfully bested the channel and those who inspire me for other reasons. The camaraderie I have felt over the last few months will be with me forever.

My 41st birthday was spent on a final 8 hour training swim: to avoid the boredom of endless 3 km loops of Balmoral Beach I chose to swim from Palm Beach to Manly again, this time in the company of Ben. The week leading up to the swim was pretty tough, with the training schedule, single parenthood, work, dog walking, cooking etc getting on top of me and while driving to squad on Friday morning in tears, I realised I was not in the headspace for a good long swim! After some caring love and support from Jennie from afar, a dose of tough love from Nics and a stern word with myself, I realised this was just another challenge along the way to achievement and got my head in the game for Saturday!  Having gotten to this place I loved the swim; my time was remarkably similar to 2013 (8h 16m) it was in far tougher conditions and I felt great afterwards, recovering really quickly and back in squad by Monday..

So, having arrived in UK I am now in the final days of training; all those weeks and months of hard work have come to this. After an uneventful and dreary flight to London, Leah and I were overjoyed to see Jennie who has been here for three months looking after her mum. Now we’re back together as a family! 2 days of relaxing in Windsor later (including a fun day of rollercoastering at Thorpe Park yesterday) and I’m now in Brighton later for a few days of cold(ish) water acclimatisation and training.

So: how do I feel now? Scared, excited, nervous, a sense of unreality. Someone told me last week to enjoy the fear: and I’m trying to do that. Yesterday was a weird one: having got to Brighton at 11 am and planned an afternoon swim, I had a leisurely lunch and a wander around the lanes with my bro fro ano mo, Paul. As the moment approached I got increasingly tense. When we said goodbye Paul told me “and Cae… breathe”; I think that in my head I had built up the enormity of my first UK swim to godzilla-esque proportions: what if I hated it? What if it was so cold I couldn’t bear to get in the next day?? What if I couldn’t get in??? In actual fact it was a gorgeous UK summer day (a rare beast): the water was clean, calm, warm(ish) with tiny pockets feeling vaguely chilly. I swam sans cap for an hour between the Brighton Pier and the destroyed West Pier: a breathtaking experience swimming up to such huge structures, loving every minute. Back again today but for three hours and without a belly full of Thali (bad choice!)

With thanks to the wonderful Tori Gorman I am fortunate enough to have a spot tracker on which you can follow my swim; click here and when the time is right you will see a little blip across the water.  But more of that later!

Finally, for today, thanks and love to those around me who support and encourage me along the way. Without a crew no swimmer will go further than 8-10 km and without Jennie, Nics and Paul who are giving up a lot to help me achieve my dream I would be an engine with no fuel: I’m sure I’ll say it lots in the next 2 weeks and even if I don’t I still mean it: thanks!!!