Part 2 of Trevor Malone’s Channel Swim story. Part 1 is here.
As I’m swimming into the beach there’s absolutely no nerves, stroke feels really comfortable and I’m just concentrating on one thing now. However the feeling I had when swimming Zurich has started to creep in. I knew this would happen so this is what I have to fight. It’s going to be all mind games from here on in. I climb out onto the stones on Shakespeare beach. I start telling myself what Coach Eilis said: you’ll walk in from one beach, walk out at another with a bit of a swim in-between, no big deal. I raise both arms and wave back to my crew. I’m feeling great and walk back in and start swimming.
Four strokes in and the strap on my watch comes loose, can’t help but smile. I fix it while just kicking and just carry on. As I’m getting closer to the boat the heart starts to race and now I need to stay calm. I’m focusing on not going out hard and I keep telling myself to enjoy it, this is what I’ve been training for. There were two other boats (possibly a 3rd) that started with us. I’m trying to stay calm, trying not to swim hard just find my rhythm and that’ll give me the pace I need. I’m very conscious of the boats ahead of me off to the right so I concentrate on reeling them in.
The first few hours are not enjoyable, struggled to find my rhythm and I have a pain in my chest (I’m stressed) so I need to figure out what’s wrong. I realise later I was worried about my feeds. Zurich all over again. I knew I would be good for at least four hours but after that I was expecting to get sick.
Coming up to the three hour mark I was expecting to see Carol getting ready on board to join me, no sign of this happening so this adds to overall uncomfortable feeling. I tell myself one more hour and she’ll be in. Still can’t get my rhythm and I know I’m not coming across as being happy for the previous 3 feeds. My responses were I’m Ok just feeling a little tired. It feels like the boat is drifting right all the time and I’m beckoned back continuously. This is a little irritating as I don’t think it’s me that’s drifting. I don’t complain about it. I just do what the crew tells me every time. I’ve 100% trust in them. They know what they are doing, they are there for me. I need to get my head right for them. This situation needs to change soon and it does. Carol is in. During my 20sec feed, I get a direct instruction from her to get on her shoulder, straight to the point and we are off.Boat is still drifting right so it’s not me. It’s no longer a concern from here on in, doesn’t bother me anymore, it just something that I have to react to every now and again, two to three strokes and position is corrected. Within 2 – 3minutes of Carol joining me, I’m completely relaxed; I can feel the stroke stretching, pace has picked up. The rhythm is there and it feels so good and easy. The head is in a much better place. I’m just gliding along. I notice several people standing on deck watching us (the pilot, his 2 crew members have joined Ken, Liam and the observer). Looks like they are enjoying the swim and I’m finally starting to enjoy it too.
All the happy thoughts coming flooding in. These are picked especially to keep me in the moment. I spend the next couple of minutes thinking about Riana’s good wishes message “Enjoy every minute, and don’t stop swimming”, I come back to it time and time again for the remainder of the swim. My mind-set has completely changed during this hour swim with Carol. So many happy thoughts, (especially for the next 5-6 hours), my wife(Nic) and kids, my nan’s smiling face, walking up that beach at the other end of this swim. I’m filled with a sense of pride for Coach, Liam and Ned. Remembering those personal conversations with each one of them. Coach’s motto going around and around in my head: you are going to get in at one beach, get out at another and have a little bit of a swim in between. Makes me smile every time. I draw on all those endless hours in the pool trying to stay in the moment; not thinking ahead or back, just staying in the moment, getting on the edge of my comfort zone, becoming so in tune with my body, deep relaxed breathing, my four stoke count, focusing on gliding forward, no resistance, forward momentum that requires no energy, heightened awareness of my body and the four strokes start all over again and again and again. Feeling my body becoming so light in the water, the less I try the faster I go, huge forward momentum, feels like I’m reaching forward to move forward. Repetition, repetition, repetition. All that along with short bursts of my happy thoughts (Nic and the kids smiling faces) is what got me through the swim. With the hour up, Carol is back on the boat. I’m much happier at the feeds and I can sense relief in Liam’s body language and how he communicates with me.
The feeds are brief but there’s nothing but encouragement from Liam. He has it all in hand. This drives me on even more; everything now has such a feel good factor about it. Ken is more visible on the side of the boat, waving, clapping, and cheering. The team effort is so uplifting, they are there for me and it’s driving me on. I make the effort for two thumbs up at feeds from here on in. As brief as the feeds are I’m getting a real kick out of them. At one particular feed, Carol shouts to me Nic is no longer favoriting but she is now tweeting and it cracks me up. I’m grinning from ear to ear as I’m swimming along. I know Nic and the kids are back at home, tracking every second and I’m absolutely loving it. Not even the jellies in the Separation Zone can burst my bubble. I’m in and out in around 50 minutes (3 stings on my back, one either side of my neck and all of my left arm) and 20 minutes later the stings are forgotten about.
Carol doesn’t get back in when I expected her to. It doesn’t bother me, I know the crew have it all in hand and they have a plan. It’s a simple thought and easily justified in my head. Conditions have started to change, it’s getting a little bit choppy and by the time Carol gets back in, conditions are fun. The next hour is tough, it’s a power hour with Carol but I thrive on it, even though for the last 15 minutes I’m kind of hoping she’ll get out soon. Mentally I’m still in a really good place. Waves are getting higher but it’s another great swim with Carol.
It’s not until she’s getting out that I notice how bad conditions are. I’m on a feed and she is about to climb out. She screams encouragement, I look and the tail end of the boat drops by about 4 feet, misses her head by inches and crashes into the water. No bothers to her and she’s up onto the back of the boat in seconds. All I can think of now is distance week with Ned and climbing waves that were 20 feet high. I can see him next to me shouting and screaming and just absolutely loving it and I just feed off this memory. I’ve never been so happy to swim in such crap conditions. I just plough on and get creamed by a wave every now and again. I can see Ken at the side of the boat and I know he’s thinking lucky bastard! – Ken loves to swim in these conditions.
Crew is asking me to swim closer to the boat now for shelter. It’s funny watching them struggle on board. I can literally see half the underside of the boat as it rocks my side to side. There’s one brief moment where I’m tempted to stop and hold out my arms pretending to catch them in case they fall overboard. It’s now 2 metre swells, 40 knots wind against tide and I’m still happy out. It’s an all-out battle now; at no point do I think I’m not going to make it. Time is no longer relevant, doesn’t matter at all, it’s all about making it to that French beach.
However, by the time Carol gets in for a third time the conditions are starting to drain me. I’m conscious of the speed for the previous two times she was in and how I was able to get in the zone. Not sure what this hour is going to be like and as soon as she is next to me I tell her I have no speed left. She turns and looks me in the eye and says: I don’t want speed from you, I just want steady, give me steady for 1 hour. This is probably the 1st negative thought I’ve had in the last 5hrs, but Carol is on cue again and her reassuring tone and straight to the point request has me focused on task on hand. I know she knows I’m tired and she’s there to get me through the next hour.
This is probably the 1st of two critical hours that eventually makes my swim. Focus is on steady, but we are both being absolutely battered so rhythm is slow to build. Flashbacks to Sandycove and Ned climbing those waves. Then I remember the rough swims with Bernard in Myrtleville. I convince myself the Channel is nothing compared to those training sessions. I now have 3 points of focus to stay in a moment to make the crap conditions seem easy: Carol who is next to me, Ned & myself swimming uphill and Bernard & myself getting creamed every 5 – 6 strokes swimming back from the Dutchman. The hour passes really quickly and before I know it I’m on another feed and Carol is getting out. She tells me next time she’s in we’ll be heading in. It doesn’t make sense, the mind is definitely getting tired now and for some reason I think, grand, 1 hour to go maybe 1.5hrs and I look up to take it all in. I know in my own heart that it’s 2 – 3hrs but I’m happier with the 1st thought. Liam roars at me to stop looking but I can’t help it. I want to remember the moment, I want to convince myself I’m almost there and I want to be on that beach.
Final Part in a couple of days.