Some Thoughts on swimming the Channel

Some thoughts on the swim

I've tried a few times to put down onto (virtual) paper some thoughts about the swim and answer a lot of questions. I didn't like any of them, but whether you like it or not, this is it.

And yes, some of these quotes are a little lame - take them with a grain of salt.


"The greatest pleasure in life is in doing what people say you cannot do." - Walter Bagehot
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Eliot

I don't have a single reason for wanting to swim across the Channel. Yes, it was partly because people can't comprehend it and think it's impossible. It was partly because the only way to figure out your limits are to try something a little out there. But it was also just because I love swimming.

Did I think about quitting?

"Pain is temporary. Quitting is permanent" - Lance Armstrong
"The difference between winning and losing is frequently not quitting." - Walt Disney

For the first few hours, the swim was easy - the water was calm, and the tide was giving me a good push. I got a little worried when my legs started cramping because I didn't feel as though I'd reached my limit yet. As it got dark, the cold started creeping in, and I couldn't figure out how far we were from shore. I think this was the most difficult part of the swim - just not knowing where I was and how much farther I had to go.

So yes, I did think about quitting. But Leslie was cheering every time I took a breath on the left, and friends were calling in all the time. Would I have kept going without all this? I'd like to think I would, but honestly don't know.

What was the most difficult part?

"The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult" - Madame Marie du Deffand
"In trouble, danger, and disappointment never give up hope. The worst can always be got over." - Ernest Shackleton

In all honestly, training was the most difficult part. That's not to say that the swim itself was easy or that training for it was unpleasant because I had a great time training for this.

I tried to put my training together such that I had already experienced all the difficulties before I got to England. I had a few training swims where I froze or felt as though my lungs were filled with fluid afterwards. A few training swims went so badly that I was sure I'd never be able to make it across. But it was bouncing back from all these disappointments, asking others for help, and making changes where necessary that made the swim easier.

What I thought about during the swim

"I'm the ocean, I'm the giant undertow" - Neil Young
"I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round..." - John Lennon
And a bunch of other songs that really have nothing to do with the ocean or repetition

I, like a lot of swimmers, couldn't really tell you what I thought about during the swim. I worked on my stroke, sang some songs, and just tried to enjoy the experience as much as possible.

At the beginning of the swim, I remember thinking about how warm (it's all relative) and calm the water was. When things got tough and my legs started cramping, I just thought about what I had to do to make it through that point, and what I might need in a few hours. After it got dark, I'd drift out of range of the lights on the boat and look up at all the stars. And as it got later and I couldn't see the shore to see how much farther I had to go, I just wanted it to end.

What hurt afterwards?

"...the swim only hurt once - from the beginning to the end." - Doc Counsilman on swimming the English Channel

A lot of people lose weight when swimming the channel. I swelled up and probably put on a few pounds. Right after the swim, I threw up all the liquid in my stomach. I didn't each much that night, but did have a full English breakfast the next morning.

Most of the things that you would expect to hurt were fine - I didn't have any problems with my shoulders, neck, etc. I didn't have much energy and got winded fairly quickly for the first few days after the swim.

My knees were a wreck after the swim. I crawled up and down stairs for a few days, and still had knee pain 6-8 weeks after the swim. It might be because of a kick that starts in my knees instead of in my hips, but I never had any knee pain during my long swims.

One of the more interesting things (well, to me at least) was that all the skin on my tongue and mouth peeled off - a fairly common occurrence after spending so much time in saltwater. It didn't start happening until a few days after the swim, when I was in Scotland eating incredible food with my parents.

How many people have done it?

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." - Benjamin Disraeli

I was the 812th individual to complete a solo swim across the Channel. My swim was the 1,185th crossing - just shows you how many people have gone back, or have swam a double or triple crossing.

Some people have said that more people have been in space then have swum across the Channel. As far as I can tell, this isn't true - at the end of 2005, approximately 448 people have been in space.

However, more people have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest - as of 2004, 2249 people have reached the summit. (That's not to say one is harder than the other. I'll leave that up to anyone that's done both.)

Will I do it again?

"Never say never" - Anonymous

Honestly, the swim itself was a lot of fun, so I won't say I won't try it again at some point. Besides, you never know how far you can go until you try to go too far.

You had to be there for these...

"I reject your sense of reality and wish to insert my own." - a woman at the B&B, I think after I said that swimming the Channel sounded like fun
"The window is five days? I could go to the moon in 5 days!" - Barry from the Sticklebacks, commenting on the window to swim the Channel (which was actually 8 days long)

Go back to the swim Go to the Thank You's
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