Sunday, 20 September 2009

Lisas 2way swim

Here's a thought...what were you doing 24 hours ago... well, Lisa Cummins (who looked after me in Sandycove, Cork, Ireland last year) was entering the water the commence her epic adventure of swimming to France......and back!

She landed on a sandy French shore after fourteen hours and 36 minutes and swiftly began the second leg of her swim...she has now been in the water (which at present is around 63.5degrees Fahrenheit) for what is approaching twenty four hours...can you imagine being in cold water, all day yesterday, all night with no sleep and still be in it now with another 12 hours plus remaining!!

This woman is a complete can view her progress on the tracker system here. One of her friends is updating her blog via twitter, she is reportedly still making the same pace of 60 strokes per minute and cracking jokes at each feed!...I recently spoke with the crew on the boat (Sea Satin piloted by Lance Oram) they state she is obviously tired but in good spirits..

More updates later

update just had a text this minute almost 27 hours in, text reads " just had really good feed, more content, no pain killer requests for a long time, pilot happy with her"

Latest from Sea Satin at 3.50pm which is 29+hours "Imelda (support swimmer) back in the water for an hour, wouldn't say if it is the last hour of support or not, coast getting more visible. Form has improved a small bit"

4.10pm... "Shes out of the Shipping lanes, into the English Inshore waters 4 miles or more approx, best form from her in a long time"

5.35pm ...31hours of swimming and still going...getting weak but mentally strong

9.25pm...almost 35 hours and looks like about 500m to go...go go go

she has made it after approx 35 hours incredible woman!!!!! congratulations what a day and a half

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Great North Swim 2009

Saturday 12th September brought with it probably the best days weather we had seen for weeks, I set out from home around 8am to head across Country toward Ambleside the host venue for the Great North Swim, I sighted Ullswater enroute and noticed that in was ‘flat as a pancake’ the sun was shining, the conditions couldn’t have been better, Lake Windermere was only a few miles away and was sure to be the same…after a little car trouble I arrived at one of the park and walk areas in good time to suss out exactly what the procedure was to be.

The helicopters, tannoy system and crowds could be heard from some distance, the atmosphere was great with the amount of spectators being very impressive. Having dropped off my baggage in a secure area, I settled down to watch the Elite Ladies and Men’s races, both of whom swam at break neck speed. Several celebrities were in attendance including Rebecca Addlington who started the Elite Ladies race and was very keen with her verbal encouragement! As can be seen below...
After the elites I took the opportunity to watch the ‘Orange Wave’ depart the start line at 1.30pm, I wanted to see the numbers involved per wave and the actual point I was going to enter the water. All went smoothly and I was mentally prepared, I was changed (in the heated marquees) in no time and walked the short distance over the carpeted surface and swiftly cleared through the ‘check in’ to sample the water in a small warm up area, before too long I stood at the front of the pack and waited for the countdown.

The course was marked with a series a large yellow buoys, in an out and back type route. At the hooter, sounded by Olympian David Davies I ran into the water over the timing mats and headed off on my mile, I was in a group of about a dozen swimmers and felt comfortable for the duration of the swim, the only difficulty being sighting the buoys after the half way point due to the position of the glaring sun.

Before I knew it the swim was over, I exited the water and again ran over the timing mats, posed for an official photograph, collected a finishers bag and that was that.

And so, my return to open water was complete, I thoroughly enjoyed the event, the organisation of which was first class. The website has now published the results….in my wave of 201 swimmers I was eighth to finish, I was 35th in my age group of 660, and 302nd overall /207th male from 6000 entries. Although a little disappointed with my time, the day was worthwhile, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Miyuki her own words

The English Channel Swim Report 2009

I always wanted to be the best and do something unusual so I aimed tocomplete the two-way crossing, not just one way, as no Japanese personhas ever successfully swum the two-way Channel crossing.

On my first attempt, I had to stop after ten hours due to thigh painand I didn’t finish even one-way. A week later, I had anotheropportunity to swim the one-way. I swam for 17hours 35minutes but hadto give up just 3km from the French coast. My respect Freda then gave me some good advice, “When you swim theChannel crossing, you shouldn’t look ahead. It makes you feel as ifyour goal is very far away and that you still have much further to swim so it is mentally harder to keep going. Also, you shouldn’t stopbecause by doing this; you will be drifted by the tide and have toswim further. You shouldn’t do anything which will be disadvantageousto you. You should try the one way swim again.”

It was in 2004. The next year, I began training again for the one-way swim and followed Freda’s advice. Since then, I have successfully completed the one way crossing six times.

This year, I went back to Dover again. I felt ready for to attempt thetwo-way swim. I planned to stay in Dover for 35 days and waited nervously for the big day. Neil, the boat pilot, would choose the day with the best weather conditions for the swim. The other swimmers had gone to swim one after another and everybody kept asking me when I was going to swim but the days passed and I still had no idea when I would get to swim. I started to feel very frustrated but I could not do anything but wait and trust Neil to pick a good day.

For the two-way swim, we would need two consecutive fine days. It was possible that the weather conditions would not permit me to swim because the weather was constantly changing. I told Neil that if the two-way was not possible, I still intended to swim at least one way before flying back to Japan.

At last, one week before I was due to leave England and go back to Japan, Freda told me that I would be able to swim on the next Monday or Tuesday. I was so happy because I had been waiting such a long timefor this chance and could not stop crying. On Monday, I was on the beach with Jenni, an observer when Neil called her to say that we should all meet at the marina at 19:00 that evening for my two-way challenge! I was overjoyed. I was going to attempt the two way swim! I was so pleased that Jenni would also be coming on theboat with me as my observer. I got my thing ready for the swim, had a massage and went to bed for a nap. At last the time for my big challenge had come!

Our boat was called Suva. Once on board, I applied the Channel grease to my body. When the boat came close to Shakespeare Beach, Ishii, my coach farted. Everybody on the ship started to laugh and the atmosphere became very relaxed. Even when I was swimming in the dark, I remembered it and laughed. It was nice to have a funny thought tomake me smile whilst I was swimming, particularly when it became dark. That night I started swimming from Shakespeare Beach. I was familiar with the currents around the beach from my previous swims but, for some reason, on this occasion I kept drifting so that every time I looked up I saw the same scenery. I worried that I might not be moving forward at all and was scared by a big red jelly fish that brushed my arm, stinging me.

After about 40 minutes, saltwater filled my goggles. I had already tested the goggles in the water but the waves pushed the water in. My eyes started to sting. I knew from my previous experiences that the eyes are very important to a long distance swimmer so I changed my goggles when I stopped for my feeding. I am used to swimming at night but I still felt sleepy.

Suddenly, I was surprised by some people screaming. They were a relay team who had already finished their swim and were on the way back to Dover. Their support encouraged me a lot. Swimming into the French side, I started to struggle with the high waves. Some were as big as 2m. The sea always tends to be rough towards France and the currents are very fast. Morning came and as it got brighter, I began to wake up a bit.

By this point, I was really enjoying swimming even in the rough waters but I realized that France was still far away after 14 hours of swimming. I usually swim one way in 14 hours but Ishii told me that this time I would have to swim for another four hours to reach France. I realized that I must have drifted a long way off course when I was swimming near Dover and kept seeing the same scenery. Consequently, it took me 17hours 18minutes to swim just one-way.

I told Ishii that it would be impossible to finish two-way because the first leg had taken too long but he encouraged me to swim a little longer. I swam for three more hours before I asked him if I could give up. Ishii said that the weather conditions were going to become better so there would be no wind or waves so I had better keep swimming as such good conditions were very rare. He told me that I could complete the swim in just eight more hours in such favorable conditions.

I was determined to swim for another eight hours. I tried very hard, spurred on by the though that my dream of swimming the two-way Channel crossing was about to come true. My husband, the pilot, my colleagues, everybody would be delighted! What would I do if TV reporters were waiting for me at Narita airport? What would I do next after my dreamhad come true? Maybe I could try to swim the one-way ten times! Or perhaps I should try to become the oldest Channel swimmer! Pondering over these random things, I pushed myself to continue swimming.

My body ached and I wanted to give up many time but I kept my arms moving. Night came again and it became cold but I didn’t stop. I saw the lights of England as I swam closer and closer to England. I drank another feeding and said to the people on the boat that I could not swim any more but they told me to keep trying. I screamed and my voice echoed in the darkness over Channel. It was the first time that my body was chilled to my very bones and even my wrists started to ache. I gave up about 5 hours from England (about 4 miles). I was mentally and physically exhausted. I could not swim the last five hours.

I recalled my first Channel swim. That time, I was also unable to swim the last few hours. I could see the white houses on the French coast but just could not swim. I realized that I had not followed Freda’s good advice. I had looked ahead and convinced myself that the end was too far away for me to keep swimming. If I had continued to swim very slowly, I might have been able to finish the swim but,because I was tired, I convinced myself that I could not do it.

To be a successful long distance swimmer, you have to be mentally strong. I had swum 30hours in pool and for 20hours 7minutes in sea. Even though it was tough, I am glad that I did not stop after just one way and challenged myself to my limit. Now, I have to use this experience to aid my future training for my next Channel swim. On my first swim, I stopped after just 10 hours but now I was able to swim for about 29hours 30minutes. I never dreamed I would be able to swim for so long. I am so grateful to the people who have helped me to come so far. I could not have done all this by myself. Thank you very much for supporting me. I hope that I will soon be able to fulfill my dream of completing the two way swim and will continue to enjoy swimming.

"The Channel swim was… the human mind is weak, you will inevitably experience feelings of struggle and sadness when you swim, but, hopefully, you will find happiness, too."---Miyuki

little by little

I am finally beginning to feel a little fitness coming back after returning to the pool, I have as usual been training alone and swimming as and when the usual commitments permit. My swims have usually been for around an hour or less, initially it was a struggle to just plod for a thousamd metres but I am pleased to say my times are beginning to drop.

This the weekend I decided to have a go at one of my old favourite swim sets...Basically it is a descending ladder in 100m drops from 1km to 100, ie 1000,900,800,700 etc down to 100 which totals at 5500m.

Last year I was always able to hit 90 minutes for the set with around 15 secs rest between the moment I am on 95 mins, sometimes stretching it to 30+ secs rest towards the beginning of the session. After the first three swims I was doubting I could finish but was delighted to do so in a reasonable time. As my aerobic fitness slowly returns I will be able to lower the rest periods and be closer the target time.

This weekend (12/13 Sept 2009) is the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere (1 mile in open water) I am in a wave on Saturday afternoon and will be hoping to finish in 26 mins. After which I will decide what route to go down with longer term swims...there are few irons in the fire, but its early days (and I still haven't won the lotto!)

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Channel Statistics

There have been a total of 2245 Channel swims, 206 of which have been part of multiple-way swims.

1056 swimmers have completed a total of 1471 solo swims.

Approximately 3903 swimmers have taken part in 647 relay swims and 127 special category swims.
64.7% of swimmers have been male (solo, relay and special category).
35.3% of swimmers have been female.

The average age of a solo swimmer is 33 years, 191 days (based on 574 swims, 39% of all solos)

35.8% of solo swims have been made by swimmers from the UK, 20.4% from the USA.

Average solo crossing time: 13 hours, 19 minutes and 42 seconds.Average relay crossing time: 12 hours, 15 minutes and 14 seconds.

Average special category crossing time: 12 hours, 47 minutes and 28 seconds.

If every successful Channel swim was made consecutively, it would take 3 years, 119 days, 4 hours, 47 minutes and 39 seconds.

The most successful day of the year, with 47 swims, is 28th August

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Just back from a week in Spain where the weather was incredible...a heat wave even by Spanish standards...did some pool swimming and spent a lot of time practicing my flips turns which I don't normally bother with as it bothers my lower back....think I am getting old..

Managed to hurt my shoulder as usual in the process, though this may well be down to the kids demanding 3 and 4 storey pyramid fights, not a good idea to have three kids on top of you at midnight in the pool after a night on the beer!!

Back to work at the weekend..

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Julieann her own words

Reposted here with Julieanns consent..many thanks and congratulations again on that awesome swim

"Well hello there, I am currently lying in my bed in Dublin, feeling pretty good I must say, other than my dunzo shoulder. I think I need a good long rest for that to heal. So the swim details...I got the final 'you're going' by Mike Oram around 8pm on the 12th. I felt like I had won the lottery; I was dancing around like a lunatic, thinking 'Wait, you just got the go-ahead to do the hardest, most grueling thing you've ever done. Why are we dancing?!' But it didn't matter, I was ready and pumped. I made all my Maxim feed, and it all seemed a bit surreal, like I wasn't actually about to go swim the Channel.I met up with my crew, Mark Ransom (Channel Swimmer 08) and Nick Adams (multiple Channel Swimmer, including a 2-way). It was good to have them because they are quite experienced with both crewing and actually doing the swim, so that gave me a lot of confidence and security that I would be okay.

We headed down to the marina at 1:15 a.m. and got ourselves sorted. When we arrived to Sea Satin (my boat), it was empty with lights out. I was like, 'um, are they coming?' as we started to load up the boat. Then crew started to emerge from the boat. They had been asleep down there! (Naive mistake number 1). I felt pretty good. There were other swimmers and relays getting themselves sorted on the other boats, so it was a bit like a nervous party. I met some of the boat crew and the observer, and then Lance Oram (boat pilot) emerged. I felt a sense of excitement because I had heard so much about he yells at you from the boat, how he's a great pilot, etc. I kind of looked at him and was like, hello. He just like, nodded and grinned at me. I thought, this is going to be good.We got all the stuff settled on the boat, then headed off to Samphire Ho around 2:20am.

I got greased up and had a nervous excitement about me. We arrived and Tanya (boat crew) told me to hop in, swim to the beach, clear the water, raise my hand, and go when the horn went off. So I got in, and squealed something along the lines of 'OH MY GAHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHH!' So I swam in quite slow, taking my time, getting my goggles adjusted. I got onto the stony beach, but apparently wasn't back far enough because I didn't hear any horn. There were a few yells back and forth, but I could barely hear a thing thanks to the crashing waves. Finally I heard loud yells and a muffled horn so I gathered it was time to start.

I made my way in and swam to the boat, and we were off!The first hour was, for lack of a better word, hell. It was very choppy and I was swimming in pitch black water with mirrored goggles (Naive mistake number 2). What was I thinking!? The boat kept feeling like it was going to crash into me, and I felt very lost swimming next to it. It wasn't so bad swimming at night, I wasn't scared or anything, but it was so incredibly hard to navigate breathing and the like because I could not see the waves coming toward me. Usually, when it's light, if I see a wave I may not breathe, or if I get water in my mouth, I can spit it out. Well this time water was going everywhere, and I felt like I was thrashing the waves. It was not enjoyable.

On the hour feed, I tried to take it on my back like Nick did in his video, but I got so incredibly dizzy that I really thought I was going to pass out. So I turned to my stomach, and took an incredibly slow feed. Also, my suit was moving because of the Vaseline, but I didn't want to touch it because my fingers would get all sticky, so I just basically let me top half hang out! I did find humour in this, as Lance was wearing a shirt that said 'Real swimmers swim naked'. So I did, in my own way! Apologies for the 'graphic' footage on the video! Hour two was much better. I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the swim more. I was still getting smashed by the waves, but I didn't really care that much. It was, after all, the English Channel. I didn't do training for a flat swim. I enjoyed hour 2, because I knew on hour 3 the sun would rise, so I had that to look forward to. The feed went down okay, and I headed off for hour 3.

I was a bit nauseous at this point, even when the sun came up and I could see the waves better. I just focused on staying close to the boat, and found an odd comfort in watching the boat pilot watching me. I didn't feel so alone, I suppose.Well I knew the sun came up, but it was hidden behind dark clouds so I was a bit disappointed. Then the rain storm came. I kept my hand out of the water a bit longer to make sure, and yes, it was raining. The waves were a bit violent at this point, and I really felt like I was going to puke. I kept telling myself, over and over, 'You can puke the rest of your life, just hold it in now.' I must have said that 2 thousand times. My mind was a bit weird; I felt so focused on not hitting the boat, swimming powerfully, and not puking that I didn't think of anything else, really. In my longer swims, I enjoyed so many long conversations with myself, and had some great thoughts come to me when swimming. Well not in the Channel! It was survival mode for me.

At 5 hours Nick told me I was halfway through the separation zone. I was like, ok what does that mean. (Naive mistake number 3- learn how the Channel operates!) He and Mark were like, halfway! Well okay. That seemed alright. Keep swimming.At 6 hours I was tired, really really tired. I thought to myself, I'll take this hour off, go nice and slow, then build back up again. I was in so much pain that I was feeling mentally down. My shoulders, arms, elbows, hands and fingers were aching with a pain that is hard to describe. I felt so bloated from the feeds, even though I was peeing quite regularly. I began to resent the boys when they came down with feeds. I was like 'No! Not that again! I can't handle any more!' I kept thinking 'feeds are fuel' but it was no use, my body did NOT want any more Maxim! At the 6 hour feed, Nick suggested Mark to offer me a swiss roll. Mark kind of put it in my face and I was like 'GET THAT AWAY FROM ME!' Just the thought of having that in my mouth made me barf a little. I do not know how people eat food in the Channel. Thoughts of people eating peaches, swiss rolls and jelly babies made me gag, so I tried my best to get away from those thoughts! So I swam, then Mark appeared in his suit at 6.5 hours. I got really agitated at this point, because I thought this meant I was going way too slow, and Lance had told him to get in to speed me up. I almost said 'Don't get in, I'll go faster!' but just left it.

Failure thoughts entered my head, and I told them to shut up, but I was exhausted, so I felt a bit sad at this point. Mark apparently swallowed a lot of water, and I swam as fast as I could to show the crew I was not deflated just yet. Mark got back on the boat a couple minutes later and I swam on, feeling pleased that I was back by myself. Around 7 hours the sky cleared, and the sun started to peek through the clouds. The waves calmed significantly, and the swim became a lot more enjoyable, as painful as it was at this point. I had a mini celebration with myself, because 7 hours was the longest I had swum thus far in my training, so it was a new record! Lance yelled something out the window rather loudly, so I sped up while laughing. I could also see my reflection off the side of the boat, so I was happy to have myself as company! I kept staring at myself, and thought I looked pretty okay given the beating I endured a couple hours back. The feeds were still horrific; I just could not seem to get more than a tiny mouthful into me, and I was sick of them taking so long. All I could say to myself at this point was 'Relax', which was a hypnosis technique Mairead gave me from a recording I have listened to for a few weeks. It worked brilliantly, and I felt my entire body relax every time I said this. France was getting closer and closer, but still seemed quite far away.

I was trying to gauge how much I had left, so at 8 hours, I asked if I'd 2 more to go. They didn't seem happy with this question! Lance yelled at me to stop chatting and just swim. I kind of snarled at him and took off, wanting to know how much left I had. It's not that I wanted to give up. I wanted to know where I was in this mad thing! I couldn't tell if I had a kilometre, a mile, 5 miles or even 3 nautical miles left. (Naive mistake number 4- wtf is a nautical mile? I kept trying to remember Mike Oram's emails describing all this information I should have learned by this point, but nothing solid came from my noggin.) So I quoted Nemo for the 5000th time, and said 'Just keep swimming'. What I didn't tell them was I had a pretty secret goal of going under 10 hours. Of course, I didn't broadcast this because hello, what if it took me 12 or 14 hours to complete? I'd be embarrassed. So I really just wanted to know if I was in contention of getting my goal.

I think just after 8.5 hours, Nick joined me in the sea. I was so confused because I wondered if it was time to swim in. I really had no idea how close I was. It was then that Lance told me I'd just a mile and a half to go. But I was wondering, was this a nautical mile? I needed kilometres! So I figured the longest it could be was 3k, and I knew I could do a 3k. I knew the Channel was in the bag, and I felt pretty relieved. I've spent basically 2 years wondering if I could do it, and to know I was almost about to prove myself, well, I felt good. It was a great feeling.At 9 hours Mark came down with a feed, and I kept wondering, when will this feeding crap end!? I only drank half of it, as I could not avoid puking at this point. I heard a reaction from Lance, but left it. I quoted Cartman, saying, 'Screw you guys, I'm going home'. I don't know, it made sense to me at this point? Delirium to the max, folks. Nick was keeping a very fast pace, and at times I just wanted to stop so he's stop so I could tell him to slow down. I was all over the place mentally, so I just kept saying 'relax, stop puking, look at your reflection, stop looking at France.' The co-pilot was cruising along beside me, and he stuck his bare foot in my face. This made both of us laugh a little. (May as well have fun, right?)

At 9.5 hours, Lance said the words I wanted to hear for the past, well, 9.5 hours. 'This is your last feed.' A lot of the Channel swimmers talk about this as being a heroic, celebratory time full of joy and happiness. Me? I was like 'Thank f*ck for that!' France was so close that I could feel it. The water was so warm, and the rocks became unmeshed, if you will. I drank about 2 sips of the feed, said a final 'Screw you, Maxim!' and swam as fast as I could. At 9:45 I knew I'd be in within 15 minutes, and I felt pretty dang good about myself. I swam over to a rock, eager to end it, and as I climbed up Nick goes 'You need to clear the water, come over here.' I was like not this again! So I belly-flopped into the water (ha), swam over to this stony beach on Cap Griz Nez, and stood up. Sirens from Lance's boat went off, and I was like OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG. I hugged Nick, then fell down. 9 hours 51 minutes was on my watch. YES! Mark swam in with the camera, and we got some shots/video of me on the French coast. We picked up rocks from the shore, and I stuffed them in the pants of my suit. Of course, a freaking SEAL had to be right in the water where we finished, trying to steal my glory once again. (Why do I have such a history with these creatures?) So I said goodbye, waved to some fishermen, and got back in the water. I went under a few times to kind of stretch out and be submerged. It felt SO good.

I sat on the deck in my swim suit for a while, just staring at the vast amount of water ahead and behind me. It felt great. I was not to keen on the 3-hour boat ride back, as I was so nauseous, but burping seemed to do the trick, much to the guys' dissatisfaction. :) We saw 2 dolphins on the way back, the gay sharks that they are. Lance came to give me a hug and kiss, and I felt wholly indebted to him and his crew, as well as my crew. It was just, amazing. Not many words can describe it. I was more than anything happy to be finished with it, relieved that I had conquered my biggest challenge of my life.

When we got back, I felt alright! I was a bit seasick, and stumbled around the rest of the day, but I didn't feel utterly exhausted. Just a bit sore, and a bit happy. :) When we drove to Varne Ridge, an American and an Irish flag were flying. THAT felt good. I felt so proud and so elated. My flags were flying high, and a banner was on my caravan window, congratulating me on crossing the Channel. I looked back to the water, amazed that I had done it. After many well-dones and hundreds of texts, emails, and FB comments, I was just giddy. David and Evelyn, the owners of Varne Ridge, were fantastic and I felt great the whole rest of the day.

I slept like a log that night, packed my stuff into the car the next day, said my goodbyes (temporary!), and drove all the way from Dover to Fishguard, took the ferry to Rosslare, then drove 2 more hours to Dublin. I am really happy that my Channel did not take as long as the drive home!

So here I am, still lying in bed, still absolutely chuffed at the whole thing, and excited to see all my friends at the sea race today. No, won't be swimming, but I'll be there. I feel good. :)jgal

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Two Way Channel Swim in far from ideal conditions...

1 year on

It is hard to believe its already exactly twelve months to the day since I took that stupid decision on 8th August 2008. I find it amazing that the year has passed so quickly, to summarise (after 080808) as you know I returned to Dover in the September for a more realistic opportunity, however the weather put pay to that and I never did get a reasonable shot at the swim. After that I returned home feeling completely depressed with the whole swimming episode and basically stopped training in anyway, shape or form, my body fat as a result shot up and that much desired belly I was wanting arrived without effort!

I had been active enough at work and didn't feel to bad physically, albeit my core strength has disappeared resulting in almost constant lower back pain. Around a month ago I finally got around to joining another gym, where I have been using the pool, initially I was struggling to even swim 1km but my condition seems to be coming back slowly, my times are way off after such a long lay off but that is understandable...though I am happy with the progress to date.

Enda Kennedy spoke to me the other day on email and questioned if I might be returning to Dover next year, but I told him without a lotto win it would be almost impossible as I am still recovering financially from 2008!

I am however enjoying being back in the water and will be doing the Great North Swim in September after a week in the sun with KGB and the kids.

What I really need to do is sit down and set some targets so that I have a clear goal to train for...

Goodness knows what the next year will bring.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Michelle Macy in her own words

I have long been an admirer of Michelle Macy from the States, she swam the Channel in 2007 and has since swam many marathon events...yesterday she again swam the Channel...below, in her own words Michelle tells how the day unfolded...She is a fantastic person with the heart of a lion...enjoy..but be warned it is emotional.

I’m sure that this news will potentially come as a shock to most people. Two years ago, I swam the Channel for the first time. Two days after that I signed up to swim it again. However, I had a new goal. I wanted to swim the Channel three times in one go. Yes that is right swim first from England to France, turn around swim back to England, and then do it one more time. Yes, it is crazy. Only 3 people (2 men, 1 woman) have accomplished it before and many have attempted. At the time I signed up, I wanted to do something GREAT in my life. Give my family and me a reason to look at something and say that I did THAT. Yes, I understand that I had just swam the Channel in just over 10 hours, but somehow that didn’t seem enough. Some may think that I was seeking fame, but it wasn’t that at all. I wanted to make my family and friends proud of me. Hell I wanted to make myself proud of me.

Yes there was a part of me that wanted my name to be remembered among the great American marathon swimmers like Gertrude Ederle, Lynne Cox, Marcia Cleveland, and Marcella MacDonald. So since 2 days after my first Channel swim, I’ve been training and planning. I had the most amazing trainers, friends, family and sponsors helping me along the way. People who gave up their time and resources to help me reach my goal. I also had the best Channel pilots.
After all the preparations and training, we all headed back to England. Though I felt physically the strongest I’ve ever been something seemed to be missing. I was enjoying my training swims in the water so I tried to push that other “off” feeling away. I was so happy when we got to talk to Reg and find out that the swim was early in the tide and when he looked at me and said “You’re looking fit”. I would finally get to find out how the story ended. Just like a pick-a-path book, the story could end in many ways. I guess I never imagined the way that my swim would end.

We arrived at the boat as scheduled, Reg, Ray, and another boat captain Andy King were all set to guide us on this adventure. Mikee Philips was the observer and I was happy to see another friendly face as he was the CSA observer on my first crossing. We loaded up the boat and set off for the start. Samphire Hoe, the land created from the Chunnel dirt, was the start of the swim. On the way there, I was busy with preparations; sunscreen, rashguard, etc. I was ready when it was time for me to jump in the water. And the first 2 hours of the swim were going really well. I had turned off everything except what was necessary to swim. I so far had chosen the right path in this story.

It was the third hour that I began to notice that “off” feeling becoming stronger. Since we marathon swimmers have plenty of time in our heads I decided to explore this feeling and deal with it and move on. It seemed to me that the question that needed to be answered was “why are we doing this?” The original answer is above…the lasting accomplishment. Giving me something to be proud of in myself. The answer that I got while in the water was; Think of all the time, resources, energy that trainers, sponsors, family, friends have put into this swim. You can’t disappoint them. They have expectations. My next questions was “What about your expectations for yourself, Michelle?” I could definitely remember my original intent, but I no longer felt the fire that went with it. It was then that I realized that my path on this story was about to change. I guess the only way for me to put this is that I was an injured athlete. Yes, the physical muscles were all fine due to all the work that the trainers and I put in, but it was my soul, my heart that was injured.

In an earlier post I mentioned that my mother and father are my moorings. And they are, but 6 weeks ago I became adrift. I thought that I could overcome this feeling of being lost. To find that fire within me to keep this swim going. But the flame was not there, my heart wasn’t in it. My soul was aching. At the three hour feeding I told my crew “We have a problem. I’m fine physically, but my heart hurts. I will finish this part of the swim, as that is the right thing to do, but I don’t think I can go on.” So for another 8 hrs 26 minutes I swam.

After reaching France, my fabulous crew asked me to continue swimming. I did…for a very short period of time. I came up for a feeding and I saw the waves and fog in front of me. It seemed to be taunting me by matching my internal environment. Jane, Katie, Cathy and Jeff were amazing! They did everything that they could to keep me going forward to the next feeding…to the next five minutes. They all had the heart that I was lacking and I had drawn on that to make it across the first time. But the fire also had to come from me for this swim to be a success.

It was me and me alone that called off this swim. It was me that had to make the choice to touch the boat and end the years of hard work. It was the path that I had to take at this time. I know it is not the path that ended the story the way that I wanted to or that I believe anyone wanted.
After changing clothes and laying down for the return trip to England, I finally felt like I rested. There was some quiet. I don’t regret my decision yesterday. I’m hoping that as time passes that I never will. I had 8 hours to really think the decision over. An athlete can force themselves to do only so much without a fire burning within. I am not the first athlete or even person that this has happened to and I surely won’t be the last. I have seen many an athlete falter and fail after years of hard work and thousands/millions of dollars spent. I can see those clips that are played on TV in my head. It is these athletes that give me my inspiration right at this moment. Most of the clips of the athletes show great pain and suffering, but not to long after that I’ve seen the clip of their renewal and success.

The one athlete story that sticks in my mind is Paula Radcliffe. I watched her 2004 Athens marathon. I stumbled and cried with her. I sat down with her on the curb and wept. I also had the good forture to watch her months later (via computer) stride triumphantly to the finish of the New York Marathon, which she has done two times since.

My dad emailed me yesterday and said “6 weeks before your first Channel swim, your mother told you she had cancer and yet you swam. 6 weeks before your 2nd Channel swim your mother passed away and yet you swam. Many others would not have done the same. I’m proud of you”.

This is my time to regroup, reset the course, refind my center and my mooring and then move forward. I know that there will be comments about this swim and perception about what went wrong and some of them may not be that kind. Regardless, I plan to dust myself off and begin to accept that while overall this was an unsuccessful triple Channel crossing it was a successful solo crossing that took a lot of guts on my part.

So to start this healing process and to restart the fire, I will swim. It won’t be a long swim, but I will return to swimmers beach in Dover, put my suit on, and shove off from shore. That is what I’m going to do.

Thank you to Reg and Ray: You can’t find better pilots. I only wish that I could have been the swimmer that we all needed yesterday as I would have loved to provide them with another swim to add to their already phenomenal legacy.

To Mikee Philips and Andy King: Thank you for coming along on the journey. I know it wasn’t what anyone expected, but you were kind throughout my whole swim. To my trainers, coaches, medical professional team: We did all the right things and the body was there. I’m the healthiest and strongest I’ve ever been. You have all taught me so much about what it takes to build an athlete. I know that with our continued work, I’ll only become better. Thank you for being a part of my life.

To my friends and family: Thank you and I love you. You have been there for every crazy adventure and I’m guessing you will be there for the next one. Thank you for all the love and support.To Jane, Cathy, Katie, and Jeff: Thank you for coming along on this ride. You have been there for it all and for that I can’t thank you enough. I know that I can never repay all the generousity that you have shown to me. I love you all. And thank you for having the heart on this swim. And to my sponsors: Thank you for helping me chase and live my dreams. Without your support, I wouldn’t be living my passion. Thank you for believing and seeing that I’m worth it.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Charlie and Luke

Last weekend..8th, 9th, 10th May.. Charlie and his swim buddie Luke Myers (both 9 years old)again took to the water for the benefit of others, on this occasion they were swimming to raise funds for the Prostate Cancer Charity..on each of the days they swam 50 laps of the 33 metre pool at Billingham. At the same time Lukes dad Tim rode the English coast to coast cycle ride.
To date they have raised almost £5000 on their justgiving page.

An article appeared in a local newspaper yesterday you can see it here. I will post the photographs once we get the copyright sorted. Suffice to say they did a great job and we are very proud of their efforts. Well done boys.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Jack Brown

I am sad to bring the news that poor Jack, as brave as he has been has lost his battle with Neuroblastoma, I am proud that together with many sponsors we tried best we could to help. Our thoughts and prayers are with Richard, Yvonne and his siblings..God bless and R.I.P. I cannot even begin to imagine the loss Jacks family must be feeling, the more I read and look at his innocence the more it hurts. Some things are just not fair.

Good Night and God Bless you Jack

Please see the update on Jacks website here

(photos from The Jack Brown Appeal)

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Channel Race is OFF


The rumors that have been floating around the marathon swimming world for the past week are unfortunately true: the Great Channel Swim, scheduled to showcase the world's best marathon swimmers racing across the English Channel, has been cancelled.

Because the French authorities have concerns regarding the amount of potential additional traffic in the English Channel were raised, the French Coast Guard did not provide its support to stage the highly anticipated event.

Colin Hill, the Great Channel Swim race director, said, "After many months of planning, we are disappointed at this late stage to have encountered objections from the French authorities, leaving us with no alternative but to reluctantly cancel the event."

Monday, 27 April 2009

Andy Dickson's Channel Swim

Retired Police Officer Andy Dickson swam The Channel 10th September 2008, about a week after I was sent home with no window of opportunity in the immediate future..I met Andy usually in the water at Dover and once on the beach the day I came home..a true gent..well done Andy

Monday, 20 April 2009

Itchy feet

Like many other swimmers I am a member of a couple of forums, the Channel Swimmers email group and a UK based online swim club. I must say the increasing talk of open water swimming is really making me want to get in there. I just need a couple more good pool sessions under my belt (now that the back spasm has sorted itself out) and I will be ready to take the plunge again.

Other news.. I am really enjoying coaching the kids at two local pools and have had some excellent feedback from several parents, the involvement mainly came about through frustration at : A) the poor advice given to some of the young ones and B) the clear lack of enjoyment being had by almost all of them. It was obvious that most of the children were attending because they had to ie their parents insisted and were having zero pleasure.

I have tried to introduce lots of drills to the sessions with plenty of variety, providing they work hard on the drills we get to have some laughs at the end of the sessions with fun relays and alternative learning...I am delighted the different approach seems to be working with most especially Charlie, Luke, Christian and Liam. That said if you have any ideas to keep sessions fun for kids please leave a comment or email me.

edit: Charlie and Luke are to be involved in a sponsor weekend for Prostate Cancer research, 3 swims 3 consecutive days in a 33 metre pool ..more details at
I am certain that one of the girls who attends the sessions (I will save her the embarrassment by not naming her) is a born Channel Swimmer, she is only about 10 years old but has such natural economical technique.. hopefully I can get her and her parents interested, maybe in a Cross Channel Relay in a few years, before she finds beer and boys!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Prodigal Son

Being Easter time I thought the title quite apt...I finally returned to the pool this week having been out since September last year..I swam a very brief masters set with Stockton ASC and can assure you that my aerobic fitness has disappeared. Last year my swim fitness was very good, I could easy manage 1000m in 15 minutes and used to really like the 10km sets with little rest between each km.

That level of fitness is some distance away now and will take lots of time and effort to regain. When I next swim I plan to do 1000m time trial so I can judge where my training is heading.

I am entered in the Great North Swim on one of the Saturday waves. I will be doing the River Tees swim and a few others when the entries eventually open.

Now however I have a back spasm and have no idea when I will be able to get back swimming.

Hppy Easter...don't eat too many eggs!

Sunday, 29 March 2009


My attention was recently drawn to a French movie titled 'Welcome' by Philippe Lioret. Briefly the story relates to a Kurdish male who wants to get into England, the red tape and complications result in him locating a swimming teacher and the subsequent plan to swim to England (wearing a wetsuit). There have been a number of good reviews, though I doubt any of these viewers are actually swimmers. The trailer is here.

From what I have seen it will be worth a watch but will not be a patch on my favourite Channel Swim production, the true and tragic Two Swimmers. I still have this on VHS from when it aired in the UK on Channel 4 in 2007. I have mentioned this documentary previously however it remains one of the most compelling pieces of TV I have ever seen.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Stockton ASC

Last evening (Wednesday 18th March 2009) Our local swimming club held a night of sponsored swims, the monies raised being donated to CLIC Sargent (Caring for Children living with Cancer) whilst it is not Neuroblastoma, we were delighted the kids agreed to give it their best shot. KGBs daughter Lottie, who until recently was terrified of water and is yet to recieve her 25 metre certificate, let alone breach the 'deep end in the big pool' swam a brilliant 26 lengths covering 700 metres!

Charlie swam too and despite being tired after his first 50 lengths continued after a brief rest and completed 70 lengths (1750m) ...fantastic effort by both of the little people am sure you will agree. Making us very proud of their determination to swim for the benefit of others less fortunate. Well done and thankyou to all who signed their forms.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009



World class competitors from around the globe will, this summer, contest the first Great Channel Swim race for 50 years between England and France. The revival of the classic endurance event from Dover to Calais will take place when the tide is expected to be most favourable in a window between August 19th and 24th. Eight elite male swimmers, headed by Bulgaria’s Peter Stoychev who holds the world record time of six hours 57 minutes for the Channel swim and six women
will be invited to take part.

"I'm sure this revival of what was regarded as one of the world’s classic distance races will capture the imagination of the public," said Brendan Foster, Chairman of organisers, Nova International, the sports marketing agency, who staged the first Great North Swim last year.

Foster added: "We are in discussions with some of the worlds leading distance swimmers and the initial feedback is that they are very interested in getting involved in such a historic challenge.

"I am delighted that Cassie Patten, last summer's Olympic Games 10 kilometres open water swim bronze medallist, will carry British hopes and I'm sure she won't be overawed by either the opposition or the distance."

The roots of present day Channel swimming go back to 1875, when Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to successfully cross the channel from Dover to Calais in a time of 21 hours and 45 minutes. However it wasn’t until 1950 that top class international swimmers from around the world were recruited to take part in the first Daily Mail International Cross Channel Swimming Race.

Egyptian Army Lieutenant Hassen Abdel Rehim and Eileen Fenton, a 21-year-old religious studies teacher from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, were the first winners, their victories capturing the imagination and admiration of the nation. Only nine of the 24 starters - a third of them women - completed the gruelling 22 mile distance across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The second race saw a local success with Sam Rockett, the manager of Folkestone Pool, reaching the shore first as 18 of the 20 entrants completed the swim, thrilling the huge crowds watching from the start and finish landmarks of Shakespeare Beach at Dover and Cap Gris Nez in France.
Holiday Camp founder Billy Butlin also funded the swim in the 1950’s and for a
number of years Egyptian swimmers were dominant.

However, the Suez Canal crisis of 1956 and the political tension it created saw Butlin take the controversial decision to ban Egyptians, which saw him receive a Government rebuke from the Foreign Office for getting involved in international affairs. He subsequently withdrew funding, instead donating it to other sporting events and the Channel Swim once again become an individual challenge.

Now Nova International, who also organise the Bupa Great North Run, the world's biggest half marathon and Britain’s biggest open water swimming event, the Great North Swim, are determined to ensure the Swim re-enacts the excitement it provoked in its golden years half a century ago. There will also be two relay boats of between 6 and 8 swimmers competing on
the day of the event. To build upon the occasion there will be a Great Channel Swim Relay with 12 boats comprising six to 10 members, on standby from August 20 to take to the sea on the first available good day following the main race.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

GNS 09

Entries are now open for Britain’s biggest open water swim which will be staged on 12th and 13th September and forms part of a series of Great Swim events taking place across the UK.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Keep Swimming: A Hypothermia Scare

Cyrise Sanders (nee Calvin) of the La Jolla Cove Swim Club has very kindly emailed and allowed be to post her first-hand account of a near disaster she faced in the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, California. She swam the Catalina Channel in 1992 and the English Channel in 1994 in 10 hours 50 minutes in 59°F water. She has done countless swims of 2-3 miles by herself in the (generally cold or cool) Pacific Ocean. This is her first-hand account: ...I want you to know that what happened to me was astounding, shocking, and unfathomable. It could happen to anyone. It could happen to you. Loving the ocean doesn't change. I look at the Cove on a calm day and think, "Oh, how peaceful and beautiful. On a day when it’s windy and wild with whitecaps I think, 'FUN!' It’s all good."

January 10, 2009 was a Saturday like many others. I set out for the Cove to swim with my friend, Rick Knepper. What a gorgeous day! Once I get there, I breathe a deep sigh at the majesty before me. It is a calm day. The sun is just slightly up so the sunlight streams over the red-tiled roofs at the Marine Room and the palm trees along La Jolla Shores, but, because of the angle of the sun this time of year, the hills behind La Jolla Shores are still shadowed. No clouds. No fog. Another epic day. At the Cove there is the usual gathering of 'Saturday – 7:30' swimmers. I hook up with Rick and we get ready - just a bathing suit, goggles and two caps for me. We set out well after the crowd because it takes me soooo long to get in the water! Not unusual. I just get wet an inch at a time. Once it’s up to my waist I’m in and we go. The water feels cold, but no colder than any other January day. I figure 55° or 56° F. It’s about 7:45 am when we start.

As we head to the Tower at the Shores, I feel okay. About ¾ of the way over I notice my feet are starting to hurt and they aren’t doing anything. 'Kick feet, kick,' I tell myself. I kick a little harder, but realize that the pain is not going away. I know myself and in the thousands of swims I’ve done in these waters, my feet don’t usually hurt until after I’ve left the water. We get to within 100 yards of touching down at the Tower and I stop and tell Rick, "I need to turn back now! I’m cold!" I’ve been cold before, it’s not unusual. He says 'Okay' and mentions that we were slow coming over and that we did a big banana arc. I’m usually the compass and hold a good line – so I like to think. Not this day. We’ve now swum about a mile and been in the cold water about 25 to 30 minutes.

We turn around and head back. I’m pleased with my training lately. I’m consistent. It’s been a normal week. Monday: 3 mile run. Wednesday: Marine Room swim (1½ miles) – I was by myself and felt fabulous. Thursday: weight training. Friday: 5:30 am pool swim with my local masters group (4500 yards). So I’m a little confused, frustrated actually, as to why I can’t keep up with Rick today. Also, I start to think, 'Wow, the tide must be really high because it feels like a washing machine from the backwash off the cliffs.' But, it occurs to me that there really isn’t much of a swell, and besides, I love it when it’s bumpy, right? Not today!

Something is different. Something is wrong.

No sooner do I have the epiphany that it’s me and not the ocean that my body shunts! Vasoconstriction, actually. Vasoconstriction is what occurs when our body shuts off blood supply to the extremities to protect the core (heart and internal organs). One’s blood pressure actually goes up as a result of the “extra” blood flowing in a more restricted area. It’s one of the most primitive self-preservation mechanisms in our bodies. It’s not something you think about. It just happens. So, I shunt. There’s no feeling in my arms and legs. Everything’s fuzzy and my brain fades quickly. I feel like I’m losing consciousness. I stop. After a few strokes, Rick notices my absence and stops.

I’ve had a comfy feeling of numbness before. Most of us that swim out here in the cold do. This is different. This is a complete cessation of blood flow and it’s not stopping at my arms and legs. The rest of me is going too. I recall saying later that I felt my blood pressure drop. Yeah, it was dropping in my brain; my internal blood pressure was likely much higher.

I’ve become disoriented. I feel like am going to sink like a rock. I am in trouble!
I never understood the stories of people sinking and drowning until just now! I know this is how it happens. I know I'm going down and nothing will be able to pull me up.

Although he is 60, Rick is no slouch. An ex-Navy Seal, he swam the Catalina Channel a few years ago and is currently training for a 36 mile swim. However, he’s had double knee replacements and I know that rescue-pulling me is not an option. I know that if I pass out I am dead weight and am going down. I’m responsible for my own life.

As soon as Rick stops I yell to him, "I’m NOT okay! Stay with me!"

Without hesitation he screams at me, "KEEP SWIMMING!" So I put my fuzzy head in the water and keep swimming. I can hear and see Rick beside me yelling for help. It gives me comfort. As I keep swimming face down, my brain gets hazier and I feel as though I’m being forced to go to sleep. I’ve fainted once before, over 20 years ago, (on land,) and I know I’m about to pass out. This time, I’m in the middle of the ocean! The blood has shunted from my arms and legs and I can feel my head is next. My panic (and possibly hyperventilation, as I’ll find out later) only seems to hasten the affects. After taking a few strokes I stop to complain to Rick, even though I know there isn’t much he can do.

He doesn’t even let me begin to protest and screams, "KEEP SWIMMING!!" I take a few more strokes, but this isn’t working. Everything is dark when I put my head in the water. I’ve spent entire swims to Scripps Pier and back (3 miles) marveling at all the different shades of green the ocean has to offer. Now the darkness terrifies me. I flop on my back. I just need a few deep breaths of air and sunlight on my face. If I pass out, maybe I can still get some air. I know this is wishful thinking.


Rick is relentless. I start swimming backstroke and forcing air in and out just to stay awake. It’s not pretty. Who knows what my arms are doing. I can’t feel them but I’m moving and am able to lift my head a little out of the water. Less cold. Still fuzzy. Most of all, I can breathe. (There is something to be said for having gone through childbirth three times. Not to mention all the swimming and training I’ve done over the years.) I try to get my breathing into a rhythm and keep the haziness that is taking over at bay. I just need to stay conscious.

I’ve got tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision. In my case it’s caused by blood loss or a drop in blood pressure in the brain. I can only focus on what’s immediately in front of me. I don’t really see Rick, but I hear him and know he’s beside me. He’s yelling for help in between strokes. It’s comforting, but I begin to wonder if anyone has heard him. We were in the middle when my crisis came. We were about ½ mile from shore in either direction. The middle. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of miles I’ve swum in my life, in these very waters, there is no way I’m going to make that last half mile.

I pray for strength. I think of my family and hold each of my children in my heart and pray that God will do the same with me. Mostly, I just pray for strength. I’m not expecting God to lift me out of the water, but I pray He gives me the strength and the will to keep swimming even though everything in my body is saying, 'STOP, and let go.' My judgment is impaired. It seems as though I’ve been swimming for 15 minutes since the trouble began. It was probably only half that. I’m still doing backstroke and I figure we must be getting close to the Cove. Maybe I’ll actually make it to shore before the lifeguards get to us. I’m in the washing machine, but decide to roll over and try to gauge where we are. I’m hoping for Razor Reef, which would mean only a few hundred yards to go. I turn over and see the ¼ mile buoy in the distance which means we have well over ¼ mile to go. My heart sinks. I try to ask how much further with a twist on the classic, "Aren’t we there yet?" I’m not sure the words ever come out or if they are only in my mind.

"KEEP SWIMMING!" Rick doesn't let me stop to complain.

I return to backstroke. It’s working for me. I'm incredibly cold and in pain. More praying. My neck is getting stiff from trying to keep my head out of the water while swimming. (I’ve since learned that the Coast Guard specifically recommends that you NOT swim backstroke as it is the stroke that causes the most heat loss.) In my case though, it works. There is no way I can put my face back in the water. I’m losing blood flow to my head. The cold on my face just makes me want to clench my jaw and eyes shut and sleep. This will lead to a phenomenon called spontaneous inspiration or gasp reflex. It is another primitive response to cold water due to not getting enough air because of shallow breathing. These involuntary breaths will ultimately lead you deep into the drowning episode by aspirating water into your lungs.

I think I’ve been swimming for awhile and can tell we have company. There are a few swimmers with wetsuits, (a novel concept) and I recognize Bruce Beech. I can hear Rick issuing some sort of orders for them to get me to swim more towards the Cove. Like I said, it isn’t pretty. (Who knows, maybe I was headed out to sea or swimming in circles.) The sun is in my eyes, but one of the guys offers me his neoprene cap. "No," I say. I just have to keep swimming. Bruce, a pleasant and familiar face, gets next to me and offers to give me his wetsuit. If only he knew what was going through my mind. It's ludicrous. I tell him I can’t stop. It would take too long….at least, I think I said that. My flotilla of wetsuiters stays with me. I don’t hear Rick anymore. I figure he’s sprinted to get closer to the Cove to try to get someone to call 911. The lifeguards aren’t due to come on duty until 9:00. City budget. Looking back and doing the math, it was probably between 8:30 and 8:45 at that point. I didn’t have 5 more minutes in me, let alone 30 minutes. I look over, maybe I’ve stopped, I’m not sure, and I see Rick is at the ¼ mile buoy and he’s trying to climb on it and yell for help. He seems really far away. In my delirium I think, 'Why don’t I climb onto the buoy and hold on?', but it seems too far away and I’m not sure I could hold on anyway.

I keep swimming.Eventually, I hear, "They’re coming. "Huge relief! But I still won’t let myself stop swimming. I wait until the last possible moment as the lifeguard Jet Ski pulls up next to me, stops, and I reach for the rescue board that's behind it. I can’t see anything. I don’t even know who's rescuing me. There are handles on the rescue board. I grab on and surprise myself that I can hold something even though I can’t feel my arms, or see. The lifeguard on the back pins me down so I don’t roll off. I’m not going anywhere. I hear the lifeguard say we’re going to the Cove since it’s the closest. It occurs to me that I probably hadn’t swum that far after all. I was in the 56°F water for about one hour.

They plop me down in the Cove. Despite my previous impression that it was a washing machine, there’s no surf. The water is calm. Good. I can’t stand up, but someone grabs me from behind. Somehow they get me going, taking a few steps. I’m wobbly, but I think I am walking on my own. The Cove lifeguard is there to greet us. Thank God he came on duty early. They do the hand off and he guides me up the stairs.

It is someone I know, Jim Birdsell, an old friend of my husband’s. He asks me my name. I comply, but am wondering why he doesn’t recognize me. Then it occurs to me that I must look like crap. It isn’t until later that I realize he was gauging my condition. He gets me into the warm shower at the lifeguard station. I’m a noodle and slink to the floor. Ahhhh, it feels good! I know I’m in trouble and not out of danger yet. Who knows what my internal core temperature is.

Jim stays with me, talking to me and asking questions. I receive a few visitors. Rick looks in on me. I realize he didn’t get the Jet Ski ride back and still had a ¼ mile swim after they plucked me out. I tell him to please use the gallon jug of hot water I brought to pour over my head, as I won’t need it. (A custom among us winter swimmers, it's just enough to take the edge off.) Bob West, no stranger to crisis in the ocean, comes in to see me. He asks me if his wife Marva should call my husband. I tell him not to bother. What was I thinking? I don’t know, I guess I didn’t want him to have to shuffle the kids. My perception was way off. Even though I knew I was in trouble – still, part of me thought I’d be all set up after this nice shower. I had no idea how long it would take to recover. In hindsight, I would’ve done a few things differently.

After 5 or 10 minutes in the shower, paramedics arrive. (Again, my perception of time could be way off.) They just look at me for awhile and talk about me as I remain a noodle on the shower floor. Finally I ask someone to take my temperature. Someone produces an ear thermometer, but he assures me that this is not my core temp. I don’t want to leave the warmth of the shower, but just crane my neck and give him an ear. He tells me it is 94° F, but that it is not my core temp and if it were I’d be dead.

I’ve since learned this isn’t necessarily true; you don’t go into cardiac arrest until about 86°F, but you will lose consciousness at 89.6°. Not that I’m encouraging anyone to push it further, but that’s what the medical texts say. I also know that even though I had a few more degrees to go before cardiac arrest, a loss of consciousness due to hypothermia or even due to hyperventilation from the panic that ensued, may well have lead to my demise. There is a Jacuzzi across the street from the Cove at the La Jolla Athletic Club. I seem to be coming around so they escort me up there to continue the thawing process. Up in the Jacuzzi there are about ten or so swimmers that have heard of or seen some portion of the event unfold. More familiar faces. I can tell by the way they are looking at me that I still look like crap. The paramedics continue to attend to me while I get neck-deep in bubbles. They ask me if I want transport to an ER. This is crazy! Why would I want to leave this warm water? And besides, fellow swimmers Barbara Held, a former fireman, and Cindy Walsh, an ICU nurse, are with me in the Jacuzzi. I’m thawing nicely so I sign the release. I’m in good hands. The girls don’t take their eyes off me. I ask for a piece of fruit, someone fetches me a piece of pizza. Other folks offer up drinks, warm of course, and a cell phone so I can call my husband. Rick comes in to make sure I’m okay.

After over an hour, I dry off and get dressed. Cindy and Barbara walk me down to the Cove. I visit briefly with the lifeguards trying to get a grasp on what just happened. I’m tired but feel okay so I drive myself home, a much different person than when I awoke that morning.

Epilogue :It has been three weeks since the event and I am still recovering. I spent almost three days in bed, exhausted. I did go to the ER for follow up the next morning (Sunday). The doctor complied with all sorts of tests, since I had the burning question, 'Why now? Why did this happen to me now?' Not to mention my chest was sore. So, after blood tests, chest x-ray, EKG, (standing and resting,) and a stress echocardiogram, (Tuesday) the doctor determines that I’m in 'perfect health'.

While in the ER, the doctor, who I liked, lectured me on hyperventilation. At the time I was thinking, 'What is he talking about? I had hypothermia, not hyperventilation.' I’ve since realized that it could be a factor and is therefore worth mentioning. I was definitely hypothermic, but hyperventilation could hasten the symptoms and cause one to pass out, giving the same end result if in the middle of the ocean.

God put Rick in my life for a reason. I find out later that not only is Rick an ex-Navy SEAL, but he is an ex-Navy SEAL trainer and still works with them. His background with the SEALs, training with both military and civilian swimmers in cold water, has provided many experiences with rescuing or assisting hypothermic swimmers. His observation is that no two instances of hypothermia are the same. I know this to be true. Remember my failed English Channel attempt in 1992? It was due to hypothermia. This felt different. Then I was cold and in pain, burning pain, like being on fire but from the cold. Five hours into my crossing I was cruising and on-track to do a fast swim, 8½ to 9 hours. The water temp was 63°F, balmy for the Channel. I would whine and complain every 20 minutes at my feedings. My friends, Bob West and Janette Piankoff, and my sister, Tara, took turns getting into the water with me. They plead with me to keep swimming because I had worked so hard and was doing so well. I responded with tears, complaints and even heaved my water bottle at Bob in anger. But I wasn’t disoriented, didn’t have tunnel vision and didn’t shunt until two hours later. It wasn’t until I had been in the water for over 7 hours that I got out. By that time I was definitely losing motor control, my stroke count dropped way down, but I didn’t have to be rescued. I got out using my own strength.

There is no ordinary day in the cold ocean. What we do is dangerous and should not be taken for granted.

Here are some guidelines for PREVENTION:
  • Depth of experience is valuable but doesn’t guarantee safety. Always swim with a partner, especially when the water gets 'cold'.
  • Layer up – wear extra caps, neoprene caps, or even a wetsuit.
  • Most heat is lost through the top of the head.
  • Know yourself.
  • Know what is normal for you.
  • Alert your partners when things are not right.
  • Know your partner.
  • Know what is normal for him or her.
  • If you don’t feel right when you get to the shore on the far side, (the Tower, Pier or Marine Room,) GET OUT and ask for help.
  • Even if the lifeguards aren’t on duty at the Tower, a call to 911/999 will get you the patrol lifeguards or the help you need.
  • The guards are on the beach at the Shores setting up at 8:00am, but aren’t watching the water until 9:00am in the winter.
  • YELL if there’s trouble. Rick was heard before he was seen.
  • It was his voice that prompted the 911 call from a bystander at the Clam, (the cliffs across from Goldfish Point CafĂ©.) I’m told the lifeguards never spotted me in distress.
  • WAVE your ARMS – the universal sign for distress. Keep doing this until the lifeguards get to you, otherwise they may not be able to spot you. If there is more than one of you helping a distressed swimmer, take turns waving and yelling.
  • Conversely, don’t wave to your friends unless you really need help or you may get rescued.
  • Know your quickest and safest exit from the water. Rick later told me that he could have gone either direction, Shores or Cove. He chose the Cove because he knew the chance of having other swimmers come upon us was greater. Your best chances of being heard is the Clam area, but beware of the surf.
  • The fact that I kept swimming saved my life because I would have drowned otherwise. EAT and hydrate. You will survive longer in the cold water. Oh yeah, I hadn’t eaten that morning. Not unusual for me, but notable.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

Hypothermia happens when the body loses heat faster than it can replenish it.
The medical definition of hypothermia is a dangerously low body temperature, below 95°F.

Symptoms include:

  • Uncontrollable shivering.
  • Confusion, irritation, clumsiness, slurred speech.
  • Swimming erratically – often swimmers are found going in circles.
  • Euphoria – an exaggerated feeling of physical and mental well-being, especially when not justified by external reality.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Ashen white face and hands.
  • Cold blue skin.
  • Slow heartbeat.
  • Slow respiration.
  • Cardiopulmonary arrest.
  • Unconsciousness.
Care and Treatment of Hypothermia

Remove the victim from the water. Call 911/999.
Check ABC’s: Airway, Breathing and Circulation.
Check D, (degrees,) if possible.
If no breathing or heartbeat, start CPR.
Prevent further heat loss.
Prevent Afterdrop - warm them slowly, handling gently. Afterdrop happens when the cold blood from the skin and extremities is introduced into the warmer core. Basically, as you re-warm, and blood-flow from the extremities re-starts too fast, then all the cold blood from the extremities now goes back into the core and shocks the heart. The same could happen with rough handling which can “jolt” the cold, shunted blood to flow to the heart.The heart may exhibit tachycardia or fibrillation, (loss of a rhythmic, coordinated heart beat.) Warm them in a shower, wrap them in blankets or towels and give them warm, NOT hot, liquids.

What Would I Have Done Differently?

This is all 20/20 hindsight, but here’s what I would do given my new perspective:

Eat breakfast before I swim. Oatmeal with ginger and cinnamon is great for promoting internal warmth.

Heed the signals my body is giving me. (Hey, like just getting out of the water at the Shores).

Take the ambulance ride! It all worked out, but who knows what my core temp was or if I had some sort of heart arrhythmia. It’s best if they check you immediately after an episode.

Many Thanks

Thank you to the stranger who made the 911 call and to the lifeguards who responded quickly even though they weren’t even supposed to be on duty yet.

Also, thanks to the lifeguards that helped me fill in so many of the details after the event and those that helped in the editing of this document, including Joe Barnett. Thanks to all those deputized as my guardians along the way – my wetsuited friends: Bruce, Tony and Mark, and of course Barbara and Cindy who wouldn’t leave my side once I was delivered to them.

Most importantly, thank you to Rick Knepper. There just aren’t words to express it adequately. Plain and simple, Rick saved my life. There is nothing he could have done any differently for a better outcome. He is a humble and modest man, and will argue that anyone would have done the same. Perhaps - but it happened on his watch and he made all the right decisions.

Finally, thank you to my husband, Marc, who cared for me and helped me through all stages of my recovery.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Frontcrawl Breathing

The latest installment from Swim Therapy ...thanks Nigel

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

More videos like this on

Its been a while

Its been a little while since the blog received any attention so I figured an update was required, firstly a few thank you’s to those who have continued to offer advice and support and to the 20,000 plus visitors the blog has welcomed since its inception.

The facility to donate online to the J-A-C-K foundation ends this Saturday 14th February 2009, a massive thank you to all those who have generously put their hands deep into their pockets. To date, together we have donated in excess of £3500 some way from the dream of £10k however as the swim did not materialise I am still happy. The downside being the dreadful news that Jack Brown has relapsed into the grips of Neuroblastoma. He and his family are in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult.

The English Channel still eats away at me on a daily basis, though it has taken second place to other more pressing matters. I have a long term plan which might be revealed in good time or maybe it will be kept under wraps.!

I will recommence my open water swims when we get rid of this snow, I thought we were safe this morning only to be engulfed by yet more at lunchtime, great news for the kids though who seem to be having a great time. Speaking of open water - The BLDSA seem to be dragging their heels as far as entries for Coniston and Windermere go, I joined their organisation so it should just be a matter of time before I can commit.

Charlie continues to swim well with the local club at Stockton, with whom I am hoping to complete my level one coaching course sometime this year. Even my Dad (at 74) who taught me to swim all those years ago has joined Total Fitness so he can swim a couple of times a week. Top man.

p.s. if you are looking for something to read...try Sir Ranulph Fiennes...Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know...brilliant..I give it 5 stars you would be surprised how relevant it is to Channel Swimming

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


Hello and Happy New Year to you, I recently had a couple of days off and was having a look at the BLDSA website to figure out a few dates for 2009..I will be going to work today to see what the situation is regarding time off for the following swims.

July 19th Coniston.. 5 miles
August 8/9th Windermere 2 way.. 21 miles
Sept 5th Windermere 1 way..10.5 miles

Whichever events I decide upon I sincerely hope the water is rather warmer than the picture of frozen Derwent Water below taken (not by us) Jan 4th!