Crusty baguettes and brie in sight for Gemma as she completes Swim22

9 April. A swimming pool: Taunton

In March we held the first induction session for new volunteers, and hearing their stories of the challenges they face with constant glucose monitoring, injections and the threat of night time hypos brings home the reality of why we are swimming 22 miles as a team and they inspire me to get down the pool this weekend.

I’m on length 61 and it really does hurt now, but people with diabetes don’t get to have the day off or just give up, so I tell myself to keep going.
I’ve done a session of 30, then 60, I’m now aiming for 100 lengths so I can cover 2.2 miles in one visit to the pool. I’ve done the maths and realised that I need to build up my distance per swimming session if I’m ever going to stand a chance of making it to the beaches of Calais. I’m swimming in a team but secretly I’d really like to complete the 22 miles as an individual too.

I’m still doing my trusty breaststroke but I’m conscious of just how slow I am and I’m being overtaken, a lot, by people doing front crawl. I eventually start to get front crawl envy and give it a go, but keeping my head straight to take a breath as I still can’t bear to turn my head to the side with my ears full of water. I end up doing my own unique hybrid of front crawl and breast stoke in what I now call ‘the pug dog paddle’ stroke.

16 April. A swimming pool: Backwell

It’s Easter Sunday and I’m visiting my parents. They ask how the channel challenge is going and are
curious why I’m doing so much swimming so suddenly. We chat about the challenges people with diabetes face and I explain I’m trying to help raise funds. Mum and dad kindly offer to sponsor me, £20 for taking part, £40 pound for completing it.

Spurred on by the prospect of fleecing the Bank of Mum and Dad for an extra 20 pounds, I pack my kit for the pool and mum says she’ll join me. At the pool, I charge on with my challenge while mum gets used to being in the water for the first time in 10 years. We both agree that the swim makes us feel healthier and I’m starting to notice a difference; I no longer need to lie down in a dark room after each swim and I’m building stamina with each visit.

April 28. A swimming pool: Taunton

I’ve done nearly 16 miles and I’m starting to visualise the shoreline of Calais, I can almost smell the crusty baguettes and Brie…
My landlady kindly lent me her Fitbit for this session and I was amazed when I got home and loaded the data from my swim. It turns out 100 lengths in my local 33 meter pool takes me 2 hours and 40 minutes and burns 1400 calories. That’s a lot of baguettes and Brie…

May Day, A swimming pool, Taunton

It’s my last visit to the pool to complete my Swim 22, I’ve only got to swim 78 lengths and I’ve done it. I’ve spent my bank holiday getting to this point, swimming roughly 100 lengths on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As I complete the 78th length I take stock of completing the challenge and what it really means, raising vital funds that will make a real difference to people living with diabetes.

I get home exhausted but full of adrenaline and eagerly load my mileage on to my tracker to get the ‘Champions of the Channel’ badge that now takes pride of place on the front of fridge. I also start to wonder about how long it’s taken in total to swim from England to France. Using the stats from my landlady’s Fitbit I crunch some serious numbers and work out that the 22 miles has taken me 27 hours, 56 minutes and 48 seconds and burned 15,022 calories. That an awful lot of baguettes and Brie….

I arrive at the office on Tuesday morning and let my colleagues know I’ve completed the challenge. They are really pleased for me and I’m the second member of our Diabetes UK Swimmers’ team to make it to France.

At this point, I start wondering what I will do when Swim 22 ends on 22 May? Can I swim back to England for some fish and chips? Can I continue on to Belgium? Can I swim the length of the River Tone or the coastline of Cornwall? The latter was a bad suggestion as Susannah, our Regional Media Officer, immediately picks up on this idea and suggests we could, as a team, swim the coastline path of our region, all 630 miles of it…

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