It’s been a while since my last update, but as so often happens, no news is good news. Besides my job I’ve spent the last four months building up my training to the level required for my very imminent crossing between Germany and Denmark – aka “Beltquerung”.
As I wrote in my last blog, I started swimming in the sea by February when the water temperature was just around 3 °C. In the beginning I couldn’t swim more than 30 meters, but repeated attempts on a regular basis helped me demystify the cold water and acclimate myself quite efficiently. By the beginning of May, I could swim “speedos only” for more than an hour in water temperatures close to 14 °C. Ever since I’ve been building up the mileage in open water while maintaining my weekly technique practice in the pool with my trainer Susanne Nielsen.
Under my friend Dennis‘ suggestion I also shortly teamed up with Bo Jacobsen for open water sessions in order to get a new set of eyes on my stroke. Normally I’m rather picky and quite prejudiced about male trainers (I’ve met too many of them who were way too obsessed about numbers and compensating for their lack of potency). But Bo was nothing like it. He was very down-to-earth and professional. He reminded me of Susanne in his approach to me as a swimmer and to my crazy project, and he pointed out the same crucial details as Susanne. They appeared to complement each other perfectly and with their combined help I’ve been refining my stroke ever since.
I also had two training camps with Susanne – one in May and one in July during my weeks of peak training. Those camps were very intensive and have boosted me both physically and mentally. Susanne has made me the swimmer I am today. She has given me the skills and the confidence I need in order to follow my dream. She is an amazing coach – and a lovely woman at that!
Besides her, I’m surrounded by the most amazing and supportive team. Those last four months, they have helped me prepare for my crossing by swimming or kayaking with me or keeping an eye on me from the shore. Every single time I place a huge responsibility on them as I basically entrust them with my survival at sea, especially on the longer swims where they have to feed me and monitor me for hours on end. Their dedication is medal-worthy and the many hours spent together have made us a very close-knit team. Martin, Dennis, Uffe and Camilla will join my pilot Uschi on the escort boat next week, while Merete and Alette (as well as Thomas and Britta hopefully) will wait for me on land and will be there to greet me when I clear the water on the opposite shore.
After my six hour test swim a couple of weeks ago I feel I have a very good chance to succeed. Much better than I thought actually as I inadvertently exposed myself to an even bigger challenge during my test swim. It all started with my decision to abort my first attempt just after an hour into the swim due to the wind and waves, this ever-comfortable voice in my head urging me to wait for a better day. I gave up and chose to go home, but I felt extremely frustrated. When I met with Susanne by the next morning, I hated myself for having made that decision and Susanne really drove it home for me. She has an amazingly gentle but firm way to make me reflect about myself and my choices. “Did you break a bone? No. Was your life in danger? No. Then, get your shit together and keep moving!” – that’s pretty much the essence of our conversation that day (although the shit-word is mine and mine only). Our talk reminded me that Susanne hadn’t become a World Champion back in the days by staying in her comfort zone. She had worked her ass off in order to get that first place on the podium. I felt inspired. I’m not a quitter – I’m a very stubborn Belgian and it’s up to me and only me to make it happen. So I set out for a second attempt the next day. The current conditions were worse – tough luck, baby! But there was no going back this time. For hours on end I swam directly against the wind and the current, but I didn’t stop. The thought of stopping didn’t even cross my wind. As long as my feeders Uffe and Britta didn’t pull me out of the water, I had to keep on fighting. And it was all more rewarding at the end of the day. If I could make it there, I knew I could make it anywhere. I had learnt to relax and accept the conditions while keeping my work steady and focussing on my goal. I had chosen to be unstoppable. That swim has skyrocketed my self-confidence.
With a solid four months of physical and mental preparation in the bag I now feel ready for my crossing. Those last two years of training have taken quite a toll on my spare time and on my social life, but it’s about to pay off now. Martin, Dennis and I will leave for Putgarten on Sunday 7th August. My slot is from Monday 8th through Sunday 14th. The exact date of my swim will depend on the weather and the shipping traffic. My pilot Uschi will appreciate the conditions from day to day and give me the go ahead as soon as he thinks I have a real chance to succeed. The currents will determine whether I cross from Denmark to Germany or the other way around. Camilla, Uffe, Merete and Alette will join us as soon as I get the go ahead from Uschi. My team will take over my SwimDream76 Facebook page on the day and will post updates all along the way.
Yes, I’m really excited now (and slightly nervous as well 😉 ). The weather conditions and the shipping traffic are the only factors that may put a crimp in my game plan. But I’m extremely headstrong and I won’t give up unless my pilot and my team decide to pull me out of the water. The day I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. The opposite shore is my prey and I’m looking forward to seeing the sand forming underneath me as I approach it. I feel strong and hungry for the challenge. Let the hunt begin!
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