In September 2009, I spent ten days on the Dover beach awaiting my turn to swim the English Channel. Unfortunately, two hurricanes had swept up the U. S. coast, turned easterly past Iceland, and HOWLED across the British Isles. Not only would my swim get cancelled, but so did nearly all of the shipping traffic that week.
My time in Dover was spent watching the TV weather reports, eating local fish ‘n chips, and swimming “IN” the English Channel at Dover Harbor. It’s only a word, right? There was not much of a chance to tour around, for the waiting Channel swimmer is always optimistic of “getting the call” about the next tide.
Daily phone calls to the boat captain didn’t help, and it became apparent that my cold water and long distance training would be for naught. AND, I would forgo the money that I had spent on the boat, the transportation from the US, and the local accommodations.
Upon my departure, I told myself, “Never again: DO NOT SIGN UP FOR SOMETHING DICTATED BY THE WEATHER!” It’s difficult to be an open water swimmer and stick to this mantra. However, I did my best by only swimming in local events and participating in those where I could stay with a friend and minimize the expenses.
My decision was reinforced last year when I had a good friend sign up for the Big Shoulders, Waikiki Rough Water, and La Jolla Rough Water events. All of them were cancelled within a five-week period of time. No refunds, no postponements, NO LUCK.
The tide has turned.
For the last three weeks (March 27th-April 14th), I have been guiding for the SwimTrek Long Distance & Channel Training Tour on Mallorca, off the Mediterranean Coast of Spain, and my desire to swim THE CHANNEL has been rekindled by the WONDERFUL guests and my INSPIRING co-guides (Telle Maukonen and Anna Wardley).
The mystique, challenge, and lure of THE CHANNEL are contagious. As an LDT guide (and coach), it is my job to assist and inspire others to push limits, face demons, and overcome obstacles. I didn’t expect that my motivation would be rekindled in the process, and I’m now ready to book a Channel Captain and begin a serious training plan.
The Mallorca experience with SwimTrek is the perfect location and format to find your inspiration. The average daily air temperature is in the low 20s (70F) and the water temperature hovers just under The Channel qualifying standard of 16C (61F). Several of the swimmers (and guides) have already swum The Channel and their first-hand experience is invaluable. Many of the others have significant long distance and cold water swims under their belts (Manhattan, Catalina, Cook Straight, Gibraltar, etc.).
But, the group WITHOUT much experience was my inspiration. Swimmers from all walks of life and all backgrounds were on the island collectively to improve their swimming and take their best shot at a goal that most would deem crazy. But these are serious athletes with an enormous goal. It was truly enjoyable to work with them, and all along, I kept saying to myself, “Mark, you need to get out of your own way.” Those on the trip will know what I’m referring to.
So, when I get back home to Montana, I’m going to research my options and set my sights. I’m going to train, work on my cold water acclimatization, and refine my feeding plans. France, here I come!