Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Interview with EC swimmer Amanda Bell. Part 3 of 4


AB " Those first few hours were more worrying because I knew I had done them before, nobody would be impressed, your mind is continually trying to work out where you are, you don't know where you are, you haven't a clue, but you look for clues. You look to see how far the shore has gone and you look to see how far Suva is ahead !! (giggles) and you look to see if you can sight any big ships because you know when you do see those ships, you are heading towards the shipping lane. It was a constant pointless calculation, but there was soon something very major to think about. It was about 3 hours in and there was massive massive jelly fish,  greater than the size of a dustbin lid. If I could go again without the worry of being stung,  it would be great to just look, as there was so many different varieties that you would not believe possible. From the small ones you see washed up on the beach, to massive barrel ones, small heads and long long tentacles, you name it, I was stunned at the numbers."

MR " What was going through your head when you were seeing them"
AB " At first it was no no no they are horrible, they are massive, but they were quite far down, so it was a case of, oh that's ok then, I had spoken to Jason Betley on the beach who had just swam his solo, we had a discussion about when jellies come to the surface and when they sink down, was it when the sun was up or when it was down? I couldn't remember which way around it was !  I thought they are horrid but they are down there, I will be fine. Unfortunately that wasn't the case I was stung huge amounts of times probably between the fourth and the eight hour, it seemed as though I couldn't switch off and swim because I was constantly under the fear of the jelly fish, waiting for the next sting. There was even times when I was stopped swimming, back pedalled to go around them rather than be stung yet again. In hindsight that was probably stupid, but I couldn't help it. Some of the stings were really painful (shows evidence on forearms as she speaks)."

MR " During this difficult period did you every think I can't do this ?"
AB " Yes that was the 8 hour mark when I said to the crew, I'm struggling, what I meant by that was after eight hours I've got so long to go and I'm sick to death of looking for jellies, being stung by jellies, being frightened by jellies, I just wanted to get out"

MR " Was that due to pain or more mental fatigue?"
AB " It was more tired than pain, the stings are not pleasant, and in isolation they wouldn't be a show stopper, they do take your breath away but nothing more than that. Apart from that one (shows arm again bearing the scars) but that was later."

MR " OK we are around the eight hour mark, you're feeding was going to plan, on the hour for three hours, then every 45 minutes, when did you drop to 30 minute feeds?"
AB "That was at seven hours 30 (refers to written notes from crew) because I have asked them to and told them I'm struggling and yet I didn't quite know why, I knew I was sick of the jellies, it wasn't just that I had been swimming for so long and felt like I had got nowhere. Physically my shoulders had been much worse than they were, it was just wrong, everything was wrong. (sounds and looks sad reliving the moment) it's difficult for me to explain how I felt. I just couldn't do it. It was too big, I was wishing I'd never even started, but also in my head I knew I had not come far enough to have given this a good go, I had so much further to go. I still wanted to get out, it was just horrible and I was only eight hours in. I didn't ever think I was going to make it all away to France. Ever. Ever. It was so depressing, that all of the training and all of those hours and all of those people watching, sending those messages, telling you to keep going. I didn't think I was going to be able to bounce back from this low."

MR " Let's move on from this depressing phase you are going through"
AB "  Yes, well before the separation zone, I remember seeing ships each time I took a breath, I'm thinking OMG there are huge I did actually express this to the crew, it was sheer amazement that I was so close to these huge ships, however there was never a single moment that I felt worried about the ships. I had every faith in Eddie that he would keep me safe. The size of them and the number of them, it was totally amazing, if anything that was one of the highs. The separation zone was just fantastic, I could've swam in there all day, no jellies to worry about whatsoever if there was, it was tiny little ones.  I suddenly started to feel better, that I could focus solely on swimming. I knew I was halfway."
MR " Were you told that you're in the separation zone or are you aware of it due to the position of the ships behind you?"
AB " A bit of both really, I also asked to check. I referred to it as the central reservation after Michelle's (MGG) previous jokes with Eddie. That was the best part of the swim for me by far, I didn't have to worry about anything at all apart from swimming and that was great. That was the same time I was updated that Radio Tees had been on the telephone and that was also a lift just to know that somebody else cared and were interested."

MR" What was the next thing you remember, I appreciate you have been in the water a long time now, but from memory, what do you recall?"
AB " I remember at one point telling the crew that I was on my holidays and that's why I looked happy, I have since been made aware that was about 11 hours into the swim, at this point I didn't have a clue where I was, this is when the don't look forward comes into play, but again you can't help it, you can see France but then again you can see France from Dover! when you're in the water you can't, so the first sighting..well, it doesn't look that far away! I was clearly wrong, very wrong, but you perk up a little bit because you know you've done lots of hours, you can see France and you think you must be getting somewhere at last. However, I couldn't see any ships on the other side which felt really bizarre. There was hours and hours and hours when I thought I was still in the separation zone. And that made me have another lull because I thought I haven't seen any ships, I cannot be making any progress. That's the time when I should have just switched off, instead I was concerning myself with my location.

The next major thing and I always knew this was going to happen. I was asked to put in a hard hour, I had always made the presumption that this would be when we were close to finishing, this actually came at 14 hours. The message came to me from the crew, I had always been worried about this and questioned how anybody could do a hard hour after such a long time swimming. That said, my stroke rate went up and I managed to maintain the increased turnover. I was aware that this increased effort could be the difference between, saving a few hours, being successful or maybe being pulled. I just had to switch off. So I put in the hard hour, got to the next feed and was told that was great we just need another half hour like that!  So you can imagine how that felt. (shakes head) I lost count how many times they said just another half an hour like that just another half an hour like that. It was starting to get dark, but again I had no idea where I was. I just thought it must be only a couple of hours now, it was quite clear that France was much closer. I didn't expect at that point , there were still going to be another four hours. I wasn't getting anything information wise to tell me how I was doing, what progress I was making, nothing, just more requests for another half hour.
Then Eddie came onto the deck and I thought, this is serious. He gave me a little bit of a talking to and told me we were going to end up in a place he didn't want to be and I didn't want to be, basically told me to get on with it."

MR " Yes he actually tweeted that at the time, (making reference to Calais Harbour)"
AB " At this time I thought this could actually be the end of the swim, so anyway, I did give it another half hour, there was more feeds, but at one feed and I still didn't know what was going on. I did ask them how much longer? it was the only point I got annoyed with the crew, as the reply was something along the lines of as long as it takes. I was annoyed. I wanted some indication of whether we were on course, was it another 10 hours, just tell me, eventually I was told it was 3 miles. That made me think okay that's doable. At 16 1/2 hours I got my last feed and they told me it's about an hour to go. That wasn't telling lies, it was the information they had been given. They did attempt to feed me between again, but it would make little if any difference so to leave me swim. For me, in the water, it was awful those last two 2 1/2 hours, it should probably have been quite uplifting.  But I just kept on swimming and swimming and by this stage it was pitch black. I couldn't see the crew to get any indication and no feed stops to ask them."

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