My good friend Sarah sent me an awesome workout plan for a week – just when pool swimming was starting to wear me down. A virtual channel swim. She divided the English Channel into parts – Dover to the British Shipping Lane (9.25km), British Shipping Lane (7.4km), Separation Zone (1.85km), French Shipping Lane (6.5km), and French Shipping Lane to Cape Gris-Nez (9.25km). I was positively ecstatic about the idea. My imagination was already incorporating memories from my trip to Dover and my experience as crew with the boundless possibilities of what might happen with my Channel swim. I thought it might be fun to blog about the different parts of this adventure.
During the 7.4 km of the British Shipping Lane, I am my steadiest and my strongest. I feel settled, but still excited – still wondering how I could have made it here at all. Still wondering if it’s too good to be true. Grateful. Happy. Singing songs, thinking about the people I love, and laughing to myself at this adventure. At this life. What a life it is that I get to live! Watching the large ships passing around me – the size of cities – thinking about how small I am. How small in such a vast world, in such a vast ocean… how small. But when there is a big fight over a little thing, it’s not a little thing is it? I guess I’m not so little at all. Even I can make a difference.
First things first. I have to finish getting to the British Shipping Lane. I pushed off from the wall in the pool in Keene, NH and started the last 1,125 yards of the first part of the Virtual Channel Swim. I was so darn excited to get to the wrong end of the pool and get out and walk around and get back in and start swimming again. When I did, in fact, get out; I announced, to the wall, cheerfully, “Ta DA!” And then I felt somewhat silly as I made my way around the pool deck, avoiding the children and adults back to the other side. I got back in and started again.
I look up at the boat, carved white against the blue sky and green-blue sea. My crew were smiling in the sun, laughing at some joke I couldn’t hear. They looked so happy, every single one of them. My heart just soared – everything is going so well…
Well, isn’t that a fun little thought, that everything will just be perfect!
I look up at the boat. A dismal, gray, cloudy sky sent a steady rain. The boat rocked in quiet waves. How I love the waves… I just love them. I can’t explain why. The resistance is so steady and insistent. Yet, it is possible to move forward through them. Somehow, this body moves forward. I looked up at my crew, buried in rain gear and coats against the cold. They were still smiling, though. Every single one of them. Laughing at some joke I couldn’t hear-
Do I always picture people smiling? I pulled up pictures of all my other friends. In every single one, bright brilliant smiles lit happy faces. Eyes shining. Laughter. Co-workers, too, even! Huh. In fact, I found it difficult to picture people without smiles. Do they smile because they are in my head and I am happy? Or do they smile because when I am around them, they are happy? Or because I only remember them when they are happy?
I look up at the boat. Stark against the white backdrop, my crew stands grave and unimpressed in their dark suits. Members of the Italian mafia sent to protect me. Or maybe Secrete Servicemen, with white cords dangling from their ears. Their straight, somber faces seem chiseled from stone… until they see me looking at them… and then they smile!
I laugh and the bubbles burst out around me as I come to the wall and stop for a rest. I just decided to do my same distance set for every part of the Virtual Channel Swim. One 200 at a time, I was going to get all the way across.
“Oh my gosh!” a little girl one lane over draws my attention with her declaration. “The pool is SO COLD!”
“Ugh! Why is it so cold?!” Another one exclaims.
“I’m freezing!” She says.
“You’ll get used to it,” Says an adult voice.
I laugh more as I push myself away from the wall again.
Stop laughing! You’re getting saltwater in your mouth. Mouth closed, mouth closed while you exhale! The gritty texture of the salt in my mouth… blech! Don’t open your mouth until the very last minute when you inhale.
I’ll have to put together a feed schedule including rinsing with mouthwash every hour or hour and a half. I keep reminding myself not to exhale with my mouth open. It’s probably one of the hardest things to remember when I swim. Eric asked me why I don’t just duct tape my mouth shut. I had answered that I have to be able to open it to inhale. He then suggested I carry something in my mouth to remind me.
The green ocean water yielded as I turned my face – small white spray flying up in the air as I inhaled through the chamber of the kazoo…
There’s nothing in any marathon swimming rules anywhere about not having a kazoo.
“Cause if you never leave home… never let go… you’ll never make it to the great unknown…”
Fresh and strong. Steady. The sea and the waves. Wind, weather, water, it doesn’t matter. I am where I am supposed to be. Doing something I am meant to do. Stroke after stroke after-
My arm tumbles over something and I find myself hugging a noodle to my chest. Is this a CS&PF approved noodle?
The only scene in my head that worries me during this part of the swim (besides sudden hurricane force winds) is the idea of the sun setting during this time. With only a third of the swim under my belt, and night coming… I find myself on edge. I cannot help it and can only comfort myself, for now, by trying not to worry about it.
I made it to the end of my 5 mile set triumphantly, only to realize that my hurried math was wrong and I actually overswam the British Shipping Lane by a half a mile. It doesn’t matter, over-achiever, you will probably be pushed by all sorts of currents and swim longer in general.
“That was a long swim,” The lifeguard says as I pull myself out of the right end of the pool in Keene – which is different from the right end of the pool in Glens Falls.
“Almost 6 miles, I think,” I say.
“Wow,” he said. “How do you keep yourself entertained that long? I would get so bored.”
I giggle and shrug.