“Never count your chickens before they hatch”
Everyone knows this.
But I had a whole coop of chicks running around in my head as soon as we left Northern Ireland. What a non-existent group of chicks they were.
Once we made it up Ireland, I saw Scotland as the home stretch. Sean even said in an interview in Dublin that he felt like he’d almost made it. Oh how wrong were we. Scotland, although stunning, brought the coldest weather, the most rain, the biggest waves, the strongest winds, the worst logistical disasters. All in one full swoop. The Mull of Kintyre was not kind to us. Our arrival in Scotland gave us an enormous wakeup call. Firstly we hadn’t reached the end. And secondly we still had a massive country to go. Dammit. I always thought the scale on our map was wrong (the one that is blue-tacked to the loo door and we mark on daily with a bright red pen). But then again I was never good at geography.
The first days in Scotland were without a doubt the hardest days of the whole expedition for me. People talk about the wall you reach in a marathon and once you push through it you will get to the end. Well I seemed to be hitting this wall every day in Scotland. For several reasons, I just didn’t know if I could make it. And I’m meant to be a positive motivation for Sean. Trying to be positive when you are feeling so incredibly negative, is really tough. I had reached my limit of living on a tiny boat with three other people (thank goodness we all get on perfectly). I had reached my limit of being cold and wet. I had reached my limit of kayaking through the day and night. I had reached my limit of time away from friends and family. I had reached my limit. And had to fight daily to keep going. Especially with an ever-changing end date.
While I’m not swimming in the water (so I’m embarrassed to even complain), I am sitting in the water for five hours straight. My kit went from basic wetsuit gear to everything we could find on the boat. I now wear the following:
Speedo Swimming Costume
Simply Swim Thermals
O’Neil Wetsuit Booties
Socks (made from a space blanket my best friend, Rosie gave me in my expedition survival pack)
Waterproof Jacket + Hood
X2 Pairs of Gloves
And I’m still cold. Partly because the kit isn’t breathable and so the condensation inside just makes me colder. And dealing with ridiculous winds, huge waves, nightmare logistics (broken engine, kayak rope around the propellor, no tide, gale warnings) looking after Sean, cooking, cleaning and worrying about getting to the end, I just didn’t know how much longer I could do it. If we knew the day we would arrive/ that we would ever arrive, it would be a lot easier. You can tell yourself to man up and count down the days. But I counted down the days and we just seemed to be getting there later and later. End of August turned to end November. Why not spend Christmas together? Real life started trickling back – the need to earn some money, the gap in the CV growing, the absence of family and friends.
But then I pulled myself together. At the end of this, Sean will be the first person EVER to swim the length of Britain. And I will be the first girl to kayak it. How could I not be excited to achieve this. And give me a few days in London, I would be gagging to be back on the ocean or in the countryside. I love being outside. Scotland is blooming beautiful. We have visited small communities on islands, discovered deserted beaches, lived on fresh fish and spent everyday outside. And I don’t want the adventure, the exploring, the daily routine of the team, the team bond and everything about #SwimmingBritain to end. Despite the mental and physical challenge it brings, we will be involved in helping Sean be the first person to do something. And I don’t think I could have said that if I stayed at my desk in my headhunting job I hated all those years ago.
So on we go. Skye is in our sights. And we must keep going. To make it to John O’Groats. And then back to real life.