So, this particular feed is done, Carol is out and it was a tougher hour than expected but it doesn’t matter, it’s behind me and now the focus will be on slide and glide, rhythm, breathing deep and getting the body completely relaxed. No such luck, Liam tells me he needs a power hour from me. This turns out to be the second critical hour of the swim. I don’t argue, I let it sink in, he’s telling me for a reason and I don’t want to let him down. I remember thinking this is the start of it, now I need to start really fighting, inside I need to know how long I’m going to be fighting for – 1hr, 2 hrs or more. I’m looking up constantly trying to gauge the distance, impossible but I need to justify it in my head. I hear Liam roaring at me again, STOP LOOKING, DON’T LOOK AGAIN.
I drive on, I’m at 80% and manage to hold it at that. I focus on a spot on the side of the boat but I’m very conscious of Ken and Liam on deck clapping, cheering waving me on. Liam asks me to kick. He’s motioning with his hands. Coach and Ned always talk about the critical hour of a swim …. this has to be it. Normally I don’t use my legs, don’t even have a two beat kick but I start kicking. I’m going to give them the hour they want. Ken and Liam still clapping and waving me on. Liam gets a message to me that he can see calm waters 500ms ahead; I need to break though the current then it’ll be easier swimming. It’s really tough now, it must be around the 12th hour but I’m really up for it now, totally focused on cutting through the water. I start clocking my distance in 25m slots. I’m exhausted but strangely enough I don’t feel like I’m going slow, I’m getting through it and Liam was right. Water calms right down. Unfortunately it doesn’t stay like this for long and a chop returns. There’s just no end to it.
The cliffs in front don’t seem to be getting closer but land has started to close in on my right and left sides. It feels like I’m in a bay and now I’m starting to get annoyed. My head is telling me we are close but the land in front of me is not getting any closer. It’s closing in on both side of me but not getting closer in front of me. We could have gone either left or right to shorten the distance but feels like the pilot wants to take me to the furthest point. The sun has set, will be dark soon and those cliffs are still not any closer.
I’m no longer fighting with my body; it’s now a constant fight with my mind. Darkness creeps in and from the corner of my eye I see a shadow at the back of the boat. It must be Carol. She must be in for another hour. She throws my spare goggles with night light at me and tells me to put them on. I’m slow to react, for some reason I don’t want to lose the googles I currently have on. She must have noticed the confusion on my face and tells me to put the ones I have on in my togs. I’m happy with this. A bit silly really, I’m not even finished and my goggles already have sentimental value. Then I realise she is not the only one in the water. Liam and Ken are next to me.
The next 20 minutes are so amazing, emotional, and very vivid and will stay with me forever. Ken calls my name, he’s the first to tell me, “Trevor …you’ve done it, Trevor… you’ve done it”. It sinks in. My body completely crashes, all the fight is gone, feels like there is absolutely nothing left. I swim off and Liam calls me, I’m going in the wrong direction, he tells me the other way and tells me “we are going in”. I can’t believe it. I was expecting to swim on for another hour or so and they are telling me it’s almost over. I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry. It’s a bit of both.
I could sense emotions were very high for all four of us but after being told I did it, the body has completely given up. Carol says swim to the moon. I look round and there in front of us is a full moon that has just appeared over the coastline in front of us. The water is now flat calm and the moon was lighting the way into the beach. I didn’t notice any of this beforehand as it was all on my left side and I only breathe to my right. We all move forward together. What a feeling, heading to a French beach and all of my crew are with me. We are going to experience this as a team. I kept telling them beforehand there is no such thing as a Solo Swim and we proved that today.
I’m barely able to throw one arm in front of the other now. I’m just so conscious of all three of them around me. Ken is on my left, Liam is on my right and Carol is outside of him. I can clearly see Carol swimming with her head up and eyes still on swimmer, unbelievable. I’m now laughing to myself and telling myself over and over “You’ve done it, You’ve done it”. It’s so amazing, I can clearly see a beach with the moon in the background. Then all of a sudden Liam is standing and shouting that he can stand. He’s telling me to stand but I keep swimming. I’m reaching deeper and deeper with each stroke. Liam is now ecstatic, shouting and hollering. Sheer joy, I’m so happy for him. He tells me afterwards that he was shouting his time at me (he beat me by 2 minutes on his Channel Swim; we’ll get years of banter from that one).
My strength is back, the beach is just metres away and my left hand touches sand. I keep swimming and dig each hand into the sand each time it comes around, laughing all the way. I can no longer swim so I stand up and literally sprint onto the beach leaving them all behind me, I can see Carol checking her watch. The time doesn’t matter; it hasn’t for the last 6hrs, all that matters is we’ve done it. I didn’t stop running until I was completely clear of water and then I’m shouting and screaming. We are all hollering under the moon on a French beach. Liam comes running up and picks me up with a massive bear hug, Ken joins in followed by Carol. All four of us hug, I’m laughing and crying at the same time. I’ll never forget that moment. The dream was to walk onto a French beach but the memory is of four friends hugging having achieved the dream.