Monday, 10 January 2011

(Or the story of how I might...)


Left Bicep Width: 11.95 cm
Right Bicep Width: 12.45 cm
Shoulder Width (armpit to armpit, not including the breasts) 41.6 cm 

Ever since I was little I've been trying to drown myself in water. Long to be consumed by it, swallowed whole by it entirely. Not on purpose or through a morbid fascination, but a kind of magnet that draws me into lakes and rivers and streams and ponds and puddles, city fountains, municipal swimming pools. Ultimately, it's the sea I seek.

In times of trouble I run to water, and I know I am not the only one, our coasts are lined with wearied souls who seek answers in horizons, in waves and changing tides. The sea makes my heart lurch like seeing an old lover, makes my stomach contract like meeting a new one. 

So in order to really get to know it, in order to spend some time with the sea, I have decided to Swim The Channel. In September 2012 (pencilled in) I will attempt to swim the channel.

This is early (very early) days for me, and I'll tell you now that I'm an artist. I'm doing this as a project, as it seems that considering the swim an art project was the only way I could motivate myself into regular exercise. It started last year as a joke with my housemate after the shock of swimming regularly for one day a week for four continuous weeks. Something along the lines of:

Me: 'I've done 70 lengths really easily, I reckon I could swim the channel.'

My housemate: (incidentally a black belt in Kung Fu and in training to run the London Marathan): 'I think you should'

Me: 'I think I will.'

She began telling people, I began telling people-(it became a party piece introduction), I began researching it, started taking swimming more seriously and started making small performances about it (*I Promise To Swim The Channel, where I demonstrate my best stroke in a washing up bowl of salty water and pledge £1 to the audience if I don't attempt it, shown at Chelsea Theatre and Scratch Interact at Soho Theatre at the end of this year). Then, as a January New Year 2011 shiny new thing decided to write this. Because the more I talk about, write about, tell people about it, the more I have to do it.

I'm an artist that makes performance, theatre type story telling stuff generally based on research, and visits and talking to people and collecting stories. I have been chosen to be part of Starting Blocks, run by Camden People's Theatre-a peer support group that offers space and time to work on a new project and create a work in progress outcome. This is my project, something that has run away with itself. 

So what this blog is, will be, is facts that I find and the stories that scatter the channel between this country and France. Little bits of information and tips for preparation that I have begun to collect in this (very slow) process of readying myself for the swim. The beginning of the story.

I will write about the training I have done and the training I will have to do (Swimming The Channel is 1,536.192 lengths of  the 22 metre  Arches Leisure Pool, Maze Hill but in temperatures of less than 14c) about the people that have swam before me, mind over matter and why people run to the sea. Why I run to the sea. It will also be about the trials and tails of swimming in public swimming pools in south London, the misinterpreted etiquette and foibles that can lead to lane rage.

What I will also be doing is finding out what happens to my body, measuring my arms to monitor the changes, taking pictures of myself to view the differences. (Yes, this might present a before and after story in the manner of 'Love It' magazine or Kerry Katona's new keep fit DVD, but this is in the name of art. Honest. Not a flat stomach. Never going to happen- I eat too much cheese. Also you have to put on weight to keep warm to swim the channel-more about that another time.)

I'm an average kind of women who verges on the large side. My brief career as an athlete ended in a false start in the 100 metre sprint at Leavesden Green Junior School sports day in about 1988. Swimming is the only sport I've ever been good at, water the only place I've felt graceful in.

So the statistics at the top of the page are the bits of my body that I will measure on a, lets say, weekly basis. My left tensed bicep, my right tensed bicep and my back. I'm pretty broad shouldered as it goes but I'm trying to get a fair reading of my back without the added appendages of my chest. I am already relatively disturbed as to how much bigger my right arm is than my left arm (this is my stronger stroke arm, and interestingly my right breast is also considerably larger), but this is the first measure, so inaccurate readings are likely. Any suggestions for where I should be measuring, or how to measure correctly are most welcome.

So if you are still with me at this stage, this is me back to swimming after the inevitable Christmas break. Before this I was swimming an average of 2 or 3 times a week, trying to get at least two miles in on one session, and a minimum of 80 lengths (just over a mile) in the others.

I was feeling pretty good, looking pretty good (apart from what I can only assume is a chlorine related rash on my face in the beard area). Christmas came along with all the excesses, and I didn't swim for 3 or so weeks. Last week I got back in the pool and did 100 lengths (64 lengths is a mile at a 25 metre pool) and it was painful, clumsy and slow. 

I set my alarm for 6.45am this morning and managed 2 miles before 9am. I then sat down with two sausage sandwiches and finally started writing this introduction to the blog...

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