Monday, 11 August 2008


An old school master of mine regularly spouted two particular quotes one of which was “a fool learns by his mistakes yet a wise man learns by the mistakes of others”

How right he was.

I will spare you the finer details but here is Fridays Tale…

By way of background and as frequent visitors to the blog will know, we have visited Dover a number of times this year, the drive is in general a gruelling ordeal, 350 miles taking anywhere from six and half hours plus, on arrival all we ever feel like doing is eating and sleeping. As per the previous post, last week I was playing the waiting game and did not expect to get any opportunity to swim, a swimmer was backed up from the previous tide and I was second slot, therefore in effect I was third in line with no sign of good weather.

Around 8:30 on Friday morning I was down stairs making a cuppa when Charlie called from my bedroom shouting that my pilot was on the telephone, I was offered the opportunity to swim providing I could get to Dover Marina by 1430-1530, I quickly rang KGB and Dave Neal who where at work, without discussion we agreed that it was possible to cover the distance in time if we left immediately, I crammed the car and before too long Charlie was dropped with his Grans and we were racing down the motorway. I was yet to have coffee let alone breakfast, but we continued with haste to make the dead line.

Kelly received some telephone calls whilst enroute from some very informed swimmers and other experienced parties all of whom doubted my sanity and the conditions of the day, I told her I didn’t want to hear any negatives as I was already committed.

Grabbing some MnS pasta enroute, an electric shave in the car and the odd toilet stop at roadside! We arrived at 3.20pm, My support swimmer could not make it in time having been at work and not expecting the call before Saturday at the earliest. Sam Jones stepped in and even purchased some items that we had left behind in the rush to depart. Thanks Sam.

Without time to brief, focus, eat, rest, prepare feeds etc we loaded the boat and motored around to Samphire Hoe, I jumped from the boat swam to shore, it was a surreal, this was not how I imagined it would be in the slightest, I was not excited I was almost in tears as I reached the shore to begin. Begin I did, however within 45 minutes I was vomiting, I do not know if it was entirely as a result of the sea state or some other factors, my first feed was soon returned to the sea as I continued to be sick. Shortly before my second feed I called it a day much to the disatisfaction of Kelly and the other people on board. It was ridiculous situation. I was ill, I was tired before even starting, I was starving before the start but now the last thing I wanted was to eat. My stomach was inside out and I felt I had no choice but to abandon, I have zero regrets about getting out.

However, in hindsight I should never ever have accepted the offer to swim at such short notice moments after a 6hour plus drive with such little emotional/mental preparation. It was a crazy decision I hold my hands up to making a massive mistake.

I want to thank my new friends from the swim world for their 100% support and advice. Especially Enda Kennedy, Freda Streeter, Kevin and Jane Murphy, Cliff Golding, Barrie and Irene Wakeham, Michelle Macy, Sam Jones.

I have the option to swim in September…after a little thinking time, I will decide pending child care, work, time off, finance etc.

I do not consider that I have failed, lets face it two hours is barely a training session, I know for a fact that I am way better that this, I have proven to myself I can manage at least 7 hours. All I want are the conditions and the circumstances for a reasonable chance.



Anonymous said...

Dear Mark,
As i was to be your support swimmer and with the fact that I could not believe my ears that you had made the decision to drive down and plunge into the channel .I felt this was an extremely delicate situation at the time to make any remarks that would be deemed as negative /unsupportive .
When you called me ,you seemed so focussed to succeed and spoke in a very positive way .The last thing any one would want is for a negative thought /comment to be made ..
I apologise if you in your heart may have felt that i should have told you it was going to be very tiring for you to drive down on a 7hr journey with no rest and then just jump into the channel and swim of for another 10 hours or so but i did relay my fears to Kelly.

Sorry for not being able to just jump into my car as soon as you called . As the call came so out of the blue I was on call at work and could not get the permission to leave and despite offering to come into the harbour an hour later to assist you .
You had decided that my assistance would not be necessary and I thank Sam for stepping in without hesitation when i called her to request her to step in .
It appears that your judgement of me is clouded but over time I hope the haze will recede ...I never ever wished you anything but success and even chose not to be with my daughter who is currently on holiday ..
Please please reconsider and go for it !!!! You have put in so much into this project I know your heart is in it ...!!!!
Good better best ,
Never let it rest
Until your good is better
and your better is your best.
I am wishing you all the strength to remain focussed and give it another attempt....
and I apologise if there are any ill feelings.
Warmest regards

P.s You can do it !!!!

Cagri said...

Mark, impulse swimming is not a good idea. You need to be mentally ready before big swims. Besides 6 hour car drive would make anyone sick. I wish you hadn't tried this at the first place. But don't worry, you'll be fine :)

Mark said...

Thanks Loraine, I have zero ill feelings toward you..neither of us expected the call, and I knew you were only off from Friday...I hope for better condtions next time...

Cagri, I agree I just didnt think...hectic to say the least!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark,
I will respect your privacy for a few days to focus on what lies ahead but I am hoping that you will find the strength to conquer .......The Channel -YOUR DREAM and what you have worked so hard for .
Thank you for your kind words and I look forward to hearing good news soon .
Enjoy your time with Charlie and soon the channel will beckon you ,grab it and fight it with all that you have !!!No one says its easy but next time you will be better prepared to face the elements.
Warmest Regards

Yvonne said...

Mark, I am so sorry for the circumstances that overtook you, and so sorry that as a result you are feeling low right now. Not one person doubts your ability to achieve this mammoth task. As you rightly point out, your training has proven your ability to fulfil it wholly, when the conditions are right.

I cannot comment on what you term as the "bad decision", but what I can say is this... it's not the things we do that we regret, it's the things we don't do.

We have learned this again and again with Jack. When we put him on the 8H9 study after his brain relapse, it was a big decision. The treatment was wholly experimental, and we were strongly advised against it by our UK doctors. However the alternative was to keep him at home and to let him die in peace. We knew if we didn't take him we would regret it. I mention this because in part, the treatment failed... Jack relapsed, very badly, he was the first child out of 11 on the protocol to relapse. BUT - Jack is still with us today, alive and very much full of life!

So far, you haven't achieved only one small part of what you set out to do.. but what you HAVE achieved, it highlighting Jack's cause, and bringing so much more awareness of this disease and the need for funding for research.

You are not a failure Mark, we could not, for one minute, fully comprehend the huge task you set youself when you set out to do this swim. The time, the training, the pure stamina. We have nothing but admiration for you and your team that you could get together at such short notice, and commence under the ill conditions. You have achieved so much more than you know. We are very proud that you chose to do this for, and we are fully behind you when you make your in any decision you make as to whether you will attempt it again or not.

You are very much in our thoughts right now.

Yvonne, Richard, Connor, Rhian and Jack x

Dave said...


You invited me to be on your support boat to inspire me to swim the channel one day. Being on your boat on the unfortunate friday did inspire me to train towards a channel swim so in one small way the swim was successful.

I still feel it was a great honour to be asked to support you on your swim and I will try my very best to support you in your next attempt which I'm sure you will decide to do.

Speak to you soon


Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

I can't imagine someone starting swimming the Channel in the late afternoon (unless they have been in bed all day). There's certainly no way I could have driven for 6 or 8 hours and then jumped in. Just thinking about it makes me want to puke. Ideally if you can be down there in Dover at least a couple of days then you can get a lot of rest and maybe a couple of short warm-up swims. You can do it, and I hope you can get your dates booked for September. Today I watched a woman weightlifter finally hoist the weight up on her third attempt, with less than two minutes between attempts. Take more rest than that and you will be ready.

Michelle said...

Mark -

You are there. You are ready. And you have learned. September is your chance. GO FOR IT!


Neal Mueller said...

Downside: you feel down. Upside: no one will remember this once you swim the darn thing. 2nd Upside: This bump will make your success story all the better when you succeed.

Neal & Adam
10 Degrees Latitude Team

Caroline Cooke said...

I've just seen this post about your EC experience. The first thing that comes to mind is that you are no fool, Mark.

Taking into consideration the immense amount of planning and preparation, the (often painful!) hours and hours in the water and gym every week, and the 100% mental and emotional commitment it takes to train for the Channel it's no wonder you were so eager to get going when the call came.

The additional stress of rushing to contact your team at such short notice, dashing down to Dover - driving for 6+ hours without having eaten properly, and not having the chance to mentally prepare yourself, let alone even think about what you were about to do, really wouldn't have helped.

At least you gave it a go - you now have a wealth of knowledge for the next time. I know you'll swim it.

A quote I like to remember is 'it's not the destination that's important but the journey' and you've learnt so much from that experience, thank you for sharing it.