So… I’m back! Apologies for the unwarranted long delay, caused partly by being lazy and partly by having been away on a lovely holiday. But now I’m back, and, in the heat enfolding London, casting my mind back to the chilly early morning of 23rd April, and Pip’s epic swim.
By 2 in the morning, he really was struggling. He hadn’t trained sufficiently, so was slowing rather than swimming consistently. Furthermore, because he didn’t have a buddy, he was also having difficulty getting the support he needed in counting lengths and getting him fed in between miles. At one point he asked for a cup of hot sweet tea to get his energy levels back up urgently; due to a miscommunication he didn’t get it, and then had to push through the resulting energy crash, something which took additional amounts of mental resilience. Had he been suffering with the cold as well he probably wouldn’t have made it, but fortunately he has amazing cold tolerance.
Even so, I must admit, I doubted if he’d finish. You might think that 3 in the morning is a bright milestone for the solo swimmers, since it marks three-quarters of the way through, but in fact it’s a tough, low point for most of them. Cold and tiredness have really started to bite and swimmers know they’re going to get worse before they get better. They still have six or more hours to go, and they still have to swim six miles, which is a marathon in most people’s book and tough to do even when you’re warm and fresh. It’s the time when swimmers really need to dig deep into their mental reserves. Not for nothing is it considered good training for the Channel.