Crosswords: The English Channel Swim is written by, Rhys Fleming from Dependable Solutions
[One more swim in 2021… why not?]
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! How did you enjoy the break? Good food? Presents? A brief ice swim? What? You say you’d prefer the ice to be in your drink* than your Speedos? Me too, but training to cross the English Channel Swim doesn’t stop for a festive mince pie or a New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
We made great progress in 2021, with the whole team completing the necessary qualifying swims, but now it’s crunch time. We’re six months out from a challenge few would dare to attempt, and fewer still manage to complete.
Training during the winter is great preparation for the mental and physical challenges that stand before us. It’s cold and miserable outside, and nobody wants to leave the comfort of their own homes. Being able to say to yourself, “it’s my time to get in the water and nothing is going to stop me”, is exactly what we’re going to need to do when the sea is thrashing the side of our boat on the journey to the French coast.
Does it really get that cold?
[Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow! It won’t be long before we’ll all be there with snow]
Good question. After having suffered a spectacular, uncontrollable, shaking fit after my first outdoor swim with a selection of my fearless teammates; cold water swimming has been the most frequently played tune on my “why-the-hell-am-I-doing-this” playlist. It is one of my biggest self-doubt-gremlins. A gremlin I know I will have to defeat if I am to play a part on this incredible team.
I’ve been taking cold showers and training in sub-10-degree water and will continue to do so in the coming months. This has to be carefully managed. Training in cold water little and often. Not spending too long in the water in order to avoid a bout of aftershock (Google it – it’s not pleasant).
If sub-10-degrees sent a shiver down your spine then you might want to skip the next bit. During December the strongest members of the team battled it out to claim the title of “Champion of The Coldest Training Session”:
[Stephen Gould at Loch Morar]
3rd Place – Katie Price at 4.9 degrees (on her birthday no less!)
2nd Place – Kevin Langstaff at 4.5 degrees
1st Place – Stephen Gould at 3.8 degrees
Special Mention – Mark Kingston for a 6.7 degree swim on Christmas Eve!
So, yes, it can get very cold indeed. And it’s something you can only learn to endure by… enduring it.
Did I mention that there will be no neoprene wetsuits permitted during the English Channel Relay Swim crossing?
What else is on your “why-the-hell-am-I-doing-this” playlist?
Take your pick; angry sea life, unpredictable weather, fatigue, or my personal favorite… sea sickness. During the qualifying swim, seasickness hit me like a freight train in a tumble dryer. I was sick in the water… twice… fine more than twice. Not only is it a horrible experience, but it stops you from making progress in your swim and drains you of energy that can’t afford to spare.
Seasickness has stopped many an attempt to cross the Channel and isn’t something to be taken lightly. We’ll all be experimenting to find the remedies that work best for each of us between now and launch day.
As for mother nature and all her aquatic friends – cross your fingers for us!
Then why do it?
My teammates and I don’t have to complete this challenge. We get to. It is a privilege to represent the licensing industry’s efforts to raise money for good causes through the LIGHT FUND. Of course, on a personal level, it would be an incredible achievement to make it from Dover to Calais, but getting all of you behind us and doing a little good – that would be something really special.
How will you be training?
As well as continuing my work on cold water acclimatization; pacing will feature heavily in my training sessions over the coming months.
Last year’s focus was on building the endurance required to complete each of our individual sessions in the water.
This year is all about speed and strength. When the conditions are tough, we need to be strong enough to make it through the waves. When conditions are favorable, we need to be able to find that extra gear, capitalize on our good fortune and try to cover as much distance as possible.
That means lots of sprint training, achieving a sub-thirty-minute-mile, and upping the number of training sessions each and every week.
What can I do?
Now that’s the most important question of them all. Reading this blog is a good start, share it with your colleagues, friends, and broader network, and (if you can) donate here:
[Simon Gresswell replacing calories lost during a particularly tough swim]
*Speaking of drinks – have you tried the limited-edition LIGHT FUND ales created by Another Brewery? They have been taste-tested by the team. Fifty percent of the profits go to the LIGHT FUND. You can order them in cases of 6, 12, or 24 via Another Brewery’s website (www.anotherbeer.co.uk).