Challenge One: COMPLETE

Now that the feeling has returned to my hands & feet, I’m happy to say that my first challenge went swimmingly (OK, no more puns I promise). After seeing the New Year with Nick, an early start wasn’t too bad considering I stopped consuming at midnight. Heading up the A1 was actually quite a treat, which is something I would normally never say, but being New Year’s Day meant that nobody else in their right mind was out at 09:00. And with our Mum also in tow, it became a right family affair.

We arrived at Whitley Bay around 10:30, and while I didn’t expect to see bikini clad babes or volley ball hunks, or even white sands and crystal clear waters, I wanted to see something more cheery that what initially welcomed us. Then again, I knew there was a reason this was going to be a challenge.

When we got down to the beach, we were greeted by lots of willing (and some unwilling) folk, some to support and some to dive into the depths of the North Sea. The reality of doing a Pamela Anderson style run into the sea was about to hit me. So while I was chuffed to see such a great turn out, I was also thinking “oh god, all these people are about to see me running like Pamela Anderson”.

Never ones to shy away from a bit of publicity, Nick & me decided to get some well polished (but not air brushed) snaps in front of the crowds. There was a good mixture of athletes wanting to really swim, those brave folk wanting to brush away the cobwebs in a mad New Year’s Day show of crazy and a selection of charity fundraisers. I did feel that said fundraisers were going to steal my thunder slightly, but I didn’t really fancy dressing up as a banana, Spiderman…..or a woman. Maybe next time! But while I wasn’t dressed up as a rather dubious piece of fruit or a comic book hero, I had something better. I had my secret weapon; a Royal Marine Commando.

As most people who know would agree with, I’m never one to do something by halves. If you’re doing to do something, you’ve got to do it properly. So while wearing costumes or a wetsuit would have been the sensible thing to do, I had a slightly different idea in mind.

If you asked me a year ago (actually at any point in my life) would I be putting semi-naked photos of myself online, I would have course laughed / scowled (luckily I went to university before the top up fees came in, otherwise the answer might have been somewhat different). But a wise friend of mine once said to me that vulnerability attracts credibility. I’m hoping that in showing people that I’m willing to do things that really get me out of my comfort zone, they’ll realise I’m serious about the next 21 months. On another note, I think it will be interesting if I complete the New Year swim in 2013 and get another photo taken – if ever there was a reason to get fit, get healthy and get training, that photo is at the top of the list!

With the claxon sounding, it was time. Eat your heart out Pamela, I was way better at the Baywatch Run. The first 3 seconds was fine, as the water only went up to my knees – I think my height meant I could stay dryer & warmer for at least 1 more second than everyone else. Then it hit. It hit like a juggernaut of pain. OK, maybe a slight over-exaggeration, but it was bloody cold, especially when it hit my waistline. The sea was actually really rough; you could feel the current underneath dragging, pulling, pushing and ripping away at your feet & legs. I got battered about a bit getting deeper in, but then came the crunch. As I dove into an oncoming wave, I anticipated what always happens when I’ve done this in the past. Dive under the wave and come happily out the other side – but not quite this time. No sooner was the wave passing over the top of me, was I being hurtled in every which way the sea decided to throw me. Luckily while learning to surf I spent a lot of time in the sea and not on the board, so holding my breath for a while wasn’t too taxing. Getting further out, allowed me the time to give a display of breast stroke, meets butterfly, meets something unknown to most. The current was a right beast, meaning swimming was somewhat harder than I’d hoped.

After as much swimming as my body, but more importantly the elements would allow, I headed back to shore.

Wow, wow and wow. The cold really started to set in back on the beach, but wow. Swimming in the North Sea on New Year’s Day was amazing. It was freezing, but it was amazing. Getting back to shore to be greeted by my brother was just what I needed to remind me of why I would be so bloody stupid to undertake such a challenge. I don’t think I’ll be running back to the North East coast for more aquatic fun any time soon, but it was a great opener to [21:21] and the New Year.

A big thanks has to go out to Nick for getting down on the sand and shouting out support. Another one to my Mum for trekking it up to Whitley Bay, having only been in surgery 3 weeks previously. And a final one to everyone who has pledged their support & money so far.

Great event which has totally spurred me on for the next 20.

Blog ten – check.

Challenges completed – one.

Months to go – 21 (minus 3 days).

Help for Heroes [21:21] Challenge

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About benjonlambert

Mountain climber, marathon runner, Olympic torchbearer & ACF instructor amongst other things: "Success never came to those who weren't ready for a challenge"
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