Crewing for the Channel

On Friday 14th August I got a text from Team Mermaids’ friend, Lisa Williams, saying that her Channel swim that was planned for the 1st week of September had been brought forward to start on Monday at 00:30. I knew this presented a problem as one of her crew members was Brian and he was on a plane to Tanzania so couldn’t just pop back to crew! I offered to help if I could and Lisa took me up on the offer, so on Sunday evening we arrived in Dover at 22:30 with other crew members Abby and Emma and met Loretta Cox, who would be Lisa’s observer.

image

At 23:00 we boarded Anastasia, the boat for the adventure, met the crew and the pilot, Eddie, and then made the trip around to the start point. We got Lisa ready which involved copious amounts of Vaseline, channel grease and sun tan lotion. I got a bit carried away with the sun tan lotion and started applying it to the front of Lisa’s legs at which point Loretta said “Is she planning to backstroke to France?!”… good point.

image

She dived in and swam to shore in the pitch black. We all knew Lisa was petrified about swimming in the dark and this part was really hard for me to watch as I could only imagine what was going through her mind when she was already a bag full of emotions. 00:32 she stood up on the beach at Dover and started her Channel swim.

image

The crew’s role was split down into 3 main areas:
Feeding (giving swimmer warning of feeds, preparing, feeding, documenting)
Social media (keeping people updated and passing on messages to Lisa)
Swimmer watching.

Lisa was going to feed every hour for the first 2 hours then drop to 30 minute feeds for the remainder. During the night swimming the main task was keeping Lisa well lit so the sense of swimming in the dark was hopefully reduced. This led to “torch arm”, which is similar to the claw for those “Friends” fans, and this and an inability to multitask led to us, ok just me, blinding Lisa a few of times. Sorry Lisa!

image

The sun finally rose and with it we settled into a routine. With the sunshine also came the wake up of all the supporters and soon messages of support were coming in thick and fast via social media. We were writing some on a white board and hanging them over the side for Lisa. As the day went on the hardest part was knowing what type of message to write her. She was obviously getting fatigued rapidly and therefore, things that she might normally find funny might just p!ss her off at this point, so trying to find a suitable message plus fit in on to a white board was a challenge. A couple that got a chuckle out of her were “Swim backstroke, it’s easier. Love Nico”. Nico is Lisa’s nephew and the pure innocence of this message was a guaranteed smile. “Go Go Lisa, from the WHOLE of facebook” – evidently I was a bit overwhelmed by social media at this point!. At one point we also decided to write a message from the DCosta family. Elaine DCosta was Lisa’s friend who passed away and the reason why she was raising money for the Royal Marsden. It was tricky to decide when to show this message as we wanted it to give her a boost but at the same time we risked overwhelming her with emotion when she should just be concentrating on swimming. As it turns out it did make her cry (not ideal with goggles on) but I think it was positive knowing how much they appreciated what she was doing.

image

Over the following hours we nailed down the feeding routine, or so I thought, but a couple of incidents suggested the team still had work to do. We lost a paracetamol to the Channel and then someone who shall remain nameless dropped down the cup for feeding to then only let go of the other end of the rope it was attached to. The reaction of “that is not good” was priceless. So Lisa had to try and pass it up, whilst Abby lent over the boat to try and grab it and I stood in shock. I had a fear of the responsibility of feeding and this only cemented it.

image

Around hour 10 we needed Lisa to give a push so that there was a chance that she could land at Cap Griz-Nez within the next 2 hours. She hadn’t been eating for a while and only having the carbohydrate drink, so we knew she would be running low on energy. I suggested we should give her a caffeine gel, but said that we couldn’t force her to take it. Loretta, who was amazing the whole way through, said “YES YOU CAN”. Hahaha. I sheepishly stood back whilst they told Lisa to take the gel and she did. She also then asked for another one for the next feed. Phew!

image

Soon enough we realised that Lisa was not catching with her right arm, so had injured her shoulder and was obviously in pain. This also meant we were going to miss the Cap. This was heart breaking and started my emotional eating of jelly babies as missing the Cap meant that she was probably going to be swimming for another 4 hours at least. Lisa obviously realised this too and after that I dreaded every feed as it meant seeing the pain and upset in her eyes.

image

After missing the Cap she swam towards Wissant bay, at which point Lisa resorted to backstroke for bits to try to ease her shoulder and me and Nico were smug with our foresight and advice…. Well kind of. At this point we also got caught in an eddy, which meant that despite us heading straight towards the coast, Lisa was now being swirled to the right back towards the Cap. I was also checking the tracker to see what was actually happening as you can often lose perspective on the boat and at this point it looked like we might get swept past the Cap again… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Cue more jelly babies being eaten.

image

Several jelly babies later, Eddie the pilot told the co-pilots to get in the smaller escort boat. Surely this was a positive sign and would boost Lisa to make the final push to shore. Even with the boat in I was still worried she was going to get pushed across the Cap and end up back where she was 5 hours ago. Eddie decided that the French needed to know we were coming so started blasting Rule Britannia at full volume. The tourists gathered at the viewing points on the Cap must have really thought the Brits were finally losing it! After what seemed like an age, we abandoned the escort boat and Lisa and could only watch on from a distance.

image

She had done it. She landed at Cap Griz-Nez, all be it a little bit later than expected, in 17 hours and 18 minutes.

So far Lisa has raised over £6,000 for the Royal Marsden and I think this can only increase once people take a moment to think about swimming non-stop for 17 HOURS and 18 MINUTES. For most people 18 minutes would be enough.


Thanks to Abby for not sacking me off feeding duty when I threw sugar over the boat!. When are we going to open our gourmet sausage sandwich café together? I am thinking a sausage and prawn cocktail crisp sandwich as our signature dish.

Thanks to Emma for being the “under deck hand” as me and more so Abby struggled with spending time downstairs due to queasiness. Also, thanks for teaching me how to act in a crisis.

Loretta for being an absolute rock. I am so pleased she was there to give us advice and reassure us as well as ensure Lisa got the right messages at the right time.

The biggest thanks to Lisa for letting me be part of her day trip to France and never giving up. I don’t think there would have been enough jelly babies in the world for me to deal with you not touching land!

Here is Lisa’s blog: https://lisaswims.wordpress.com/ and just giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/LisaswimsEnglishChannel

Advertisements

5k – 6k (5000m – 6000m) sets

These are ones we do ourselves when training for longer swims so add to as and when we do new ones.

See also: 2.5 sets, 3k sets, 4k sets and if you are after more inspiration the Tooting Bec Lido sets can be altered to suit pool length/distance required.

SET A
500 SWIM
400 PULL
300 DRILL
200 6 FREE 3 POLO
100 KICK

100 @85% (30 SR)
200 @80% (30 SR)
300 @75% (30 SR)
400 @70% (30 SR)
500 @60% (30 SR)
400 @70% (30 SR)
300 @75% (30 SR)
200 @80% (30 SR)
100 @85% (30 SR)

10* 50m 30 SR @ 80%

200 swim down
4700


SET B
400 SWIM
100 PULL
400 SWIM
100 DRILL
400 SWIM
100 KICK

1000 @70%
2*500m @ 75% 1 min rest
4*250m @ 80% 1 min rest
10*100m @ 85% 30 sr
10*50m @ sprint 30 SR

200 SWIM DOWN
6200


SET C
500 SWIM
400 PULL
300 DRILL
200 6 FREE 3 POLO
100 KICK

200 @80% 30 SR
300 ALT HARD/EASY 30SR
400 @70% 30 SR
500 ALT HARD/EASY 30SR
1500 @60%
500 ALT HARD/EASY 30SR
400 @70% 30 SR
300 ALT HARD/EASY 30SR
200 @80% 30 SR

200 SWIM DOWN
6000


SET D
400 SWIM
100 PULL
400 SWIM
100 DRILL
400 SWIM
100 KICK

500 @75% 30 SR
100 @60% RECOVERY 15 SR
400 @75% 30 SR
100 @60% RECOVERY 15 SR
300 @75% 30 SR
100 @60% RECOVERY 15 SR
200 @75% 30 SR
100 @60% RECOVERY 15 SR
100 @75% 30 SR
100 @60% RECOVERY 15 SR

4*200M 20 SR
4*100M15 SR
4*50M 10 SR

200 SWIM DOWN
5100


SET E
500 SWIM
100 PULL
500 SWIM
100 DRILL
500 SWIM
100 KICK

10*50m. Up hard back easy 15 SR
10*100m @80% 30 SR
10*200m up hard back easy 30 SR

200 SWIM DOWN
5500


SET F

LENGTHS (IF 25m pool) WHAT DISTANCE RUNNING TOTAL
12 SWIM 300 300
8 ALT PULL / KICK 200 500
4 DRILL 100 600
4 ALT PULL / KICK 100 700
8 DRILL 200 900
12 SWIM 300 1200
0 1200
  0 1200
20 STEADY, EVERY 4TH LENGTH HARD(ER) 500 1700
16 4*100m hard 30 SR 400 2100
0 2100
10 STEADY 250 2350
16 4*100m hard 30 SR 400 2750
0 2750
30 STEADY, EVERY 3RD LENGTH HARD 750 3500
16 4*100m hard 30 SR 400 3900
0 3900
10 STEADY 250 4150
16 4*100m hard 30 SR 400 4550
0 4550
20 STEADY, EVERY 4TH LENGTH HARD(ER) 500 5050
16 4*100m hard 30 SR 400 5450
0 5450
10 SWIM DOWN 250 5700

SET G

400 swim

100 pull

400 swim

100 drill

400 swim

100 kick

10*50 build within the 50m.  I.e start beginning of 50 easy and by final metres of the 50 you are flat out sprinting.

500 MOD 30 SR

5*100 SPRINT 30 SR

400 1 length mod, 1 length hard 30 SR

4*100 SPRINT 30 SR

300 MOD 30 SR

3*100 SPRINT 30 SR

200 drill 30 SR

2*100 SPRINT 30 SR

200 SWIM DOWN

Total 5,000


SET H

200 swim

200 pull

100 swim

100 kick

200 swim

200 drill

600 @ 75% 1 min rest

10 x 100 up drill choice, down build 15 SR

300 continuous made up of: 100 pull, 100 kick, 100 backstroke

REPEAT ABOVE

200 swim down

Total: 5000m


SET I

400 SWIM

300 PULL

200 DRILL CHOICE

100 KICK

6*150 50 E, 50 M, 50 H 20 SR

400 @ MOD

5*100 HARD 15 SR

300 @ MOD

4*200 BP 3 @ MOD 20 SR

500 EASY

8*50 HARD 10 SR

200 SWIM DOWN

TOTAL: 5000M

 

Waiting.. For the channel

Pivo here.. explaining to you what waiting for his channel relay has done to him!

Note: as I publish this.. he is on the boat about to start his relay… Go cosmic rays!!!


Well hello there, it is Pivo here, now I actually have a proper name, but well the mermaids choose not to use this, I may reveal my real name at the end of this post.

My blog post today is actually not about swimming, its about waiting …….. waiting…….. and waiting some more. I was meant to be doing a 4 person 2 way channel relay to France and back.  Myself, Brian (reserve), Lisa and Hilary, and doctor, Parviz were all scheduled to swim for the charity COSMIC, the Children of St Marys Intensive Care Unit, a great charity and a great cause.  We are lucky enough to have one of the children treated in the hospital by Parviz, who lost parts of 3 limbs coming with us to blog and tweet the journey.

large-photo

Our tidal window was for a week from 9-16 August. Now that is not a typo, that’s right we have been waiting 5 1/2 weeks now to do our swim. We were unable to go in our available week, so we essentially went on a waiting list, and we would be going once swims for a particular week went. Unfortunately the weather in this fair fine country of yours, to put it bluntly has been s**t since 9th August. There were long periods where no boats were going out at all. As each week passed, more and more swimmers became backed up.

To say this has been frustrating, is well a huge understatement, it is never nice being in limbo. While we have been waiting, we have had to put other things in life on hold. We have been able to make plans, but then not too complex plans, and when making these plans knowing that these could be thrown out the window if we got the call to go swimming. Except we have not had the call. The Coniston swim Manda blogged about recently I completed too, but it was touch and go till the Thursday before the weekend that we were sure we could go to the Lakes and would not be in the channel.

Some of us made concrete plans, 5 weeks after the scheduled date of the swim, not thinking there would have been any chance not to have completed the swim.   Hilary made plans to go on a family holiday to South East Asia. Hilary is now there, and she is unable to swim with us.   I feel absolutely gutted that Hilary cannot be there if we do go, the amount of effort she has put in. I am due to meet up with her in a few weeks in Vietnam, who knows if we will have done the swim when I do.  Brian our reserve swimmer, who is mentioned in this blog often, is also possibly unable to swim if we do go this weekend, he has family over and cannot get out of the plans he has made.

I can f***ing tell you as well what this waiting has done, it has made us all irritible as well, angry at little things, and friends and family. I don’t know how many times I have been asked the following: how was the swim? have you done it yet? when are you going? whats going on? has the weather been that bad? have other boats gone out? why haven’t you? will you go this year? at all? how is the training? how is the motivation? – ENOUGH ALREADY, I don’t know the answers to all these questions, only that I hope we will be going soon. Humph

It really has been exhausting, we keep swimming because we know we may be going soon, but don’t know when. That word again soon! Hmmm I am beginning to dislike it. It has been a long summer swim season. Motivation is waning

We have become pseudo experts on the weather, and looking at wind and swell conditions. If it is fine in London, is it fine in Dover, or in the middle of the channel. All I know is that weather presenters – well they still don’t know s*t. The weather is always ever changing, and that sucks!

The numbers of emails, phone calls, texts, whatsapp messages, smoke signal and psychic messaging we have been doing and all exchanged over this period has been ridiculous. Whenever I see a message, email about the swim, I can’t help but roll my eyes and take a deep breath sometimes. Social media is not so fun either. People know we are about to swim, or have swum, the support is all good but at the end of the day all of us are sounding like broken records with the same lines on why we have not gone being trotted out.

So waiting is not fun at all, I suppose we can compare this waiting to waiting for Christmas or your birthday, but then they keep changing the dates, or saying we can’t do it now, we will do it soon though! Enough already, really. I hate waiting, I just want to go.

waiting …………….. waiting…………. waiting

And then suddenly, well today as I was writing this blog entry, we were told we had an amber warning, we could be going on Friday, but then wait ….. good news this time, it seems we are all systems go for Friday morning at 7am. Hallelujah, the waiting maybe over real soon. I can wait now a few more days, and know that soon I will be in the middle of the English channel, swimming to France and back.

I can tell you, the wait although hard, frustrating, and a pain in the arse, well it has been worth it.

Wish us luck. We wait no more …….. well hopefully. If we swim I may be back for another tale to be told.

image007cosmic-1

Paul aka pt, aka Pivo

Aspire Channel Relay 2014

Guest Blog here from Kate, who is one of the super Mermaids who swam around Manhattan with us.  She features regularly on the blog, as is often accompanying/ring leading mermaid adventures.  Hopefully she will be doing more blogs in the future…until then here is her great account of her channel relay for Aspire


I feel a bit of a fraud writing this blog seeing as my two fellow mermaids, Katie and Suz, have already completed Channel relays in super-fast times. Katie has done not one but two Channel relays, both for Cambridge University in the bi-annual Oxford v Cambridge Channel swim race, one year clocking up an incredibly fast time of 8hr25 minutes. I think it’s fair to say Suz took a slightly more relaxed approach to her training (cold showers for acclimatisation were a stroke of genius!) but her team had a stonking crossing and completed the distance in around 10hrs20 minutes.

My Channel relay story began in April this year, when Lisa mentioned that Aspire were looking for more swimmers/victims to join their 2014 relay teams. I have always wanted to do a Channel relay so I jumped at the chance to sign up. Fast forward to our first Aspire training weekend in Dover in May, where I met the rest of my team (the Aspire Seahorses) and did a number of half hour swims in the sea. What I remember most about that weekend was everyone telling me how lucky I was that the sea was so warm for that time of year (much warmer than the year before). I’m sorry, but I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would describe 13 degrees C as warm… And just by way of a reminder, Channel swimming rules dictate that you are not allowed to wear a wetsuit so it’s your cossie only. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

image

Anyway, we made it through the first May weekend without catching hypothermia and I had another few trips down to Dover over the summer for some more training and cold water acclimatisation. The culmination was our two hour qualification swim in Dover harbour in June. I found this really tough and was desperately keen to get out of the water after about an hour, but somehow managed to force myself to stay in for the required time. Over the summer, unfortunately two of our original team members, Tessa and Kirsten, had to pull out due to an injured shoulder and rather more happily, a pregnancy. We were lucky that Paul, the Fundraising Director of Aspire and endurance triathlon nutter (doing the Arch to Arc this September, amazing – Paul’s blog) and Colin, an experienced Channel swimmer and observer, agreed to join our team in their place.

And by early August we were ready for the off. In Channel swimming you’re given a week’s window when hopefully your swim will take place. You don’t know in advance which day it’s going to be, however, as this is dependent upon the weather and sea conditions and who else your pilot is taking across to France that week. Our window started on the evening of Friday 1 August. The weather, which had been hot and calm for weeks, suddenly took a slight turn for the worse so we weren’t able to go on Friday or Saturday. I was pretty convinced that we wouldn’t be going on Sunday night either, and therefore decided to go for a swim at Tooting Bec Lido on Sunday evening with Manda, Katie, Brian and Pivo. Just as we were leaving the lido, my phone rang and it was Kay, our boat leader, telling me that the swim would start at 3am that night! Exciting! We were on our way to Boadeans for a meat fest so I thought I might as well continue with that plan and stuffed my face with a burger and chicken wings. Excellent Channel swim prep.

image

One of my team mates, Andre, very kindly picked me up at midnight and drove me down to Dover. After some hanging around in a car park in the middle of the night (very surreal), by 3:30am we were on the boat and ready to set off. We chugged round to a nearby beach, where Andre jumped into the dark sea and swam to the beach. After standing on the beach for a few seconds to officially await the starting horn, he was back in the water and we were off!

After Andre had swum his hour leg, it was my turn. Although there was some light in the sky by this point (4:47am!), it was still pretty dark and lights were therefore affixed to my goggles on the back of my head and a glow stick attached to my bum (nice).

image

I was worried that it was going to be freezing when I jumped off the back of the boat, but it felt surprisingly warm (well done heat wave!). As I was swimming my hour leg, the sun came up with a beautiful sunrise, which made it a magical experience.

image

When I got out of the sea, I was pretty tired, having missed a night of sleep. I managed to have a quick nap on the deck snuggling up to a fender and awoke feeling surprisingly refreshed. The 5 hours to my second swim seemed to fly by, what with supporting the other team members, eating copious amounts of pasta and porridge, drinking cups of tea (very kindly made by Kay) and enjoying the view. My second swim was uneventful but lots of fun, especially as the wind got up a bit so it became quite choppy. Then it was back on the boat for more relaxing and shouting at the other swimmers (supportively of course ;-)).

image

At some point during this period, we started getting somewhat concerned as the change in conditions had put us behind schedule. When I got in for my third swim, therefore, our official observer Den told me that I really needed to swim as fast as I could, as if we didn’t hit the French coast soon the tide would push us the other side of Calais. I looked up and Calais was bloody miles away! So no pressure then… I got in and swam as fast as I possibly could for an hour. I kept looking up to see the white cliffs of France, which sometimes seemed quite close and at other times frustratingly far away. Luckily by the time I got out, we were nearing the shore and were going to make it. It was then over to Peter, who swam us into the French beach. I was incredibly fortunate to be allowed, with Colin, to get back in the water near the end of Peter’s swim to accompany him into the beach. Setting foot on French soil/sand was a truly incredibly experience, knowing that we had swum all the way there from England.  We completed the crossing in 14:49.

image

After a quick celebration on the beach and a chat with a random French guy in tiny speedos, the three of us swam back to the boat for the three hour trip back to Dover. Everyone was over the moon to have completed the challenge, although poor Emma (our helper) was horribly sea sick so didn’t get to join in the celebrations 😦

image

When we got back to Dover, we went straight to the Swimmer’s bar at the White Horse pub to have a pint and immortalise our swim with some graffiti on the ceiling.

image

I had such an incredible experience and it was fantastic to have completed it with such great teammates, and to have raised so much sponsorship for Aspire (www.justgiving.com/katechannelrelay in case anyone would like to sponsor us post-event). I would really recommend a Channel relay for anyone who is into open-water swimming and would like an exciting challenge. Now it’s the Cosmic Rays’ turn as our friends Lisa, Hilary, Pivo and Brian (together with their team captain Parviz) take on their TWO WAY four person relay. Good luck guys!