Sarah’s Big Swim: A piece of therapy that feels like France



by Sarah Wapling



The 3 kilometre time trial – a piece of therapy


Oh why must one be subjected to such torture, when trying to cross a channel of cold water? And what damn person should inflict such pain? What purpose does it serve? Hell surely must be easier.


Block whatever, week 4, session 3. There it is in the monthly program. The angst and the hatred, not to mention the anxiety that is felt when seen in black and white. But it is in the days before its due date that the text message comes in: “so Sarah, what day are you doing your 3km time trial?” That’s when the nightmares start. I find excuses and reasons for its avoidance. It rules my life for a few days a month. The expectations mount. I can feel the coach’s expectations down the phone.


But the Trent must be obeyed. He has come from the school of JR and has won out in survival of an old school coaching style to become a legend and the English Channel record holder. He is far easier on his disciples than the strokes he has punished himself with over a decade or more.


And so it is with my head hung low, a double shot of coffee, a beetroot shot and a gel in my gullet that I approach the pool. Anything to aid and perhaps lessen the peril. My meagre Apple Watch will at least keep my splits that Trent will request. Stretches are done over and over until I can procrastinate no longer – the lifeguards may question my lurking. The layers come off. The warm up is complete. True to say I am swimming like a stone. The task begins. Now less than 59 laps. Stay smooth, roll, stretch, hinge, pull, recover, roll, stretch, hinge, pull, recover, roll, times I don’t know how many times.


58 laps to go. 46 to go and now over half way through on lap 31. A quick sneak peak at the time …. can I negative split? Push, push, push. It is only pain and it will be over in twenty minutes. Not like childbirth. That can go on for half a day just like a Channel swim. I dislike the Trent at this point. But I can’t disappoint. Maybe I could just take my 2km time and do some dividing and multiplying to ascertain what might be a legitimate time. I thought that at the 1000m mark too. I couldn’t look him in the eye. I would only be cheating myself.


The last 100 feels like I am flying, but later the split says otherwise. The end is there. It ain’t France but it sure as hell feels like it.


And so it is done for now. The time is significantly better than the previous, but still some way off the golden time. I call the Trent. He blurts out “you went sub 45?”….I feel a little deflated. Perhaps I have disappointed. But true to his nature he picks you up and encourages you to push more and we will get it.


For the next 3.5 weeks I will happily smash out kms and gladly put myself in pain. Until the text message comes.


And so I relax….and have a beer for it is recovery week. I flick through my emails. The next block of the training program has arrived. Oh hell. I pray that there is no 10km negative split.


About Sarah Wapling

Mild mannered recruitment consultant in the wealth and funds management industry who could be slightly crazy...also an aspiring English Channel swimmer (booked for late July 2019). Longstanding Tigers bandwagon supporter and married to a passionate Doggies man.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Well done Sarah! Fanatastic effort, I don’t know how you can keep your mind on the task at hand. During my daily 2km swim my mind goes all over the place, the “Mind Movies” begin, the good, the bad, the irrelevant, the obscure, everything and nothing, crazy stuff! When I get out of the pool exhausted I don’t if it’s from the movies or the actual swimming!

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