The anticipation reminds me of getting near your due date when pregnant, although I have 3 kids, they are all adults now, I still remember that excitement/dread! I am packing up the things I need, meeting my crew to make sure everyone is on the same page. Now every time I think of the swim my stomach jumps and I feel a bit sick! I’m overly emotional, I’ve never been so fit, and yet I feel like I’m on a never-ending rollercoaster of emotions. People see me as a strong, independent woman who can cope with anything. This often means that I don’t get offers of support and help. When, although this is partially true, I am, in fact a massive softie.
It’s been teamwork the whole way, since training began back in October. I couldn’t have done this challenge if it wasn’t for Trainers, physiotherapists, swimming friends, fantastic sponsors- Philip Booth. Friends & family who I’ve barely communicated with. Everyone has taken a hit on this. So in advance, thank you & sorry. My single mindedness has been alienating, difficult to relate to & immovable.
To swim the channel you have to have a pilot & support boat from one of the two bodies, Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation or Channel Swimming Association. My boat is Anastasia, and my pilot Eddie Spelling. We swam with Eddie on our mermaid channel relay in 2020, so it is nice that I already know the boat & him. Eddie will plot the route through the busiest shipping lanes in the world for my swim speed – around 3k an hour, and hopefully I’ll land somewhere near Cap Gris Nez/Wissant beach.
There are strict rules to achieve a ratified channel swim. I can only wear a swimming costume, hat & goggles. I am not allowed to touch the boat, I will be covered in Vaseline/Ocean Lube, not for warmth, but to stop the salty water chafing. I am likely to be swimming at night, so I have small flashing lights I attach to my goggle strap and costume. I will be fed liquid feeds on a reel by my crew. They are made up of squash (I like ginger) and carb powder, and intermittently protein powder, I may have the odd cuppa. I feed every hour to begin with, on some feeds I’ll have a little treat like Minstrals, tinned peaches (good for salt tongue & to put ibuprofen into) As the time goes on the feeds will get closer, they will all be warm therefore hopefully keeping me warm too.
I cannot wear my Garmin watch, and the crew are under strict instructions not to tell me how long I’ve been in, or how far I’ve got. They can tell me when I’m through the British shipping lane, the separation zone & into French waters. There will be very dark times, I’ll have to battle with my demons & fight through. The cold is my biggest demon, with the dreadful weather we’ve been having the sea is still only 16 degrees, last year it got to 19 – which makes a huge difference. Please keep everything crossed for a calm, sunny day.
My crew is made up of Mermaid Joan Fennelly, Lee Saudan (who swam the EC solo last year) and Derrick Frazer an expert long distance swim trainer & pilot. They know me well, they know how I swim, they know when I need yelling at, when I need help, and if I get into trouble they will recognise that. They will have eyes on me at ALL times. We have had a long conversation about if they have to pull me out for safety reasons, I’ve said only pull me out on pain of death. I know I’ve trained, I’ve done everything in my power to get to France, but things can happen. There are lots of jellyfish, the water is cold, and the tides are strong. I’m eating well, although Sophie (my trainer) has told me I need to eat more (how great is that!) I haven’t had a drink in over 6 weeks, and I’m sleeping well-ish.
I have been training with Durley Sea Swims in Bournemouth, training has been hard. The weather dreadful, very windy and rough. It was so bad last weekend that I swam in the sea for 3 hours until it was just too dangerous and injury inducing, jumped in the van and drove to Caversham Lakes for a further 5 hours. The poor river was too full of debris and poo. I’ve had three weekends of 8 hour followed by 3 hour swims, I have one more then I taper. I’m really worried about what I’ll do after the channel, I’m told it is like grief, you feel lost, displaced and empty. If you see me afterwards, please say hello & take me for a drink/coffee!
This & any endurance swim is 10% swimming and 90% strength of mind. I’ve had a tough month emotionally, and need to get my head in order, in the right place to power through. One thing that will really help is my friends and family WhatsApp group that will be live on the day to follow progress, Lee & Joan will relay & write some messages on a white board for me to read. If anyone would like to follow my progress (great for insomniacs!) follow this link, and live track Anastasia http://cspf.co.uk/tracking my tide window is 23rd – 28th August. Follow @HenleyMermaids on twitter, instagram or facebook to keep up to date. And please do donate to Henley Community Hub if you can https://gofund.me/147a6715