Following my Tsugaru Strait swim, thoughts soon turned to my next swimming adventure: the North Channel, between Northern Ireland and Scotland. A secret for almost a year, I had quietly committed to this swim while knowing I had to complete Tsugaru Strait first. Unable to focus on more than one swim at time, somewhere along the way during months of training, I unconsciously tucked away the North Channel deep into a corner of my mind.
Before resuming training, I gave myself permission to take 10 days rest. Long walks on the farm at home with my family in New Zealand, Mum’s cooking and plenty of sleep were the order of each day. A quick trip to Wellington for a television interview meant I could meet up with my friend and mentor, Philip Rush. Philip is New Zealand’s open water swimming legend. He is one of only three people in the world to have completed a 3-way English Channel swim (England – France – England – France), as well as many other notable swimming achievements. Despite the fact that I raised his blood pressure significantly (and multiple times) as he piloted me across the Cook Strait in 2012, we have become good friends. With a few hours to spare in Wellington, Philip generously mapped out my training plan for the North Channel over lunch, followed by a pool session where he tweaked my stroke.
Back in San Francisco, as part of this condensed training plan, I committed to four of the most demanding training weeks I have ever experienced. The goal was to capitalize on my fitness post-Tsugaru and build myself up even stronger. Philip warned it would hurt, but urged me to stick with the plan. The logistics of swimming 60 km (38 miles) in the pool and San Francisco Bay each week, while holding down an equally rewarding full-time job, required a little more planning and a little less sleep. Looking back, I can hardly recall much of that period. Somehow I managed.
Once I began my taper, gradually reducing my training over several weeks, time began to speed up. The North Channel - this massive personal goal that had been percolating over the past few weeks - came to the forefront of my mind.