While the English Channel swim is only a two-step process: 1.swim and 2. don’t stop until you get to France, there are many behind-the-scenes details that we have been preparing for over the past weeks. Two especially at the forefront these days are swimwear/visibility and feedings.
Swimwear/visibility is a broad category but it covers everything from goggles to suit.
As for goggles, one can imagine that 12-15 hours of constant pressure on the eye socket could be unpleasant. Thus, I am looking into more specialized brands of goggles such as Barracuda, who make their goggles with the anatomy of the eye in mind. No, they are not the sleek pair I am used to wearing when racing, however functionality prevails over fashion in these extreme circumstances.
In terms of suit, the rules state that it must be above the knee, and no further then the shoulder (i.e. no arm coverage). Although many individuals swimming the Channel wear normal hip cut suits, I am currently looking into full back, knee length fast skins, which could help reduce sunburn and jellyfish sting surface area. I plan to order it in my practice suit size, unlike the super-human, cat woman-esque, tight styles worn at championship meets.
Since I will be swimming in the dark at either the start of the swim or at the end of the swim (depending on if we start mid day or at 2-4am), I will need glow sticks or LED lights to wear so I can be constantly monitored. Something waterproof and preferably green is what we are looking for, in addition to something that can be easily attached to my suit and goggles.
Finally, to reduce chaffing of my neck and below my arms, and to reduce adhesion of jellyfish stingners, I plan to lather up in a thick coat of vaseline and sunscreen. However, this will likely wash off overtime.
In terms of feedings, I know I will be sticking with my Infinit Custom Blended Solutions mix. However, we are in the works of devising a container system which will most likely consist of a long line with 2 carbine clips attached, so it can be thrown overboard to me (as touching the boat will disqualify me). The drinking of my mix (6-8oz) must be quick (30 sec-1 min, every 30 minutes of swimming). It is crucial that I can be as efficient as possible. We are planning on using a colored poster board system that will be held up by a support crew member to indicate feeding time. In addition, we are looking for water bottles with straws and covers so I don’t have to tip my head back while treading water to drink (very difficult- tend to swallow air). Finally we are determining the optimal temperature to serve the drink mix at. Something warm is ideal, and unlike the 6-hour qualifying swim where the drinks were way too hot (burning my mouth), we need something that will be toasty enough to give me warmth, yet cool enough to take in quickly.
While these are just a select few details that we are currently focusing on, there are many others such as: dealing with salt water in my mouth 12-15 hours, support swimmers, swimmer-captain relationship, first aid etc. This illustrates necessity of preparation and complexity of such a swim.
As the Boy Scouts motto states: “Allzeit beret,“ Always be prepared!