Click to see the You Tube video
August 13th, the day Karteek completed his 10th Channel crossing in 16 h 49 min, Julianne Galloway from Dublin, Ireland, “blasted” across the Channel in the fastest time for a woman’s solo this year so far: 9 hours 51. Start: 2:20 a.m.
Her captivating report can be found on her blog, here just 2 paragraphs:
“…The first hour was, for lack of a better word, hell. It was very choppy and I was swimming in pitch black water with mirrored goggles (Naive mistake number 2). What was I thinking!? The boat kept feeling like it was going to crash into me, and I felt very lost swimming next to it. It wasn’t so bad swimming at night, I wasn’t scared or anything, but it was so incredibly hard to navigate breathing and the like because I could not see the waves coming toward me. Usually, when it’s light, if I see a wave I may not breathe, or if I get water in my mouth, I can spit it out. Well this time water was going everywhere, and I felt like I was thrashing the waves…”
Getting closer – or what?
“…France was getting closer and closer, but still seemed quite far away. I was trying to gauge how much I had left, so at 8 hours, I asked if I’d 2 more to go. They didn’t seem happy with this question! Lance yelled at me to stop chatting and just swim. I kind of snarled at him and took off, wanting to know how much left I had. It’s not that I wanted to give up. I wanted to know where I was in this mad thing! I couldn’t tell if I had a kilometre, a mile, 5 miles or even 3 nautical miles left. (Naive mistake number 4- wtf is a nautical mile? I kept trying to remember Mike Oram’s emails describing all this information I should have learned by this point, but nothing solid came from my noggin.) So I quoted Nemo for the 5000th time, and said ‘Just keep swimming’.” more
Very happy Channel swimmer!
Miyuki Fujita with Channel friend Margit Bohnhoff 2008 in Dover
Miyuki from Japan, little “Japanese Channel Queen” with 7 crossings now, was also waiting for favourable conditions to attempt her first double crossing. I had the pleasure of meeting her (and her friend Margit Bonhoff) and swim with her in Dover harbour last year. She is sweet, humble, funny and “totally crazy” about the Channel (in her own words). But for days and days the weather did not offer a larger window for a 2-way swim.
Afraid to have to fly back to Japan without even getting her feet wet, she finally went out in less than perfect conditions shortly after midnight on August 3rd with Neil Streeter as her pilot, Alison (Queen of the Channel) Streeter’s brother.
Miyuki, Ishii and Margit, training and waiting in Dover weather last year
While she completed 5 of her 6 previous solos in 14 hours or less, she would need 17 hours 18 min for the first leg this year with the wind against her most of the time. Determined to not give up, she still turned round after touching French ground to give her all to the second leg, even though the prospects were not encouraging at all and she had to swim through the night again. She swam valiantly for a total of 29.5 hours, refusing to give in to tiredness, feelings of hoplessness, the cold etc., but had to be taken out of the water after getting a bad cramp in her leg a few miles away from Dover.
This is Miyuki’s story in her own words:
“The English Channel Swim Report 2009
I always wanted to be the best and do something unusual so I aimed to
complete the two-way crossing, not just one way, as no Japanese person has ever successfully swum the two-way Channel crossing.
On my first attempt, I had to stop after ten hours due to thigh pain and I didn’t finish even one-way. A week later, I had another
opportunity to swim the one-way. I swam for 17hours 35minutes but had to give up just 3km from the French coast.
My respected Freda then gave me some good advice, “When you swim the Channel crossing, you shouldn’t look ahead. It makes you feel as if your goal is very far away and that you still have much further to swim so it is mentally harder to keep going. Also, you shouldn’t stop because by doing this you will be drifted by the tide and have to swim further. You shouldn’t do anything which will be disadvantageous to you. You should try the one way swim again.” It was in 2004.
The next year, I began training again for the one-way swim and followed Freda’s advice. Since then, I have successfully completed the one way crossing six times.
This year, I went back to Dover again. I felt ready for to attempt the two-way swim. I planned to stay in Dover for 35 days and waited nervously for the big day. Neil, the boat pilot, would choose the day with the best weather conditions for the swim. The other swimmers had gone to swim one after another and everybody kept asking me when I was going to swim but the days passed and I still had no idea when I would get to swim.
I started to feel very frustrated but I could not do anything but wait and trust Neil to pick a good day. For the two-way swim, we would need two consecutive fine days. It was possible that the weather conditions would not permit me to swim because the weather was constantly changing. I told Neil that if the two-way was not possible, I still intended to swim at least one way before flying back to Japan.
At last, one week before I was due to leave England and go back to Japan, Freda told me that I would be able to swim on the next Monday or Tuesday. I was so happy because I had been waiting such a long time for this chance and could not stop crying.
On Monday, I was on the beach with Jenni, an observer when Neil called her to say that we should all meet at the marina at 19:00 that evening for my two-way challenge! I was overjoyed. I was going to attempt the two way swim! I was so pleased that Jenni would also be coming on the boat with me as my observer. I got my thing ready for the swim, had a massage and went to bed for a nap. At last the time for my big challenge had come!
Our boat was called Suva. Once on board, I applied the Channel grease to my body. When the boat came close to Shakespeare Beach, Ishii, my coach farted. Everybody on the ship started to laugh and the atmosphere became very relaxed. Even when I was swimming in the dark, I remembered it and laughed. It was nice to have a funny thought to make me smile whilst I was swimming, particularly when it became dark.
That night I started swimming from Shakespeare Beach. I was familiar with the currents around the beach from my previous swims but, for some reason, on this occasion I kept drifting so that every time I looked up I saw the same scenery. I worried that I might not be moving forward at all and was scared by a big red jelly fish that brushed my arm, stinging me.
After about 40 minutes, saltwater filled my goggles. I had already tested the goggles in the water but the waves pushed the water in. My eyes started to sting. I knew from my previous experiences that the eyes are very important to a long distance swimmer so I changed my goggles when I stopped for my feeding.
I am used to swimming at night but I still felt sleepy. Suddenly, I was surprised by some people screaming. They were a relay team who had already finished their swim and were on the way back to Dover. Their support encouraged me a lot.
Swimming into the French side, I started to struggle with the high waves. Some were as big as 2m. The sea always tends to be rough
towards France and the currents are very fast.
Morning came and as it got brighter, I began to wake up a bit. By this point, I was really enjoying swimming even in the rough waters but I realized that France was still far away after 14 hours of swimming. I usually swim one way in 14 hours but Ishii told me that this time I would have to swim for another four hours to reach France. I realized that I must have drifted a long way off course when I was swimming near Dover and kept seeing the same scenery.
Miyuki says she loves swimming in big waves - like here in Japan
Consequently, it took me 17hours 18minutes to swim just one-way. I told Ishii that it would be impossible to finish two-way because the first leg had taken too long but he encouraged me to swim a little longer. I swam for three more hours before I asked him if I could give up. Ishii said that the weather conditions were going to become better so there would be no wind or waves so I had better keep swimming as such good conditions were very rare. He told me that I could complete the swim in just eight more hours in such favorable conditions.
I was determined to swim for another eight hours. I tried very hard, spurred on by the though that my dream of swimming the two-way Channel crossing was about to come true. My husband, the pilot, my colleagues, everybody would be delighted! What would I do if TV reporters were waiting for me at Narita airport? What would I do next after my dream had come true? Maybe I could try to swim the one-way ten times! Or perhaps I should try to become the oldest Channel swimmer! Pondering over these random things, I pushed myself to continue swimming.
My body ached and I wanted to give up many time but I kept my arms moving.
Night came again and it became cold but I didn’t stop. I saw the lights of England as I swam closer and closer to England.
I drank another feeding and said to the people on the boat that I could not swim any more but they told me to keep trying. I screamed and my voice echoed in the darkness over Channel.
It was the first time that my body was chilled to my very bones and even my wrists started to ache.
I gave up about 5 hours from England (about 4 miles). I was mentally and physically exhausted. I could not swim the last five hours.
I recalled my first Channel swim. That time, I was also unable to swim the last few hours. I could see the white houses on the French coast but just could not swim. I realized that I had not followed Freda’s good advice. I had looked ahead and convinced myself that the end was too far away for me to keep swimming. If I had continued to swim very slowly, I might have been able to finish the swim but, because I was tired, I convinced myself that I could not do it.
To be a successful long distance swimmer, you have to be mentally strong. I had swum 30 hours in pool and 20 hours 7 minutes in sea. Even though it was tough, I am glad that I did not stop after just one way and challenged myself to my limit.
Now, I have to use this experience to aid my future training for my
next Channel swim. On my first swim, I stopped after just 10 hours but now I was able to swim for about 29hours 30minutes. I never dreamed I would be able to swim for so long.
I am so grateful to the people who have helped me to come so far. I could not have done all this by myself. Thank you very much for supporting me. I hope that I will soon be able to fulfill my dream of completing the two way swim and will continue to enjoy swimming.
“The Channel swim was… the human mind is weak, you will inevitably experience feelings of struggle and sadness when you swim, but, hopefully, you will find happiness, too.”— Miyuki
What a great spirit of “gambaru” and self-transcendence!
- Miyuki, Marcy MacDonald and Barrie Wakeham in Dover harbour
Nice article about Miyuki on www.10kswimmer.com
Marcy + Gumby, Dover Beach
Marcy`s swim route Aug. 2nd 09
August 2nd looked like a swim day, finally. And it was the middle of the neap tide! Quite a few boats went out around 8 a.m., with several swimmers intending to attempt a double crossing. But the wind would pick up again to 15-20 knots (windforce 4-5). Marcy totally enjoyed her swim in the waves, touched France in 11 hours 31 to complete her 10th solo crossing (including 2 2-way), turned round to start on the second leg and see how things would develop, but then stopped after an hour or so when the waves got so high they were rolling her on her back and it became dangerous. “I had a blast,” she writes on her blog.
Lianne Lewellyn set out for a double crossing, too – in what turned out to become atrocious conditions that tested her to the limit. She completed the first leg in 11 h 20 min and turned back to battle the waves for anouther 16 hours plus – with the added difficulty of swimming through the night.
Strong arms for a double crossing in challenging conditions (Click for video)
Carried off course by the currents and strong winds she finally landed at St. Margaret`s Bay way east of Dover, totally exhausted, after 27 hours 35 minutes of uninterrupted swimming – except for the short moments on French dry ground. What an achievement!
Choppy - Lianne Lewellyn swimming "uphill" (click to see the video)
These are the days every Channel swimmer is longing for – but they are rare and precious – and sometimes just too short for slower swimmers who need a bigger window of swimmable weather in the fast changing Channel conditions – or for a double:
A short "perfect" day in the Channel - July 4th 2009, photo by Fenland Swimmers UK
When attempting to swim the Channel, a lot of patience may be needed. Plus plenty of luck or Grace. Often swimmers are waiting for more than one tide without even getting a chance to attempt their swim. They have prepared for one or more years, flewn in from other continents – maybe for nothing. So, often swimmers will go out on “iffy” days – never knowing for sure how conditions will develop, in spite of the knowledge and experience of their pilots.
“Perfect” days in the Channel are very, very few, especially during the short period of the neap tides, but yesterday was one of them: almost no winds, no currents, sun out – most of the pilot boats were out with their swimmers, some can be followed all the way via satellite tracking. In the late afternoon you could see many of the boats crowding around Cap Griz Nez or just on their way back – a couple of swims reached the Cap dead-on.
Satellite Tracking of Anastasia, July 31st, 2009, with debris from a previous swim on July 29th
Here is one of those almost straight swims – the broken line to the right shows the remains of a previous swim 2 days earlier – with much more tidal push.
… are over
Today one swimmer – Marcy MacDonald – is hoping to go for her 3rd double crossing – but the conditions in Dover and the forecast
Webcam at Wissant bay on Aug 1st, where many swimmers touch French ground
don`t seem to be as perfect anymore – while Wissant (left) is looking pretty calm still.
Dover on the morning of Aug 1st - photo by Marcy MacDonald
Below: This was the situation in Dover in the morning – so quite a few boats ready to go turned round back into the harbour to wait for a front to pass through.
Next possibility to swim in the evening? A Channel swimmer just has to stay prepared and rested and catch enough sleep – which is another challenge in itself.
In July it became clear that even if the Channel pilots ran out of swimmers during a period of good weather in September, I would not be able to swim a solo this year. Instead of stepping up my training – at least for a possible last minute Zurich lake spot – I had to reduce. From my computer work (and some games in between) I contracted a painful tendonitis on my right wrist. Olive oil bandages over night helped a little, and swimming for half an hour a day, I felt, helped the healing process, too. But 1 hour or longer swims were out of the question for a few weeks.
summer pool temperature (27°C/80.6 °F)
In addition, pool temperatures went up to 27°c. On rain days only the warm pool was open – at 28 °C or more, plus overcrowded. Going to the lake regularly for only a short swim was hardly worth the trouble. The best were half-rainy days, with the regular pool open just in the morning with only a few swimmers.
My tendonitis did not even allow me to go to Zurich at the end of July to at least help rowing, and so I did some professional training instead. The next day I heard I could have even gotten a last minute swim slot! What kind of year was this for me???
So I continued following closely how other Channel swimmers were doing via satellite trackers and chat group.
Waidsee in Weinheim - great for middle distance training - 30 min. to the other side and back in a triangle
In August, when my wrist had gotten better, I enjoyed a few “longer” swims in the smaller lake in Weinheim, but never doing anything over 2,5 hours. My feeling was, I should soon start training more seriously again for next year, but it seemed hard to really get motivated. At that point I did not expect anything special to happen this year any more.
Only a few solo swimmers have succeeded in their crossing so far for this year. Relays can manage better with more difficult weather and tidal conditions – except for the seasickness on board!
Nick Adams – accomplished 4 times Channel soloist now and even one time 2-way Channel swimmer – did not have an easy time on his 4th crossing: 5 hours in windforce 5 is no joke! Very well done for staying in there and not giving up (he may be forgiven for throwing up on the video, cause the windforce 5 part could not be filmed or photographed for understandable reasons, and the end of the video may just convey a bit the drama).
Nick Adams' 4th solo crossing of the Channel - 5 hours in F5 - only the effects are visible on the video Part II
Link to video Part I starting with the greasing up in the dark (a start in the dark is acutally nice because you swim into daylight!)
Unfortunately there is no video or photos available for Sophie Rutenbar of the Serpentine Club (they swim in the Serpentine in Hyde Park the middle of London even in the midst of winter in snow), who conquered the same conditions in a great time of 14:33.
And as a stress-relief for those endless days of patient waiting: the Russian way of acclimatising to low temperatures:
Russian Ice Swimmers -are you sure you are well prepared for the Channel?
The first 2 successful Channel crossings of the season have happened: two relays, on June 13th and 18th (see Dover life). Today a couple of pilots went out with their swimmers (maybe around 4 a.m.?) – and I was glued to the screen, following the little dots online via ship-tracking as far as they show up (about halfway to France) while working on my website business. Today was only the beginning of the neap tides (maybe even still spring tide), meaning the current was still strong. The only thing I know right now: Alison`s relay team on Roco did it, getting swept way past the Cap towards Boulogne, but then turning towards France in a sharp angle and soon afterwards touching land. “Nice and sunny, wind 3/4” Nick Adams wrote 10 min. before his last turn in the relay.
The German swimmer, Peter Hücker with Andy King, was swept quite a bit East in the beginning, much more so than the other boats, but with the changing tide made a sharp angle South. I thought it might be a variant – making a bigger curve in the beginning to avoid getting swept past the Cap. He took very long to reach the halfway point, and then the boat disappeared from the screen. Later I heard he had to abondon the swim. So unfortunate! So much preparation – and that’s it for this time!
My training is still too easy for a Channel swim – it’ll be next year – but I did my first 5 hours on the weekend – split in 3 sessions, that is. Pool, pool, lake. For some fun and leg exercise one lap with fins in the lake. How I enjoyed the open water finally! After last year’s endless hours in the lake and Dover harbour I have long been enjoying the luxury of clear, and in the mornings pretty empty pools where you can see the bottom, with the sun painting dancing patterns on the turquoise floor – and of getting tanned also on the front side by the reflected sun. If the weather was good enough for the non-heated pool to open, that is (at 9 a.m.!). Another luxury of beeing self-employed – I can take my time off when I want to, mostly.
Not doing weight sessions in a gym like last year my shoulder muscles have shrunken. Maybe backstroking regularly in the Neckar, like tonight, when I can`t make it to the pool at an empty hour, is a good idea, better even with paddles and fins. Another luxury, which I would never enjoy were I not training for something a little bit outlandish: swimming in this peaceful setting of the Neckar nestled into green lush hills, at the feet of a monastary, so to say, at a spot nicely sheltered from the public. (Hardly anybody sane swims in the Neckar these days, unless for the Heidelbergman.)
I had hoped for a 5 hour swim this week – but it didn`t happen. Thursday (holiday): by the time I was ready to head to the “nice” pool they announced they would close it due to the weather. The warm pool of course was overcrowded, plus too warm, and the lake no option again.
Saturday the weather was perfect and the nice pool pretty emty, but I only managed 2,5 hours – just not enough inner intensity, energy and mental patience. Sunday only 1 pool hour in the morning and one lake hour with fins in the afternoon – not even 5 hours over the whole weekend!
Looking at my training schedule from last year I just cannot believe what I did then and where I got the power to do it. Totally different focus. But it’s fine. Just getting ready for the Zurich lake now. Trying to find my extra boat.
At the same time I am constantly thinking “I want to loose weight”, I feel so heavy with my extra kilos, especially for running – and I may not need them this year. Last year they would have been perfect. But then, a spontaneous solo end of September if the weather is fine is still in the back of my mind.
You might have thought I am training so hard I have no time to post – not quite.
Concentrating more on my new business this year I just don’t have as much time and energy for training as before – even though I love it as soon as I get into the water or out into nature. I enjoy arm- and leg-training using fins in the lake, backstroking (for safety reasons) in the Neckar when the pool is too crowded on a hot day, or the luxury of having a pool almost to myself on a Dover-weather day (quite frequent, lately, except that the pool closes on a complete rain day).
However, my best discipline right now is eating ice cream, and I have gained the weight that would have helped me last year – but I am not even sure I will need it right now. At the same time, the weight makes running more difficult. So I am thinking: last year too much training and too little ice cream, this year vice versa, and next year the middle path.
Realistically, my big triathlon will take place in 2010. (Some friends were right last year, but I didn’t want to accept it.) By then I will be able to train again with more one-pointedness, enthusiasm and intensity and not depend on others too much financially. It will be our team’s 25th Channel swimming anniversary, maybe a great way to celebrate. Still I want to keep up a good training level this year.
On the weekend of Pentecost (May 30th to June 1st) I did my first “long” swim this year: 3 hours in the outdoor pool – and I not only got a bad sunburn but most likely also a sunstroke, since I felt weak and almost fainted in the evening and was shivering in the pool the next day. It seems the sun is getting more aggressive, others felt the same. It was great to swim together with old Channel friends though, like in “olden days”. Speeds you up immediately.
Last year I did 12 hours indoors in February, 5 hours outdoors May 1st, and longer swims starting June. Looking back to 1985 when I only started training for the Channel beginning of May, I felt that now with more experience it may even be fine to start long swims only in June, but it may just be enough for a comfortable Zurich lake swim. The only thing is, the Zurich lake is booked out. Maybe a long training swim in Dover in August – just to keep it up? Or hope for last minute cancellations for Zurich.
My Swiss teammate Vedika, who has swum the Channel 5 times, once did it on the spur of the moment, because the weather was good and all swimmers had gone. She had been in Dover only to help – and then ended up doing her 4th crossing, with just the Zurich lake 2 weeks earlier as “preparation”. (So now she is afraid of going to Dover even as a helper – it might end up too costly!)
After 6 hours of running through the night - nicely showered and in fresh clothes
Basel 12/24 h race, May 9/10th
Last year my long distance events came naturally – 12 hours indoor swim in February in Zurich, 6 hour race in March in Nürnberg, Heidelberg halfmarathon in April, Mannheim marathon and 12 hours of Basel in May etc.
This year I just did the Heidelberg halfmarathon and Basel. But instead of 12 hours I only did 6 hours in Basel – the slowest six hours ever, I believe (don’t mention the distance, even if it was worth 3rd place for the ladies 50-60). How could I run the hilly and difficult Heidelberg halfmarathon in 2:33, but take over 3 hours for a flat halfmarathon 2 weeks later in Basel? My excuse to stop after 6 hours was that I was needed back in Heidelberg for translation in the evening and my ride was leaving early, but my feet hurt so much and I felt so heavy that I was grateful for that excuse. Plus it served as my first 6 hour run of the year. I did enjoy running slowly and steadily throught the night, but I was happy not having to run in the blazing sun later in the morning. When I look at the photos (click on the albums to see the photos) of the race, however, I am immediately inspired to do better or more next time! Another 12/24-hour-race in Berlin in July is beckoning – if I can only up my running discipline!
10 km into the half-marathon.... (photos taken on a training run 2 weeks before)
On Sunday, during the Heidelberg halfmarathon, I was thinking a lot of my friends who are challenging themselves in the 6- and 10-day Self-Transcendence-Race in New York. That makes 21,0975 km feel so short!
Still I knew it would not be easy, but I wanted to enjoy the journey. I had not done any serious really long runs since last year’s triathlon training, and I am at least 5 kg heavier than last April, plus one year older.. The course is hilly with a number of steep sections and the sun would be blazing part of the way… So my only goal was to focus, stay happy and hopefully finish under 2:45 (I am a slow runner anyway).
past the Castle...
And I totally enjoyed the run. The 3500 runners started in blocks to fit through the narrow streets and forrest paths. I was way in the back. In the beginning my running was so slow, I saw the “Besen-wagen” (pick up van for the drop-outs) only a few hundred meters behind. At the end it only took me 3 minutes longer than last year – not bad! And I felt strong – the Channel training is still there.
Finally downhill again
However, with no serious sports challenge since last year I had almost forgotten the inner joy and intensity they give. It was like a wake-up call. “Run and become” – a phrase my teacher Sri Chinmoy coined, is so true! (Of course also for swimming etc.) Setting goals is important to challenge oneself, but the main thing is happening along the way. I love the many special training experiences – sometimes mystic or ecstatic, when you are running into the rising sun or under the stars, the purified feeling after a swim workout and the intense feeling of inner peace and vastness after a bigger challenge which may stay for days or weeks or even months (like after my first ultra-triathlon in Australia) – this is what for me sports is all about. A form of meditation, or an intensification of meditation, a door to inner experiences.
During the half-marathon, the memory came back why I had started to train for the Channel at all in 1985 . I was longing for real ultra-experiences, the spiritual aspect – but shin splints and other problems kept me away. Then the Channel opportunity presented itself. –
The last mile...
So the half-marathon was tough as usual, but also tremendous joy. A great feeling of oneness – oneness with the other runners, with the cheering, clapping, drumming supporters along the route, offering water and food at private stations, with the beauty of nature and the scenic route.
Happy after 2 h 32:40
Not sure what my next event will be. Last year was very different – I took all ultra-opportunities without question. This year I am going with the flow, right now I still have to concentrate on my work. But May will show how serious I can become this year about my project.