Saleema’s race report – Qualifying for a Channel swim team

We all have one of those friends that does ‘crazy stuff’. For a lot of people, I am that friend. However, for once, my swimming habits seem quite normal compared to RedAlert athlete and good friend of mine, Saleema. 

Saleema tells us about her race this weekend and how she came about to be taking part in a 2hr channel swim qualification event.

‘Yesterday I took part in the Swim Your Swim (SYS) festival of swimming in Rotherham. There were 3 different swims to take part in: a 2 hour channel relay qualifying swim, a 6 hour channel solo qualifying swim and a night swim. It was quite a distance to travel to take part but I had read lots of great things about SYS on various forums as they organise a number of different swim events.

I originally booked to do the night swim as I thought it would be something different, but then as I recently got asked to take a place on a channel relay team in July I changed and opted for the 2-hour daytime swim instead.

In April last year I hung up my wetsuit and set out to challenge myself in a new way by taking up skins swimming. After being plagued with hip problems I needed a new challenge in my life to fill the hole that was left behind by long distance triathlon. I kept swimming through the winter in skins and each swim taught me something every time about the cold and how it feels and affects the body and mind. It was and still is a whole new world for me and I’m loving the learning process!

So with a few months of winter swimming behind me, after being asked to take part in the relay I decided to do the SYS event. The crew and staff there were fantastic and made us all feel hugely welcome! The support on the water was fantastic and made me feel very safe with a number of safety crew in boats. The format was 800m loops with a boat as a feeding station. The water temperature was taken twice by the shore where at 12.6 and 13.1. In training I had swum 1 hour and a half in 13 degrees so I felt confident but also apprehensive as an extra 30 minutes is a long time. However, when I got in and waded down to the deeper section it became clear it wasn’t the 13 degrees I had expected, my garmin said the average was 11.

The 6 hour and 2 hour swims started at the same time. At the end of every loop each swimmer had to shout their swim number to the staff to make sure hypothermia hadn’t set in and we were safe. I also had my on shore swim “buddy” CJ there who checked I was ok every loop too. Safety was clearly priority.

After an hour of swimming I decided to stop at the boat and get a drink of my tea and some energy sweets. However, there was someone there already and I had to tread water and wait for a while to try and get my drink. I started to get cold so I swam off for another loop more hopeful of next time! Next time was much better and I got my flask of tea but managed to lose most of my sweets in the water! Novice deep water feeding error! So, I had got cold and had not really taken on any energy. Good combination for an endurance cold water swim 🙈.

The last 30 minutes of the swim I found really hard. It was new territory for me, and I have pulled myself out of previous swims for my own safety. Being tired and getting cold are never a good combination. I sing songs in my head for most of the swim to make sure I can remember the words to check on my brain function for hypothermia. I was still singing. I was getting cold and knew I was pushing myself towards my limit of cold tolerance. I respect the water and would not push through my limits to finish. I wanted to go home fine! I also knew CJ was there on shore to help get me dressed and warm so I carried on, knowing I was not shivering or disorientated.

I completed the swim total of 2 hours and the safety crew signalled it was complete. Hurrah! I exited the water and was immediately met by CJ who did an amazing job of getting me dry and dressed as quickly as possible before the afterdrop really set in. He got me tea which I drank through a paper straw as my hands didn’t work and I was violently shivering! All part of the warming up process. The crew after were fantastic and at all times I felt very safe. I will definitely do one of their events again. I got my qualifying certificate and left for home once warmed up.

In the lead up to the swim Allie has been an amazing support and has helped me get back in the pool regularly (I hate pool swimming!) and work on speed and technique. Huge thanks Allie for everything in the lead up to yesterday! I’m looking forward to some fun lake and sea swims together over the next few months.’






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