Virtual Channel Swim – Part 3 – Separation Zone

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.


The separation zone is what they call the 1.85 km strip in the middle of the English Channel between the shipping lanes.  It can sometimes have debris or mats of seaweed collected throughout it, although, I don’t recall having seen any during David’s crossing.  The problem with the debris is that it’s a problem.  The problem with the seaweed mats is that they can get jellyfish trapped underneath them.  Sarah had her crew steer her around them as best they could.  Seeing as how this is a virtual channel swim and my crew are being more productive by not kayaking in the swimming pool next to me, I decided to not try to swim around anything.


But, it’s a pool… what is there to swim around in the first place?


I grabbed an empty lane, collected a whole bunch of kickboards, and littered my lane with them.  There was no way I could avoid hitting something, now.  I proceeded with the next 2,000 yards focusing on several things.


  1. Keeping my mouth closed while swimming. (I do this by envisioning swimming with a kazoo.)
  2. Keeping my head down, even though I knew I was going to hit stuff.
  3. Maintaining a steady pace, even though I knew I was going to hit stuff.


I sunk into the water to push off from the wall… and was already stressed out.


I didn’t feel anything for quite some time.  I tried not to let myself hesitate as I moved forward, knowing I was bound to collide with something, eventually.  Something brushed against my feet as I kicked along, and then I reached forward and my hand landed right on top of something…


… and it slid forward on the kickboard completely useless – destitute and abandoned on an island on the surface of the water.  I laughed and pushed the kickboard aside and kept swimming.


A great mat of seaweed washed up over my head just as I turned to breathe.  I had already started to turn and lifted my face into muck.  I didn’t breathe in, somehow managing to stop myself, and kept swimming, trying to negotiate with it to leave me alone without losing stride.  


I laughed when it just wouldn’t disentangle itself and picked the kickboard up off of my head.  This was actually rather challenging.


Keep your head down.  Keep your mouth closed. Keep your stroke strong.


Each collision brought some new challenge.  I managed to free myself sometimes by rolling one way or another.  There were only a few times when I had to really stop because I was hopelessly tangled up.


I made my 2,000 yards, laughing.  This was, perhaps, the most fun I’d had during a swim in a long time.  I forgot how hard it was to not look up when you know there are jellies or debris in front of you.  I forgot how upsetting it can be to swim with company who are not friends.   But what I mostly forgot… was how much fun pool swimming all by yourself can be when you just get a little creative.

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