My Challenge

I am training to swim the English Channel in August 2013 to show my support for and to celebrate my inspirational friends and family who have fought cancer.  Sadly, despite bravery, courage and dignity some have lost their fights, and brilliantly some have had the all clear.  Some are still fighting.  They will be my driving force when training gets tough and the swim seems unachieveable.

The English Channel is an iconic swim.  In a straight line it is 21 miles from Dover to France, but often swims cover 30 – 40 miles, due to the tides.  I will be challenged by the distance, water temperature, tides, winds, salt, large ships, wildlife and much much more.

My love for open water swimming started as a result of a wonderful friendship with Dawn and Giles Walker, while I was living in New Zealand.  Since moving back to the UK, three years ago, this passion has developed into ‘traditional (ie non-wetsuit) swimming… and I’ve never looked back! Last year my challenge was in the Lakes, building up to successfully swimming the 10.5 miles of a one-way Windermere.

This year my training for the Channel has stepped up and included:

– a week training in Malta with the wonderful Claire, Michelle, Sally and my first open water hero Keith (who saved me when I had a nasty encounter with a Portugese-man-of-war… which has left a rather unattractive reminder of it’s sting on my back!)

– a weeks long distance training in Cork, Ireland, with the fantastic and completely brilliant Ned Dennision and the Sandycove swimmers (be them honorary, like myself, or ‘full-time’!). The incredible people I met there have been a constant source of inspiration, advice and smiles.  Not least of all my second open water hero Bryn… who I was so incredibly grateful to be swimming alongside on one of the days in particular!

– a one-way Ullswater, having been defeated by this last year I was determined to seek my revenge this year. And that demon has now been successfully laid to rest!!

– a 5 person relay of the English Channel with Steve ‘Tiger’ Lyons, Paul Cane, Ian Shaw, and ‘Big Back’ Kate Armstrong.  Our pilot was Kevin on the Connemara and we were lucky to have Dave Quartermain and Pete Woodward crewing. A great experience, and glorious conditions. 12 hours 23 minutes.

– attempting to crew Jenny Zwijnen on her Solo Channel swim this year.  The week spent waiting with Jen down in Dover was a valuable experience and lesson learned.  If the weather isn’t right… this swim can’t happen. And you need to be mentally tough and prepared for this part of the challenge.

– an attempted two-way Windermere swim.  This was a incredible experience for me.  I absolutely loved every minute of it, but sadly was pulled out of the water, with serious hypothermia, after 12 hours and 19 miles.  Bringing me to my third and fourth open water heroes… Dave Q and Chris Moulder, who were on my boat.

– Crewing and being the support swimmer for Catie Smith on her 16 and a half hour crossing of the Channel in October.  Being in the water and feeling the strength of the tide for that last hour was an eye opener.

– a mile in the coldest lake in Britain… and one of my favourite places to swim, Llyn Lldaw on Snowdon.

As I write this, on 12th October 2012, I have exactly 10 months and 1 day until my tide opens. The next 43 weeks are going to be an amazing adventure and I look forward to keeping you updated on my progress.


9 responses to “My Challenge

  1. Congrats for your challenge and best of luck in August. We are training to cross Gibraltar next July, and w have also talked about possibly the Channel the year after. We are interested in knowing how you are conditioning and training to tolerate swimming in cold water. Our latest post was precisely on this topic (although 20ºC is warm water for you 🙂 Any input will be appreciated.

    • Hi. Thanks for your message 🙂 Gibraltar sounds like a great challenge. The tolerating the cold has been an interesting journey for me. I initially started open water swimming in New Zealand and all the swimming there was in wetsuits, and I would think that 16 degrees was freezing. I ditched the wetsuit last Summer, when the water was about 17 / 18 degrees, and just gradually upped the amount of time and distance I spent in the water. I lost a lot of weight (for various reasons) at the start of this year and so struggled badly with the cold. I found it really hard to do even half an hour at 14 degrees. Have put the weight back on over the Summer, which has made a massive difference, and little things like putting Vaseline on your elbows and taking cold showers helps too. Towards the end of the Summer I have continued to swim, as the temperature drops, and learnt what the signs are for different stages of hypothermia, and therefore how far I can push myself. I always have a good crew and other people there to keep an eye out / make sure I am safe. The long distance swim training camp in Cork (lead by Ned Denison) in June was also brilliant for cold water acclimatisation and also learning so much from the inspirational swimmers there. Over the winter I intend to swim at least once a week, to keep my body used to the cold, and will just reduce the time I spend in the water as the temperature drops lower. Enjoy! 🙂

  2. Thanks a lot for sharing your perspective on this. Wow, so it seems like acclimatizing to cold water swimming involves getting to the signs of hypothermia, huh? Hard core. Your response is very relevant and informative, so I made a reference to your blog and your response in the comments section of my blog. I hope this is OK with you. Again, best of luck with your training and I look forward to reading your progress.

    • No problem at all. It is just my experience though, and different people will say different things. The most important thing is to be safe. I think most ‘cold water’ swimming will involve some level of hypothermia, but for most people this will be at a very low level, so the tingling hands and feet etc. It’s important to know what the signs are, so you can look out for them when swimming and know when you need to get out. Main thing is to build it up gradually and not try to push your body too much too soon, but there are lots of benefits to swimming in colder water. Glad the post was helpful. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Cold Water Swimming « Swimming the Strait of Gibraltar

  4. Good luck with your Challenge.
    I will keep reading and watching your progress, hopefully see you down at Pickmere sometime.
    Enjoy it all.

  5. Pingback: Cold Water Swimming | Open Water Swimming

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