Zoggs Swim Diaries: Channel Swim Q&A – Part Three

by Deborah Herridge on 30th July 2016

Deborah Herridge is training to swim the English Channel in the summer of 2017. She's been sharing her journey with us in our Zoggs Swim Diaries. With this momentous challenge ahead, Deborah's friends and family have been asking her all about the swim. She shares with us some answers to questions that have been asked around her training and the swim itself.

When people say things like "it must be so boring" or "what can you possibly think about for all that time", how do you react and do questions like that make you feel?

I don't mind at all, I enjoy people asking about the swims. Up until a few years ago I would have probably asked the same questions. I've never gotten bored, longest swims so far have been a training swim of 5 hours 20 and the two-way Solent swim of 7 hours 18. I've never once got bored, I think of all sorts of things, I sing songs, reminisce, think about my stroke, see if I can spot any wildlife, or sometimes don't think at all, a kind of meditation I suppose.dh-blog3

How much training do you do?

We use a method called Periodisation Training, which works in 3 weekly cycles, light/medium/heavy and builds intensity as time goes on, so it is very varied, but it has worked for me for the past two big swims.

How do you know if you're doing enough/too much?

My coaches make sure I do enough, I leave that in their capable and experienced hands. My husband Robert who has done the overall training to get me here can see how I look on a day to day basis and judge when we need to reign me in. It's all worked well so far. And if I’m doing too much I can tell quite quickly as I become less like Tigger and more like Eyore.

How do you eat and what do you eat?

A warm maltodextrin carbohydrate drink, tinned peaches and pineapples (which help the salt mouth), hot chocolate, sweet peppermint tea (which helps the stomach), basically foods that can be consumed very quickly.

How do you deal with setbacks? Illness, injury etc.

Generally I have a very positive mental attitude, but illness can test that. I've not had a great winter and spring health wise, I had 8 weeks out from training in the autumn after catching a very bad dose of flu, and then a post viral fatigue after a throat infection. I managed to get my all my fitness back by the end of January, and was considerably faster than I'd ever been before, I trained for 3 x 5k swims for the Swimathon sponsored by Zoggs and then caught another cold, pushed myself too hard when I wasn't 100% (but got a PB of 1 hour 35 minutes!) and then caught yet another throat virus. I get very frustrated, (as do my coaches) when I go and swim when I should be resting. This winter I am determined to get a short swim in the sea every week as I believe it makes my immune system stronger and I can't afford to be ill the year of the channel. Injury wise I am very sensible, if I feel a twinge I will either correct my stroke or stop. I've had a few shoulder injuries from the repetition of all the many miles swam, but at the moment all is good. So my motto from now on is "train hard, but sensibly, don't over do things, eat well, and rest lots".dh-blog6

***** I wrote all of this back in March, and then developed pneumonia. I've never been so ill in all my life and can now understand why elderly or frail people can die from it, luckily I was fairly fit, and had medication in time, but it has set me back another 3 months. I'm just starting to swim again, ten minutes for the first swim, one stroke at a time and slowly does it. It has been an excellent mental test which I feel I have passed. I have remained positive throughout, and it has taught me acceptance and patience, so if my pilot tells me I've missed the tide when I'm close to France and have to swim for another 4 hours or more, I will accept it and get on with the job, with a smile.*****

I feel positive that I'll get back to fitness by the end of summer and do my 6 hour qualifying swim in water that is less than 16°C.

Are you doing it with anyone else?

No, mine is a solo swim. People also do relay swims in teams of up to 6 people and swim an hour each in turn.

Are there French swimmers doing the channel coming the other way? Or is it just the British?

The French stopped channel swimmers starting from France in 1993 I believe, so now it's only possible to swim from England to France. People from all over the world attempt to swim across the channel, and 33% of solo swims have been by swimmers from the UK.

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.