Imagine staying on a beautiful island for a longer time.. Imagine feeling very happy in the water and being interested in the little fishies and other creatures in the sea, and that you have this little crazy thing in your head that you just looove physical challenges. Then imagine that there is a tiny island relatively close to ‘your island’ with only a stretch of sea in between, but no life threatening dangers, no cold water, no physical restrictions (at least you think).. Then, at last, imagine that the local community gives you the opportunity to swim to this tiny island!!
I would say: 1+2+1+3+1 = definitely ehm.. 8 yes good.
Hell yeah, go for it! Travesía a Lobos, it is called: the crossing from Fuerteventura (my island) to Isla Lobos (the tiny island). The stretch of sea in between is around 3.5km (some people register for a 1-way swim), but whoever goes to the island has to come back as well: 7km sea swim! Nice, doable, fishies, getting a tan in the sun, happiness, I thought! ☼
2 months pre-race:
The swimtraining volume started to grow this summer, first in the Netherlands. With the pool training session at the Wonderful Wednesdays of Swimfantastic, I worked on my technique and on practicing higher stroke frequencies while being efficient in the water. Marjon has tought us how to become fishes, smoothly gliding through the water. Apart from the pool, I also went out into the Nieuwe Diep (Flevopark, Amsterdam) to do slightly bigger laps of 1.9km with my big motivator
Jorge. Doing various swims ranging from 1 to 3 laps, while taping energy gels to my safety buoy. It went great, and I felt that I got faster and stronger.
2 weeks pre-race:
Finally, it was time to fly to Fuerteventura, back into the sun, rough seas and into the arms of Remi :). Here the real training could start: waves, salty water, currents and the view of Isla Lobos everywhere I went. ‘There she is, waiting for me’, I thought.. With the help of dive/swim/kayak master Yolanda (who is actually training for the crossing from Lanzarote to Fuerteventura, 15km!!), and with my new swim friend Marina, we went out for adventures in the lunch breaks. Todo va bien..
6 days before the race:
This should have been the last long training before the race, and then I would be full of self confidence, feel my strong arms and a body that can handle the race circumstances..
Yolanda was there to take me on a 5.3km trip across the bay, and the energy gels were on my buoy, ready to go! Wonderful trip with a hidden ray at the bottom, colourful fishies, an energy gel after almost 3km according to plan, while the waves were hitting my face and salty water was often getting in my mouth. Nothing can stop me, I thought… But weeeeehhh, who would have thought that all the salt and movement could actually make me nauseous?? I got very sick and felt weak and dizzy.. This was a hurdle that i did not expect.. And the sea was still relatively calm, Yolanda said with a little worry in her voice. What I will find during the race (in the middle of the crossing) will be wilder, with big swells and even more movement! Ok, so apart from the goodies I want to tape to my buoy, I will have to get pills at the pharmacy to prevent this nausea.
Race day (9th of October):
It’s Remi’s birthday, wohoo! But now focus..
9:15AM (yeah, Spanish time!) and Andreas is here to pick me up with the car, as Remi has to work and will come later. Lucky me, I’m in the car with a great supporter: he knows this sea well and is telling me how calm the sea is today! Will I get lucky and not nauseous today? At the registry table, all the long-distance swimmers get a safety buoy, a pink shirt and a free card for paella after the race :D. I got into my wetsuit and just in case sprayed my neck with Trislide from Smart Athlete to prevent any chafing. With such long swims, I notice how happy I am with these investments. A good wetsuit is smooth around the shoulders, and let’s you do what you came for: endless swimming!
And then it’s time to go, although I feel bloody nervous! How big will the waves be, how tired will my arms be, and most importantly: how nauseous will I be??
11AM (or a half an hour later, tranquilo): 5..4..3..2..1.. baaaaam!
Just keep swimming, keep the stroke rate high, and keep control. While I hardly train with 1:3 breathing, now suddenly it’s in my rythm. At every breath I try to stay calm and look at the waves before breathing. My most common mistake while breathing is that I get impatient at every breath, and get surprised by waves, which ends up in big amounts of water in my stomach.. My main goal (apart from swimming the 7km) is to try to minimize the amount of sea water that I drink. ‘Calm and controlled’, that’s my sentence today. Keep your breathing calm and if there’s a wave in my face during the breathing moment, then just try to wait till the next breathing moment.
I saw many landscapes rolling past underneath: rocks and fishes, just sandy ‘dunes’ and for one part I did not even see the bottom. And then, a lot sooner than I expected, I reached a boat of the organization where I had to scan my wrist band chip, and this turned out to be the turning point!! Already! I had just swam 1h10 and already at the 3,5km? Wow! This, together with a banana and water, gave me wings! There was 1 man swimming next to me all the time (together we were the slowest hihi), and we reached the turning point together. And then, the way back, ha! Let’s turn on the engine, I thought!
Now the waves were coming from behind, and I could almost bodysurf at some strokes, wiiii! Around 5km, I had decided that I might take 1 energy gel to keep the engine going, and the salty taste in my mouth was getting annoying.. I started to feel a bit of discomfort within my stomach again. O noo, I don’t want to get sick again, I thought. Let’s take a gel, ask for water and focus on something else! I could already see the finish beach, and knew that it was within reach, but hopefully without throwing up :).
Then, as some angel, a guy on a kayak came paddling next to me. He looked a bit like Jesus, but then the extremely sporty version. Big hair, big beard, huge smile! He accompanied me for a while and we both just smiled.. And then he disappeared.
AND I ARRIVED AT THE BEACH! I swam untill my fingers felt soft sand again. Walking felt funny, but there was a crowd cheering for the finishers, and some salty tears came rolling down my cheeks. I DID IT!!! My arms and body are not even thát tired, it’s mostly the nausea that was bothering me. What a swim, what a sea colour, what a nice way to celebrate my stay on Fuerteventura <3. Looking forward to get the entire team here for training camps, in collaboration with Trispiration!!!