The 7th hour

In order to qualify to swim the channel under CSA rules swimmers must first do a 6 hour sea swim without a wetsuit. I did one in the summer of 2012 with Coldwater Culture in Folkestone, but have not done one since, so I have to do it again. I need and want to, largely to assess my condition.

Tim  is confident I can swim the channel, but I still to convince myself. My thinking is the sooner I get those long hauls out of the way the clearer I will be about where I am and if I’m on target.

There is question I will not be able to answer until the day of my swim however. After passing the 6 hour mark what then? Is it plain sailing or plain pain?

The thing is I don’t know what state I will be in seven hours into my swim. I might have found a good stroke that I can hold onto right up to the end, but the chances are that as I run out of energy I will also slow and cool down. With the cooling there is the serious risk of hypothermia. Even if I manage to continue swimming my concentration is likely to falter. This is why nutrition is so important.

In addition to all the swim training, managing ones energy supplies properly is the only way of sustaining mental and physical form.

As Haruki Murakami writes in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by 15miles into a marathon run he thinks he can run forever. However by the 17th mile all of a sudden his energy goes and the only way for him to continue is to endure unbelievable pain. By the end of his 26 miles he does not feel elated or celebratory. He feels relieved.

When  I’ve spent 10 hours being smashed by high waves and my arms and shoulders ache and I’ve lost my. sense of direction and place, I wonder what reason will I  give myself to continue? What will I draw on to keep moving forward?

When I ask myself now why I swim and why swimming the channel is so important I can’t come up with a clear answer . I have to think long and hard about it.

I need to work on the why.


Why swim? why suffer? What is the point?

Stay home. Plod. Plod along. Do nothing.

There is the beginning of my answer. It is to show myself that I still have capacity, that I can perform, that I am active participant.

I can do it . I will do it.

Yeah! (shakes fist in the air, plunges flag into mountain top)

Another answer: To keep myself awake!

But why not paint? Why not make art? Surely you will get as much if not more mileage from that?

I don’t know. Yes, I should do that. I can still do that. I am still doing that

and I’m doing this. They’re kind of the same.

There are a number of connections between my swimming and art interests which largely concerned with movement, circulation, connectivity, time and energy management. Many things I hope to get to grips with via this blog.


Can I do it?

Often, when I tell people my plan to swim the English Channel  I am met with expressions of surprise and incredulity.

“What?! You’re going to swim the channel?! Can you do that?! How do you know you can do it? ”

Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can swim the channel.

There is only so much preparation and training one can do without doing the swim itself. It’s quite a mammoth task. Based on my swimming history however and my ongoing training,  there is a good chance I can do it.

The longest distance I have swum is approx 18 km in Folkestone. That was a 6 hour swim organised by Coldwater Culture in 2012. Under Channel Swimming Association  rules, in order to qualify to swim the channel one has to be able to swim continuously for 6 hours in the sea without a wetsuit. The water temperature must be less than 15 degrees.

It’s said if you can do that then there is a good chance your swim will be a success. There is no guarantee of this however.

Even the strongest swimmers fail.

Tim Denyer, my coach,  is confident I can do it. He says the only thing that is likely to stop me is bad weather.

I am reasonably fit, I swim 5-8 km a day and can handle swimming in cold water. I am asthmatic but rarely get attacks. They usually coincide with bouts of flu or a weakened immune system. Or they are triggered by pollution.

I also suffer from anxiety and depression which can be quite debilitating. Swimming tends to help though.

The main challenge for me is maintaining a positive mental attitude. Self-belief and will power are key.

Can I do it?



I have my doubts. But then I often have doubts about my ability to do things, even things I specialise in like filmmaking.

I know a couple of swimmers who  failed the Channel due to stress at work and relationship problems.

To swim the English Channel one must be focussed on the swim and nothing else.

This is what I have to contend with. The battle in my mind.