Tag Archives: Kevin Murphy

One species, not evolved for swimming

Kevin Murphy, Trent Grimsey, Philipe Croizon, Jackie Cobell, Roger Allsop, Owen O’Keefe

Kevin, Trent, Philipe, Jackie, Roger, Owen

In order from left:

  • Kevin Murphy, The King of the Channel, with 34 Solo crossings and a multitude of swims elsewhere around the world, he also has swum longer than anyone else who has ever lived
  • Trent Grimsey, 2012 FINA World number one open water swimmer and the fastest English Channel Soloist, (who has just retired from Professional swimming)
  • Philipe Croizon, the first limbless person to Solo the English Channel
  • Jackie Cobell, the slowest English Channel Soloist, Bering Strait Relay
  • Roger Allsop, the oldest English Channel Soloist
  • Owen O’Keefe, Ireland’s youngest ever Channel Soloist, Round Jersey Male Record Holder and more

There are a few things that strike me about them.

First is that what unites them is greater than what separates them. Each of them is a Soloist. Each of them has aspired to be a Soloist. Each has felt the pain of the Channel and overcome it. Each is a member of the same small group. If you are a member of a group to achieve something which has only a twelve hundred members or so worldwide, then you can be the slowest, fastest, first or most often, prettiest, or even average and still belong.

Anyone can aspire to belong to the same group. All that differentiates these people from others in that area is desire. How much desire do you think it took Philipe or Jackie? How much for Kevin to keep going back when once is enough for most people? What about Roger attempting something people less than half his age have failed to do? Desire to succeed is what unites them.

Second is another facet of the differences, the range. If all these people exemplify some ideal of Channel swimming, not only do you NOT have an option to say: it’s ok for them, I couldn’t do it, but even better, you’ll likely fall into the very very broad middle ground. You’ll may be over 10 ten hours but under 20 hours. You may get completely average (for the Channel) weather conditions. Or you may not. You may have Force Six winds or be the fastest swimmer of your generation. There is a wide range which can accommodate you, and still, at the end, you will belong to the same species. A species that isn’t evolved for swimming, that instead used disruptive motions to progress through water, and as a consequence derives meaning from pursuing that which we weren’t evolved to tackle.

Lastly, taken as a whole, the group almost defines the limits of swimming possibility or maybe even that the limits haven’t yet been reached. They have all done something no-that by definition no-one else has. They set markers to which many more can aspire and by edging closer out onto the edge of human capability, they illuminate the way for the rest of us.

 

A selection of swimming time intervals

Clock animated

100 milliseconds: Contraction time, aka male shrinkage time in 5 degree Celsius water.

Zero, aka Go, aka Scratch: The fastest group, the elites, the last wave to go in an open water race. It’s ok to hate them.

0 seconds Rest Interval (R.I.): When you are not making your 100 max repeat times. You want to die.

1 second R.I.: It’s inevitable that this rest interval will soon become zero seconds.

1 to 3 seconds: When you come second in a race by this interval range, it’s good enough to convince yourself that you are as fast as the winner.

2 seconds R.I.: Maxed-out but holding it.

3 seconds R.I.: On a 95% set. Nothing can stop you. You are a swimming god.

4 seconds: Trent Grimsey’s average feed time for his record-setting English Channel solo.

5 seconds R.I.: Not quite enough time for water. Better finish the 1k set first.

10 seconds R.I.: You’re being lazy and sandbagging if doing repeat 100’s. Acceptable on fast 200s and slow 400s.

10 seconds: 10 seconds feeding equals 10 minutes extra swimming in the Channel.

20 seconds R.I.: Lasts 60 seconds for Masters Swimmers.

30 seconds: Considered to be a quick water entry when the temperature is under 5° Celsius.

Master’s Minute: Enough time to go to the toilet, have a drink and a quick chat. Not actually a minute.

50 seconds: The time to get to the closest swimmable arch on the Copper Coast from the beach at high tide, at Gararrus.

2 minutes and 55 seconds. The interval by which Trent Grimsey beat the previous English Channel world record.

3 minutes: The amount of time it takes sub-seven degree Celsius water to go from awful to fine. Or to kill you.

5 minutes: The period of time from the onset of despair to being told I’d made it through the tide.

<15 minutes: A fast open water kilometer.

~15 minutes: A good urination interval for marathon swims. That warm patch you swam through? Was mine.

27 minutes: From my house to the Guillamenes car park.

60 minutes public pool evening open session: A lifetime in hell.

1 hour: The longest swim from France back to the pilot boat, after a Channel swim was over. (My claim to fame).

1 hour: the amount of time open water swimmers start swimming as soon as the water temperature rises to 10° Celsius.

1 hour: Remember all those long feeds you took? Another hour to the Cap.

1 hour and 55 minutes-ish: Approximate time of Olympic 10k open water swim for Male swimmers.

2 hours-ish: Until you reach the Cap. Unless …

3 to 5 hours: Sandycove Island Torture Swim.

6 hours: Minimum English Channel qualification swim.

6 to 10 hours: Sandycove Island Swim Club Channel qualification swims.

6 hours and 15 minutes: The approximate duration of single tide.

6 hours 55 minutes: Trent Grimsey’s 2012 English Channel record

10 to 12 hours: Starting-level weekly training times for Channel swimmers

13 to 18 hours: the range of “average” English channel solo crossings.

15 to 25 hours: “Proper” English Channel weekly training hours.

17 hours and 14 minutes: Suzie Maroney’s record Two-way English Channel.

21 hours and 45 minutes: the first successful English Channel swim time.

>24 hours: The small group of open water swimmer who have swum continuously for more than 24 hours.

28 hours and 21 minutes: Phil Rush’s record Three-way English Channel solo.

28 hours and 44 minutes: Jackie Cobell’s record-setting English Channel Solo.

Exactly 36 hours: Lisa Cummins two-way English Channel solo, on her first attempt.

52 hours and 30 minutes: Kevin Murphy’s record for the longest continuous-time open water swim on his three-way English channel attempt.

8 days: The usual length of a neap tide for most Solo Channel swims.

22 days, 2 hours and 13 minutes: The cumulative time Kevin Murphy has spent actually swimming the English Channel, just on his successful Solo swims.

27.3 days: The duration of a sidereal lunar month which determines tides.animated tides

4 and a half months: The English Channel swim season.

2 years: Duration an English Channel CS&PF swim counts as a qualification for a Manhattan Island Marathon Island entry.

2 to 3 years: Current wait for a preferred English tide and pilot.

38 years: The interval between Kevin Murphy’s first and most recent successful English Channel Solos.

70 years and 147 days: Age of Roger Allsop at the time he set the record for the oldest successful English Channel solo.

82 years. How long the Newtown and Guillamenes swimming club safely has stewarded the Coves before the recent blight on the location.

83 years. How long the Newtown and Guillamenes swimming club is in operation.

138 years: Duration since Captain Matthew Webb swam the English Channel and started this Channel swimming nonsense.

Eternity: The time since the last feed. The time until the next feed, or the Cap.

Both North Channel routes

Guest article – Wayne Soutter’s historic & new North Channel route swim report – Part 1

I’m delighted to have another historic swim report for you to read.

Toward the end of August (2012) just passed, Wayne Soutter, originally from South Africa, contacted the Channel Chat group, looking for any last-minute thoughts or advice on his attempt to swim the never-before successfully swam Mull of Kintyre to Ballycastle route, instead of the only other route that’s previously been swam, the Mull of Galloway route.

Both North Channel routes

There were key responses from two-time English Channel Soloist and Northern Irishman Jim Boucher, Mike Oram, (English Channel pilot), and The King, Kevin Murphy, who has swam the North Channel three times, and considers it the toughest swim in the world.

Kevin said: “The reason the Mull of Kintyre swim was never done is because it’s much narrower than Donaghadee-Portpatrick. That means there’s a lot of water passing through a relatively narrow gap and conventional thinking has been that the tides’ are too strong – that and the fact that mile for mile the North Channel is already about as tough as anybody wants it. But Mull of Kintyre route is there to be done. Love to see it conquered.

The Mull of Kintyre tidal current map above. Tides are strong thoughout the whole strait, as indicated by the larger black arrows, with particularly strong currents at both sides.

Mike’s post was interesting:

I have looked at your question reference wind for this area but it’s a hard one to answer.

The wind is a minor part of the problem you are taking on and quoting a wind speed will be of absolutely no benefit to you, unless I say – flat calm. [...] I would say go in light winds and with the direction being nothing prominent – but that’s very unlikely so listen to your pilot.
 
The crossing is surrounded by land a lot of which is very uneven and mostly of solid rock. This has a big influence on the local conditions and will mean you will have very localised wind conditions and direction because of the land masses and also an added consideration for the  possible temperature differential between the land and the water. These can create both land and sea-breezes to add or subtract from the ambient wind force. The wind will be changing in speed and direction with your position as it will be dependant on the closest headland and open water areas, even if it is the same direction as the tide. There is also your swim speed to consider as that will determine the tidal pattern you are fitting into. The direction and speed of the tidal flow will be giving quite serious problems depending on if it is with or against the wind. The Tide is basically North North West to South South East direction in general changing every 6 hours or so. However around the Mull of Kintyre and all the other headland and bays (I use that word lightly) it is multi-directional and basically a mess. There is a venture effect as the wind is forced through the small gap that is the entrance/ exit from the Irish sea plus the wind direction when it is flowing in the sea areas between the headlands.
The Irish side of the Channel has strong tides (3 knots plus on the bottom of Neaps & 4.5 knots plus on the Spring tide for the middle hours of tidal flow).
The Mull of Kintyre is well know[n] for it’s overfalls and seriously congested seas for most of the tidal flows regardless of the direction – the overfalls just move North or South when the tide changes. The area has a small craft warning reference these overfalls that are present in various degrees of ferocity for 10 to 11 of the tidal pattern. It is an area know[n] for its negative tides travelling around the headland and meeting the general flow This is a negative tide as far as a crossing to Ireland is concerned as the tidal flow is back towards Scotland both north and south of the point. It might look the shortest route but I doubt if it is when to tidal direction is taken into account – (unless you are swimming from Ireland to the Mull), It will be a hard 10 miles to concur in a not very hospitipal [sic] place with a narrow, busy shipping lane thrown in and a big island (Rathlin Island) just to make sure your arrival in Ireland is not too easy.
Intimidating, to say the least. Over-falls, you ask? These are more generally known as standing waves, most often seen in rivers flowing over rock, a sign of very fast-moving water and difficult conditions.
Standing wave in the North Channel, seen from a boat bow.

A very brief history first. The first successful North Channel swim was the Portpatrick – Donaghahee route by Englishman Tom Blower in 1947, on his second attempt. The Mull of Kintyre route was previously attempted four times by Englishwoman Mercedes Gleitze. Both Blower and Gleitze were English Channel soloists, at a time when there were less than 20 English Channel soloers. Gleitze was also the first person to swim the Gibraltar Straits.

The North Channel, aka the Mouth of Hell is noted for cold air and colder water, tough tidal currents, and not least often huge blooms of stinging Lion’s Mane jellyfish. Only 12 13 swimmers from over 90 attempts have successfully swum it in the 80 years since the first attempt.

A further complication to Wayne’s swim, was that because the route is six hours steaming north of the usual route, he would not have either of the two existing North Channel pilots.

I’ll be spitting the swim report into two parts. The swim is told from the viewpoint of both Wayne and his crew chief.

Two Golden Rules of Open Water and/or Marathon Swims

During the recent Diana Nyad swimming circus, and some discussions around the place and online, I went for a swim. And we know what happens out there, don’t we? Yeah, stupid ideas.

Captain Matthew Webb, Dover Memorial

On the marathonswimmers forum there was an excellent suggestion that we (an unaligned but traditional-rules-following group of marathon swimmers) agree some guidelines for media reporting of marathon swims. These would mainly detail what the basic criteria of a marathon swim are and which guidelines a swim is following, (for example whether English Channel, English Channel-derived like Cook Strait or MIMS or non- English Channel and how assistance, wetsuits, stage swims etc should be reported). And all that’s fine and all agreed.

But I thought about the expression “if you are explaining you are losing”. The media never cares about complexity, about the specifics of a particular pursuit. In swimming nothing crystallizes this fact more than the Diana Nyad affair. Complicated messages are lost, nuance is invisible, subtlety means nothing. So the idea that came to me while swimming was a simple Golden Rules of Open Water/Marathon Swimming. Yeah, I’m still not good with names.

We need some way to unify all these various types of swims, marathon swims under traditional rules, wetsuit and other assisted swims, stage swims, adventures swims etc. I think it is the confusion between these different types that causes the practitioners to be both misunderstood and angry, often at each other (this includes me, see my opening line above).

  • What is the minimum information that could or should be conveyed about a swim?

While swimming I came up with Three Golden Rules. I didn’t write them down when I got home that night so when I went back the next day to write, I couldn’t remember the three, only two, and I took that as a good design indicator.

The scientist and author Isaac Asimov was once asked what the maximum amount of information you could impart to a later generation about the world if you only had one short sentence to do it. So I asked myself: What is the least amount of information required to explain any type marathon swim, whether English Channel rules at one end, or a wetsuited relay stage swim with an elephant and Mongolian* swimmers only named Bataar at the other end?

How about another mention of Isaac Asimov: “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

I propose that only that Two Golden Rules are required:

  1. The swimmer/organisation must fully disclose** all the rules and criteria of the swim beforehand.
  2. If the swim is be recognised somehow, then the swim must have trusted Independent Observation for verification that the swim meets these stated rules. (And the participants must be fully cognizant of all the rules).

Rule One is of course a bit of a kludge, because it allows for further sub-rules. But if the swimmer is under this geas***, then we all can appreciate and support every swim for what is (or isn’t). If the swimmer follows this rule, then the media at least stand some chance of conveying an accurate framework. When I wrote last year that I had no further interest in Diana Nyad, that was because she essentially cheated her supporters and followers by misleading them about what her swim was.

Rule Two is just as vital. As I’ve found myself writing a few times in the last week, independent observation and verification is at the heart of marathon swimming. Many swims do not have Independent Observers because they are outside the auspices of any organisation or framework.

Let’s say you want to do a new swim around South Georgia Island. Since there is no South Georgia swim Association, whom you need for Verification is a registered swimming club member “in good standing” as the phrase used to go. Verification protects all swimmers from false swim claims. Verification is literally the most important protection we have, so people can’t claim to swim the North Channel, I was out on a training swim and I just decided to keep going****.

However the observer must be Independent. For most of us this isn’t a concern, we are low-rent, no-one has any particular interest in us. But if you are doing a high-profile swim for charity or just self-publicity like Diana Nyad, then your Observer can’t be involved in promoting, sponsoring or otherwise being part of the team. Can you know the swimmer? Of course. Practically speaking there aren’t enough marathon swimmers and observers in the world that everyone must be unknown to each other. Independent Observation ensures we all can celebrate honestly our own AND others swims, secure in at least some kind of impartiality. You can tell all your friends you swam the North Channel but without the ratification of an Independent observer you are humming in a hurricane.

When I showed up on the Dover slip, it was astonishing and humbling that my Official Observer should turn out to be one of the world’s greatest ever swimmers, the King of the Channel, Kevin Murphy. Kevin is byword for both integrity in Observation, and for doing what he can for a swim to succeed, while staying within the rules. He will advise crews, berate pilots, dictate to swimmers. All perfectly legal. My Channel swim would not have completed as the boat could not have gotten close enough. So Kevin swam in and saw me stand up on dry land. (And then made me get back in and swim back to the boat before I’d even begun to comprehend what happened. due to the danger of the situation).

These two rules are a bit like the old school-work rule:

Say what you are going to do, then do it, then show that you did it.

Nothing Great is Easy: That should be a guideline as well as an assertion.

* This blog still hasn’t any readers from Mongolia. Mongoliaaaa!

** Publish, disseminate, circulate, explain.

*** Old Irish term for a magically-imposed inviolate prohibition or commitment. I’d wave a dead chicken over my head, hop on one leg, and cast a spell if I thought it’d stop people misleading the public about swimming.

**** This has actually happened, a claim to have swum the North Channel with no Observation because the swimmer claimed they on a training swim and just kept going. The Irish media never once questioned the claim.

Related articles

No one swims to France by accident – Channel Season & Channel Fever

For some, there is no greater sporting event than the English Channel. Sporting event isn’t even a good description. The Australian surfer Nat Young once said the worst thing to happen surfing was that surfing was seen as a sport instead of art. Similarly, for most swimmers, Channel swimming should be thought more as a prolonged life-change than some short duration swimming event. It is a unique fascination of which millions dream, (every Soloist will tell you of the multiple times they hear this), who dream it without knowing why nor or of what they dream and it goes beyond swimmers to the whole world.

Few phrases in the entire canon of sporting terminology reach out to others like “I’m going to swim the English Channel”, more even than “I’ve swum the Channel”. Few phrases convey absolute commitment in the same way and the bonds that exist between Channel swimmers tend to reflect this. Those words express more than most people understand, a desire to go not just up to but beyond personal physical and mental limits. Something in the idea of swimming the Channel conveys transcendence, of someone aspiring outside the normal, maybe outside themselves.

One hundred and thirty-seven years since Captain Webb’s Solo, eighty-seven since Gertrude Ederle’s; (a swim that had at least if not more effect on the global awareness of Channel swimming, simply because she was woman doing what was considered impossible, and she was photographed); ideals of Channel swimming still exist beyond most modern adventure and extreme sports. Channel swimming itself now transcends the English Channel and includes the Catalina, Gibraltar, Molokai, North, Cook, Tsugaru and other Channels.

Channel swimming is carried out in private. It’s mostly done away from public visibility. Sure, if you are connected with or following a Channel swim you’ll follow GPS trackers and Twitter, get SMS messages and even see uploaded images. But a Channel swim happens as much inside the swimmer’s mind, when they take the decision, during the long training and in the fear and excitement before they step into the water, as it does at the point at which Kevin Murphy said to me: “You swim and you swim until you are tired or exhausted. And only then it gets hard”. No GPS tracker or Tweet conveys what a swimmer is going through in the second, third or later tide. Even those familiar with the various Channels; swimmers, crew, friends and family, can only vaguely imagine it, and it is that imagining, the attempt to extrapolate from a series of dots on a computer screen or chart and project ourselves to the brutal reality of the Channel, or any Channel, that is Channel Fever, when the Channel Dream becomes Channel Reality. Therefore Channel fever afflicts more than swimmers.

No one swims to France by accident.

In Channel swimming we know that everyone who gets to the other side deserves it. Every single one. And many who also deserve tom don’t get there. And that is also part of Channel Fever.

This one is for all the Irish Channel Dreamers this week, English, Tsugaru and North, and all those with Channel Fever whenever, whomever and wherever you are.

roz cropped

New CS&PF website launches today – “Welcome to our world”

The Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation, one for the only two ratifying organisations for English Channel swimming launches its new website later today, at 6pm GMT (11 am EST, 2 am AUS). (If you follow the link before then, you won’t get the new website).

CS&PF President Nick Adams, himself a multiple Channel soloist, two-way Solo and more relays than he can remember, and Triple Crown swimmer, and a migration team have helped to bring to life this new website which will inherit the place held by the venerable but dated channelswimming.net.

There’s a very nice new CS&PF logo, I look forward to seeing it on some Soloist swim caps in the future. It stresses the necessary and absolute partnership between  swimmer and pilot. (El Presidente Nick has promised me a beer, I wonder if I could a get a new swim cap instead or just that guest post I keep mentioning … what the hell, why not both? :-) ).

There a few things I especially like, such as putting Captain Webb‘s (possibly apocryphal) comment right up front. It’s a motto that means an awful lot for some of us, (like myself). The more difficult your Channel swim, the more you will embrace it, (you’ll have seen it around here before).

The front page, in what are perfect choices, has photographs of Roz Hardiman and Freda Streeter. For anyone who’s visited Swimmer’s Beach in Dover, especially when the locals are around, Roz will be familiar. She is a legend in Dover, a successful Soloist, who swam without the use of her legs, AND as Kevin Murphy pointed out, without any compensating aid.

And Freda of course is integral to the whole world of English Channel swimming. One sentence or paragraph is hardly sufficient, but there are probably as many Freda anecdotes as there are Channel swimmers.

But there’s more than just bling. The site has everything you need for your first encounter with the ridiculous, insane and obsessive world of English Channel swimming. The pilot and their boats and contact details, training and nutrition advice, the CS&PF Committee and contact details for those also, the venerated 136 year old Channel Swimming rules, (which are the worldwide standard for marathon swimmers), the 2011 swim lists, a couple of Swimmer’s Stories, with more to come (Nick is badgering me for mine, but I haven’t even put it on my own site), updated current Sandettie Lightship weather reading (over on my links also) and more. It’s a veritable cornucopia of delight. And with updated news and event, reason for the old hands and Channel Alumni to visit as well as the Aspirants and the dreamers.

And what is very important, is the unfortunate list of the Channel swimming fatalities. Too many people approach the Channel with overconfidence or lack of necessary humility and fear  (something that greatly annoys many Channel swimmers). Those six people gave their lives in pursuit of the dream and it is correct they should be honoured.

As it says, buried deep in a page, Welcome to our world.

English Channel swimming has a new home on the ‘net.

Come on in, Channel swimming will change your life.

EDIT: Yes,I know. Nick is not happy with the hosting company.

Former GB International swimmer and EC soloist, Nuala Muir-Cochrane, on a life swimming & changing to open water

From Pool to Open Water

I started swimming before I started school, in fact I can’t remember not being able to swim. I swam competitively in Leeds reaching a high level, 1977: achieving English record -1500 free, 1978:  representing GB at the European Juniors – 400 free , 1979-1981: GB senior international – 400 & 800 free……….all in a pool !!! 

I rarely swam outdoors and never in lakes. I really hated anything touching my feet and wasn’t that keen on cold water! After a long break from any swimming, I began swimming masters in 1997  and once again started to compete in a pool, sometimes outdoors, but still in a pool. The FINA world Masters in 2000 were in Munich and my roommate was doing the 5K open water so I decided I would give it a go ….well I managed to win my age group and thought “hey this is OK!” (the course was a rowing venue). At the next two FINA world masters (2002 and 2004), I again did pool events and also the open water event, which I won on both occasions – they were both sea swims but very calm! I treated these races like pool races and raced straight to the front of the pack and hung on there for dear life. They were only 3K, but they definitely gave me a feel for open water swimming.

In 2006, I was still racing in the pool but started to get bored, many of my goals had been reached and I needed a new challenge. A chance conversation with Lucy Roper (a seasoned open water swimmer) while waiting for a 1500 race in Swansea’s 50m pool got me interested in the Channel. I had long debates with myself about the Channel but didn’t think I would ever be able to do it as I hated swimming in the sea, hated slimey things touching me, hated the dark and got really bad sea-sickness ……. However, another part of me was fascinated with the journey it would take me on and I thought if not now…………when??

800 free FINA World Masters Riccioni 2004 9.34 Gold Masters Euro Record

The 2006 FINA World Masters in Stanford was a mixture of amazing racing in the pool and a superb 3K open water swim in San Francisco bay – it was a great course…… silky smooth at the start, then into waves and then a wind pushing you in at the finish. It was exhilarating and that was when I said to myself “I want to swim to France”.

I was invited to swim in the Lough Erne Relay in June 2007. This was to be my first real open water experience and it involved swimming in the dark – so I had to conquer one of my fears! It was great to be amongst seasoned open water swimmers – but I was such a novice! At this early stage, I realised how different open water swimming was from pool swimming. Everyone was so encouraging – it was never about how fast you swam, it was all about COMPLETION …this was all very different for me . I had numerous years of pool swimming, when I always swam to win – no matter what. 

During 2007, I was Middlesex County President and I presented an award to Kevin Murphy, who is a member of a Middlesex club. We got talking about swimming, as you do, and I mentioned my plans to swim 2-way Windermere. After he enquired about my swimming history, he said open water is very different, harder than you can imagine, pool swimmers find the transition very hard…etc etc. I got the feeling he didn’t think I could do it…..andthat was like  red rag to a bull ……!

In August 2007, I took part in the BLDSA 2-way Windermere (21 miles). This was to be my biggest test so far. In the months leading up to this swim I had been training in the pool (to keep some speed) and also doing long, continuous swims in the open-air Lido at Parliament Hill. It is an amazing Lido – unheated, open all year round, 60 metres long and 27 metres wide. This training served me well – after 10 hours 34 minutes, I completed the gruelling 21 mile swim. It was hard in so many ways – the darkness, the mind games I had to deal with, the cold, and the doubts and of course the fear. My crew was great as the conditions for them were tough (it poured all night) and only five out of twelve swimmers finished. I can honestly say I was so scared during the whole swim, never before had I been scared whilst swimming and the unknown whether I would actually finish the swim was very alien to me. In the pool I had always known that I would be able complete the race whether it be a 1500m  free, 400IM or even 200 fly – all these events I had swum as a youngster and also as a masters swimmer – but this was so very different.

At this point, it dawned on me that I was actually OK at this open water swimming thing and that I would swim the channel and I would reach France. 

It's gonna be a long swim

On July 26th 2008, I landed on the beach at Wissant, France. I had done what I had set out to do. The time didn’t matter. I had completed the task in hand. Some aspects of the swim hadn’t gone to plan, but that rarely happens in open water swims. 

How does this compare to my pool swimming accomplishments? In my eyes, you simply can’t compare the two. Since the Channel, I have completed Lake Zurich and numerous other lake and sea swims. I continue to train in the Lido and the indoor pool. I have gone back to pool racing during the winter months, but am struggling to feel the same sense of accomplishment. In the pool I have achieved some great times and set some great Masters records…….but there are so many great open water swims for me to complete….so I think my heart is still in open water swimming ………for the moment anyway!

They say that mastering the channel is 20% swimming ability and 80% psychological. Never a truer statement has been made and I believe this also applies to the majority of open water swims. 

“Success or failure is caused more by mental attitude than by mental capacity” – Walter Scott 

You’ll find more details of some of my open water swims at http://swimnualaswim.blogspot.com/

Nuala is also on Twitter where you can pick up some great coaching tips or really tough sets from her! Thanks for a great article Nuala.

Celebration Pint