Dr. Julie Bradshaw MBE - holder of 20 world records, and my mentor for my Channel Swim attempt - had been assuring me that my continued exposure to the cold water throughout the winter would pay dividends.
But self-doubt is a killer.
To date, I had been struggling to endure cold water exposure for durations of longer than two hours - pitifully short when compared to the 16 hours I knew I would need to be capable of.
Julie and I had planned two meetings at Lake Windermere. On Friday 16th, we met for the first lake swim. During the three hour drive I explained to Alistair MacLeod (my boat crew for the actual swim) that his main duty for today was not to feed me, but rather to ensure I did not get out of the water in less than three hours - no matter what I said later.
The day was forecast to be the hottest of 2014 so far - but someone forgot to tell the local weather that fact. When I stood on the pebble beach in little more than swimming trunks and hat, ready to enter the water, it was overcast, cloudy, and there was a cold wind. I really, really, did not want to get into the lake. I was scared almost beyond action: scared of failing a three hour swim miserably, and in front of the documentary film crew too!
Julie told me that the water was around 12 degrees. That was good news in that it was not colder than Tooting Bec, but bad news in that I could not see where I was going to pull another hour's worth of cold water endurance from.
Despite the lake being massive, I was restricted to a small swimming area within which Ali and Julie could see me from the shore. I had to dodge moored boats and swim round safety buoys. Each 'circuit' took me eight minutes.
The water was choppy due to the wind and to the wash from the tourist boats. This actually helped take my mind off the cold. I cruised past the fifty minute mark before I knew it.
To the worry and slight annoyance of Ali and Julie, I changed our agreed plan and decided not to stop every hour to feed. Instead I carried on for an hour and a half. I wanted to 'break the back' of it, and know I 'only' had to do it all once more. Coming out of the water into the cold wind and then having to get back into the water was not something I wanted to do twice!
Suffice to say that I survived, and achieved three hours without Ali or Julie having to force me back into the water. Despite knowing I can swim for six hours in warm water, this cold water swim was a huge mental milestone, and a very encouraging performance.
My next milestone is a 10km open water swim in Eaton Dorney on May 26. After that, my second meeting with Julie is planned for 6th June. This latter one is crucial, as it is the mandatory six hour qualifier swim required before I am allowed to commence my actual Channel attempt.
Successfully completing this three hour swim has put me in huge confidence for the qualifier.
Bring it on!
One time soldier, part-time author, full-time training manager, husband and father.