After competing in triathlons for 9 years, I decided it was time to try something different. In the back of my mind I had always had this idea that I would try to swim the English Channel some day. Now, after almost 2 years of distance swimming training, that day is almost here!

Plot of my course

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Final post

After being home now and back to work for 2 days it almost seems like the swim was just a dream. Were it not for a sore left shoulder, the fact that I still can't taste anything due to the saltwater bath, and this really cool French rock sitting on my desk, I would wonder if it really happened! But it did and I'm happy as can be. It has been amazing to be able to live out this childhood dream.

Thanks again everyone for sharing in the fun with me. This will be my last post. I have put a few new pictures on the blog (bottom right) that you may enjoy. Best wishes and don't be afraid to go after something you want in life!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I swam the English Channel!

WE DID IT!!! I crossed the English Channel on Saturday and early Sunday with the help of my awesome support team and all of your thoughts and prayers! It took me 16 hours and 10 minutes to reach France. I believe I will be the 1005th or so person to swim the English Channel solo. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had! I loved (almost) every minute of it! Below is the detail if you are interested. Some of this is repetitive with my last post but I have added a little more detail.

The swim almost didn't happen. The weather all week long had been bad for a swim - strong winds pushing waves the wrong direction. So after several false starts thinking a day looked good and then having it change at the last minute, we came to Saturday, the last day possible to swim on this tide. Saturday's wind forecast looked good but it didn't help me a bit as the first slot swimmer got that day. Faster swimmers could have gone Sunday or even Monday if the winds stayed low (no guarantee of course). But that wasn't an option for me either as the highly recommended pilot I had booked, Eddie Spelling, had a commitment to take a group of rowers across on Sunday. What that meant for me was I had to find another answer to this problem. I needed to get another pilot if I was going to swim this year.

By pure luck, or I prefer to think, lots of prayers, there was one pilot with no swimmers booked. That is very unusual as swims are booked at least a year in advance. Worried why he wasn't booked when everyone else was, I did some checking and called on a few people I have met in Dover and elsewhere. I received mixed and polar opposite reviews. Some said he was the best of the bunch. Others said he has a reputation for taking a strange route across the channel unlike all the other pilots causing the swimmer to be in the water unnecessarily long. So as I was weighing that information on Friday at lunchtime I also realized I now had a miserable cold or sinus infection with nasty stuff coming out of my nose (sorry). I was feeling down about the whole thing. Several folks advised me to go home and try again next year because of my physical and mental state. I called my pilot and he said next year the first available slot was the same week (last of the season) but was 4th slot. I thought I was in pretty good shape with 2nd slot and still hadn't been able to swim!

So I considered my options - risk it with the new pilot (which wasn't free by the way) and a bad cold OR hang it up this year saying it wasn't meant to be. I could just take the family to Paris on the last day of our trip to reward them for all their hard work, missed evenings of Daddy while he swam, and the roller coaster of each day in Dover wondering when I would swim. So I asked my wife to be my sounding board. We talked it over listing pros and cons and decided I would go for it. It came down to the fact that I would always regret not having tried. And my next shot could be at least one but more likely two years away. So I booked with my new pilot Dave Whyte and his crew. That night we finished final preparations and I got to bed early. Lauri, the kids and Bonnie were awesome in getting everything organized and worked out logistically.

The next morning, Saturday, I woke up feeling the same if not worse physically. What had I gotten myself into? But mentally, I was going forward now. I had committed. One thing the folks who advised me to wait until I was fully ready helped me realize was that I needed to be 100% mentally positive I was going to walk out of the water on the other side. So I was doing this and wouldn't quit unless they dragged me out against my will.

Lauri, Bonnie and I drove a short distance from our hotel to the Dover Harbor. We beat Dave there which made me a little nervous again about him and his boat. But he arrived soon thereafter with his crew. Then he had trouble parking his car and I said to myself "Oh Lord, please let me survive this day". But everything went smoothly from that point on. I have to say they were a top notch crew and knew what they were doing. We did quick introductions and they loaded the boat in no-nonsense manner. We were the first boat out of the harbor. There were a few other boats going out the same day with swimmers including Chris Pountney, the first slot guy on Eddie's boat. We got to speak briefly and wish each other well as my new boat, the Ocean Breeze, pulled out of the harbor.

While Bonnie busied herself with the lay of the boat and my drinks, I rested and chatted with some of the crew and the two observers assigned to watch me from the certifying organization. So in total we had 1 pilot, 2 crew, 2 observers, Bonnie and me on the cruiser. It didn't take long for us to get out of the harbor and on our way to my starting point of Samphire Hoe beach. The pilot gave me the order to get ready. That meant stripping down to my Speedo and slathering Vaseline liberally to places that might rub and cause serious rash from the saltwater. Bonnie also covered me with sunblock. (The worst burn of my life was a swim in the Potomac river where the sunblock wore off. I couldn't sit comfortably for days.) I felt a little rushed but managed to get it done with Bonnie's help. Then, unceremoniously, I dropped off the back of the boat and into the English Channel. I swam about 30 yards to the shore and walked out. You must be completely free and clear of the water to begin the swim. I took a moment to put my goggles up on my cap to look around, do one last stretch, and tell myself I was doing this. They signaled me from the boat to get going. My moment was finally here! It was a beautiful, sunny, low wind day and it felt right. I was happy as a clam. So I charged in at 8:51am, swam a few strokes and realized my goggles were not on my eyes! In the excitement of the start I had left them up on my swim cap. I stopped swimming and began to look around. I walked back towards the shore but didn't see them anywhere. What a terrific start to the swim. I think the folks on the boat thought they had just witnessed the shortest crossing attempt ever. Fortunately, I brought a back-up pair for both day and night. I swam to the boat and Bonnie had them ready for me. So then I began the swim in earnest.

I knew from my training in this and other sports I really needed to pace myself if I wanted to finish. So I got into a good rhythm and started plodding along towards France. For some strange reason the cold water didn't affect me at all. I didn't even think about it. The plan was for me to swim 1 hour before getting a feed from Bonnie. Her main job was to follow a regimen borrowed from Freda Streeter (Channel General). After the first hour I would feed every 30 minutes. Usually it was warm Maxim and water. Sometimes flavored with summer squash (what the Brits call fruit punch) or a tea.

So I did my thing. Several wise people said don't think "today I am swimming to France, farther than I can see". Instead they said just swim from feed to feed. So 30 minutes of swimming, about 60 seconds treading water and downing Maxim, 30 minutes of swimming. That didn't stop me from tracking my progress. I watched the position of the sun. I knew I would have to swim several hours in the dark. The channel also has two shipping lanes going opposite directions similar to a water freeway. I also knew I would get mouthwash at hours 6 and 12. But I really tried to think about those things as little as possible so as to not get overwhelmed. So instead I thought about my family most of all. Both boys really wanted me to be successful and I really wanted to do it for them as well as my super supportive wife. I thought about a lot of other things too. Anything to pass the time and not think about swimming to France. And yes, I did many versions of 99 bottles of beer along with a few bible songs.

Along the way I hit seaweed, something hard like a turtle shell a few feet below the surface (don't even know if they have turtles there), a few sticks but no jellyfish!!! I guess God felt I got my fair share of those at the Long Island Sound swim this year. Bonnie said later she saw a rather large one close to me but it didn't get me. Other than the boat and sun to look at there wasn't much. I perked up whenever a large freighter would come near. Those things are enormous when you are in the water with them close up. A sailboat also came close enough for me to wave to them. That was in the middle of the channel between the two shipping lanes.

At my 6th hour I got my feed and was treated to mouthwash to get the saltwater out. It was already starting to ruin my tongue and the back of my already sore throat. Think of sticking you mouth into a bucket of salt and keeping it there for hours. That’s how it felt. Unfortunately, right after I used the mouthwash, everything in my stomach came up violently. I heaved a few extra times after I was already empty and knew that among other things, my stomach and neck would be sore. Never mind all the gastric juices in my raw throat. But fortunately I had practiced hurling after long swim practices (not intentionally). So when I was done, I did a few strokes of breaststroke and then went on swimming.

I felt very good swimming. Even several hours into it I was in a very positive and cheerful mood. And why not? I was living my dream! Fortunately that mental state stayed with me for the vast majority of the swim. At about hour 11 I got sick again and was also really sick of the taste of Maxim. I asked Bonnie for a Milky Way bar and ate 3 of those over the next several hours. I kept tracking the shipping lanes and willing the sun to go down. I did have one fear about that - I would get cold. But it didn't happen. I don't think I really felt cold the entire swim.

I'm not sure when it started but my left shoulder (not the one Dr. Hassler treated) starting to get really sore. I don't know if I changed my stroke to compensate for my slightly injured right shoulder or what. But it steadily got worse. It became quite painful for the last 4-5 hours of the swim. It felt muscular, like a bad strain so I wasn't worried that I was doing any permanent damage. So I just tried to ignore the pain. It worked pretty well. Back to the bible songs, etc. But at some point I lost the ability to keep count on 99 bottles and couldn't remember the words to the bible songs. My brain got a little fuzzy(er). So I switched out of necessity to just saying a simple mantra in my head to block out the pain. Like "feed to feed, feed to feed..."

As I continued with my feed to feed strategy and the sun finally set, I swam on. I switched to my night goggles. They were clear and had a blinking light attached to them on the back of the strap so that the crew could see me. I also had a light stick attached to my suit. But probably the most amazing part of the swim was what happened in the pitch black darkness when my hands entered the water in front of me. A trail of bioluminescent bubbles streamed from my fingers and around the rest of my body. My friend Tobey (channel finisher earlier this year) told me about this. It wasn't like a few blinks here and there but thousands of green bubbles exploding off my hands with each stroke. That kept me occupied for a while and my mind off my increasingly painful shoulder.

Then I saw other light. It was dim and far away but I could tell it wasn't a ship. It was France! I tried not to get too excited because others warned me that I would see it hours before I landed on it. So I went back to my mantras and bubbles between feeds. But I was a little jazzed too. I knew I was in the last quarter of the swim. I intentionally never asked Bonnie or anyone how far I had gone, how much more to go, etc. But one of the crew volunteered at one feeding that I was 3 miles out. In my head I automatically thought 1.5 hours and I'm done! I got out of feed to feed mode and started moving a little faster. I could see distinct lights now and not just the fuzzy haze. I could also see the way to the shortest distance across the channel - landing near a lighthouse on Cap Gris-Nez. Quick funny story about the Cap. One day last week I was at the harbor to speak with Freda and get some more advice on my swim. A friendly man nearby joined our conversation and shared his wisdom too. After a bit I introduced myself and Bonnie to him. He said his name was Kevin Murphy. I said his name sounded familiar and had we met before? He didn't think so. But it clicked with Bonnie from all her research on the channel that we were having a friendly conversation with the man who has the the record for the most crossings of the channel (34). I said, "Oh, that Kevin Murphy!" Only one woman has more than him. That's Allison Streeter, daughter of Freda, with 43 crossings. But one thing Kevin said was that in all his crossings, he had NEVER landed on Cap Gris-Nez. So anyway, I was excited to see the lighthouse and think I was going to land there and soon. But that didn't happen. The strong tide carried me right past it. I would swim a 30 minute block and go absolutely no where. At least that's what it felt like. I kept drifting further up the coast, swimming harder to new sets of lights but again it seemed I was making no progress. For the first time in the swim I got a little frustrated with myself. I could see the curve of the cliffs in France but for hours I couldn't get to them. I was finally getting tired and my shoulder really hurt. I was ready to be done. To move a little quicker and give my arms more assistance I would pump up my kick cadence from time to time. I could see that I made progress when I did that. So I kept it up for a while. Eventually a cliff face loomed in the darkness in front of me. I didn't have good depth perception but I knew I was getting close now. Suddenly the captain shined a spotlight on the wall face. It looked like a sheer cliff as far as I could tell. I was told that if I landed at a cliff with nowhere to get out that it was acceptable to tag it and swim back to the boat.

I got closer and closer really straining against the tide. At some point the boat stopped and I knew I was going to land soon. As I approached I saw that I was headed to an isolated sandy beach with cliffs on both sides. I was glad because I really wanted to walk out of the water. I put my head down and swam a bit more knowing I was very close now. I lifted my head up again to check my progress. And then my feet hit sand!!! That felt soooo good. At 1:01am Sunday, I walked out with both hands in the air and marched up the beach. My legs worked surprisingly well. I turned around to soak in the moment. It's hard to describe the sense of accomplishment, relief, exhaustion and just general euphoria that I had at that moment. Then I quickly grabbed a small hand full of smooth stones and put them in my suit as souvenirs. Seemingly out of nowhere I noticed a swimmer standing on the beach next to me congratulating me. At first I didn't know who he was (probably because I was so spent). I thought he landed with another boat. I introduced myself and then realized he was one of the observers who got in to swim the last few yards with me so I wouldn't be alone on the beach. Again the whole crew was great.

Finally, for the first time all day, I was starting to get really cold in the open wind. We both got back in the water and swam easily to the back of the boat. As I approached I heard celebratory music blaring and everyone congratulating me. I hugged Bonnie and then sat down with a sleeping bad wrapped around me (pic above moments after finishing). I started shaking from the cold but after a bit felt good enough to change into the many layers of clothing I had brought. Bonnie and I had permanent smiles on our faces but soon exhaustion and the need to sleep set in on the ride back across the channel.

It took about 2.5 hours for us to reach the Dover Harbor. Then we were docked, taking pictures and looking for Lauri to hug us and take us back to the warm hotel and warm showers. We wished all the crew and observers well and zipped away as it was a little after 4am and we needed to leave for the London Gatwick Airport by 5:30am. Bonnie and I took showers while Lauri did the final packing into our giant van and rousted the three kids. We made it to London in good time with Lauri driving (and now also an expert on the roundabouts). And now we're back home in Darlington, SC.

Thanks again to Lauri, Ben, Jacob, Bonnie, and Anna who were there the whole time. Thanks to BOTH boat crews - Eddie Spelling who endured numerous e-mails and calls from me for many months - and Dave Whyte and his crew coming in at the last moment to rescue my dream. Also thanks to all of you who followed my blog and offered encouraging words. It REALLY made a big difference to me. I thought about that a lot as I was swimming. I didn't want to let everyone down!

Again, I had a blast doing this. It was quite an adventure. Life is short, so I plan to continue going for my dreams. Though maybe next time it will be something academic or spiritual since these athletic goals are wearing me out!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Soap opera

So to continue the soap opera, the weather tomorrow is swimmable. However, I will not be able to swim with my pilot after all. The first slot fella, Chris, will swim with him on Saturday. Even though Sunday and Monday may be swimmable (but harder due to the tides) that is not an option as my contract with Eddie ends Saturday and he has commitments to take rowers across the channel on Sunday. All kinds of crossings take place apparently. In fact, as we had lunch outside today we got to see a man fly across the channel using a jetpack and a wing. He parachuted as planned and landed 2-3 miles away. It was pretty neat to watch.

So back to my swim, I remembered seeing a post on a site for channel swimmers that said a pilot had a first postion open. That's a little unusual since these things are booked at least a year in advance but I went ahead and contacted him. Long story short, I will be swimming with him tomorrow morning starting out at about 8:45am Dover time/3:45am SC time. If all goes well, I will finish close to midnight, get back to Dover around 3:00am and then leave for the airport at 5:00am. It will be tight.

The last piece of the soap opera is that I have a bad cold and am concerned about having the strength and stamina to make it across. I asked the advice of some expert channel swimmers and people for whom I have great respect. They told me I should wait until I feel right physically and mentally and come back next year. I think they are wise. However, I am stubborn. So I will swim. They will probably be right in the end but I figure my worst case scenario is that I don't make it all the way across but get a really good (and expensive) training experience for my next shot at it which could really be 2 years away because 2009 is mostly booked. I need to take this chance now. I am going to try hard to get my head in the right place to do this. I need to think there's only one way to finish this swim. By walking out on French soil.

So while my family is out and about now making last minute arrangements, money transfers, etc, I am going to try and get a nap and then pack my bags a final time. I really want to say publicly how much I appreciate the help and support my wife Lauri, sons Ben and Jacob, support person Bonnie Crickman and her daughter Anna have provided me. The have endured the rollercoaster and been real troopers. I owe them big time for putting them through this. Thanks also to everyone who has written me on this blog or otherwise. The support has been fantastic.

PS - I removed the picture of Anastasia and the link to track my progress as I will not be with that boat now. I will be on Ocean Breeze with David Whyte. Unfortunately, it does not have the ability to be tracked as the other boat did. So I will have to get the word out as soon as I am able to get back on this blog. I am signing off for now. I will get dinner soon and head to bed. Tomorrow, I swim.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Not so good news

Well, I just got off the phone with Eddie my pilot. It now looks like the only swimmable day is Saturday and even it is questionable. Since I am in second slot, I won't be able to swim this year unless something changes. I am going to try to pursue a couple other avenues before throwing in the towel. I'm persistent if nothing else. I also have a good head cold now and have spent most of the day in bed. But, these things are a part of channel swimming. There are no guarantees. I won't give up until there's no other option.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Getting close now

I started the day with a 1.5 hour/3 mile swim in the harbor. It was the same temperature it’s been all week as far as I can tell but I felt better in it. The sun was out on and off. Each time I get in I really think my tolerance is improving. It’s still terribly uncomfortable but I am now able to make myself think about something other than the cold. When I can do that, it really helps pass the time rather than dwell on how much I want to get out. The water was rougher today too. In fact, what woke me up this morning was high winds and rain beating on our building. It had died down considerably (I was picturing 5 foot waves) but the harbor still had some swells and a lot of chop or irregular peaks and valleys. I am learning to just relax and not fight it when I get in that kind of water. I try to expend the same amount of energy as I would when swimming in flat water. I think the big swim is going to come down to a balance of exerting myself just enough to stay “warm” but not so much that I exhaust myself completely. My wife Lauri came to watch me swim today and take some video of me. However, had she wanted to show me in a good light she would have recorded me stroking smoothly through the harbor apparently unaffected by wind, waves, and cold. But no. Instead she took video of me walking awkwardly down the stone beach (aka golf balls) cold, fat, stuffed into a Speedo and slathered with Vaseline. I assume the video will serve some evil purpose later.

We took the afternoon to drive about 20 minutes north to see the Canterbury Cathedral. By the way, I think I really have the roundabouts down now. Even the bigger multi-ringed ones. Anyway, the Cathedral was as spectacular as I had imagined it would be. The scope and scale of it, the incredibly detailed stone carvings everywhere you looked, the history was all magnificent. The picture above was taken about halfway into the church. There's much more beyond and back behind me not visible in the picture. Being Episcopalian it also holds a special meaning as this is where our denomination began and is still our world “headquarters” where church business is conducted. We opted for the audio tour which proved a great way to keep the kids occupied and provide them with an educational experience at the same time.

After the tour, we found a nice little Italian restaurant in the Canterbury shopping district outside the Cathedral. As we finished up some excellent thin crust pizza I checked my BlackBerry (surprise, surprise) and saw an e-mail from my pilot Eddie. He said Friday may be swimable, Saturday was looking good. So I need to keep waiting and see what the weather does next. But we are coming down to the wire now and I am feeling good that I will get a shot. So that's great! Now we'll just have to see what that shot is going to look like. There are three swimmers contracted with Eddie for this week. It is my hope that all of us will get a good day and have our chance to go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

London and the weather

The weather was another complete wash in the channel on Tuesday. So we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and drive to London for the day. We all piled into this enormous van I had rented and then headed out. We parked at the end of one of the Underground train lines to avoid navigating and finding parking in the city center. First stop off the underground for us was London Tower which is actually a number of towers spread out in a large enclosed facility. There's so much rich history here it's hard to absorb it all. We also went to the Eye of London - the giant ferris wheel like ride from which you can see about 20 miles all around. It was fantastic. From there we walked to the Parliament building, Westminster Abbey, and then to Buckingham Palace. The picture of the palace above was taken from a bridge in a park near the palace. It was a beautiful day in London as you can see but it rained non-stop back in Dover we were told. We rested our feet in a pub near the palace and had steak pies for dinner. Then back to the Underground for a long ride back to our car (38 stops!) and then I drove back to Dover about 1.5 hours away. We had a great day but everyone collapsed when we got back.

I spoke to my pilot, Eddie, and he gave me the weather update at the moment which was that it was now looking good for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I need two good days in a row of course since I am second slot. So that report lifted spirits. But I am sure it will change again. I just hope not too much.

So while we wait, we are continuing to have a nice family vacation. After I swim in the morning tomorrow we may go to Canterbury Cathedral, Dover Castle, or Calais. I think I am starting to make it up to my wife and family for all the times she took care of things while I swam. But probably just starting.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A good training day

This picture was taken in the dining room of Wallett's Court where we are staying. Starting at the bottom left and going clockwise is Jacob, Lauri, me, Bonnie, Ben, and Anna. The food here is delicious. I mentioned it before but staying here is such a big contrast to the harshness of the channel.

My focus has shifted back to the harbor now to get more training time in the cold and waves. I had a good day doing that though. I swam 5 laps of the harbor, the most so far since I have been here. It took me about 3 hours and 45 minutes and was approximately 7 miles give or take. The first 4 laps were not too bad. The 5th I got tired and stiff but still felt OK overall. I didn't eat or drink anything the whole time either so that made it a little harder. I feel like I may actually be starting to acclimate to the temperature. It is still my #1 concern but I feel a heck of a lot better since the first day here when I had to get our after 1 lap because I couldn't take the cold.

While I was swimming, my friends and family went to Dover's White Cliffs for a nice hike. I had done that before they got here so it worked out nicely that they could see it while I was training. After the swim and getting showered and warmed up, we all went sight seeing in Dover. We went to the Dover museum. Like most of Europe, Dover has a rich and long history. The museum's claim to fame though is that it houses the world's oldest boat remains dated to approximately 4000 years ago. That's from before Moses and before King Tut. It was preserved fairly well. After that we walked through the shopping district (again...uggh), had some lunch and then came back to base camp. We are headed out soon to an oceanfront seafood restaurant in Deal which is about 15 minutes from here.

Since tomorrow is definitely out for a possible channel swim, we have decided to take off to London and see the sights. I had a good long training swim today so it will be perfect timing to have a rest and have some fun.

I have not talked to my pilot yet today but the weather sites I checked are still trending poorly. It now looks like Saturday is not great but Sunday is good. I am not discouraged...yet. But I sure hope something changes soon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Roller coasters and helicopters

It seems we got all excited for nothing at this point. The weather outlook has changed again and it now looks like the first possible time to swim is Saturday. If that is the case, it could be a problem for me as I am second slot. That would mean the first slot guy would go Saturday. My flight back is Sunday morning early. I just hope something changes between now and then and everyone gets to do their thing. There is really nothing I can do. I am trying to put out of my mind the possibility that I may not get to swim at all.

Apparently the crazy weather is a common part of channel swimming. One minute you are ready to go and the next it's called off. Or vice versa, you are touring around the city and you get a call from your pilot that you are going. I was prepared for this rollercoaster having heard from people who have gone before me. The good news is that I have everything laid out and ready to go.

Most of the day was spent making final preparations for my swim. We went to a grocery store (Tesco) and picked up some things to mix with my Maxim, food for after the swim, etc as instructed by Freda. She has a very detailed feeding plan scripted in 30 minutes increments of what I am to drink/eat. Most of it is just Maxim (energy drink) with different things mixed in. We also had a little time to make our way to the central shopping area of Dover. I am a huge shopper. (not). And because the kids were hungry we ate at, you guessed it, McDonald's. Pretty much like ours at home.

So now I will regroup and be on standby for the rest of the week. We'll probably just do family vacation type things - probably go to London one day, Canterbury Cathedral and the like. I will continue to get in the harbor though. In fact tomorrow I may do a longer swim.

Well, I was sitting here thinking I didn't have an interesting picture to post for you today. At that moment, an enormous British Royal Airforce helicopter circled our building a couple times scattering all the sheep in the fields and then landed in back on the lawn! It's not 150 feet from our window. It blew debris everywhere and created quite a bit of excitement for the guests here. So of course we all went downstairs to investigate. The pilots walked over and I asked if they dropped in for dinner. One smiled and said "actually yes, we have reservations". They were a friendly bunch of 4 who explained they were out on a training exercise. After dinner they were going on their way for some night training. They gave the kids (and adult kids) a guided tour of the inside of the chopper. They do search and rescue operations over land and sea. In the picture above you can see Anna, Benjamin and Jacob at the front of the helicpoter. Anyway, kind of woke us up here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I may swim soon!

Well, I spent the majority of the day collecting my family from the airport and getting everyone settled into the room. We also stopped to get instructions from Freda on the feeding schedule, what to have when, etc. And finally we met with Eddie my pilot.

The weather has changed quickly again as it does here and so now the person in first slot, Chris Pountney, is going to swim starting early Sunday morning. So for us that is about 6 hours from now. What that means to me is that I may get my shot Monday morning. I would probably need to be at the boat at 2:30 am and then start swimming around 3:30 am Dover time. Given that, I need to get to bed now and start to adjust my sleep schedule.

I am going to spend tomorrow making final preparations and getting well fed and hopefully getting some good sleep. Sorry for the short post but my time could be very near!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy birthday Ben!!!

Today I got back in the water at the harbor and swam 2 laps/3 miles. And while the water was still cold as before, I did MUCH better dealing with it! I may be starting to acclimate! True, it was a sunny day and the wind was lower but I felt the best I have so far in it. I also played around with my stroke a bit to try and "sneak through" the waves head down rather than fight them so much. It seemed to work some. The more time I have in the harbor the better. My muscles feel good, not too sore. So that was all good.

I e-mailed a channel guru, Mike Oram, who is the head of the association I will swim under, to ask about the weather this coming week. He's a very detailed fella and knows his stuff. He reported that the weather is not looking so good now for the beginning of the week. Initially I was thinking I would swim on Monday based on what I had seen a few days ago. Now it looks like later in the week is the best chance. However, forecasts change daily so I need to be prepared to go any time. I have heard of lots of folks having a hard time with the wait, constantly checking the weather sources, getting worked up. I don't think I will have that problem. I am perfectly content to go whenever the time is right. Of course I will have my family with me and there's lots to see and do so I am going to make the best of it until it is my time.

Today I arranged to meet up with another channel aspiree, Chris Pountney. He is actually in the first of three slots with our pilot Eddie Spelling. The way it works is that you contract with a specific pilot to guide you through the channel (one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world by the way) during a specific week when the tides and weather are right. There's a lot of science to this that I am not even going to touch. I just rely on the experts. Anyway, Chris signed up with Eddie before me so he gets to swim first on this tide. We both signed up about a year ago. I am second. A lady named Vicki Carter is third. I have not met her yet but we've exchanged e-mails and will probably get to meet this weekend. Chris lives about 30 minutes away and has been training in the Dover Harbor with Freda Streeter (Channel General I have previously written about) and other local swimmers throughout the year. It was good to pick his brain about what he is going to do. Like most things, there's more to it than you initially think (just get in and swim!). For instance I picked up a trick on mixing my drink ahead at double strength then adding hot water as needed for my feeds. Just some simple things that make life easier on me and my support crew. Chris and I also drove up to the White Cliffs (pic he took above) and looked across the channel to France. Today was a clear day and you could just make out the silhouette of France but I couldn't take a picture that showed it well even when you zoomed a lot.

Tomorrow morning I will get up early and head to London Gatwick to get my family and Bonnie and Anna. It's been nice to be a bachelor but I am really looking forward to having them with me. My oldest son Ben turned 12 today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEN! What a cool way to have a birthday - zipping over the Atlantic. Maybe they will sing to him on the plane. My youngest, Jacob, is 10. So they are both old enough now that I think they will remember this trip. (I probably shouldn't mention how old Lauri is.) We are definitely going to work in a vacation and some side trips around this channel thing. I'd like to see some of London, Canterbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and maybe a trip to Paris although that may be less likely now with the uncertain swim date.

After I get my family and friends settled in and get myself moved to a new room, I will try to squeeze a swim in even if its a shorter one. But my priority in the afternoon is to meet up with my pilot Eddie at his boat. I have talked to him on the phone a couple times and we've traded lots of e-mails. I heard from others that he is one of the best and so far I certainly agree.

Hey Tobey, I was almost in a wreck today in a roundabout. Chris was showing me how to get to the center when I needed to get off at the third exit. (I had just been staying on the outer ring which is not so correct as you know.) I did that fine, signaling and all. Then I signaled to come back over to the outer ring and just as I made that without incident a semi pulled out in front of me. I slowed quickly and he went a little and then stopped in the middle of the roundabout. Don't know why. I was at the back of the truck at that point. So I went a little left to go around and about got rear-ended by another car coming from behind. I made it through though and Chris said not my fault. Still, I don't think he will ride with me again. I was never worried though. I bought the 100% rental coverage baby!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rest and Confidence

Well today I did exactly as I had planned. I rested. When you are used to exercising most days, often twice a day, making yourself rest can actually be hard. You feel like you should be doing something to get stronger, faster, etc and that you are being lazy. Back when I did a lot of biking, my legs would actually feel like they needed to go. As if they craved the exertion. But over time I have learned to make myself rest. It helps rebuild muscles and prevent injuries from over-training.

So in that spirit, I did a lot of reading. I sat in the sun behind the property in an old wooden chair looking out over the sheep pasture. It was very peaceful and quiet. Just the sort of thing an introvert prefers. I dressed lightly so that I felt a bit cool but that was intentional. Anything to help my body get used to the cold is helpful.

And I ate a lot today. Also intentional. Still trying to put on as much weight as I can until the last minute. I think I have actually lost a little since I have been here only because when I finish the harbor swims and get warmed up I have missed lunch. I snack on food in the room but it’s not like what I was able to get in me at home with the constant protein/high calorie shakes and frequent meals. For all of the conveniences of this place, there’s no refrigerator in the room so I can’t keep milk for the shakes. But with no swim today I was able to down a lot of food and drink.

But the highlight of my day was a back massage. I was a little sore, really more tight in the shoulders and back from the harbor swims so the massage was just the trick. I think that is the second one I have ever had in my life but I figured if it worked for Dara Torres it wouldn’t hurt me any!

One thing Dara also had was a sports psychologist. I think I could use one of those too. It is interesting to watch how my confidence level goes up and down…usually in direct proportion to my proximity to the cold channel. Seriously. Sitting in my room or even fairly soon after a cold swim my confidence in my ability to get across goes up tremendously. Your messages of support help tons plus all the reasons I want to do this for myself. But when I’m in that darn cold water, I feel like quitting 5 times each second. I win the battle with one second and here comes another one where I have to make the same decision. Stay in or get out. I can’t even think positive thoughts because my body is screaming “get out!!!” over and over every second. I guess that why not so many people sign up to do this huh? The other thing that is challenging and affects my confidence is the waves. I am getting used to them in the harbor but fear they will be much bigger in the channel. If they are coming at me instead of from the sides or back that is going to be challenge enough without the cold. When I did my first (and only) Ironman distance triathlon, I didn’t doubt for a second that I would finish. I had never run a marathon before but for some reason I was just sure I would finish. Maybe because I have had a taste of how hard this will be I just have a healthy respect for it. That kind of wisdom might come with age too. Anyway, in spite of all that I have said about confidence, right now I am feeling pretty good about it. Then again, I’m sitting in my room. ;-)

The “picture of the day” above is of a pub in downtown Dover known as The White Horse. It was closed as I was walking by so I didn’t get to go into it. The significance of The White Horse is that this is where people who make it across the channel sign their names on the wall and have a pint to celebrate. If you zoom in close, you can see the writing on the walls through the bottom floor windows. I really hope I get to experience that tradition.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another day swimming in the harbor

Today started off like yesterday with a huge English breakfast, reading the Times (UK not NY) and looking out over the beautiful property. The name of the place I am staying is Wallett’s Court. I have placed a link on the right side of this page in case you are considering traveling here. I would highly recommend it. The picture above was taken from the back of the property. The building on the right has the spa on the bottom floor. My room is in the same building on the second floor.

After breakfast I set out into Dover to pick up a few things. Tobey (new friend from NY who recently crossed the Channel) told me where I could go to get "Channel Grease" to use on my bod when I swim. I have been using Vaseline but this should stay on better. So I went to Boots, which I think is a chain pharmacy store here, and placed my order. It should be ready Friday. I also finally found a place that had Powerade. I have been looking for Gatorade everywhere and this was the closest I could find. Everything else here seems to be sparkling (fizzy).

Today I wanted to swim 2 laps/3 miles in the harbor. It was a bit windy but no whitecaps. Just "channel chop" as I've heard it called. It is still very disruptive to a good stroke though. It feels like someone is pushing up the water randomly and tossing my body up and down in a disjointed way. It's not great for my right shoulder as it sometimes makes me hyper-extend it. And dang it was cold!!! I wish I knew a way to better acclimate to it. Today was actually harder than yesterday for some reason. I try mightily to go somewhere else in my mind and not think about it but it is relentless. Maybe it's easier on others or maybe I am a big baby but it's hard as heck for me. I try fast kicking and fast swimming but it doesn't seem to do much. But, I got through my goal of 2 laps and did a few hundred yards extra...but only because my bottle was clipped on a bouy and I had to get it! Speaking of bouys, I haven't hit one yet Liz. Just some seaweed but its a miracle that I haven't hit a bouy and freaked out. I try not to look up too much. Just to see if I am headed to the right spot on the walls. And Tobey, the wind was actually making the right side of the harbor the tough part this week. It was the opposite a few weeks ago. So going to the left is like swimming uphill with the waves smacking you in the head. Going back is like body surfing. Well not quite that good but you know. A lot faster anyway. My pilot Eddie has guaranteed that I will have good surfing waves carrying me to France. I had to pay a little extra for that though. ;-)

Speaking of weather, Eddie e-mailed and said that it is looking like I will be able to swim next week. Yay! Still don't have an exact date but I think it could be the 22nd or soon thereafter. I am going to try and meet him on his boat this Saturday evening and chat about things. My family, support person Bonnie and her daughter Anna should be here by then. I am picking them up at London Gatwick early Saturday.

Well, I'm off to try a new place for dinner tonight. I am going to check out the Swingate Inn down the road from here for those of you who are familiar with the area. Tomorrow I may take a day off from swimming depending on how tired I feel. Might even get a massage for the back. Might check out Dover Castle. I know, rough life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Swimming in Dover Harbor

Well, I made it to Dover. I had some computer challenges so I was unable to post anything until now. I should be able to keep up daily now hopefully.

As usual, I could not sleep on the plane so I arrived pretty beat. I picked up my car and drove about 2 hours to my new residence for 2 weeks. Just like my last trip, the drive was beautiful. And fortunately I am improving my left-side-of-the-road driving skills. The European SD card I purchased for my GPS unit is working wonderfully. I would literally be lost without it. Ask anyone who knows me even a little. I am terrible with directions.

When I arrived I checked in, put my things in my room, and got ready to swim. Getting ready means getting dressed in swim suit and sweats, mixing my energy drink (Maxim), diluting mouthwash (to ease the rawness in my mouth from the saltwater bath), packing Vaseline, goggles, timer, towel to degrease, towel to dry off and then chewing a anti-seasick tablet. Then I drove about 5 minutes down the hill, past Dover Castle (which is incredibly beautiful) to the Dover Harbor (pic above). Then, before I have much time to think about what I was about to do, I took my loaded backpack and walked to the "beach". Beach is different here. No sand. Just golf ball sized, smooth stones and a steep slope. Then I stripped off my sweats to just my Speedo (there will be no pics...ever), put on my swim cap (did I mention no pics?), and greased up my arm pits, shoulders, and between my legs. The grease is not for warmth but rather to prevent severe chaffing caused by body parts rubbing together in the saltwater. Then I walked down to the water's edge. It's tricky to navigate barefoot on the stones and a bit painful as well. Just imagine walking on golf balls! To get in, I prefer to walk in at a kind of fast pace. I'm afraid I will gasp and swallow a bunch of saltwater if I jump in but I really don't like to dilly dally either. Just get in an go. The first minute is the worst in terms of shock. I get a brain freeze every time. But that goes away and then I get into the swim. I do laps around the harbor. One lap is about 1.5 miles. On the first day I only made it about 2 miles and had to get out due to the cold. The waves were rough but not as bad as it will be on the swim. I swallowed a healthy amount of saltwater. I think the jet lag affected me too but I was very disappointed. Last night I kept thinking if I had to get out that early there's no way I will make it across. But I just didn't have it. When I got out I was so cold I could hardly put my clothes back on. And my frozen feet walking about 30 yards on those darn golf balls!!! Dang that hurt. So when I got back I went straight to the sauna at the place I am staying. This place is awesome by the way. I will write more about it later. It's such a polar opposite to the channel. Like heaven and ... After the sauna I got a warm shower and then ordered room service. I organized all my clothes and swim stuff and got everything in its place (surprise, surprise). Then I went to bed whooped and disappointed with my performance.

This morning I woke up and felt a lot better. I think I slept about 10 hours. Must've needed it. I made a cup of tea in my room (very English of me), looked out across the fields out my window and saw hundreds of sheep grazing and quietly making sheep noises. It was absolutely beautiful. I decided I wanted to swim in the middle of the day, after breakfast had digested but before lunch. So I went to the conservatory and ordered the "full English breakfast". That consisted of eggs, sausage, bacon (ham to us), half of a large mushroom and tomato, fried toast and jam, and black pudding (which was like a dense black fried bread). And more tea of course. It was delicious. Lauri, can we have that every day at home? I will pay for that. The music in the conservatory was light and airy which matched my incredible view of the courtyard and fields of sheep in the distance. The main building of the hotel is over 300 years old. The service is excellent. I picked a great place to stay!

After breakfast I drove to Deal to get some food for the room and an adapter for my computer. The one I brought from home probably would work just fine in Belgium but not so much here. Deal was a neat seaside town. I didn't explore much because I was on a mission and wanted to get back to swim but I did manage to figure out how to park the car, not get towed and find my stuff.

So a little before noon I made it back to the water. This time I figured out a way to tie my drink and Scope to a buoy far from land so I wouldn't be tempted to stay on land at feed time. (Thanks Bonnie C. for the carabiner clips! They already came in handy.) I also left my cool finger timer in my back pack so that I wouldn't constantly check how long I had been out. I decided to my goal was to do 2 laps (3 miles) or 3 laps (4.5 miles) if I could take it. Today I am happy to report my swim was MUCH better. It was still cold as heck but I got though it in pretty good condition. I did 3+ laps or between 4.5 and 5 miles. Not much for a pool swim but it was good for a channel swim. I even felt good enough afterwards to pick up a rock to bring back and to take a few pics.

My routine after the swim was the same. Whirlpool, sauna, and hot shower until my body gets back to normal temp. I am so glad this place has those facilities. Got to run to dinner now but I will try to post pictures from today later. Bottom line though... today was a good day!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Packing day

No swimming again today. I had intended to go to the Darlington YMCA and do a short workout but I just had too much to do to get packed. I am still not finished. It's a challenge to get all the warm weather clothes, drink mixes, water bottles, etc into two 50 pound max suitcases. Plus I am taking a somewhat large Lego set to a swim friend in the UK for her grandson. But it will all work out. I like packing challenges. Must have a little engineer in me.

My support person on the boat will be Dr. Bonnie Crickman. She lives in Darlington, SC as we do. One of her daughters, Anna, will be joining us on the trip. Anna is in Jacob's 5th grade class at Thomas Hart Academy. Bonnie, Anna, and another one of Bonnie's daughters, Sara, came over today to do a little logistical planning. She will be quite busy and is a very important part of my team. For instance, I will probably stop briefly every 30 minutes for a warm energy drink and other nutrition such as energy gel, mini Milky Way bar or banana. She also will count my strokes per minute every once in a while to ensure I am not significantly slowing. She will not have a lot of down time and it will be a very long day for all of us start to finish. We talked about how to mix my drink, how to get it to me (sports bottle attached to a retractable dog leash), putting the channel grease and sunscreen on me, seasick medicine, pain medicine, how we will communicate and lots of other details.

The picture above is a signpost close to the bed and breakfast where we will be staying. I am not sure if is has a significant meaning but thought it was interesting. Kind of like the famous SC sign with "Clinton" pointing one direction and "Prosperity" pointing the other (not making a political statement here!). Anyone have any interpretations of the pic above?

My wife Lauri is very excited that I am doing this. In fact, she said I could get a Harley Davidson motorcycle I've had my eye on if I successfully make it across the channel. I am torn between the Fat Boy and Rocker C for those who know what those are. (OK, she really didn't say I could do that. I am just trying to see if she's reading this.)

Well, tomorrow I will go to church and then head over to the Florence airport by 2:00pm. I am just renting a car there and driving to Charlotte for a direct overnight flight to London Gatwick. I will arrive in London at 8:45am their time and then drive about 2 hours to Dover. I can't wait to get down to the Dover Harbor again for a swim. It will have been 3 days since I last swam. I can't remember how long ago I went 3 days without swimming! But the extra rest won't hurt.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dover qualifying swim

Zero miles swimming today. Friday is usually a rest day for me as I typically do a long swim on Saturday (which I won't do tomorrow). But I really just needed to pick up a few things for the trip. So the only "training" I did today was to eat as much as I could stand. I still want to gain a few more pounds to help with the cold and for "fuel". I have been carrying around a high protein, high calorie, thick, nasty milkshake in a sports bottle about everywhere I go. I try to get down as much as I can throughout the day. Tonight I had a giant prime rib at Percy & Willie's (I think it was called the "hungry man" portion), and salad, and honey butter croissants, and loaded potato, and calamari, and 3 1/2 Sprites, and more high cal drink for dessert. I'm so stuffed. Boy this is some tough training. ;)

The picture above was from my trip to the UK about 3 weeks ago as I was coming into Dover. You can see the Dover Harbor, where the ships come through, and the English Channel in the background. It was a quick but fun trip for the purpose of qualifying for the Channel attempt and to learn what I was in for. To qualify to attempt the crossing you have to complete a 6 hour (appx 12 mile for me) swim in 60 degree water. I took the redeye Friday night, swam in the Dover Harbor for a good part of Saturday and flew back Sunday morning. The Harbor is protected from the open Channel but still gets fairly choppy and is the same temp of course. There is a legend of Channel swimming named Freda Streeter, aka the Channel General, who trains people in the Dover Harbor during the summer season. She has a number of successful crossings to her name. I had arranged to meet her and have her be my certifying observer. When I got there Saturday morning she said "nice to meet you, come back tomorrow morning and we'll monitor your swim then". Panicked, I explained that I was flying out Sunday morning early and begged to swim. She said "well hurry up and get in then" and I said "yes mam, thank you!" She told me to swim for an hour and then come to the edge of the water for a drink. I did as I was told 6 times. It was a lot harder than I had hoped it would be. The cold was the problem. It is hard to describe how deep the cold sinks into you and how bad I wanted to get out of that water. When I finally finished and got out I shook uncontrollably for about 30 minutes. Thus, my agressive weight gain program.

Probably the most fun part of that trip, (other than just being THERE in Dover!) was the fun I had driving through the beautiful English countryside on the "wrong" side of the road and through all of those roundabouts. (I really think the U.S. should adopt those by the way.) As you can see in the picture, the weather was absolutely beautiful Saturday morning. The rolling hills between Gatwick and Dover were non-stop picture postcard beautiful. But, as is apparently typical, that afternoon it had turned cloudy and then on Sunday as I was heading back to the airport it rained steadily. But even that felt right. Kind of what you expect.

Speaking of weather, please pray for calm seas with no wind. Or even better, wind coming from the west to push me across! Next week when I will be practicing in the Harbor the weather is supposed to be very good due to a large high pressure system. But the week of my swim doesn't look too good at the moment. It's still a little ways out but it appears a low pressure system is coming in from the north. I have heard many sad stories of people who train for years and then don't get to swim during their designated week due to unswimmable seas and have to go home and train for another year. Apparently that happens fairly regularly. I really don't want to do that!

Tomorrow is packing day. I will also meet with my support person who will be on the boat with me. I will tell you more about her tomorrow.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A shot in the arm

Today I swam 100 laps in the pool which is just a little shy of 3 miles. This is one of the most boring (and most common) type of workouts I do where I just jump in a go without stopping until I am done. No warm up sets, no kickboard, no pull bouy, no resting between sets. Just one long swim. I often try to concentrate on stroke technique and efficiency. But the best thing to do is to try and think about something else besides swimming. I have solved a lot of work problems in the pool. Or I think about what I will do this weekend, current events in the news, my kids and what they are doing in school. Anything but counting laps. I have a cool lap counter that fits on my finger like a ring. I just hit it with my thumb when I do my flip turn so I don't have to think about counting. If I concentrate on how many laps I have done and how many I have to go on a long swim, it just makes me nuts. I had a couple of good suggestions from other distance swimmers of things to help pass the time - sing bible songs or 99 bottles of beer on the wall. I'm Episcopalian so those things are not mutually exclusive. (I hope you're not reading this Father Andrew!)

I got a cortisone shot for my right shoulder tonight and it already feels better. I think that did the trick. I've never had one before but had heard stories about the huge needle and how much it hurt. But I was pleasantly surprised. Barely hurt at all. I went to see Dr. Terry Hassler for knee issues back when I was hitting the triathlon circuit hard and he has continued to do good work on me with my swimming issues. Just a little plug for him, if anyone has orthopedic or sports injury needs, Terry is your guy! He knows his stuff and takes great personal interest as he and his wife Wanda are road bikers and all of his children swim competitively. In fact this past weekend two of his daughters participated in the Hartsville Triathlon performing quite well. I participated in a relay with Wanda and Bill Wilson (see pic above). So, a very athletic family and a really nice bunch of folks to know. Thanks for all of your help Terry!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Today I swam 2.5 miles. It felt good and strong. I have had some trouble with my right shoulder especially when I was doing higher mileage but today it wasn't too bad. My self-diagnonis is bursitis simply caused by repetitive motion. I am not too worried about it though, especially since I am getting a cortisone shot in it tomorrow. Hopefully that will reduce the swelling and allow the shoulder joint to operate pain free for about 3 weeks. That's all I need.

So I need to tell the truth about the lunch time swim crowd I called curmudgeons yesterday. Although they can display curmudgeon-like behavior, such as when first seeing the workout sets coach Tiffany has prescribed for the day, they are actually an admirable group. It's a small but divere group of people in terms of age, backgrounds, swim ability, and body types. But not so diverse in terms of gender. I think all of the regulars are men. (So the guys would cordially like to invite any female swimmers to join them at practice. They won't bite...much.) But one thing they all have in common is that they, really all of us, have gotten much better and fitter by swimming together. Some have lost a lot of weight. Some have really improved technique and fitness. And if I am half as active as a couple of the senior guys when I get to be their age I will be very happy indeed.

As far as the channel, I am making final preparations on my list of things to pack. I exchanged e-mails with a new friend who successfully crossed the channel a few weeks ago in extreme conditions. She has given me great tips and things to consider. One thing I forgot about is what the salt water does to your mouth after extended swimming. You get a horrible sore throat and your tongue swells and gets raw beyond belief. A trick I picked up from another great swimmer was to gargle with mouthwash cut half strength. I did this on a recent swim and it helped. So anyway, added Scope to the list of things to pack.

I hope you are enjoying this blog. If there's anything you want to know or say, don't be bashful! The site had over 400 hits today (largely due to the link being posted in my company's newsletter) but only one person was brave enough to post something. Thanks Bonnie!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cold showers

Today I swam 2.5 miles. Back when I was training harder I would usually average about 4.25 to 6 miles per day done over two workouts. Weekends were anywhere from 5-12 miles. So I am definitely easing off the distance and tapering for my swim. The idea is to be well rested instead of going in with tired muscles.

Much to one of my friends delight (that's you Michael) a reporter from the Florence Morning News came to the pool today to take pictures of my fat self swimming in a Speedo. Sure wish she had taken the pics a few months ago when I still had my triathlon body. The ribbing should be even worse tomorrow when a reporter from the News and Press comes as it will be in the middle of the lunch time master's swim practice. You have to understand that they are largely a crew of curmudgeony old men who just love to find something to tease you about. Can't wait to hear their supportive comments.

I forgot to mention that one other tactic I have been using to get acclimated to the cold water (other than eat and gain weight) is to take cold showers. I haven't had a warm one in about two months. At first it was hard but I have really gotten used to them. I run the AC in my car wide open. I also sleep with the AC low, overhead fan on, no sheets. The wife is not a big fan of some parts of my training. It will be over soon honey!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The press

Not a lot to report today. I ate a ton of food, drank a bunch of weight gain drink and swam an easy 3 miles at lunch. The swim crowd at the Hartsville YMCA has really grown in the last several months. I remember many days of training where I was the only one in the pool. Just me and a really bored lifeguard watching me go back and forth. Today I think there were about 10 people going up and down the lanes.

As people have found out I am doing this, the folks who work for the papers in our community have also caught wind. So today I did an interview with reporters from the Florence Morning News and the Hartsville Messenger. Photo shoots at the pool and an interview with Darlington's News and Press are scheduled for the next two days. I didn't want the attention but in the end I decided to do the interviews (and this blog) as I figured if it was one of my friends, I would want to know. Also, the added pressure will motivate me. I sure don't want to fail knowing so many people are watching!

Finally, I received a bunch of e-mails from people wishing me well after I sent out the blog link. That made me feel great! I really appreciate everyone's kind words.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One week before I leave!

I thought I would put together this blog to give anyone interested an update on my swim. I have been amazed with how many people know that I doing this. Sure puts the pressure on to get across the thing!

With just a week to go, all the hard training is behind me. The twice a day swims (including those early mornings with Tiffany, Bonnie, Michelle, Frankie, Ted and Priscilla), the long weekend swims (5-6 hours in a pool, lake or the ocean), and the weight training for almost 2 years is now over. I participated in several open water swims to prepare including the Potomac River Swim in 2007 and 2008, the 2008 US Master's Swimming National Championships in Clemson, SC, a 6 hour swim in the Dover Harbor a couple weeks ago, and the Swim Across the Sound in NY's Long Island Sound. While the Sound swim was called short due to thunderstorms, I still gained confidence in my ability to endure as I was stung by jellyfish over 100 times. I have decided I am anti-jellyfish.

So now my focus is on resting my body, not getting injured, and gaining weight. When I went to Dover, I quickly realized how incredibly hard this swim will be due to the cold alone. A water temp of 60 deg doesn't sound that bad but it's absolutely frigid. Turn your lips blue, hypothermia, can't stop shaking, frigid. In fact the cold, rather than the rough water or distance, is what causes many people to not make it across. So I am gaining as much weight as I can. I have added about 20 pounds to my triathlon weight and hope to add 5-10 more before I swim. Sounds fun but its really not.

I will try to keep this blog up to date with anything noteworthy. I really appreciate all the support I have received from everyone - especially my family, my work friends and colleagues, the swim crowd at the Hartsville, Darlington, and Florence YMCA's, my triathlon and biking buds (it was great to see so many of you at this weekend's triathlon!). I have no idea how this will go but I am excited to give it my best shot and see what happens. Thanks for sharing in the fun with me!