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

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