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

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.


Anonymous said...

Allen, I hope you're proud of yourself for causing me some well deserved grief. After we chatted a few minutes through the plants separating our tables at Percy and Willy's last evening, I've had several conversations with my wife concerning the lack of my athletic hopes and aspirations. I kiddingly told her that I had "bulked up" for a cold swim but had not yet qualified for the Channel. She replied that she knew without a doubt that I could do it if I chose to "channel" my energies that direction.

Well, on this Saturday morning after a "healthy" portion of scrambled eggs, biscuits, gravy, vegetarian sausages and juice, what am I going to do? At 60 years of age, overweight and with two bad knees, running the Boston marathan is not very likely - - - and the run would be a cake-walk compared to your goal of swimming the Channel. What should I do?

Is the Channel a possibility for me - someone that was never a great swimmer, currenly overweight and still recovering from lower back surgery? Was Dr. Hassler's surgical repair of my injured shoulder from an automobile accident really adequate for me to consider long distance swimming?

What are the possibilities? I'm not sure, but your lofty goal has caused me to think about and seriously ponder the course of action I need to take. I'll sit down today and set forth a plan.

Thanks Allan for spurring me into action! (Steve)

Allan said...

Steve, I loved your post! It was nice seeing you and meeting your wife. Your post was very humorous but you are also getting at something important that I like to think about. That I don't want to let life pass me by and not have gone for something I want. I have always been pretty goal driven and done OK at reaching my goals. What I struggle with is WHAT goals to set. What I am passionate about. I thought about this adventure for a while before committing to it. I really like the water. Always have. Some of my best memories have been in and around it - in high school with the Anderson Swim Club, a day skiing on the lake with my parents and brothers, or white water kayaking, or snorkeling. So this is what I am interested in. But I have started thinking about what next. What else excites me. It might be something totally new. I have done an Ironman triathlon and 200 mile bike rides but my next thing might not be a physical goal. Maybe intellectual or spiritual. But it will be something that I am passionate about. So I don't know what to tell you Steve except that it doesn't have to be anything other than something that interests you. Good luck with your plan whatever you decide!

David White said...

Hey Allen,

We'll be watching from here. Talked to Lauri last night. Are you ready, LEGO!!! Good Luck on the swim. David White

Allan said...

Thanks David. Good to hear from you. I'm as ready as I am gonna get. Just hoping for good weather at this point.

David White said...

What news? Everything OK?

Allan said...

Hey David. Looks like Fri is a possibility, Saturday looking good. Will know more tomorrow but it's likely I will get a shot in some kind of swimable weather.