Much like 30 Dates, this blog was never planned. Last week, I couldn’t sleep, and was thinking about the ridiculous way my ex and I broke up. Rather than dwell on it, I decided to write about it … and so my first ‘You can’t make this sh*t up’ post came to life.
Since then, several people have approached me to ask ‘what happened next?’
To be completely honest, the reason I stopped the story where I did was because the rest of the story isn’t particularly empowering or happy. In fact it was all rather sad. Because I was still in love with my ex, and had been taken by complete surprise. I managed to go two days without saying anything, and then got a bit drunk at my brother’s wedding and blurted that I’d found out what he was doing on Plenty of Fish. Cue two hours of talking (me talking, him failing to say much) in the gardens of a stately home in the Cotswolds, a lot of crying, me only getting to see half the wedding, and my oldest brother squaring up to my ex (he’s a legend).
And so we broke up, and I was homeless for three weeks, moving from one friend’s spare bedroom to the next. That summer, my ex and all his friends had signed up to do a 10 km swim down the River Dart. When one of the guys dropped out at the start of the summer, I’d ended up taking his place, despite having never swum in a lake or river before, and only barely being able to swim front crawl (I’d taken all my lifeguard qualifications swimming breast stroke).
I had spent every Sunday morning, rain or shine, swimming around a chilly lake, in a wetsuit I had bought specially for the challenge. I had gradually increased my distance, stretching from 1 mile, to 2, to 3, to 4 miles – 8 full laps of the lake.
And just when I was feeling happy and confident and really starting to enjoy the swimming, my ex and I broke up. It was just three weeks from the Dart 10k competition. Not only had I barely eaten for a fortnight (when I’m worried or stressed about something I just can’t stomach anything), but all the plans for the weekend in Totnes, Devon, revolved around my ex’s friends. We had plans to stay with his best friend’s parents, and another of his friends was meant to be driving me down to Devon. Suddenly I was persona non grata, despite doing nothing wrong.
Obviously my ex expected me to just not turn up. The race entry hadn’t been cheap – over £100 – but he clearly thought I’d only been doing the swimming for him – to fit in with his friends.
About ten days after we broke up, I was flat-sitting for a friend in Clapham. Bored of moping around, I decided to go to the gym, and ended up swimming a couple of laps of the pool. As I cut through the water, voluntarily swimming front crawl, and finding it easier than I ever had before, I realised how much effort I had put into preparing for the 10k swim that summer. I hate early mornings, and yet I had woken up before 7am most Sundays that summer. I had trekked miles to and from stations, into the middle of nowhere, carrying my heavy wetsuit, and dripping kit. I had done all that work to swim the Dart 10k – the only race of its kind. I couldn’t just sign up to a different one.
I was going to swim.
I booked a train ticket to Totnes, and managed to find a friend to put me up for the weekend. I’d met her through my ex. ‘You know he’s not going to be happy that you’re here,’ she warned me. I didn’t care. I wasn’t there for him, I was there for me.
Race day was the first time I’d seen my ex since the morning after my brother’s wedding. We stood awkwardly together with his friends at the start of the race, and I knew they were people I would probably never see again once the day was done. But then we entered the water, and none of that mattered.
The 10 km swim was easier than I had expected. The river current eased us on our way, making it seem more like 6 kms, and the scenery was beautiful. There was a real sense of camaraderie amongst the swimmers, and lifeguards floated between us on surfboards, along the distance of the river.
I finished the race in 2 hours 47 minutes (which I think is a pretty decent time!). As I walked up onto the bank at the estuary of the Dart, I was handed a steaming mug of hot-chocolate. I quickly dried, changed out of my stuff, and said goodbye to my ex’s friends. He was yet to finish. He emerged from the river as I was saying goodbye, and I knew I had beaten him quite convincingly.
The next day, our official times were published. I’d beaten him by 20 minutes!
But the best part of it all is that I’ve found a new hobby. One year on, and I’ll be doing the 10k again in a few weeks time. I’ve spent the summer training at the lake, and getting some of my friends down there with me. I’ve also got into cycling, and have my first triathlon next month. And I’ve even decided that my next big challenge will be an IronMan … something which is particularly pertinent, because when I told my ex that I’ve always wanted to do an IronMan, he laughed at me. And not in a good way.
Everything happens for a reason.
You can’t make this sh*t up!