English Channel Part 2

Posted on 7.9.12

Yesterday I was finally released from the hospital, albeit begrudgingly. The doctors are still uncertain of the cause of the blockages they found in my chest X-ray, but were sympathetic to keeping a young, trypanophobic, otherwise fit traveler cooped up in a ward full of much sicker patients any longer. They released me under the condition that I rest, take oral antibiotics, and return Tuesday for a check-up and visit with a specialist to hopefully determine the cause of the blockages. At this point, the debate is if it is water in the lungs or something chemically-related, perhaps from dirty water or boat exhaust.

I am feeling much better and can breathe almost normally, although have difficulty catching my breath after walking up the stairs or having long conversations. I believe my lung capacity will return soon, and am hoping for good news tomorrow.

I spoke with Paul Foreman this afternoon in hopes of clarifying what happened on my attempt and seeing what options I may have left. Although the tide was incredibly strong and it would have been a long swim, I was pulled simply because the cold got the better of me and in the end I became delirious. I talked to Paul about my health post-swim, and assured him he made the right decision, although it was difficult. He was just as disappointed as I was that the swim ended that way, but he recognized that I was not with them at the end and had to pull me. I asked if he noticed any mistakes or things I could have done differently, but he said I did everything I could.

However, over the past couple of days I’ve sorted out a few things I could improve on.

1. Exhaust. Paul prefers swimmers on the port side, so he can keep a closer eye on them from the helm. This is the side his exhaust comes out, and additionally I was downwind. It did not bother me too much, but each feed I would drift right into a thick fog of exhaust. At about 4 hours my stomach began to cause problems, so I switched sides. I found I was ingesting even more salt water from the chop, so decided to swap sides again since my stomach had settled a bit. The rest of the swim was on the exhaust side. In the future, I need to toughen up and expose myself to the chop rather than hide behind the boat and absorb the exhaust, or ask Paul not to let me get so far down the boat.

2. Feedings. I’ve always struggled to get feeds down quickly, and I knew this would be one of my biggest challenges. I did well for the first 8 hours, although a couple of feeds I did not take in enough. What I failed to do was to warn Scott that when I start hurting bad, I begin to ask for plain water. This is fine for one feed, preferably a gel feed. The problem was after 8 hours I began asking for plain water at every feed, each time forgetting that I had done that on the previous feed. I was asking for water either because of my stomach issues or because of salt mouth, but regardless of the reason it may have led to a calorie defect, which only exacerbates things when you’re cold.

3. Cold. Clearly, my cold water training was not sufficient.

Although Paul may not have been as harsh, these are the things I need to fix. I asked Paul if he thinks I can still get across, and if he would be willing to take me again. He seemed more than confident I could do the swim and we discussed a few options. He wisely suggested I wait until I’ve made a full recovery, and if that happens before I head home this summer and he has any space to take me, we will figure something out. If not, the Channel will always be there.