Monday, September 28, 2015

Chad's EC Swim

So it's been over a week since Chad's swim and I got home a couple days ago.  I hope I can sufficiently summarize the awesome adventure of last week!

Chad and I do our pre-channel swim at Dover Beach
Saturday, September 19th - Chad and I met at Dover Beach where we met Freda Streeter and Irene Wakeham and other swimmers.  We collected our CS&PF gear and went for a swim.  Swam out to the east harbor wall and back.  GPS reported 1.1 miles in just over 30 minutes.  Here's the tracker data. It was surreal to swim here again and with a great friend.

Later in the day we reviewed the weather and Chad also talked with Paul and it was decided that he would swim Sunday morning at 2am, so we were all set to go!

Sunday, September 20th - I tried to get some sleep in the afternoon and got about 4 hours.  We then drove over the marina and met Paul and the CS&PF observer, Jeff.

Paul got a new boat, the Optimist.  The boat he had when I swam with him was probably half this big.  This was higher up in the water and could accommodate a bigger crew, with a spacious interior.  The other members of the crew were:  Chad's wife: Chandra, Chad's Mom: Dianne, Chad's Father: Wayland, Chad's friend, Ryan Pera, and myself.  We boarded and started towards the beach at Samphire Hoe.

Chad seemed calm and confident which was perfect.  When we arrived he got greased up and jumped in for the swim to the beach.  Paul had a huge spotlight on him so we could see him clearly from the beach.  It was very exciting.  There were several other boats and swimmers where already there and had just started prior to our arrival.

When he started, I started my GPS watch.  His first feed was at the 1 hour mark, and after that every 30 minutes.  At first Jeff was on top of things and informed me of when I was supposed to feed, which I already was prepared for.  After the first couple feeds and him talking with Paul, he said he would leave the feeds up to me, and if I would just inform him of how much and what he was eating.

Most of his feeds were his perpetuem powder mixed either with a watered down gatorade, or peach/white grape juice blend.  We warmed them up after a few times by using warm water.  The first warm feed was too hot as he complained that he burned his mouth.  I made sure after that to taste test the warmth of his feeds which he reported were much better.

After a few hours of this I looked around and everyone on the crew was asleep except myself and the pilot.  I was on my own with Chad for the next few hours.  No worries, I was rested and could handle it on my own.  At about 5:30am I could see the sun was starting to light up the eastern horizon.  Folks were starting to wake up and help keep an eye on Chad.  As the first tide started to go slack, I noticed several small green mounds on the water's surface.  Jellyfish!  I watched as Chad swam along and occasionally would swim into one.  Only once did I hear him yell out, "Ow!"  After that he just kept swimming.

Once in a while I'd see a big clump of them together and him running into them.  He just kept swimming, but occasionally he would look forward under water rather than keep his face straight down and he would get one to hit him right in the face or his lips.  At this time the sun was up and there were other people starting to be fully awake and help take my place as the person preparing and throwing out feeds.  But I didn't want to get in just yet.  I wanted to wait until the tide started to pick up and the jellyfish begin to submerge just a little beyond arms depth.

The wind was coming from the west, so after checking with Paul, I yelled out telling him to move around behind the boat and start swimming on the port side of the boat.  This was a good move because he likes to breath on the right side and he wasn't able to see the boat when he'd breath normally.  He would have to slightly lift his head to see the boat on the left side.  Plus with the wind direction, the boat could shield him somewhat.

At about 10 am I got in and swam with him.  The water felt great and at this point Chad had already been swimming about 8 hours.  I was able to notice that his elbow was dropping and his arm pushing down rather than back.  I swam some breast stroke, some one arm freestyle, fist drills, and at one point Jeff yelled out to me that I was going to far ahead of him.  I didn't want to make Chad frustrated with me, so I resolved that at the next feed I'd get out rather than swim the full hour that I was allowed to assist.

I yelled out to Chad what he was doing with his stroke and what he could do to make his swim more efficient.  According to the log that Paul was compiling, he was still maintaining 1.4 - 1.6 knots in progress so he was doing just fine.  He only once asked for advil which we gave him.  In total he took three 200 mg servings throughout his whole swim.

His solids consisted of a variety of banana, buzz bite, jelly roll, or nutrigrain bar.  Even I was getting sick of the perpetuem smell.  I could only imagine how tired he was of drinking it.  He was urinating frequently so he was getting enough liquids.  We switched to a couple servings of hot chocolate which afterwards he said was a real treat.

As we neared France we were far east of hitting Cap Griz Nes, the ideal landing spot with the shortest distance from England.  In fact we were even east of Wissant, the closest French town.  At the rate we were going and the wind coming from the west as well as being pushed easterly from the tide, we were going to hit Callais.

It seemed to take forever to get closer to France the last few hours.  During two of the feeds he actually asked, how much further, or how far have I gone?  Two questions that I totally abhor hearing as a support crew member.  At this point, I was so tired I was beginning to hallucinate, so I asked Chandra to take over so I could get 30 minutes of sleep.  I set my alarm to wake me.  During the next feed I woke up and she said he's doing just fine and so I asked if I could have just one more round of rest.  After which I resumed the main role of feed prep.

As we got closer to Callais we could see nearly due east that many ferries were coming in and out of there and were getting uncomfortably close to their channel.  Paul and Jeff asked me to encourage him to swim faster.  I was constantly signaling to him to stay in the shade of the boat since the sun was now to our west.  This would keep him close to the boat, allowing it to shield him from the wind and waves, as well as keep him at a pace that the boat could push him to an aggressive pace.  When he'd drop behind he'd get the sun in his face and I'd point to the shady area I wanted him in and would signal him to swim faster.  He must have been annoyed when I did that, but he obediently did his best to stay in that position and I saw that his pace was faster during this time when I was pushing him.

We were nearing the two red and green channel buoys where the ferries come in/out of Callais.  Paul mentioned that we were in an area of the channel that wasn't very good for him to be in.  So I continued to push him, but we still managed to swim between those two buoys which are separated by about a 1/2 mile.  I dropped down and asked Paul how we were doing.  He didn't seem concerned about our pace or not making it which was just what I wanted to here.  He pointed to the area where we were expected to land and he gave me directions on where to coach him into the beach.

As we got to about 1/2 mile from the beach I was told to go ahead and get in with him and swim the rest of the way in.  When I jumped in, the water felt a few degrees colder than when I swam with him earlier.  I swam along side him towards the beach.  It seemed like we were still quite a way out, but I was able to capture quite a bit of him swimming in with my Go Pro.  Finally it got to the point where I reached down with my foot and I felt the sandy bottom.  We're almost there!

A couple minutes later I started walking at about lower chest level and did so just so he could see that we indeed were at a walkable depth.  He continued to swim as we now were getting waves coming from behind us and pushing us in.  He stopped and attempt to touch the bottom.  His stability took some time to adjust, but eventually he was able to stand and balance and start to walk.  The walk in was still quite a ways, well over 100 yards.  But it was the perfect visual scenario. The sun was near the horizon and setting.

The beach was fully sand and it there were no rocks for us to step on.  As he finished I stopped my watch when his feet completely were out of the water and he immediately collapsed and rolled on to his back.  He gave every ounce of energy he had.  He just laid there on his back and enjoyed the moment.  I looked around and couldn't see any rocks at all.  In fact it looked very similar to the beach that Richard Barnes landed at according to his video.  I found a few shells and handed them to Chad as he continued to try looking for a rock which was futile.  He stuffed the shells into his suit and we started to make our way back to the boat.  I stayed close by so he didn't feel pressured to swim fast back to the boat.  He could go as easily at he wanted at this point.  A well deserved cool down.

Chad's actual swim course

His total swim time on my watch came to 16:54:55. Here's the tracker data (which cut out half way there cause of my little time under the deck napping, and it took a while for it to reconnect with satellite)

I stayed in the water while he climbed the ladder up to the back of the boat and climbed out afterwards.  Hugs were given, and he was wrapped up in a towel and taken down below to warm up.  He was literally covered in red marks that looked like he was whipped with a towel.  Those jellyfish totally did a number on him!  Man, it just goes to show that one swim is not like the other.  Not only did I not get stung by jellies on my EC swim, but I didn't even see any.  He was literally stung dozens of times.  And I take it these stings are more severe than the stings I had to deal with in Catalina.

I was so happy that Chad was able to successfully swim this dream swim.  He's been preparing and training so hard for this!

Here's the highlight video I put together


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