Sunday, September 14, 2008

My second Channel attempt, Sept. 11, 2008 - The long story

“Not what happens to you, but how you accept it is of paramount importance” – Sri Chinmoy - Indian philosopher and respected spiritual teacher (1931-2007)


After my first training trip to Dover mid-July and my second trip for more training prior to my tide beginning of August and then waiting endlessly due to the bad weather I had to leave Dover without a chance to swim. I came back on the 7th of September, in spite of the dreary prospects for that tide, hoping for a swim towards the end of the week.

7th of Sept. , back on the ferry to Dover

Positive feeling

I had managed to keep a very positive inner feeling in spite of the weather, and when I arrived on Sunday, the weather started to change. Alison had three swimmers ahead of me (since I was carried over from the last tide they would have priority), but one dropped out and one went Monday or Tuesday. So we were talking about a possible swim on Friday or Saturday, where conditions seemed to be improving with the wind veering to northwestern and for Saturday, 13th, even sun predicted and a warm front moving in – perfect for the start of my triathlon, I thought. On Tuesday Marie-Therese, my helper from Vienna, came and we started to get everything ready.

Marie-Therese inspecting Rocco, Alison's boat, and looking forward to her duties as a helper and a great adventure, hopefully

When will I swim?

Luckily I didn't get Alison's first message in time. She had wanted me to go on Wednesday, when the wind was still blowing strong from the south. I met her on the boat, we talked, and Friday or Saturday seemed an option. On Thursday we happened to meet in the morning at the Dover Marina computer again where she was checking the weather charts. She didn't know yet if the Serpentine lady's relay would agree to swim Thursday night into Friday so I could swim after them but would let me know as soon as possible.

So I went for a last one hour swim in the harbour – desperately trying to acclimatise more since the water had gotten colder after the storm over the Atlantic and the air had gotten crisp, too. Then I wanted to just rest and eat as much as possible.


Coming out of the water after my last training swim, I saw I had missed a call from Alison. She wanted me to go that night, 8 p.m. at the boat, 9 p.m. start. It was a total shock. I immediately objected: only 7 hours to go, no proper rest for a 4 day triathlon etc. etc. A second helper for the boat was coming Friday only. Alison didn't accept any excuses. „You can do it! I want you to go tonight! We will feed you!“ She hadn't had a swimmer on Wednesday and no one to go tonight. Friday to Saturday seemed to have been given to another swimmer from the last tide (Cedric, as I found out just now, who made it! Congrats!). And the ladys' relay would swim on Sunday after they gotten everyone together.

A strong inner feeling

After I got home I meditated and had only one strong inner feeling: not to go, it is the wrong day for me, too early, too rushed. I thought swimmers could accept or reject an offer to swim, on the other hand you never know how the weather will develop, and I could understand Alison – not only moneywise, but wanting to get as many swimmers out as possible to allow them to get a shot at the Channel. And Cedric had to fly in from Jersey. I remembered the feeling of 1985: 100 % positive, eager to go – from start to end. Very different now.

So we got everything ready in a rush: some last minute shopping, visit to the bank, preparing the feeds, packing up everything since we were to be dropped off in Calais, getting some spaghetti into our nervous stomachs and one last hour of rest before the taxi would come pick us up and take us to the harbour.

Air temperature 15°Celsius

I updated my blog briefly and took a last glance at the BBC weather forecast. When I saw the air temperature of 15° C for the night and realised I would swim for 9 or 10 hours through the night, and the morning was to be overcast and not much warmer, I had a flash I was in for hypothermia. I just hoped it would not strike at night when nobody would see me turn blue. I prayed for a miracle, like cancellation of the swim or the predicted warm front rushing in, but it didn't feel very convincing. The only good thing: the wind was supposed to veer to northwesterly.

Sacrificial lamb

I felt like a sacrifical lamb, surrendered to its fate. Of course I could have not gone, but that seemed no option either. There was not much left of the positive anticipation I had had over the last months. It just felt wrong, wrong, wrong. Everything had been coming together so perfectly – my helpers, the van, the bikes, the money, even the weather forecast - only it was the wrong day. 11th of September! I wanted to start holding the World Harmony Run torch – but not with any political connections. The 13th had sounded great. Well. What an inscrutable cosmic game!


When we arrived at Dover Marina around 7:30 p.m. at nightfall (with quite a traffic jam due to the Channel tunnel fire) we saw that two other boats were about to go out: Neil Streeter on Suva with Paul Hopfensperger, better known as „Hoffy“, for a two-way swim, and another boy from Folkestone with Sea Satin. Helpers and observers helped us carry our exile-from-Egypt amount of baggage down to the boat. I was really happy to meet Hoffy and Beccy, along with Sam and Michelle – some well-known smiling faces in this drama. It changed my mood a bit, endorphines started to mix with the adrenaline, and when Alison arrived she sported her Zurich-lake marathon-swim T-shirt to show her oneness and was delighted to read the line on the back of my sweater „I swim in the sea of silver-light“ from a triathlon-poem by Sri Chinmoy.

While boarding my mood was getting lighter, we started taking pictures and joking around. Alison told us we would leave from Samphire Hoe because the current was too strong for Shakespeare Beach (it would carry us too close by the harbour) and we had 20 min. till the start.

Posing with Marie-Therese, helper, feeder, video-person etc. before the start

Posing with felow swimmer "Hoffy" Paul Hopfensperger ready for a two-way attempt

... and with Alison the Great, Queen of the Channel and my pilot in her Zurich lake marathon swim T-shirt

Havoc on the boat

When we left the harbour and turned towards Samphire Hoe the chop was so strong the boat seemed about to capsize. The bottle with the Maxim carbo concoction went overboard (Marie-Therese would find out only later), and the Channel grease had been swept from the table, just as everything else. After a long search it turned up in some dark distant corner. We were just grateful we had taken 2 sealeg tablets around noon and another one before leaving, so our stomachs were not affected.

The pilot checking the screen where the swim will be monitored

Greasing up on the way to Samphire Hoe from where the swim would start

In the middle of darkness

We greased up quickly, I then lit the World Harmony Run torch and stood on deck with it for a minute of silence, dedicating the swim (as part of the triathlon) to World Harmony. I had planned to to hold the torch again on the French coast and later at the trees planted during the World Harmony Run in previous years in Brussels and Heidelberg. Then I jumped into the water, swam to the dark shore, and when Alison blew the horn the swim officially started, around 9 p.m. Dover time. (Haven't seen the observer's report yet.)

A moment of silence with the World Harmony Run torch before the start of the swim (nothing to do with the Channel tunnel fire that day!)

Rough yet peaceful

The beginning was rough (see Hoffy's report). Alison had told me to stay close to the boat, it would protect me from the wind and waves would be less wild. Alison's boat is huge and brightly lit, so I felt very safe and protected and was not affected by the elements as much as Hoffy, I suppose. With the light from the boat I never had to swim in pitchblack water, unless I came too close to the tip of the boat. I did get into a kind of rhythm, tried to concentrate and actually felt quite peaceful. But I felt the cold.

Hoffy swimming in the dark with the green lightstick on his cap (photo pinched from his blog - I hope you don't mind, Hoffy!)

The cold

The water had gotten slightly colder after my last stay in Dover (15-17°C), and the air was colder than the water and I felt it was getting to me from the beginning. How long would I last? Also I could feel my bathing suit was not fitting tight. I had applied some grease under it, and since I was wearing my old worn-out suit, the grease increased its „bagginess“ and I could feel the cold water streaming by my body more than with a tight-fitting kind of warming double layer suit (which are permitted, sorry guys). I had received two new Speedo suits for the Channel, but while they were fine during 7 hour lake swims, they had started chafing my neck bloody after only 2 hours in salt water, never mind vaseline or grease. (Adidas suits are better, Rashmi told me, the Indian girl who had to leave Dover without even being able to make an attempt in 2 months!)

I remembered 1985, when I felt fine – only towards the end my helper had used the word „cold“ and immediately I had started to shiver. So I tried to cross the word „hypothermia“ from my mind and replace it by mantras like „warmth, heat, fire“ etc. I thought of the yogis in the Himalayas, drying their loin cloths soaked in icy water by their inner fire („tummo“ in Tibetan) after wrapping them around their body. I even tried to meditate – which under normal conditions does make you feel warmer. But it didn't really help.

I swam from feed to feed, at 30 minute intervals right from the beginning, which went basically very well, except for two bottles sunk into the Channel and some time loss when the bottles dangled too long in the air and Marie-Therese did not throw them in the water before me or didn't give me enough string. I mainly stuck to liquids (Maxim and fruit sugar with tea, juice, hot chocolate with soy drink or soup with oats, some canned peaches, and another sealeg tablet when the fumes and waves seemed to be getting at me.)

Peaceful fight

After the first few choppy hoursI had the feeling the waves were pushing me, at least they were not against us - until the 10th hour or so. To the west I could even see the moon peeping out of the clouds for some time, to the east the lights of Dover and Calais were lighting the clouded sky, but basically everything else was black and grey. No „silver light“. Not the beauty of the starry sky of 1985, no ecstasy, and no strong positive inner feeling like I know from other ultra events. More a feeling of patiently and doggedly and quite lonely fighting your way to your goal by just sticking in and knowing you have done similar distances before and it may be only a question of time.

Only few ships and ferries came into closer sight, and actually they looked quite pretty in the night with lots of lights all over, kind of Christmassy.


After around 6 hours I was halfway, geographically. Alison came out once or twice to shout „fantastic“ since I seemed to be making good progress. Until around 10 hours into the swim.


When the day broke it looked very gloomy as predicted, no trace of sun, just grey in grey. No temperature change. Suddenly the swimming became harder, the water seemed choppier. I had to stop more often for breath. I asked if I was in the infamous „washing machine“. The waves didn't look high but they were coming from all sides and breaking any swimming rhythm.

Daybreak near Cap Griz Nez - again Hoffy on his way, photo from his blog, probably by Beccy

On board it must have been worse than in the water. Marie-Therese said Rocco was rocking like she had never experienced it on a boat before, fried breakfast eggs and other things were flying around the cabin, she was fighting a lone fight with filling the bottles while trying to get a firm hold onto something at the same time, splashing liquid in all colours (tomatosoup, hot chocolote, tea and juice etc.) all over herself.

Rocco with myself swimming along - photo courtesey Hoffy and Beccy

Click to enlarge - France still far in the distance, the boat swaying, myself a tiny spot immersed in the grey vastness (photos by Hoffy and Beccy)


At the same time I slowed down. We had passed Cap Griz Nez and got caught by the current taking us back to Calais, too far away from the shore for a chance to swim in shortly. Alison felt it was no use telling me to speed up or sprint, so I never tried. I felt my arms getting weaker and could see on the video afterwards how I was slowing down. A small boat started circling us – Neil with Hoffy on their way back. A nice custom among Channel swimmers to show their oneness and respect, but I had no idea what was going on. I did not realise I was getting into hypothermia, I just kept asking for hotter and stronger drinks with more Maxim, but my speech got blurred and when, after 13 hours 40 min. or so Alison told me „I want you to get out“ I didn't even think of asking why. Marie-Therese had been concerend just as Alison, who hadn't wanted to make me give up, but I would have had 4 to 5 more hours to swim and Marie-Therese wanted me back alive. If it hadn't been for the cold, 5 more hours would have been no problem for me. So they did the right thing.

Looking a bit miserable

All cuddled up on the boat in warm old clothes a little later I realised how miserable I actually felt, and when I saw the photos afterwards I was quite shocked. I was breathing hard, very short-breathed, and my lungs felt like I was in for a huge bronchitis.

I don't know how much of a difference a day of more rest and food, swimming in daylight and a tighter fitting bathing suit would have made, plus some more inner support from all my friends who thought I was swimming Friday or Saturday. But this was not my day.

Not alone

When I realised that Hoffy had only done a one-way, I thought it must not have been an easy day, which felt quite comforting. At the same time I felt sorry for Hoffy, who had trained so hard for his two-way swim! I had been convinced he would do it, but the Channel has smashed many dreams this year.

Alison dropped us in Calais and put in a big effort to find us a taxi. The whole crew was very helpful all the way - thanks a lot.

My helpers with the van and bikes arrived in the afternoon at our Hotel (again „Victoria“, what irony!), already informed, but totally positive and cheerful. They really helped me take the experience in a positive light and already promised to be back with me next year. Thanks so much!

My helpers: Marie-Therese, tired after a long night, Pragya from Nürnberg and Angela from Berlin, who had just arrived in Calais

Smiling again

After a warm bath and a couple of hours rest I already looked human and smiling again. I was amazed that my arms and shoulders were perfectly fine! After the Zurich lake last year I was so sore! We had some pizza, a good night's rest, and drove back to Heidelberg next morning. My lungs were fine again, thanks also to „rescue“ spray, but I wasn't sure if biking would have been the right thing now (I wanted to finish the triathlon anyway only if I did the swim). In Calais it was still cold, but dry, further into Belgium, however, it started raining, even pouring, and wouldn't stop until Heidelberg.

Happy again on the way back

Back in Heidelberg and ready to unload our Europcar-van

Well-deserved meal at the Waves Restaurant in Heidelberg

Only today, Sunday, the sun came out as predicted and as hoped for the triathlon that was to start on the 13th! We went running this morning, I felt like flying, but it doesn't hurt to have another year of training for the big event – maybe more efficiently and consistently now, with the emphasis for the next few months on more mundane things like concentrating on my work and earning some money.

We will be back

Although my feelings were mixed, I think it was a valuable experience with many different facets and aspects. We definitely felt a lot of blessings after it. And I am glad it did not leave any bad feelings about the Channel. I know I can do it again, not easily maybe, that would be disrespectful to the Channel, but I am sure it will allow me to „conquer“ it again, and to finish my triathlon. And it may become another great experience. As my teacher once wrote: "He/she who braves the Channel ... is an immortal friend of the Channel." (But friendships can have their ups and downs and be quite rough at times!)

Like others I also want to thank the beach crew in Dover again, Freda, Barrie, Irene and others, the boat crew and all my friends, especially from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team around the world for their help, support and inspiration with this project.

I don't want to miss a single minute of the time in Dover, and I am grateful to have come into contact with a number of very special people. In a way I am even happy it is not over yet!

Three lessons I have learned:

1. Nover do anything against your inner conviction (but what was the option?)

2. Some things take more time and more attempts than expected.

3. Sealegs work great.

Back in Dover next year!

Finally a few more quotes from the illumining writings by Sri Chinmoy on the subject of victory, defeat, failure, success and progress. I have derived a lot of strength, guidance and inspiration from his writings ever since I have known him.

Failure is failure
Only when
We stop trying any more.

What does failure do?
Failure improves my life,
Strengthens my mind
And heightens my heart.

A failure is not destruction.
A failure is a challenge
To overcome and go forward.

Victory and defeat are interwoven.
Do not try to separate them,
But try to go beyond them
If your heart longs for abiding peace.

is what we always
Is what we always

And one of my favourites:

Do not give up, do not give up.
The transformation-game of life
is not yet over.

- Sri Chinmoy

Some video footage to follow (technology...)

P.S.: Comment by Mike Oram: "If it feels wrong then it probably is wrong."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hypothermia struck!

Sorry for the late update, just a short note:

Had to be pulled out of the water after 13 hours 40 min. after we had passed Cap Griz Nez and were already being swept by the counter-current back towards Calais, which would have meant about 5 hours more swimming. I looked a bit too blue, my speech got blurred and I had slowed down quite a bit. We had started at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. German time) and swum through the night with air temperature down to 15 °C and water around 17°C.

The swim was fine, I could have continued easily (no sore shoulders or muscles afterwards), , very peaceful atmosphere, waves mostly pushing us - but the cold got me, although I had managed two 7 hour swims and a 6 hour swim in Dover Harbour without problem.

Thanks to my crew and everyone who supported me and wished us well.

I am fine now, happy again (my helpers had already come to meet us in Calais with the van for the rest of the triathlon and everyone was extremely supportive and in good spirits anyway) and looking forward to finish my project maybe next year.

More to follow

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Surprise when I came out the water from my training swim today: we are going tonight at 8 p.m. Dover time.

My the Channel Gods be with us!

Maybe Friday AND Saturday!

We may start our swim on Friday night around 8 p.m. and swim into Saturday, if Alison's relay goes out tonight. Or we will start on Saturday morning around 10 a.m. and land late at night, maybe into Sunday. The wind starts turning tonight and will be coming from north-west, pushing the swimmers, finally!

The good thing about swimming into the night: the night is usually calmer, you will have daylight and hopefully some sun for the harder part of the swim, it's a great experience swimming into the day and you also will land in daylight and avoid getting torn bloody all over when trying to climb over the barnacle-covered rocks in the dark to reach dry land. I am estimating around 15 hours for my swim ( in 1985 it was 17 hours, but friends who are slower were faster on their swims - depends a lot on the wind and currents).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Saturday or Friday?

The weather and the forecasts keep changing, but my guess is Saturday. Some people made it yesterday, some didn't, due to hypothermia, seasickness, lack of mental preparation etc. Today all the boats stayed in the harbour. The water today felt much colder, almost arctic, but it was quite calm in the harbour and the sun is out, warming. Swam with Rashmi again. Tonight Marie-Therese will arrive and we will get everything ready and worked out. It's my Channel-anniversary today, but there is no special feeling - the future is more exciting than the past. Still I am amazed at how calm and peaceful I feel.


Just talked to Alison, my pilot. She offered me several options. Friday is taken by a relay, but they could change to Saturday. Tomorrow and Thursday seem to be swimmable, but still with windforce 3-4 in the wrong direction. Saturday would be calmer and northerly winds. Wednesday is out of the question for me. Will check the weather charts again tomorrow.

Looks like Saturday or Friday now (Sept. 10)/

Monday, September 8, 2008

Exciting news: Swimmers are out - and more hope!

Arrived in Dover last night by train and ferry - with an amazingly positive inner feeling, no matter the outer circumstances which only seem to be improving. Moved into a nice little attic twin bed room at Victoria Guest House WITH A VIEW TO THE HARBOUR AND THE CHANNEL! And with great breakfast and wireless laptop (if it works), with extremely supportive landlords and more Channel swimming company.

Swimmers are out today!

The yacht harbour at Dover Marina, where the pilot boats are moored, looks quite empty today.
A number of boats with their swimmers including Alison with Roco went out early this morning. We are all very excited about it. On the ferry yesterday it didn't look too bad - wavy yes, but not unswimmable, with north-westerly winds. More swimmers are getting ready to go tomorrow morning, if they get the confirmation tonight, but right now Tuesday looks windier again. Wednesday and Thursday are looking quite good right now, then it is getting windier again on Friday. Alison took a swimmer or a relay out today - so there is only one person or team before me now!

Good omen

When I came to the harbour around 9:30 this morning for a two hour training swim - after a huge Channel swimmer breakfast of porridge, eggs, beans, potatoes and toast at the Victoria Guest House with another swimmer from California and his crew (and pizza last night) - who was there, as if waiting for me? Rashmi, the 18 year old Indian girl and her family, still training and waiting for a chance to do her 2-way attempt! Great hello and lots of chatting and picture taking, until Kiran, her mother chased us off into the water. But first we still had to admire the sun partly covered by a tiny cloud, creating a rainbow halo-effect for just a minute! Very unusual! Rashmi is taking it as a good omen. "You came and are bringing the sun!" she told me. I wish I could bring about her swim! She is still 4th place with her pilot ("left-over" swimmers from earlier tides have to get to the end of the line behind the official swimmers of each tide). On Monday they will be going back to India, no matter what.

Two hour swim and international company

I totally enjoyed the two hours of swimming, it felt smooth, easy, powerful, plus I enjoyed swimming side by side with nice company, including another Indian girl we met in the middle of the harbour. After taking off our googles, we realised we know each other from the Zurich lake swim last year. She may go out tomorrow!

The water felt "crisp", and it did bite my face at first. The lake and pool had definitey been warmer, uncomfortably warm for me. But luckily my body felt fine, in the beginning I was even wondering for a second if I was still dressed. More rest and food plus the long swim weekend in the lake seem to have some positive effects! Fingers started fluttering again after an hour from the cold, but after two hours they were fine. Better than last time in Dover! The water on the left side of the harbour was quite choppy again, but that makes it only more interesting and better training. Two or three more days of acclimatisation and I am definitely ready to go!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cosmic Game

The only constant thing is change - also in regard to Channel weather forecasts. Right now it looks much gloomier again for the tide starting today, but of course that could change again. And reality need not abide by the forecasts. Now there is only a relay and a solo swimmer before me. And there are new enthusiastic and experienced helpers confirmed: Marie-Therese, who helped Bea in 2006, will come to Dover on Tuesday - and Angela, a physiotherapist who was on the World Harmony Run in Australia, would join the van-crew and be a support-biker, if we get to swim and make it.

I bought my train ticket to Calais for the 7th and I feel it is the right thing to go. It feels nicer to celebrate my Channel anniversary on the 9th in Dover, it will be good to swim again in cold water, although tapering, and if it doesn't happen this tide I will do another long swim in Dover and only come back for the 2nd tide of September, if the weather looks good. But I am still hopeful for this tide - miracles do happen. (In 1985 my helpers had to come three times and then the day of the swim was great - so I am used to the game, it is just a matter of time, and also money, of course.)

This time, with only one helper and coming late, we will be staying at Victoria Guest House, closer to the harbour and very supportive of Channel swimmers.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back to Dover on Sept. 7th

With a little help from my friends I will be back in Dover for the next neap tides (Sept 6-11) soon. Just checked the pressure charts: a high pressure zone is pushing its way up! High pressure usually means less wind, i.e. good swimming conditions. The first days of the tide still look not so good, but its getting better from Monday on and the 10th and 11th are looking quite promising right now also on windfnderfor example. The only thing, apart from the fact that the weather forecasts can change within a few hours: there are still swimmers before me! But one or two days after the neap tides (12 and 13th) might still be swimmable, too, if the weather is right. So I am quite excited and hopeful now!

Met office pressure forecast for Sunday 7th: the high is pushing up towards the British Isles

There are so many swimmers waiting - and quite a few left over from last tides. I really hope we are getting a chance this time. Good luck to all!

(I am aware how tiny our weather problems are compared to some much more serious weather issues on other continents!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Karteek did it again! Congratulations!

Last Friday (Aug. 29) Karteek Clarke from Edinburgh, one of the members of the international Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, has conquered the Channel for the 9th time since he got kind of hooked on the Channel in 1997! His intention was to never again go on a spring tide, but since Friday was one of the very few good days this summer, he took his chance and succeeded under the able guidance of Dave Whyte (good thing he hasn't retired yet) in just under 15 hours! Congratulations!

For Karteek, the swims most of the time have not been easy. He knows how it feels to want to stop swimming after only a couple of hours out there, no matter what the financial implications, the year-long efforts put in or how many much longer swims you might have done in training. His experience is that you can learn to not give in to this feeling and just take it as an experience, if necessary for a few hours. At some point it will lift like a veil or disappear like a fiever. The only thing is not to surrender to it, but to know it is only temporary, even if it may seem like an eternity. Cliff Golding used the nice expression: to work to the point where the "secret inner doors" open - and you swim in a sea of peace, if you are lucky!

Karteek shared a few tips in regard to feeding: he prepared all his feed bottles in advance (just bought water bottles, the caps are easy to take off) and his helper would warm them in some hot water on the boat, and he brought his handmixer to mix bananas into rice milk (I would go for soy) with some protein powder, which can be a nice change for the sweet carbo stuff, especially after 5 or 6 hours. He did get a bit seasick on this swim, too, but was able to feed properly again after the 5th hour.

Hope to read a longer account of your swim soon!

An amusing helper's report about Karteek's and Mate's very serious Channel swims in 2003

Monday, September 1, 2008

Last split Channel swim before the next tide (7 + 7 hours)

Last weekend of August, after almost 2 weeks of just pool swimming, including a few "fast" 400 m lap-sessions under 8 min. and quite a few days off, plus a long bike ride (previous post), I felt the need for another, hopefully last LSD-swim (long slow distance) this year and did a 7 + 7 hour split swim in the lake. A bit crazy maybe so close to the next tide which is Sept. 6-11th, but I may only swim towards the end anyway - IF (!!!) the weather allows. I was really happy to have done it, my muscles had already started to shrink, but the hunger had come back. And with the high pressure zone still around and lots of people out at and on the lake, it felt easier and safer than had I done it earlier on cloudier and colder days during the week.

Some hours, especially in the middle, felt like hard work again, but overall I really enjoyed it and knew I could have continued. I pictured my self out in the Channel, first shipping lane after 3 to 4 hours, halfway geographically after 6 hours (which is nowhere near halfway in my case timewise), in the middle of the seperation zone I went home, and the next day, as usual not starting from hour 1 but from the seperation zone with hour 8 I made it almost to France (actually I DID make it to France, I just skipped a few hours in between). After 11 or 12 hours is when the really serious part of the swim will start for me. So to have done 14 hours felt good, a little room for self-transcendence left once I will be out there.
(To be sure, I am fully aware that conditions out in the Channel will be by far more difficult: waves, currents, cold water and wind, no rest, short feedings, possible seasickness etc.)

Saturday morning - 10:50 a.m. at the lake in Roxheim. The water was refreshing and clear, but lots of fluffy greenish organic matter floating around to swim through - good pratice for the Channel. In the beginning it used to scare me out of my swimming trance...

Sunday evening - ducks racing to get some cookie morsels from the photographer

Mission "Silbersee" completed - happy and sunburnt after a 14 hour swim weekend

Alison still has 2 swimmers and a relay for the next tide, but I am going back to Dover on the 7th anyway. If it is meant to be it will happen. She might even recommend another pilot if there is one available. A new helper for the boat has emerged out of the blue, let's see what the universe still has in store!

more photos

200 km bike ride to my mom's birthday party

Aug. 24-26
After coming back from Dover on the 18th, my energy and training went down. I planned another long swim in the lake but never made it that week. My parents live about 200 km away near Nürnberg and my mother's birthday is on the 25th, so I decided to go for a long overdue 12-13 hour bike ride on Sunday, stay for a day and take the train back home.

On the way to my mom's birthday - Neckar valley near Hirschhorn on a peaceful Sunday morning

It was a great weekend, chillier than the Channel in the morning, but with the sun coming out warming up during the day, quite autumn-like already.

Some parts of the hilly route through beautiful countryside even forced me to get down and push the bike briefly (the triathlon route will only be ondulating in the first parts but not hilly, so I haven't been doing much hill-training), but endurance was not a problem. I felt better at the end than at the beginning, except for some limping around at the birthday party due to muscle ache. Tuesday on the train back I still had this deep inner feeling of peace and love which often comes after a long distance event.

With my mother - after 12 hours on the bike

The ride also made my family understand a little better what this triathlon project was about. My father had been reading my blog regularly (brushing up his English), it was great to feel their support and encouragement, and conversations started to turn to mountaineering, Mount Everest, and of course swimming and sports in general and its tradition in the family. My mom told me I would just jump into the big pool at the age of 3 and doggy paddle back, and I remembered that my father took me on my first ultra - a 12 hour mountain hiking tour in Austria - at age 16! Even my nieces got excited when they checked out the photos on the blog.

Jojo and Maria

Thanks to the kids, things were quite light-hearted with lots of laughing and fooling around, and after watching "Silly Walks" with John Cleese on the internet we ended up having to do "silly faces" for the camera. It was the nicest family birthday party for a long time, with a special spirit due to challenge ahead!

more photos