re-sized Charlie Wittmack

The boundaries that some people push…

Ed Williams, Director and Founder of Cambridge Swimming Academy Ltd, swam the English Channel in August 2006. Only … other people in the world have done this. He completed the swim in 14 hours and raised £30,000 for Prostate Cancer Research. He now works as a swimming teacher and coaches other aspiring Channel Swimmers. A 14 hour swim means about 58,800 strokes!

The first person to swim the English Channel was Captain Matthew Webb in August 1875 in a time of 21 hours and 45 minutes. He swam breaststroke the whole way occasionally having a sip of brandy to fortify himself. In 1926, American Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the Channel, in a then-world record time of 14 hours, 39 minutes.

The fastest verified swim of the channel was by the Bulgarian Petar Stoychev on 24 August 2007. He crossed the channel in 6 hours 57 minutes 50 seconds.

August is the warmest time of year to made the crossing and the water temperature will be about 60 degrees. The rules of swimming across the channel are that you are only allowed to wear one bathing suit, one bathing cap, goggles and grease. some people add their own insulation of “wetsuit” under their skin by gaining weight, but a better method of combating the cold is to do a lot of swimming in cold water in temperatures around the mid-50’s. This is known as acclimating.

A crossing can take anywhere from 7 hours to 27 hours.

I cannot find an up-to-date  figure for the number of ratified swims, but up to 2005 there had been 982 successful crossings by 665 people. This includes twenty-five 2-way crossings and three 3-way crossings. A number of people have swum it more than once. One woman, Alison Streeter, has swum it 43 times and counting… She was the first (and so far only) woman to swim the Channel three ways non-stop in 1990, taking 34h40 min for the feat.

It is true to say that more people have summited Everest than have swum the English Channel.

Which brings us on toCharlie Wittmack

American adventurer, Charlie Wittmack, World Triathlon Champion

American Adventurer - Charlie Wittmack

An attorney by trade, Charlie Wittmack is the only American to have swum the English Channel and climbed Mount Everest – the Peak and Pond, as its known among adventurers. A previous attempt to swim the Channel in 2008 had ended unsuccessfully and almost in tragedy after 7 hours in frigid water. This time round the 5-foot-7 inch, 145-pound Wittmack wore a wetsuit to help him survive 12 hours in the Channel’s frigid 60-degree temperatures and stopped for a few seconds every hour to chug some Red Bull or eat a banana.

He has now pushed his personal boundaries even further by successfully completing the first ever continent-spanning World Triathlon which culminated in summiting Mount Everest … again. He swam 275 miles down the River Thames and across the English Channel, pedaled 9,000 miles from France to Nepal, then ran 950 miles from the Bay of Bengal in India to begin his summit attempt of Mount Everest which he successfully achieved on Monday. It is his second time summiting Everest, the last time was in 2003.

“Whenever it got harder and harder, I would think smaller and smaller—thinking about the next two strokes, or trying to look at the jellyfish, or figuring out where the eels are,” he says. “If you start to think about the finish line, you’re done. That’s just too far away.”

“Physically it’s hard, but the mental challenge is so far beyond that,” Wittmack said. “You go through every type of discomfort you can imagine. Your body is in constant pain. You’re hungry. You’re tired. Everything hurts. You know it isn’t going to stop for a long, long time. And you don’t know how long.”

His other adventures include trekking across East Africa with the Masaii, sailing the Indian Ocean in a handmade boat, cycling the United States and summiting peaks in the Andes, Alps, Africa, Alaska and Himalaya.

I will end with a reminder of another gentleman who plans to embark on a Global Triathlon – Dan Martin from Peterborough, UK. He has put in thousands of hours of training for his swim, cycle and run around the world, including his attempt to become the first person to swim across the 5,700km Atlantic Ocean. The Global Triathlon is expected to take about 18 months – 4 months swimming, 6 cycling and 9 months running… give or take a few days/months! The challenge has been delayed until May 2012…

He does all of his adventures in the name of his charity, the Dan Martin Foundation which is a charity specifically designed to help under-privileged children around the globe. The Foundation is focussed on providing education in the remotest parts of the developing world.

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