Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The result

Well off I went yesterday, it was a tough day where winds picked upto 17 knots which had not been predicted.

After 9 hours 58 mins I became the first British female to Conquer the Cook Strait!

I feel very proud, my support crew were amazing, my arms ache and I will write up my swim in a few days time as now I have to go and pay my fees for the swim, have a nice relaxing lunch, meet a few people and then head out of Wellington-this time for good (well for this trip anyway)!

We are heading upto Auckland, it will take a couple of day to get there and we are all going to enjoy the last few days and my first few days to relax without thinking about swimming or training! Bliss! We may head back into the water though with a scuba dive!

Thank you to all of you who have sent kind messages before, during and after my swim. It has been great support and lovely to hear from you all.

TTFN xxx

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Back to Wellington and i'm off!

Hi, so I have been away from the internet and away from Wellington!!!

Here's what we have been upto.

The last day of my tide (friday) as you all know was a little dissapointing to say the least.  I decided that if I wasn't able to swim the Strait that week, then it was time to do another long training swim.  Dad and Aidan hired a Kayak and escorted me for 6 hours around Wellington Harbour.  The wind was high and we headed out of the protection of the Oriental bay part into Evans bay, here we were greeted with huge waves that we had to battle through head on.  The Kayak was bouncing up and down, waves slamming across the front of the boat, soaking dad as they broke and the spray blew onto him.  He got pretty cold as wet, and windy is not a great combo.  We fought on, the wind chilled me for the first 2 hours but then I became used to it and felt that I was in the better place!

It eventually became too cold for dad, he reached land and walked the remainder of the way home, much to our amusement as Aidan stayed on the Kayak and dad was walking along a busy road soaking wet, wearing his life jacket and carrying his paddle!  A lady asked him if he was lost, with that he replied, no i'm wet and cold and i've lost my boat!  With that he walked on leaving the lady pretty confused!

After the swim we all warmed up, got changed and jumped into the car and left Wellington! Friday night was spent in Levin with some really lovely friends of mine.  I met Ron and Lesley when I guided the lake district trip for Swim Trek back in 2007.  Dawn and I stayed with them for a couple of nights when we backpacked around New Zealand in 2008.  They are so lovely, kind happy and really make you feel at home.  They live on an amazing farm and it was magic to spend an evening with them and let the stress of the swim dissipate.

Saturday we left Levin and drove upto Tongariro national park.  This is an area full of lots of volcanic craters.  We camped in a free Doc (Department of Conservation) site within the forest. It was a mission to find.  We had to take a guess at what dirt road to take off of the main road.  When we made our guess we drove a good 30mins down a very bumpy road that logging lorries use (I grounded the car twice!) then it passes 1 compost toliet.  This marked the campsite!  We were glad that our guess was right.  It was dark by then so quickly to bed to be bitten by more mosquitos!

Sunday was an early start as we headed of and walked the Tongariro crossing.  It was the most beautiful walk that we have done since being out here.  Dad came with us and we walked 20km in 7.5 hours climbing up to saddles between the huge volcanic cones.  It was a full on walk but passed volcanoes with red craters, steam leaching out of the ground, turqoise lakes, rough terrain caused by hardened lava flow.  The ground was so warm in places and so soft in others, we had to scramble and slide our way down a very steep scree slope.  It was pretty amusing watching everyone around you and of course myself wobbling our way down, arms held out doing the odd spin to rebalance.  It really was wonderful!


My phone has just rung with THE call.

I am off to swim the Cook Strait tommorow!  We will be meeting at the boat at 7:15am so 6:15pm UK time.  Two people made it today, lets hope that I can be the third successful swim this season.

Those of you who have been praying for me, thank you and please carry on.  Same for those of you who have had thier legs, fingers and anything else crossed please hold them crossed for the next 24 hours!

If you want to send me any texts of encouragement my mobile is 07776251514

If you want to call and see how I am getting on then please use 0034226858024

If you want to contact me via email, then please do this via my mum:  jackie@tesconet.com

Well i'm off to mix my carbohydrate drinks now and then to bed.

Night Night! xxx

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Not today

Hi all, I'm very very disappointed as the swim is not happening today.

Now we are looking at changing flights as the next tide starts next week on sunday until Saturday 13th March. This will be where I have to hope for 2 days of good weather as I have to go after the person who is booked on to that tide. This tide will be my last chance. I am worried that I am going to end up not doing it.

I am off to do a long training swim today, can't say i'm in the mood for it. Tonight we are moving onto some friends in Levin and then we are going to travel north to Rotorura and Taupo. It is frustrating that the training swims will still have to happen. My holiday may start when i get home!

To be or not to be......tomorrow may hold the answer!

Well the all important phone call arrived at 7:30pm this evening and Philip told me that it is too close to call. The wind is meant to be settling down tomorrow but they want to make sure that it is. They are going to call me at 7:30am to confirm if it has and whether we are off or not. If it is to go ahead I will be looking to get into the water around midday, this will mean that I will finish just short of midnight! I will therefore have 2-3 hours of darkness at the end.

I really hope I get the go ahead as I can't start to describe how stressful it is. For the past few days, I have been feeling so sick with nerves from about 3pm, I haven't been the best company-dad and Aidan have been great. After the phone calls I have been a bit glum. However tonight I am feeling positive and hopeful. I never thought that I would be so desperate to jump into the sea and do an 11 hour swim, Freda has to nag me to do a 6 hour at Dover!

I am not swimming on a spring tide but it is on the change from a neap to a spring and so Philip is making sure that all the conditions will be working with me before putting me in. He has said that he would rather send me home dry and with my money than line me up to instantly fail. I DO NOT want to come home without doing this, this is something that I have trained for for 2 years and to not even be given a chance would be awful. Please keep your fingers crossed for me and watch this space in 12 hours!

Apart from feeling sick with nerves, we took our minds off of swimming today, we headed out of Wellington for a change of scenary and visited Cape Palliser. It is the South Eastern point of North Island and is home to New Zealands largest seal colony. We had lunch on a beach with seals! They were huge, all basking on rocks, drying themselves out from the sea and itching their flabby bellies and back on the rocks! We saw a few out at sea porpoising (jumping out of the water and diving back in head first), one particular bull was the boss and was ordering the others to move rocks, there was a verbal argument, a show of canines and then the other one slumped off in a sulk. It was amazing to be able to get so close to them.

After lunch we went for a bush walk, it took a couple of hours and climbed high through the forest until we were up on the cliffs, here we were able to look across and see the South Island, it was a grey haze but at least I could see my swim destination, and the gap that we were looking at is much wider than my actual swim. We walked a little further and came to the Putangirua pinnacles. These pinnacles were used in Lord of the Rings (apparently horses gallop away from them?-I haven't seen any of the films). They were fascinating, huge rock formations created 120,000 years ago by heavy rain eroding away an ancient gravel deposit. They are huge grey towers of all different shapes and sizes, it was well worth a look.

Anyway I am off to bed now as hopefully I will be needing a good nights sleep for the big adventure tomorrow.

Enjoy a few pics from today:

Sun worshipper

Oi, that's my rock!

Dad amongst the Pinnacles

This is probably how I will spend tonight................................ restless!


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Still no swim!

Well I have just been told that tomorrow is another day of no swimming! The wind is really bad, white caps just fill the harbour. I am getting pretty stressed now as all hangs on the weather improving by Thursday as this is the last day of my tide. Philip has said that there is a chance that I could go on Friday but it would have to be exceptional conditions as the tide will be starting to change into a spring tide (no one has ever swum a spring tide yet as too much water moves making the swim pretty much impossible-you have to be an exceptionally fast swimmer).

I have looked on Wind Guru and it does look as thought the wind will be dropping by Thursday to 10-15 knots. This is swimmable 10 knots or less is ideal, 15 is at the point of consideration and if it is due to increase as the day goes on a swim will not happen.

Because I am not a speedy swimmer they are also looking into how long the window of settled weather will last for as it will need to last 11 hours, this is a big ask considering that 2 minutes of settled weather over the past 5 days has been impossible!

Still the sky is clear tonight, the sea in the harbour has flattened a bit so there is still hope.

I decided yesterday that my last 6 hour swim seems so long ago and so I went for quite a rough training swim, the sea was tipping me up and down, but it was fun. I swam about 4.5kms in 1hour 40 mins. I swam from Belena bay round to Freyberg Beach and back again. Aidan and Dad walked along with me to ensure my safety.

Today I had an intense 1 hour pool training session. Aidan joined me which was fun as he really helped to spur me on as we did a fair bit of sprint work. My muscles are feeling this session more than yesterdays!

Tomorrow we are off to catch the ferry out to Somes Island, situated within the harbour. It used to be used for a quarantine station and a small separate island next to it was used to keep 1 poor man who was considered to have leprosy confined to it many years ago. It has only been open to the public for a couple of years now but apparently it is home to all indigenous species and we should hopefully see dragons! If I am allowed I will do a 1 hour training swim along the coastline of it, if not, i will do a swim to the lighthouse and back when we return to the city.

A few pictures and video clip of yesterdays swim:

Will swimming down hill speed up the swim?
Argh! help i'm being swallowed!
But I still have a smile on my face!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

So here starts the waiting game.......

Hi all

Well today is the first day of my tide and guess what?........ I am not swimming, it is too windy! It doesn't look too good for the next two days either. This is where you begin to fully understand the nature of the beast. I am praying for good weather as I only have five days in which to attempt the swim and at the moment it is looking like three days are out.

The good news is that I have been here a week and have had some refreshing dips in the Harbour. It is a chilly 15-16 degrees C (colder than I had anticipated and colder than my English Channel Crossing).

So we arrived Saturday evening last week. The ferry journey was pretty nerve racking as at first the Strait seemed swimmable and then by half way across the wind had really picked up and I was looking at white caps all around, I could see North Island but only the top as the mountain peaks poked out above the cloud line! Grey and overcast with grey sea was beginning to make me doubt whether this swim will be enjoyable at all. We reached North Island and drove into Wellington and looked at what the sea was doing in the harbour at Oriental Bay (where I train), it was a washing machine(very choppy)! I went to bed a little unsettled.

Sunday morning I went in for an hours dip, we both swam out to the light house (1.2km from shore) but was asked to head back probably 200m from it as the sea had picked up greatly even though it had been flat calm when we had started 20 mins ago! We surfed our way back and enjoyed the cold fresh water shower and then warmed up with a hot chocolate. The water was fine once I was in it and moving but it has to be said that it does feel cold getting in and I probably look like the biggest wimp on the beach, making stupid gasping noises as the water hits my midriff and I resist putting my hands in the water until the final moment when I push off and feel the water envelope my back! Brrrr! then off I go!

Later that morning I met up with Philip Rush, he is the man organising and running the swim. He is also a pretty awesome swimmer, he holds the 3 way English Channel record, it took him 28 hours! He also has the 2 way speed record for the Cook Strait among many other records and swims. He is a really lovely man, who has made the swim seem achievable to me. Whilst talking the tides and wind patterns through, I can see how they know when to call the swim off if they hae to mid way across as they are so complex but if you miss certain points along the way you can nearly be to the otherside but the way in which the tide and wind interacts, you can then end up being pushed back into the middle of the Strait!

He knows that I am not a fast swimmer and we have both agreed that I am looking at an 11 hour swim, he said that all he wants from me is consistency, fortunately this is my strength! No matter how hard or unhard I try my times always remain the same ( I have often wondered what it would be like to feel a sudden spurt of speed, but i'm fine as I am!). With this Philip is going to work the tides around my pace and hopefully it will all go to plan.

I am having up and down moments as some days i feel good, confident and ready to do business with the Strait yet other days my head is in a different place where it is hard to get excited about it and it seems daunting. I think this is due to the fact that I am now in Limbo and I am also on holiday, whilst waiting for the swim I am off sightseeing and doing stuff that is a bit of a double life to prepping up for a big swim. The other factor is that this swim has been really hard to train for as for the Channel I was doing 7 and 6 hour swims both saturday and sunday as a lead up for a good 6 weeks before the swim. Being Winter in England hasn't allowed for this level of training. It does help that Philip seems very positive towards my swim though and after discussing the previous point, he has pointed out to me that the fact that I have done other long swims is a great part of preparation as menatlly I know what to expect as well as physically.

Monday I did a 3 hour swim, I swam from Belena bay, round to Freyberg beach, out to the lighthouse and back then back to Belena Bay. It was a lovely swim and the good news is that I was fine with the temperature. On the last 300m the sea had really picked up and I was getting bashed up by head on waves, some of them covering me entirely and others slamming and breaking across my head, it was good fun until I realised I was being carried out towards the middle of the harbour! I then put a fair bit of energy into swimming back to shore, i bumped my way over and then finished. I then furthered my acclimatistion with a cold shower, standing shivering washing my hair! I think this cold shower after a swim is going to harden me up into an Iron woman but not the running, cycling kind, just the 'well ard' type!

Tuesday I swam for 1 hour and admired the billions of star fish on the sea bed of Oriental Bay. I was feeling a bit tired but that could have something to do with Aidan ad I going mountain biking that morning, it was good but who ever invented hills? In fact the down hills are fine but the up hills are all wrong! I was also miss daisy on the bike as i was so afraid of falling off and breaking something, i feel if that happened I would have to either not come home or swim in the cast!

Wednesday and Thursday I took off, the weather was bad and so we both went sight seeing to the museums as they are free and very good. Dad arrived which was great and I was able to obtain my stash of jelly babies and Cadbury's mini rolls for the swim.

Friday was another 1 hour swim with Aidan to the light house and back.

Saturday I had off and then this morning I did a 1 hour pool session. At first I was devasted by my times as 100m was taking me around 20 secs more than normal! My 16 length warm up took 5 mins more. I was getting pretty glum but then I asked the lifeguard how long the pool was-Hurrah it is 33.3m!!!!! My times were fine!

So there you have it for now.

My head today is feeling positive, I have even had a chance to sunbathe a bit today on the beach-how novel and dad and I have had a leisurely stroll through the botanical gardens as Aidan went out mountain biking today! Now I am waiting for the swim yes or no phone call at 7:30 tonight (after the final weather forecast).

If It is yes I will probably be getting on the boat at 4am! ( however at mo wed could be the earliest). We will see though.

If you hear nothing from me, take it that I'm not swimming yet! Please do some calm weather dances for me and keep fingers crossed!

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Kepler Trail

Well what a trail it is, this trail as I have already mentioned is 60 km long and is a beautiful loop in Fjordland on the west coast of New Zealand. It climbs to heights of 1500m and provides beautiful panoramic views of the sounds.

We were so lucky as the weather was amazing, so hot and clear, we really could see for miles. We started the track at Rainbow Reach and accessed the track over a huge swing bridge which crossed a fast flowing, wide and beautiful emerald green river. It looked so nice I was tempted to jump in! I did choose not to due to the speed of the water and also because I had a walk to get on with!

The first day and a half passes through dense lush forests which are predominately large tree ferns, the path winds along the side of the river and every now and then opens up to give a glimpse of the world outside of the forest. We didn't see any wildlife but why would we, they will all be hanging out in the dense stuff that the path is away from.

We had to be totally self sufficient and so we had 3 days food, all weather gear and a tent with us. Any litter you take in, you have to take back out with you.

The self sufficient pack pony on the move!

It was an amazing experience, we camped in very basic campsites (land that had a smelly compost toilet) that have to be pre booked with DOC (department of conservation). Our first campsite (Brod Bay) was on the edge of a beach with was the shore of Lake Te anau which feeds into the South Sound. It was very peaceful at night but again we were bombarded by sandflies. These are horribe critters that pester you in huge numbers and repellant doesn't always work. They are small black flies that make no sound but have a very nasty bite, the bites itch beyond belief, far worse than any mosquito!

Due to this the minute we stopped walking (they can't keep up with you when moving)-great way to loose weight as you never want to stop walking! We had to put trousers on and long sleeves, tuck our t-shirts into our trousers so that there was no bare back showing and then keep swatting our hands and face! I never thought that I would happily slap myself repeatedly across the face but I did as it was my only defense. Dinner and breakfast would sometimes be eaten walking around in circles. When we shut up shop for the day and crawled into our tent, the first 10 mins or so was spent hunting down and squashing the sandflies on the interior part of our tent!-how romantic! Mornings were spent counting how many new bites we gained through the night!

Regardless of these blighters it really was spectaculor as the second part of the tramp opened up onto high mountain ridges of Alpine environment (grasses, bare rock, dry etc). Here the views were lovely and you could see the trail go on for miles and miles in front of you winding its way up and down the mountain ridges. At times this was a little intimidating as I have already mentioned in a past post that my feet had been crushed to bits by my walking boots and I had blisters the same size as the toes that they were on! Regardless of this, we shuffled/hobbled on and made it to the 2 nd nights campsite (Iris Lodge) the sandflies were worse here but it was a peaceful place to pop blisters and sleep beside a river and get ready for the next day!

Miles and miles of track still ahead of us!

The last day was walking through the valley and again twisting our way through the fern forests. I will admit that by then there was not a lot to look at other than the forest and it was a bit samey, with the added problem of my feet, I, at this point did want to reach the end, which took a long time coming. When we did reach it I crossed the same swing bridge over the same river and felt a great sense of achievement and relief! We made it!

Hurrah, at the top of the largest summit

We drove straight down to Lake Manapouri, a beautiful HUGE lake (we had walked around some of the edge on part of the Kepler trail) and waded in for our rinse off as by now we stunk! The water felt amazing, my legs wouldn't kick though as they were finished from the walk and so gentle floating was highly therapeutic. Two days later and my legs and feet were able to move again without any problems!

I would recommend this walk to people of a good fitness, who like uphill and have good comfy walking shoes and a lot of DEET (potent insect repellant)!