Saturday day began for us at 3am, with Breakfast then a short drive to meet the all important support crew at the boat-ramp at Hillary's. It was cold and dark, the swell was substantial, and the worries about whether the event would go ahead persisted. Still, no SMS from the organisers had been received, so we had to assume it was all systems go! So, Nick (paddler) and I left Sascha (wife) to meet with Tim and Simon (skipper / boat owners). We drove down to Cottesloe beach to get ready. I later learned that whilst we were driving the 50km or so, the boat was painfully bashing through big swell in the dark to make the rendezvous at 5.30am! Nick and I tried to chat about normal things in the car, but my nerves were shot and as soon as we arrived at the beach I had to run off to visit the bathroom!
Prep on the beach involved layers of sunscreen and a mix of zinc (nappy rash cream) and vaselene, designed to stop me burning and also keep me warm. I had also sparingly applied wool-fat (lanolin), and standing on the start line realised I should have not been sparing. Others were glowing yellow from head to foot, with the waxy substance plastered all over themselves!
At 6am the WA Premier called the start, and together with about a hundred other soloists I made my way into the water to swim out and meet the paddler and boat. All went well which was a relief, as without both of these attachments you're not allowed to proceed past 1500m. The weather looked good, with a reasonable swell but no real wind, everything was looking positive!
Almost as soon as I'd started to find my rhythm, I felt this electrifying pain across my face, left arm, and chest. I had been stung by an invisible blue-bottle. Much more painful than any previous sting, and within the next 5 minutes I had received four or five more. Each causing me to stop and yell out in pain! I kept thinking of Diana Nyad who tried to swim from the USA to Cuba, and got thwarted by jellyfish, and her "I will not give up" resolve. I decided firmly, that I would not give up, and prayed that they would not continue. Thankfully that was the last of them but I did swim with a tingling left arm for the rest of the day. Link (highly recommended) here. http://www.ted.com/talks/diana_nyad_extreme_swimming_with_the_world_s_most_dangerous_jellyfish.html
Without waffling on for too long, it's worth saying that the rest of the swim was ok. The last 5km were into a heavy current which was tough but good practice for the Channel. I had some issues with my food (big tummy cramps and gas), narrowly avoided running into the back of and being run over by a few of the thousand or so boats which were out there (absolute chaos), and managed not to see any of the three sharks which were sighted elsewhere in the fleet!
I feel as if I swam well, learned a lot about nutrition and needing to keep myself mentally entertained, and importantly having decided that I would cross I managed to visualise myself on the finish line the whole way across. This was amazingly powerful.
I recognise I still have a really long way to go until I am capable of swimming the English Channel, which could be equivalent to three crossings like yesterday, but it was a really important step on the way.
I have made so much progress, and need to say a big thank you to the crew from yesterday for making it possible to swim, my wife for ongoing support and understanding, the coaches who've helped (Vlad, Charm, and Ben), sponsors, and friends family and colleagues for always asking how it's going and really making me feel you're part of the challenge. Thank You!
I am sure I will write more about this later, but just wanted to let you all know that I made it, and WE DID IT! Thank you all for your ongoing support.