So then, we did it!!! I say we because although this was a solo swim I could not have done it without Everybody's help. Especially Lesley who worked tirelessly on the boat and provided exactly the right nutrition on the day, and of course for letting me disappear off training all year long :) Thanks very very much to the whole Crew - Richard, Rob, Steve, Fred, Pete, Russell and Julie who was the CSA observer.
Brilliant - It felt very surreal to start with, loading up on the boat at Folkstone, we rowed out to Fred's boat with all the stuff, climbed on board in the dark . We then chugged off to Samphire bay. 10 Minutes before we got there I put on my trunks and Lesley piled on the grease. before I knew it it was time to jump in. There was a couple of other boats at the start point, but I didn't really take in who they were. I jumped in and the water felt warm, the grease was awesome and made me feel like I was wearing a bullet proof vest. I swam up the beach in the clear waters and surged out of the water on a wave. There were a couple of people on the beach to wish people well, who wished me good luck!
I turned, waved to the boat, waded in and dived off. Having tapered and rested the last 2 weeks, I suddenly felt super strong and went into a steady rhythm on a beautiful calm sea. I knew right away the swim was in the bag! I saw a couple of jellies just off shore, but they were quite deep (phew) The first hour to the first feed flew by, I was just smiling feeling so privileged to be in the channel. The first feed (maxim) went down, and the next (maxim and peach half) and the next (maxim and peach) - the first 3 hours seemed to fly by, then I went to 1/2 hour feeds of maxim on the hour and electrolyte on the 1/2 hour. We had discussed the electrolyte and were not sure about it, it was quite rich on the stomach. The 3rd one bounced back out, so we changed to coffee with fruit sugar for each 1/2 hour. This worked great throughout the swim, stimulating a 'pee' before the maxim feed.
Every now and again I got a glimpse of the white cliffs growing steadily smaller in the distance.
In the middle phase, the sea got a bit more bouncy, and I think my stroke rate had dropped as I struggled to my rhythm in the waves, around this point the crew asked if Steve (pacemaker) should jump in, I said 'whenever he is ready, uplifted by having some company. When he did jump in it was great, but difficult as the sea was throwing us around a bit making it hard to stay side by side and by the boat! However, the fact he was in the water made me pick up my stroke and I found a good rhythm again. (I think he came in on the 5th to 6th hour)
After that we went through the shipping lanes, I was totally unaware at the time, but a huge tanker had to change course to miss us - thanks to the French coastguards for that. The water was clear but had quite alot of 'stuff' floating in it. I was sure not to swallow any....The middle phase was just a case of swimming feed to feed and enjoying being in the channel, the waves weren't huge but did hamper progress, even though they. The crew suggested I change sides of the boat at one point, and it went around behind me, the water was much calmer then and progress felt better. The time really seemed to whiz by and I restrained from looking at France until someone said 'look - that's where we are aiming for! And it seemed really close. I had to keep reminding myself about that I would still have many hours left. In my head I had budgeted 4 x 3 hrs + 1 x 3 hrs if needed, so a total of around 12-15 hours. As we approached my left arm twinged and sort of lost power, but was comfortable enough and clearly I was thinking I have come this far - nothing can stop us now! A quick reflection on all the fundraising and peoples outstanding generosity was helpful at this stage! Land was getting closer and closer, I heard someone shout '3 miles to nearest land' this was about 1o hrs, and I foolishly thought cool - we could be done in 11 1/2 hrs!! I was still enjoying the swim, but the channel challenge was on now. I also heard someone say 'if we make it' so assumed we miss the cape or something so sped up for the next hour. At the next hr stop I was informed that we cold not miss the cape and we were heading in. Very relieved I just settled down to a steady 'chug' again. I could see that that we were being swept all over by the tide and currents and just trusted in following the boat. Slowly but surely I could make out more and more detail, houses, windows on the houses, bushes etc. '2 miles to land in any direction' came a shout.....chug chug....1 1/2 miles...chug chug....1 mile......3/4 mile was the last shout and Lesley said 'Pete this is your last feed - next stop on the beach' I had a look up and it was sooooo close now. Then, the part I had been hoping for - Fred got into the rowing boat with Lesley and Rich for the final approach!
I could then feel every wave pushing me ashore, I could see the colour change in the sea as it became more orange with the sand. I could feel waves of warm water coming over me. I could make out ripples in the sand on the bottom - I could see the waves breaking on the beach, then I touched the soft sand with my hand and was totally overcome with a wave of emotion that rushed through my whole body, (and yes I started blubbing in my goggles!)...I tried to stand but my legs were having none of it, swam a few more strokes and tried again..yup...here we go, stood up and started jogging up the beach. The beach was like Southport in that the water was shallow for ages, so I ran right past some gobsmacked looking French people to be sure I was out of the water before turning and raising my arms in the air!! I could see Steve (who had stealthily followed me in) and Rich and Lesley in the row boat. The nice French chap spoke to me and said ' 'ave you just swam ze channel' to which I said 'YES!!!'
I chatted with Steve and Richard on the beach for a moment and just as we thought about setting back off to the row boat - when we saw my Mum and Dad waving and running along the beach, which was truly wonderful. We could not spend long there as I was feeling cold (for the first time all day!!) so climbed back on the boat where Lesley was (needed a leg up from Rich - thanks)
Back in the boat I finally managed to hug Lesley and sit down and celebrate. We moored up in Folkstone some 5 hours later after midnight, I was buzzing all the way back....still am.
Overall, the swim was thoroughly enjoyable all the way! Maybe just a little frustrating at the end trying to get in against the tide - but I guess that's what its all about, if it was that easy it wouldn't be the challenge that it is.........!
So here we are, the other side of the swim, still feeling elated and buzzing and pleased to have successfully raised so much money for Rock FM and Sam Young - many many thanks to all that have contributed, every penny has spurred me on through the training.