Acclimatization Training (aka Becoming a Polar Bear)

8am, 54-DEGREE OPEN WATER SWIM at Cranes Beach- Ipswich, MA.

Don’t be deceived, the water isn’t as peaceful as it looks… brrrrr



Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation: Rules and Regulations for an Official Crossing

Taken from the Channel Swimming Association website:

“No person in an attempt to swim the Channel shall use or be assisted by an artificial aid of any kind, but is permitted to grease the body before a swim, use goggles, wear one cap, nose clip, ear plugs and one costume.“

“(A swim costume aka swim suit) shall be of a material not offering Thermal Protection or Buoyancy and shall be Sleeveless and Legless: “”Sleeveless”” shall mean the Costume must not extend beyond the end of the shoulder onto the Upper Arm; “”Legless”” shall mean that the costume may not extend on to the Upper Leg below the level of the crotch.” So, no wetsuits.

“(Swim Cap) The hat shall not offer thermal protection or buoyancy. The Observer will have to approve the costume and cap. The Swimmer must make sure their costume and cap are of an approved type before starting, as the swim will not be recognized if they do not conform.”

“(For the swim to be official) The swimmer must enter the sea from the shore of departure and swim across the English Channel. (*) to finish on dry land, or (**) to touch steep cliffs of the opposite coast with no sea-water beyond. (Note: Swimmers may finish in harbor water provided they land as in (*), or (**) PLEASE ACCEPT THAT THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE”

“During the swim no physical contact with the swimmer shall be made by any person. “ All drinks/necessary items will be handed to me via pole extended from the boat. 

“The appointed observer shall be in sole charge of the timing of the swim and shall be responsible for observing compliance with the rules, subject to ratification by the Committee.“

“Swimmers need to be aware that you may be requested to undertake a drug test at any time up until 24 hours after your swim.“

Answers to more specific questions:

-A boat will be accompanying me, and it is a large boat– no paddle boats!!!

Kim is coming to England and will be on the boat too!

-No sharks in the Channel, but many jellyfish!

-I am anticipating the swim will take between 12-16 hours.

-The window during which we might swim is between August 17-24th, however we will be getting there earlier to train and adjust to the time difference.

-I am not allowed to touch the boat at any time or take a break.

-I will do blog posts while I’m away 🙂

Thank you all so much for your support and encouraging words! This blog has been a lot of fun thus far, and being able to receive messages from friends and family has given me so much motivation during my training sessions!

Six Sigma


“Six sigma,” in corporate-speak, is a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. This describes a mindset (ahem…. also the length of time, 6 hours) necessary moving towards my summer challenge. 

In order to perform an “official” English Channel crossing, the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation requires that the individual must complete a six-hour, 60-degree water, swim. This is purely about time spent in cold water. Either you can hack it or you can’t.

Coach Kim monitored the river conditions daily. His intimate knowledge of the Connecticut River put us in a holding pattern for several weeks due unsafe conditions (55-degree water, high water levels, very fast currents). Coach Kim advised me on Sunday May 18th that our “go-time” would be early next week.

Coach Kim picked me up from the Smith College Quad at 8:30am on May 21st. He told me that the water temperature had just hit a balmy 60-degrees by the time this 410 mile river meets Hadley, MA from its origin in the cold provinces of Cananda. Air temperature expected to reach 69-degrees. Coach Kim stated to me that a current was present, but it was not as strong as it had been the day before. Coach Kim stated that in the event in which the current would be too strong and cause me to move backwards while trying to swim forwards, we would have to scrub our attempt for another day…. ugh!

We made our way to the dock and got the boat going. I put on a thick layer of Vaseline to prevent chaffing of my neck and underneath my arms, which commonly occurs when repeating the same motion for an extended period of time. I explained to Coach Kim my complex, yet systematic feeding plan, utilizing a chart that I had made previously. Coach Kim dutifully played many roles in this process, which consisted of: official observer, coach/motivator, boat captain, and beverage manager.

Coach Kim told me that we would start swimming downstream for the first hour, then adjust to swimming upstream (i.e. against the current) then plan accordingly for the next 4 hours. My first thought upon entering the water was “ok you will get used to the cold, not too bad yet.” However, while my core felt satisfactory, my limbs kept getting colder and colder. I thought that I could distract myself from the cold, however I would be rudely awakened by the fact that I couldn’t feel my feet at all. In fact I thought I was hitting debris when in fact I was kicking my other foot and toes- this lasted throughout the whole swim. When swimming upstream and stuck in one place like a treadmill due to the current, I would pick a “competitor tree” and try to get ahead of it. Although it sounds crazy, my push and drive allowed me to pass it, chipping away at more clock-time!

Coach Kim’s superior nautical navigation skills allowed us to dodge other boats, single sculls and river debris that were heading in my direction.

 The six hours of swimming was not as taxing as I anticipated, however at hour 3/4 my stroke tempo dropped due my shoulders getting quite sore. Mentally I stayed busy and had fun getting caught up in my own thoughts (what can I say, I’m a philosophy major!). I also found myself thinking about my loved ones, singing “I Can’t Stop” (Flux Pavilion) and the National Anthem repeatedly, and imagining myself putting on my Uggs, taking a HOT shower to thaw my feet, and curling up in bed.

I was so pumped and relieved when Kim gave me the “done” signal. He calculated that I swam about 15.5 miles in the 6-hour window. I also gained confidence in my abilities as well as identified areas for additional preparation.

 “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”

Preparations for the Six-Hour, 60-Degree, Qualifying Swim

In order to prepare myself for the 6-hour qualifying swim and English Channel crossing, nutritional, physical and mental preparations have had to take place.

In March 2014 prior to any distance training, Kevin Finn Ph.D. at Merrimack College Exercise Performance Lab arranged to have a BodPod body fat percentage reading. As the picture shows, this test is done in an egg-like capsule, which I sat in and breathed through a tube. Unlike other ways to measure body fat percentage, which rely on estimation, the BodPod is an Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP), which uses whole body densitometry to determine lean vs. fat composition. In addition to calculating my body fat percentage, fat free mass percentage, and muscle mass percentage, the BodPod gave insight into VO2, basal metabolic rate and average daily caloric expenditure. If you would like to learn more about the BodPod technology follow this link:

I then gave the data I received from the BodPod to the nutritional professionals at Infinit Custom Blended Solutions who create specialized drink mixes based on each individuals needs in order to achieve optimal performance. I needed a drink mix for the swim that was customized to my metabolism and body composition because there are many factors to take into account:

  1. The number of calories burned swimming for 6 hours
  2. The number of calories expended trying to maintain body temperature for 6 hours in 60-degree (brrrrr) water
  3. The osmolarity of the blend, which influences my ability to absorb and digest the calories. You want an osmolarity of around 30, anything higher would be like eating a cheeseburger which would be undigestable.
  4. The amount of muscle breakdown anticipated and the correct amount of protein to both replenish the muscle damage, as well as keep me feeling full without feeling nauseous
  5. The best temperature to serve the drink (i.e. warm but not hot)
  6. That dynamic of digesting while being in a horizontal plane (swimming on my stomach)
  7. The amount of times to drink and amount of drink to consume.
  8. Something that is palatable as it is the only form of calories I will be taking in during the swim.

We ended up formulating two drink mixes that I would alternate between; one had more protein and one had more carbohydrates.To learn more about Infinit Custom blended solutions follow this link:

In addition to the nutritional preparation, I had to mentally and physically prepare myself. This consisted of replacing my normally steamy hot showers with icy cold and refreshing showers to prepare myself for the initial shock of the cold water. Nothing says “good morning” quite like the thrill of a freezing shower!!!

Finally and most importantly I have been training 7-8 times a week, with each training session in the pool being 2 hours long. I would supplement the pool workouts with body weight lifting, shoulder prevention exercises, yoga and hikes.

The biggest challenge I faced preparing for the 6-hour swim was the timing. I was balancing the training schedule with my double major course load, leadership in college organizations, and final presentations, papers and tests. Luckily, due to my many years of rigorous swimming training and academics, time management and organization is something that has become second nature.

A few days before I prepared what I would think about during the swim.

Hour 1: Focus on adjusting to the cold, stroke rate, sightings, and get into a rhythm.

Hour 2: Philosophize “whether life imitates art or art imitates life?”

Hour 3: Edit my grad school personal statement in my mind

Hour 4: Sing

Hour 5: Plans for the Draper Business Competition.

Hour 6: Get excited because you are almost done!

Finally I made my drink mixes and acquired enough thermoses for 6 hours of nutritional beverages. I dug out my Uggs and old high school swimming parka to wear once I was finished. I made sure I got at least 7-8 hours of sleep and before I knew it, the sun was up, its go time!


Photo Cred: The Legendary Gloria Lee ’15


English Channel Swim 2014: Blog Underway!


Hi Everyone!

Thanks for checking out my blog!!! My name is Paige Christie (Smith College ’15) and I am attempting a solo crossing of the English Channel this August 2014!

Many of my family, friends, coaches, and classmates have asked that I keep them posted on my training progress. I decided to create this blog to post updates so you can all be a part of the English Channel journey!

Feel free to read, follow and post! Also check out the “About and Contact” by clicking on the red circle with 3 lines on the top right of the page which leads to a drop down bar, for more information on why I decided to do the swim, as well as make donations.

A big thank you thus far to:

  • My parents, brother, extended family and friends (the worlds greatest/ my heroes)!
  • Coach Kim Bierwert (the mastermind) and the Bierwert family.
  • The Smith College Swimming and Diving Team (The Wild Bunch/my second family).
  • Smith College and the athletics department, philosophy department and devoted alumnae.
  • Ika Kovacikova, Mackenzie Bradley, Emma Reim (all successfully crossed the English Channel/Channel Godmothers).
  • My Smith College associates (who motivate and inspire me daily).

Your support makes this dream a reality and I am forever grateful for your dedication and generosity.

More to come soon!