Big Thankyou to Nick for allowing me to repost his report, will add his video soon.
By the way ITS GOOD TO BE BACK !!
Tuesday July 28th 2009- At 6:30 PM I got a phone call from Eddie Spelling, my boat pilot, asking if I want to make my swim in the morning. I said “ya sure” not really believing it was my turn to swim after all this time. He said “ok mate, on the boat at 03:30 tomorrow morning.” I went down stairs and told mom, dad, and my grandparent’s that I would be swimming tomorrow morning. They were all shocked and wanted to know what happened to my 12 hour notice since I was only getting 8 hours notice.
My grandparents and dad went to dinner at Smugglers and my mom and I stayed home to frantically get everything organized into bags for the boat. I called Dan to see if he could come down and help crew for me but he had to work and couldn’t make it. Next I called Chris and he said he could help crew. I went outside to mix my feed bottles of Cytomax. I had four 2-liter bottles and two 1-liter bottles which was more than enough for the swim. I called Ned Dennison, who is a fellow English Channel swimmer and my coach from Ireland, to let him know that I would be swimming tomorrow and he gave me some last minute advice. I had pasta and chicken for dinner and water to drink. I organized my swim bag and got all my supplies ready and waiting at the door before I went up to bed. In went to bed at 9:30 pm but fell asleep by 11:30 pm. I was thinking about the swim and couldn’t fall asleep.
Wednesday July 29th 2009- I woke up around 12:45am and went to the bathroom and tried to go back to sleep. I woke up again at 1:55am and ended up getting about two hours of sleep before my swim, which was pretty good. Once I was up, I got changed, shaved, checked my e-mail and facebook, put a new pair of contacts in, and went down stairs to eat. I had a bowl of frosted flakes, hot chocolate and some water. Then I went upstairs to change into my swim suit because I didn’t want to forget it even though I had 2 extras packed - let’s just say forgetting my suit was one of my big fears. My dad and I left the cottage at 2:55am to pick up my grandpa Katz, drove to Knightstown to pick up Chris who was waiting on the street for us.
We then drove down to the Dover Marina and I went into the dock masters office to get an all day parking pass because I would be swimming the channel. As we were standing in the parking lot I saw there were two other groups getting ready to go out also. One solo swimmer and one 3-person relay team. We carried all the gear over to the boat and waited to board. We got on the boat at 3:35am, met Eddie’s crew then did some paper work for the observer and his report. We left the harbor shortly after 4:00am and headed down to Shakespeare Beach.
We were the last of the three channel swimming boats to leave the harbor. When we got to Shakespeare Beach at 4:12am I could see Boris had just started his solo swim which would take him 14hrs and 26min. Eddie said we had to get started so that we didn’t miss the most favorable start time so I quickly unchanged. As my mom was greasing me up, I watched as the relay team started their swim, which took them 13hrs and 6min to complete. I was now anxious to start my swim.
I had grease on my arm pits and the area around them as well as all over my neck, inner thigh and stomach. I had on one latex cap, a TYR Speedo, TYR goggles, and a flashing light attached to my goggle strap. I normally wear my goggles under the cap but I had to change this for the swim to accommodate the light. I didn’t really like this because the light made it so the waves could change the placement of the goggle strap and they filled with water several times throughout the swim. When I was getting ready to jump off the boat everyone on board wished me good luck. As I was walking down the ladder to the swim deck, I was thinking “do I jump feet first or dive in?” I ended up jumping in feet first so I didn’t loose my goggles. I wasn’t thinking about what I was about to do and the significance of this challenge.
I walked up onto the beach, looked out across the channel and started thinking about what I was about to do. I cleared the water by about 10 feet, touched the wall, and fixed my goggles once more, then walked back into the water. Once I was at mid-thigh, I dove forward and I was off.
I started swimming with the boat on my left side staying 10-15 feet from it. I wasn’t in total darkness so I wasn’t worried about the boat. I knew the sun would rise in a little while. I could see the White Cliff’s of Dover and the lights on shore over my shoulder. The first hour went by fast; I was feeling strong and felt like I was making good progress. I noticed the waves were big and they were moving me around a lot so I really had to focus on my technique so that I could be more efficient. I waited all day for the waves to subside but it didn’t happen until I was one mile from France.
As I was swimming I decided I wanted to pass the relay team that started about seven minutes in front of me. By the two hour point I had reached them. I couldn’t see Boris or his boat and decided not to worry about them. I was swimming feed to feed and counting the time in my head by adding up the number of feeds I had. I was also singing songs in my head, thinking about my stroke, watching the people on my support boat, and watching everything else around me and in the water. Shortly after the five hour point I started to see Jelly Fish - the big brown ones that really hurt and then the smaller purple/ blue ones that are not as bad. I might have been stung by a purple one on my right elbow but it didn’t hurt very much and the pain went away after 30 minutes.
After my six hour feed, I was in completely new territory. I had never done an open water swim longer then six hours. I was feeling pretty good physically, and mentally I was doing great - I was really enjoying the swim. I was thinking I was close to shore and that I would be there in a little while. I was happy. I figured I had about two hours until I got to shore based on the math I was doing in my head and how far France looked. As everyone else says, France stays the same size for a really, really long time and doesn’t start to look closer until you’re about two miles off the coast.
I started to put what pain I was feeling aside and pulling even harder and stronger and swimming faster because I was feeling so good. At my six and half hour feed Chris said I had about three more hours and was doing great, I responded by saying THREE MORE HOURS! He said yes, don’t worry about it. I put my head back down and kept swimming, feed to feed doing the same things I had been doing the whole time. I decided that nine and a half hours was a good time and that I would want to be out of the water by then.
At the seven hour feed they had me swim behind the boat over to the other side so the boat was now on my right side and I was no more then 5 feet from the boat. We were trying to use the boat to block some of the wind and waves but I still had the big rolling swells pushing me around and some were still breaking on me.
At nine hours I was starting to worry a little bit and that was the first time during my swim that I had doubts about making to shore. I started thinking about having to go home after all this time training and working so hard with only ¾ of the channel swum. I was trying to have faster feeds because I wanted to finish faster so I wasn’t really talking to my crew. By the time I got to my ten hour feed, I was getting frustrated that land wasn’t much closer than it had been - THREE HOURS AGO - at the seven hour point!
I couldn’t figure out why. I knew I had slowed down a little, but I was still holding the same normal pace that I had during the first three to five hours of my swim. They now told me that I only had one hour left and that I was almost done. I was mad but I kept swimming because I thought I was almost finished. With one hour left I figured I would have one more feed, but that one feed turned into seven more feeds and I new something was wrong. They kept telling me the beach was right in front of me but I couldn’t see it and at this point, I was getting very mad.
Every other feed my dad was telling me that I had one hour left and I was really close to shore. I could see the cliff’s of France that were to my left and looked to be within a mile from where I was and I couldn’t figure out why we were not heading in that direction. I could tell the boat had changed from going right, in the direction of Cap Gris-Nez to a straighter course towards Wissant beach. I was thinking this was going to make my swim longer. I kept asking them, “where am I going”, and they replied with the same thing each time; “the beach is right in front of you, keep swimming” but it definitely wasn’t because I couldn’t see it. All I could see was the cliffs of France on either side of me and I was tired, in pain, mad, frustrated and just wanted to finish.
By the twelve and a half hour point I just wanted to be done with the swim. I had had enough. My crew said they were putting the dingy in the water in ten minutes and I would be on the beach in fifteen minutes. They finally put the dingy in the water at the twelve hour fifty-five minute point I think. I had my last feed between twelve hour forty-five minutes and twelve hours fifty minutes.
Then they where dangling the bottle over the boat for another feed! I yelled “ANOTHER FEED? YOU SAID I WAS ALMOST DONE 5 FEEDS AGO”. They where laughing at me and whenever I stopped to ask where I was going, I replied “ya sure, that’s what you said last time and it still hasn’t changed.” From the twelve and a half hour point until I finished, I could tell I was going forward and then backwards because the cliff was black in one spot and then white closer to the beach. I would make it to the white and then immediately be pushed back to where I was ten minutes ago. This was very discouraging and I was yelling at them that I wasn’t going anywhere.
After swimming for twelve hours, I knew I was going to make it because I was not going to give up after making it that far. I just didn’t know when I would finish. Once the dingy was finally in the water (long after they said it would be), the first mate was driving it, yelling to encourage me with the video camera up in the air, I knew I was getting close.
We had turned left to cut through the current and finish on the rocks, not the beach since the current was too strong. I heard the boat horns go off when the relay team finished. I was disappointed because I wanted to beat them, but I new I was close and it was my turn to have horns go off for me.
I had decided where I was going to finish. I didn’t want to swim another ten feet down to get to a place where it was less rocky so I decided I would fight my way though the rocks and just get out of the water. I had trouble getting out because the waves kept knocking me down and I couldn’t get my balance to clear the water. I fell down and cut both my hands pretty bad and they where bleeding, I also hit my foot on a big rock but didn’t notice until I was on land that it too also bleeding. It took almost two minutes from the time I was waist high until I had cleared the water and my swim was officially over. Once I could stand as I got close to shore, even though the water was shoulder high, I knew I had finished. I was SO happy.
It’s the best feeling knowing you have accomplished a big goal, especially after training for so long to achieve it. Once I was on land, I heard the boat horns go off several times and the first mate screaming that I did it! I had my right hand over my head smiling and waiving to them; I picked up a few rocks and walked back into the water so that I could be picked up. They wrapped me in a thermal blanket so the wind didn’t make me too cold. I could hear everyone yelling from the boat and I was so relieved to be out of the water and done swimming. My final time was thirteen hours and eleven minutes. Once I was finished I found out that the current changed two hours early which made the swim four hours longer since I had to swim into for a long time.
They had me get changed quickly and we headed back home to Dover. I started to feel very sick and almost threw up. I had my head down on a life jacket hanging off the side of the boat and slept most of the way home. I was woken up a few times by my mom to make sure I was still alive and because a reporter, who had been following my swim back home, had a few questions about the swim. I couldn’t give many answers because it was hard for me to think at the time.
Once we had docked and were walking off the boat I again started to feel very sick again. I was having trouble walking and got very hot but the cold wind and rain made me feel a little better. I realized that I only felt good when sitting down because I was so dehydrated and it made me very light headed when standing up. We dropped Chris home and thanked him for all his help. I went home and had a coke so that I could have something with sugar and to get the taste of salt water out of my mouth. I showered to get the grease off me and then went on my computer for a little while. I had a bowl of soup for dinner and went to bed around twelve in the morning- after a very long and rewarding day.
I woke up at five forty in the morning not tired thinking it was six forty. So I got up and checked my e-mail and facebook. I read several congratulation messages that made me feel really good about myself. Then, it felt like I had been hit by a train. My right shoulder hurt whenever I moved it. I was in a lot of pain all over. I went back to bed at six fifty and woke again at eight fifty. I had some ice cream for breakfast and showered.
After breakfast I went down to the harbor where I was greeted by a big group of people and they all congratulated me. I went for a sixteen minute swim to loosen up and get my muscles moving again since I was in so much pain. After my swim, I stayed around the harbor for a while because they where filming a T.V. show called Wild Swims. They wanted to talk to me and have me be part of the show. The whole experience was amazing and one that I will never forget it.