The Sea 1 - 0 Cold Wet Bloke
So as it stands it's one-nil to The Sea, or to the English Channel to be precise, but I'm ready to even the score.
Three years ago I tried to swim from England to France but my attempt was unsuccessful and I was pulled out after twelve and a half hours suffering from Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema (SIPE).
The causes of SIPE seem not to be fully understood but the effects are that fluid from within your body ends up in your lungs. Your lungs are fairly useful for providing oxygen and buoyancy, so if they gradually fill with water it's a rather inconvenient state of affairs for a swimmer. Luckily I didn't sink or totally run out of the air. This was due to the expertise of my crew and pilot who were able to recognise the condition and administer the appropriate first aid. So thanks to them, and thanks to the staff at Ashford Hospital for the care I received there.
Channel swimming is a sport where the sole aim is just to finish. So not quite swimming the Channel doesn't really cut the mustard. Friends reassured me that my swim wasn't a failure. But I only had one objective and that was to land in France. I didn't land. It doesn't really matter what the reasons were for my non-completion and it doesn't really matter which word you choose to dress it up; the fact was that I fell short of what I'd set out to achieve.
Turn That Frown Upside Down
All sounds a bit negative, doesn't it? Well, it's not supposed to, it's just how it is. Perhaps most unsuccessful Channel swimmers would have been successful swimmers on a different day or under a different set of circumstances? Maybe they had bad weather, got ill on the day, got their nutrition wrong or just had plain bad luck. There's any number of factors that can mess up a swim. If there's to be any hope of moving on you must learn how to grab success from the jaws of failure. And in order to do that, you must accept the situation, learn any lessons that need to be learned and plan for success in the future.
After my 2016 Channel attempt, I discovered that I still had the ambition to swim to France, and yes, I do admit that life would have been easier if I'd been happy to take up golf. It took a while to get over what was a sticky psychological situation but I took advice. I listened to medical opinion. I listened to swim coaches. I even listened to my friends and family. Then I took a deep breath and phoned my pilot and booked another Channel swim. So I'm now booked to swim between 10th and 16th July this year.
There were a few positives to take away from my 2016 attempt. It was a great training swim, I learnt one of the ways not to swim to France, and I raised some funds for Julia's House Children's Hospice. So having eventually accepted my situation I was able to draw on these positives and construct a plan for 2019. Loosely my plan involved becoming better informed about every aspect of training including nutrition and technique.
Back to Training
I booked this latest Channel Slot in the Spring of 2017 so had another two and half years of training ahead. Luckily I quite enjoy the training and having such a big goal to aim for is highly motivating.
In 2017 I did a few long swims but really focused on putting some fun back into things while keeping up a good level of swim fitness. Training stepped up a gear in 2018 when I aimed to train at around two-thirds of the level that I would do in my Channel year. I picked an event in Sweden, the 21km Vidösternsimmet, and trained for that. Throughout last year and this year, I've also been having technique coaching sessions.
So I now find myself, less than a week away from the opening of my tide window, writing and visualising the moment I make the score at 1-1. I've got my training right. I've improved my technique. I've improved my swim speed. I have another great crew. I have the right pilot and boat. I have fantastic support. So long as I can get my swim done before Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister and mucks something up, or before Trump starts a war with someone, then I should be good to go.