11 hours 43 minutes and it was all over but not without pain, struggle and copious amounts of stress.
It was August 14th at 4pm and I got the call that I’d be swimming the next morning with a start time of 2am. Everything felt amazing – I’d done 10 days of carbing up, and I felt injury free and mentally prepared for the big challenge ahead. We met the boat pilot in Folkestone at 1am and made our way to where I’d set off, Samphire Hoe beach. On the way over I was lathered with sun cream and Vaseline, the goggles and hat were on, and I was ready to jump in.
Then things took a turn for the worse. The boat had made a loud noise and a freak accident had happened. The prop shaft had come clean off the engine and I was told that I wouldn’t be swimming today, meaning we spent the next 3 hours on the boat waiting to get pulled in.
After about 45 minutes of being told I couldn’t swim, it started to pour down with rain and a huge lightning storm lit up the Channel.
I couldn’t help but cling onto the fact that I felt the universe was looking out for me and something had stopped me from swimming that day.
The next 10 days were the worst I’d ever felt throughout the last 18 months. I had no idea when or if I would swim, while my head was all over the place as I didn’t know how much to train or how much to eat. Nevertheless, I finally got a call on the 24th August that I’d swim again on the 25th at the same 2am start time.
This time it was so different. I tried my hardest to get motivated but I couldn’t get in the zone. I was also in a lot of pain due to inflammation in my elbows and shoulders. This time, travelling down to Folkestone felt strange; I was quiet and not myself. My body was shaking with nerves and the only person I spoke to was my coach, Matt.
2am and I jumped in the water. It was warmer than I had imagined. I had to swim 100m to the beach, clear the water and then the official swim would start. My heart was pumping and I had so much adrenaline. The next 3-4 hours were incredibly uncomfortable, as I couldn’t see anything and it was hard to get into a good rhythm. Plus, I got stung in the face by a very painful jellyfish.
Once it started to get lighter, and the sun was rising, I got a wave of positive energy. I realized my shoulders and elbows weren’t hurting, and I could see my friends and brother on the boat cheering me on. At this point, I knew there was no going back. For the next 6 to 7 hours, I just tried to focus on something, someone or a memory every 30 minutes.
I got stung a few more times by jellyfish, but the time was going pretty quickly. Then I saw the 3 mile marker buoy, and I knew exactly where I was. I knew the tides were turning, so I had to pick up the pace if I was going to land on Cap Gris Nez.
After 11 hours 43 minutes, I landed on a rock right on Cap Gris Nez, I looked up and could see my mum and my sister cheering me on. The feeling was incredible but not how I imagined.
It took about 4 days to fully recover from the swim. My tongue and throat were in so much pain due to being exposed to salt water for that length of time. For 48 hours I didn’t leave the house. Thankfully, I was visited by friends and family who looked after me, cooked for me and ran me baths!
It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I now hope to channel my energy into my business and make things happen!
Thank you to everyone who’s supported me or donated to Dreams Come True. Together, we’ve almost raised £20,000 for those that need it the most. If you’d like to make a donation I’m still trying to get to my target. You can donate here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ChannelSoloChris
Read more about Chris and his English Channel swim:
- Chris’s English Channel Swim: Having a Positive Mindset to Overcome Challenges
- Swimming the English Channel for Charity: Training, Nutrition and Body Composition
- Dreams Come True: Why I’m Swimming the English Channel
- Alumnus Chris Astill-Smith Prepares to Swim the English Channel for Charity!
- Chris’s English Channel Challenge: Qualifying Swim & Balancing Work with Training
- Never Giving Up on Your Dreams: The Final Stretch to Swim the English Channel