Finally! Zuzka is feeling better, this morning she will do a test swim again in the harbour, and tomorrow morning we will be off to France! Amazing: Eddie had suggested the 30th right from the start, and now we are back on that date again! He still had a swimmer in the afternoon of the day we were not ready, so everything is fine.
Here the link again to our pilot boat Anastasia, for those who want to follow our route via the satellite tracker. We expect to swim until after midnight, into Oct. 1st, depending on how difficult it will be to get across the tidal currents off the French coast at our speed: www.ais-doverstraits.co.uk (if you enlarge the map and click on the individual tracking marks, they give you the respective position and time).
Channel quartett with helper - Zuzka, Abhejali, Jayalata, Viktoria, Vasanti
Around midnight of the 26th/27th Eddie called us from the middle of the Channel. Another swim had to be ‘abandoned’ midway, and he would be back in time to be able to take us around 4 a.m. of the 27th – the day we had secretly hoped to be able to swim on but not really expected. Lowest tide, perfect weather, sun predicted. We had everything ready, had gone to bed early – but Zuzka is still feeling weak and is coughing. Still, we went ahead, booked the taxi to take us down from Varne Ridge to the harbour (they were so busy with all the swimmers going out this night/morning), sent out messages to friends, took our sealeg pills and put the kettle and pots on for hot water and pasta for the boat.
But somehow it did not feel right. Zuzka was clearly afraid. Her breathing was not back to normal and she felt one or two more rest days would make a difference. The other option was a 3-person relay. After my experience last year, where I did not listen to my inner feeling, we decided to call Eddie again. When he heard Zuzka would be sad not to be part of the relay but very likely be fine in one or two days, he said he did not want her to feel sad and she should be able to swim since she had been training so hard and in fact it was ‘her’ relay.
So we cancelled the taxi, sent more sms-es – and were very happy about this turn of events. The weather is supposed to hold – and we want to swim with the whole team!
As I am writing this, other swimmers staying at the caravan park are getting ready to start their swim around 3-4 a.m. on one of the best days for swimming of the year. One special heroic person is also out today: Ros, a lady with polio, who had to abandon her swim last year after 25 hours in the Channel in difficult conditions and strong tides. Now she finally got a real chance.
The weather is amazing – there is one swim after the other. Today our pilot is out with position no 2 on Anastasia, the two-way swim, they just missed the cap and the current is carrying them a little off, but they might land soon. The forecast is looking good until the 30th – enough time to get us off, hopefully. Air temperature is dropping a bit, near Calais at night down to 10-12°C, but the water is still around 17°C.
A slovak swimmer, helped by a friend of our swimmers, is going out this morning. (The beach and Varne Ridge have been like a huge international family again, even this late in the season.)
Zuzka is fighting a cold, successfully it seems, and Viktoria’s inflamed ear is pretty fine now. We are trying not to do anyting foolish, eat a lot, sleep a lot, train a little – the typical ‘triathlon’ programme. And of course some meditation and prayers for the good weather to stay – for all the swimmers on this tide as well as the left-over ones from earlier tides! Thanks for all the good wishes from so many parts of the world!
Dover beach - with Channel aspirants 2010 in background
Wednesday morning, Sept. 23rd:
Abhejali and Zuzka – getting Maxim from Freda
Our tide starts tonight, but not only has Eddie 4 swims booked on this tide, and we are in 4th position, but we discovered that one swim is a two-way! So that would be 5 swims on this tide – which to me seems absolutely irresponsible towards the swimmers since as a rule it is hard to even get 3 or 4 swims done on one tide. But he told Suzka he was confident it would work out. Luckily the weather forecast is absolutely great for the next few days until the 27th, and some swimmers or relays are even going out today at noon. Plus it is a long tide.
However, we could not reach Eddie so far this morning and have no idea if he is still taking left over swimmers from the last tide or starting with the new tide swimmers today.Two helpers are coming in the afternoon, then we are ready to go, but the weather is so calm, I am sure the other swimmers before us would want to keep their positions and swim first.
Successful swims on the spring tide
Meeting Chloe after her swim on the beach
Swim Map of Lisa Cummins’ amazing double crossing Sept. 19/20 2009
Over the weekend, on a the highest spring tide of the year, a huge number of successful swims have taken place after the last neap tide was totally blown out by the weather. On Saturday 19th at least 9 boats went out – all the swimmers made it, and more on Sunday and Monday, including a Jersey relay with Sally Minty-Gravett. Lisa Cummins from Ireland did her absolutely fantastic and awesome double crossing on Sept. 19th/20th in 35 hours something, without having ever done a solo! We could watch her boat from Varne Ridge through the binoculars around 30 hours, pushed westward by the tides and heading towards Dungeness. Chloe McCardel, the top marathon swimmer from Australia, who also wanted to do a two-way without having done a solo before, had to be taken out after 25 hours that ended up in very difficult conditions. Still a brilliant effort – and she will be back next year, I heard! Her problem also was that all her helpers had already gone back to Australia!
Visit to Canterbury
So yesterday after swimming 30 min. to 1:45 h individually, we spent the afternoon in Canterbury – my first visit to this amazing gothic cathedral – including some cappuchino, milkshake etc. at a nice little coffee place.
Taking the Euroline bus to Dover at midnight, arriving in the morning – looking forward to that first icy dip in Dover harbour on Saturday and meeting the rest of our 4 person relay team!
Weather seems to be improving, Lisa and Chloe are hoping to do their double attempts on the spring tide Sunday/Monday after the whole last tide was blown out by the weather.
My training has been moderate – 2 hours lake (beautiful crisp early September morning swim with sun glitters dancing on the ripples and hardly a soul around) on Saturday, 3 hours in the pool on overcast on Sunday (felt colder, but still 21°C), last day for the unheated pool, with a big cramp in my right calf towards the end! Nutrition has not been too careful this year. Then 1 hours swims in the heated pool (27°C) and lots of cold showers.
Our window officially opens on the 24th (till Oct. 1st). With no swims last tide I suppose even if the 23rd is swimmable, there will be other swimmers still waiting.
Our boat Anastasia can be followed by satellite tracker. We’ll be staying again at Varne Ridge with internet access and all.
I am fat!
Now I have the weight that would have made all the difference last year – 10 kg more. It feels uncomfortable for running, and I have run very little since Basel in May, but swimming gives strength to the whole body and my legs are still strong. Soon, when it gets cooler, I will start again. I remember, in 1985 I did my fastest 2 miles ever when I was heaviest – right after the Channel! (O.k., my fastest marathon, the only sub 4, came when I had lost 20 kg again and had been biking 1 hour a day for 3 months .)
The funny thing is, I have been appreciating the “blubber” around my waist and over my kidneys – knowing how precious it will be to protect me during my probably 15 hour plus swim next year. But then, to carry it around for all those months, now that the indoor pool season will soon start again … Should I try to loose some? But then it may be hard to get it back in time when the training is getting more intense! Or would it be enough to train more in cold water over the winter? No, as a slower swimmer I need some more fat.
Surprise-SMS: Invitation to Dover – for a relay on the tide starting Sept. 24
For now the answer is clear: I may need the “blubber” soon. My intuition for September was right. Friends from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in the Czech Republic who were planning a 3 person relay lost a swimmer. So 2 days ago, late at night, I got an SMS asking if I wanted to step in. Probably we will be four now, with a girl from Iceland also joining, an experienced cold water swimmer – maybe a future solo aspirant!
Our pilot will be Eddie Spelling, and we are only 4th place. But relays can go when solo swimmers might turn an offer down because the conditions don`t look too good. The main challenge for a relay is – telling from our 1989 experience – to avoid getting seasick on the boat. Or, if you do get seasick, to still continue to be able to jump back in into the cold and maybe the dark.
In 1989 we were a 6 person-relay and the best time was when we were allowed to swim. One hour is barely enough to get into the “zone”, and on the boat it was only suffering. Lying down on our backs was the only position to survive. I don`t remember eating much (potatoes?), but luckily it was sunny and pretty calm. At that time I was convinced to never ever do a relay again. Too little swimming. But this is different now – touch base again for next year!
Friends had blown a relay in 1985 when they got seasick already on their way to the start in France. Nowadays starts from France are no longer possible, but in “ancient” times, swim direction would depend on the wind. They started swimming from France into the night in pretty nasty conditions. At one point one swimmer got hit by the boat when it was lifted out of the water by a big wave and fell back on his shoulder. On a sick stomach, feeling cold and terrible if not terrified, one team member just couldn`t deal with it anymore and refused to get back into the black cold waves – and that was it for the relay.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Gale force at Wissant bay, France, Sept. 3rd, 2009
The weather right now in Dover is horrible – no attempts at all during this tide, with winds up to gale force. I think we will be very lucky to get a chance at all!
Tomorrow morning 2 hour lake swim* – luckily the air temperature here has dropped to 12-16 °C in the mornings, but the water will still be much too warm. Ice baths at home will be needed now. Then Dover harbour starting on the 20th, hopefully. Our tide is from Sept. 24th to Oct. 1st. We will be staying at Varne Ridge, like last year. I am really excited to get back to Dover!
(*was 2.5 h, wrist is holding, tendonitis seems over, but just strong enough for a relay)