This is part two of Christine’s incredible story; if you’ve not read part one you can find it here.
I set off at 3am on the morning of Friday 23rd September, which was just amazing – inky waters and lovely moonlight. It was very peaceful. The water was a little choppy but nothing I couldn’t deal with. I started strongly, taking on warm drinks and food and coping well with the warm 18-degree waters. In fact, the crew on the boat were probably faring worse!
Time went by – eat, swim, repeat – and at around twelve hours in I felt I was doing really well. But when I asked how far I’d come I was deflated to learn I wasn’t even halfway. This despite the fact I could see France in the distance (they do say not to look!).
Mentally this was hard and after another hour or so I began feeling very tired. I’d travelled down the night before so sleep had been minimal, half an hour at most. Not good practice! I was concerned I might fall asleep whilst swimming, so I told my crew and they increased my feeds for an hour or so, which improved my energy levels and helped me battle on. I thought at one point that I might even land in daylight. I was just six miles off. Six miles – no problem!
But darkness arrived and I seemed to keep missing any potential landing spots. I didn’t feel like I was making progress and my goalposts were constantly changing: I was told to aim for rocky outcrops, then sandy beaches, then the lights of houses!
I didn’t know it at the time but I was actually fighting a renowned tough tid e just before the French coast that was pushing me backwards. It felt like swimming in an endless pool. All I could do was keep going.
My crew were working to keep me motivated but it wasn’t easy. I told them I wanted to get out after 18 long hours in the cold, choppy waters. I was very close to breaking point. At this point my pilot took charge, assuring me I had only half an hour to go and that I could do it. He told me my stroke count – which was monitored on the hour – hadn’t slowed, so I wasn’t tiring. I just had to push through the mental barrier!
Which I did. I grit my teeth and pushed on, and eventually found myself emerging onto the French coast. I’d done it – after all the training and the exertions I’d put myself through, I’d done it.
The Channel… Conquered!
How did I feel? Exhausted, of course, but, oddly, not really emotional. I just wanted to get indoors and get warmed up. In fact I was feeling seriously underwhelmed – probably to the annoyance of my crew, who were ecstatic!
But, just a few days later, I’m pleased to say that’s all changed. I’m hugely proud of what I’ve done; no one will ever take away the fact that I am a solo Channel swimmer. I am one of around 1650 people to have swum the Channel so it is quite an achievement. (The records date back to 1875 and Captain Matthew Webb, the first recorded Channel swimmer.) In fact, more people have climbed Everest than gone solo across the Channel.
On Saturday I felt good – my shoulders ached a little but nothing like as bad as I’d expected. This is probably down to the wonderful curry I devoured, washed down with plenty of Guinness, prosecco and Champagne! Oh, and the disco taxi back to the hotel! It’s a wonder I woke up the next day…
The tiredness did hit me after teaching my spin and hydro classes a couple of days later, but I can live with that!
A Few Facts
- Funds raised for Pancreatic Cancer Research (as of writing) – £1,050 – and Yorkshire Air Ambulance – £1,580. Thank you to my amazing supporters!
- Time taken – 18 hours 56 minutes
- Distance covered – 39.77 miles (the Channel is 21 miles across but the effect of the tides means the swim is nearly twice that)
- Total number of strokes – a whopping 66,120!
- Total calories burned – 30,000
- Total calories refuelled in Guinness – 29,000 (the team are a bad influence!
So, What’s Next?
For 2017 I have two Ironman triathlons and a marathon already booked, and hopefully I’ll be back in water swimming from Malta to Gozo and back. And maybe, just maybe, a swim around Jersey.
So… not much, then!
I’d Like To Thank…
All that remains is for me to thank a few people, without whom I wouldn’t have achieved this incredible task:
- Swim support crew Becky Hull, David Bradley and Steve Marshall, who were bloody fantastic!
- My pilot, Paul Foreman, and his support crew on board The Optimist, whose continued vigilance made me feel very safe
- CS & PF Official Geoff Cox, who made sure everything was done in line with Channel Swimming rules
- All my friends and family who have supported and encouraged me, told when I needed to rest, and generally cajoled me through two years’ worth of training
- And special mention to Mum and Dad, for making me who I am today. Teaching me to believe in myself and that there’s no such word as can’t (or even cannot!). Dad, I’m so very pleased you were waiting for me back home; and, Mum, your spirit was with me throughout
If you’d like to donate to the two charities I swam for you can find my Just Giving pages here:
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Christine-Bradley3 – Pancreatic Cancer Research
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Christine-Bradley4 – Yorkshire Air Ambulance