|Hobart local swimmer, Pat|
That afternoon while I was at work the crew swam again. I was still quite tired, so I sat that one out and headed to the dinner/briefing with the Black Ice crew. What a great group of people and so welcoming and excited for us to join them for their Channel qualifier swim on Saturday. At the briefing, the members said they were actually doing an eight-hour swim in the morning! This was not was not my plan...I said I was nervous. I had set seven hours as my goal, and believed that would be enough. However a chat with 2010 English Channel Solo swimmer and mate, Melbournian Dougal Hunt, encouraged me to lift to eight hours. I knew I had to decide there and then in order to give myself the mental prep time. It was the best opportunity I had to really prove to myself that I was going to be able to make it across the Channel. I felt that after an eight hour swim in sub 15°C waters, I would have a stronger sense of confidence about my upcoming challenge.
Friday night back at the ranch (aka swim camp HQ) we packed our feedbags and prepared our drinks. Some entertaining and tension breaking moments were supplied by various team members in their food prep, but in the end we all made it to bed with the goal to swim eight hours the following morning.
Saturday morning I woke up at 4:30am. I was really nervous. A quick bite to eat and check of the gear and we all piled into the cars and headed to Half Moon Bay. The Black Ice swimmers had organised shifts for land duty and swim duty so there would always be a crew on the pier to throw us our feeds and there would be new people getting in the water every hour to swim with us and keep us company. The support was amazing! With encouraging efficiency everything was set up and we were ready to go. It was now up to each of us to make the time.
Never have I been so scared in my life. Diving into the sea at Half Moon Bay at 6am in pitch black was very surreal. The phosphorescence danced on my fingertips and after an hour and a half I was frozen. I wondered how on earth I was going to make eight hours. Thankfully, due to the very cold water, there are no sharks down where we were swimming, so I had one less fear to think about. I had the song "Brother" by Matt Corby playing on repeat in my head, as it was the last song I heard before I got out of the car that morning. It was nice and peaceful, and made me wonder what my bro was up to at that moment in Hong Kong. Slightly comforting but after eight hours of that song, I can well and truly say it would have been nice to know all the words instead of singing lalalala for whole sections waiting for it to come back to the chorus which I knew!
|Feeding time at the zoo!|
|Land crew in action|
I kept swimming, hoping to keep hypothermia at bay. I thought of mink coats, summer holidays, cocktails on warm sandy beaches, Ugg boots... Anything to keep me thinking I was warm. At six hours, the land crew asked me what I wanted. I responded: "a fur coat, a massage, someone to feed me grapes, a holiday.... " we were having fun! Not long after another swimmer was pulled out with hypothermia. This was getting very real!
|Jubilant Wayne and I - 8 hours conquered!|
Finally the conditions started to calm down somewhat. The last two hours went well, tough but fine; I knew it was almost over. The last 20 minutes were the worst as I was really bored and ready to get out. My shoulders were tired and sore, and I was sick of having the same song playing over and over in my head. Finally, at eight hours, we got the wave from the pier that we could come in, I was stoked! I had swum 23.5 kms, my longest swim ever, in both time and distance.
|Playing ball later that afternoon|
We had a swim that afternoon as a "recovery" and threw a ball around in the water. However, I was getting quite sick of swimming by this point funnily enough!
Sunday morning dawned and we headed down to join the Brighton Icebergers for their 1.5km race around the marina and breakfast and coffee in the clubhouse afterwards. The Brighton Icebergers showered us with hospitality! One of their members, Grant Seidel, is also swimming the Channel the same week as me, which will be great. It appears there will be a serious Aussie assault on the Channel this year!