This week’s guest post was authored by Ed Horne (white cap in the video) who completed a Gibraltar Strait swim with swim partner Michael Fabray in June 2017.
Well, the goal was simple . . . I wanted to join the list of swimmers who have swum from Europe to Africa across the Gibraltar Straits, joining the ranks of such renowned swimmers as Colin Hill (founder of Chillswim), Simon Murie (founder of Swimtrek) and, of course, Total Immersion founder, Terry Laughlin, who completed the swim with two TI compadres—Lennart Larsson of Sweden and Tommi Patilla of Finland—in October 2013.
But, as I lay there in my hospital bed on 26 September 2015 only 24 hours after receiving a ceramic replacement left hip (the original had atrophied following a skiing accident in March 2012), the plan was going to be a little more complicated!
By the end of March 2016, I had confirmed my slot for the swim for late June 2017 and had worked with a personal trainer to generally improve my physical well-being including walking without a limp and strengthening my core. I had got back into the pool and could reasonably swim for 60-90 minutes. With 15 months to go, all I had to do now was:
- Jettison the wetsuit in open water;
- Improve my base swim speed and stroke efficiency; and
- Get plenty of sea swimming experience.
During this time, I was also guided by a great piece of advice from Professor Greg White, an elite performance coach, who amongst his many ‘claims to fame’ coached the English comedian, David Walliams, to swim both the English Channel and the length of the River Thames for charity. Greg’s advice was simple: ‘Make sure you enjoy the process, because you cannot predict what will happen on the day’!
Jettisoning the wetsuit was relatively easy; I put two river swim events on the calendar, a 6K/3.7mi swim in late July 2016 and a 10K/6.2mi swim in September. As practice, I swam without a wetsuit both in a local lake and, a couple of times, in Dover Harbour with the (soon to be) Channel swimmers.
Improving my base swim speed and stroke efficiency was the key to completing the swim. This brought me into contact with Tracey Baumann, a very experienced Total Immersion teacher and Master Coach. Tracey has a cadre of excellent open water swimmers who this year alone have done a 20-hour English Channel swim, a 2-person English Channel relay and a Jersey to France solo swim. I found myself in exalted company.
Over a series of one to one lessons, Tracey managed to (i) adjust my head position, (ii) commence my breathing rotation earlier, (iii) shorten and soften my hand entry position, (iv) steepen my arm entry ahead of the catch, (v) correct my over-rotation and (vi) introduce me to the 2-Beat kick! In just four months, she remodelled my stroke, improved my stroke efficiency (as measured by stroke count in a 25m pool) by 15%, and my base swim speed had improved by 10%. This ‘old dog’ had clearly learned new tricks.
During this period, my personal trainer continued to work principally on shoulder strength, flexibility, and core development.
The final piece of the jigsaw was to increase my sea swimming experience. With my window booked for the end of June 2017, I would only have six possible opportunities to get into the sea, knowing that, in early May, the temperature would be no more than 53 degrees. So, during the winter, I joined the cold-water enthusiasts/lunatics at Tooting Bec Lido in South London and swam outdoors unheated throughout the winter. The temperature in January dropped as low as 35F. The endorphin buzz and general health benefits from this were enormous and I will continue this practice in future years. Anyway, after sea swims of 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours and 5 hours on successive weekends all in sub-60 degree water, I tapered back down to 2 hours for the weekend before we flew out to Spain.
On the morning of the swim, I could confidently look at myself in the mirror and happily confirm two things:
- I was as well prepared as I could possibly be; and
- Whatever happened, I had enjoyed the process.
I hope that you enjoy the youTube video beautifully compiled by my wife and daughter for me. It was a truly memorable and in many ways life-changing event for me. I had proved to myself that I could make my own wishes come true both by planning properly and, as importantly, executing on that plan.
I cannot thank Jerome Sawyers (personal trainer), Tracey Baumann (Total Immersion teacher) and Emma France (Channel Training co-ordinator) enough for their help in allowing me to realise my goal.
Last but not least, I must mention my good friend and swimming partner, Michael Fabray. We intuitively worked as a team throughout the swim whilst spurring each other on. A little testosterone in the water on the day clearly increased the intensity and enabled us to swim out through the incoming tide for the first hour. Indeed, I am convinced that it was this close partnership that enabled us to complete the swim in a very respectable time. I think for both of us it was a shared experience that neither of us will ever forget.
I am genuinely not sure what is next but . . . I know that there will be a next!