Stage one complete

Stage one complete
English Channel

Friday, October 2, 2015

My English Channel Swim

I have thought long and hard about this post, heck I even wrote it while I was still in England but never posted it. I read through it again last night and decided that it wasn’t what I thought, it wasn’t really anything. So with a clear head and after being back at work for a few days I decided to start over, so here you go.

I left for Europe on September 11, in order to get rid of my Jet lag and hang out with my family for a few days before having to be in England. The plan was to do pretty much whatever everyone wanted as long as I was able to swim about a mile to a mile and a half every day. My first swim was kind of a shocker, I showed up at the community pool with my brother in law and let’s just say I was reminded I was in Europe straight away. I made it out of the dressing room and to the pool and everyone was doing heads up breast except for about 3 people. I hopped in with them and I know I am not a fast swimmer, but wow. It took me about 52 minutes to swim a mile and I hurried to the car to head back to my family’s place. I talked to Theiry about my options as to where else I could swim and he showed me a river that was within walking distance from his house. That was where I was going to swim from here on out. It was awesome to swim there I got to see the barge traffic going up and down the river as I swam, the water was cold at about 58 degrees and it felt awesome.

                                           Ariving in Amsterdam
                                            On the Ferry heading to Dover

                                                              Dover Harbor

The time had come for us to start our way to Dover for my swim; we drove to Calais France to board the ferry to Dover. On the way I could make out the white cliffs and it hit me. I looked at the water that I would be swimming in and the distance. I was in awe and humbled at the same time. We got to Dover and found Varne Ridge where I would be calling home for the next several days. We got some dinner and I headed to bed. The next morning I was to pick up Gords from the train station it ended up that his flight was delayed so it made him latter than expected. I didn’t get much don except for some much needed shopping for my feeds and the day was done. The next morning me and Gords went down to meet with the CS&PF crew at the marina to pick up some swag that we had ordered and to swim. I was able to meet Irene and Freda, they were some of the nicest people in England. After our mile swim we went back to the trailer and started looking at the weather and decided some time Saturday would be my best window to swim. I finally got a hold of my Pilot and he told me it looked good to go at 2 am but he would confirm with me after 4 pm when the weather source he used updated.  I took a huge breathe and looked at Gord’s and all my nerves that I had been holding in hit like a ton of bricks. Gords and I let everyone know back home and I went back and tried to sleep. Paul called and confirmed I was to meet him at 1 am and in the water ready to swim at 2

                                           The Crew before the swim
                                              Me and the First Mate
                                             CS&PF Crew at the Marina
                                                         Getting in the water to start
                                                    Happy Gords

At the marina we took a few pictures and got everything settled onto the boat. Paul gave everyone the safety briefing and what he expected of me, then the observer said what he need to say and we were off to the starting point. After about 15 minutes the Observer told me it was my 5 minute warning. I started to get ready and slimed myself thick with grease, hurried and gave my mom a kiss and Chandra as well. I teased that when I hit the water I was going to squeal like a little girl then I would be fine. When I jumped in I let out a little squeal and realized I was in such a zone my butterflies had gone and it was swim time. Josh was right he said when I hit the water all my nerves would be gone. I swam to shore raised my hand to signal I was ready to go, I got a flash of light from the boat and I stepped in the water and took off. The first several hours swimming were uneventful I stopped for my first feed after an hour and from then on it was to be every 30 minutes. I was just swimming away and felt like I was in a good groove and just after the sun had come up all hell was about to break loose. I knew I was going to get stung by some jellies but I had know idea how many stings I would have the opportunity to experience over the next several hours. The jellies would come in waves every 10 or so minutes they would get stuck on my eyebrows and then under my arms then down to my legs. It wouldn’t hurt while they were on me it seemed but as soon as the moved to another body part the pain would set in. I tried swimming next to the boat, just behind the boat and everywhere else I could think of to no avail. My lips were numb from the stings and I was afraid that my crew would think I was getting hypothermia because I couldn’t talk and my speech was slurred. It came to the point that for every sting I would just power thru it and quit my complaining. At one point I looked up and could see France pretty clearly and asked Gords if I was going to make 16, he said if I hurried. Then the push was on he would point to a section of water on the side of the boat and wave me to hurry an swim there, I would get there and hold pace for as long as I could the boat would pull away and he would motion the same thing this went on for a few hours and at every feed I really needed it. Sometime during all of this I told them I was starting to get a little cold and asked to warm my feeds up. This worked wonders for my brain and me. I felt like I was sprinting just to have the boat speed up and force me to keep up the pace a little longer. The next thing I knew Gords was in the water with me again and I thought I must really need to pick up the pace so I put it in my mind that I was going to keep up with whatever pace he put me at and I remembered what I was told at the harbor “head down bum up feed to feed” so that is what I did I sighted and cold still see the hills of France and it looked to me I had about another 3 or 4 miles to go. I liked over to Gords and seen he had his gopro in his hand and thought  I was getting closer but I had know idea  how close I really was until I looked over at him again and he was walking, the hills I was seeing when I would sight were about 3 to 4 miles away. I just couldn’t see the beach was right in front of me. When I got close enough I could touch the ground it was all I could do to stand up and hold the weight of my body. I hadn’t stood up in about 17 hours and I looked like I was drunk.  I stumbled out of the water cleared the edge of the water and raised my hand in success. I had so many emotions going thru my mind, so I just laid down in the sand and smiled. I was going to make a snow angel but I was to tired I guess cause I didn’t do it. I got back up and followed Gords and found a shell (there were no rocks) stuffed it in my suit and headed back to the boat. The boat ride back to the marina was kind of funny, everyone was a sleep except for me, I dosed off here and there but I could not sleep. The thing I had been training for over the last 2 years was done. All the long hours at the pool and early mornings at the lake the time spent away from my family was over in just under 17 hours of swimming. I truly was sad that it was all over, not that I got to spend more time away from my family but a goal that I had set for myself was complete. I’m over that now and working on my next adventure and will let everyone know when I decide what is next for me swimming wise. There is no way in any shape or form that I could have done this without the support my wife gave me. I told her that I wanted to swim the English Channel and she was beside me pushing me the entire time. Without her support I could not have done this swim. With that said there is one more of those I couldn’t have done this without you people and that was my Coach and friend Gordon. He gave me the tools I needed to make it to France he gave me the guidance and the workouts, he was the one pushing me in the pool and swimming with me in the lakes at 3 and 4 in the mornings. Without Gordon I couldn’t have made it to France. Thanks Gords. To everyone else out there that might be thinking of swimming the English Channel or any other huge swim. Let me tell you this was by far the hardest and most mentally challenging thing I have ever done. Make sure your family is behind you and you have their support. Make sure you have the tools to help you and most of all make sure you don’t cheat yourself in your training and put the time in and you will also be successful.

                                           Site I was able to see when we returned to Varne Ridge
                                                        Awesome Jellies

                                                      My spot at The White Horse
                                          Dave and Evelyn owners of our home away from home
                                                      Dover Castle with my sweetie
                                                         American flag in front of Varne Ridge
                                          Gords and I getting ready to see the Captain Webb  Movie