Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 4

Here is Part 4 of Ned‘s report from the SCAR Swim Challenge:

Up just before 4:00 am, which was frankly about my normal jet lag wake-up time. The house kitchen buzzed with toast slices, berries, porridge and anything else imaginable.  Gracie was downing coconut water (I have no idea)!

I suspect that we packed 25 litres of fluid between us with no two the same. Roger packed Pepsi with Maxim? I stayed with High5 plus 500 ml of another carbo-drink, water and a horrible chocolate recovery drink (thanks for the powder, Carol!). Half of mine were frozen solid as a way to battle the heat.

We left at 4:30 am and met the gang in the dark near the swim: magic market numbers, briefing and met the kayak volunteer. My kayak is Cimarron, one of the massage therapists and I reserved the first slot for Thursday and Friday. She headed off with my mesh bag of drinks, drugs and spare goggles!

I was ahead of Gracie for the first 45 minutes – ok, I was sitting in the front of the van taking us to the start and she was in the back. The start was a patch of desert where you checked for rattlesnakes before you ventured too far to pee.  Communal sun screening and nervous chat in the hot sun. I got nervous about the “water resistant for 80 minutes” stuff so instead used face zinc on my entire body.

Then we climbed down a cliff for 20 minutes (wearing shoes, togs, caps, goggles). Last year, Dave Barra fell and cracked two ribs – so we took it very seriously.

Another long wait at the bottom until the kayakers arrived (downstream) and organized by number. The swimmers headed upstream, maybe 500 m, to the bottom of a dam and went off (downstream) on “Go”.   My right upper arm was in considerable pain – and the worry was worse.  It was not a race; NOT A RACE.  Gracie and two other gals sprinted off and I got in a battle with four or five until we met the kayakers.

I pulled ahead of the pack and my arm felt better (related?).  The gap increased steadily over the next few miles.  Sun was beating down in my eyes and even when I found shade in the high-walled narrow (maybe 75 m wide), I could see the sun lighting up the water a few meters away on one side.  My first feed was a 90% frozen bottle of fluid, which was fun.

Then it all went bad another few miles along – clearly, the others did not get the message: NOT A RACE. Four caught me and two passed me – the arm started to hurt again. I chased for a few miles and it seems that they always had a better line hugging reeds or cliffs. Finally, I reeled them in (all but the three speedy ladies) and slammed my left hand into one of their kayaks in the process.  I then started to pull ahead again.  The pain in my arm vanished … the left hand was feeling proud!

Into the wide lake we met a strong headwind. I got my head down and tried to muscle it … it seemed to help and the gap behind me widened. The fresh water pulls your legs down and the shoulders burn with extra effort.

A couple of miles from the end, a female swimmer passed me and would not be caught. I took to coast hugging (a Cork advantage) to get the shortest line and Cimarron was cringing as I went over rocks and through dead tree branches.

The finish took me by a pontoon boat with the four female finishers and to another dam. It seems that the swim was just under 9 miles and my time was 3 hours and 20 minutes or so (with some current helping). Gracie broke 3 hours and Dave was 30 minutes faster this year with unbroken ribs!

They laid on a spread of fruit and drinks on for the swimmers and crew. Everyone had finished and there were smiles all around. I noticed that poor Heather, the other massage lady, was standing all alone by her table. I decided to help – like throwing the first coins in the busker’s guitar case – I helped as her first customer. She then had them queuing up: my good deed for the day.

Back to the house for a massive feed and mixing feeds again. I think we are all positive about the second 10 mile lake swim on Thursday and, yes, another 4:00 am wake-up. We now leave the house behind and stay is “quaint” places in the mountains. The fun never ends!

Ned completes False Bay crossing…

Yesterday, Ned Denison became only the fifth person ever to complete the 35 km swim across False Bay, South Africa. You can read most of the details of the swim in my “as it happened” account of the swim (linked below) from yesterday. Also, Steven Munatones wrote a great article “Ned Denison Faces the Truth in False Bay” on his Daily News of Open Water Swimming blog. In this article, Ned explains how the swim became unexpectedly tough in the last few kilometres…

A very happy and prosperous New Year to everyone!

Ned Denison’s False Bay Swim LIVE

Read below for an “as it happened” account of Ned Denison’s historic swim across the infamous False Bay, South Africa. Ned’s unofficial swim time was 11 hours 5 minutes and he is only the fifth person ever to have completed this swim…

Image – Google Earth

The above Google Earth image shows False Bay with the starting point at Rooi-Els (east) and the finish at Miller’s Point (west). Ned’s approximate route is shown in red…

16:22 A huge thanks to Roger Finch of Cape Town who kept us all up-to-date on Ned’s progress in the absence of the SPOT tracker…

16:18 Ned’s unofficial time was 11 hours 5 minutes, a super time for a 35 km ocean swim! As an added bonus, Ned finished the swim with the same number of appendages with which he started it. What an achievement!

16:14 Ned Denison of the USA and Ireland has just become the fifth person ever to complete the 35 km crossing of False Bay, South Africa from Rooi-Els to Miller’s Point on the Cape Peninsula. Congratulations, Ned, on completing this astonishing challenge!

15:38 There must have been a miscalculation somewhere along the line: the pilot is saying that he estimates another 30 minutes before Ned finishes. Very exciting!

15:33 Roger says all of the phones on the boat are busy so it’s likely that he’s finished, just waiting for confirmation now…

15:15 Really close now! Ned has been swimming for 10 hours 10 minutes and is just 1 km from the finishing point. No currents or obstacles so he should be landing at Miller’s Point in about 20 minutes… Go Ned!

14:50 Just 3 km to go now, Ned is powering on! He is in the water almost 10 hours now and still going strong. Very exciting for everyone present…

13:30 Nearly 8 hours 30 mins elapsed now and Ned has just 7.5 km to go. Roger says that there is a lot of boat traffic at Miller’s Point at the moment but that will be cleared for Ned to finish. Dig deep, Ned!

12:25 With 7 hours 20 minutes elapsed, Ned has 24 km down and 11 km to go. Roger says that the water is still 19ºC and the conditions are very good. As he gets closer to the Cape Peninsula, he should be getting more shelter from the south-westerlies. Lots of good wishes come in from swimmers and non-swimmers from South Africa and the world.

11:00 I just got another update from Roger. He says that, just coming up on 6 hours into the swim, Ned has 15 km to go (so he’s over half way) and the conditions are still excellent with water temperatures over 19ºC all the time!

09:20 Ned has been in for 4 hours 15 minutes and has covered 15 km. He is battling a strong head-current but is swimming strong! Send the boat some encouragement using the #CmonNed if you can… Coming up on half way now!

08:00 After 2 hour 33 minutes, Ned had covered 11 km. Below is a photograph of one of Ned’s feed stops taken from the main boat, hopefully we will have more pictures as the swim progresses! You can follow my Twitter feed directly to the right of this post for more frequent updates…

Photograph – Roger Finch

Ned during one of his feeds in False Bay!

07:20 At 06:57 UTC (1 hour 52 minutes into the swim), Ned had 25.5 km to go. Conditions are holding and the water temperature is now an “unbelievable” 19.2ºC! On Twitter, you will be able to follow #CmonNed soon enough.

07:10 Just over 2 hours into the swim now and conditions look as though they will remain good for the rest of the day. Hopefully the current will change before long and Ned will get back to something nearer a 4 km per hour pace…

06:47 Sorry for falling asleep there! Last update from Roger is that Ned started from the agreed point at 05:05 UTC. Conditions at the start were good except for a slight swell and the water temperature has increased to 18ºC. He had 5 km covered 1 hour 30 minutes into the swim. There is a strong current against him but he is swimming strong.

04:20 It sounds, at the moment, like the boats are still on their way across to Rooi-Els. I’d hope to have confirmation of the start pretty soon. Roger Finch will be in contact with one of the pilots and will relay the updates to me. He kindly explained that the SPOT tracker isn’t working because they do not cover much of the southern half of Africa!

02:00 This post has just gone live automatically and, as far as I know, the swim is still going ahead as planned. When I spoke to Ned yesterday evening, he had already put on his sun protection and eaten his rather ominous sounding Last Supper! More updates will appear above (under the Google Earth image showing Ned’s progress) as they come in…