Back on Track

Thursday 11/12/09

If a successful English Channel crossing were an incredibly complex and sophisticated bank vault time lock, then several tumblers have clicked into place for me in the last week. Swim window set? Click. Pilot booked? Click. Registered with CSA? Click. Air travel booked? Click. Joined South End Club? Click. Stroke clinic? Click. Sample crossing food? Click. Just another hundred or so tumblers need to click into place and next autumn I’ll be standing on the western side of the English Channel in goggles, one standard swimming cap, and one standard swimming costume. The vault doors will swing open and the time will have arrived to shut up and swim.

Even with work-related travel interruptions, I’m managing to swim more each week than I have in ten years. I still worry about the gargantuan difference between a three mile swim and a twenty mile swim, but I’m betting that adhering to a disciplined training program will address that hurdle.

I profited from stroke instruction last week at the Golden Gateway Tennis and Swim Club. This counts as my fourth lesson since Moose Lodge fifty-two years ago. It was yet another humbling experience in what promises to be a staggering series of exercises in humility. The instructor has successfully swum the English Channel and she had incisive suggestions. It feels like my stroke is generating more power and leverage than before. It’s also making me sore in new places.

Swimming in open water that is influenced by large tidal swings, it’s pretty difficult to gauge improvements in speed. At some point, it’ll be helpful to develop an accurate determination of how fast I actually swim. That will be crucial information to allow my pilot to do the best job possible to guide me to a successful crossing. I’m sure that experienced pilots can judge a swimmer’s speed precisely within the first thousand meters. Having a reliable indicator ahead of time, though, might allow the pilot to take advantage of an alternative starting point or capitalize on great weather outside of a neap tide window.

My swim window is set for September 28 through October 9. We are scheduled to leave for England on September 21 and return October 6. As with so many of the choices presented in this quest, Lindsay and I discussed the options at length. Many of these discussions are critically assisted with the medicinal use of martini.

One of the considerations for this schedule was the availability of award travel. We have accumulated a pile of points and miles in various programs and this is an excellent way to defray the not inconsiderable expense of the expedition. Another consideration was the amount of time I could reasonably spare from work. The window falls at the end of a calendar quarter which already presents a quandary in the business world. A pivotal consideration was the time required to recover from jet lag.

I have easily flown over a million miles. This includes many flights across the Atlantic (usually by way of the Arctic). Many years ago, I even flew red eye flights as common occurrence. That was then. Now, I feel like hammered dog effluvium after a cross-country trip. With this schedule, I should be fully recovered and raring to go by the 28th. It was a little unnerving to book a return before the end of the swim window. In this matter, we’re relying on the charm of the 1-slot. If the gods laugh at our plans and I haven’t swum by October 5th, we’ll just have to adapt, adjust, and overcome. This is nominally an infantry incantation while I’ll be swimming, not marching–but the sentiment seems apt.


  1. Larry, your ambition is an inspiration and your blog is a delight. Count on me for support--at the Dolphin Club or in the blogosphere. Email me when you have a chance: nancyf at wordworking dot com.

  2. Really great ongoing posts! Keep it up! We are all following.

  3. What an pretty interesting affair!
    Now I have realized the importance of this concerning matter.
    Know I know it, I will have a martini.