Dream big ladies – Amy’s story

Channel Relay Swim – September 2023

I’m Amy from Cumbria, last Friday I swam as part of a 4 person relay team from England to France with Ali, another Her Spirit member. 

I knew it would be hard, but I have to say I am pretty shell shocked and emotional about the whole experience!

I booked the swim 9 months ago in the ‘twilight zone’ between Christmas and New Year. Tired of the daily grind, frazzled by mum duties, and desperate to add some fire back into my life. I sent some emails to boat pilots to find a spot, and that was that. 

Fast forward to the day before the swim, my body seemed to be giving me good excuses to quit. Headaches, twinges in my lower back, stomach cramps, the lot. I now know this was my inner chimp rearing his ugly head. 

The next morning, as we boarded the boat, the adrenaline pushed the worry and any doubt out of the way. The boat honked its horn and our first team member set off from the beach, and away from the stunning White Cliffs of Dover.

We all took turns swimming for an hour, happy and energised by the sun, a relatively calm sea, and the surreal feeling of seeing nothing at all in front or to the side if I dared to peek to look around. Just sea.

It was hard swimming, but the enormity of the challenge kept us pushing forward along with fantastic support from the rest of the team on the boat and online.

All that changed 10 hours in, when the lights went out. Pitch black and massive waves, with only the tiniest lights to guide you. We had trained in the dark, but this was insane. Ali, had a problem with her eye after swimming for an hour with a tiny bit of salt water sloshing around in her goggles. The next time she went in, she had a complete goggle failure. She couldn’t see a bloody thing. 

The waves were huge, the darkness made everything completely disorientating and she couldn’t see the boat. She started to float away. We screamed for her to keep swimming, but she didn’t know which direction to go in. Pure fear for all of us. Somehow we got her some spare goggles (without touching her, or her touching the boat as per the rules) but she couldn’t see out of those either.

To her eternal credit, she got through her hour, and I was so happy to get her back on the boat, both bursting into tears in a massive hug. If she had not been able to dig deep and keep going, our attempt would have been over. If she had touched the boat, or our hands as we swapped goggles, same thing. Game over less than a mile from the French coast.

She was totally inspirational in finding the inner strength to keep going, and that was the highlight of the whole crossing for me.

We finally pushed through the strong tides, often making no forward ground whatsoever, and touched the sand in France. 

The distance from Dover to Calais is 21 miles, but we covered a distance of 43 miles in just under 17 hours due to the push and pull of the spring tide. 

Things I have learned:

1) You can if you think you can.

It sounds very twee, but your mind is your biggest asset. You can get through anything with a calm mind (when the shit hits the fan) and the support of your team.

2) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.

The more organised and prepared you are the better. We had a spreadsheet (Ali shining again!) with timings of when the changeovers were happening and what had to happen when. Our kit needed to be organised, with everything laid out in the order you needed it to be as efficient as possible on the day to reduce any unnecessary last minute panics.

3) We are only as big as the dreams we dare to live.

If I hadn’t dared to book the crossing, I would be right back where I was last year. I doubted my ability daily, but pushed through anyway. My final thoughts before falling asleep the night before, was ‘What if it turns out ok?’ I will take this forward with me forever. 

Dream big ladies, Amy x

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