Wednesday, 20 August 2014
MR " How did you feel?"
AB " It was a real anti climax, I know this sounds really negative but it wasn't at all how I had envisaged it would be. Nothing like what had been going through my head for hours and hours. You know when you see videos of people in daylight, with lots of cheers and arms held aloft, it was nothing like that. It was pitch black. I couldn't see anything aside from a small light on the rib, and light further off on Anastasia. So I stood up, on the beach, alone, raised my arms in the air and said Yaay (spoken in a very soft unassuming lonely manner) pretty much to myself. I didn't look for pebbles it was pointless in the dark on a sandy beach. I just felt relieved. I suppose inside I was chuffed I had done it, it hadn't really sunk in."
MR " Did you cry"
AB " No, I just go back in, I wanted to get back to the boat and get dressed. I wouldn't get in the rib, there was no way, you know what I am like, there was only one boat I was getting on. So I swam back to boat and whilst doing so swam into the biggest almighty jelly I had encountered all day. It was so large and hard I thought my hand had hit the rib. I received a mild sting and made it back to the boat. I climbed aboard where everyone was fussing. I was grateful though I was still capable of getting dressed. We sat and chatted for a while. My priority was to let those closest to me hear the news in particular the children. The crew retired to the bunks so I got wrapped up and stayed on deck and rested til we arrived back in Dover. I felt better than at the end of the 2 way Windermere, no banging headache and there had been no vomiting. I pretty much stuck to the maxim and it wasn't a problem "
AB "Yes absolutely, there are many people to thank. Firstly, thank you Mark for taking the time to interview me and write about my swim. Much appreciated! The many people who have helped and supported me along the way. I couldn't have done it without the support from lots of other swimmers not least Adam Walker for his technique sessions and Nick Adams for the Eton Camp. The many others for training with me, and of course Freda Streeter and the Dover beach crew. Mark Sheridan and his family for their hospitality. The kind words of support and understanding from all family & friends.
To my colleagues at work and for all the support and efforts of the pupils at OLSB. I thank you all.
Thanks also to my Pilot Eddie Spelling his crew on Anastasia, along with my crew on board, Johanna Barkwith, Barbara Brown, Kathryn Ayre & John Mace. Ground control, that's you Mark, you were not only a great support during the swim but a major part of the build up and part of the inspiration in the first place, even though you won't like me saying that and probably won't include it. I want it in! Also to Charlie your son for giving up his days off to crew for miss in the water! (Amanda is Charlie's science teacher)
To Georgina for being incredibly courageous during exceptionally difficult times. An inspiration to all.
Final thanks has to go to my ever supportive children, Joe, Adam and Emma. They are simply awesome!"
MR " Amanda I am sure I speak for many many people, when I say congratulations, I am very proud, thank-you for you honesty. I am certain you have inspired lots of people, not only swimmers but everyday folk who think they are having a bad day. Thankyou for allowing me to part of your journey"
It is only right to include The Justgiving page to close.
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
MR " Was that due to pain or more mental fatigue?"
AB " It was more tired than pain, the stings are not pleasant, and in isolation they wouldn't be a show stopper, they do take your breath away but nothing more than that. Apart from that one (shows arm again bearing the scars) but that was later."
MR " OK we are around the eight hour mark, you're feeding was going to plan, on the hour for three hours, then every 45 minutes, when did you drop to 30 minute feeds?"
AB "That was at seven hours 30 (refers to written notes from crew) because I have asked them to and told them I'm struggling and yet I didn't quite know why, I knew I was sick of the jellies, it wasn't just that I had been swimming for so long and felt like I had got nowhere. Physically my shoulders had been much worse than they were, it was just wrong, everything was wrong. (sounds and looks sad reliving the moment) it's difficult for me to explain how I felt. I just couldn't do it. It was too big, I was wishing I'd never even started, but also in my head I knew I had not come far enough to have given this a good go, I had so much further to go. I still wanted to get out, it was just horrible and I was only eight hours in. I didn't ever think I was going to make it all away to France. Ever. Ever. It was so depressing, that all of the training and all of those hours and all of those people watching, sending those messages, telling you to keep going. I didn't think I was going to be able to bounce back from this low."
MR " Let's move on from this depressing phase you are going through"
AB " Yes, well before the separation zone, I remember seeing ships each time I took a breath, I'm thinking OMG there are huge I did actually express this to the crew, it was sheer amazement that I was so close to these huge ships, however there was never a single moment that I felt worried about the ships. I had every faith in Eddie that he would keep me safe. The size of them and the number of them, it was totally amazing, if anything that was one of the highs. The separation zone was just fantastic, I could've swam in there all day, no jellies to worry about whatsoever if there was, it was tiny little ones. I suddenly started to feel better, that I could focus solely on swimming. I knew I was halfway."
AB " A bit of both really, I also asked to check. I referred to it as the central reservation after Michelle's (MGG) previous jokes with Eddie. That was the best part of the swim for me by far, I didn't have to worry about anything at all apart from swimming and that was great. That was the same time I was updated that Radio Tees had been on the telephone and that was also a lift just to know that somebody else cared and were interested."
MR" What was the next thing you remember, I appreciate you have been in the water a long time now, but from memory, what do you recall?"
AB " I remember at one point telling the crew that I was on my holidays and that's why I looked happy, I have since been made aware that was about 11 hours into the swim, at this point I didn't have a clue where I was, this is when the don't look forward comes into play, but again you can't help it, you can see France but then again you can see France from Dover! when you're in the water you can't, so the first sighting..well, it doesn't look that far away! I was clearly wrong, very wrong, but you perk up a little bit because you know you've done lots of hours, you can see France and you think you must be getting somewhere at last. However, I couldn't see any ships on the other side which felt really bizarre. There was hours and hours and hours when I thought I was still in the separation zone. And that made me have another lull because I thought I haven't seen any ships, I cannot be making any progress. That's the time when I should have just switched off, instead I was concerning myself with my location.
The next major thing and I always knew this was going to happen. I was asked to put in a hard hour, I had always made the presumption that this would be when we were close to finishing, this actually came at 14 hours. The message came to me from the crew, I had always been worried about this and questioned how anybody could do a hard hour after such a long time swimming. That said, my stroke rate went up and I managed to maintain the increased turnover. I was aware that this increased effort could be the difference between, saving a few hours, being successful or maybe being pulled. I just had to switch off. So I put in the hard hour, got to the next feed and was told that was great we just need another half hour like that! So you can imagine how that felt. (shakes head) I lost count how many times they said just another half an hour like that just another half an hour like that. It was starting to get dark, but again I had no idea where I was. I just thought it must be only a couple of hours now, it was quite clear that France was much closer. I didn't expect at that point , there were still going to be another four hours. I wasn't getting anything information wise to tell me how I was doing, what progress I was making, nothing, just more requests for another half hour.
MR " Yes he actually tweeted that at the time, (making reference to Calais Harbour)"
AB " At this time I thought this could actually be the end of the swim, so anyway, I did give it another half hour, there was more feeds, but at one feed and I still didn't know what was going on. I did ask them how much longer? it was the only point I got annoyed with the crew, as the reply was something along the lines of as long as it takes. I was annoyed. I wanted some indication of whether we were on course, was it another 10 hours, just tell me, eventually I was told it was 3 miles. That made me think okay that's doable. At 16 1/2 hours I got my last feed and they told me it's about an hour to go. That wasn't telling lies, it was the information they had been given. They did attempt to feed me between again, but it would make little if any difference so to leave me swim. For me, in the water, it was awful those last two 2 1/2 hours, it should probably have been quite uplifting. But I just kept on swimming and swimming and by this stage it was pitch black. I couldn't see the crew to get any indication and no feed stops to ask them."
Monday, 18 August 2014
MR "Are you ok to carry on?"
AB " Yes, lets do this"
MR " So what about the night before, when the telephone rang."
AB " I got a text message from Eddie, just as we had put a film on to take our minds off it, I was struggling to concentrate on the film anyway, it was around 8pm, I noticed the text alert on the phone and who it was from and immediately my heart began to race before I had even read the content. The message basically said there may be a problem with the next swimmer in line and was I ready to go. It took a moment to reply "Ready when you are" Eddie answered stating that he was still out in the Channel with a completed successful swim and would give me confirmation as soon as he returned to Dover within a couple of hours. So we clearly had an hour and a half or so not to exactly run around like headless chickens but to ensure that I was ready if he said it was a go. It was a long two hours. After which the phone rings, it's Eddie and he says "We are on, meet at the boat 4 o'clock in the morning ready to go"
AWe then started the routine of , we should really go to bed, but we can't go to bed, check and recheck everything once more, we actually again went to confirm the location of the boat even though I had been earlier in the week. We then packed the cars with everything except the feeds. I already had the maxim bagged up in the right quantities ready to put into the bottles to mix, but I wasn't really happy about the crew making my feeds up ! Once I had made the first bottle I let go of the control freak within me and let them carry on..but kept a watchful eye (giggles). Then it was finally time to try and get some rest"
MR " How did you feel at that point?"
AB " Oh wow, I don't even think I could begin to describe how I felt at that point, the timings were certainly going to fit in with my plans regarding crew and accommodation, but yeah, worry, nervous. My phone was going ballistic with messages from here, there and everywhere which was nice but everytime it buzzes you've got to check, meaning I was constantly on a state of alert, coupled with a mixture of emotions, but it certainly wasn't doom" (looks at me knowingly)
MR " So you are now all set for the off, what were biggest needs and fears"
AB " (pauses for while) Me have needs !! (laughs) as you know we had a crew meeting before we left home and had others whilst in Dover, so everybody knew their specific role, there was lots and lots of questions but I had to try and explain to the crew that there would be times when they needed to use their initiative, to try and expect the unexpected, they did have the famous handbook from Nick Adams (Eton Swim Camp) that I had left them, which would answer many of their queries once I was in the water."
MR " Fears ?"
AB " Don't know about fears but I had many concerns, you know a lot of people are watching, you know lots of people have donated to the charities, you don't want to let anybody down. You want to be able justify their generosity, I was really worried about the journey to the start, you know that journey to Samphire Hoe ! I so did not want to be ill, my nerves were not about the swim but that journey to the start"
MR " Is your recollection of the swim clear or only the highs and lows are there any voids"
AB " It's all pretty clear, no voids"
MR " OK this is it..tell me what you can remember"
AB " When we got on the boat I asked Eddie where we would be starting from, he told me Shakey.. I could have jumped for joy. We had been to the beach the day before so I knew where we were going and I knew what it was like, so I was ready at that point to get in and get on with it, the other thing was, it was dark however it was 4am, it was starting to get light. I would not have liked swimming for three or four hours in the dark at the beginning so that was good. I suppose another fear was that I would have a long swim to the start from the boat, I was relieved just how close to shore we managed to get. He said "We are ready" I just thought, great , I can get off this boat and into the water. It was a relief to get there and it was all going to be over one way or the other. I know that might sound bad but the training was hard work, it had become something I had to do, more than something I was enjoying. Every swim was becoming more and more pressure.
There was a moment right at the start when the crew thought I was having a change of heart, I went down the ladder at the rear of the boat, they thought I was hesitating to get into the water but I wasn't I was just making sure I didn't slip, bang off something before I even got started. And that was it, I was in the water and onto the beach. I noticed that Suva (Neil Streeter's Escort Boat) was next to us with another swimmer, I didn't click at the time, until we set off, then as Suva moved away at a much faster pace I realised it was Nick Adams.
The first hour went really quickly, I reckon we started seeing light within that first hour, first feed not a problem as are the next 2 to be honest, it was all moving along quite quickly, I didn't talk to the crew at the feeds, just had it and continued"
MR " What were you feeling aside from relief at this point?"
AB " I wouldn't say I was completely relaxed, I was trying to remember some of the advice, don't look back, don't look forward, it's impossible not to, especially at the feeds when you lay on your back to drink ..it's just there."
Saturday, 16 August 2014
A little history on my relationship with Windermere to start with.
I first swam in England's longest lake (10.5 miles from Fell Foot to Ambleside ) in September 2007 on a Swim Trek lakes weekender (recommended if you are new to open water swimming) these swims were pretty short and I blogged them back in the day. After this short trip I made many visits with KGB and swam numerous times usually around the north end of the lake in the vicinity of Seamew Crag.
August 2010: my first 1 Way Windermere 5h 58m during which I suffered like a dog from approximately 8 miles with motion sickness and general fatigue. My feeds were far too complicated.
July 2011: second 1 Way Windermere with Joe Hunter (EC 2011) a few days after his Seaton Carew mind numbing 6 hour swim, lots of messing around and back stroke due to Joe being very fatigued. Was still very nauseous on conclusion. 6h 42m.
August 2011: 2 Way Windermere 13h 50m first length in around 6 hours but again suffered like a dog this time from around 17 miles. This was a very tough day at the office ! though I was delighted to complete the swim and proves to be my longest swim to date.
That's pretty much the history, so having taken more or less 18 months away from Open Water, this year I needed a target (without one I don't make the effort to train) On an earlier post I mentioned the build up training being somewhat lacking, however I was of the belief I had enough miles in my body to get me through a six hour swim.
Midday on Tuesday 5th August 2014 (a significant date for Amanda Bell !) Charlie and I headed across to Langdale Chase where we had arranged to spend the night. We spent the afternoon and late late evening monitoring Amanda's Channel Swim and updated her swim page where possible. It was almost midnight by the time we managed to get to bed, I needed to rest with an early start and longish swim ahead. My mind was racing after the days activity, this coupled with some pre swim nerves led to very little sleep.
In what felt like the blink of an eye it was time to force down some breakfast. Gavin Wild (Pilot for the day) had arrived and before we knew it, the boat was loaded and the journey in the little electric boat to the start at Fell Foot was underway with Charlie at the helm. This takes around 65 minutes so plenty of time to brief the crew regarding navigation and feeds.
The swim started at 0846 in pretty poor weather, Gav started the stopwatch and I began to swim the most direct line through the moored yachts at Fell Foot, whilst Charlie and Gav took the easier route into open space. Before long the heavens opened for what seemed like a lifetime. The heavy rain flattened the water, though it did nothing for visibility or the comfort of my crew. The noise was quite weird, I actually thought it was hailstones as the bombs hit my back.
At the outset I want to remind people that your swim was dedicated to Georgina and raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust / Cancer Research UKand additionally that it's never too late to donate to your charity on the just giving page here.
MR "When you first decided to swim the English Channel how long did you set aside and what specific training plan did you have in mind in order to build up to what is termed the Everest open water swims?"
AB " When I first booked the Channel swim it was to do a relay with a friend, due to a change in circumstance and as time moved on, this changed to a solo, so I started looking at doing longer distances whilst training in open water, starting with a one-way Windermere in August 2012 (6h 15m) after which I was absolutely shattered ! That was a huge swim for me.
The next year I built up to a 2 Way Windermere (13h 42m in August 2013) with six-hour training sessions in various locations as prep."
MR " OK that brings us to 2014, what was your plan this year."
AB " Initially I didn't have a specific written plan, I just knew I had to swim as much as I possibly could. Looking back and hind sight is a wonderful thing, I don't think I did sufficient interval sessions in the pool during the winter. I certainly didn't complete as many as in the previous year. My training was virtually exclusively in open water even through the winter. "
MR " Do you think that is partially down to the crazy idea of doing an ice mile!? "
AB " Well yes, although it was never really planned to do an official ice mile, I just really enjoy open water, and pool stuff ,well, it's just not the same. That said, it did make a big difference coming to April May time when I was easily able to complete a couple of hours whilst most other open water swimmers were only just starting outside"
MR " So once the open water season started in earnest did you have sum targets that you wanted to hit"
AB " Yes, early on it was to get a two hour session as soon as possible. I was keeping an eye on social networks to see who was doing what and where, as a bit of a benchmark to see where I needed to be, after which I just wanted to build up and get as many six hour sessions as possible bearing in mind I had to juggle my swimming with work and family. "
MR " What do you consider to be the most tough or the most beneficial training sessions you did this year?"
AB " They were all beneficial and they were all tough in different ways, one of the hardest things is when you know you haven't been in the water as long as you should, not because you are tired and not because you can't physically do it, just because you can't be bothered. I think the most beneficial will be the seven and six-hour at Dover with Freda's beach crew. I know certainly for myself and a friend, I don't think he will mind me saying we both (Mark Sheridan and I) then considered we had a chance of being successful. Then of course the Seaton Carew swims (she laughs and smiles knowingly) some of which were not successful due to our friend Sammy the Seal !!! "
MR " Am I right in assuming that the swims you consider to be of greatest value were mentally tougher than physically demanding?"
AB "Definitely, I don't think there has been many swims and I know this might sound silly, but physically it was never an issue. Sometimes it's plain boredom."
MR " Thanks for that, let's jump forward to closer to the big day, I would like you to tell readers about the days prior to your swim following arrival in Dover at the beginning of your tidal slot"
AB " Once we arrived in Dover I kind of made the rule with the crew that we weren't going to have any talk about the weather and if and when I might go, that was going to be entirely down to Eddie (Eddie Spelling Anastasia pilot) it would be pointless to speculate. I tried to distance myself from the whole business of Channel Swimming, yes we went to Dover beach where I swam with others and that was great, but I only did an hour or so. And didn't even get told off by Freda which was quite nice ! I didn't want to get on the treadmill of ..it could be today, it could be tomorrow. I had some highs and lows that's for sure, though my only big worry was not getting the opportunity to start the swim. I just had to believe that it would work out. Despite trying to distance myself from it all we did visit Varne Ridge which may not have been the best idea. Seeing all the plaques of successful Channel swimmers, then...obviously...seeing the two plaques for Susan and Paraic really made it hit home, I think the crew were really excited, however for me it had a massive emotional impact."
pause to gather our thoughts and pay respect to lives lost.
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
Emma France who has not only recovered from cancer, she then swam The English Channel for a second time just for the hell of it in an awesome 12h 58 mins smashing her PB. As if that was not enough a week later she swam around Jersey in 11h 46m. Incredible.
Mark Sheridan another top bloke, total gent and all round nice man. He also swam The Channel in 14h 33mins. Check out his website.
Nick Adams on virtually no training swam The Channel for THE TENTH TIME.
All are genuine honest generous swimmers who go out of their way to help others.
Congratulations and thanks for the inspiration.
Not to mention Adam Walker the first British Oceans 7 swimmer.
Sometimes... if you are very lucky, someone you know, or better still someone you have helped, achieves a lifelong dream, when that happens it fills you with a warm happy glow. Not only do I want to publicly congratulate Amanda but also thank her for making me feel so very very proud. Like Joe Hunter, I was fortunate enough (together with Charlie) to be allowed to witness some of her build up to the immense swim.
My sea legs or rather lack of prevented me from being present of the support boat Anastasia, however I was hooked to the CS & PF tracker system all day, finding myself close to tears when she landed in France after almost 18 and a half hours of swimming.
There will be much much more to follow from Amanda soon so check back soon.
its never too late to donate to her charity https://www.justgiving.com/Amanda-Bell10/
Congrats again Belly. Hopefully reality it is beginning to sink in.
For the benefit of those who don't know me in person, I more less took a break from almost all things swim related until the beginning of 2014, starting back with the usual monotonous pool sessions. If I am totally honest these outings did not stand the test of time for two reasons, firstly just as I was getting some form and fitness back the grotty pool closed for refurbishment (it looks no better and is certainly no cleaner) and I was pretty bored.
So there I was festering away whilst attempting to cope with some other testing matters (mostly work related) when out of the blue I was called by Joe Hunter (EC 2011) who, to my horror , asked if I fancied a swim at the lake.
It had been 616 days since I had swam outside, so I knew it was going to be a shock to the system, and indeed it was. I was cold, out of breath and acting like a total new starter. This however proved to be the kick up the backside I needed and I was soon making regular trips to the river, mainly with Amanda Bell who I had promised to help where possible with her up and coming EC swim during the first August neap tide.
Friday, 15 November 2013
Sunday, 3 November 2013
First real post for over a year… not exactly sure where to begin. I remain a Channel ‘Wannabee’ or Aspirant to use correct terminology and YES the goal is alive and kicking. Last summer was a depressing if educating time, which resulted in a break from swimming and most of the associated financial implications.
Sessions remain short (approx. 60 minutes) for now, but I am getting there slowly.
I cannot finish this first post back without saying congratulations to Thomas Noblett who is at long last a Channel Swimmer and to wish Amanda Bell good luck not only with her new job at Charlies school but also for her 2014 EC Solo.
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
As a result of a great forecast / prediction on Friday 17th August, I discussed the possibilities of swimming slightly early possibly on Tuesday being that the weather was looking so good.
After a chat with Neil we decided to head to Dover on Sunday afternoon.
I collected Amanda Bell and Dee Llewellyn and together we travelled south arriving in Dover at Kevin and Jane Murphy's flat around 6pm. The plan was to spend the next 24-36 hours resting before taking the opportunity to swim. As luck or bad luck would have have it, the wind speed and general conditions declined resulting in what Neil described as marginal conditions. I trust him and was more than happy to accept this decision. The last thing I wanted was to start my attempt under the wrong circumstances.
That brings us to the present situation. Dee has been keeping a close eye on the usual websites of windguru and xc weather etc for the sign of a good window (with our limited knowledge) and I have been in daily contact with the only person who really knows that being Neil.
As it stands now..Wednesday was out of the question but Thursday night / Friday look more favourable...though as you all know the British weather can be very fickle..
This morning we drove around to Samphire Hoe one of the likely start locations, where the enormity of the task ahead hit me like a train...I was filled with doubt, nerves and fears. I am assured this is completely normal at this stage. I have had some very touching emails and messages of support some of which have brought me close to tears...those people know who they, I am very very grateful for your kinds words.
We will speak again this evening and hopefully have some good news.
If and when the swim goes ahead the spot tracker loaned to me by Kate and Steve Robarts will be available in real time here www.bit.ly/markierob
As promised there will be more frequent updates on twitter at @mncrobswim