My first year in the UK

My first year in the UK

A year ago, on 20 April, I landed the UK for my first time in life and took a minicab from Heathrow Airport to Bournemouth. I hoped that it would be an exciting start of a new life. However, it didn’t.

Instead, in the past year, I failed everything in my life. First was, my Channel swim. Adding to the insult, I pissed off all the swim groups in Bournemouth when I read that Chloë McCardel became the Queen of the Channel and now they are no longer willing to swim with me.

And eventually my mentors no longer support me as well when I reiterate my swimming goals, emphasising that my training goal is to swim as good as Chloë McCardel or similar record-holding swimmers, because 1. my original goal in marathon swimming is to become a competitive swimmer, 2. the conclusion I’ve got after chatting with Simon is that I need to be as good as her in order to guarantee a Channel success. However, they just don’t think this is possible. In contrast, when I trained in orienteering clubs in Hong Kong, everyone supported each others’ goal to become an elite, which I eventually did (in sprint and TrailO).

Then my career failed as well. My job in Bournemouth was terminated at the end of probation.

Afterwards, I started to run out of budget as well. My transport expense per month skyrocketed to above £300 per month where I expected only about £150 initially as a result of frequent train travel to Basingstoke, Woking or beyond. It was because after I lost my job, I started to increase my swim training in a pool, and the closest outdoor pool (which is not hot) is in Guildford. I initially got there for swimming once per week, then twice, then three times, with Advance train tickets costing at least £15 return, and more commonly about £20 – £25 if I couldn’t grab the cheapest ones. It took me at least 2 hours each way to get there. In addition, most orienteering races I did were also in that area as well, with the occasional closer races not accessible to me because Sunday morning transport is so bad. Also, some trips were made possible only after I lost my job, as there are no domestic low cost airlines serving Bournemouth or Southampton Airport, and it takes me hours to get to Gatwick, Luton or Stansted which won’t be possible under a standard Friday evening – Sunday evening schedule to do orienteering races over the weekend, and flights from Southampton can be as expensive as £200-£300 each way, making a weekend trip completely out of reach.

So in short, in my last year in Bournemouth, I

  1. pissed off all swimmers;
  2. failed my job;
  3. couldn’t do the things I want to do in the region, or travel to do so if having a full-time job.

Therefore I have decided to move away in June. I’ll probably move to South London, or somewhere along the line towards Brighton. It seems to be a possibility to do everything locally in the London commuting area, including all my swim training as there are a few outdoor pools opening year-round, and most orienteering races as well (even if they are not local it’s much easier to get a train as well in the London commuting area). I’ll do my sea swimming in Brighton. It may even be possible to do everything with a full-time job where I can just take a train or ride a bike to get to everywhere in the inner city within an hour.

Once I move away, after my existing memberships in Bournemouth expire, I won’t come back again except for races as there is nothing worthwhile for me in Bournemouth that I can’t find in London and Brighton.

I hope that, after I move, I can get into a competitive swim club / triathlon club where there are systematic training to develop adult competitive swimmers / triathletes to a high level.

I’m not sure if I will return to full time working or start a business, as I have some product ideas and am working on a prototype already. Also I’ll need to see, after I get to London, if I can do my desired swim training on a standard work schedule, and if I will really continue swimming or give up after this year, which I will decide in October.

I have a few big swims coming up this autumn, some of them rolled over before the pandemic. However, I will not try a Channel solo again this year as I decided in last November that I was far from ready. I’ll decide again if I will do it in 2023, or any later year or not in the preceding November based on my performance in my big swims in autumn, or give up swimming and make my failure last year a life regret. My original motivation to swim the Channel has lost already and my future swim training will be for improving race speeds, which will mainly be in the pool. After this year, I will only do all my swim training within the London outer commuter belt, and will only race within the Network Railcard area with at most 2 exceptions, until I become competitive at the regional level. The 2 exceptions are my longest marathon swimming race in the year (must be longer than 16 km), which I may travel further than the Network Railcard area to do it but must still be within the UK, or return to Hong Kong to do Cold Half in the winter.

Also, I hope to improve my orienteering as well, with some good results already in this season, and will probably join the club where my elite friends are in next year.

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