The train leaves every morning at 7 36 am. Some days it might be late due to a whinge about how far and hard we’ve already swum and a negotiation about how far we’ve got to go. The old rattler is called the ‘Extra Mile’ and it all stations to a channel somewhere.
Wistfully we farewell other squad members, the triathletes, the surf club racers, and resting channel tragics as they go for coffee, and in perfect formation those of us training for international channel crossings take off to do extra laps following the 4 km main set. The pace is a steady and the lead changes periodically to share the drag. We swim this part at our ‘go all day pace’.
Where you get off the Extra Mile depends on your channel goal. English and North Channelers will go as far as 5 km extra as they train for the toughest currents and indeterminable periods in the sea. Molokaiers too will go that far – theirs is a certain 15- 20-hour swim so they need the distance. This year I’m a Cataliner – my program calls for just an extra 2 km a day.
Ant leads the Extra Mile bullet train in the next lane. He’s as ready for the English Channel as anyone has ever been and now just needs to stay tuned and well. Justin, our fastest, joins him some days as he prepares for Molokai.
Dean, a World Open Water Swim Association triple crown holder is up for the North Channel from Ireland to Scotland regarded by us as the hardest channel in the world. It’s colder and meaner than even the English Channel. He’s the right man to be the first of us to do the North.
Rachelle, The Princess or Nemo to fellow passengers, is a small fish with a big personality. She swims for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia and is also taking on the English Channel. Of steely determination, she’s ready too.
The indefatigable Cae knows the way better than anyone. Having conquered the English Channel in 2014 and missing out on a Molokai title after a 17-hour attempt earlier this year, Cae will swim around Manhattan after crewing for me across Catalina.
This year’s rookie, Chris, is an enigma blown in from Queensland. He’s making a late run and quietly makes his way up the lane, learning the ropes. He will be the last of the squad to swim the English Channel opting for warmer weather but rougher seas that normally mark the tail end of the northern hemisphere swimming season.
The extra miles are vital. We do the main set to get our body, technique and speed right. We do the extra miles to get our head right. The daily trip can be long and tiresome but with this years lot it’s been a sweet ride.