Saturday, 21 May 2016

More on Howard James (The dreaded North)

Unless you have been in outer space you have probably heard about the Legendary Swim this week by Howard James. Well, being that I am kind of fascinated by this sort of extreme achievement (similar to the post regarding Dave Morgan here) I thought I would share (with his permission) another of Howards swims and the write up by the man himself shortly after his North Channel (Northern Ireland to Scotland) swim in 2011.

The expression on his face after this weeks swim kind of sums up how he was feeling, I believe Dave Chisholm took the photo though I am not 100%. 

The dreaded North

"5.30am, I am awoken to the sound of the alarm, today I am attempting to swim the 'North Channel'.
A knock on the room door; it's breakfast, one weetabix in a packet washed down with coffee.....ONE....!!!
Myself and team mate Terry laugh at the north channel breakfast (don't worry , I had energy bars as well).

So half seven, we meet with pilot 'Brian Mehargh MBE', he takes us to the boat and after brief introduction to the crew we set of to my starting point just north of Bangor in Northen Ireland.

I am not really feeling anything. I'm not nervous, I'm not scared, I'm not thinking I'm gonna do this, I'm not thinking I'm not gonna do this.... It was strange that I had no emotion, I knew where I was and I knew I had to get in and swim, the day was going to be whatever the day was.....

Vaseline around my beard, down my trunks and under the arms... goggles on... look round at Terry my feeder who was also on my '09 English crossing and my good friend Martin Cullen (who was observing),
"lets swim this channel and go home" I say and jump in.....

The water is fresh, not to cold, maybe what I was expecting (10.5 as I later found out) quick look for jellies as those that know me, this was my fear, I haven't been stung before and was really not looking forward to getting stung.. there were none, I swim to the rocks, touch and start my swim to Scotland...

The first 6 hours of the swim I really enjoyed, this makes me sick to even think this. The water was fresh but I had trained for this, I have been in the sea pratically every weekend from Oct 2010... my first feed at 1.5 hrs then every 30 min.... S I S gel in luke warm sweet milky tea.. the guys on the boat are in wet weather gear, it is drizzle, but that wet drizzle.... I am loving it... I'm in the north... I am swimming better and enjoying it more than my English Channel crossing then.......BANG!!!.... 

I see a jelly with a maine longer than me as a person.. I swear... reality check... oh yes this is the north (the dreaded feared north, the cold one the one full of jellies). I am now looking everywhere for them, I need to see them,, I need to avoid them, can I be the one makes it across with out being stung....would that be fair...who cares , I didn't want to get stung..... they do thin out and after a while you kinda forget yet at the same time still looking.... On the boat, they are saying there isn't that many, I don't believe they saw all the ones I did.. I come to what I can only describe as a mine field, I am trying to weave in and out, left right, more left, oh back right, like dribbling on a football pitch, I am through, thank ---- for that, but still on alert.....

I have swam most of the Channel at this point but the tide is changing and as we know it's a waiting game now, but saying that we did keep going forward which was very good.  The water turned murky like Dover, I couldn't see much, OUCH!!! I got stung oh I'm not going to get across without getting stung... I can't see them to dodge them, oh well it is what it is, I've got this far, I got to finish.. I think of all the people sending messages, the swimmers I know that know what this swim is all about.. digging deep... it's hurting ... the tide  has changed, it's taking us in, it's strong, I'm looking for excuses to stop... I need a milky way... I need a drink.. I need a wee.. each time though I stop the tide is taking me further south (I know I'm going to get in it's just a case off how quick, I want a reasonable time, I know I shouldn't be messing about, swim man swim!!! (COME ON Howard it's 30 lengths of the pool left, I question if he means a 25m or 50m pool.... 

I know I have to dig deep but I have been stung a few times now, it doesn't hurt  its a funny sensation... the dingy is in and I finally touch Scotland.... 

I made it I am the 13th person to have swam the north channel, I'm happy but exhausted....

Back on the boat, it's hard for me to stand and keep my balance. I get dressed and go downstairs on the boat, I can feel my is uncomfortable, I feel sick.. Brian comes down and sits with me and we chat for ten minutes, he says I swam really well especially on a spring tide and that a neap would definitely been an interesting time...I feel he is inviting me back..he is, but he knows I probably won't return, all though, never say never.....

I have said before that I would like another go at the ENGLISH CHANNEL but as for the NORTH .......I'm not sure whether in what I have written here gives the full representation of that channel, It is COLD, there are JELLIES there are lots off JELLIES . They STING and they HURT the next day.....

Im not trying to be big headed,but anyone that wants to attempt THE NORTH CHANNEL is a loon and needs help........"


May has seen a steady progression in training as I work towards J2F. My tolerance to the water is building nicely, one of my training partners (Bill) had a fortnight away on holiday in Phuket, despite his worries of returning to the temperatures of North East England, they were short lived, he quickly hit the hour once more, only for me to disappear for a week in the sun with Kelly. 

I therefore had the same concerns having spent a week doing very little other than 4 swims of around 2km in the caribbean at a ridiculous 85ºf ! That said I was more than ready for the break.
Kelly and I returned home last Sunday (15th), once the jet lag subsided I managed 3 swims in the River with the usual suspects Bill, Amanda and Ben. 

The build up was gradual with increments of 70-100-125 minutes. Friday was our longest swim to date completing just over the 2 hours at 59ºf, the wind was quite strong which ensured we had a decent workout. 
Any discomfort was soon put to one side as we reflected on the massive achievement of Howard James, who this week set a new record for the earliest English Channel swim on 16th May, the water being 10-11º c. Now that is what I call hardcore. He is certainly in the same bracket as the likes of Kevin Murphy and Dave Morgan. 

The BLDSA Champion of Champions event will soon be here, therefore I will have a few more sessions in salt water shortly as the coastal temps have now just about reached 50f/10ºc

Onwards into the final week of May, with a  planned 10km on Bank Holiday Monday.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

On Track .. (updated)

Bank Holiday Monday (May 2nd 2016) a glimmer of sunshine and a lull in the windy conditions allowed the River Tees temperature to rise slightly and hit the tropical heights of 8.9ºc / 48f (having been a bitter 7.2ºc the previous day in which we only managed 28 minutes).

This allowed us to finally hit the hour. It's amazing the difference 1ºc or so can make and how this impacts on your time in the water.

The route was a little messy (to the second boat followed by some internal circuits, not too far from the jetty) As we approached the hour, Amanda was keen for me to get out of the water as I was beginning to slur my speech. it was the correct decision as the later pictures show I was getting a little, err, less warm.

We are expecting fantastic weather this coming weekend which is typical considering I will be abroad on holiday. That said I have two more swims planned this week after work (Wednesday and Friday) with the plan to break the hour.

The after drop was quite severe, but at least I knew what to expect and how my body reacts. This is quite normal for me. 

For once the UK weather forecast has proved to be accurate, today May 4th (star wars day) Billy, Ben and I visited the river once more, where the water temps ranged from 10.5º to 11.5ºc. I was delighted to again complete the hour this time 66 mins covering 3284m the warmer water resulted in a far better recovery too with nowhere near the same after drop. Ideally Friday will be 90 minutes before we head off for a weeks rest in the sunshine. Happy.