Water Temperature in the English Channel is between 59 F & 64.5 F, end of June and early July it is 59-60 degrees Fahrenheit , the temperature rises slowly to 64-65 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of August. The body is reported to acclimatize after repeated exposure to cold temperature, this can take an extended period of repeated exposure, I am told 1- 1.5 years.
Hypothermia is a serious consideration, the normal body temperature is 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia develops when the body temperature falls below about about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The symptoms and signs of hypothermia are bouts of shivering, disorientation, irrational behaviour, blueness of the lips, inability to concentrate or coordinate speech, inability to respond to simple requests or questions.
Training to acclimatize: it is recommended to begin in the fall and adapt to the water by swimming in water where the temperature is gradually dropping, for example start in the mid 70s during the summer months, continue exposure as the water temperature drops in temperature to 70, 69, 68 degrees and so on.
Mine was the down under approach of “bring it on now” , deciding to take on the goal of the EC in January 2010 and booking my pilot in April 2010, by May I was chomping at the bit!
May 17th 2010 the sun was out, ice melted off the lake the mosquitoes were out….. I was going in! First attempt, the water was 52 degrees, I had decided that if the water temperature read under 55 degrees I would patiently wait until another day….I didn’t wait, I threw on a wetsuit and went in anyway. The water took my breath away, it felt like my chest was collapsing, when the water hit my face it was like I had hit a brick wall, my teeth ached, my hands clawed up, no feeling in my feet, I managed 42 minutes and crawled out of the water vowing that to be my last time in a wet suit.
One week later I was back, this time the water was 62 degrees, I swam 1 hour and 15 minutes, this time I shed the wetsuit for a 2 piece workout tankini, exposing as much of my midsection to the cold as possible, I did not shake in the water and could talk, a good sign. In June things heated up I swam 4 Hours 19 minutes( 9 miles) in 68 degree water, then things got toasty as the summer temperatures kicked in.
Back to today, September 9th: the air temperature is 55 degrees, water temperature is 67 degrees and I have a new swimming spot, a pond, it is long and narrow, 100 yards long, I swim 12 x 200s ( down and back in the pond = 200 yards) on the 3:00 minute interval and tread water for 15 seconds between each 200. I am filled with excitement as I check out my new surroundings, I feel a bit like a relocated ” Free Willy”, dashing around the perimeter looking for new and exciting things under the water to entertain me as I swim, a few big boulders here, a pebble beach there, also things on the shore to focus my attention on and use to sight. I sight one end by an inflatable raft and throw in a phantom wall right before it to change direction ( that means a flip turn without a wall), at the other end I sight using an upside down bright orange canoe. The lap pond as I like to call it is a tremendous addition to my training, a generous offer for me to utilise, it is only a few minutes drive from home, I can spend time acclimatizing to the cold without the hour round trip to the lake and the comfort of knowing I can get to the shore in seconds if need be. My goal today was to check out my new surroundings and swim 10 x 200 yards in 68 degrees or below, CHECK!
The goal for the next 4 weeks is continuing acclimatization to cold water , in the Reservoir, the ocean and the lap pond, we will have to wait and see how my body adapts and how kind mother nature is with regard to weather and air temperature!
More on training soon, until then here are some key points from the English Channel Swimming & Piloting Association about attempting to swim the English Channel, they put it like this:
The comments below are ” general ones ” not aimed at any one specific, but” if the hat fits wear it”
1. English Channel Swimming is both an EXTREME and an ENDURANCE sport that is not for the faint hearted. Death or injury is a serious possibility that needs lots of consideration.
2. It should be at the peak of your open water swim experiences not your first open water swim
3.If you want to treat it like a walk in the park rethink and choose another pond to get wet in not one of the busiest seaways in the world full of cold water and unpredictable weather conditions.
4. Don’t book a pilot unless you are sure you want to make the attempt and are capable and prepared to work hard.