Number 2 - In All Respects

As some of you will already know, last Thursday I had my second attempt at the Channel, and once again failed. I’m not going to write a bitter and twisted blog about it, nor a depressing one. I have had enough of miserable posts so I’m going to try and take any positives I can out of this whole experience. The main positive being that I am more than likely not going to have to do it again…

3am, 26th July 2012 and the time had come for my second crack at the Channel. I felt good, incredibly well fed (I am horribly obese) and at least had some sleep unlike last year. I was still nervous, but I can’t imagine anybody going into this swim without any nerves. I have noticed that when I’m nervous I produce a toxic gas from my bottom, not so much a problem for me, but an unpleasant morning aroma for my crew. Nick, Ange, Simon and of course Clare.

Nick had stayed over in Dover with Clare and me, as his last three days had been at sea. On Tuesday he had swam the Channel in 12:34 as that’s what he does. On Wednesday he had crewed for Kristy, his fellow Serpentine swimmer. Today he was crewing for me. He had been kind enough to let us know that he hadn’t been able to poo since his swim, and was going to walk to the Marina to see if he could rustle one up.

Clare and me packed the car and opted to drive to the Marina. After meeting the rest of the crew (Ange and Simon) and loading everything onto the boat, we had the nervous wait to see if Nick could produce. His attempt ended in failure, not a good omen.

I have already noticed a lot of toilet-based anecdotes in this blog. I will try to avoid it in future, as it is just a little too British for my liking.

Filling out the necessary forms
I was once again to be piloted by Paul Foreman, and his boat ‘Pace Arrow’. This man is an excellent Pilot and somebody who genuinely wants you to succeed in your attempt. I cannot praise the man enough. He had recently suffered tragedy whilst taking across Paraic Casey, who passed away just as it looked as though he had completed his crossing. A horrible situation for everyone, but one that could neither have been predicted nor ultimately avoided. R.I.P.

Anyway back to my almost irrelevant tale now…

After a bit of doubt as to whether we were actually going to make the attempt at all (Paul had been told the wind had picked up a lot more than the forecast had originally suggested) we had the all clear. We were ready to set sail, or the equivalent term for a motorised boat. It was time for the nervous trip round to Shakespeare beach to the start point. The fumes were awful.

 As we drew near I was stripped and covered in Vaseline, what a delightful sport. I filled out a couple of forms and was told to jump in to the black depths as soon as I was ready. I prepared myself for the horrendous feeling of cold as I jumped over the side of the boat, and to be fair it met expectations. By the time I had swum to shore however, I was confident the cold wouldn’t be an issue. The crew shouted GO! 

And I was off…

This bit of the story may appear a little rushed, but there really isn’t that much to say other than I swam.

Swimming in the dark again, it's not a problem.
The first hour is always the hardest, apart from the last hour of course where I generally completely fall to pieces, mentally destroying myself. The hours in between aren't that pleasant either. The first hour this time was fine, the sun was slowly making itself known and I was looking forward to a nice day of flat water and sunshine. The first feed went well and the second hour again was absolutely fine, I had never enjoyed swimming so much in fact. That’s not to say I enjoyed it, far from it, but I enjoyed it more than I had before.

By the end of the 3rd hour it was time for Simon, my first support swimmer, to join me. Last year I was around the same pace as him, but this year I am crap, so very, very slow. He had to swim pretty much one armed to stay with me and I thank him for that, he must have been cold. Anyway he got out after 4 hours and I was still feeling good.

The sun rising, it was very welcome
I had made the switch to 30 minute feeds and these were not passing as quickly as I would have hoped, in fact they seemed to be taking an age. By the time they did come round I was finishing everything I was given and was starting to feel a bit bloated. I started singing TLC’s waterfalls to try and help me wee, but it wasn’t happening. I had consumed litres and litres of maxim and hadn’t had a single wee. I was beginning to feel a bit horrible.

Nick and Simon stand watch
By 6 hours I still felt I was swimming well, I was nearly in the separation zone and was convinced I was going to get across. I still felt this way after 7 hours when Ange joined me for a swim. This happened at pretty much exactly the same time as the weather went to pot.

Now I know Ange is not responsible for the weather change, but it all seems a bit too coincidental to me. The wind picked up creating a slightly unpleasant chop, and the sun had disappeared. The other person who may have been responsible for the weather change was Clare, who had taken a quick power nap. Put both of these incidents together and I believe you have your answer as to why the weather had gone so down hill. I am of course starting legal proceedings against the pair of them.

I must stress the conditions were nothing that I hadn’t swum in before, and nothing compared to what some people have swum in. When it comes to swimming though, I am weak. As soon as the sun disappears I absolutely mentally implode. The only chance I have of getting across this stretch of water is if the conditions are absolutely perfect.

The next hour was horrible, I was still staying at a reasonable pace, consistently very, very slow, but that’s my pace. By the time I got to 8 hours I was falling apart. I no longer thought I was going to get across, this was gutting. This is a terrible thing to think when you have around 8 hours swimming ahead of you. I had been convinced for about 7-8 hours that this was my day, and suddenly I couldn’t even muster the courage to lift my arms.

I stopped to puke and try to force out a wee, the puke happened, the wee didn’t. I shouldn’t be forcing out wee at my age anyway, but this was an interesting insight into my future. As soon as you stop on a swim like this, it is very hard to get going again. In fact as soon as you look up, it is hard to get going again. It is for me anyway. Everyone on the boat was telling me I had to keep going, just to give them half hour etc. etc. I couldn’t and I am ashamed of that. At the time though I was getting really annoyed with them all. I must confess I did mutter the odd swear word at this point, for my younger readers the word rhymed with tuck and was shouted rather loudly several times.

My mind was no longer on the task, I was once again a broken man.

I love you Sun
I managed to bob along for another half hour before taking myself out of the water. A lot of people will say they would never pull themselves out, well done, you’re better than me. However, I said the exact same thing. If you have never tried to swim a massive distance like this, you have not got a clue what happens to you in the water.

As I said, I don’t want this to be a miserable post, as it seems to be an ongoing theme recently. I will say that I am unlikely to attempt this swim again. I can’t afford it for one, for two it takes over your entire life and destroys it. For three I want to see my girlfriend, something that I haven’t done on a summer’s weekend for 2 years. Maybe I will in a few years when I am rich, and possess the ability to swim.

I will probably miss Dover in a weird way, but I don’t think I’ll miss it that much. The people I will undoubtedly miss. Freda, Barrie, Irene, Michelle and the whole beach crew are some of the greatest humans I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I won’t miss being freezing in brown water and waking up at stupid o’clock every weekend, I will not miss that at all.

The truth is I am nowhere near getting across to France. A million miles away, which is a significant distance on a 21 mile swim. I’ll have to improve on my style a lot. Although it is more about the mental side, if I could get across in 10 hours then I wouldn’t have to fight my demons quite so hard for quite so long.

At least I got the classic photo
I want to make it clear I’m not putting forward any excuses for this fail. I had no injury, the weather was more than acceptable, I had the perfect crew, and I fed well. It was down to my ineptness in the water, and the fact that it is a hard as nails swim. If it wasn’t hard people wouldn’t do it, or everyone would do it, or some people would do it and find it easy, or the people that do it wouldn’t bother to tell anybody, or… well there are many scenarios for if it wasn’t hard.

Anyway in conclusion, I am far from ready to swim the Channel. Swimming wise I could probably get across, it would be a wild flapping mess of a crossing but technically it could happen. Mentally I could not. However as I say, if I could swim properly then I think the mental side would be greatly helped. They go hand in hand with each other, and are not necessarily exclusive. You will always feel mentally stronger if you are more confident in your ability, and you would probably swim better if you were mentally stronger.

It is in the end just a swim, and could have ended a lot worse. I can’t be too down about it. I am building up quite a character after the amount of character building experiences I have now had. It’s just a shame the character I am building is a fat, negative, ginger bearded bastard, who is currently deaf in one ear. Well not quite deaf, I have a constant ringing and the feeling of a small squirrel trying to climb out of my head, a very unexpected bonus from the swim. 

At least I can diet…

While I'm here I have to say congratulations to everybody that has got across so far, and commiserations to everybody that hasn't. It's a tough lesson to take, but that's all it is. Especially well done to Zoe Sadler, who had the misfortune of being selected as my sun creme provider during the season in Dover. Well done to her for not absorbing my negativity and smashing her swim in 16hours...


Just a Quicky

I have had to put this advert on here as I love it. Truly brilliant.


In other news I got over my miserableness and may well be swimming on Thursday! Just awaiting the phonecall.

Exciting times....


Decision Time - Rated 18

The following post is incredibly miserable and should not be read by anybody with suicidal tendencies; those that do read on may well have suicidal tendencies by the end. So I would advise against anybody continuing. I can only apologise, but I take no responsibility for you reading on…

My current state of mind
I have after much thought come to the conclusion that I may well have to cancel my attempt at the Channel. This is not a decision that I have just made over night; it’s just basic common sense.

It turns out after 2 years of training I am a crap swimmer.

When I am accused of being weak I will take it on the chin. The fact of the matter is I have swam over 1.3million metres in the last 2 years, over 280,000m’s of that has been in Dover harbour. That disgusts me just writing it. Over a quarter of a million metres in Dover harbour. Despite all this I still cannot get my head around the Channel. It has completely and utterly broken me.

I have destroyed any kind of fitness I had, going from 14stone with around 10% body fat, to 13st 10lb probably around 30% body fat. I am feeble. This is not a sport in which to get fit.

I spend every week dreading the weekend, then when it comes I generally don’t complete whatever swim I am given and then feel terrible. So basically I feel bad all the time.

Don’t get me wrong I have never been the most happy go lucky man on the planet. I would never successfully audition for Jedward, or be invited to hang around with Alan Carr (both of which I would sooner tear my eyes out than do, so I don't mind) but I am naturally a reasonably happy chap. The misery I have become is something else.

My typical Saturday/Sunday goes like this:

Wake up 6am, struggle to eat breakfast, and usually fail halfway through. I then proceed to gag for 15 minutes through extreme anxiety. I say goodbye to my girlfriend who is still tucked up in bed, fair enough it’s still not even 7o’clock on a weekend morning, then get in the car and drive to Dover.

The drive is horrible, as I become more and more anxious all the way. I want to turn around and go home at pretty much every single junction, I begin praying for some kind of major road incident giving me a reason to head home. If the weather is good, then it gradually deteriorates as I get closer, if the weather is bad, it gradually deteriorates.

My favourite quote of the moment is

I have found lately that if you can see France it is going to rain, and if you can not see France it is raining.Eric Hartley

By the time I arrive at Dover I have my first good bit of the day when I see everyone. Everybody has the same haunted look on their face, apart from 1 or 2 who claim to love it and feel everyone should know, although I’m pretty sure they don’t.

This does not feel good.

After checking in and getting a number you are told how long you are going to be in the brown piece of salty spew behind you. This is about the time I start dreaming of a dislocated shoulder, or a severed head. Then I queue up to be covered in Vaseline, I enjoy this bit.

After a quick brief from Freda (a genuine super hero who I constantly disappoint), we hobble down the pebbled beach before slowly immersing ourselves in our freezing home for anything up to 7 hours. This is depressing.

25-30minutes later I am swamped with thoughts and excuses to get out and they stay with me until the 2 hour feed. At this point I stare blankly ahead whilst drinking my beaker of Maxim before turning round and once again heading to the harbour wall.

I hate myself for the next hour.

On the 3 hour feed I have my ultimate test. I know if I head back out after this feed I will generally complete the swim, however turning round at this point is so much harder than it would appear. I have failed at this point more times than I care to remember, as have many others.

When I do head back out to sea I feel good for about 5 minutes, before having an almost unbelievable urge to cry. I am yet to actually cry at this point but it is definitely getting closer. Instead of crying I swear very loudly between every breath, I’m not sure if this helps but the urge eventually goes away. Once this urge has passed I just drift through the rest of the swim, completely numb and reaching acceptance that the majority of my day is going to be spent somewhere that I hate, doing something that I am also slowly learning to hate.

This is a sport that makes you feel like a complete and utter loser if you only complete 4 hours in freezing cold water, outrageous. It’s like feeling like a failure if you complete a marathon in under 3 and a half hours, I know this and yet I feel like this.

When I do complete a swim I do admittedly feel good, but I’m not sure that feeling out-weighs how absolutely horrendous I feel when I don’t complete a swim. That feeling is one that stays with me throughout the entire week.

In short I am unsure that I want to continue putting myself through this, for what seems to me at present, an impossible feat. I am constantly told how I have to believe that I will complete this swim, I cannot believe it. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and for it to be over. I admit to being completely broken.

To all those that have completed this challenge, I take my hat off to you. You are genuinely amazing. More so the people that aren’t world-class swimmers, just regular people who seem to be made of steel. The Channel is something that is very easy to under-estimate since David Walliams swam across it, and lots of people now think they could do it.

People often say to me that they could swim all day – NO YOU COULDN’T!, it is a complete, and excuse my language here, head-f**k. The only people I will accept this statement from are Kevin Murphy, Alison Streeter, Penny Palfrey, Dianna Nyad, Steve Redmond, Jackie Cobell and Nick Adams. There are undoubtedly others but these people make me feel incredibly humbled by what they have achieved.

Anyway undoubtedly I’ll head down to Dover again next weekend full of shame and apprehension, as I am too scared and disgusted with myself to cancel my swim. I will once again go through the motions, wishing my life away, and letting everyone down.

I genuinely apologise for this being such a morbid and horrendous post, but there are plenty of swimming blogs out there full of joy and record breaking swims, the niche I am looking to fill is the 'complete and utter despair' swimming market. I assume there is a market for this?

Another reason for writing this is for the swimmers out there who think they are the only people that feel like this, I absolutely guarantee you that you are not. People don’t like to talk about it as it brings them down, which is fair enough, however due to this everybody thinks everybody else is fine and breezing through their swims. They are not, they are suffering just as much as you, they just keep going.

If by some miracle I do get to France (increasingly highly unlikely) then it will the greatest achievement of my life, no doubt about it. I’m really not sure it will have been worth the 2 years of absolute hell though.

I may never find out…


Trials and Tribulations

I have deliberately not written anything on here for a while, as I was determined to get a positive weekend in at Dover first, as nobody likes reading depressing negativeness all the time. This has taken a bit longer than I envisaged.

Since Dover training begun I have basically gone from pretty confident and loving life, to once again falling into a pit of self-hatred and despair. This has nothing to do with Dover, as a place it’s not too horrific. The people on the beach are brilliant, and if you squint until your eyes are almost completely shut, it is beautiful. No, the problems once again lie within my pathetically weak mind.

Once again my head has decided to smash me to pieces, I cannot beat myself it would appear. I have done a fair bit of mind training and can talk very positively about the swim and about my chances, but as soon as I see the pebbles in the harbour my insides drop out (quite literally on Saturday when I had to stop swimming after 2 hours due to explosive diarrhoea).

The queue for vaseline. Channel swimming is not all glitz and glamour, not at all in fact...
Some of you probably think you didn’t need to know that last bit, and I would agree you did not need to know that, but if you are ever thinking about swimming to France you do need to know that this sort of stuff happens. Yes, despite the photos on here where we all look so stunning, Channel swimming is in fact not that glamorous.  

Other lovely stuff has happened too. I experienced my first sober projectile vomit shortly after my first maxim feed, and when I say projectile I mean it. Whilst treading water I would make a guess that the consumed Maxim left my body and entered the water around 10 feet away from me. It sprayed from my mouth as though it was leaving the blow hole of a blue whale, before making that satisfactory sound of vomit on water and leaving on the back of a passer by.

This of course made me laugh a lot, but it quickly turned into self-pity and made the next hour of the swim a miserable experience. To be fair it’s always a pretty miserable experience.

I also experienced cramp. Cramp so debilitating that I was genuinely concerned for my life. Treading water with a calf that is as solid as a particularly hard rock is not easy, swimming with that calf is even harder. I did at one point look to the beach and quietly, under my breath, mutter the word ‘Help!’, then I just swam in. That cramp lasted for approximately 11 days, until it eventually worked it’s way into the ball of my foot where it still presides to this day (around 4 weeks now).

On another weekend I completed 5 hours in slightly worse conditions than the perfect storm, the next day I again completed 5 hours, this time the conditions were ever so slightly worse. In my 5th hour of the second day I decided at my current pace I was just going to make it to the far wall of the harbour and back, barely any distance. This turned out to be optimistic, and as my watch reached 4hrs and 30mins I had just about touched the wall. ‘Crap’ I thought/shouted and proceeded to swim the distance back, this time against the tide. Somehow when you know you’re going to finish you swim a lot faster and I was back at the feeding point at 5 hours and 8mins.

The face of a broken man
8 minutes that I will never get back.

The thing to remember when you are swimming in this place is that everyone feels the same, despite the fact that they all look as though they are loving life. They are all slowly dying inside, apart from the odd Australian who is genuinely loving life.

I usually begin my mind implosion at around the 25 minute point, which is absolute hell. I repeatedly tell myself I cannot go on and that I am a terrible swimmer/person. Luckily I have learned to control it, and usually feel ever so slightly better again within 3 days. My mind is a horrible place when it is encased in a cold skull and staring into the brown depths of Dover harbour.

Anyway as I said nobody likes reading negative stuff all the time, so I found this website:


Here We Go Again

It has come to my attention that I haven’t really written anything on this blog for a while, there is good reason for this, I have had nothing of interest to say. The following may well still be uninteresting but it is time to revive texswims…

Since I last wrote anything on here about actual swimming my attitude to training has completely changed. This year I am deliberately trying to swim less, and enjoy it more. Last year I became obsessed with times and getting overly competitive with myself, this turned out to be an utterly pointless venture. This time I am just swimming for the joy of swimming. 

Back in the sea, and loving it...
I have found a 50 metre outdoor pool, which is a bonus, so have been training outside since January. Unfortunately it is heated to about 23c, but after my local pool decided to heat itself up to about 30c it is far more pleasant. I have also once again started swimming at Dover. This has been far more enjoyable this year, the water has been 9, 10 and 11c the 3 weekends I have gone and I can honestly say I am yet to feel cold. Until I get out of the water of course when I get the shakes, but again these are nothing like last year.

I can now comfortably swim for an hour in 10c water and reckon I could do at least another half hour if I wasn’t terrified of Freda telling me off when I eventually did get out. In short the season has started very well, and confidence is high.

This time round I am fully immersing myself in the mental preparation. Last time it was just an after thought for me, which turned out to be a big mistake. I genuinely think I could not swim another length, but just concentrate on sorting my head out and I’d get across the Channel. I’m not going to put this to the test of course as that would be madness, but I am going to calm the swimming, and myself, down a lot.

One massive thing I have learned since returning to Dover this year is how little some people actually swim, and yet smash the Channel to pieces. I have met 3 people who have all completed Channel swims and yet have never swum further than 3km in a pool. I also know of people that just swam the weekends at Dover and didn’t swim at all in the week, or did very little. I was of the opinion last year that it was necessary to swim 40 – 50km a week to get across, and to get an outstanding time it probably is, but I’m not going for any records, I just want to get across. Time also doesn’t allow me to get in the pool for that long every week, so this choice has almost forced itself upon me.

I still aim to get around 20km a week, but don’t hate myself if I don’t achieve it. I will probably beast myself in June for a few weeks, then really calm down in July ready for the big day. I'm also taking a leaf out of Ange's book and fully embracing support swimmers, something I was quite dismissive of last year, determined to get across without anyone ever getting in with me. I literally have no idea why I felt like this. It's a hard enough challenge, no need to try and make it harder still.

Jackie Cobell (right). One of the many legends on the beach. My eyebrows don't always look like this...
I had the pleasure of meeting Jackie Cobell last weekend in Dover. If ever there was a person who should give motivational speeches she is it. She just completely removed any nonsense about the Channel, and just said get on with it. Many people have said this to me before, but when it comes from a lady who swam for nearly 29 hours it really hits home. 

She also gave me an excellent excuse for why I didn't get across last time - being too intelligent. Apparently if you're intelligent you think all the time and thus eventually get negative thoughts, Jackie said she just didn't think anything for her whole swim. So this is what I'm doing from now on, you'll notice the posts on here get less and less literate until it's just swearing and Rihanna song titles, then I will be ready. 

Unfortunately most of, if not all, the people on Dover beach are far more intelligent than me so this theory may have to be scrapped. So my excuse for last year remains: I was a baby.

Anyway there’s nothing really dramatic to put on here yet, and that will be the way it stays for the season. Dramas were for last year, this year is for a text book crossing from start to finish.

Although Royal mail did lose my Channel medical, so I have had to do that again, that was relatively dramatic…


True Greatness

In the past 8 months, since my failed channel attempt, I have been blown away by many great feats of endurance and people over-coming the odds.

My friend Dan Martin is about to begin his round the world triathlon, a truly amazing challenge and one that should be widely publicised around the entire planet.

I watched the swimming Olympic trials in awe, and can only imagine the amount of training and dedication that goes into reaching such an incredible level of fitness and technical skill.

I have also become friends with many people who have already crossed the channel and have taken advice and inspiration from all of them, the majority of which are already planning their next events.

Even celebrities are doing proper challenges, David Walliams (who was already a legend) swam the Thames, and John Bishop did an admittedly watered down, but still excellent arch-to-arc.

Just when I thought I couldn’t really be more inspired and determined to complete my own Channel swim, along comes a young man who has conquered his own mammoth challenge.

This is truly the most remarkable video I have ever seen. I genuinely believe if a human being can complete such a momentous task as this, I have no doubt at all that I can achieve my dream.

Please watch and believe, like I now do, that anything is possible…


Happy New Year!!

This will be a remarkably quick post wishing everyone the best 2012 they can possibly have.

For everyone planning a big swim, good luck. I'll be having another crack at the Channel in the summer and this time I plan to get out at France.

Have an excellent time and achieve everything you want to.

In the great words of Nick Adams (Channel swimming extraordinaire) Big Love xx

See you soon Dover