The Distance- In a straight line the distance from Dover in England to Calais in France is 32km. However, because of tides, the swim is rarely completed in a straight line. For 6 hours the swimmer is pushed up the channel and then for the next 6 hours pushed back down. This can add an additional 20kms to the total distance swum making the swim closer to 50km. There is no time to rest, liquid feeds are thrown to the swimmer in the water and they must drink it as quickly as possible and continue on. You can’t touch the boat or another person during the swim. If you do, the official observer will call off the swim. In regards to toileting, if you can’t get on the boat, you’ve got to do what you have to do, if you get my drift.
Preparation and fitness is the key and I will be swimming many, many kms with lots of interval training over the next 10 months to get my body and mind ready.
The Cold Water- No wetsuits allowed! During the channel swimming season (July- September) the water temperature varies from 12-18 degrees. Now I must admit, when I first decided I was going to swim the english channel I didn’t really know what this temperature felt like. I now do, and it is icy. The water around Brisbane rarely drops below 18 degrees. Have you dipped your toes in the water at the beach in the middle of winter and felt the urge to immerse your whole body in it? I doubt it and this temperature is regarded “warm" in the Channel!
I have done this regularly over the last few months and thank goodness I am starting to tolerate this a little better. Ice baths are a must for brisbanites looking at increasing tolerance, for up to an hour at a time. As well as long swims in Melbourne and Sydney during winter. As I could be in the water for 12-14hours, Hypothermia is a real risk and the support crew on my boat will be watching me carefully for any signs of what could become a life threatening situation. They do say cold water is great for reducing cellulite. Ha! I found the silver lining.
Ships- The English Channel is one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world with up to 600 cargo ships/ferries passing through PER DAY! It will be up to my boat pilot Paul Foreman on the “Optimist" (pictured above) to navigate me safely though the waters.
Marine Life- Thankfully the cold water keeps the big bitey animals away. However, swarms of stingy jellyfish will be encountered and this is something I will just have to deal with.
Willpower- Swimming the Channel is a mental as well as a physical swim. Possibly even more mental than physical. Many a failure has come about by not having the right mental attitude. Willpower is needed to push through the pain barriers that never go away and I’ll also have Jess and my supporters on my mind, to help me get there.
Sally Goble from the UK, swam the Channel in 2013 and sums it up pretty well-
"Swimming the Channel is not about being fast and smooth and beautiful as a swimmer, although that can certainly help. Swimming the Channel is about being single-minded and self-contained and driven and stubborn. It's about facing head-on every mental weakness that you have. It's without a doubt the best thing I have ever done in my life.”
Bring it on!