Next Stop Dover

July 13, 2010

Today is Travelling day. We took a cab to the Victoria Train Station from our hotel. On a side note is was kind of sad leaving London because of all the incredible sights to see knowing that we had just scratched the surface. Everything here is very accessible via the public transportation. On a personal note, I must confess that I am not the greatest with confined spaces, like the London Tube. Team “Midlife” thought that they would experiment with me…as Hugh put it “Lets just take the champ underground to see how he does…” well the champ lasted about one minute. It’s funny, I would rather swim the channel than ride the tube!

We caught the train to Dover at 3:30pm which was a very fast and scenic way to go, it lasted about 1:30mins with a total cost of 27 pounds.

Arrived in Dover just in time to check into our bed and breakfast (Maison Dieu Guest House) . Met with the owner Diana French who immediately gave us tea and cookies and took us though the logistics of our stay. We later walked into the City core (5 mins) and had a wonderful dinner at an Italian restaurant. To finish the evening off we walked down to Dover Harbour where I stuck my toe in the water and ran out screaming like a little school girl! Just kidding…the water is cold, but not that cold.

Lastly, we walked along the promenade where we paid homage to the local hero Captain Matthew Webb who was the first person to swim the channel in 1875.

July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

The swim is getting closer, but we are still in London…

Woke up this morning and made my way to the Porchester Recreation Centre. This a great facility only five minutes from our hotel. It was built in 1926, originally as a bath house and it has a 30metre pool, which is kind of an odd size as far as pools go. I swam 3500m at a reasonable pace.

Today we were joined by two of good friends John Hamilton and Hugh Johnston. I had no idea Hugh was to be travelling with us as they kept this a secret from the very beginning, including a going away dinner party last week. I will never forget walking down to the Lobby, glancing over to see John, and then seeing this person next to him that really looked familiar…welcome Hugh!

London is an amazing place. Today we visited Buckingham Palace, attended an hour long service at Westminster Abbey, walked through Trafalgar Square and lastly had a wonderful Indian dinner at Piccadilly Circus.

London Calling

We left Vancouver for London, England on Friday, July 9 at 8:30pm. We arrived at Heathrow Airport Saturday, July 10 at 1:40pm. Having to sit upright for ten hours on a plane is always an arduous task. The weather is hot (28’C) and sunny.

Quick itinerary, just in case you are interested; Stay in London for three days, leave for Dover on Tuesday, July 13. Stay in Dover for as long as it takes. My tide window is from July 16-24. Best scenario would be to swim early that week and have the rest of the time to travel. We will do our best to keep you updated before, during and after the swim!

After we landed in Heathrow we ended up taking a London Cab to our hotel. We were bound and determined to stay awake at least until post dinner as we wanted to beat the jet lag as best we could. Our hotel is situated very close to Hyde Park and the Serpentine Lake, where they actually have a swim club. Hyde Park is huge with great sights including the Kensington Gardens, King Alberts Memorial and Speakers Corner.

Georgia Strait Swim (Salish Sea)

Release for press;

“VANCOUVER – On July 3rd five swimmers will enter Georgia Strait, or the northern arm of the newly named Salish Sea, near Sechelt and emerge less than 12 hours later at Pipers Beach in Nanaimo. The swimmers are daring to cross this 35 km stretch of water, roughly the same distance as the English Channel crossing, in order to draw attention to increased pressure being put on the Strait of Georgia.

Following in the “finsteps” of marathon swimmers Fin Donnelly and Marilyn Bell, Rod Craig will swim without wetsuit, and four others will swim in relay. “The purpose of the swim is to draw attention to the fragile nature of the Salish Sea,” says Brent Hobbs, Salish Sea swim coordinator.  “This region is home to the magnificent Pacific Salmon and many other marine creatures, and we have to become more aware of the need to protect this amazing body of water.”

“Crossing the Salish Sea is an opportunity to bring attention to one of the finest bodies of water in the world through a physical demonstration of endurance,” said Fin Donnelly, who successfully crossed this body of water four times in the 1990s. “These swimmers are doing this swim because they love and respect the ocean and its denizens”

“We greatly appreciate the attention these swimmers are bringing to the Strait of Georgia, one of Canada’s most at risk natural environments,” says Christianne Wilhelmson of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “We all need to become better stewards of the Strait and we hope this will bring attention to that goal.”

The swimmers have boats accompanying them with first aid, offering protection in the event of hypothermia. It is expected the solo swimmer will make landfall approximately 10-12 hours after entering the water on the Sechelt side. The relay team hopes to maintain speeds of 2 to 3 ½ km an hour, arriving, if the wind, currents and conditions are favourable, in under 10 hours.

Mr. Craig, who qualified last summer to swim the English Channel by swimming 25 kilometres in six hours in Howe Sound, considers this swim his rehearsal for his English Channel challenge later in July.

One of the escorts is John Dafoe, a well known environmental activist, guide and resident of the South Sunshine Coast. He escorted Donnelly on his 1992 record-setting ‘Save Georgia Strait’ swim crossing in support of Georgia Strait Alliance.”

July 3, 2010

Once again here is the “call” from our very own Brent Hobbs;

“I think John’s note sums up our experience perfectly.  It was epoch!  Congratulations to James and Rod for battling through Force 3 conditions at the start and the “demons” that occupy the mind from the 6 hour threshold until the finish.  It takes a team to make this happen.  Claire, Jim, Mike and Bill set the pace and kept Rod and James company.  Wendy did a fanstastic job of capturing the essence of the swim for the public (note: the environmental message was conveyed in Check TV’s coverage).  Our expert pilots (Richard/Dale, Scott and John) ensured that we achieved our goals safely and efficiently.  I was very impressed with their attention to detail.  Through South-Easterly winds and Force 3 conditions at the start, Westerly winds in the middle, and South-Easterly winds along Vancouver Island, our pilots worked tirelessly to ensure that we swam in a straight line through thick and thin–remarkable seamanship!  Also, a big thank you to all of you who took turns looking after Connor.  He had a great time on the sailboat, so much so that he wants to take sailing lessons.  Lastly, I want to thank Fin for his support.  Fin got the Rivershed Society of BC and the Georgia Strait Alliance to support our swim for an important environmental cause.  Fin is working tirelessly in the House of Commons to support endangered wild salmon stocks.  Having swum Georgia Strait and other significant “endangered” bodies of water, Fin is also an inspiration for marathon swimming.

I think this is a day that we will remember for the rest of our lives, and we did it for a good cause.  You can check out our coverage on Check TV news

For the record books.  According to the History of Open Water Marathon Swimming (Johnson, Tim, 2006), there have been 7 successful non-wet swims (English Channel rules) across the Strait of Georgia.  The record was set in 1967 by Mike Powley in a time of 9:23.  He swam from Neck Point just north of Departure Bay to Sechelt.  The second fastest swim was performed by Shane Collins of West Vancouver in 1998 in a time of 9:55.  James and Rod are now 2nd and 3rd in the record books.  Considering the adverse conditions, this is an incredible accomplishment!”

Six Hour Marathon Swim in Lake Okanagan

On June 12, 2010 I set out on training swim with friends from both the Okanagan Masters Swim Club and the North Vancouver Masters Swim Club.

I must thank Mike Stamhius (support swimmer for 3 hrs), Claire Booth (support swimmer 1.5 hrs), Brent Hobbs (spiritual advisor and support swimmer for 4.5hrs), Chris Falk (boat support and feeds), Steve Ott who supplied the boat and his time and my fiancé Bonnie who took this opportunity to test her “sea Legs” and practice preparing the carbohydrate energy mix (feeds) for Brent and I. This proved to be a great experience as she will be at the helm as far as feeding during the Channel swim.

The weather was a wonderful, sunny 26’F with a slight breeze from the North. The water temperature was somewhat cold at 60’F (15’C) and lake conditions were reasonably calm. I swam a total of 22-23km in 6 hrs and 10 mins: Overall, I was pleased with my performance.

Every swim I learn something new and gain valuable experience in the open water. Physically, I lasted well in the cold water, but at the four-hour mark my arms turned to concrete. I hope this is a bi-product of cold water and will disappear as the water warms by a couple of degrees. I did not experience the same leg cramps that I had in my previous six-hour swim and I attest this to the amount of electrolyte I am using. Mentally, I was fine, but did notice that I had to dig deep to maintain any sort of pace the last two hours. You have to get comfortable in that cold feeling…kind of like having the air conditioning stuck on high in the middle of winter.

On the last leg of our swim we were joined by “son of spiritual advisor” Conner.  Connor is seven years old and had no problem jumping in the cold lake and giving a hand at driving the boat. I can only imagine what will happen if he catches the same infliction that his father has…

To bring a perfect end to a great weekend Brent’s wife Joanne had us all over to their house for a wonderful dinner, including fresh lake trout as the main dish. I remember laying in bed that night thinking….”it’s so nice to be warm, full of good food and yes… I can sleep in!”.

Open Water Now!

Time is starting to race now. I have approx. 36 days before I have to be ready willing and able to swim the Channel. I have been thinking about this everyday for two years and the days are starting to come sooner than later. I have already started praying to the channel gods for good weather and an opportunity to attempt. This is not negative thinking it’s just that you have to prepare yourself for everything, including the weather not cooperating.

I have been in the ocean as much as I can these past two weeks and temperatures have been averaging about 56’F (13’C). Most of my swims are as long as I can take the cold (60 – 90mins), but I need a little warmer water so I can stay in for 2-3-4 hours at a time.

Cruisers Aquatic Club

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Cruisers Aquatic Club for their recent sponsorship towards my goal of swimming the English Channel. I am honored by their support and will do everything in my power to bring home some good news to share with the kids. Thanks again to Rob Fraser (lane 4), president of the Cruisers and Carole Randle for your support.

I recently attended the Cruisers annual pancake breakfast and had a chance to meet everyone, take a few pictures and introduce myself. I also managed to eat six pancakes.

“Cruisers Aquatics is a summer speed swimming, water polo, synchronized swimming and diving club located on the North Shore. We currently have about 150 boys and girls in our club, with our youngest athletes being 5 years of age. We practice at various North Vancouver recCenter pools, including William Griffin, Ron Andrews, and Harry Jerome. Membership is open to swimmers of all skill levels and abilities.”

This is a great group of kid’s and adults promoting a sport that I love. I am thrilled to have this connection with them and look forward to addressing the club with good news of a successful crossing.