Thursday, 28 July 2011

Some pictures

We are on our way out of the hotel, so no time to write, but here are some pictures. Click on the phots to enlarge.
In the shipping lanes, in the middle of the swim, still many hours away from France.

Proof that made it: having clambered over some big and slippery rocks, I am the tiny figure celebrating in the middle of the picture.

Having swum back to th boat I am getting out of the water, face swollen after more than 10 hours in the water

Let's not forget what this swim was about. You can still contribute: see the buttons on top of the page! :-)

I couldn't have done it without my crew. From left to right: Marcel van der Togt (my coach and also successful Channel swimmer, me, my wife Asha, captain Paul Foreman, and deck hand Ray. The CS&PF observer is not in the picture, as he was taking it.


(English below)

Beste vrienden,

Het is nu officieel: ik ben Kanaalzwemmer! Mijn tijd vandaag was 10 uur, 29 minuten en 45 seconden, sneller dan ik durfde te hopen. Watertemperatur was 16-17 graden Celsius, zee ruwer dan ik verwachtte, maar wel gunstige rugwind.

Heel erg bedankt voor alle steunbetuigingen tijdens de overtocht: ik kreeg ze steeds doorgegeven via Asha tijdens de voedingen en dat hielp enorm tijdens de moeilijke momenten, die er zeker waren!

Morgen hoop ik meer details en foto's te kunnen geven, ik moet nu mijn bed in!


Dear friends,

It is now official: I am a Channel Swimmer. I swam the Channel today in 10 hours, 29 minutes, 45 seconds, faster than I could have hoped for.  Water temp was 16-17 degrees Celsius, sea a bit rougher than expected, but a favourable wind in the back. Let me add that I have now a much better understanding and even more respect for the achievements of the legendary Bangladeshi swimmer Brojen Das, who crossed the Channel 6 times!

Thanks so much for your messages of support: Asha transmitted them all to me during feeds, and they very much helped me through some of the difficult moments.

Will try to give more details and pictures tomorrow, I really need some sleep now.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Alea iacta est: Wednesday morning 6.45 am GMT

captain's final verdict came through at 7 pm: I'll be swimming tomorrow morning from 6.45 a.m GMT onwards (7.45 a.m. NL time; 11.45 a.m Bangladesh time). You should be able to track my boat's movements for most of the day by clicking here (make sure you select the map 'Folkestone' in the rolldown menu on the left - the name 'Pace Arrow should appear in the map).

Great news: Just 2 hours ago Marcel made it to the French coast in 14 hours, which is exactly what he had predicted. He is now on his way to Dover Harbour. His wife Lilian and his 2 children will be there to give him his well-deserved hero's welcome; I might if I can't sleep. An awesome achievement, especially taking into account his relatively short preparation time (7 months), though building of course on tons of experience. But it proves that his training method works.

I write this in a Dover hotel room with a view on the Channel, which is flat as a mirror right now. No wind at all! I have spent my day being quite nervous, trying to nap while Asha was roaming the shopping centres of Dover with Lilian, stuffing myself with more pasta than I though humanly possible (carboloading - yuck), watching the weather forecasts, preparing my feeds, and writing this message. It will be almost a relief to actually be in the water and swim

I'll try and catch some sleep now. My next message will tell you if my attempt was successful or not. Thanks for the messages of encouragement I have been receiving so far, they are a real support!

in Dover

We just arrived in Dover after a smooth car trip. As usual I slept very little last night, so will go for a nap now to catch up. Paul Foreman will call me around 7 pm.

Conditions look good: little wind. Marcel is doing fine: he was halfway the French shipping lane an hour ago.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Wednesday ever more likely

Spoke to Paul Foreman again this morning: more than on the weather it now depends on the speed of the swimmer preceding me on Tuesday whether I will swim on Wednesday or Thursday. This being the Channel, conditions can change any moment of course. Nevertheless, Asha and I are driving to Dover tomorrow morning.

I did a 1-hour work-out today at a good clip, with 3 or 4 short sprints. Right shoulder still a bit stiff and sore, but it got better after a half hour of swimming.  Virus not completely gone, but I think I am good enough to go.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Spoke again with the captain this morning: I will not swim earlier than Wednesday, if the 2 preceding swimmers swim on Monday and Tuesday. Winds are more forceful than predicted, so no swims today and tomorrow. Paul Foreman explained to me that solos only start at Beaufort 2-3 maximum, relays up to Beaufort 4, sometimes 5 (depending on the direction, I presume)

There is still time as the current neap tide is until 29 July. If I don't swim before Friday we'll have to wait until 7 August, when a new neap tide starts.

The good news is that this buys me extra time to get rid of my - fortunately fairly mild - virus infection and to give my ailing right shoulder some more rest. I am already feeling better than a few days ago. I haven't swum for two days. Will do a very easy 1.5 hour work-out tomorrow morning, just to keep the juices flowing.

Marcel van der Togt is now in Dover, waiting for his swim to come up, presumambly on Monday morning.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Swimming in 3 or 4 days?

Just off the phone with my captain Paul Foreman. I have 2 swimmers before me, if the weather stays as it is and if both swimmers accept to swim, I might be swimming on Monday or Tuesday! I'll start packing my bags today.

I have been feeling slightly under the weather over the past four days, probably some virus: sore throat, cold shivers and cold sweats. There's not much that I can do but sleep, drink tea and take extra vitamins. All I am worried about is this thing turning into a full-blown flu.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


In spite of recent foul weather, conditions have improved in the Channel and no less than 8 swimmers/teams started their attempt last night. Forecasts (see here) are such that more attempts will probably follow in the days ahead while this neap tide lasts (21-29 July).

I just spoke by phone to my captain Paul Foreman (boat: Pace Arrow), just as he was delivering a swimmer to Cap Gris Nez! We discussed my wish to swim in the current neap tide rather than 7-12 August, with all the risks of getting delayed (my flight back to Dhaka is booked for 11 August). He told me that there might be a possibility for me to swim this weekend or shortly thereafter, once and if all his other swimmers for this tide have started, that is, or if one of them wishes to postpone.

So, this is it - I am in standby mode as of today! Nerves into high gear, adrenalin pumping. Hopefully only for a few days, but possibly for weeks to come, depending on weather, other swimmers, etc etc.

Mentally I am quite ready now: while I am very respectful of the distance and the water temperature (appr. 16 degrees), I do not fear them. Physically I am well prepared, even if I could probably have improved on my training and diet on several points. My shoulders and the rest of my body have for the most part recovered from my 31-kms swim ten days ago, but my right shoulder is still not 100%, a little more stiff and sore than the left one. But the tendinitis seems to have abated (though not completely disappeared) thanks to rest and shorter work-outs. Lower back and neck (my usual weak spots) OK.

So I'll continue my short (1-2 hours) and rather easy work-outs, with just a few sprints to keep me on my toes.  It's all about maintenance and recovery now. It is hard not to train more than I do: I feel like a dog pulling the leash, jumpy and nervous, which is said to be typical for tapering periods.

By the way: Marcel van der Togt is also in standby mode for his own swim, as he is in 2nd postion for the current neap tide with captain Mike Oram (ship: Gallivant). I think he can be expected to swim in the next couple of days.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Thank you Commission colleagues!

(English below.)
Vandaag weer een stukje gezwommen in de Maas, 1,5 uur op het gemak, in de stromende regen en harde wind. 't Ging nog niet echt lekker: pijn in schouders (peesaanhechtingen) kwam na een uur weer opzetten, en mijn spieren zijn, drie dagen rust en een massage ten spijt, nog steeds stijf. De monstertraining van zondag heeft me mentaal dan wel opgepept maar fysiek een flinke dreun gegeven, hoe goed het op de dag zelf ook ging. Meer hersteltrainingen en meer rust dan maar de komende dagen.

Still stiff and sore, four days after Sunday's monster training.
I checked the MvG Channel Swim bank account today and would like to thank European Commission colleagues for their recent generous contributions further to the recent article in Commission en Direct! Some very encouraging messages from them reached me as well, thank you all, this is a great boost to morale!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

3 days off

Three days have flown by without training: eating, sleeping, some reading, and doing odd jobs in and around the house. I have been very tired: by swimming 31 kms I have really pushed my phyical limits. Muscles and tendons are still aching. Today's massage (mainly back, shoulders and upper arms) by Susanne Willemsen (top notch!), no less than three days after the swim, was painful but much needed.

However, as usual just a few days without training make me nervous and I am itching to get into the water tomorrow again for a short (2-hour) interval training, not too intensive. The really long trainings are mostly over now. I have only planned one very intensive 6-hour work-out for next week, but only after I am fully recovered from Sunday's monster work-out. Until then only 2-3 hour work-outs. No firm planning, but playing it by ear and listening carefully to what my body tells me. Sufficient rest and recuperation are essential.

I must be one of the very few people happy with yesterday's and today's horrible weather: the rain and low temperatures keep the river's water temperature down, which makes for better practice! I have decided not to go to Dover for the weekend, which I had planned originally. Will try to do some sea-training in the Netherlands over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, 11 July 2011

31 kms!

Yesterday saw my biggest work-out ever: 31 kms in the river Maas, with Marcel vdT accompanying me in a boat. 9.5 hours straight, no breaks, except very short ones every 20 minutes for feeds. The swim was even mentioned in the Brabants Dagblad's online version: click here.

Lots of good experience and useful lessons learned:
- in principle I can now handle appr.10-12 hours, and perhaps more, of swimming at a reasonable speed. After 9.5 hours I had reserves left, even though I was glad it was over.
- feeding rythm of once every 20 mins works for me. Mixing drinks with .5 part apple juice and .5 part water is easy on the stomach.
- alternating 2 Maxim carboloader feeds with one electrolyte feed (all feeds 250 mls) per hour (all at 1.5 times the recommended dosage), plus half a banana on the hour, works OK. I got hungry only after the 9-hour mark. Taking into account that I had not been properly carboloading the day before, I can probably overcome this. Not sure though how the Channel's lower water temperature will affect this?
- I took 5x400 mgs of Ibuprofen in the course of the swim. While it kept the tendon inflammations in my shoulders more or less under control, the swim was nevertheless quite painful. I may have to use paracetamol during the Swim as well for better pain relief.
- curious: the second quarter of the swim was the worst, whereas I got my second wind after 6 hours and managed to keep a very good pace in the 7th and 8th hours. Knowing that I was on the way back helped - it shows to what extent this is a mental game.

Marcel and I agreed that I don't need any more endurance work now, but rather some more speed work and enough rest to calm down the tendinitises in my shoulders, arms and left knee.

Many thanks by the way to Marcel, who endured a long, sweaty and -by the looks of it - rather boring day in the boat.

No training until Thursday now, apart from some very short and easy recuperation swims and hopefully some physiotherapy/massage on Wednesday. I have really physically exhausted myself, but morale has made a great leap forward!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

More press coverage

My employer's internal newsletter Commission en Direct (56.000 copies) carries a nice article this week about my Channel swim project - unfortunately not externally available online. I hope it will generate further interest in the project and, obviously, more donations (click here to make one :-) ) for the great work of the Center for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB).

No very long trainings this week until Sunday. Coach Marcel van der Togt warned me against overtraining and suggested for this week a schedule of five 2-4 hour trainings with a lot of variation and sprinting (useful for dodging fast approaching oil tankers in the Channel...). I can already feel the benefits. Nice to notice also that my recovery time between sprints has improved tremendously - a clear effect of all the hard work over the past couple of months.
For next Sunday however we've planned a huge training session: 10 hours, which is approaching the length of the actual Channel Swim. We're still trying to find  a boat to train in the IJsselmeer. If not, it will be a 10-hour slog in the river Maas.

The Swim is now approaching fast. I have made my final payment, and have started discussing with crew members (so far: coach Marcel van der Togt, my wife Asha, and Andre van Tol, a friend from Lith) how to organise ourselves to get to Dover. The difficult thing is that, due to the ever changing weather conditions in the Channel, you don't know for sure that you will actually swim until appr. 12 hours before the swim. That is not a lot of time to get a team organised and transported to Dover, unless you decide to go to Dover and just hang out until you get the go ahead from your pilot. Not a very attractive option.