Our basecamp is 10 minutes out of Dover at Reach Court Farm in the 15th century village of St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe. Literally and symbolically, it’s the closest land to France. We are in the middle of wheat fields ready for harvest and the weather is superb.
The advice of seasoned channel swimmers and coaches is consistent, don’t think of France, don’t look back at the white cliffs, swim from feed to feed and eventually you run out of water.
The Republic of Dovakia is a parallel universe that sits alongside the town of Dover. The former is the world of international open water swimmers, the latter a tough working class town. There’s very few that cross over.
Come the summer solstice channel swimmers and their crew start arriving in Dover. Some come to break records, others like me come to cross.
Standing under the white cliffs of Dover looking across to France and thinking of my swim across the English Channel in a few days, I am reminded of lines from ‘Ambition’ by the Australian poet, Russell Plunkett. My mother gave a framed copy to me some years ago.
There is a certain perverse unity that comes from cold-water swimming and my English Channel training has introduced me to many tight knit groups that love the extremes.
Perhaps it’s because he’s from a landlocked country, Slovakia that my coach Vlad is so passionate about open water swimming. You need passion and a big personality to get up each morning to be at the pool by 6 to coach anything between 40 – 60 surf lifesavers, tri-athletes, ironmen, and English Channel swimmers, and he has both in spades.
My brush with suicide was fleeting. It was many years ago, and before I was diagnosed and treated for Bipolar 2.
I had been brutally and quite personally done over in a boardroom stoush the day before and hadn’t slept well reliving the experience over an over in my mind. With each replay my sense of frustration and injustice was intensified and my self worth diminished.
English Channel world recorder holder, Trent Grimsey (6 hrs 55 mins, 6 Sept 12) describes Brisbane’s Sutton’s Beach on his website, ‘Great one day, perfect the next’. I must have been at a different Suttons Beach the day I swam there in what was to become my defining channel training swim.
In any athletic endeavour smashing through the pain barrier is getting past the point where you think you can’t carry on. It’s about physical and mental toughness and success in managing pain comes incrementally to those who persist.
When you come out to your wife of 28 years and your four teenage children, the pain of leading an inauthentic life is quickly replaced with the pain of seeing people you love in turmoil for reasons not of their making.
In one of Sydney’s strangest rituals, on any given day and in any given weather conditions, at 7 am sharp there will be one or two hundred ocean swimmers wearing pink caps, if not pink costumes, congregating off the point at Manly beach.
To everything there is a reason, and a time to every purpose to swim the seas.
A time to swim aerobically, a time for skills and drills, to work on the catch, that time is Monday.
I happened upon English Channel Therapy quite by accident and quickly realized it was for me. The secret I discovered is that preparing to swim the English Channel takes all the essential ingredients of B2 treatment and rolls them into one convenient to use program.
In the family of mood disorders Bipolar 2 is the middle child, often misunderstood and struggling for its own identity.
Classically defined B2 is a psychiatric illness marked by distinct periods of extreme euphoria (hypomania), and sadness or hopelessness (depression).
Some months ago as I was dragging my sorry ass through some heavy waters somewhere preparing for the English Channel crossing almost upon me, I invoked the spirit of my late father, Bob to carry me the distance. He never let me down when he was alive, and didn’t that day either.
The story of my English Channel crossing begins in the mountains of Papa New Guinea.
There, in the spring of 2007, I walked the Kokoda Trail. The trail runs 97 km straight up and straight down the Owen Stanley Ranges and is the path of the great battle between Japanese and Australia soldiers that saw the Japanese defeated for the first time in World War 2 and Australia protected from invasion.