On August 1, 2013, I made my attempt to swim across the English Channel. At age 59, I am the second oldest American female "Channel Aspirant."
My love of open water swimming began just three years ago when I joined the local Masters Swim Team. This quickly progressed to participating in triathlons and I discovered a passion for open water venues, the lakes and rivers around the state of Virginia. I developed an affinity for the sense of adventure and tranquility that open water swimming provided. But the seed for considering an English Channel swim was proposed by my niece Katie during a late night beach vacation conversation several years ago. The idea was intriguing: It is the busiest shipping lane in the world, the weather is fickle at best and water temperatures average only around 60 degrees. All of that makes the Channel the most challenging swim of all.
I spent three weeks in England before my swim. I was a crew member for a friend on her 18-hour try across. I lost another young friend in the Channel two weeks before my attempt. I swam many hours in Dover Harbor, with other Channel aspirants. Then, on the morning of Thursday August 1st, I began my swim at 5:30 a.m. I swam into the sunrise in calm conditions, which are so rare in the Channel. After swimming for 8 1/2 hours I made it 14 miles – two-thirds of the way there. The French coast was visible in the distance. I found it hard to believe that I was actually there, swimming in the English Channel. But I couldn’t go on. I am still not sure exactly why. There are monkeys on your shoulders out there – there are lots of negative voices in the long hours of swimming – and sometimes they win. I had been told that Channel swimming is 80 percent mental and 20 percent fitness. I found that to be true.