Challenging for Charity and Adventure
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Journey Blog

Thank you for taking the time to find this page. Below is a summary of my progress and some of the events and people I have met during this adventure.

I'm not sure how this journey will end. I can not guarantee success with such great challenges but I can guarantee my commitment and determination to do whatever is within my ability to help such great causes. I hope you will join me in supporting my work. 

Sea of Galilee Swim

Swim report to follow

Bosphous Swim

Having completed part 1 and 2 of the 3 SWIMS of Europe (Swimming the Gibraltar Straits and the English Channel) in the summer of 2016 I completed the trilogy of Europe’s most iconic swims July 2017. The final swim was between Europe and Asia by swimming the Bosphous , Istanbul ,Turkey on 23rd July 2017.

I managed to film from within the water during the event. 

English Channel Two Way Swim 

These are summary overviews of my English Channel Two-way swim as part of the 3 SWIMS of Europe Challenge. I swam for 41 hours and 44 minutes travelling a distance of 92.3 miles. I passed out with fatigue with 1200 yards (less than a mile) left to swim back to the UK.

How do you condense 42 hours of swimming into something short and not too tedious? I couldn’t find the answer but have taken the excellent footage taken by the team and tried all I can to make it hopefully something you’ll want to watch. 

There is also a light hearted spoof of the crew debriefing.

I hope they gives a flavour for the 2 days (but don’t cover everything)
To be continued...........

English Channel Swim Report
When I set out on this Two-way attempt of the English Channel on 24th August 2016 I was expecting a crossing in the region of 26 to 30 hours but as many who watched the boat tracker amazingly from all around the World an epic swim unfolded over two days and nights only for me to fall so agonisingly short. Below is a brief match report covering the key stages of the swim and my thoughts during 42 hour and 92.3-miles travelling and how I feel about that elusive last mile
In real terms the swim started way before I got in the water and by that I mean the experiences and training that brought me to make the decision first to take on the challenge and then later the belief that I was ready. These development phases and decisions are not as obvious as turning the arms over on the day but I truly believe are more critical to ones’ chances of being ready than anything that can be controlled on the day. (stories for another day!) 
Brief examples of this are my junior coach giving a mental toughness at a very young age to show no pain in competitive sport, undertaking varying endurance events not just swimming to take me further and further from my comfort zone, building and adapting mental control skills, analysing the specific risks for this challenge and breaking down a meticulous plan to mitigate to a minimum the risk and be comfortable with the element you cannot control have be kept to a minimum. There are many elements like the weather, tides and conditions on the day you can’t control so the plan here was plan for the worst and hope for the best.
We entered the water from Shakespeare Beach at 11.18am on 24th August 2016 and the conditions were ideal and better still were forecast to remain calm all through the night. In my mind this was to be a huge positive but it also turned out to not be true. My strategy had been to put the least amount of pressure as possible on the shoulders on the way across to ensure that I had decent pull through the water on the way home. This had worked well and I was feeling fresh and had hit my targets as I came out of the separation zone with the obligatory couple of jellyfish stings and entered the French Shipping lane.
The sun was setting the water was calm and all was good with the world. It was then a critical period that turned the event on its head. As it got dark the water progressively started to churn up and became very choppy. This made sighting of the boat more difficult and meant I was needing to fight for every stroke for about a three or four-hour period. During this period the spray plus the chop meant I inhaled rather than swallowed more salt water than would have been the case had it either been calmer or in daylight when I may have a chance to see the waves. It was what it was but it was soon apparent to me that I had gone into the dreaded zone of missing the tide and was now being pulled down the coast.
It played over in my head that this scenario is often known as the “Graveyard of Dream” when having swum for 13/14 hours a swimmer then gets pulled for a further 5 to 6 hours down the coast unable to break through the tide through to France. It is here that many one way swims get pulled as it breaks the mind or energy of those faced with such an increased period in the water.
I felt strong despite the fight of the tide through the night but felt a little despondent as morning broke and as I swam on my own into an isolated Wisent beach I realised that I had used up all my two-way training just getting to what I considered the ‘start line’. I had trained in a cold and grey Dover for a number of weekends doing 10 hours back to back swims with the strategy this will get me half way back to England.
One of the loneliest I have ever felt was that swim into France when a lot of thinking and assessment went through my head and heart. The contrast of the euphoria I had felt last time I had successfully swum solo to France in 2007 was stark.
As I emerged out of the water with the waves around my ankles I distinctly remember thinking “What’s the point!”. I decided I get my memento pebble and then head back to the boat. I cleared the water and had a quick scan around to witness where I had landed. It was a completely deserted and a completely sandy beach. – Not a pebble or stone or any form of memento in sight. At that specific moment I thought “For F*%K sake!” the world was against me!
I then turned around raised my arm and the Claxton on the boat sounded as they could see I was clear of the water. As I looked back at the boat ,someway in the distance due to the shallow waters, I realised that if I was to swim back I always knew it would be tough from about half way back but now it would be tough for the whole width. This was now to be the mind versus the body. I knew I had so many mind techniques left I hadn’t used that would ensure the determination was strong so could the body hold on enough to keep going. This whole thought process really excited me and as I dived back into the water I was genuinely excited to see how this adventure would turn out.
The precedent for not giving in mentally had be set and tested during one of the stages of the infamous Marathon Des Sables (155-mile foot race across the Sahara Desert carrying your own kit) that I had taken part in in 2011. Faced with exhaustion on a race stage which included 56 miles in heat of 55c I decided that if this was to be the conclusion of the race I was not going to pull myself out of the race. I decided whatever I had left I would throw at the event until it was all gone and potentially I was face down in the sand! That day it never quite came to it despite being so so close but the mental strength I wanted had been tested and this was now the blue print for my return journey.

As we swam through the day I never felt close to fatigue and with a Big picture of my friend Mark Shepherd (who I was undertaking the event in memory of) beaming down at me from the boat I felt strong and my stroke rate was consistent and long.
As the sun set it was again that things started to change. I was finding it hard to focus on the boat and as the night wore on the loss of two nights’ sleep made focus difficult but again difficult was a long way from being impossible I kept telling myself.
The real issues started when in the early hours of the 26th August 2016 when I had been swimming for over 40 hours that my breathing became laboured. My nose had long since closed through swelling from salt water and the throat was raw for the same reason but the wheezing and struggling to get deep breaths was making swimming difficult.
I swam on just taking each stroke at a time and trying to avoid further night jelly fish stings until we got to what later turned out to be within one mile of the beach near Hythe. The crew told me it was approximately 3 miles which I’d asked for so I could focus on the final push. This gave me the feel of “Ok I know what I need to do!”. “Get that decent deep breath and a final steady push will get this!”.
It was then I turned on my back to give myself the maximum chance to take in some air. The next thing I remember is a voice next to me shout “Mick! Mick! You alright?” but although hearing it clearly I could not move or respond.
It later turned out it was my crew member Matt Holland who had jumped into get me after I had passed out in the water.
I next remember being pulled into the boat and then the realisation of how, although I had given everything to just beyond my limits, I was just short of my target. Despite the best effort of the crew and the messages that were flooding in I couldn’t see past this simple fact.

Getting Home
When I returned home my crew were still as alert as ever for my wellbeing and agreed with Dawn it was important for me to be taken to the hospital for checks. 
When we first got to the hospital despite wheezing and being tired from two lost night sleep I was reasonably okay. I was negotiating with the doctor that I needed to be out by the middle of the next at the latest because I had an early flight Sunday morning to catch with swim buddy Alex Brown where we would then travel to Hellespont to swim the famous Europe to Asia Lord Byron swim which was to be the conclusion of the 3 swims of Europe. As I explained to the Doctor not to worry and I’m a quick healer the chest x-rays were handed to her. She looked and Dawn and then turned to me and said you’ll be going nowhere for at least a week because you’ll be in here on oxygen!
I was severely dehydrated from being in the salt water for such a long period of time and the salt water in my lungs was now being diluted by my body which was causing complication in my lungs.
Without going into all the complications and treatment that took place over the next two days in summary I was on drips to rehydrate, and compressed oxygen to force the water from the lungs as well as antibiotics to ensure nothing nasty had got from the channel into the system.
A week later I was released. However, during my time in the hospital and through the many visitors I received I got a feel for the impact the swim had had on so many people watching. The comments and the interest was truly overwhelming and I am so grateful for all he positive views and comments made.
Throughout my reflection I realised that although I didn’t achieve my additional target I had set myself I did however achieve a goal I thought I would never meet. When I started major endurance events in 2003 I remember a quote that had stuck with me and that was “Only those daring to go far will know how far they can go”. And despite pushing my limits for almost fifth teen years and feeling on the edge every time I obviously had never reached my true limits. Whether that was another mile, or another day I’d always achieved my goal. This however was truly my limit. Whether it was travelling 92.3 miles or being in the Channel conditions for 42 hours my body had reached its limit but the mind stayed strong throughout which I also realise could have put me in a place more serious than it needed to be.
I’ve spent all my sporting life developing the mind to be unbreakable but now realise breaking all link of pain to stopping or at least questioning is not the wholly positive trait we all strive for. It can have its down side without safety valves and that is now where my thoughts will now go.
There are so many thank you I would like to give and will start with all of you who have followed and supported me throughout my challenge and I hope you will continue to follow me as I now plan to complete the Dardanelles swim (Europe to Asia) next year to complete the 3 swims of Europe.
On the anniversary of when I could have completed the two way (26th August) I will also be swimming the final mile from the point I passed out (51 03.09N ,001 06.76E) to an estimated point where I could have landed on Hythe beach and I will be swimming this with my crew and anyone else who wishes to join me for the final mile of unfinished business.
My next thank you is to my dedicated and faultless crew who although we are always trying to final ways to whined each other up I am so proud to call friends. These are Paul Hoskins, Greg Dodd, Matt Holland and William Helps.
The final but I would have to say biggest thank you goes to Dawn my beautiful wife. What I put her through each year pushing my boundaries is incredible but this year I put even more on her shoulders than normal and I am eternally grateful that she allows me to do these things knowing that I need these challenges to keep me sane (?)……the down side is I have to remain silent now she hands over the extensive list of DIY chore that need to be completed

Gibraltar Straits Swim

Gibraltar Straits is where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet and is the historic point between Europe and Africa. The geographical distance is about 8 miles.
The swim started in Tarifa Island and landed in the vicinity of Punta Cires having to swim 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres)

This swim had been on my dream list for decades and proved elusive to get organised and the windy conditions when we were over there made the wait even longer . We eventually got to swim the Strait and it was a great feeling achieveing one of the worlds great swims.

Swim Report
We woke early on the Saturday morning about 6am. I had slept well and have always enjoyed the pre match pressure as I am realistic that no one is forcing me to do these events and this really is the adage of “Living the dream”. Mark Pollard ,swim buddy, however had a rotten night’s sleep not helped by the Friday night post pub Spanish singing outside the hotel in the street. I could understand his apprehension. Swimming between continents is a big deal so he was justified in his concerns but equally I was confident he could do it because I had seen as much in training, and also I knew he would feel better once we set off. Both ultimately turned out to be true.

Mark, Tony and I set out to the harbour and met the pilot, Antonio, at 7am as agreed. He was expressing his concern that the weather was due to turn at midday and that he thinks we should go Sunday because the weather was perfect all day. We had half expected this and Mark and I had agreed that as long as it was swimmable on the Saturday we would take our chance.

I did however think it will be a close call for when we would finish for when the weather would close in and it was more about how much and how quick it would close in.

We gave Antonio our assurances that were keen to go today and that we felt strong enough to take on the challenge. We set off at 7.30 with Rafael having come down to the harbour to see us off. His final words as we left the jetty were brilliant and very much my sense of humour. He said with a smile “Don’t let me down!”

We jumped from the boat and swam back towards to Spanish lighthouse on the island by Tarifa. We had seen this lighthouse from the other side for a whole week and now we were seeing it from the waterside. We touched the rock, the hooter went and we started the swim.

The first hour was comfortable as I set my tempo to the same as Mark’s as we had throughout training. In fact apart from the salty water, the sunshine breaking through, the waves and a boat alongside us it was just like swimming in the lido. OK I know it was nothing like the lido – apart from the cold which was similar and not an issue.

The second hour the water became a bit more turbulent with the water circulating off the mainland exactly as Rafael had explained a week early when we first met him. The effect is that the sea is trying to push us back in land and we had to pull our way through this for about half an hour before we hit the long relatively smooth section.

When we reached the smoother water I tried to lengthen my stroke again and felt good while concentrating on technique. I however started to notice Mark had started to drop back and I assumed it was the choppy bit we had just been through that had taken a bit of energy from him and maybe the next feed would help that.

We were now on 45 minute feeds (we were on the hour for the first two hours). Mark looked strong after the next feed but I decided to combine swimming alongside Mark with swimming ahead and then waiting for a bit and really taking in the events, the coastline and how good it felt to be swimming in the straits. The coast line was really clear now and it was nice to see the hill side, and houses.

After the fourth feed we could feel ourselves being pushed away from the coast so made the next feed extra quick. I told Mark we needed to move on quickly which Mark did because he knew the importance of getting to Morocco before midday but later told me he regrets not getting his Haribos at that feed. I dislike Haribos so was more than comfortable to live with the fact I didn’t be the chance to have an annoying jelly sweet washed down with cold salt water.

We forgo any further feeds due to the currents starting to intensify and the weather conditions were starting to show the signs of getting worse as the pilot had predicted. This was a shame because could have done with a kick of energy for the final section which had now become quite turbulent. I could see we were almost there so swam slightly ahead to find out from the support dingy what needed to happen for the final swim in and where to go. I then shouted to Mark to swim over to where I am which he was finding it hard to see me due to the rolling height of the waves they were now up to about a metre and making communication challenging. When mark got over to me I for the first time realised Mark was tired. He had looked so strong for the whole of the swim but this last section was taking its toll.

I shouted to Mark “Only 20 strokes to go!” which he didn’t believe so but we swam towards the rocks in front of us and by the time we’d done about 18 strokes we had more to worry about than whether it was 20 or 25 strokes because we were now getting pushed against the rocks by an aggressive set waves. We timed it and caught the next wave and then grabbed

The rock as we were lifted and as the wave dropped down I could hear the hooter go off on the boat to signal the end of the swim. We had reached Morocco in 4 hour and 22 minutes.

The sun was high in the sky as we got back onto the main boat and was greeted by both tony and the Pilot. The journey home got very choppy as the weather front warned of had already started to move in and for the first time I started to feel nauseous but thankfully not enough to be sick.

When we got back into town we were greeted at the Hotel and the Restaurant with congratulations from those who had seen our frustrations build during the week as each swim day came and went.