I DID IT!!! On September 1st 2013 I swam the English Channel in 12 hours 46 minutes and became the 14th Kiwi to ever swim The English Channel.
In February 2012 a new challenge started brewing within me. To swim The English Channel from England to France. Many, many people have asked me ‘why?’. I don’t really have a straight answer to that.one – I think it was a little bit of a mid-life crisis. I was 42 when I came up with this crazy challenge. Two – I do have a swimming background and long distance was always more interesting for me – which consisted of 1500m and 1800m! However, I hadn’t done much swimming for 20 years and had never completed an open water swim beyond 1.2kms (which I had only done once). When I was younger, I had a New Zealand English Channel swimming hero – Sandra Blewitt. She swam the English Channel when I was 13. I always thought that would be something amazing to do. So perhaps it was also fulfilling my childhood dream.
The next thing I did (before I started swimming) was to do lots of research and book a boat pilot. I emailed many pilots and decided upon Peter Reed and his boat Rowena. Then, I started training! I had to google where the closest training pool was where I lived in Blaricum in the Netherlands! As my training sessions progressively got longer and longer – 3-5 hours per day, six days per week – it meant that Andy would have to do the school run (amongst other things) as my training started at 7am each day. I have two boys – Connor 10 and Alexander 12 at the time. I had to also sit down with them and explain what I was training for and that I wouldn’t be as readily available.
I was so lucky to have Irene Van Der Laan right from the start write programmes for me and be there for my millions of questions. Irene has (amongst many other swims) swum The English Channel solo 2 times and also completed a double – England – France – England!! Each Sunday night she would send me six training programmes for the week. Irene did this for the love of the sport and for our growing friendship. Irene was another reason to make it to France – she had invested so much time in me – I couldn’t let her down!
There are very strict rules associated with swimming the Channel. Firstly, no wetsuit! This meant I had to gain 10-15kgs (20-30 lbs) over the following months. Being a woman who for years has been weight conscious, this was quite a shift in my eating psyche! But I have to say, I did enjoy that part of my training immensely! You swim this solo with a support boat. You are not allowed any physical contact with anyone or touch the boat. The water is cold 15-17 degrees Celsius (59-62 degrees Fahrenheit). This meant cold showers for the next months and summer bedding throughout the winter. The heating in the car and the house was turned down low. My boys would say ‘mama, I’m cold’. I would reply ‘put a sweater on’. Also, only 1 in 10 people who attempt to swim The Channel make it – so the odds are not great!
My amazing crew – Carlota Collins, Andy Clark and Stuart Clark.
Greasing up with Vaseline for chafing.
My wonderful friend Dave Dawson performing the Haka for me on Samphire Hoe. This brought tears to my eyes.