I’ve got to start this post by giving thanks – Thanks for all the support over the past three months – encouraging messages, advice, donations – It’s been phenomenal. 🙂
Now, I recite 90% of this story in chronological order, apart from at the end when I change from talking about the day of the swimathon to the day before the swimathon. The Swimathon took place on Sunday 23rd March. Hopefully that timeline change won’t be confusing. 🙂
I spent Sunday morning drumming with the Pandemonium Drummers (PDs). It was our third weekend performance in a row and I wasn’t going to let a little bit of swimming get in the way of such rockstarness. So despite the ridiculous-AM call time I was there. I squeezed in two performances with the PDs before heading to the Aquatics Centre. Between performances I received lots of good wishes from the PDs. And then the best part – as I was walking off to the Aquatics centred they all waved and shouted out nice messages – I felt like a celebrity!! #ThanksGuys
The Aquatics Centre
The Aquatics Centre is magnificent. I took my breath away. I’d never been inside it before and I didn’t watch any TV coverage of the Olympic or Paralympic games so it was all new and wonderful to me.
The Aquatics Centre is basically an architectural masterpiece with a pool in the middle of it. It has exceptional views when you’re inside looking around and when you’re inside looking out! It’s light. It’s beautiful. It’s heaven. Even the entrance, where typically there would be a fake plant, a vending machine, an ugly reception desk, a few chairs… was fancy. Even the changing rooms were fancy. The whole thing was fancy. I thought to myself if this is how glamorous sports challenges are I want to do more! #Don’tChallengeAnnekaChallengeLettice
As I walked down the steps and into the Aquatics Centre it hit me – I was about to swim in the same pool as Michael Phelps. I told my colleague this, the day after the swimathon, and he replied “yes, that is exciting – lots of records were broken in that pool”. I was thinking more along the lines of Michael Phelps being mega hot but yeah… records… #Exciting!
The second thing on my mind was where to store my drum. I was worried it would be too wide for the lockers. Incredibly though it fit. The lockers were unusually wide. Obviously LOCOG have incredible attention to detail and psychic powers – they predicted that one day a drummer from the Olympics opening ceremony would frequent the Olympics Swimming pool with their drum in tow so made sure there were appropriate lockers in place.
After sorting out the storage of my drum I sat down in the stands. The view was lovely and included some swimmers. They were from the second swimathon session and were just coming to the end of their swims. There was a group and a few individuals all finishing the 5km challenge. It was nice to watch them finish as the compare asked us all to cheer for them. I secretly hoped the compare would say my name and get people to cheer for me when I finished because on Friday, at the Velodrome, the celebrities who were competing for Sport Relief all commented on how nice it was to have the crowd behind them.
As I was sitting in the stands the thought that this challenge was going to be difficult crossed my mind. There were two things that I observed that I didn’t like the look of. First, I noticed that 50 metre pools are really loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooog. <— That’s 50 o’s. LOCOG have inspired me to be a more detail oriented person. Second, I noticed the pool was deep at both ends meaning you couldn’t put your feet down unless you were a giant. I mentioned this concern to a man sitting next to me and he reassured me that there were ledges at the end that you can stand on. #Phew!
Whilst waiting for the remaining swimmers to finish the compare gave out a few facts and figures. One of the facts he gave out was that there were 1,000 people taking part in the swimathon at the Aquatics centre across four sessions. I did the math and calculated that would be about 250 swimmers per session. Ek! That didn’t feel me with confidence. As I mentioned in my last post I was hoping the pool wouldn’t be too busy. Later on I heard the compare say there would be no more than 13 people in a lane at a time as most swimmers were participating as a team.
I overheard two ladies in the toilets before the swimathon confessing to each other how nervous they felt. One of them said: “I feel nervous – like I’ve never swam before”. I could feel their pain. I felt nervous too. I think it was the grandeur of the venue, the presence of spectators and the fear of “what if I don’t complete my distance in the set time? What is the set time!?! Ah!!!!!!”.
Within the first 5 lengths I wanted to cry and give up. #NoJoke. I know – I sound like a big baby, and I always try to be positive, but swimming in a lane with 12 other people, all of whom are determined to break one of Michael Phelps’ Olympic records, was very difficult. I started to think the organisers had put me in the fast lane by accident. The thought I had to endure this for 2 hours made me very upset.
Also, pretty early on in the swim my eyes started to hurt and a headache set in. My eyes felt like they were in a vacuum, being sucked out of their sockets. Maybe my goggles were too tight? Who knows but at that point it was too late to figure out. Having to fight this physical pain in addition to 12 Michael Phelps’ didn’t help my situation one bit.
Another low included starting to feel sick at 32 lengths in. Sadly the feeling didn’t leave me until I got home many, many hours later!
During the swim it crossed my mind that swimming isn’t my sport. There are lots and lots of people who are faster than me. Lots.
One of the few thoughts that helped me overcome the ‘cry and give up barrier’, and believe me it was a big barrier, was that I noticed most of the swimmers were swimming 5km in a team. These swimmers could expel lots of energy for 1km because their team mates would do the rest. I, on the other hand, had to do it all by myself!
Another thought that got me through the ‘cry and give up barrier’ was all of the support I’d received over the past few months. I was fortunate enough to receive a colossal amount of kind messages and donations from friends, family, colleagues and strangers. Thinking about all of this support helped me massively. Without this support there would have been no motivation for me to keep swimming.
Another thought – slightly bleak but got me through the ‘cry and give up barrier’ nonetheless, was that swimming 5km with 12 Phelps wannabes wasn’t as bad as the experiences the recipients of Sport Relief’s aid have gone through/are going through. You can read more about the people Sport Relief help here or watch a video here. Counting my blessings, such as; I was in a very nice swimming pool, I could afford swimming membership for three months, I had people who supported me, helped me through.
The best way to describe the swim – without saying I hated it – is to say it was a roller coaster with lots of big lows and a few short highs. The lows were torture and sadly dominated the majority of the swim. The few highs I experienced consisted of moments when the sun shone down on me brightening up the pool, when PD Helen who was also swimming came over to say hi, and when the lane started to get less busy as people started to finish. My last 10 lengths I had the whole lane to myself. So I started to swim very happily down the middle! The biggest high of course was finishing.
In sum, the swim was a mental struggle. I was very glad when it was over. I am very pleased I did it but I wouldn’t rush to do it again!
Counting to 100
Counting to 100 over two and a half hours isn’t easy. Thankfully there were people who counted for us. Saying that, I did attempt to count. I count to 80 lengths before getting all confused and deciding to just believe the lady at the end of my lane who had a tally. I lost count because the lady told me I had 7 laps left, when I thought I had 8. I believed her as early on (around lap 34) I thought I might have dropped a lap, and apparently I did!
Exiting the pool
I was relived as soon as I reached the end of the lane and completed my final length. The compare said my name (correctly too!) and the crowd went wild! Well, as wild as a crowd of 60 spectators spread across two really large seating platforms can!
I was in no rush to exit the pool. One, I was dead and two, I wanted to take in my surroundings. I wanted to see who was still swimming (there were 7 swimmers left), what was going on around the pool and what the venue looked like from within the pool (I’d spent 99.9% of my time so far looking at the pool floor).
Taking time to smell the roses was nice. I took my time counting swimmers, taking out my ear plugs, yanking off my goggles, sipping water, looking around. Eventually I made my way over to the side of the pool to get out. However, I didn’t get out entirely as I decided to sit on the pool edge and watch a swimmer finish.
Goodies, my goodies
Eventually I go up and walked over to the medal table. I was offered fresh water, a 5km medal (which was stored under the table because it was SO special) and… and… a t-shirt! I wasn’t expecting that as all. It even read “I swam for Sport Relief at the London Aquatics Centre”! #AmazeBalls. I loved the t-shirt and medal so much I wore them to work the next day! #NeverTooOldForShowAndTell
Next I walked over to the photo table. On my way over I noticed just how ridiculously dizzy I was. I was half blind and was struggling to speak. A lovely lady took my photo and promised to email it to me that night for free! And she did! #Shamazing. The generosity of Sport Relief knows no bounds. I was treated so well during the whole event by everyone – the swimming staff, security, reception staff, cafe staff. Everyone. It was lovely.
Despite all the dizziness I could still process a few thoughts, such as; how weird it was to have so many people look at me in my swimming costume. #Weird
I started swimming around 1.55pm and finished around 4.25pm. So I spent approximately 2.5 hours swimming. Now I’m very happy with that time. I was expecting it to take me three hours. You see, as confirmed by the wannabe Phelps’ I swim at a ‘Sunday leisure’ pace. Basically, I swim as though it’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and I’m not trying to break any records whatsoever. The reason I came in 30 minutes before scheduled is because I never had time to take a break. The Phelps wannabes were always on my back. I only ever stopped to let them over take me and the longest I stopped was 10 seconds. I did spend a few minutes visiting the loo but I only went once; just before reaching 50 lengths.
By the end of it all I was tirrrrred. I didn’t want to move. Getting changed took me three times longer than normal. When I was changing I noticed my jeans were lose on my legs when I put them on. Can you lose weight immediately!?! #StrangeButCool
I was so conscious of the Phelps’ and their wanting to overtake me that I stayed as close to the lane rope as possible. As a result my hand kept whacking it. It became quite painful and later bruised. But I daren’t venture into the middle of the lane as, early on in the swim, someone over took me on the inside. The INSIDE!! How weird is that!
After changing all I wanted to do was sit down in the stands, watch the next session and eat. However, sadly I felt sick. Too sick to eat. I was gutted. 90% of my bag was food. My bag weighed a ton and regrettably it remained a ton until I got home.
I stayed long enough to greet my friend Louise who was swimming in the next session and then I mustered just enough energy to visit The Cow. The PDs and other ceremonies volunteers were there and I wanted to catch up with them. I proudly showed of my medal and fancy t-shirt.
There were two other ceremonies volunteers took part in Sport Relief events that day. Andrew cycled and Alina ran. Together we were the “Power Rangers” of Sport Relief! 3 miles ran, 5 kilometres swam, and 50 miles cycled.
In The Cow there was music playing. Miraculously, despite feeling tirrrred I couldn’t help but want to dance. The only thing that stopped me was that the music wasn’t 100% pure pop/club/RnB classics.
Interestingly in the week leading up to the swimathon people began asking me how I “do it all”. First, my activity level goes up and down so I’m not always “all doing” despite how it seems. I’ve had very quite weeks/months/years in my life. Most noticeably from October 2010 to when rehearsals for the Olympics started I wasn’t doing much at all except for working and going out occasionally – say once a fortnight. It wasn’t until I juggled volunteering in all four ceremonies and holding down a full time job that I realised how much I could fit in my life. There’s a quote from a questionnaire I filled in for Rhiannon, who was researching the impact of London 2012, that sums it up nicely:
My name is Lettice…….last summer showed me how much I can fit into my life. It needn’t be just wake up, go to work, have dinner, go to bed and repeat.
Having said that… I was quite tired the week of the swimathon. I had work every day and had an activity each evening. The extent of my tiredness was evident in many disjointed conversations I had. It got to the point where even I thought maybe I had too much on! By Saturday I started to doubt my plans to go out on Saturday evening and drum on Sunday morning. Somehow, despite my appreciation for “time off” I didn’t have any scheduled until Tuesday evening after the swimathon.
We interrupt the flow to talk about Saturday
They day before the swimathon I was busy. During the daytime I had a rehearsal for a singing event and in the evening I had an unmissable event – The first Legacy reunion.
Unfortunately, I had to leave the singing rehearsal early as I had really bad backache. If it weren’t for the swimathon I would have fought through it, but because of the swimathon I left so that I could go home and rest.
The Legacy reunion was great. It was the first screening of our performance from The Place in January. It was a lovely evening. I loved catching up with all the cast and seeing the DVD and photos. Sadly, I couldn’t stay for the whole evening. I set myself a curfew of 9.30pm.
On my way home from the Legacy reunion I decided to get off at Surrey Quays station instead of Canada Water. It meant a 10 minute walk home instead of a 15 minute walk home. To get from the Jubilee line to the Overground there was a staircase split into three parts. I started to run up the staircase. As I ran up the first part of the staircase a guy next to me started to run up too. Initially we were neck and neck but he started to overtake me during the second part of the staircase. So as I started the third set I cranked it up a notch. Ultimately we both reach the top of the staircase at the same time. I said “snap” thinking it was a race but I don’t think he had thought it was! Haha. #JustMeThen #ThatFolksIsHowCompetativeLetticeIs
I walked to just before the yellow line (I play it safe) and realised I was actually shaking after running up the staircase. I ran three parts of the staircase when usually I only run one or two. As I stepped on the train I realised the energy I exerted running cancelled out what I saved by not walking from Canada Water!! #D’oh
As soon as I got home I went to bed. I decided that in the morning if I felt tired I would gently bash my drum instead of going all out.
Interruption over – back to Sunday
After spending as long in The Cow as I had in the pool it was time to venture home. On my way home I walked passed a Chinese takeaway and, for the first time in years, was tempted to have a take away. I think swimming 5km justified having one but take aways just aren’t my thing – which is kinda handy as I like enough bad stuff already! #MmmCakesBiscuitsSweets
As soon as I got home I changed into my PJs, got into bed, put on my electric blanket, assembled a bowl of vegetables and hummus and watched The Voice. #TeamTom. After I’d finished my vegetables I did think to myself: “Mistake number 1 – I have no chocolate in the house to celebrate”! Luckily, before having to scroll through my phonebook searching for a volunteer willing to go on a chocolate run, I remembered I had Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer. #WhatARelief It felt so good I actually tweeted my glee:
London Youth Games
10 days after the swim I drummed in the opening ceremony of the London Youth Games with the PDs. It was a fantastic event. Whilst there I bumped into the lady (named Jo) who organised the swimathon at the Aquatics Centre. #SmallWorld. Jo asked me and Antony (who also did the swimathon) what we thought of the water temperature. Now, when I first got into the pool I said “wow!” and turned to the lady next to me and said “It’s refreshing!” which was my polite British way of saying “It’s cold”. Now, I couldn’t tell Jo that, she set the temperature, so I was very pleased when Antony answered the question. Antony answered that he thought it was good – not as cold as a championship event but not as warm as a leisure swim. I nodded along but personally I thought it was too cold. It was 27 degrees, whereas I’m used to, and prefer, my leisure pool which is 34 degrees. Jo mention one reason they kept the temperature low was so the room didn’t become too hot for the spectators. Do you know what I say to that? They aren’t swimming 5km! I am! Who cares about the spectator’s comfort! There were never more than 100 of them anyway. I was cold the whole evening. I had to break out my electric blanket when I got home!
And finally – fundraising
I started this challenge believing the hardest part was going to be raising £300 not swimming 5km. I couldn’t have been more wrong! To date I’ve received 58 donations! THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. IT’S ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE.
In fact, I reached my fundraising target six days before the swimathon, and the day after the swimathon I reached number 94 on the Top 100 list of individual swimathon fundraisers. #HowCoolIsThat
If you’d like to donate there is still time! Please click here. I am just £28 away from £700!! #Crazy
That’s all folks.
Well done for reading all the way to to bottom 🙂
Until the next challenge – chow4now