Friday, 10 September 2010

Wayne Soutter - 9 September 2010 01:49

Goodness, I don't know where to start...what a week! I knocked this out this evening - I haven't even reread it... so probably lots of grammar / spelling etc please forgive - I just wanted to get it out to you.
For those of you who were tracking my progress through Bernie's brilliant emails, you lived through the swim from the boat / support crew perspective, so I thought you may be interested to hear what it was like in the water.
The start - from the point of leaving harbour until I was given a 10 minute warning seemed like moments. I had quickly talked Paul through my various bags of stuff I had brought - on where my medication was, where my various foods were, Zylume sticks, spare goggles, costumes etc. I quickly stripped down - Jonny slapped sun cream all over me and then I remembered I needed a last minute shave. I had to wipe off the sun cream and quickly shave - my rough beard hair quickly tears my shoulder apart if I don't shave. More sun cream, then Vaseline - lots under the arms, on my neck, between my legs - anywhere I rub. Then handfuls of it on my back. I found in training swims that my back often got the coldest as it is exposed to the air the most. Pulled my hat on, goggles and suddenly I was ready to go.
I jumped off the side... and assessed the water temp. I shouted up to the guys that it was warm... but in reality it was fairly cool. Not the coldest I had swam in, but still fairly cool. The Captain has dropped me really close to the beach - that was great, a few strokes and I was on the beach. The Captain gave a blast on the ships horn and I waded in...I was off.
I had decided I would have my first feed after swimming for 1 hour - I wanted to make some headway before taking a first break. The first hour shot by! We then started to feed every 30 minutes as per my feeding plan - again the feed shot least the next 3 did... then suddenly time started to slow down big time... the next feed felt like an hour instead of the 30min. The following one 2 hours...and then 3. Every 30min feed felt like I was in the water for 3 hours! Time almost stood still. I didn't realise it at the time - but I was getting cold quickly. From my training swims in Dover - I learned that when I got cold 2 things happened. Firstly I slow down and my stroke gets sloppy and secondly I get what I can only described as depressed. Having only completed 3 hours (I knew this from the number of feeds I had had) and with time dragging, I was not in a happy place. Then the oddest thing happened - I swam over a black fish, my mind immediately tried to determine if it was a big SHARK far away or a small fish (a little bigger than an out stretched hand) about 5 feet down - luckily it was the latter. The fish got a massive fright - darted left, but my left hand had just entered the water, so it turned about and shot off to the right.
Well...if the fish got a fright, you have no idea how I crapped myself - first fish I have ever seen swimming! When I started to think clearly again, I was aware than my heart was racing, adrenaline must have been flooding through my body, I became aware that my arms were flying around - my stroke rate must have picked up 10 strokes a minute - at least! Then because of the fast pace, I started to warm up... and the next thing I knew, I was feeling good, positive and strong! In fact it was such an obvious change, that I realised I must have been getting cold. From that point on, I realised I needed to keep my pace up and therefore be positive, or I would end the swim because of the cold. Many times during the swim I thought back on my little black fish and would giggle to myself as to how I could be so scared...but also how it saved me from throwing in the towel. Had that fish not come along, I very much doubt I would have made 6 hours.
I was now thumping along at a good pace, feeling positive and feeding regularly. Time passing didn't speed up much...but I was used to that by now.
In terms of time i.e. what the time was or where I was... being an inexperienced open water swimmer - in fact I there is little doubt I am one of the most inexperienced swimmers of all time (I started a year and a half ago for the relay we did), I was told 2 things which I implemented on my swim
Firstly, don't look back at Dover..or it will never disappear, don't look forwards to France... it will never appear. Freda taught me this. I drew on this completely - I never ever looked back or forwards, not once in 20 hours and 1 minute. Paul told me after the swim that it stood out to the team that I wasn't asking where I was.
Secondly, SimonH taught me this the night before I swam when he was calling me to wish me well - he told me "live in the here and now...don't think or worry about half an hours time or 2 hours from now or the finish... just feel what it feels like right now and everything else will take care of itself"
Between these 2 bits of advice..they got me across the channel. Without either - I wouldn't have done it.
Had I looked back at Dover... it really does never disappear. In 2009 when I did the relay... and when thinking back on that swim and sitting on the deck waiting for your next turn - it really never disappeared - it felt like it was there all day, especially since the cliffs are so high. That is enough to break one's spirit.
Re the 2nd bit of advice - I never ever, not once asked how far I was, how far to go or where we were. I just lived in the here and now. I just kept talking to went something like this
"ok... I know you are frikking cold (there was a lot of swearing going on) and just want to stop swimming / feeling nauseous/ tasting / drinking sea water...BUT how do your arms feel?
They feel surprisingly good - strong in fact.
Ok if your arms are strong, you need to swim - and this will be the last time you have to swim or be cold like this I promise, but if your arms are strong, you swim until your arms stop working.
Take a good gulp of air - good that feels good, now another one, well done there we go, all is ok, just keep swimming".
I never thought about whether I would be able to last another X hours or anything like that - I just lived in the here and now - just dealing with the immediate problems of cold, sore joints, low energy, stroke. I knew that if I just kept swimming I would eventually touch the other side i.e. everything else would take care of itself.
There were many many many many times I desperately wanted to get out... but I just kept telling myself - I had to swim until my arms died. As I realised that my arms were the physical aspect to the swim - everything else i.e. the cold / boredom / depression / basic pain / frustration of slow time, were all in my mind and therefore not an acceptable reason to stop swimming.
The weather got worse - the sea built and I started to take face / mouth fills of water, I kept adjusting my stroke and breathing higher and higher out of the water trying to get good air. I also started to breath every 6th stroke - I learnt in my training swims that when it is rough, if I take fewer breathes, I take in less water, so where possible, I started to only breath every 6th stroke.
Charlie joined me for a swim - it was great having the distraction, but I soon realised that he had been told by the Observer (who was there to ratify my swim and ensure I didn't cheat) , not to swim next to me... he had to stay behind me - and in fact that was a bad distraction - I kept thinking I was going to swim into Charlie / touch Charlie and it would disqualify me. Eventually after a short while I asked Charlie to get out. Just before Charlie got out - he changed sides and swam a little higher i.e. more next to me - and suddenly that worked fairly well - but the next time I looked Charlie was out. Due to the fact that I had suddenly been in a position to swim far earlier than my planned date, a lot of my original crew were unable to make it. Charlie has joined the boat with less than 8 hours notice - and dumped his date for it! (Thanks Charlie!) So Charlie had come all the way to swim with me... and I threw him out. I felt terrible.
I am a little confused from here on in terms of the order of things - things just seemed to blur when in the water - so please forgive any inaccuracies in order. Where I am not clear on time or number I will add a "??" after it.
After about another 3 hours the sea started to settle a little Andy Peck had done a stint with me - and following what I had learnt with Charlie - this went better, I think Andy stayed in for an hour?
One problem that was building was that I was unable to wee - the last wee I had had was about at 3 hours in. I wanted to wee...I really had a massive urge to wee - but I couldn't. As the day dragged on, so the pain increased. After about 5 ?? hours of this the support guys started to feed me black coffee - apparently this is a common thing to happen i.e. be unable to wee - it probably has something to do with the energy drink. So the remedy is apparently black coffee. The Coffee was awesome in itself - it helped me wake up a little and also at least didn't taste like the sickly sweet energy drink. However after 2 ?? cups of coffee, there was still no wee... and the pain was building and starting to distract me from swimming.
At one point I was told I needed to up the pace a little, I wasn't going to make the turn of tide - I think this was about 4pm (10 hours) ( I had lost count of feeds - and was now basing my time on the sun elevation), Paul climbed in with me - and for some reason, I was able to swim really well with him, I guess we have swam so much together, I knew what to expect. I managed to up my work rate a lot - and again, by warming up - I felt better than ever! We were driving along now and making good pace.
At this point I was mentally aiming for a 16 hour swim...but never pinning my hopes on it - I kept telling myself it could easily be 18 or even more.
When swimming... you don't have a whole lot to do... so you either do the mental calcs about how you are progressing, how is your stroke, what is the probable time or you look at the boat. So I spent a whole lot of time, just looking at the boat. In fact I was looking at it around 25 times a minute. So I got to know exactly what was going on on the boat. I knew when someone went for a sleep, when Paul went for a chat to the Captain or when Jon ate the amazing hot dog right on the rail in front of me! I managed to throw a well time one finger salute on my of my strokes - they got the message and never ate again in front of me.
When in the water you also feel fairly alone and exposed - and having someone on the rail watching you is just amazing. All the guys were great, clapping and standing on the rail urging me on, but Jon Fryer was a rock. From the moment I walked in from the beach until I finished - Jon never ever left the rail ...except to get that darn hot dog and have a pee. For 20 hours and 1 minute Jon stood on that rail and looked at me. When I drifted towards the back of the boat he would walk with me, as I moved forwards, he too would move forwards. As time passed I became more fearful that he would eventually get bored and take a long break, but he didn't, not once - thank you Jon! I could also see that Jon was shouting, and talking to me, incessantly some might say...but unbeknown to him and the rest of the team is that I could hear NOTHING. Not a word. But I got the message anyway which was KEEP SWIMMING!
My "Wee" problem was getting serious - 7 hours of no wee and the pain was starting to get severe... I asked for another cup of coffee. I figured that if I didn't wee soon... that would be the end of the swim - I estimated I could last 1 more hour. At my next 30min feed - I just stopped, and took a few seconds off to see if I could wee. Again nothing. The next stop, I did the same again and suddenly I started to wee.... oh my oh my... did that feel AWESOME! (best wee of my life I can say! :) ) Only once I had managed to wee, did I realise just how much it had been affecting me - I suddenly felt strong again and was able to focus on my stroke and everything around me - I had been thinking of nothing else than the growing pain over the past few hours. I felt like I had been set free! I was elated!
It was getting late... I estimated it was around 6pm the sun was low in the sky. The sea again started to build a nasty chop...within some very big swells. I was told again I needed to push hard. I never questioned why or for how long - I just listened - and if Paul was saying you need to swim hard - I knew I had to. I figured I could really pick up my pace again if Paul could join me for a second time - I asked if he could come in on one of the feeds.
Let me describe a feed. If there is something in particular I would like at a feed - like an anti-inflammatory, then I will between strokes, as I take a breath, shout to the person on the rail "PILL", they know when this means and will prepare that ready for my next feed. I can see them prepare the food, again which helps distract me for a minute here and there... then they put their hands high in the air - it is on the only really clear signal I can see. I move in closer towards the boat and wait for the boat to slow down. I assume the skip throws it into reverse to stop the boat - as it stops really quickly. I tread water and the guys pass over a pole with a drinks holder on it and a little white basket tied to the pole. I grab my squeeze bottle out of the drink holder and gulp down the warm/hot energy (PSP22) drink (about 250mls ~ 300 calories) Then I take what ever else I asked for out of the basket e.g. pill. Andy was mainly in charge of feeding - and did a most amazing job - the food was always hot and ready when I needed it - thanks Andy!!
The first time I asked for an anti-inflammatory (I recon at 8 hours) - Andy cunningly stuck it into a prune - it would make it far easier for me to fish out of the basket..and also prevent the small pill falling through the basket holes. I grabbed the prune - popped it into my mouth and without thinking (I am getting tired) bit down on the prune...+ PILL. It was a gel / liquid Ibuprofen - the pill burst open in my mouth and my mouth was on fire... flip... I don't know what they stick into those pills, but it is NASTY AGGRESSIVE acid like liquid. It burnt like hell! I don't know if it was because my mouth was falling apart from the sea water... but it hurt! I grabbed the juice bottle again and desperately tried to wash it out my mouth. For the next 1.5 hours I could take the stuff in my mouth - awful - I only made that mistake once!
In terms of what I ate in addition to the energy drink - I started off eating half a banana per feed - but fairly quickly stopped that (3 bananas in total?). I had a few jelly babies, a prune, a small boiled potato and I think that is about it. I really surprised myself that my body could continue to drive forwards at that rate with very little outside feed. Again to distract myself - while swimming I estimated that I was burning about 500 calories of body fat per hour = 55 grams of fat per hour.
Back to Paul getting in for a swim ... well despite me asking at the feed for that to happen, I soon became apparent that Paul wasn't getting ready and that it wasn't going to happen. I did see Paul have a conversation with the Captain. I never asked why he wasn't allowed... what is the point... I figured it was either too rough or getting too dark, but he wasn't coming in.
But I realised I was now alone for the rest of my swim.
As the sun set 8pm (14 hours) the water calmed down a little, which was a welcome surprise... I was passed Zylumes (glow sticks) and fastened them to my costume and cap.
At my next feed, Paul briefed me strongly - "The current is against us and you need to swim harder" I was already feeling like I was working pretty bloody hard - and was being very careful to balance speed against an injury and monitoring my arms continuously for pain. As soon as I felt anything start to hurt, I would switch stroke, change the length of stroke, breath differently... do what ever it would take to give that bit of my arms/shoulders a break. But I could see it in his eyes that he meant business... then the Captain for the first time added his thoughts "You are going backwards mate, you need to SWIM HARD!".
And apparently so I did. I didn't feel like I did - I was still just swimming as hard as I could. At the next feed Paul said "You are doing well, you are breaking though the current!" Brilliant - I was making headway!
What I didn't know, was that in fact I had just dodged a bullet. The Captain wanted to pull me. He felt I was swimming too slowly and due to the current - standing dead still. After a few rather terse discussions he said unless I make headway - there was no point in continuing. Apparently the headway I was now making was 150 feet in 10 minutes! Yes I was moving... but only theoretically...but it was enough for Paul to convince the Captain not to pull me. GULP.
One thing I did do from the very first feed was to always be very chipper / upbeat / strong when I came in for a feed. The Captain always stood over the feed and assessed my condition and I never wanted to show tiredness to the Captain... I never wanted to give him a reason to pull me. I didn't disguise pain or injury - I would list to Paul at every stop what pain or problems I was experiencing e.g. "Shoulder hurting" or "Leg Cramping"...but I would always do it was a smile on my face and be very upbeat. When the weather was getting rough (and I knew he didn't allow Paul to come in - I wasn't sure why..) at the next stop - I said something like "yeah it's bumpy - but hey I have swum in worse!". I guess I knew I was still a long way from France...and didn't want to be pulled.
After 3 hours of smashing against the current, I worked out myself that I was going nowhere... there was a lighthouse I could see out of the periphery of my vision - and it was getting no closer ... that seemed really odd. So I realised that Pauls comment of "You are doing really well pushing through the current" was him trying to keep me positive, even though I was practically dead still. But, by the time I figured this all out, I had burnt 3 hours of the 6 (Tide changes every 6 hours) and I knew I could last another 3 hours until the tide changed - so I knew now... I was heading well into an 18 hour swim. But still... my arms were strong and I need to swim until they die.
At some point in the dark I started to get fairly confused / dizzy... I am not sure what was causing it? There was a lot of luminous plankton and it glowed like mad every time I drove my hands into the water... that combined with the boat bobbing up and down in the big swell was really affecting my 'balance'. I meant to mention to the support guys at one of the feeds (I didn't - I forgot to) that if I went underwater - they need to check that I come back up, as I was not sure that I would be able to tell where up was. This feeling lasted about 45 minutes... and then disappeared without me even realising it. Bit scary at the time.
I had no idea where we were... but in my mind I was thinking that 18 hours was up - we can't be that far off... can we? So I kept my eye on the dingy on the deck... I knew when they put that in the water, that I was then close to home!... sadly I watched that dingy sit on the desk without moving for 2 more hours... that was depressing.
At the next feed Paul says "You have 1 Mile to go... but unless you go like hell you could miss Cap - Gris Nez, the tide has just turned".... I didn't hear another word he said, I just threw myself back into the water and swam like a mad man. I knew that a mile would take me about 26 minutes at the pace I was going - I estimated that in 26 minutes the tide would be flowing strongly in the opposite direction by then, could I really do this... but I still swam like mad. I was bonking (running out of energy) big time - I would scream between a stroke "GEL!" they would get an energy gel ready and I would swim in, grab it squeeze it into my mouth in one gulp, throw the packet up onto the boat and continue swimming - I recon I was stopping for maybe 4 or 5 seconds. Within 3 or 4 minutes the Gel would kick in and I could fly again... I repeated this process I think twice more.
After swimming for far longer than 26 minutes, I realised that I must have missed the Cap...I think this is the first time I got really scared. I had just sprinted for 40 minutes on top of 18 hours of swimming and I was tired...and still no where near the beach. The darn Dingy was still on the boat. I backed off a bit - I had to conserve my arms if I was to have more hours in front of me, but again I was told to swim hard - or we wouldn't make shore.
What made this harder is that I was very aware of the movement on the boat... and the guys didn't seem excited at all, most of them were sitting around, only Paul and Jon on the rail doing his normal stuff. I could only see their silhouettes as there was a big light behind them blinding me a little. But from what I could see there was little excitement... "if they were not excited, then they don't think I am about to finish"... I calculated that I must have again missed the turn of tide, the current was too strong - and had yet another 6 hours ahead of me. Oddly - I managed to be ok with that i.e. I figured I could do that if necessary. [Paul tells me in fact that they were all going crazy - shouting like mad - but I couldn't hear anything]
But suddenly there was some movement - the dingy was being put in! WHAT!! I must be close.
The dingy came around my side of the boat and shone his bright torch in my eyes - between strokes I put my hand up to indicate him to stop blinding me. He stops for a few seconds and does it again... I assume this means I need to follow him - so I turn and head towards the dingy... he seems to loose control of the dingy and almost runs over me twice! The next thing I know is that the big boat has repositioned itself i.e. it has come back to 'find me'... so I try to follow it for a bit... but the current is too strong and I get washed away from the big boat - I am swimming directly at it (perpendicular to the beach) ...but making no head way...and if I am swimming directly at the big boat, I am being carried out to sea. So I turn and start to swim hard again for the beach / white cliffs which I can make out in the dark. Again the big boat repositions itself next to me - and this time I stay really close to it - in order not to be washed away. I am so close in fact that the guys are screaming at me to move away - they don't want me touching the boat.
The big boat then slows and I swim off towards the beach followed by boy racer in the dingy. I worry that I am being washed down the coast and making no headway towards the beach.... but suddenly I swim past a buoy and realise I am doing really well - this gives me a boost and I push for the beach, 40 yards I estimate! I think that I am aiming for a sandy beach... it looks sandy, but turn out to be an illusion.... I reassess distance... still 200 yards to go... I swim like mad and suddenly hit a submerged rock with my hand... some sea animal lights up brightly and shoots off into the darkness - I don't care. I would rest my arm in a sharks mouth at this point if I could. I push past the rock, and hit more....I start to breaststroke over these shallow rocks and finally come to the last rock where the beach starts..the last rock is dry ... I slide up the slippery rock...manage to get myself seated on it and try to stand. My legs are wobbly, on my 4th attempt at balancing...I manage to stand up with my arms in the air and the ships horn blows! 20 Hours and 1 minute after I started.
I actually didn't feel excited / elated or even relieved as I slid down the rock back into the water... I just mechanically swam back to the dingy and the guy helped me in. I collapsed into the bottom of the dingy and we started to head back to the boat. I didn't say anything and after a minute or so he said "Hey mate... you just swam the English Channel!" Suddenly it dawned on me what I had done. I HAD DONE IT.
Back to the boat and I was pulled on board by the team... man hugs galore. I couldn't have done it without Paul, Jon, Andy, Charlie and Nigel - thanks guys.
Finally to all of you who followed the swim with such vigour and supported me so much - the thing I learned mostly from this swim is what amazing friends and family I have - thank you all for the incredible energy, support, sponsorship (Janice, Carlos!), and belief!
A very final special thank you to Bernie who supported me endlessly on training swim after training swim! Thank you - I love you!
Thank you!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Re: 20 hrs 01 mins official and in the book - Alan Soutter, 6 September 2010 16:15

Well put Andy!

Wayne's amazing feat has really inspired me. I have shared it with many of my friends and I think it has the same effect on everyone that hears the story.
It is an example of unflagging determination and inner strength that we don't hear about any more.
It is a story worthy of Ernest Hemingway.

I can only imagine how many times he struggled against the current, his entire body wracked with cold and pain, and thought "I can just stop. I can stop here, get in the warm boat with my friends and nobody will think less of me. This is impossible. It is crazy. I can just stop now."

But he didn't.

Wayne's success has made me think about what I am doing with myself right now and plan to find a new personal goal to test myself against.
I have no idea what it will be, but I have a fire inside of me now that must be quenched.

Thank you Wayne for being such a WONDERFUL inspiration and congratulations on this amazing accomplishment.

Cousin Alan

PS: where are the pics? :-)

RE: 20 hrs 01 mins official and in the book - Andy Peck, 6 September 2010 15:31

I feel the need to write

I guess you all have an appreciation of how tough that swim was – you all lived through it with is via email and maps.

I am not sure you understand how incredible it was.

Let’s be honest, he man is not the world’s most gifted swimmer. Going slower makes it harder.

He doesn’t have a history of participating endurance events – experience counts

If he had come to the boat after 12 hours and said he wanted to pack in, I would not have dissuaded him. We were miles off France and he was looking at doing his longest ever swim AGAIN, on top of the 12 hours he had already done.

The sea was not good in the middle. A big swell and chop on top, and swimming into the wind is much harder. You feel like you have to swim hard just to stay still. If it was like that in Dover we would not have been allowed to start, because he would probably have failed

At times Wayne did swim just to stay still as the tide worked against him

It was tough enough on the boat, and we were dry, could eat and sleep (a bit) and talk to each other. He had nothing to look at, nothing to think about, couldn’t hear much – just coldness, tiredness, soreness, saltiness and envy of the crew in their warm clothes, eating hot dogs.

Sitting in a chair for 20 hours would be demanding. Having to rotate your arms to move forward, having to turn your head just to breath, not being able to have 5 minutes of sleep in 21 plus hours is insane.

Wayne never complained, never looked back, never got grumpy at feed times and was always positive and keen to get going again. Other than 1 minute stops every half hour to eat and drink, he didn’t stop swimming crawl for 20 hours. 20 HOURS! That is absurd, ridiculous, madness. You couldn’t put a murderer through that kind of treatment, and Wayne did it voluntarily.

He was hoping for 14 hours, which would have meant finishing at sun down. But he had to swim for 6 extra hours in the dark! He knew he was behind schedule. I have no idea how he motivated himself to keep going. I would not have done it even if I had the advantage of starting at that point.

His self belief began to transmit itself to us on the boat, until we also began to believe he could do it. By the end we were worried that he had come so far and might yet fail because of the tides. He couldn’t see how near he was.

And the final hour was torture. Wayne went forward, the tide pushed him sideways and the coast got further away. The thought he got so near and might then have to swim another 4 – 6 hours was unbearable. He had to sprint, after having already done 19 hours – testament to his planning and steady pace earlier on

I expected him to be delirious when he got out – cold, hungry, sore, angry… Not a bit of it. He wanted to get dry of course and warm up, but he was lucid, wanted to hear what it was like for us, take some photos. We were exhausted and just wanted to sleep

More people have been to the top of Everest than have swum the Channel

The man is a legend.

Get him a cheeseburger and a beer