Courtesy of Beth French on history’s first Calendar Year Oceans Seven in the English Channel, North Channel, Molokai Channel, Tsugaru Channel, Cook Strait, Strait of Gibraltar, and Catalina Channel, attempted all within one calendar year..
Beth French [shown above in a British Academy of Film and Television Arts-nominated documentary] will attempt an unprecedented Calendar Year Oceans Seven.
“I’m still raising funds using a crowdfunding campaign here at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/oceans7 [to cross the English Channel, the North Channel, the Molokai Channel, the Tsugaru Channel, the Cook Strait, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Catalina Channel].”
Her plan is as follows:
Channel 1 North Channel – from Ireland to Scotland on September 6th 2016
Channel 2 Catalina Channel – in Southern California on October 12th 2016
Channel 3 Molokai Channel – from Molokai Island to Oahu in late November 2016
Channel 4 Cook Strait – between North Island and South Island in New Zealand in March-April 2017
Channel 5 Strait of Gibraltar – Spain to Morocco in late May 2017
Channel 6 Tsugaru Channel – from Honshu to Hokkaido in northern Japan on July 3rd 2017
Channel 7 English Channel – from England to France on August 21st 2017
“Each of these swims is a major feat in itself. Some have only ever successfully been achieved by a small handful of swimmers. Attempting all seven in a single year will test the limit of what is currently believed physically possible in terms of endurance and recovery. This extraordinary challenge is set to be followed by award winning documentary makers for a cinematic release film showing what it takes to go beyond our limits and captures our unique relationship with the sea,” summarizes French.
With her historic attempt at a Calendar Year Oceans Seven, French also developed a unique training regimen.
“My training never looks like anybody else’s,” explains French. “I guess walking your own path is something channel swimmers all have in common.”
Among the things she incorporates into her training is 9 hours of back-to-back deep tissue sports massage 3 days a week. French calls it “a fabulous upper body resistance and alignment workout.” After her massages, she trains in a pool “for technique being pre-fatigued.”
She also has to acclimate to all kinds of conditions. “I’ve really put in the cold water time this winter, going down to 5.5°C (41.9°F) for fun. I did my 6-hour channel qualifier in 11.5°C (52.7°F).
I am hypermobile so I tend to do lots of specific stabilisation and joint strength work, combining yoga and strength training with some adapted interval work like boxing whist on the exercise bike, for example.”
But her most unusual training decision has to do with her frequent daily dips in the water. “I prefer to challenge my metabolism by dipping in and out the water over a day when it’s about 14-16°C (57-61°F). I get in, swim for an hour or two, then repeat throughout the day. I do maybe 3-5 [separate] sessions. It is amazing how much you eat, watching the body recover and return to cold water that I find really useful.”
She also tows her son in a dinghy for additional resistance in the water on a regular basis, she says that “it also keeps a sense of fun to my training.”
French knows that seven major channel swims in a year calls for extreme measures. “I’m a sporadic torture kind of trainer – that is what my event calls for. My body wouldn’t cope with 5 days a week swimming, although I’d love it. My joints would end up loose and I’d get tendonitis so I work differently, never letting my body get used to what’s going on.
I find it quite hard to pack on the channel chub and have doctored up recipes to pleasantly deliver high quality calories. But I’m carrying around [an extra] 7 kg which is about OK. I just need to top it up in between my swims which could be tough.”
She explains why she has no need for neoprene. “I’m not a fast enough swimmer to not need any bioprene, but I was bred hardy swimming in English rivers as a child no matter what the weather. And living on a farm with no central heating growing up means I do have a head start on being able to cope with the cold.
I keep an eye on the mental side too, by being mindful – a hangover from time spent ordained in a Buddhist monastery which I use in the water.”
Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association