On Wednesday 2nd September 2015 I set off at 2am from Samphire Hoe on a 7.2m Spring tide with Channel Escort Neil Streeter & Crew on Suva for my 2nd Channel swim in consecutive years. (I cannot recommend the Suva team highly enough to you btw)
I thought I would write a short blog outlining what I learnt that I didn't get on the first swim which you will find written up on this blog: 1st Channel swim 2014
Hope you get something out of it that might prevent you from making some of my errors!
1. Jumping in the water at Samphire Hoe is a great deal warmer (I would consider tropical) in September than at the beginning of July. If I do this swim again, the first week of September would be my choice. I won't worry again whether it is a neap or a spring as only swum on springs!
2. The first 4 hours in the dark were VERY tough mentally (I had been up since 5am the previous day & had a full day of work in the city). This bit was mentally far tougher than the first swim and certainly opened up the doubt devil in my mind & could have opened the door of failure. (Some warned me that the 2nd swim is harder). I took a great pride in not complaining to the crew but Ade said I looked completely miserable during this time! I would beg to differ - I had just not reached my full potential.
3. I used a clear pair of goggles (for night swimming) that I wasn't 100% sure that were leak-proof. In reality they weren't and my eyes were agony - couldn't see much of the boat and should have known better. This made some of the swim quite miserable which should have been entirely avoidable. I was desperate for daylight to switch the goggles over which made life become gradually better!
4. Everything got easier by the margin as it got lighter and more progress was made closer to France
5. The last swim was a 6.8m tide and this being a 7.2m didn't phase me - my overall time was 1 hour faster (13hrs 32mins). I swam a total of 64.8km including tide and even moved 500m in under 3 minutes being hurled round the cap! That's a record for me!
6. Funnily enough, it took me quite a while to remember why I really wanted to be there (!) for motivation (I need something more profound than 'because it's there'!). As soon as I uncovered/unlocked that motive, the whole escapade became more focussed - the aim I began to realise was to put my name amongst the ca. 180 who could boast a 2-time Channel - so wanted to be a member of that exclusive club versus the 1600 who had only done a single solo. Glad I eventually worked that out!
7a. I was glad to only have 2 crew (other than the Suva boat crew) to help with feeds. 4 crew-members seems too many last time and meant more people (AND kit) to worry about. 2 is ideal and aided by the fact that Suva has superstar crew ace Sam Jones up their sleeve. Ade (Adrian Rotchell) was on the rail the whole time (got no sleep) and Richard (my brother) was called at 2 hours notice to take a day's leave > both guys are incredible with their generosity & kindness.
7b. Adrian is a whizz with technology and logged into my Facebook page (using his phone with free roaming!) so could keep the whole world illuminated on proceedings. He also had his garmin on the whole time si i got a full de-brief of stats whether I wanted them or not! The only thing I wished I'd have remembered from the 1st swim was my digital camera (ran out of time after being summoned!)
8. I only fed 1x per hour and the crew ensured that got faster and faster. I had no time to dwell on trying to chew a jelly baby and observe my progress - I had to chew these things whilst moving! It wasn't a rest, it was a feed - I was grateful for that the other side when the tide turned. They just passed me a single plastic cup which I drank in 10 secs then threw back on the boat. Again, I barely wanted any solids as felt like I wouldn't stomach them given all the salt water being consumed whilst swimming. The odd banana, jelly baby or bit of milky way was all I managed.
8. I still like my maxim mixture with summer fruits and fruit sugar. Some of them were double x double strength (you read that right). Every 5th feed was black tea with fruit sugar. That was a winner and I should have done that the 1st swim. Ade swears by just having warm water during his long swims > I'll leave that feeding plan with him!
9. Didn't panic when in the separation zone and had to swim through mountain of jellyfish. I got stung umpteen times including on the tip of the left rotator cuff which was really miserable but the best cure for that was obviously cold salty water!
10. France never gets closer. Remembered to block out of mind and look at the boat & swim feed to feed. Didn't wear watch & tried to avoid looking at France so that saved a double-rollocking off Neil!
11. After 10 hours of swimming I was urged by the pilot to sprint for 1 hour - I didn't swear at him other than in my head! Glad I had something left in the tank to do that. After 12 hours of swimming, they asked for another burst. Amazing what you can achieve when the prize is there for the taking.
12. The tides round the cap are breathtaking on a spring but nothing to fear once you get into the eddy the other side. I remember before attempting Loch Lomond, my mate Gez Lyon said to me - 'If you can put one arm in front of the other, you can keep going'. I said that to myself over 1000 times and you get there eventually if you can stop the wheels from coming off! You can also wee whilst swimming if you go slower and don't kick your legs.
13. Walking up the beach to finish in France was just as triumphant and heavenly the 2nd time as walking up the steps in Wissant the first time (although a bit more inconvenient for a limping gimp). I had been practising my only-fools-and-horses-learnt French so could pronounce the name of Plage de Chatelet where I knew I had landed as been there with the girls swimming last autumn. Lovely beach that only locals frequent. #Fate
14. I still enjoy 2 cans of full-fat tango on the boat on the way back and I didn't get sick!
15. I was thankful for doing so much technique work - especially working on putting some power into the back of my stroke all the way past the thigh. Mark and Lucinda Bayliss had picked up on that in my stroke in April in our training in Lanzarote. I was also thankful of all the interval work in the pool during the winter with the Nemes Nutters.
16. Doing SCAR in May was excellent for a confidence booster ahead of the swim. I love Arizona in May....(Blog below)
17. When you finish the swim and open up social media, you realise the whole world has been going mental trying to urge you on! Including ca. 100 work colleagues who watched the tracker all day! You then indulge in what I would term 'social-media-heroin' for a while which is quite a buzz.
18a. You can get on the early train back to work the next day (5.49am!) as you are still on cloud nine and ready to bask in the glory. Some of your colleagues will be very willing to take you out to a slap-up lunch!
18b. Ben & Jerry's Fish Food Ice Cream still wins hands-down for easing salt-water mouth and re-addresses calorie shortfall quickly.
19. Your colleagues still like to be appreciated with Lola's Cupcakes!
20. Getting out of a deep bath with a sore body & little use of left leg is a real bugger! Having no radox bath salt is also a massive let-down!
Some Pics (Again thanks to Adrian Rotchell and Sam Jones)