Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Can he do it? (post by Paul Greenhalgh)

Hi, Paul here again.

As you are now no doubt aware, The Swim is going to be a massive challenge. There’s more than one reason why no-one’s ever done it. So can Wayne?

I think so. I believe so. Why? Because I’ve seen Wayne in action. And he’s got what it takes. Let me tell you a bit about his 2010 English Channel swim to illustrate what I mean.

Wayne has not, up until recently, shown any interest in physical exertion beyond lifting two burgers to his mouth at once. Physical exertion might not have previously been his forte, but enthusiasm certainly was and it earned him a backup spot my 2009 relay Channel swim. And he put in a damn fine performance.

In fact, so good was the performance that he, much to our surprise, decided to attempt a solo effort.

I watched Wayne go through the enormous pains of preparing himself for this event. I'm talking about the cold water acclimatisation, the mornings when he struggled to leave his house because that meant yet another moment of abject horror as he plunged once again into cold water and suffered that two minutes of screaming primal distress.

I saw the repeated nausea and other unpleasant effects of prolonged exposure to salt water

I saw the social sacrifices he and his family made through weekend after weekend of training.

And I saw the final manifestation of commitment when Wayne pulled his swim date forward by a few weeks. He did this not because he felt by any means ready or because he'd completed his training schedule, but because he simply could not bear the thought of yet another 6+ hour swim in Dover harbour with just the thoughts in his head (which I suspect could be quite scary) and the ever-present cold for company. Wayne believed he could do it, despite training stats not being in his favour.

On the Big Day, Wayne aced the Channel. Not because he set a record time, in fact quite the opposite, because he missed the favourable tide that would have enabled him to land on the French coast. Such an occurrence normally signals the end of Channel attempts. When the tide changed against him, the (highly experienced) boat crew started to pack up for the trip home - they see lots and lots of Channel attempts and they ‘knew for a fact’ that this one was over. But no-one had told Wayne that. He picked up nature's gauntlet, and just bloody well kept swimming, hour after hour, stroke after stroke, for all the time it took for the tide to undertake a complete change. And then as conditions became more favourable, he headed in and reached the beach. 20 hours and 1 minute. Yes, you read right,  20 hours and 1 minute in the water.

So Wayne didn't come away from the Channel proving he was the world's fastest open water swimmer. But he did come away as surely one of the grittiest, determined and bloody-minded souls ever to attempt 'la Manche'. And, it should be noted, he also came away quite a lot slimmer.

On the return journey Jonny, part time philosopher and full-time mate who was on the boat that day, summed it up perfectly. "Before today, I thought that swimming the Channel was incredibly difficult. Now I've seen Wayne do it, I know it's impossible".

That’s why I believe Wayne can do The Swim.

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Wayne likes pork pies and Guinness. He likes routine and predictability. He loves his family. He's 40+, short(ish), balding and battling with waistline expansion. He's been known to occasionally play a good round of golf, likes to tinker with 'stuff' and has rescued a group of friends from the African wild by fixing a Land Rover with a jellybaby.

He's never been a great fan of physical exertion. In short (apart from the jellybaby incident), Wayne is an ordinary person. And he's about to do something really amazingly, astoundingly and astonishingly extra-ordinary. He's going to swim the the treacherous, never-been-swum-before channel between Kintyre (Scotland) and Ballycastle (Ireland). For charity. This is his story.