by Jim Meier
One must appreciate that the Channel always calls the shots. This is part of its allure. Swimmers hope for calm waters or, even better, rolling waves with a tale wind to help push you toward France, and are tortured by the possibility that you won't get a chance to "go out" – the reality for perhaps two dozen swimmers in the tide before mine. There are days that are unswimmable, a few days that are perfect, and everything in between.
From my start yesterday at 3:00 am (Thursday), I had washing machine conditions, very tough. I swam for a little over 11.5 hours into the southern shipping lane when I called it quits. My crew had informed me at my prior feeding (feedings every 30 minutes) that I had been fighting currents and had made no progress for the half hour preceding. I had tried to pick up the pace and, regardless of whether I succeeded, had been pushed backward during that last 30 minutes. The day before two friends – Dave Barra and Nick Levine – had been stuck in place for about 4 hours but, both much faster swimmers than I am (and with calmer conditions for the early part of their swims), were within two miles of the coast and both finished in under 15 hours. I have no regrets. I got what I came for. I later learned that of the 5 people swimming on Thursday, only one made it to France.
My crew of five including my kids, Jacob and Joslyn, and friends Nir, Bernard and Ken were fabulous. I could write pages about the unique and collective contributions each one made to the experience.
One learns a lot about many aspects of one self in the months of preparing for this endeavor. Yesterday, after the swim, I saw things I would do differently the next time in my training, prep, etc. A very large percentage of swimmers (I know at least a dozen) who did not succeed the first time come back for a second try. This magical pull is another aspect of the Channel's allure.
I came here with the clear realization and conviction that this would be my first and last attempt; the intensity of training and mental focus over the past year and a half have been consuming, and my age is an immutable limiting factor. So I will not be making another attempt ….I think.