It’s on!

It’s on! Oh my god. It’s on. Fark. It’s on. Not panicking at all. Just fucking with you, I’m totally panicking.

For those of you following at home, you’ll know that the purpose of all of this is to record my recovery through swimming. Regular swims over a year to recover from surgery and embrace my changed body, culminating in an epic swim to mark the conclusion of this period of my life. Months ago I booked that epic swim, from Sicily to mainland Italy across the Messina Strait. I have swum further before, but not in deep, open water, across a channel, after having major chest surgery.

I had a plan. Of course I had a plan. And I had an Excel spreadsheet. I was going to do this properly. It’s for recovery after all. But then COVID-19 stopped the world and Italy was crippled. I assumed it was cancelled. But then I received an email saying that it’s on! Oh my god, it’s on.

Oh god, what do I do now? 

I was planning to swim with three women I met in Turkey last year, however none of them will be able to join due to training and travel restrictions. Maybe I should cancel too? No, I was planning to do it before they decided to join. Maybe I should defer the date? No, it’s on my one year anniversary of end of active treatment, it’s a sign. Maybe I should… No, no, no! Maybe I should take that adrenaline and excitement and fear that I’m feeling and do what I planned. I haven’t felt this nervous about a personal challenge for ages, I think that’s enough to tell me it’s good for me.

The week long training swim I was supposed to do in Greece had been cancelled so I checked if there were others I could do, I spent hours poring over itineraries and travel restrictions, there are none that I could do without invoking quarantine. I discovered that one pool is open in Luxembourg. I called and was able to reserve two training slots the following week. They weren’t sure if the pool was going to be allowed to stay open after that. I called my besties and threw something out to them: “A trip to Sicily?”. “Yep, we’ve caught it, we’re totally in”. Oh fuck, now I’m committed. “You don’t have to swim if you don’t want to, we’ll be in Sicily and you can decide how you feel when you’re there.” “Yeah, that’s a great way of thinking about it…[pregnant pause]…you totally know I’m going to do it, right?” “Yeah, we know it.” I’m so predictable.

But training, fuck me, how am I going to train if I can’t get sessions at the pool or if the pool closes? I googled cross-training, knowing that anything involving bench presses were unlikely to inspire me. I remembered the message from my pilates studio saying they had reopened. Yes! I signed up. I can totally train for a 3.5km ocean swim by doing pilates right? “Pools are open in Munich, you could always come here and do some training”…I do work from home now, don’t I? I looked up flights.

I had an awkward conversation with my manager telling him that I’m doing this and may disappear at odd times to do training as it will all depend on when I can get reservations…and I’ll miss half of quarter end close next month. I felt no guilt (well not too much) after the hours I’ve been working and my doctor’s appointment during the week where we found that my return to desk work is creating big issues with my chest wall. Further tests required. Improved posture and more breaks. An hour swim is a break, right? We’re all about flexibility in our new world after all.

Frantic. Oh so frantic. Am I organised or am I swimming in circles? It all depends on pool availability. I calculated. I need a minimum of eight sessions to be comfortable doing this. If I can’t get those, I’ll drop out and have a scorching Sicilian holiday. Be sensible Jessica, you’re still recovering and the world is broken. Pilates destroyed me.

And then it was 2pm on Friday. Work was insane. As always. I apologised and left, writing emails on the bouncing bus. But this is important to me. This is my health, my physical and mental health. And my closure. I have to learn to draw that goddam line.

I entered the usually bustling pool and had the protocols explained to me. “Are you going to be open next week?”, “Yes, although numbers will be reduced, you can book online from tonight.” YAY!

Masks on except in the shower and the pool, this is going to get soggy.

I went through to the Olympic sized swimming pool and was directed to lane five. A whole lane to myself! Ooh, I could get used to this! I left my pool issued string bag on the marked cross and jumped in, panicking as I forgot how deep this pool is and I didn’t reach the floor, kicking to break the surface. 

And then I breathed. The world slowed down. It was just me and the black line. My breath and my arms brushing my thighs. I was home.

I counted my laps and focussed on my technique and I forgot the world. My body worked exactly as it’s supposed to, no pain through my arms or chest. I sobbed in relief as I remembered how stiff I was last year. My core still ached from pilates.

I swam my target 1500 metres without stopping and felt tired and achy but strong afterwards. 

I’m going to be okay.

This is what it was all about, training my body and opening my arm and chest. Training in water was heavenly on my ever aching knee and hip joints. 

I left the pool grinning and stripped off in the communal showers, the private shower I usually used, closed. Let them see my scar, I am a super star! In spite of everything, I’m still going, and I’m going strong. 

Back home, I refreshed the website over and over until the online reservations became available. I’ve booked eight sessions in the next two weeks. When they open the following weeks, I’ll be able to book another five. Hopefully a total of fourteen sessions. I’ve written a new plan, it’s in Excel. I’m feeling confident. 

This is the other side.

Distance swum since last post: 3.5km
Distance swum to date: 53.7km
Distance to go: 146.3km

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