Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Channel 11 is in the books

Channel 11 is in the books: June 26, 2011.

I came to Dover, alone, hoping to be the 2011 season’s 1st solo crossing. Scheduling the crossing was the easy part, no one else wanted to swim a solo in June. I arrived on the June 17th and wait began, but I know now, the 7 days of training in the Dover harbor under overcast skies helped me get through my swim on Sunday, June 26, 2011. I came into this swim, very fit, feeling good but I actually was worried about my 15 pound weight loss and I won’t lie, I did miss that insulation.

The day started with Dover being FOGGED in. Mike Oram, my pilot settled into the waiting game, but because we were on the lowest of the neap tides, leaving later may affect my time, but we still should have a respectable swim. The first thing Mike noticed was my weight loss, he likes his swimmers fit with something to squeeze. While Mike and his crew James Willi and Derek Carter tinkered with the boat, I instructed David Chisholm, who has volunteered to help me with my feeds. Observer, Kevin Murphy watched over us and has voiced he will assist. In between chats, I would take a bath room break. I miss Janet, my life partner, she knows exactly how to feed me but I’m glad she won’t see the pain in my eyes I expect to have.
Finally around 8:15 am, an hour and 15 minutes past my original start time, it was safe to leave the harbor and go to Shakespeare Beach. Anastasia’s pilot, Eddie Spelling, had left a half hour earlier and his relay team was already in the water. As we turned right out of the sheltered waters of the harbor, the channel proper was quite bumpy but nothing out of the norm; I just had to get my head around it.

The fog prevented us to see the shore line, until we were only 20 yards away. Time to grease up, Kevin nicely applied the Vaseline over the areas where my straps and cap may cut my skin. I wish I could just have fun jumping off the boat, the kid in me wants to, but I know the shock of the water waits, I wish someone would just push me in. Well I finally did get into the water, cleared my goggles with spit and sea water while swimming to shore. I slipped a rock from the beach into my suit, put my nose clip on, looked to skies with a quick safety prayer, and off I went. The second my foot hit the water, Mike sounded the sirens on the Gallivant and I started #11. Will the training come through? Will I make it?, Get going Girl.

I've never swam in fog before, it was tough, I had no problems seeing the boat, it was just extra boring. I couldn't see anything in the distance. I prayed for a hot, sunny sky, and got my wish but not until we were over the 1/2 way mark.

I separate most of my swims into 1/3's, the 1st 1/3 of course, is interesting, and you’re excited just to be in the water. I had lumpy seas but I knew the tide and the wave action was coming from behind, pushing me toward France, so I tried to feel the surf action and let it flow. Still we had no sun warming my back side; I tried not to show how uncomfortable I was. I had drawn on all of my mind games to fight back that want to get out; I wasn't injured ... keep swimming; I was certainly bored ... keep swimming; you've swam doubles ... keep swimming; you know thinner swimmers that have swam longer time ... keep swimming; you're cold but not hypothermic ... keep swimming girl.

As the tide turned to slack, the water flattened and I really started to move, I was much more comfortable, started to hate my feeds (normal for me), but knowing I had to take in the fluid and energize the muscles, I just hate the bloating feeling that comes with it all. I'll manage through, not bitch about it and do my best.  At 4 1/2 hours, Mike tells me we're over 1/2 way, I’m excited but also know I have a time to go and this is the toughest 1/2. David makes me a feed with cocoa, a nice change, but by now, my taste buds are swollen from the salt water, and I have no distinctive taste; it's all in the mind.
At 5 hours we are really moving, I could have a personal best, but I'm fighting with that notion. I know this can be the time of the day when the wind picks up, blowing against the tide and mixing up the water, which is exactly what happened. By now, 2/3’s are over and I'm feeling a sense of confidence that I will finish this one, as long as I keep putting one arm in front of the other. Mike asked if I am tired, of course I am, but I'm fine, I cringe when he speaks of the feed with an extra boost of Maxim, I hate this stuff and by now I just want to vomit, but I hold it down. Mike knows I'm cold, sees the ice in my eyes, and starts his magic to get swimmers across, at least his words work for me. 
Eventually the skies cleared 5 miles from shore and we could see the cliffs of France, my spirits lifted to finally see something other than The Gallivant (no offence team). The wind started to pick up a bit, blowing against the tide to create a few white caps. Mike instructs me the water on the starboard side is flatter, so I swim behind the boat to the other side to finish the swim. I don’t mind being on the starboard side, but I am more comfortable close to my pilot, communicating through the lens. 

I took each boring 1/2 hour, one at a time, and after 19 feeds we were only 3,000 yards away shore, no need for a last feed, I’m not taking much in anyway, so keep her swimming is Mike’s plan, I’m up for that. That was the longest 3k I can remember, I know I’m clicking off a 1000 yards every 20 minutes. I can see the Light House at Cape Gris Nez, off in the distance; I will be landing just southwest of the point, very close to my first landing, almost 17 years ago. With every breath I can see the cliffs getting larger. Mike slows the Gallivant and I know am I very close, I lift my head, “hey, we’re here”, there are only sharp, large boulders in front me, high tide has not given me a very friendly landing surface. I slowly and carefully found my way through the first layer of rocks and touch a large barnacle and seaweed covered boulder, lift my left hand and the siren sounds from boat, 
Finished… #11, in 10 hours, 34 minutes, 34 seconds.
I swim back to the Gallivant, thinking ‘how, could I have turned around and swam back to England?’ Today I am ecstatic to take a boat ride home.

Thank you to my pilot and crew for a safe and successful journey.
Cast:      Mike Oram: Pilot, Navigator and friendly mentor
               Derek Carter and James Willi: Gallivant crew
               Kevin Murphy: CS&PF Observer & Hon. Secretary
               David Chisholm: swimmer’s crew/ feeder, photographer etc.

1 comment:

  1. You are amazing. I swam with you (well, behind you, but in the same pool anyway) in the 80s at MHS. One night years later my husband and I were watching TV in Manhattan late one night and I saw you swimming around the island. It was thrilling. I am so impressed with your Channel swimming. Thanks for letting me swim vicariously with you.

    Anne Handley Sisco


2015 ... Swimming for Homes for the Brave

After spending the past 20 years paddling from Dover to France, it is time to venture into new waters, while helping some special people.
Soon, I will be traveling with my A-team to Scotland to swim the length of the famous Loch Ness.
As always, I try to help a Foundation raise funds and awareness and I thank you for interest and support.
I am deeply troubled with the thought of homeless individuals, especially in our US Veteran population.

That is why I am teaming up with our Connecticut-based “Homes for the Brave”. Can you imagine not having a place to call home?

Here is more information about Homes for the Brave! -Facebook pages – https://www.facebook.com/pages/ABRIHomes-for-the-Brave/199613606735630?ref=hl

- Annual Appeal with more information about our financials and programs- http://www.homesforthebrave.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/HFTB-2014-Annual-Report-FINAL.pdf

-Check donations can be mailed to the following address:
Homes for the Brave
655 Park Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604

- Donations can be made online as well: https://homesforthebrave.isecuresites.com/products/index.php?type=1110

Please write “Loch Ness Swim/Marcy” to track your donation.

I will always be dedicating my swimming to all those battling cancer and in the memory of 4 special people in my life. Cancer first hit my family when I was young. My grand-aunt Eleanor Kersavage, passed away with uterine cancer and my Auntie Bea Halchak battled with brain cancer.

On January 1, 2002, our LEHY family lost Nikki Giampolo to bone cancer, just turning 16 years old. Her spirit still lives on in our East Hartford swim team.

In July of 2009, my brother-in-law, Gregory Allen Urban, who passed away, after a valient battle with lung cancer. I can see him now, talking about cars and projects around the house, music and his family.

I know Aunties, Eleanor and Bea, Nikki, Greg and all the angels will help me CUT through all this water this summer.

The St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation, based in Bridgeport, CT provides financial support for the needs that Health insurance companies don't cover, in addition to providing affordable cancer screening, wigs, medication and other things to make life easier for those suffering with cancer and their families.

Please make a donation, and thank you.

Online donations can be made at: http://give.stvincents.org

or you can send a check through the post to:

Swim Across the Sound
St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation
2800 Main Street
Bridgeport, CT 06606

Thank you so very much, peace and good health to all.