Brave Stupidity

It must be said that the marathon swimming community is like no other – from the time I made several posts on a message board in an attempt at exploration of a dream, strangers have reached out to me to give me their advice and kindness. It’s something I won’t soon forget. It also solidified that I have a lot of work to do, and I know virtually nothing, and I need to start planning and thinking before I set a course of action. It’s my hope that this blog will either help someone (including myself) across the Channel successfully, or at the very least, provide a very good anecdote.

Unlike marathons or triathlons, there’s no pre-packaged training plans I can buy and abide by. The best I can do is figure out what others have done, and use that as a guide to help me find my way.  I had a flight and a weekend away for a marathon (my third in four weeks, and my heart wasn’t in it) so I grabbed some e-books and immediately set to reading.

I finished In Cold Water, which I highly recommend as a good introduction to the cast and characters you’ll be meeting in the journey towards the Channel crossing – from pilots to marathon swimmers to friends we find along the way.

The book made me realize a few things:

  1. This won’t be cheap. That’s fine, in a way. I’ll just pretend that this is my midlife crisis BMW.
  2. I’m going to have to make a few trips to Dover as run-throughs for open water swimming, and I’m hoping a chance to be an observer for a swim. I think there’s no better way to experience this than to accompany a fellow traveler on our journey to something amazing.
  3. There will be some rough times ahead.
  4. The Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation and Channel Swimming Association will be my two new best friends.
  5. Eventually I’m going to have to tell friends and family. This, for me, is the scary part. I know my family and those I call my friends, and this might not go over well. Perhaps I’m just afraid of them taking my dream out behind the metaphorical shed and shooting it. Perhaps I’m afraid of them being fully supportive of me.

So much to do, and so little time.

Getting Started

I’m not much of an athlete. I don’t look like I’m capable of doing anything other than sitting on a couch. I finish marathons and triathlons, but if I wear a finisher’s jacket, I’m immediately accused of being a fraud.  So I quit telling others about my exploits and races and events and I found that when I kept them quiet, it was a far richer experience for me. No selfies, no photos – just me. My Ironman was kept a secret from my family and marathons are talked about in the same way you’d casually mention a coffee shop visit.

So I want to swim the Channel. I’ve dreamed about it for a decade and it’s an itch I can’t scratch.  When I close my eyes at night, I have that dream where I find myself floating in the cold water, trying to see land off in the distance and knowing that’s my goal and that after many hours and expending everything I have, I’ll find myself on that beach in France looking back at the cliffs in the distance knowing I accomplished something amazing just for me.

I don’t know how to get there, but that “grey nose” is my lodestar.

Last year I went from unambitious swimmer who plays in the pool to knocking down 5000 yards in a workout and finished my Ironman swim secretly hoping they’d say “ok, one more lap!”

So my tentative plan is to start Jan 1, 2018 and aim for a 2020/2021 crossing attempt. I need to let my body heal from multiple marathons and tris in 2017 and start to build that comfortable base so in 2019, I can attempt 10k/20k races. I’m under no illusions that this will be easy: I’ll have to change a lot in my life and push myself harder than I’ve ever thought I could. There’ll be many milestones along the way that I’ll need to hit before I can pull the trigger and book a pilot.

I don’t want to advertise that I’m thinking about this and wanting to go for it to my friends and family until it’s set in stone. I wouldn’t even bring this up to my Master’s club and will try to hide this from my family and loved ones as long as I can because if I told them, my dream might be shattered, and I can’t handle that heartbreak.

So this is my anonymous blog attempting my dream. As Will Durant once said “such a venture has no rational excuse, and is at best but a brave stupidity; but let us hope that, like philosophy, it will always lure some rash spirits into its fatal depths.”