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Monday, September 28, 2009

Channel Swim - Part 1

Todd Paul is an endurance athlete from Evanston who has been training with my tri coach, Craig Strong. Below is Craig’s report on Todd’s pending English Channel swim


To everyone waiting to hear about Todd Paul’s English Channel swim here is an update. Unfortunately, we have to wait a bit longer than hoped. His first opportunity to go would have been as early as this Friday or Saturday at the latest. However, there are still a few swimmers ahead of Todd in his wave. Channel crossings are a bit complicated and very much regulated. There are about 4 boats that are used by channel crossers and crossings occur over a 10 dayish window two times per year – spring and fallish (our seasons). He has until October 1st to make this window. He has been given the word by his captain that he is going on Monday at 5 am (UK time) – this is of course weather dependent. The time that he will go is almost more nerve racking then the swim itself. It’s just not something that we can control. It’s a waiting game – all agreed this part not too much fun.

The channel swim is regulated as I mentioned. Swimmers need to hire a captain and boat, an observer, they can only use a “normal” swimsuit (not past the groin) and no thermal caps. He will wear two latex caps (allowed), his speedo, and as much Vaseline as we can apply to him prior to the swim. He will get on the boat at the harbor and be taken to one of a few beaches in Dover used for swimmers crossing. He’ll have to get out of the boat, swim to shore – stand up on shore – then hop in and start. Upon arriving in France, he will most likely come up on large rocks – it could be night by that time. He will have to climb out of the water and raise his arms above his head in victory (if he can’t raise his arms – it doesn’t count).

AM workout – Todd and I waded into the English Channel about waist deep and stood for about 45 minutes talking mental strategies. I of course was in my wetsuit (comfy) and Todd (no Vaseline) was acclimating to the 60 – low degree water. After standing there for so long we swam for about 30 minutes both of us getting an ice cream headache (we forgot swim caps).

PM workout – I chased Todd around the pool for about 1,500 meters as he completed a 5,000 meter workout (4 x 1,000’s – tapering). I did run for 30 minutes after my swim if that makes up for cutting out 3,500 mtrs of swimming (don’t want to wear out the shoulders prior to Monday). Stunning is Todd’s speed and endurance after only a year of training. I can now only keep up with him in open water in a wetsuit (if he isn’t wearing one) pool swimming is a bit different.

This trip is like training camp for me. I feel like I’m back in Florida with the University team doing double workouts. No worries for me overdoing it – I am taking heavy amounts of an anti-inflammatory in the evenings – a British thing called IPA and my nutrition is wonderful – fish and chips (more ketchup please!!).

There have been few successful crossing attempts this year do to weather and other circumstances (knock wood). Bill Bradley, a famous “show up and suffer” athlete was just pulled from the water after 6 hrs of swimming unfortunately (he did just complete RAAM one of the most intense possible cycling events and Badwater the toughest running race possible). So, needless to say the anxiety level here is a bit higher than one would like. About 1 in 6 attempts make it across. There is a swimmer looking to set the channel record swimming on Saturday with a different boat and captain. We are looking forward to hear how her attempt goes.

Todd has been in constant contact with his boat captain and has a LOT of confidence in him which is absolutely necessary. The captain seems to be saying all the right things and is very experienced and knowledgeable. Todd is accompanied by a good friend James who started this endeavor with him, his wife, parents, and me.

It certainly is good to be here. It’s my job to make sure Todd doesn’t do too much vacationing. Besides doing some training with him, I’ll swim a bit of the channel, I can swim for an hour at a time (in a wetsuit) and help his wife with his feedings as he crosses. His feedings by the way will be mostly fluid every 15-20 minutes and have to occur within 15-20 seconds at most, any longer and he could drift up to a mile or more off course due to the currents which we experienced a bit of today. It could be a 12-14 hr trip over to France followed up by a 3 hr trip back (which may actually be harder on Todd then the swim). I super appreciate and am thankful to be here as my wife is home with a sick little (almost – if you ask him) 3 yr old and a 5 month old. Her mother is in town to help.

Best Regards,


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