Well not quite, but I think you get an insight into how tedious life would be when you do a 4 hour swim in a pool. Back and forwards, back and forwards, it's very repetitive, and can lead to unbelievable boredom. But for me other emotions float in and out as well. It's strenuous swimming for such a long time so general fatigue passes over in waves. However because it's a marathon you're never out of breath, your heart rate never rises too much, your breathing remains aerobic. The monotony can also be quite hypnotic. And that is probably the best place to be mentally, meditating your way through time, removing your mind from where you are and what you're doing and letting it wander away of it's own accord. This is actually what I've learned to really like about swimming especially in the open water is that you can escape from everything and everyone, but at the cost of being inescapably surrounded with your own thoughts.
I'm not one to really get that bored when swimming. My mind shuffles around from one random thing onto another. I can't think of anything too challenging. Some people do calculations to pass the time whereas I will struggle converting the amount of lengths I've done into kilometres! I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm training for. I visualise swimming the Channel and imagine how i will feel standing on Shakespeare Beach in Dover or putting my foot down on French soil, and everything in between. I think about other aspects of the expedition too. Things we need to do, new ideas. This helps me keep focussed and is an enjoyable way to day dream. I've normally forgotten everything once I get out though.
Of course thinking about swimming the Channel can bring on immense trepidation by, for example, working out that you've swam 10k but realistically if you were swimming the Channel you would only really be about 1/4 quarter of the way there. At this point you must steer your mind to think positively. Long distance swimming is about perseverance, and that requires a positive outset.
A frequent train of thought for me is on the swimming itself and my technique. I'm often thinking about whether I'm pulling through correctly or am I breathing into the bow wave or rotating too much, and constantly trying to improve. Realistically I'm not going to improve that much. The best way to improve is to do drills to change bad habits. Swimming more just compounds bad habits and makes it harder to change them.
But like the lengths themselves, the swimming stroke is repetitive. You want to get yourself into a rhythm of symmetrical propulsion. It sounds airy-fairy but you really can get a feel for the water. And it's strange because sometimes you'll be in a perfect tempo and other times you feel all out of kilter. You can be cutting through the water thinking this is easy and then suddenly everything feels mechanical, rigid and unnatural.
Like a goldfish the highlights of swimming is probably feeding time. I down 200ml of water mixed with a carb powder called Maxim which is very highly recommended in the Channel swimming world. I normally swim the first hour with no feed and then have one every 30 minutes. I always have a massive breakfast before swimming and every time I make the same mistake and eat too much too late. Swimming while trying to digest is really uncomfortable and definitely not recommended. It just sits there for ages.
So, although for the last few swims I've taken milky ways, aeros and energy bars, I haven't actually tried any because I've been too full to eat them. I do need to practice eating solids in my feeds though as I will definitely need to eat them on the Channel. Here's a picture of Rob's and my breakfast, see what you think!