At a first glance marathon swimming is a solitary pursuit. However success in this sport, as any, requires a strong team - I am feeling this need acutely as I approach such a formidable challenge in a sport that is relatively new to me.
On my English Channel swim I will be supported by a team of people. They will include a coach, and assistant, as well as the pilot who will chart the course and steer the supporting ship. Both the coach and the pilot have the full authority to stop the swim if the conditions are no longer safe or if they have serious concerns about my condition. I will introduce the full team closer to the swim.
However I want to write now about some of the people, the clubs, and a training camp, which have helped and in some cases are continuing to help me to improve my swimming.
Coach - Marcel van der Togt
Marcel has been training me since October 2013. He is an experienced marathon swimmer who has swum an English Channel solo, as well as numerous other major swims including the only recorded circumnavigation of the IJsselmeer, the largest lake in Western Europe. As a coach he has trained the Dutch national squad, as well as a series of highly accomplished open water swimmers including the North Channel men’s record holder, Milko van Gool. Marcel has worked with me on technique, mental training and physical training.
In the short time that Marcel has been my coach he has helped me slash my time for 100m freestyle from 2’15” to 1’30”. He has also structured my training schedules in the run-up to a successful English Channel 5-man relay and a 6-hour qualifying swim for the English Channel solo.
Club - Gulf Sharks Masters Swimming (july 2015 onwards)
Gulf Sharks masters swim team is a small but extremely friendly masters club in Abu Dhabi run by Irishman Wilhelm Hempel. Wilhelm is a former world number one masters swimmer, and a European/British masters record holder. I have only just joined the Sharkies but have already been made to feel very at home in this great club.
Club - HHZV Plons (2013-2015)
Plons is the best non-elite swimming club in The Hague. This masters club has swimmers ranging from national champions through to virtual beginners. The coaches are some of the most rigorous that I have swum with, including the multiple Dutch open water champion, Richard Broer.
Swimcamp - Swimtrek Channel and Long Distance Training camp
This camp is a rite of passage for many channel swimmers - an intense 6-days of training in Mallorca with experienced guides, which culminates in a 6-hour cold-water swim (the standard qualifier for the EC and other channel swims).
On my trip the guides included three Channel soloists: the incredible King of the Channel, Kevin Murphy, who has swum the English Channel 34 times; Fiona Southwell who is arguably the most successful of all Channel coaches - when I met her every soloist she had trained had been successful; and Cliff Golding, an absolutely top guy, who completed a solo after numerous unsuccessful attempts on the Channel. Cliff's inspirational speech on the eve of the 6-hour swim is a perfect way to build confidence for this daunting challenge.
Personal trainer/Swim coach - KYLE Resnick (2013)
Kyle Resnick was the first coach that I worked with - his approach combines stroke development, with dryland training, and was the perfect start for someone who could barely swim a length of freestyle. Kyle, who competed in the Canadian Olympic trials, took a holistic approach that identified all my weaknesses including a terrible addiction to Jamaican patties.