22/07/2012 by Carl Reynolds
I met Stephanie Voss via a logbook. At the end of 2011, the regulars at Tooting Bec Lido were not only indulging in the faintly masochistic habit of cold water endurance, but were also logging their efforts in a journal. A journal which had been placed by the Breakfast Ladies (a strange sub-cult at the lido) to see if, collectively, the club members would be able to swim the distance to Latvia from London (Latvia being the host of the 2012 World Cold Water Swimming Championships).
I had assumed that one or two of my fellow aquatic apes would submerge themselves for many lengths at sub-10 degree temperatures, but was shocked to see a ‘Stephanie’ logged in with far more lengths than I. She was already the stuff of legend, when she asked me to swim with her one morning. And whilst, at the time, she was only marginally faster than me, she quickly improved her speed; so that a month or two after she’d asked me to be her support swimmer, I was trailing behind in her bubbly wake.
And after that I forgot about being her support swimmer. Then we all went to Ireland to swim under the guidance of endurance maestro Ned Denison. And I began to further appreciate Stephanie’s commitment to her vision. A 100km in a week, including a six hour swim in 12 degree water, but narry a complaint, and always a smile and a look in her eyes that said, “I’m going to swim that width”.
She has. A swim of 15 hours and 27 minutes is beyond the imagination of all but a few souls. The figure is burning at the edge of my desire to swim the Channel. It is long and hard; and en route she met a few demons, a few angels and touched in on a sandstone cliff in the middle of the night shocked at the sight of my sidestroke keeping pace with her crawl. I don’t know how empty her reserves where; and I suspect she had a few reserve tanks. The maxim didn’t agree with her, she swam into a weed nest, something knocked into her in the dark, she thought she was nearly there five hours before she was, she had a couple of moments of ‘i wanna get out’, but she went on. Stroke after stroke, approximately sixty-seven thousand times. Repeat that number and then think of your arms going round for fifteen and a half hours, in cold water, in the dark and without being able to rest on anything. Impressed? You should be.
I’ll post about the logistics and being support crew later. This one’s for the Sensational Ms Voss.