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From testing software to swimming the English Channel

Posted by Matt Archer on September 12, 2016

This blog is normally reserved for my thoughts on software testing, but today I’m going to break from tradition and use it to say a big THANK YOU to everyone that helped me prepare for my toughest swimming challenge to date.

For those of you that don’t know, the Channel Swimming Association recognises two different approaches to swimming the English Channel (the 38km stretch of water between English and France).  You can attempt what’s called a “solo” crossing as an individual; these people are superhuman in my book.  Or you can swim as part of what’s called a “relay” team, where each person swims for an hour, before passing the baton to the next team member, who then takes their turn to swim for an hour, and so on.  The process continues until the team reaches the French coast or is forced to turn back due to the cold water, waves, seasickness or jellyfish (eek!).

Accompanied by five friends, I picked the relay option and I’m delighted to say that our 6-person team successfully completed the crossing last Tuesday in a time of 15 hours and 2 minutes.  You can see the route that we swum on the map below.

channel-swimming-routeNeedless to say, I couldn’t have successfully completed this challenge without the help and support of countless people, organisations and companies and at the risk of forgetting someone, I have tried to give them all a brief mention below.  A huge THANK YOU to you all!

First and foremost, a big thank you to my teammates (David, Katy, Kevin, Martin, and Sam).   It goes without saying that this was a huge team effort, both on the day and during the 18 month’s of training leading up to the event.  I’ve learnt so much from them all and made some friends for life along the way.

Equal thanks must also go to my family.  My wife and two children have been nothing but supportive during “Daddy’s crazy adventure”.  Thank you for your encouragement and for also remaining polite when Daddy occasionally smelt like he’d been swimming in the local lake or river (even though that’s exactly what I’d been doing).

On the day of our swim, we would have been lost at sea (literally) if it wasn’t for our fantastic support boat, the Pathfinder, its crew, Eric and Gary, and our on-board observer from the Channel Swim Association, Keith.  Thank you for all of your help and support, and for guiding us safely through those tricky English Channel tides.

Thank you also to my workmates, to those that accompanied me to the pool at lunchtime and those that continued to show an interest from dry land, even though I’m sure that many of them were bored of hearing about my open-water adventures soon after they began.

I quickly discovered that there was more to swimming long distances than continually spinning your arms and kicking your legs.  Over the last 18 months, I have studied countless blogs, articles and videos about everything from breathing to nutrition; far too many to remember, let alone mention.  That said, there were two bodies of knowledge that I regularly encountered, which were Swim Smooth and Total Immersion.  The teams behind these swim schools have dedicated their lives to making people better swimmers and I am proud to include myself in this group.  A big thank you to them both.

From a training perspective, a big thank you must also go to Born2Tri (an amazing triathlon club based in the centre of Essex).  Their Monday night swim sessions did wonders for my fitness and the advice of the coaches helped tweak and refine my stroke for swimming in open water.  To this day, I’m still surprised when I see such excellent swimmers demonstrate equal competence on a bike or running circuit.  My deepest admiration to you all.

When left to my own devices, I couldn’t have trained without the fantastic facilities that I was lucky to find on my doorstep.  With this in mind, a big thank you must go to all of the staff at Riverside Ice and Leisure, the London Aquatic Centre and the TriFarm open water swimming lake.  Whilst there wasn’t always a smile on my face when I arrived at 6:30 in the morning, there as always one when I left.

Apart from the occasional sore muscle, I luckily remained injury free throughout my training and I put much of this good fortunate down to my good friend and all-round body extraordinaire, Izzie Miller.  From her help with stretching to her fantastic sport massages, I cannot thank Izzie enough for keeping me supple and able train each week.

So what’s next you may be wondering? I’m wondering the same thing myself…


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