I couldn’t believe it.
All of a sudden my head began to throb and a wave of nausea engulfed my body. I just couldn’t believe it. I was approaching hour 2 of my 11-12 hour swim and my body was failing me already. Failing! But I knew I couldn’t stop. It simply wasn’t an option. I continued swimming and I tried my best to just will it away. “Just breathe through it… breathe through it.” I consoled myself. “You can do this.”
As I looked up at the moon and stars above, I did my best to distract myself. Catching a glimpse of a distant flash of lightning in the East I marveled at the beauty around me. But with every stroke I took, my breath shortened and my mouth began to salivate…
It was time for another feeding… my crew called me to the boat and tossed my bottles into the water (English Channel rules prohibit touching the boat or resting on the boat, so drink bottles are thrown to the swimmer on a rope) - one with water and the other containing Perpetuem, my carbohydrate/protein mix. ‘I feel really nauseous!” I complained with desperation - hoping, praying, that amongst all my “bags of tricks” on the boat there was a magical cure.
Reaching for the bottle on a rope in the water I couldn’t even bring myself to sip my Perpetuem drink. I could smell the artificial strawberry mixture and it made my stomach turn. A few sips of water instead, I cursed myself for not being able to consume any calories. Joe offered me a Gu, but I declined. I knew I was in trouble. Estimating my body burns at least 800 calories per hour, I had hoped to consume 500-600 calories per hour. Not this swim. With the past 3 feedings I had barely consumed ¾ of that. Shit.
I put my head in the water and continued on. Although the fresh water lacked the buoyancy of the SF Bay and seemed to have more resistance, my body felt incredibly strong as I moved through the thick dark water. It felt like I was reaching through an enormous tub of molasses. “I can do this” I told myself.
But very soon the nausea overpowered me. Breathing on my left, vomit projected violently from my mouth like a broken fire hydrant, bringing me to an abrupt stop. Treading water, tears welling up in my goggles, my body took on a life of its own and allowed every ounce of my being to discharge out of my mouth. It was awful. Gasping for air, and shocked that my body would betray me, I was randomly reminded of a quote one of my friends shared with me. “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
I knew this was a test. A challenge that I just simply had to overcome. A speed bump, if you will, on my journey. Still, I was panicked. I was going to have to rely on my reserves of 3 days carbo-loading and hydrating. But how the hell was I to complete this swim without any nutrition??!!!
Somehow I continued swimming. Miraculously I remained on pace to finish in under 11 hours. The sunrise was a glorious mental boost and my arms and legs just kept moving.
The next 5-6 hours were, however, a blur, broken only by ad hoc feedings of different flavors of Gu. “Blueberry Pomegranate” and “Chocolate Outrage” are the only flavors I recall. Oddly enough, as Joe offered me a different flavored Gu, he reminded me of clown frantically creating an endless variety of balloon animals trying to please a distraught child. “Try this… ok… it’s ok… its ok… what about this...” We all knew it was a painful show. My body didn’t feel like anything. Operating on approximately 100 calories per hour, I just wasn't sure how on earth I was going to finish...