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 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!


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the birthday wish, but my birthday is not until the 23rd of the month. Just kidding! I hope things are going well for you over in jolly old England. I have enjoyed reading the blog. Can't wait to read the story after you complete the swim.

-Ben Staples

Allan said...

Ben, Staples that is - Happy Birthday to you as well my friend! Even though you are young enough to be my son I wish you the best on your soon-to-be birthday. Hope you are still having fun way up there in the North. Take care bud.

Ellen said...

I have just caught up on all of your posts with my morning cup(s) of coffee while Andrew & the kids make pancakes! Thanks for taking the time to write with so much detail! It's given me a greater appreciation of all your efforts!

During your next swim, the warm devil appears on one shoulder telling you how nice a sauna would be, but the angel on the other shoulder is cheering you on, telling you of the FAME & FORTUNE you'll bring back to the PEARL of The Pee Dee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YIPPEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAHOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! Go ALLAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By the way, I hope it's okay, but we're packing and heading out the door in a bit to go to your condo. Thanks for handing over the keys and we promise not to invite more than 50-60 folks over for a little get-together.

Ellen & family

Anonymous said...

We are still pulling for you Allan, hope the weather improves!

-Morgan Roberts

Allan said...

Very funny Ellen about the condo. :)- And I like the devil/angel on the shoulder thing. That's about the way it is. I'm going to go do a long swim in a few minutes and I am sure I will be thinking about that.

Thanks Morgan for your continued prayers! Hope all is well with you guys.