First of all, Merry Christmas! May the Prince of Peace bless, guide and strengthen you.
Second, how about a Christmas gift for the kids in Waku Kungo, Angola? Of course, I am doing this swim to raise money to build a school in Waku Kungo, and your gift would be a great help! Donate here (click the green button on the left side of that page). Of course the economy is bad, and we might think finances are tight right now, but for a little motivation do two things: go visit GlobalRichList.com. That helps put things in perspective. Then consider that the average "real purchasing power" of people in Angola is about $3,000 a year. Imagine trying to survive, and house, and feed, and educate yourself and a large family (the average woman in Angola has six kids) on $3,000 a year. Puts our "recession" in an interesting light, no? But you can make a real, long term difference by supporting education in Angola!
So, swimming the Channel: the last few weeks have been mostly about getting in as much training as possible. Swimming 10,000 yards in a 25 yard pool isn't exactly entertaining, but it must be done. I've been trying to mix up long sessions at "forever pace" and faster training. Especially in the early phase of training, the long, relatively slow sessions should be about 30% of total yardage, and swimming faster than Channel pace with a little bit of rest should be about 60% of training. The other 10% is really fast with lots of rest. I probably don't do enough of that, and should fix that. A normal training session at this point lasts from one and half to three hours. I am building up to do a four hour continuous swim on New Year's Day.
The President of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (Mike Oram) runs a Google Group for Channel swimmers (successful, experienced people, and newbies like me). It is a great source of information, and the successful Channel swimmers are wonderfully willing to share their experience and advice. They all just want to get the next person across. I've been reading past notes and getting good information through emails. Some of my most important recent learnings:
** I really, really need to get salt water experience as soon as possible. Salt water is hard on you - both skin and digestive system. You naturally swallow some water when you swim and your stomach generally doesn't like it. You have to get used to it. My experience in salt water amounts to playing at the beach in Florida, so I have a lot to learn here.
** There are more open water swimmers in the midwest than I would have thought. I have made contact with some successful Channel swimmers from Chicago who swim in Lake Michigan as soon as it gets warm enough (sounds like they consider 55 warm enough!). That should make for some excellent open, cold water training.
** The best place to train in conditions that are similar the English Channel is San Francisco Bay. There is a great open water swimming group there (the Dolphin Club), some of whom swim year round. I am hoping to get out to SF in June for a "Channel Swimming Camp" they have. Sounds like it would be invaluable experience.
** Here are two interesting photos that Mike Oram sent me, to make the point of how unpredictable the Channel is, thus how thoroughly prepared you have to be. The first picture is of the Dover Harbor on a, shall we say, "challenging" day (yes, the Harbor! And note the sky is even blue in the background.). The second is in the middle of the Channel on a perfect day. (No one would actually attempt a swim on a day like the first picture, but it does make the point.)
Also, at the top of this post is a picture of the Anastasia, the boat that will escort me across.
I also learned recently that my pilot, Eddie Spelling, had 19 Channel crossing scheduled for 2008. Fifteen of those were successful, three were unsuccessful (got tired, then cold), and one was not able to make attempt due to extended bad weather.
Not much is new on the Waku Kungo school front. Donna Dudley, my main contact person in Angola, was here the States recently and I gave her a digital camera to give to someone in Waku Kungo. So hopefully in a month or so, they will be able to send me pictures from Wake Kungo. That would be great!
Remember, donate now to help the kids of Waku Kungo, Angola, get a decent education and grow up to contribute to well-being of others in Angola.
Peace and a Merry Christmas to all!
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