July 12, 2005


In order for a swimmer to be allowed to make his or her Channel attempt, the swimmer must first provide evidence of a continuous six hour swim in water below 60F or 16C. For a swimmer who is just starting out, this is some source of concern. When you're struggling to do an hour or two, or emptying your stomach violently at four hours, six hours seems as likely as winning the lottery and retiring to a small island in the Caribbean.

It has to be done, however, and it was my goal this weekend to get my qualification swim out of the way.

Friday saw me nervously travelling down to Dover again. I was a little concerned after the bombings on Thursday, but of course like everyone I was determined not to let it stop me. Passing through London on the bus, everything was quieter than usual, and three ambulances passed the bus with sirens blaring, presumably for new victims found. Apart from that, however, everything was calm and my journey was uneventful.

On Saturday morning I got in the water and my first thought was, "Hey, not so bad!" The water had risen to the glorious "heights" of 15.5C, and compared to the 12C that I had started in over a month ago, this was markedly- well, not to say warmer, but less cold.

Still, it was barely two hours in and I was already shivering, which I knew was my main enemy. Once I start shivering, the cold has penetrated, and my core muscles would slowly cramp up. True enough, over the next three hours all the muscles in my stomach and groin area slowly locked up, and I learnt that stretching them only made it worse. The only fix, albeit a temporary one, was to work heat into the region by "jogging" on the spot. I did this everytime I had to turn around when I reached one of the piers.

You say and do funny things when you've got nothing to think about for six hours. I sang odd songs in my head, started writing imaginary emails to friends, and kept bargaining with myself about what I would do if I made it a little while longer.

"One more hour and I'll have earned an entire chocolate bar!"
"One more hour and I'll buy me the biggest friggin' steak I can find!"
and so on.

The weather didn't help, either- it was a windy, cold day with intermittent sun, making the swim unpleasant, with lots of waves and little relief from the cold. Finally, with my muscles screaming and my body seizing up, I staggered to the shore and slowly crawled out. One of the other swimmers came over and helped me walk up. I was exhausted and trembling like a leaf, but I had made it: six and a half hours.

That night I had dinner with two fellow swimmers who were also training for solo swims and it was amusing at the table. Everyone was exhausted. No one said a word. Most of us could barely hold our heads up. I tried to alternate between resting my head on the table and sitting up straight. We all ate copious amounts of food, packing it away like there was no tomorrow. Then we all went back to our guest house and passed out.

Exactly one month to go.

Posted by pj at July 12, 2005 04:44 PM

You do know there is a perfectly good boat service, right?! No, seriously mate, lost in admiration, so impressed. Working in Ox for a month as of next week so hope to catch up with you then.

Posted by: Steph at July 19, 2005 02:43 AM

*yay* 6.5 hrs! =)

Posted by: dorl at July 20, 2005 03:01 PM
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