Monday, 28 July 2008


Leaving home at noon on Friday the 25th we embarked on another gruelling seven hour drive, arriving at Dover worse for wear, hungry and tired, we found the nearest restaurant table had my standard two main course meals and returned to Hubert House for some much needed sleep.

I was out of bed by 7am to be first at the breakfast table for the mandatory intake of porridge, banana and coffee followed by maxim, fortisip and 1000mg of vitamin c. Suitably stuffed and uncomfortable we drove the very short distance to the beach, parked up and walked across the road to see Freda and the many other simmers already gathered. I was greeted with a hug and kiss, she made it clear that she was happy to to us again. Before she could hand out my penance I pointed out that I was expecting seven hours. “Good boy, 7 hours, find the switch, you know you can do it” So, off to be greased about the pits and neck by the ever cheerful Barrie, down a little more maxim and into the water bang on 9am.
My plan was to return to the beach to feed at 65 minute intervals or thereabouts, I more or less did this until I was joined at 12:15 by my support swimmer Loraine Verghese, we swam together for an hour in total synchronisation before she left to gossip with her drinking partner KGB at my fourth feed. The next three hours were much more comfortable and are more or less a blur until I came in to feed with around 40minutes to do. I got the thumbs up from KGB and Barrie and headed back out to the pier, the last 40 minutes were a real bore, not time enough to swim a full lap and far too much clock watching.

I was delighted to complete the seven hours, I had zero shoulder pain just a bit of expected soreness in the triceps, I walked up the pebbles to a very happy Freda Streeter. The first part of my split Channel training session was complete. 7 hours at about 63F.

We eventually returned to Hubert House where after a clean up and power nap we met Marcy Macdonald who was in the UK crewing for some swimmers, I had followed a few of Marcy’s training plans so it was great to finally speak to her in person.

After another Maximum Belly Stretch, this time at Cullins Yard it was off to bed for more sleep and not even a drop of Guinness!

Sunday the usual rituals of breakfast, grumbles, pack the car, check out and be at the beach for 9am. Freda actually looked a little surprised to see me, I was duly awarded another 6 hour swim in probably the best conditions I have seen in the harbour.

The first three hours dragged as they usually do, I had a brief hour with Chris before following the usual schedule of 65minute swims, feed and so on. I actually managed to down part of a sandwich at one feed courtesy of a request I made to KGB and hour earlier, gosh I was starving, I think this was about 4 or 5 hours in. I also saw Cliff Golding on the beach, he was chatting to Kelly; giving me very positive words of encouragement at each feed, in clear, calm reassurance which all helped my mindset. Again the last 45 minutes were a drag, but I exited the water, felt reasonably fresh and dried off in the sunshine. Only then did I realise we had forgot to apply sun block to my legs…they were and they are, red raw, and Charlie is only too quick to point out that “Hey Dad, the moon is out and its really white!”

Thank you to all the beach crew for a great weekends training and all of your help, especially Barrie and his Jelly Babies and of course Freda et al. Kelly I know you are bored senseless on the beach but thank you for supporting me through this, and to everyone who has helped with child care whilst we are away..only one more trip now.
The only side effects are what feels like tennis elbow in the left arm, otherwise I feel great and as ready as I will ever be for this mammoth challenge.

Friday, 25 July 2008

two weeks remaining

Thursday 24 July
08 x 15

Pain at the front aspect of the right deltoid all night, it then hung around all day, at times I think it was deferred to all other parts of the shoulder, I generally feel like I have a ‘dead arm’. Had a MBS (maximum belly stretch) of pasta in anticipation of the drive tomorrow, plan is to leave around noon. Early night tonight.

Friday 25 July

Yesterdays pain seems to have eased after a good nights rest. Charlie and I will go collect the car from work ready for the trip to Dover soon, one of the worst things with these trips to Dover is leaving him behind, he could in fact come but he would be bored senseless on the journey let alone standing on the beach for hours on end. Still..its the last weekend away before the tides, I would like to have a good confidence giving set of back to back swims, ideally on Sunday I will drive home and feel ready to taper, fingers crossed that my body holds out and that the journey to the south coast doesn't turn out to be a nightmare, just two weeks now, will blog Dover5 soon as we return ...good luck to Sam Jones and Stanley Paris who look like they may commence their swims any day now!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Wednesday 23 July

0800 x 1500

Another good nights sleep, just a sore throat remaining from the fluey symptoms, didn’t feel like getting up for a day shift but theres nothing new in that , did some stretching last night which eased the left arm. Visited the clinic and met Dr Rehman for my interview (a thousand questions) and shoulder assessment, the good news is the opinion that I do not have a major injury to the shoulders no tears etc, I do have some tendonitis and inflammation, after much discussion of pros and cons I decided to go ahead and get a shot in the right shoulder, was talked through the whole procedure which was totally painless, hope is to give some anti inflammatory effects directly to the affected area, benefits to be at peak in 4 - 6 weeks though will be of benefit before hand i.e. within 7 days or so. He appeared genuinely interested in both the swim and the associated injuries. Promised to keep him updated, very professional and re assuring. Lets hope it does the trick. As I type this I feel like I have been punched on the upper arm but that should ease soon.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Days to do are getting few...

Sunday 20 July 2008
15 x 21 C
Have now had two nights with flu type symptoms, waking up through the night soaking wet followed by the shivers and unable to get warm, difficulty swallowing, ear neck and glands ache, shoulder still not good despite the rest, think my immune system has took a hammering of late? Took some positive inspiration from Ed Williams by way of his diary entries on the build up to his 2006 Solo Swim. Hoping the flu clears up, want to get to Seaton in the morning after the school run for a one hour swim. Managed to get some more fortisip. Spoke to Enda and Joni on text.. both swam 7 hours Saturday in Dover harbour then 6 and 3 hours respectively Sunday well done boys I am impressed.

Monday 21 July
A couple of cold sweats but better than previous night. must be better for Dover5. Took Charlie to school for his last day in year 3, non uniform day,… Just back from Seaton was so rough unable to get beyond breakers to actually swim much to the relief of the beach lifeguards went into the water and dived under the breakers for about 20 minutes just to feel the cold water on my skin, was tough and yet funny getting in, lots of talking out loud! strolled out and chatted with the guards before having a shiver for ten minutes in the car as I chatted to Joni Storer on the phone, amazing what difference it makes when not swimming to generate heat, Watch said 57F 14C actual maybe 55F. Will try again Tuesday. Had an email from Jenni at Hubert House, great news.. we will be in The Georgian Suite this weekend. Also Andrea Joynes handed over £147 for the JACK foundation from customers in her salon. Many thanks…Text from Andrae Dent states cheque donation for J-A-C-K from St. Patricks Primary to be presented in September..excellent.

Tuesday 22 July
Better nights sleep, no sweats/shivers. Charlie spending day with his mum today, so headed to Seaton intending 1 hour session, arrived to see tide well out and big rollers coming in but much better than yesterday, eventually got through the rollers and swam for 45 minutes, was way too far out really and did not feel safe, but this was were the rollers eased off enough to allow me to swim. Watch said water at 58F, air temp very warm for a change. My left arm from the rear of the shoulder to elbow was very painful, especially on final phase of the push, in addition to that felt like I had no control over that arm and that it was going all over the place? Disturbing? Have I forgotten how to swim?? …am keen to get to the specialist tomorrow hoping that he can give me some pain relief to both shoulders, it is going to be pricey but if it works it will be worth every penny.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Its not good...but its ok

Following a disappointing Sunday in Dover Harbour when I felt like it was all over, it has been a relatively quiet week, I have received a couple of treatments by way of deep massage and ultra sound. The left shoulder in particular continues to be problematic however an assessment booked for Wednesday when the specialist will decide if an anti-inflammatory injection is required. Whatever he says, It will help to know if I am either being a wimp or I require the jab to help me through this final build up.

I swam once this week at Seaton Carew (The back from the dead canoeist trial is on going at Crown Court) before being laid up with ‘man flu’ I had every intention of a swim at Ellerton Lake this morning but after a night mixed between hot sweats/shivers I certainly didn’t feel that it would be a good idea. I did however have to go to work and ended up standing in the wind and rain for most of the afternoon…at present I am rattling with paracetamol !

So…after sulking for most of the week, I am almost raring to go, thank you to those who have reminded me of why I am doing this, for your undying enthusiasm, well wishes and support, not least KGB, Enda, Freda, Loraine and Jane et al.

Thank you also to all those who continue to donate both on and offline, your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Monday, 14 July 2008


High and (S)Lows...

Highs:1. Excellent accommodation, I would highly recommend to future swimmers Wellingtons Lodge in the very pretty town of Deal just 8 miles from Dover.
2. Saturday swam as requested for 6 hours at 16C unaccompanied except for 20 minutes when I was joined briefly by Loraine Verghese..delighted with this 5 days after last six hour swim.
3. Had a good chat with my pilot who sounds on top form just hours before his season started with Kaise Stefan.
4. It didn’t rain.
1. The drive to Dover took almost 8 hours due to weather and roadworks.
2. My arms were aching terribly in the triceps and elbows from start to finish on Saturday, getting progressively stiffer as the day went on. Probably not recovered in full from the swim last Sunday in not the best conditions.
3. Woke Sunday encountered difficulty dressing due to almost unbearable pain in the right arm.
Freda gave me 5 hours I was glad it wasn’t 6! agreed to go for it, wanted to be out at 1 hour (pain and getting cold due to inability to swim as the normal pace).
Ended up getting out after just short of 2 hours, much to the annoyance of several, including Freda, received offers of help from Jane but could not do it, feel severely gutted at yet another injury, and embarrassed at my failure to make the time, and for what I may or may not have said to the beach crew and Kelly. I wasn’t rude or impolite but was very stubborn. For what a number of people must think of me for refusing point blank to get back in.
My arm/right shoulder is still causing me a great deal pain today after the drive home and a day at work. I have treatment arranged for this week but to be honest I don’t expect to be back in Dover anytime soon.

Public apologies to Kelly, Freda and Jane. Sorry


Congratulations to Kaise Stefan who successfully swam The English Channel yesterday Sunday 13th July 2008 in a fantastic time of 12 hours 34 minutes...great job!

Also to Finbar Hedermann from Ireland who successfully swam yesterday in around 13 hours 21 minutes...brilliant job done boys...enjoy the glory.....forever

Friday, 11 July 2008

Almost there

It is now twelve months since that logistical nightmare otherwise known as Ironman Austria...for those who don't remember, Good old Air France delayed our flights for nine hours, then they lost our luggage including race kit, when we finally arrived at the hotel it was locked up so we had to sleep in the car, at dawn I had to re buy everything needed for the event the next day by which time all we could get to eat was pizza! Not ideal preparation.

Well that was a year ago now, albeit I was training for the English Channel prior to the Ironman, real training began immediately what seems like a flash of time I have now been training exclusively for the big day for 52 weeks. Having covered over 900km, and previously been pushed to extremes in the military and other events, I feel that I am now finally getting into the zone and hope for two more successful weekends of training at Dover. Followed by some good weather and finally putting myself in the hands of my pilot.

This weekend has the potential to be the most difficult yet with possibility of a split channel swim comprising 7 hours Saturday followed by 6 Sunday. My arms/shoulders are still recovering from last weeks battering by waves and walls of water. So its fingers crossed for reasonable weather, If I can adopt the right mental approach things will be manageable.

I am just off to pack the car now for our usual drive to the south coast in an hour or so. I will report back with Dover4 as soon as possible.

Good luck to all those swimmers and pilots who are waiting for the weather break. You are almost there...

Monday, 7 July 2008


Our weekend training trips to Dover are basically a race from start to finish. The contest normal begins with parental planning, the school run, try to finish work early, load the car and head southbound for a minimum of 6 hours, as you can imagine, by the time we arrive on the south coast we are shattered, this week was no different. We managed a quick meal, followed by a broken nights sleep, waking with a body full of aches and pains as a result of sleeping in a strange small bed .

“700 miles? In a weekend? I take it you fly to Dover” was the comment from a workmate … “Oh no we just drive” the look on his face said it all…one questioning my sanity!

I had (or at least I thought I had) prepared my self mentally this week for a six hour swim on Saturday in order to qualify before the waters reached anything above a balmy 16 degrees, so it was no surprise when I reported in, to be handed my red cap and be asked to do 6. Yep I knew she was going to say that.

It was a busy time on the beach this weekend with a lot of new faces in attendance, many of whom I had spoken to online, we met with Kaise Stephan, Vasanti and later Stanley Paris, all of whom were really nice, caring and enthusiastic.
After some intros I was greased by the ever present Barrie and headed into the very low water together with Kaise and his support swimmer Ryan, he was just swimming for an hour before meeting his pilot we also planned to see our skipper this week at some point but unfortunately never got chance. Into the water, we walked until in a reasonable depth and headed off to the eastern dock wall, basically swam a lap of the harbour before going our separate ways. It was great swimming with someone of a similar pace, the benefits of gently moving along side by side are enormous, the mind has far more things with which to be occupied, the first hour seemed to fly by.
I continued on alone, the sun was in and out and the water felt ok at just short of 16C, by the time I was due to come in for a feed a 2 hours my right shoulder/arm was playing up and all manner of negatives had started to invade my mental plan. Issues I hadn’t considered for the first hour would not leave my head and I didn’t do a very good job of thinking positive, cold, bored, hurting, hungry, choppy water, tired…I had let all these things get a hold of me. I swam in and told Barrie my shoulder was playing up, I was gutted… he gave me a warm maxim drink, some pain killers and instructed me to swim to out to the Western wall and see how it felt afterwards. At that point I had decided I was getting out, and so I did at 2 hours and 20 minutes, I dragged my sorry butt up the beach and had to face Freda, I was embarrassed at my performance and went away to sulk, I was too stubborn to see the error of my ways and sat on the stones thinking it was all over.

KGB arrived back at the beach a short time later (she wasn’t expecting me to be out this early) and was not a happy bunny, What was I playing at? What had Freda said? She sat with me for a while, I could almost hear the cogs turning in her head as she disappeared… before much longer, Freda was approaching with that knowing smile beckoning me to sit with her on one of the concrete groins. We had a heart to heart, I was told a number of things about both my training and my character, she then said something that really hit the spot (am not letting you into it though)…and no matter what my body was saying I was getting back in, “Just two hours, good boy and Jane (Murphy) will do the second one with you”

The variety of guises Freda Streeter can take on amaze me, she can be scary, motivating, hard but above all she is also one of the most selfless and compassionate people I know. Kelly was not allowed to speak to me before I re entered the water, I was in and swimming without time to consider other options, it was rougher than earlier, when Jane joined me I felt like she had been sent to kick my a**e, I was fighting tooth and nail to keep up. When we left the water, it was in a much better place emotionally. Thanks Jane for joining me. Saturday 2 swims, 4 hours 20 minutes 15.9C.
Whilst I was doing my second swim a plan had been hatched between KGB, Freda and Jane and some of the other beach crew. After a relaxed chat and we had the remainder of the day to our selves, subsequently had a lovely evening meal at Dunkerleys in Deal. The setting was beautiful and the back ground music encouraged me to think about a number of issues some of which brought on a bout of tears. Sunday, I had decided was now or never.

Another nights broken sleep, breakfast, pack the car, check out of Hubert House and report in to Freda and Irene at the beach, “Morning Mark, red cap number 6 and 6 hours, in every hour to feed, its choppy and it will be getting worse, away you go” A quick reminder of yesterdays conversation followed by a greasing up from Barry.

Saturdays plan had already been put in motion I was going to be swimming with Jane for 2 hours then Kaise for 1 hour then later Jane again for the final hour, as I stripped I couldn’t locate Jane so headed in to start alone. The water felt about the same as previous day, was very choppy to the extent that we were told not to go much further than the sloping groin. A circuit of the harbour and in for feed one, Barrie questioned why I was not with Jane as she was already in to catch up with me..? Around twenty minutes later I was heading back from the eastern end when by pure chance I accidentally grabbed a foot whilst I reached out through the increasing chop, as luck would have it, it was in fact Jane and Kathy, we swam together to the Prince of Wales (PofW) pier then on Jane’s say so completed another lap.

Feed 2 thus arrived I took some Ibuprofen from KGB and noticed Kaise and Ryan standing in their togs waiting to start. Some quick hellos and I was off to the PofW pier again, the boys soon caught up, once by the wall we did some intervals up and down with 30 seconds rest between each repeat. Soon it was time to head in for Midday and Feed 3.
Kaise and Ryan left the water, whilst I took my maxim and chocolate. The next hour was uneventful, I was joined by another unknown swimmer as I did some more repeats. It was as I made progress for Feed 4 that I knew was going to manage the six. Telling myself I had only one more feed seemed a much better prospect than the thought of two more hours, and so Feed 5 came. By now it was raining, the waves were crashing up swimmers beach, the crew there were soaked to the skin, Barrie by now was in full oil skins! the wind was blowing a gale and the sea was getting more and more angry. As I got to the beach I was greeted by cheers and a wall of people shouting praise and encouragement. Freda and Kelly were blowing me kisses and giving me the thumbs up, this hit a nerve and I immediately began to think about my late mum. It was then that I noticed Jane being cuddled as she struggled to keep warm. I told her she didn’t have to join me, true to her word, in she got and battled the waves for another hour. It was a fight to return to shore on completion, though the elated feeling when I did make it in such conditions made it worth while. The girls were waiting with hugs for me as I waded through the wash. A quick all day breakfast with Freda, her Grandson, Jane, Kevin, Matt, and Neil was then followed by phase three of the race, the return 350 miles to home, arriving around midnight I was tired to say the least.

Thankyou very much indeed to everyone who helped the swimmers this weekend in some atrocious conditions, I am happy to be officially qualified and look forward to my split channel swims next time we are in Dover.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Final Countdown

It feels like only days ago that I began this blog with more than a year to prepare and plan for the task at hand. I find it staggering that the first six months of the 2008 have passed us by. Granted, it has been tough going in every way, not just the training, but coping with the dramas and trauma that life presents, let alone working full time on shifts and attempting to be a good daddy.

But, that said, here we are... the longest day is now just a memory, July has begun and with it probably the toughest swimming and endurance month of my life (so far). This month is set to incorporate three visits to Dover, to complete my longest swims to date, I am hoping for around eleven hours this weekend followed by two split channel swims comprising 7 hours Saturday 6 hours Sunday. Under the watchful eye of Freda Streeter.

In addition to the swimming I am making one last effort to eat sufficient in order to gain another seven pounds in weight, whether achieve this remains to be seen, its heavy going eating so many times per day but I know the efforts over the next six weeks could make all the difference when it comes to that big day in August.

Went to the pool yesterday for a sprint workout for a change, was not sorry to leave the place on what was my final day of membership. Now there is no option but swimming outdoors which to be honest is all we have been doing anyway.

Had a brief chat with my skipper/pilot a couple of days ago, everything is running smoothly at his end, we hope to meet up again this weekend for a gossip and to put a couple of nerves to bed. He is 100% supportive and never has anything but encouragement.

Also this week I will probably meet up with the boys from 10 degrees latitude who are riding 800 miles to Dover before their relay swim across the Channel followed by a 200 mile ride to Paris! They will be in Newcastle tonight and Leeds tomorrow so I will attempt to get there and say hi.

In addition to the normal routine, Dover should be a busy place this weekend as there are a few other people in town that we hope to meet ...Kaise Stefan from Australia who also swims with Andy in around ten days will be there as will Vasanti from Germany. Together with all the regulars of course..I know KGB is keen to see Jane again for more girl talk, so at least I wont feel too guilty that she is alone when I am in the water..

I will post any more news as and when I have it.