Everyone who has followed my progress will know by now that I did not succeed in completing Arch to Arc (for now)
The weeks leading up to the event were pretty sunny so I was hopeful that the weather would stay as nice for my attempt. Typically the weather turned a few days before the start of my slot so myself and my crew were left in limbo waiting to hear when we would be setting off, however that is always a risk with swimming the channel. During this time we keep an eye on the forecast and prayed for a break in the weather to allow an attempt, it wasn’t looking too good for it. To top it off the guy that was supposed to be filming the event decided he didn’t want to hang around even though he had been told there was a high possiblility that we would be delayed for a few days as the weather may be unsuitable for channel swimming. I am currently waiting on a refund from him.
Cameraman gone we focused on more important things like keeping an eye on the weather. A small break in the weather was showing for Thursday morning so we took the decision to start the run on Tuesday night. At 5.15pm Tuesday evening I set off from Marble Arch having been waved off by a few friends, Oli and James (www.runningandstuff.com) 2 fellow ultrarunners were there which calmed my nerves a bit.
Once I was running all nerves were gone. I had great crew (Fiona, Jason and Rosie) who managed to get me to eat with hardly any complaints, anyone who has met me in a race knows how much of an achievement this is so they deserve a medal. I did the run with some small rests. At about 3am i was starting to feel a little sleepy so decided to take a power nap. This decision, however, lasted about 5 minutes as I thought f**k it I’d rather walk for a little bit instead of sleeping so I had a coffee then carried on. As we approached folkestone the BBC crew came along. This was an incentive to keep running. They stayed with me for a bit then carried on to Dover where they filmed me coming in, the last section into Dover is downhill and I knew I had less than half an hour to break the stage record. Of course I chose this time to have a massive sugar level drop so had to cram loads of mini chocolate bars in to keep running. Luckily it had no effect on the time I did 18hrs13mins, 17 minutes quicker than the boys. This will be a time I will aim to better in 2011 when I return to do this event justice.
Once in Dover we headed off to the hotel where I freshened up then went for some food. I only managed to force down half of my meal though and went to bed for a couple of hours before getting up to try to eat again. This time was more successful and went back to sleep with the aim of getting up to see the boat pilot at 3am to check if the swim could go ahead. When we spoke to him he said the weather was closing in but he would start the swim. If it looked like the weather was turning I would be taken out of the water and he would return to Dover. Eddie asked me to make a decision, swim or not? The rest of the swim slot was pretty much a no go as the weather was due to get worse after that day so I thought about it and decided to go for it.
I’m not sure whether that had some effect on my mental state, I knew there was quite a high chance I wouldn’t have the time to get across the channel. Maybe that mental state affected my physical state. Either way I knew 6 and a half hours in I was not going to make it across. My arms were fatiguing, I had a brief respite when I thought they were getting better but that lasted about five minutes then I was struggling on again. For the 2 hours I carried on knowing I was moving too slowly to get across and that I was going to get pulled out. I wasn’t getting out unless I was told though. It was a crushing disappointment to me and writing this report now is incredibly hard to do without reliving that feeling of total and utter failure, something that will not go away until I complete this event.
As soon as I got on the boat I said to Eddie – we have to talk about another slot for my next attempt, I don’t think he was too surprised. The Boat pilot, Chris, took us into Calais so I could do the bike section too. Might as well make it a decent recce for 2011. After the rest of the crew arrived in Calais with the van and bike I had a short sleep then started the 180 mile cycle to Paris. Even though I had done the route at Easter there seemed to be a lot more hills than I remembered. The weather did turn nasty too, a small consolation to me as it meant I probably would have been pulled out of the water later anyway. The storm was pretty spectacular and some way into it Eddie and the crew decided I should sit it out as the wind was pushing me onto the wrong side of the road. Much as I wanted to finish the cycle quickly I didn’t want to die doing it so I agreed. After a shortish stop I was back on the bike and heading to Paris. The route is pretty amazing and I did enjoy it although I was swearing a lot on the up hills
Finally after 23 hours we got to Paris, the cycle up to the Arc de Triomphe was incredible. I became very Parisian in my attitude to all other vehicles at this point, in other words “out of my way, I’m coming through!”
I had an amazing support team Jason and Rosie, they helped me recce it all and I cannot thank them enough for all they did for me. Fantastic people, I look forward to doing it all again in 2011 – swimming into france instead this time rather than hitching a ride. Fiona, you were a great help. Now you understand what this ultra madness is all about
Eddie as race director was great, only sent me the wrong way once! Top bloke
Thanks to Dave Scott too, although he wasnt crew he has done an awful lot to help me out in my attempt. Look forward to catching up at Eagle Ilse