With every Cook Strait swim, much like the English Channel, a limited period of time is carefully selected for a swimmer where the difference between the high and low tides is as minimal as possible. As with the English Channel, the tides in the Cook Strait are notoriously strong. And so the 7 days that my pilot, Philip Rush, had meticulously scheduled, offered me the best chance of landing on the tiny slithers of land that are the North and South Islands of New Zealand. With an English Channel swim you have hundreds of miles of French coastland for a finish. Not so with the Cook Strait.
Pushed too far East, and you’re headed for an unexpected solo Pacific voyage, or, worse still, pushed too far West and you’re on your way to Australia. For a very proud Kiwi, this was the worst outcome imaginable. As with many things in life, timing is everything.
My swim window began on Tuesday 28th February, and ended on Sunday 4th March. As planned, I had been tapering for weeks. My long swims were behind me, and all that remained was THE swim. I needed to rest my body and my mind as much as possible. But I was so nervous, so anxious. I just wanted to swim it off. But I couldn’t. I needed to rest. It was clear my old “friends,” Doubt, Nervousness, and Anxiety had hitched a ride in my luggage. Damn it.
Careful to remain “in compliance” with my methodically crafted training plan, I focused on conserving energy. While I jumped in the water almost everyday, I stuck to small swims in Oriental Bay, Wellington. And as short as they were, they definitely helped. I had one pool session at the invitation of Philip. But, for the majority of my time in NZ, I had to sit with those feelings day in and day out.
Thankfully my training plan never said I couldn’t talk. It never specified that I rest my voice. Trust me, I looked. And boy did I make the most of that. Correction. My stowaway friends made the most of that.
Poor Joe bore the brunt of this. “Do you think I’ve lost my cold water acclimation??” “That was just a 30 minute swim… do you think I overdid it?” “I think I’ve tapered far too long, don’t you think??” “Do you think I’m hydrating enough – I just drank 2 liters” “I just ate 4 pieces of bread, I’m not hungry but should I eat some more? I’m supposed to be carbo-loading.” JESUS. I’m surprised I didn’t drive him mad. HE’S surprised I didn’t kill him. And, rightly so. I was wound up tighter than a German mousetrap.