Zoggs Swim Diaries: Channel Swim Q&A - Part One

by Deborah Herridge on 6th July 2016

Deborah Herridge is training to swim the English Channel in the summer of 2017. You may have already read about her training here. With such an incredible challenge ahead, Deborah's friends and family have been asking all about the swim. She shares with us some answers to questions that have been sent her way.

How do you feel about the impending swim?

On the whole I feel positive. I'm looking forward to the whole experience including the training over the next year. I think it will become a very memorable experience. But there are some nights when I wake up in the middle of the night and think "Oh my, what have I done!"dh-blog

When did you decide to do it?

After my one-way 7 mile Solent swim in July 2014.

What does your training involve?

Mostly swimming, but I also do some dry land training and rest is also a big part of it.

During the winter it is mainly in the pool, shorter distances between 2k – 5k working on speed and technique, and also short sea 'dips' during colder months to keep acclimatised, this isn’t essential but I enjoy it and I think it keeps my immune system stronger. I'll be doing some weekend back to back swims of 6 and 7 hours, and I'll also have to do my qualifier swim for the Channel which will be 6 hours in water that is no more than 15.9°C. I will also do one pool session per week during the summer to keep working on speed and technique.

How do you deal with the cold?

I try not to think about it too much and just get on and swim, keeping moving is very important, if I stop then the cold can start to go to my core, and once it's there, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to warm up again. So keeping moving is the key. This is why I will be practising speeding up my 'feeds' this year, so when I stop briefly to take on some nourishment during the swim, I won't get too cold or lose too much time by being swept off course by the tide.

Do you need to have your passport with you?

Yes, in case the French authorities ask for it when we're in French waters, it has been known. My crew will store it on the boat along with theirs.

What do you do if you need a wee or a number 2?

You just go! Holding onto a wee for up to 15 hours or more would be very uncomfortable. I've never had a 'code brown' incident, but if I ever did, the same would apply. I'm hoping it doesn't, but it's the least of my worries.

What do the conditions have to be like?

For a solo swim, not too windy which create big waves and make it difficult to swim. So the less wind the better. Hopefully anything less than an F3, but we have to be prepared for it to get worse, which it probably will knowing the great British weather.

Do you think about it all the time?

Yes… I even dream about it. There's not a day goes by when I don't think about swimming, but I'm not always thinking of the channel swim. I do try to have some time off from it though by reading other things than my many swim books or H2Open magazine, watching films, the usual stuff, but the thought usually creeps back in.dh-blog2

Does that make the challenge even more daunting or more manageable?

When I first took the decision to go for it in autumn 2014, I was very daunted by it all; in fact I had cold sweats and sleepless nights for the first few months and woke up thinking "what have I done?!" But I enjoy thinking about it now, I enjoy researching it, learning about it from Channel swimmers, the thinking about it is all part of the process for me, although I do tend to over think things, life in general, that's just the way I am. So reckon if I follow the programme and train hard, but sensibly, have a positive mental attitude, after all the mental aspect is possibly a bigger part than the physical part the swim. So at the moment I'm not daunted by it, and on the whole manage the thought process about it all quite well, but things may change as the date gets closer…

It's obviously hard to know what the weather will do, is there a flexible window for you to go?

My 'tidal window' is from 28th August to 4th September 2017, I can be called anytime that week, day or night, so have to be ready to go, anytime! I will be staying near Dover that week to reduce the stress and so I'm ready at the drop of a hat.

What do you do/how do you prepare if the tide of your slot requires swimming in total darkness for a few hours?

I have swum in the dark quite a few times, but only along the shore, so this summer we plan to go out to sea on a boat and do some practice swims in the dark.

Deborah will be keeping us updated with her training in our Zoggs Swim Diaries, and we'll be sharing more of her Q&A articles here.

Deborah is swimming the channel for a total of 4 charities, and you can help show your support by sponsoring her via her fundraising page.