Saturday, 27 August 2011

Interview with Netherlands Open Water Web now in English translation

On 19 August I posted the text of the interview that Richard Broer from NOWW did with me. A very generous colleague in Brussels, Rose O'Duffy, volunteered to translate that long text for me so the detailed account of my swim is now also available to non-Dutch speakers. Thanks a lot Rose!

If you visit this site for the first time and are looking for pictures of my swim, you can find them by scrolling down to my posting of 28 July, or by clicking here.


(Interview has been slightly updated, and I've put in the international bank account number for donations.)


By Richard Broer – Netherlands Open Water Web (NOWW)
Translation: Rose O'Duffy

You’ve been preparing for this swim for a couple of years now. Have you learned any lessons from the experience ?

I’ve learned a lot, not just in terms of swimming and training, but also in a more general context.

The most important lesson of course is that with willpower and determination virtually anything is possible. I know that is a well-worn cliché but I came to realise how true it is.
Three years ago I was so unfit that I could only just about manage to swim 500 metres in a swimming pool, and now I’ve done The Channel and in a pretty good time too. That is an important lesson for me, not only in relation to anything else I might want to do in my life but also where my children are concerned.

I also believe that is was sensible to start preparing gradually although that is not normally like me!  In 2009 I did my first 10 km swim (Vriezenveen), at the beginning of 2010 I did a 20 km  warm water swim (Rottnest Channel Swim,  Australia, 24°), in August 2010 I did my first Stavoren-Medemblik (19°), then in February 2011 I did the Rottnest swim again. After that I left Bangladesh for the Netherlands and spent two months training in cold open water, (the river Meuse (Maas), the IJsselmeer as well as a weekend in Dover Harbour with the Channel swimmers’ group organised by the legendary Freda Streeter) in order to round off my training.

I discovered I have good resistance to cold water.  At the beginning of June in Dover it was a revelation to me that I could deal with 5-6 hour training sessions in 12-13° C water. Mentally that was a boon because since then I haven’t been very concerned about temperatures experienced during a Channel crossing (16°).

Given my limited open water experience it was important for me to have an experienced coach, Marcel van der Togt, as sounding board. Although I was well able to organise my own training, at crucial moments over the past two years he intervened with the right advice about technique, (preventing a shoulder injury), training build-up, the need for variety in training and about training intensity viz. the importance of rest and recovery. Two or three weeks before the Swim he gave me a stern talking-to at a time when I was in danger of overtraining and probably saved me a lot of misery for which I’m truly grateful. Marcel’s training philosophy involves among other things increasingly imitating your goal in your training: hence you swim the whole Channel distance in peaks divided by intervals, first over 4 consecutive days,  then over 3, then 2 and finally in 1. This proved a highly successful method for me, and for him too as it turned out:  Marcel swam the Channel the day before me having started training for it only 7 months previously!

Overtraining is a serious risk, both in mental as well as in physical terms. Round about March this year, in particular following a none too brilliant performance in the Rottnest Channel Swim, I became thoroughly fed-up.  Remote consultation with Marcel produced a solution and after a few weeks of reduced swimming and increased cross training (running, rowing, cycling in the gym) I was back on track again. Since then I no longer train when I don’t feel inspired. If you really want to swim the Channel, that inspiration will return of its own accord.

How did your family react ?

Well, with mixed feelings given the amount of time I spent in training over the last few years but right now they are proud and delighted. For me it was absolutely tremendous that my wife, Asha, travelled on the pilot boat too so that she could witness the result of all that training. Her presence along with that of Marcel was a huge support to me.
My job in Bangladesh (Head of development cooperation at the EU Delegation there) is very demanding. Hence my training could not be at the expense of my job but rather at the expense of time spent at home. So that’s why I’m postponing all further major projects for this year in order to make up for lost time with my family.

You were swimming for a good cause. How did you hit upon that cause and did you collect as much money as you expected ?

In Bangladesh I came in contact with the work of the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB) thanks to previous sponsoring activities by my Masters swimming club in Dhaka. This organisation, founded by Bangladeshis and entirely run by them, aims to reduce the appalling number of drowning fatalities among Bangladeshi children (nearly 50 a day!) by simple means like providing information and swimming lessons to the poorest sections of the population. I wanted to give the CIPRB a share of any publicity which my Channel swim might generate. I had no precise idea of the actual amount that I might succeed in collecting, although I now realise that in order to attract big corporate sponsors you need to invest far more time in lobbying than I could manage. All the same,  thanks to numerous donations from individuals I have already reached a figure of 4500 euros (6500 US dollars). Contributions are still coming in and hopefully will continue.
Donations are of course still welcome at account no. BE44 8601 1176 9745 (= IBAN; BIC = SPAABE22) mentioning ‘MvG Channel Swim’.

How did the actual Swim go ?

Around 06.30 am on 27. July we boarded the boat in Dover Harbour,  Marcel, Asha, Captain Paul Foreman with a crewmember and the observer from the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation. After all the tense waiting it was almost a relief to be able finally to jump into the water and swim calmly to the shore for the start.

After the start I spent half an hour swimming fairly slowly in order to warm up and get into my rhythm, then I moved into a higher gear. I was given feeds (Maxim Carboloader (97% maltodextrine) or Aptonia Hydro Endurance (with electrolytes) every 20 minutes,  plus half a banana every hour with ibuprofen and paracetamol alternately) and that proved to be the right pattern; I never felt hungry and right to the very end I was able to keep swimming with powerful strokes. The sky was grey, looking threatening at times and the sea was choppier than we’d hoped. As I breathe in only on my lefthand side, I had to swim on the righthand side of the boat where the skipper couldn’t see me as well. At the outset it wasn’t easy either for him or for me to keep alongside but then I started to swim sometimes in front of the boat, sometimes behind it, which meant suffering occasionally from diesel exhaust fumes. Fortunately later on things improved, although due to the wind and waves it was not easy for the skipper to manoeuver the boat at very low speed, while maintaining that speed constant.

My memories of the middle part of the crossing are pretty vague. Not all that much happens; you just swim, concentrate on your stroke and your rhythm, look at what people on the boat are doing, think of your next feed. The water was cold and fairly clear; I could see jellyfish and garfish passing a few metres below me. Only one jellyfish sting. While swimming and feeding I tried to avoid looking at the British or French coasts because that wouldn’t help anyway in judging whether I was making good progress. In any case because of the swell and the waves I could see very little, just tankers passing from time to time a long way off. Marcel and I had agreed that he would not give me any information at feeding times about the distance covered or how much remained because it would be pretty meaningless given the tidal flows in the Channel. We were calculating on a time of more or less 12 hours so that’s how I divided up my time; 3 hours would see me through 25% of the trip, 6 hours 50% etc. As I had already noticed in the past, including during long-distance training sessions, I tend to take a fair while (sometimes as much as 2 hours) before I really get into my stride, and I start to feel better and swim better only when I’ve completed half the distance. The same thing applied this time. So it was a great boost for the morale when I heard that I was on course for a time of 11 hours, by which stage I was already more than halfway.

Having misunderstood the skipper at one stage, (hour after hour in the sea doesn’t exactly make you more alert…. ) I mistakenly thought that I had had my last feed so I put on a turn of speed. However there were two more feeds still to come! So towards the end for a whole hour I swam flat out. Apparently I still had sufficient reserves for that so the misunderstanding ultimately paid off; with a time of 10 hours, 29 minutes and 45 seconds I clocked in as the fourth fastest Channel swimmer out of 24 successful solo crossings so far this year and am ranked 241th in the all-time list (1658 crossings to date), i.e. in the top 15%. Apart from the fact that I got to the other side, I am very proud of my time too.

What was it like setting foot on land ?

It wasn’t all that easy gaining a foothold on land! We landed on the rocks just under Cap Gris Nez and the official observer had already stated that it was sufficient for him if I just touched the rocks. However after all that swimming naturally you want to stand on the rocks and it entailed quite a bit of clambering to get up on them with a few impressive grazes as a result.

Naturally I was absolutely drained after such a colossal swim. Yet I was not in the state of physical exhaustion, confusion even, which I had been half expecting. I was dead-tired yet I felt very calm, not euphoric nor over-emotional, rather “that’s it”! I allowed myself a few minutes to savour the moment, there, alone on the rocks. I tried to find a little stone to keep as a souvenir but there was nothing at all, nothing but massive slippery boulders!

Even getting  back into the water was not easy due to the crashing waves and smooth, slippery rocks. In the photos I seem to be literally scratching my head wondering how I can safely re-enter the water.

There followed a relaxed 200 metre swim back to the boat where hugs and congratulations were in order. No euphoria, just a sense of profound satisfaction. I was wide-awake and alert. Just a few physical problems; almost immediately I climbed aboard the boat I was violently sea-sick and during the three hour return trip to Dover I puked my guts out. Only after a few hours back in the hotel and after a gigantic evening meal with Marcel and Asha, did it finally sink in what I had achieved, when the first congratulatory messages started arriving. Despite my fatigue I didn’t sleep much that night because of all the excitement.

A month has passed already since your Channel swim and you’re back at your desk in Dhaka. Did you have the opportunity to savour your achievement ?

And how, and it hasn’t stopped yet! After all the Channel is an icon, it’s the Mount Everest of open-water swimming and the challenge has been fascinating people for over a century. You are made well aware of that. Of course I appreciated the countless messages of congratulation both in the Netherlands and in Bangladesh. It was a strange experience being the focus of so much attention in the – local – media (TV, radio and press) and it was great to be able to highlight the work being done by the CIPRB.

Got any plans for the future ?

After a week of complete rest and a bit of recovery training in the Netherlands, I am now picking up the thread again and resuming swimming and running at a relaxed pace. I have a few other ideas in the sporting context but for the present, nothing of the same magnitude as the Channel. I definitely intend staying fit and being able to do 10-20 km swims. I’d like to vary my training more with more speed- and cross training. But this year training takes a back seat to family and work.

Have you any tips for anyone else aiming to swim the Channel ?

One single Channel swim does not make me an expert but I’d be happy to let aspiring Channel swimmers share my limited experience (my e-mail address; Here are a few general and strictly personal tips based on my own experience;

-          Start in time to train hard and frequently but watch out for overtraining, do not train when you don’t feel like it or when you’re genuinely too tired. Above all train “smart”, with well-defined peak periods followed by sufficient rest and recovery. Taper off adequately (at least two weeks) before the Swim.
-          Maintain balance in your life, don’t forget your family, friends and social life. Try to plan training peaks where possible before and after (and not during) busy times at work and at home, so that the one does not have to yield to the other. Relax over a beer from time to time. Ensure you get enough sleep.
-          Prepare yourself mentally for the sea temperature in the Channel by doing if possible a few long training swims in much colder water.
-          Vary your training more than I did … don’t just do long training swims, do interval and fast work as well, including cross training (running, rowing, …) for the sake of diversity.
-          Consider taking on a coach with specific experience. You should definitely get in touch with other (aspiring) Channel swimmers, e.g. via the Channel Swimmer's Google chat group.

Thank you very much.
My pleasure!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Donations update

Pleasant surprise! I checked the project bank accounts today, and the total amount donated so far is:

4476,48 euros!

I am extremely pleased with this result. It means that your gifts will now be able to pay for e.g. a fully equipped and installed movable basin for swimming lessons in a city or town, or a sizeable number of bamboo platforms in the rural areas. I will soon sit down with CIPRB to discuss the best ways to spend this money, and keep you informed.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Three weeks after the Channel

(lange NL tekst onderaan)
Since The Swim I have given a few interviews to local (Brabant) and other news media. To compensate for my long silence I will list them below (please click on the hyperlinks). All news coverage was in Dutch, but non-Dutch speakers may enjoy some of the footage of the swim taken by Asha as included in some of the videos. (I haven’t gotten around (yet) to doing a video of the swim for Youtube.)
  • Richard Broer, a reputed Dutch open water swimmer and editor of the website NOWW (Netherlands Open Water Web) interviewed me a few days ago. As it is the most detailed account of my swim, I copy it below in its entirety (with Richard’s permission), or click here for the original article with pictures.
  • On 28 July, returning from Dover and right before entering the Channel Tunnel I was interviewed on live radio by Omroep Brabant, hoarse as a crow after having had my vocal chords pickled for ten and a half hours in Channel water. Omroep Brabant TV also had a news item with video on my swim the day after with some short fragments of me swimming and reaching the French coast. All items can be found here.
  • Local Oss broadcaster D-TV also did an item on my swim, see here for the item with video.
  • Regional broadcaster Brabant10 will do an item on the swim by the end of August (I will add the link later).
  • Last but not least, apart from publishing my monthly columns (unfortunately not available online), the Brabants Dagblad newspaper had its reporter Henk Verhagen blog about my progress on the day of the swim. It carried another article on 29 July.
In the meantime, things have gotten very much back to normal. We’re back in Dhaka, where the monsoon rains are flooding the streets. The children are getting back into their school routine, Asha into running our household, and I into the last year of my work here before we move on to an as yet unknown destination next Summer.
While I enjoy my new status as a certified Channel Swimmer, it is a little awkward suddenly not to have an objective to train towards after having had a major one for a few years.  I hope that I will have the opportunity in the future for a few more (ultra-)long distance endeavours.

Total funds raised so far are approaching 3000 euros, with donations still coming in. Accounts will remain open for a little longer before I transfer the funds to CIPRB.



Here’s the interview with Netherlands Open Water Web (click here for the original article with pictures).

Je hebt aan deze tocht een paar jaar gewerkt. Wat zijn de lessen die je voor jezelf hieruit trekt?
Ik heb er heel veel van geleerd, zowel puur zwem- en trainingstechnisch als in meer algemene zin.
De belangrijkste les is natuurlijk dat met wilskracht en doorzettingsvermogen vrijwel alles mogelijk is. Dat is een nogal versleten cliché, maar ik heb mogen ervaren hoezeer het waar is. Drie jaar geleden was ik zo uit vorm dat ik met moeite 500 meter  in een zwembad zwom, en dan nu Het Kanaal, in een nog vrij vlotte tijd ook. Dit neem ik mee als een belangrijke les, niet alleen voor al het andere dat ik in mijn leven nog eens zou willen doen, maar ook voor mijn kinderen.
Ik geloof ook dat het verstandig geweest is om de voorbereiding geleidelijk aan te pakken, hoewel geleidelijkheid niet echt in mijn aard zit. Ik heb in 2009 mijn eerste 10 km (Vriezenveen) gezwommen, begin 2010 een 20 km in warm water (Rottnest Channel Swim in Australië, 24°C), augustus 2010 mijn eerste Stavoren-Medemblik (19°C), februari 2011 nog een keer Rottnest. Vervolgens ben ik al eind mei vanuit Bangladesh naar Nederland gegaan om twee maanden lang in koud open water (de Maas, het IJsselmeer, en een weekend in de haven van Dover met de Kanaalzwemmersgroep van de legendarische Freda Streeter) de training te kunnen afronden.
Ik heb ontdekt dat ik goed tegen koud water kan. Een simpel feit, maar wel belangrijk natuurlijk. De openbaring was begin juni in Dover, waar ik trainingen van 5 en 6 uur in water van 12-13°C bleek te kunnen verdragen. Moreel was dat een flinke oppepper, want ik heb me sindsdien geen zorgen meer gemaakt over de temperatuur tijdens de Kanaalovertocht (16°C).
Met mijn beperkte openwater-ervaring was het voor mij belangrijk om een ervaren coach, Marcel van der Togt, als klankbord te hebben. Hoewel ik goed in staat was om mijn trainingen alleen af te werken, heeft hij de afgelopen twee jaar op beslissende momenten het juiste advies gegeven over techniek (waarmee ik een schouderblessure heb kunnen voorkomen), trainingsopbouw, het belang van variatie in de training, en over trainingsintensiteit c.q. het belang van rust en herstel. Hij heeft me een week of drie voor mijn overtocht stevig toegesproken toen ik dreigde te overtrainen, en me daarmee waarschijnlijk voor veel onheil behoed, waar ik hem dankbaar voor ben. Zijn trainingsfilosofie bestaat er onder meer uit dat je steeds meer je doel imiteert in je training: zo zwem je in pieken met tussenpozen de afstand van Het Kanaal in 4 opeenvolgende dagen, dan in 3, dan 2, en eventueel 1. Deze aanpak heeft voor mij prima gewerkt, en voor hemzelf trouwens ook: Marcel zwom de dag voor mij eveneens Het Kanaal over, met slechts 7 maanden voorbereiding!
Overtraining is een groot risiso, zowel mentaal als fysiek. Rond maart dit jaar had ik er, ook na een niet al te voorspoedig verlopen Rottnest Channel Swim in februari, even zwaar tabak van. Overleg op afstand met Marcel bracht uitkomst en na een paar weken minder zwemmen en meer crosstraining (rennen, roeien, fietsen in de sportschool) ging het weer. Sindsdien train ik niet meer wanneer ik geen zin heb. Als je echt Het Kanaal over wil, komt die zin vanzelf weer terug.
Hoe was het voor je achterban?
Gemengde gevoelens door de tijdsinvestering die de trainingen de afgelopen jaren vergden, maar op dit moment zijn ze toch trots en blij. Het was voor mij geweldig dat mijn vrouw Asha meeging op de boot, zodat ze het resultaat van al die training heeft kunnen zien. Haar aanwezigheid, naast die van Marcel, was een enorme steun.
Mijn baan in Bangladesh (hoofd ontwikkelingssamenwerking bij de EU Delegatie aldaar) is veeleisend. Trainingen gingen dan ook niet ten koste van mijn werk maar wel vaak van tijd thuis. Daarom wil ik voor dit jaar grote projecten even uitstellen, om tijd met mijn gezin in te halen.
Je zwom voor een goed doel. Hoe ben je bij dat doel gekomen en heb je opgehaald wat je verwachtte?
Ik ben in Bangladesh door een eerdere sponsoractie van mijn Masters zwemclubje in Dhaka in contact gekomen met het werk van het Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB). Dit is een geheel door Bangladeshi’s opgezette en gerunde organisatie die zich onder meer beijverd om door voorlichting en zwemlessen met eenvoudige middelen onder de armste bevolking het verschrikkelijke aantal verdrinkingsdoden (bijna 50 per dag!) onder Bangladeshi kinderen terug te dringen. Ik wilde het CIPRB graag laten meeliften op de eventuele publiciteit die ik met mijn overtocht zou kunnen genereren. Over de hoogte van het bedrag dat ik eventueel zou kunnen ophalen had ik geen precies idee, al weet ik nu dat je om grote bedrijfssponsoren te interesseren veel meer tijd in werving moet investeren dan ik heb kunnen doen. Niettemin ben ik met een behoorlijk aantal giften van particulieren al tot een bedrag van bijna 3000 euro gekomen. Er komen nog steeds bijdragen binnen, en ik hoop op meer. Donaties zijn dan ook nog steeds welkom op rekeningnummer t.n.v MvG Channel Swim.
Hoe verliep de oversteek zelf?
We gingen op 27 juli rond half zeven ’s ochtends scheep in de haven van Dover: Marcel, Asha, kapitein Paul Foreman met een bemanningslid en de waarnemer van de Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation. Na de spanning van het wachten was het bijna een opluchting om eindelijk het water in te springen en rustig naar het strand te zwemmen voor de start.
Na de start heb ik het eerste half uur vrij rustig gezwommen om warm te worden en mijn ritme te vinden, daarna ben ik meer bewust tempo gaan maken. Voedingen (Maxim Carboloader (97% maltodextrine), Aptonia Hydro Endurance (met elektrolyten), en ieder uur een halve banaan met afwisselend ibuprofen en paracetamol) vonden om de 20 minuten plaats en dat bleek een adequaat ritme: ik heb geen ‘hongerklop’ gehad en heb tot op het einde kracht achter mijn slagen kunnen zetten. De lucht was grijs en soms dreigend, en de zee toch woeliger dan we hadden gehoopt. Doordat ik alleen links ademhaal moest ik voortdurend rechts van de boot zwemmen, waar de schipper me minder goed kon zien. Aanvankelijk was het ook niet gemakkelijk voor hem en mijzelf om precies gelijk op te gaan, maar zwom ik dan weer voor de boot uit, dan weer achter de boot aan, waarbij ik ook een paar keer last had van dieselwalmen van de uitlaat. Later ging dat gelukkig beter, al zorgden de wind en de golven ervoor dat het voor de schipper een hele klus bleef om de zeer langzaam varende boot te manoeuvreren en een constante snelheid te geven.
Mijn herinnering aan het middenstuk van de oversteek is nogal vaag. Er gebeurt niet zo heel veel: je zwemt, let op je slag en je ritme, kijkt naar wat de mensen op het dek doen, denkt aan je volgende voeding. Het water was koud en vrij helder: ik zag kwallen en gepen op een paar meter onder me door komen. Slechts één kwallenbeet. Tijdens het zwemmen en de voedingen probeerde ik niet naar de Britse of Franse kust te kijken, omdat je daaraan toch niet kunt zien of je goed vooruitgaat. Door de deining en de golven zag ik sowieso erg weinig, alleen een paar keer op grote afstand passerende tankers. Marcel en ik hadden afgesproken dat hij me bij de voedingen geen informatie zou geven over de afgelegde of de nog af te leggen afstand, omdat dat met de stromingen in Het Kanaal toch niet veel zegt. We gingen uit van een tijd van ongeveer 12 uur en zo deelde ik de tijd in: na drie uur zat ik op 25%, na zes uur op 50% van de tocht, enzovoorts. Zoals ik al vaker heb gemerkt, ook bij lange trainingen, doe ik er lang (soms wel een paar uur) over om helemaal lekker op gang te komen, en begin ik me beter te voelen en beter te zwemmen wanneer ik over de helft ben. Dat was ook nu het geval. Daarbij had ik een morele opsteker toen ik hoorde dat er een tijd van rond elf uur in zat, waardoor ik ineens een groter percentage van de tocht al achter me had.
Doordat ik de schipper op een gegeven moment verkeerd begreep (je wordt er geestelijk niet helderder op na al die uren…) dacht ik te vroeg dat ik mijn laatste voeding had gehad en begon dus fors te versnellen. Er volgden echter nog twee voedingen! Op die manier heb ik op het eind dus nog een uur lang volle bak gezwommen. Blijkbaar had ik daar de reserves nog voor, dus het misverstand is alleen maar gunstig geweest: met 10 uur, 29 minuten en 45 seconden is mijn overtocht de op twee na snelste van de 24 geslaagde solo-overtochten die er dit jaar tot nu toe hebben plaatsgevonden, en staat ze 240e in de ranglijst aller tijden (1636 overtochten tot op heden), dus bij de snelste 15%. Behalve het feit dat ik de overkant heb gehaald, ben ik op die tijd ook wel trots.
 Hoe was het om voet aan land te zetten?
Het was nog niet zo gemakkelijk om aan land te komen! We landden bij de rotsen iets onder Cap Gris Nez en de officiële waarnemer had gezegd dat het voor hem voldoende was als ik alleen de rotsen zou aantikken. Maar na dat hele eind zwemmen wil je natuurlijk op de rotsen staan, en het was nog een hele klauterpartij om eruit te komen, met een paar fikse schaafwonden tot gevolg.
Natuurlijk was ik goed ‘uitgepierd’ na zo’n enorm eind zwemmen. Toch was ik niet in de staat van lichamelijk uitputting en zelfs ontreddering die ik half en half had verwacht. Behalve doodmoe voelde ik me vooral erg rustig, niet euforisch of erg emotioneel, meer een ‘ziezo’-gevoel. Ik heb een paar minuten de tijd genomen om van het moment te genieten, in mijn eentje daar op die rotsen. Ik zocht een steentje om als souvenir mee te nemen, maar er lag helemaal niets, alleen maar grote glibberige rotsblokken!
Ook terug het water ingaan viel niet mee door de stevige golfslag en de spekgladde rotsen. Op de foto’s zie je me letterlijk op mijn hoofd krabben terwijl ik me afvraag hoe ik weer veilig in het water kom.
Vervolgens een paar honderd meter rustig terugzwemmen naar de boot, waar felicitaties en omhelzingen volgden. Geen euforie, slechts diepe tevredenheid. Ik was helder en alert. Wel enig fysiek ongemak: vrijwel meteen toen ik op de boot stond werd ik hevig zeeziek, en ik heb op de drie uur durende terugtocht naar Dover mijn ziel en zaligheid eruit gekotst. Het was pas na een paar uur, terug in het hotel na een enorme avondmaaltijd met Marcel en Asha, dat het echt tot me doordrong wat ik had klaargespeeld, toen de eerste gelukwensen binnenkwamen. Ondanks de vermoeidheid heb ik die nacht maar weinig geslapen door de opwinding.
De Kanaalovertocht ligt inmiddels alweer bijna drie weken achter je, en je bent al weer aan het werk in Dhaka. Heb je kunnen genieten van je prestatie?
Nou en of, en dat gaat nog steeds door. Het Kanaal is toch een ikoon, de Mount Everest van het openwaterzwemmen, en spreekt al meer dan honderd jaar tot de verbeelding van mensen. Dat was en is goed te merken. Uiteraard heb ik genoten van alle gelukwensen zowel in Nederland als in Bangladesh. Het was ook een aparte ervaring om zoveel aandacht in de –lokale- media (TV, radio en krant) te krijgen, en het was mooi dat ik het werk van het CIPRB voor het voetlicht kon brengen.
Nog plannen voor de toekomst?
Na een week volledige rust en wat hersteltrainingen in Nederland ben ik nu de draad aan het oppakken en weer rustig aan het zwemmen en lopen. Ik heb nog wel andere ideeën op sportief gebied, maar voorlopig even niets van dezelfde orde van grootte als Het Kanaal. Ik wil in ieder geval fit blijven en 10-20 km tochten kunnen blijven zwemmen. Ik wil mijn training ook weer wat gevarieerder maken met snelheids- en crosstraining. Maar training zal dit jaar ondergeschikt blijven aan familieleven en werk.
Is er nog iets wat je wilt meegeven aan zwemmers die ook een Kanaaloversteek ambiëren?
Eén enkele Kanaaloversteek maakt me nog geen expert, maar ik zou het leuk vinden om andere aspirant Kanaalzwemmers in mijn beperkte ervaring te laten delen (mijn e-mail: Een paar algemene en puur persoonlijke adviezen gebaseerd op eigen ervaring:
  • Begin op tijd en train veel en hard, maar kijk uit voor overtraining, en train niet wanneer je geen zin hebt of echt te moe bent. Train vooral slim, met welbepaalde piekperioden en voldoende rust en herstel. Doe een lange (minstens twee weken) taper voor de oversteek.
  • Houd balans in je leven, en vergeet familie, vrienden en gezelligheid niet. Plan trainingspieken zoveel mogelijk rondom (en niet: tijdens) drukte in je werk en privéleven, zodat het een niet voor het ander hoeft te wijken. Drink gerust een biertje. Zorg voor genoeg slaap.
  • Bereid je mentaal voor op de temperatuur van het Kanaal door zo mogelijk een paar keer lang te trainen in nog veel kouder water.
  • Train gevarieerder dan ik heb gedaan... Niet alleen lange trainingen, maar ook interval en snelheidswerk, en crosstraining (lopen, roeien, …) voor de afwisseling.
  • Overweeg een coach met specifieke ervaring in de arm te nemen. Zoek in ieder geval contact met andere (aspirant-)Kanaalzwemmers, bijvoorbeeld via de Google chat group
Dank je wel.
Graag gedaan!

Milko’s blog:      
Donaties:                     rekeningnummer ten name van MvG Channel Swim

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Some pictures

We are on our way out of the hotel, so no time to write, but here are some pictures. Click on the phots to enlarge.
In the shipping lanes, in the middle of the swim, still many hours away from France.

Proof that made it: having clambered over some big and slippery rocks, I am the tiny figure celebrating in the middle of the picture.

Having swum back to th boat I am getting out of the water, face swollen after more than 10 hours in the water

Let's not forget what this swim was about. You can still contribute: see the buttons on top of the page! :-)

I couldn't have done it without my crew. From left to right: Marcel van der Togt (my coach and also successful Channel swimmer, me, my wife Asha, captain Paul Foreman, and deck hand Ray. The CS&PF observer is not in the picture, as he was taking it.


(English below)

Beste vrienden,

Het is nu officieel: ik ben Kanaalzwemmer! Mijn tijd vandaag was 10 uur, 29 minuten en 45 seconden, sneller dan ik durfde te hopen. Watertemperatur was 16-17 graden Celsius, zee ruwer dan ik verwachtte, maar wel gunstige rugwind.

Heel erg bedankt voor alle steunbetuigingen tijdens de overtocht: ik kreeg ze steeds doorgegeven via Asha tijdens de voedingen en dat hielp enorm tijdens de moeilijke momenten, die er zeker waren!

Morgen hoop ik meer details en foto's te kunnen geven, ik moet nu mijn bed in!


Dear friends,

It is now official: I am a Channel Swimmer. I swam the Channel today in 10 hours, 29 minutes, 45 seconds, faster than I could have hoped for.  Water temp was 16-17 degrees Celsius, sea a bit rougher than expected, but a favourable wind in the back. Let me add that I have now a much better understanding and even more respect for the achievements of the legendary Bangladeshi swimmer Brojen Das, who crossed the Channel 6 times!

Thanks so much for your messages of support: Asha transmitted them all to me during feeds, and they very much helped me through some of the difficult moments.

Will try to give more details and pictures tomorrow, I really need some sleep now.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Alea iacta est: Wednesday morning 6.45 am GMT

captain's final verdict came through at 7 pm: I'll be swimming tomorrow morning from 6.45 a.m GMT onwards (7.45 a.m. NL time; 11.45 a.m Bangladesh time). You should be able to track my boat's movements for most of the day by clicking here (make sure you select the map 'Folkestone' in the rolldown menu on the left - the name 'Pace Arrow should appear in the map).

Great news: Just 2 hours ago Marcel made it to the French coast in 14 hours, which is exactly what he had predicted. He is now on his way to Dover Harbour. His wife Lilian and his 2 children will be there to give him his well-deserved hero's welcome; I might if I can't sleep. An awesome achievement, especially taking into account his relatively short preparation time (7 months), though building of course on tons of experience. But it proves that his training method works.

I write this in a Dover hotel room with a view on the Channel, which is flat as a mirror right now. No wind at all! I have spent my day being quite nervous, trying to nap while Asha was roaming the shopping centres of Dover with Lilian, stuffing myself with more pasta than I though humanly possible (carboloading - yuck), watching the weather forecasts, preparing my feeds, and writing this message. It will be almost a relief to actually be in the water and swim

I'll try and catch some sleep now. My next message will tell you if my attempt was successful or not. Thanks for the messages of encouragement I have been receiving so far, they are a real support!

in Dover

We just arrived in Dover after a smooth car trip. As usual I slept very little last night, so will go for a nap now to catch up. Paul Foreman will call me around 7 pm.

Conditions look good: little wind. Marcel is doing fine: he was halfway the French shipping lane an hour ago.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Wednesday ever more likely

Spoke to Paul Foreman again this morning: more than on the weather it now depends on the speed of the swimmer preceding me on Tuesday whether I will swim on Wednesday or Thursday. This being the Channel, conditions can change any moment of course. Nevertheless, Asha and I are driving to Dover tomorrow morning.

I did a 1-hour work-out today at a good clip, with 3 or 4 short sprints. Right shoulder still a bit stiff and sore, but it got better after a half hour of swimming.  Virus not completely gone, but I think I am good enough to go.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Spoke again with the captain this morning: I will not swim earlier than Wednesday, if the 2 preceding swimmers swim on Monday and Tuesday. Winds are more forceful than predicted, so no swims today and tomorrow. Paul Foreman explained to me that solos only start at Beaufort 2-3 maximum, relays up to Beaufort 4, sometimes 5 (depending on the direction, I presume)

There is still time as the current neap tide is until 29 July. If I don't swim before Friday we'll have to wait until 7 August, when a new neap tide starts.

The good news is that this buys me extra time to get rid of my - fortunately fairly mild - virus infection and to give my ailing right shoulder some more rest. I am already feeling better than a few days ago. I haven't swum for two days. Will do a very easy 1.5 hour work-out tomorrow morning, just to keep the juices flowing.

Marcel van der Togt is now in Dover, waiting for his swim to come up, presumambly on Monday morning.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Swimming in 3 or 4 days?

Just off the phone with my captain Paul Foreman. I have 2 swimmers before me, if the weather stays as it is and if both swimmers accept to swim, I might be swimming on Monday or Tuesday! I'll start packing my bags today.

I have been feeling slightly under the weather over the past four days, probably some virus: sore throat, cold shivers and cold sweats. There's not much that I can do but sleep, drink tea and take extra vitamins. All I am worried about is this thing turning into a full-blown flu.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


In spite of recent foul weather, conditions have improved in the Channel and no less than 8 swimmers/teams started their attempt last night. Forecasts (see here) are such that more attempts will probably follow in the days ahead while this neap tide lasts (21-29 July).

I just spoke by phone to my captain Paul Foreman (boat: Pace Arrow), just as he was delivering a swimmer to Cap Gris Nez! We discussed my wish to swim in the current neap tide rather than 7-12 August, with all the risks of getting delayed (my flight back to Dhaka is booked for 11 August). He told me that there might be a possibility for me to swim this weekend or shortly thereafter, once and if all his other swimmers for this tide have started, that is, or if one of them wishes to postpone.

So, this is it - I am in standby mode as of today! Nerves into high gear, adrenalin pumping. Hopefully only for a few days, but possibly for weeks to come, depending on weather, other swimmers, etc etc.

Mentally I am quite ready now: while I am very respectful of the distance and the water temperature (appr. 16 degrees), I do not fear them. Physically I am well prepared, even if I could probably have improved on my training and diet on several points. My shoulders and the rest of my body have for the most part recovered from my 31-kms swim ten days ago, but my right shoulder is still not 100%, a little more stiff and sore than the left one. But the tendinitis seems to have abated (though not completely disappeared) thanks to rest and shorter work-outs. Lower back and neck (my usual weak spots) OK.

So I'll continue my short (1-2 hours) and rather easy work-outs, with just a few sprints to keep me on my toes.  It's all about maintenance and recovery now. It is hard not to train more than I do: I feel like a dog pulling the leash, jumpy and nervous, which is said to be typical for tapering periods.

By the way: Marcel van der Togt is also in standby mode for his own swim, as he is in 2nd postion for the current neap tide with captain Mike Oram (ship: Gallivant). I think he can be expected to swim in the next couple of days.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Thank you Commission colleagues!

(English below.)
Vandaag weer een stukje gezwommen in de Maas, 1,5 uur op het gemak, in de stromende regen en harde wind. 't Ging nog niet echt lekker: pijn in schouders (peesaanhechtingen) kwam na een uur weer opzetten, en mijn spieren zijn, drie dagen rust en een massage ten spijt, nog steeds stijf. De monstertraining van zondag heeft me mentaal dan wel opgepept maar fysiek een flinke dreun gegeven, hoe goed het op de dag zelf ook ging. Meer hersteltrainingen en meer rust dan maar de komende dagen.

Still stiff and sore, four days after Sunday's monster training.
I checked the MvG Channel Swim bank account today and would like to thank European Commission colleagues for their recent generous contributions further to the recent article in Commission en Direct! Some very encouraging messages from them reached me as well, thank you all, this is a great boost to morale!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

3 days off

Three days have flown by without training: eating, sleeping, some reading, and doing odd jobs in and around the house. I have been very tired: by swimming 31 kms I have really pushed my phyical limits. Muscles and tendons are still aching. Today's massage (mainly back, shoulders and upper arms) by Susanne Willemsen (top notch!), no less than three days after the swim, was painful but much needed.

However, as usual just a few days without training make me nervous and I am itching to get into the water tomorrow again for a short (2-hour) interval training, not too intensive. The really long trainings are mostly over now. I have only planned one very intensive 6-hour work-out for next week, but only after I am fully recovered from Sunday's monster work-out. Until then only 2-3 hour work-outs. No firm planning, but playing it by ear and listening carefully to what my body tells me. Sufficient rest and recuperation are essential.

I must be one of the very few people happy with yesterday's and today's horrible weather: the rain and low temperatures keep the river's water temperature down, which makes for better practice! I have decided not to go to Dover for the weekend, which I had planned originally. Will try to do some sea-training in the Netherlands over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, 11 July 2011

31 kms!

Yesterday saw my biggest work-out ever: 31 kms in the river Maas, with Marcel vdT accompanying me in a boat. 9.5 hours straight, no breaks, except very short ones every 20 minutes for feeds. The swim was even mentioned in the Brabants Dagblad's online version: click here.

Lots of good experience and useful lessons learned:
- in principle I can now handle appr.10-12 hours, and perhaps more, of swimming at a reasonable speed. After 9.5 hours I had reserves left, even though I was glad it was over.
- feeding rythm of once every 20 mins works for me. Mixing drinks with .5 part apple juice and .5 part water is easy on the stomach.
- alternating 2 Maxim carboloader feeds with one electrolyte feed (all feeds 250 mls) per hour (all at 1.5 times the recommended dosage), plus half a banana on the hour, works OK. I got hungry only after the 9-hour mark. Taking into account that I had not been properly carboloading the day before, I can probably overcome this. Not sure though how the Channel's lower water temperature will affect this?
- I took 5x400 mgs of Ibuprofen in the course of the swim. While it kept the tendon inflammations in my shoulders more or less under control, the swim was nevertheless quite painful. I may have to use paracetamol during the Swim as well for better pain relief.
- curious: the second quarter of the swim was the worst, whereas I got my second wind after 6 hours and managed to keep a very good pace in the 7th and 8th hours. Knowing that I was on the way back helped - it shows to what extent this is a mental game.

Marcel and I agreed that I don't need any more endurance work now, but rather some more speed work and enough rest to calm down the tendinitises in my shoulders, arms and left knee.

Many thanks by the way to Marcel, who endured a long, sweaty and -by the looks of it - rather boring day in the boat.

No training until Thursday now, apart from some very short and easy recuperation swims and hopefully some physiotherapy/massage on Wednesday. I have really physically exhausted myself, but morale has made a great leap forward!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

More press coverage

My employer's internal newsletter Commission en Direct (56.000 copies) carries a nice article this week about my Channel swim project - unfortunately not externally available online. I hope it will generate further interest in the project and, obviously, more donations (click here to make one :-) ) for the great work of the Center for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB).

No very long trainings this week until Sunday. Coach Marcel van der Togt warned me against overtraining and suggested for this week a schedule of five 2-4 hour trainings with a lot of variation and sprinting (useful for dodging fast approaching oil tankers in the Channel...). I can already feel the benefits. Nice to notice also that my recovery time between sprints has improved tremendously - a clear effect of all the hard work over the past couple of months.
For next Sunday however we've planned a huge training session: 10 hours, which is approaching the length of the actual Channel Swim. We're still trying to find  a boat to train in the IJsselmeer. If not, it will be a 10-hour slog in the river Maas.

The Swim is now approaching fast. I have made my final payment, and have started discussing with crew members (so far: coach Marcel van der Togt, my wife Asha, and Andre van Tol, a friend from Lith) how to organise ourselves to get to Dover. The difficult thing is that, due to the ever changing weather conditions in the Channel, you don't know for sure that you will actually swim until appr. 12 hours before the swim. That is not a lot of time to get a team organised and transported to Dover, unless you decide to go to Dover and just hang out until you get the go ahead from your pilot. Not a very attractive option.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Een sympathieke bijdrage uit Belgie

Op 20 maart jl. organiseerde Henk Verbeke, een Belgische langafstandszwemmer die ik bij eerdere edities van de Twenterandkanaalrace heb leren kennen, een 100x100 event met zijn zwemclub. Hij was daarbij zo attent zijn clubgenoten attent te maken op mijn project, en er werd een leuk bedrag opgehaald. Het kwam er maar niet van elkaar dit jaar in levende lijve te ontmoeten, dus werden de geworven fondsen, 200 euro, deze week giraal bijgeschreven op de bankrekening van MvG Channel Swim ten behoeve van het CIPRB.

Henk en clubgenoten: hartelijk dank!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Swimming lessons: a life-long vaccination against drowning

An extremely hectic but also very satisfying (and, for me personally, unbearably hot and sweaty) monsoon week in Dhaka and in the field as European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and German Development Minister Niebel visited Bangladesh.

Today was more relaxed, and I was able to visit swimming lessons in Dhaka together with Dr. Aminur Rahman, Director of CIPRB's specialized department for anti-drowning research, the International Drowning Research Centre. I even joined the kids during their swimming class, see the pictures below. It was amazing to see how children can be taught to survive, and many even to swim quite well, in just 12 half-hour sessions. (text continues below the pictures) 

4 boys, 4 girls, 1 male and 1 female instructor. The instructors have received excellent training from CIPRB. The movable pool is a nice size: 12,5 x 6 m. The construction behind us houses the pump and filter. The pool is situated in the playground of a primary school.

A lot of fun swimming together!
Remarkable: all children can swim front crawl after only 12 sessions, starting from zero: putting just their faces in the water -  clearly the instruction must be very efficient.
The fact that in this pool boys and girls were being taught together with the agreement of their parents was a pleasant surprise for me.
A movable pool as shown in the pictures is really not so expensive: the complete set up, i.e. pool, pump, enclosure, etc. costs about 5000 euros and can serve appr. 1000 children per year, for several years. Salaries for instructors and consumables such as pool chemicals and electricity for the pump cost appr. 400 euros per months. Swimming lessons are even much cheaper in rural areas, where extensive bamboo constructions in fish ponds can be made for appr. 100 euros, although they do not serve as many kids and last only a year. It is clear that a little money goes a long way in this country. And Dr. Rahman and I agreed that swimming lessons should really be considered as a 'vaccination against drowning'.

As if to underline the necessity of action against child drowning, today the Daily Star published two drowning cases, a 10-year old and a 3-year old, reported in today's newspapers, see here. Two sad illustrations of the 50 daily child victims of drowning in Bangladesh.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Channel in two days

Back in Dhaka for a week of hectic work, after my biggest training week ever. After the 7.5 -hour training on Monday, I managed an 8.5 - hour (25 kms) session on Thursday and a 3-hour/9 kms one on Friday. The latter two workouts equal the Channel distance of 33 kms. So, training is going according to plan.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A 109 km swim

If you want to read about a really incredible feat of long-distance swimming, check out The Daily News of Open Water Swimming (click here): only a few days ago Penny Palfrey from Australia, 48 years old, swam the 68 miles (109 kms) between the Cayman Islands. It took her 40 hours and 41 minutes, in conditions that were not even particularly favourable (wind, currents, waves, and even 4 sharks fought off by her crew!). Unbelievable determination.

7,5 hrs in the IJsselmeer

Progressing well. I did a big, fat and ugly 7.5-hour training yesterday in a still cold IJsselmeer: from Medemblik to the 'Oude Zeug' harbour and back, appr. 19 kms.  Overcast sky all day, high winds and pretty bad waves, so a real 'fight' training, not so much speed. Shoulders got extremely painful at some point. I will definitely need to bring Ibuprofen for my swim. The water was 16-17 degrees Celsius at most: cold hands and feet all the way, but otherwise fine - the 3-day Dover shock therapy has worked well and cold water is much less of an issue now, physically and especially mentally.
No swimming today (soooooo tired!!) but a relaxed day off with Asha (kids are with their grandmother in Amsterdam): only gardening and extra sleep. For tomorrow only a short, slow training (and more sleep ;-)  ) to loosen up stiff muscles and get the juices running again. On Thursday and Friday I intend to do two more huge (each close to 20 kms) work-outs, back-to-back. I will have time to recover physically from this monster week all of next week, when I will be in Bangladesh for work and with little time for practice I'm afraid.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

11 June

No swimming after Dover until today. Trained today with Marcel vdT, who had come to Lith to swim with me in the river Maas. 4 days of rest had clearly been good for me: I experimented successfully with a faster stroke rate and did my appr. 12-km circuit 20 minutes faster than a few weeks ago.

After the swim, and over eggs and bacon, Marcel and I also discussed our 20 kms training next Monday in the IJsselmeer, our training schedules, and our expectations for our respective upcoming Channel swims, his in July, mine in August. For both of us this is such a beautiful and exciting adventure.

Monday, 6 June 2011


Dover was dus erg geslaagd, zie mijn vorige post.

Ik zit nu op een Brusselse hotelkamer (een paar dagen hersentraining voor het werk) en heb zojuist via internet de aflevering van De Wereld van Beau (van Erven Dorens) van gisterenavond bekeken waarin hij het Kanaal zou overzwemmen (klik hier voor de link naar het filmpje op de SBS6 website).

Ik begon er met de nodige scepsis aan: zo'n showbizman die even tussen de soep en de aardappelen een Kanaalstunt wil uithalen? Maar ik moet zeggen dat het me meeviel. De zware, lange en saaie trainingen, het permanent afgepeigerde gevoel, de spier- en peespijnen, het werd allemaal goed in beeld gebracht. De voorbereiding leek serieus, ne het was niet alleen maar show, maar ook echte ambitie (niemand komt voor de show om 4.45 uur 'sochtend zijn bed uit volgens mij).
Eigenlijk is het jammer dat hij koste wat kost zijn Kanaalpoging wilde doorzetten, hij had beter een jaar kunnen doortrainen: vijf maanden voorbereiding is gewoon te weinig, tenzij je al een getraind zwemmer bent (en dan nog...), de zee was ontzettend ruw, en hij zwom met een gekneusde rib (!).  Maar de geslaagde IJsselmeerovertocht (erg traag: 12h47m, maar wel gehaald, in vrij ruw water) geeft aan dat hij wel het karakter heeft om door te bijten.
De Kanaalpoging aan het eind van de aflevering was dan ook meer voor de buhne en om wat leuke filmplaatjes te hebben, lijkt me, ze stopten er ook al snel mee. Maar als ik hem vergelijk met sommige niet zo snelle maar wel solide zwemmers in Dover Harbour, dan zou het best kunnen.

Verder nog alle lof voor Daan Glorie, die afgelopen weekeinde maar liefst 83,4 km zwom in 24 uur. Glorie-eus, Daan!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dover - days 2 and 3 (6 hrs and 5 hrs swims)

Things got serious on Saturday and Sunday. I am very pleased with my progress now:

On Saturday I did, together with a few other Channel swimmers, an intensive 6-hour swim (appr. 20 kms) in Dover Harbour. The water tmperature was again 12 degrees water but with sunshine to lighten up the day and morale, and at the end I had still reserves left, I could have gone on for one or two more hours (but was happy not to ;-)  ), even if the water was cold enough to have numbed my fingers so I couldn't move them for the last hour of the practice.

On Sunday the situation was grim: I finished, with much more difficulty, another 5-hour swim. Temperature was again 12 degrees, though this time without any sunshine but in wind and rain and very choppy water, which made a world of difference for temperature perception and hence morale. My hands were numb already after 1 hour in the water, and the hours just wouldn't pass. A really tough swim, not just physically but especially mentally, as other swimmers agreed afterwards.

Though physically tough, Channel swimmers are a friendly bunch and very supportive of each other. The only thing that counts is not speed, but making it to the other side. Being in Dover for a few days allowed me to have a proper chat with several of them, and I am looking forward to getting to know others as I will be coming back in the next two months.

The weekend has boosted my morale: I found out that among the solo swimmers preparing in Dover Harbour I am relatively fast (while not so important for the crossing as such, it will get me out of the water more quickly!), and that in spite of having done most of my training in too warm water in Dhaka, my resistance against the cold is by now just as good as those who started their cold water training already in April. The past three weeks in Europe have been well spent.
My confidence is growing that I stand a good chance of making it in August, if I am lucky with the weather and manage to avoid injuries of course (insh'Allah).

Friday, 3 June 2011

Dover - day 1: swimming in water of 12 degrees Celsius

The meaning of 'cold' continues to shift: today I swam for 1h50min and then again for 50 minutes in water of 12 degrees Celsius (and lived to tell it)! Even better: I felt relatively comfortable during the second swim. Clearly something good is happening and my body is adapting well to ever lower water temperatures.

Adaptation is taking on other forms as well. My resting heart rate is now appr. 32 beats per minute, and rarely gets above 45 bpm.

Today I trained alone. Tomorrow a big group of (aspiring) Channel Swimmers will be gathering at 9 am in Dover Harbour under the watchful eye of living legend Freda Streeter, 73 yrs, the 'Channel General'. I expect to push my physical limits further and spend at least 4 hours in the icecold water.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Still sore

No swimming today either. Still sore beause of the 18,5 kms swim I did the day before yesterday (and the nasty fall on my back - I strained some abdominal and neck muscles), and I decided to take another rest day. Instead I had a session with Susanne Willemsen of SW Sportmassage who managed to get most of the soreness out. 

I'll do a short (2-hours) training session in the river Maas tomorrow morning and then drive to Dover, UK, for three days of hard work in Dover Harbour with a large group of other Channel nutters. After that three days in Brussels for work-related training, and a day in Liege to visit two friends and colleagues who have gone through a very rough time recently and whom I am looking forward to seeing. I'll be back in Lith on Friday 10 June, in time to pick up wife and children from Amsterdam airport the next day. The fun of my temporary life as a bachelor is wearing thin, and I miss the family.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

18,5 km van Lith naar 't Wild en weer terug!

Na de onplezierig onderbroken 6-uurs training van eergisteren heb ik gisteren een prachtige tocht in de Maas gemaakt van maar liefst 18,5 km, ook zo'n zes uur zwemmen. Nogal stijf vandaag, een dag later. Door het zwemmen, maar ook door een uitglijder en een harde smak op een spekgladde veerstoep bij het pont van Maren-Kessel (waar ik reservevioding had neergelegd).  Erg teveden dat ik zes uur met redelijk gemak heb kunnen doorzwemmen.

Vanuit het water kan ik de kaalslag zien die het stromende water aanricht bij de wortels van de 'bakenbomen'op de Maasoevers, nu basaltblokken zijn weggehaald om de oevers 'natuurlijker' (en goedkoper in onderhoud) te maken. Nog een a twee winters met hoog water, en die typische en prachtige bomen liggen om. Ik schrijf erover in mijn maandelijkse stukje (vandaag ingeleverd) voor het Brabants Dagblad, en die sturen morgen een fotograaf om het onheil vast te leggen op de gevoelige plaat, voor bij mijn column. Ik ben benieuwd of anderen zich de aankomende kaalslag net zo aantrekken als ik. (Als ik nog een fototostel had zou ik even naar buiten lopen om een foto van de blootliggende boomwortels bij dit stukje te kunnen plaatsen, maar daar is dus eergisteren een Haagse dief mee op de loop...)

Monday, 30 May 2011


It should have been a really good day: doing a 6-hour swim today together with Marcel van der Togt in the Madestein lake in The Hague. (Marcel Channel Swim is even the subject of a real TV documentary and he had brought a 2-man film crew!)
The swim went great, very windy, water quite cold (17 degrees Celsius or so). I was able to keep a good pace, and felt still pretty good after 3hrs/10 kms. Even the cold water didn't bother me much. Then, suddenly, Marcel's coach Gerard noticed that my blue sports bag had disappeared from the park bench right next to the water. And yes, it had really gone, and with it 5 pairs of Cressi goggles (the only brand that fits me), some spare swimming trunks and, more seriously, all my keys, including car keys, and a photo camera with recent pics.  Very fortunately I had decided at the very last moment to leave my wallet with bank and credit cards hidden in the car.
The theft was the end of the swim for me, and I spent the rest of the day reporting to the police, who also opened the car for me (ever heard of a 'slim jim'?), dismantling the car (well, taking the car battery out) to avoid theft, driving to Lith and back to the Hague with ever helpful Vikram coming immediately to the rescue all the way from Amsterdam (thanks!!!) to get a spare car key, and driving home to Lith, finally.
Not a good day, but it could have been worse (no papers or bank stuff stolen).
Will try and do my 6-hour swim tomorrow: Lith-'t Wild and back.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Mind games

Five cold water training days done so far, it is going ok, even if the cold is a real mental challenge, see below. 

The full week was as follows:
Sunday 22:     4h15m           17.5 C     Maas & Lithse Ham
Monday 23:    2h15m           17.5 C     Maas
Tuesday 24:    4h30m           17.5 C     Maas & Lithse Ham
Wednesday 25:   2h              18 C        Dode Maasarm
Thursday 26:   2h                  15 C        IJsselmeer (Medemblik)
Today is a day off, which is nice!.

The toughest was yesterday: 2 hours in app. 15 degrees Celsius in the IJsselmeer, with a cold hard wind and very choppy water. Good fun though, a real battle with the elements. I have figured out the difference between 17 and 15 degrees: in the latter case hands and feet will remain cold throughout the swim, whereas in 17 degrees they will warm up after appr. 15 minutes, only to turn cold again after 1.5-2 hours.

The hardest part is not physical, but mental: I can do the long swims without any problem as far as the distance is concerned, but the cold water plays nasty games with one's mind. The cold is always there, and doesn't leave you for a moment. This was clear on Wednesday when I intended to do a 6-hour swim but got out after 2 hours. I should have prepared better: I went into the water as if this was just another training, but these cold long swims take mental preparedness. I have now planned a 6-hour swim on Sunday with coach (and also aspiring Channel swimmer) Marcel van der Togt. Hopefully being in the water together will make it somewhat easier to stay in and bear the cold.

A picture of my favourite training location, the river Maas: