Tuesday 21 September 2010


David and Evelyn Frantzeskou - of Varne Ridge just out of Dover, forwarded this photo of quadruple amputee Philippe Croizon.

Why are they sipping champaine? Philippe has just succcessfully swam across the English Channel in 13 & 1/2 hours. His limbs were amputated after a tragic electrical shock accident.

David and Evelyn with Phillippe Croizon

I am in awe of his accomplishment. It makes me more determined to train and follow my dream to conquer the Channel in 2011.

Just keep swimming - a breathtaking experience

Monday 13 September 2010

THIRD TIME LUCKY..Decision made

It's been just over twelve months since my last encounter with the English Channel. The unfortunate 'slip-up' occurred on the pilot boat before my August 2009 attempt began and it has taken me this long to finally make the decision to 'have another go'.

I am so passionate about open water swimming .... yes, yes, I will again go far beyond the black line .. and yes, I am looking forward to the dedication of training even harder, smarter and further than before. Yes, I am !?!

So, I have joined the Craigie Leisure Centre situated only 10 minutes away from home. They offer a range of sporting activities, inside and outdoor heated swimming pools a huge variety of group fitness classes and a new refurbished gym.
I love the outdoor pool and use the gym twice a week. Out of the many fitness groups, I have chosen a workout class that builds strength, conditioning & flexability called 'Body Balance' which offers a mixture of yoga, tai-chi & pilates. Its also good for stretching and the moves and poses are to music which creates a holistic workout. Love it!
Well, this is a start, so heres hoping this senior body of mine can withhold every swim, gym and fitness class for the next coming year.
Just keep swimming - a breathtaking experience

Thursday 13 August 2009

A Journey Ended with Disappointment

13th August 2009
My second attempt to swim the English Channel ended in disappointment only 2 hours out.
We started off in darkness at 2:45am UK time from 'Samphire Hoe' a bay out and around from Dover Harbour. There were another 8 pilots with swimmers heading off from this point at various times. After being greased up and night lights attached to bather and goggle, I was about to jump into the dark water when I slipped and fell in the water awkwardly on my back ... a great start, OMG. Swimming into shore I felt a slight pain on the right side, just under the rib cage. Didn't think much about this as Adrenalin was flowing through the body. The beach is pebbled so had to crawl/walk out beyond the waters edge. A siren sounded from the boat and this was the commencement of my attempt to swim from England to France.
Swimming in the darkness was serene, I loved this experience and swam strongly and confidently following the flash light on the water for guidance. Coming up to my next feed a sharp pain was causing me distress. Went on for another hour but unfortunately the pain was too much and so became the finish of my swim. A trip to hospital confirmed that I had strained or torn an abdominal muscle, maybe when entering the water from the boat.
During the day, the weather did a turn for the worst and one team and more solos had to abort their swims.
A special thanks to my husband Max - always there for me. Big brother Ian for his great support. Coach Pauline Pratt - what can I say about this unique lady who is so dedicated and passionate about open water swimming, to the extent that she extended her stay in Dover to support me on my channel swim.
We, who are passionate about open water swimming or swimming in general will never stop - my journey to this point has given me health, fitness, self confidence and also gaining so many friends from all areas of the world.
Swimming is my passion and I will never stop swimming in open water, but not so far beyond the black line !
When a journey ends a new one begins and I just cannot wait !
Thank you all for following me on this lifetime journey.

Just keeping Swimming - A Breathtaking Experience

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Watch this space for updates on Channel team swims

Updates and Reports on Channel Swimmers from Perth, Western Australia

  • 27th July 2009

The Barracuddas Adult Team commenced at 3:00am (10:00am Perth time) and successfully completed their channel crossing in a time of 9 hours 5 minutes. Not a WR but the fastest ever team, to date, to swim on a spring tide. It was good conditions for the first half of their journey, but conditions in the last half deteriorated and it was rough going. A fantastic effort - CONGRATULATIONS to Jerm., Toby, James, Dom., Kristy and Curtis! who swam in this order.

  • 28th July 2009
The Churchlands High School team # 1 'Barracudas Sharks' consisting of Jess, Kelsey, Renae, Zoe, Andrew and Daniel, commenced their swim at 4:30am UK time and still swimming as I type.

You can follow their progress on board their Pilot Boat 'Anastasia' on the following website -
SUCCESS! Just been informed that Churchlands team # one crossed the channel in 9 hours 41 minutes in aweful conditions. CONGRATULATIONS champs!
  • 31st July 2009
The Churchlands High School team # 2 'Barracuda's Stingrays' swimmers in team order: Shannon, Casey, Adam, Rachel, Benji and Sarah, have started their journey leaving shakespeare Beach at 6:00am GMT (2:00pm Perth time). The weather is looking good - swim well champs, and they did just that. CONGRATULATIONS!
  • 1st August 2009
Selwyn Jellie - Double English Channel Crossing Swim was cancelled after 1 hour 5 minutes -WAY too rough - 18-20 knot winds, 3-5 ft waves - some were 6-8ft!!!! Other swimmers in the water had their swims cancelled also. Selwyn's crew said it was so rough you could not stand without seriously holding on to something with TWO hands--for just that short amount of time on the boat they have some heavy duty bruises''. The pilot called it a practice swim.
  • 2nd August 2009
Selwyn has another chance - The morning started with sunshine and calm waters but unfortunatly the weather turned around for the worst gale force winds with up to 10ft. waves. Besides Selwyn, there were other swimmers attempting solo, double and even a triple crossing. The weather was so bad most swimmers had to abort their attempts.
WELL DONE Selwyn - to swim for 11.5 hours in these conditions is a great physical and mental achievement.

I am still training in Perth and leave for UK on 7th August '09. Hoping the 'Channel Gods' will be kinder to me.
8th August '09
Have arrived safely in Dover UK.
Please follow my journey on http://www.twitter.com/engchannel1el

Just Keep Swimming - A Breathtaking Experience

Monday 20 July 2009

Count down time

21st July 1969 - 'One giant leap for mankind'

The above date brings back lots of fond working day memories. I was a former NASA staff member who worked as a young typist/clerk in the Logistics Department of the Carnarvon Tracking Station. During this time the station played a vital role in the landing of Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong's historic "one small step" on the moon.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of this event, a year I just cannot forget, not only did I have a small, weeny part in this history, I was expecting my first child, my special event - Karen entered this world 26th December 1969.

Back to Training

Less than three weeks of training to complete my preparation for the English Channel Swim next month. Its hard to believe that time has passed so quickly as it feels like only days since I commenced this blog ..... nearly 12 months ago.

After pool training it was into the water again at Hillarys Mariner - my initial reaction was one of 'brrrr' along with the younger swimmers doing EC teams. We all screeched and agreed that the water is certainly colder than last week, however, after about 5 minutes I had relaxed into a good rhythm and my breathing settled down. No stingers!! With conditions flat and intervals of sunshine, temp. around 15deg.C (well, its cold for us) we stayed in for 30 minutes, this was OK as we just completed 4 hours of training in a nice warm pool.

Laps in Hillarys Mariner

Finish of 'cold' water training - Hillarys Mariner. For me, the hardest part was hauling myself up the steep ladder

Some English Channel '09 Barracuddas team members and myself after the last training session in Hillarys Mariner

As well as training, I am trying to eat sufficient food to gain more weight, but am noticing that most of the weight is being stored on the stomach...yuck/hate...but maybe I can state that this 'will protect my vital organs !?@#! ' What....

Since returning from England last September '08, this week is my 45th week of training . I have counted each week of kilometres swum and have covered a total of approximately 1,240 kilometres during this time, 3 weeks of training yet to be done covering less kilometres pw.

The training programs set out this year have been excellent and by pushing myself harder than usual, I can really feel the difference in my swimming, strength, control strokes and I am also more mentally fit. This year, I have been less uptight about training and most of it has been fun. Last year it was all about quantity, this year's effort was mostly on quality training and speed work.

Health wise all appears to be well and my focus from now on is not getting injured and gaining some more weight !!

Last year we booked accommodation again for this year at the Varne Ridge Holiday Park. Varne Ridge is a small secluded and exclusive family-run holiday park. It's situated near to the cliffs and has panoramic views over the English Channel to the coastline of France and is located halfway between Folkestone and Dover. Having last year's memories and visions of this beautiful place, I am looking forward to enjoying the tranquil cliff-top walks on designated paths over the cliff tops and this time of the year colourful flowers bloom everywhere. The owners, David and Evelyn Frantzeskou make everyone from all over the world feel so welcome and at this time of the year, 'Channel time', guests are mostly channel swimming hopefuls and I can barely wait to enjoy all the channel chitter, chatter that goes on.

View from Varne Ridge towards Dover

We will arrive in Dover five days before the commencement of my tide (13-18th August), and training during these mornings will be in Dover Harbour.

Part of Dover Harbour - view from Dover Castle

My Skipper/Pilot is Eddie Spelling (who is also booked by Selwyn Jellie, and three Barracuddas teams on the July tide). Eddie's boat "Anastasia" is a 43ft Dutch steel flybridge cabin motor cruiser escort vessel and skippered charter.

Anastasia - Pilot Boat

My valued crew is my husband Max, Ian - brother and Pauline - coach. I feel honoured and so happy to have them on board. The swim is a team effort and am looking forward to this second attempt. I am ready to go and ready to swim.

Selwyn Jellie - ready to swim a double crossing of the English Channel - July '09

Two Churchlands High School Barracuddas Teams with Coach, Pauline Pratt

3rd Barracuddas Team with coach, Pauline Pratt

Great statistics Perth, Western Australia - swimming the English Channel 2009

- 3 teams = 18 young swimmers

- 1 solo double crossing

- 1 solo crossing

A huge "THANK YOU" - PAULINE PRATT for being such a dedicated coach of pool and open water swimming !!

"May the elements with with us

May the wind blow behind us

May the sun shine upon us"

I will try to keep this blog up to date with anything noteworthy. The support I have received from everyone is greatly appreciated - from family, friends, swimming friends and readers from all over the Globe.

Thanks for following and thanks for sharing my journey leading up to the English Channel solo 2009.

Just Keep Swimming - A Breath Taking Experience

Saturday 20 June 2009

Stroke after Stroke - Day By Day

It's been a month since my last posting. I can't believe how fast the days and weeks are passing me by. There are less than two months left for training before my English Channel Swim!

I question myself - 'Have I done enough training'? 'What is enough training'? I don't think any swimmer knows the answer - every swimmer has their different opinion and own ways of training. I am happy, strong and confident with my tough training sessions and fitness level, so I guess this is what counts the most....to me.

The pool's broken-down heater had not been replaced and until just recently, we (not many of us) have been training in cold water which has been terrific for our English Channel preparation. The heater has since been replaced and the water is nice and warm so we will now be swimming more in the ocean and river for acclimatisation to cold water.
After Saturday pool sessions, Selwyn and myself train in the Swan River with Pauline or Max paddling along side carrying feed and drinks for us. One day was very special - Barbara Pellitt accompanied us on our swim. She travelled 1 1/2 hours from the country to swim in the river with us - and brown jelly-fish or 'Man-O-Wars'. Crazy, but this lady has swum most everywhere and is used to all sorts of conditions and marine life. After the training swim, the four us sat over coffee and discussed all areas of open water swimming mainly, of course, the English Channel. Barbara has a bank of information and we thank her for sharing all her experiences with us.

Hillarys Mariner swim - We place our clothes in a black plastic bag (just in case it rains) and drinks and feed on the small beach area of the harbour. At the moment huge earthworks are underway and most of the sandy area is fenced off to the public beach. We wade into the rather cold but calm water and swim south to the rocks for a starting spot at the end of a small jetty. Its approximately 250metres from this starting point to the other sandy shallow end. This swimming area is protected by the vast numbers of cafes, restaurants and shops, so the aroma of coffee and food is a tease and I can't help but notice the 'normal' people walking along with their families all bundled up in their winter clothes.

Hillarys Mariner - start training at jetty end and finish shallow end (250metres)

We had the whole mariner to ourselves, except for some cheeky seagulls trying to steal food from our eskies. The water is approximately 16-18C except for some cold patches of water to swim through - Brrrrr.

How lucky for us, the clouds seemed to disappear quickly leaving the rest of the morning with sunshine and the water flat calm. Some areas of the mariner is clear enough to see schools of small silver fish and sometimes a fish or two jump out of the water.
Selwyn and myself swim 12 lengths (about an hour) hop out for a feed/drink, wade back in for the next hour. Another day of training - four hours in the pool and two in open water. We have had another great training session and exit the water pleased with our efforts....good! A cold shower and then enjoyed a nice hot coffee with my sister Judy and cousin Sue. Sitting in the sunshine, so warm on my back, I could have stayed in this spot all day.

Most Saturday mornings we train at the pool for four hours and during this time the members of two teams training for the English Channel this July come and join us - we all train under coach, Pauline Pratt. A mother of one of the swimmers bring in a huge plateful of warm, freshly made muffins - Yum! They didn't last long. Afterwards we all travel to Hillary's Mariner for cold open water training and it was a change and a great pleasure to have the Churchlands High School/Barracuddas team members accompany us. They are a bunch of absolutely amazing strong, committed young swimmers. They will do so well in the English Channel. Go, Go, Go!

Max paddling in Hillarys Mariner

It had rained in the early morning during pool training and when we arrived at Hillarys there was grey clouds and wind blowing strongly across the bay. The Mariner did not look inviting, over the past wintry days the harsh wind had blown twigs, leaves and the odd plastic bag was floating about, looking like huge white jelly-fish.

Upon entering the water by jumping from the jetty, we all started swimming north to the shallow end. The water was not as cold as it has been previously, just a lot more choppy due to the strong winds. Selwyn and myself swam from end to end, I am swimming in my comfort zone....not for long however, we joined the younger swimmers who were all sprinting from end to end, fast swimming to build up some body heat. Very good training which got me out of my own comfort zone. Hmmm. Thanks guys. The session would have been much more fun if we all did not receive nasty stings from the many small jelly-fish. Ugggg. OMG!!!

I am really moving forward in my training. I have learned where my strengths and weaknesses are and adjusting my training plan accordingly with the help of Pauline and at the same time having a great time and fun, fun is a must.

Finding fun-time in the pool

and outside the pool

A party - dressed as something starting with S. Carrol....Sweet, Senile, Senior Swimmer. Max.....Scarboro Surf Life Saver

Back on track...

My main weakness is mental attitude and am working on this every day. I also need to deal with coldness. I am no where close to where I need to be, so acclimatisation swims will need to be done soon at Lake Leshenaultia where some of us experienced the cold lake water last year. I seem to remember the most uncomfortable part of swimming cold water is getting out of it. Your body is 'warm' while you are swimming but when you stop it quickly cools down.

SO.... I need to now continue to acclimate to the cold and also some serious mental training needs to be worked on as well.

Selwyn and myself training in the cold water of Lake Leshenaultia 2008

Open water swims are just amazing whether in the ocean, lake or river. They are unpredictable which makes them fun yet tough. Put your head down and just keep swimming.

“In the sea....I can just be
I have no name....I have no number
I am weightless.... ageless
free to just be me” - annon

Just keep swimming - a breathtaking experience

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Open water training ahead of pool competition

I enjoy all forms of swimming competitions but had to make the decision not to participate in the WA State Masters Championships this month and continue on with my English Channel pool and open water training.

The need to clock up more kilometres per week, we decided that after finishing pool training to head towards the beach for some ocean swimming. On most Wednesdays I am fortunate to have another swimmer to train with, Selwyn Jellie, who has a bigger goal for the English Channel. It makes a huge difference having someone else to train with, not only for company but for safety reasons as well.

Finishing a training session at Churchlands High School pool

From Churchlands High School Pool, we headed for a venue close to both homes - Sorrento Beach, just south of Hillarys Marine Harbour (where we train in dark conditions and the water temperature is cooler than the open sea). The Distance is approximately 2km from the Mariner wall heading south just past the third groyne and back to the wall.

Sorrento Beach taken from Hillarys Mariner wall - three groynes are just visible

I am mentally ready for a 10km swim and after applying suncream and Vaseline (petroleum jelly) we commenced swimming in rather murky but calm waters and approximately 18 degrees C. Nice and warm conditions made swimming enjoyable, the sun felt so wonderful on the body - this is bliss in the middle of May! Winter is nearly upon us so we are enjoying every moment of this beautiful day.

At the mariner wall and groyne end of our training, we have a small break, chat about how great the conditions are and off we go again, we also walked ashore for a feed on the hour. After 10 lengths, 10km I thought we were done, but NO Selwyn has another plan ... "lets swim another 2km" . "what" I half complained, "yes, can't you see and smell the French soil just 2km away? come on lets go" !! Well, OK .... I can do this, I am feeling good and strong with no body pain and away we swam. We were both swimming strong and kept swimming and swimming until we 'imagined' hitting France soil - What a game, what fun!! Imaginary goes a long way. Thanks Selwyn for being supportive and pushing me that extra 2km.

12km swim today or 7.4 miles (hmmm! thats not far in miles) was actually fun, my energy levels are good, no way am I cold and for most of the last two extra kilometres allowed myself to breathe on every stroke instead of practising bi-lateral breathing.

This four hour swim was great but I need more and more of this training, swimming long and hard to develop more endurance. I continue to find things I need to work on and will make the effort to improve on them. I promise myself to train bi-laterally, especially on longer swims. Being a unilateral breather all my swimming career, it is hard to adjust, especially the challenge in colder water, my lungs constrict and I need to breathe more frequently than the bi-lateral form will allow. Practise, practise is all I can do during my pool and ocean training.

With a plan to cross-train I decided to ride down to the ocean to swim. My husband willingly made my old bike ride-able, it was covered with cobwebs etc. after 3 years standing idle in the back shed! With a safe, clean, well oiled bike I rode 6km (not far) to Sorrento Beach coping rather well with the steep hills along the way. Jumped in the water, just loved the conditions and could have swam on and on. However, since I could not see a soul in site and being the only one in the water, thought better about the safety aspect of swimming on my own and decided to get out. How sad is that! Instead I changed my plan and decided to do a power walk along the beautiful Sorrento beach scenic path and afterwards cycle home.

What a great morning. I am so lucky - Just me being me.

Challenge Stadium

Sometimes for some reason its difficult to make early morning training sessions and on these odd days I travel to the Challenge Stadium at a reasonable time of the day to swim and train on my own. The Stadium is a world class Aquatic Centre and I have been a regular swimmer here for the past twenty odd years. Hmmm.

Front entrance to the Challenge Stadium in the morning sunshine

Challenge Stadium Indoor Pool and Diving Pool at the rear

One of the outdoor pools at Challenge Stadium

A few weeks ago I received an email from Marty Tatham, Managing Director of Waterproof iPod Australia. He came across my blog while surfing the Internet and thought that with the many hours of training I clock up it must get boring sometimes. He generously forwarded me a Swimman Waterproof iPod to use. After loading my favourite music and some motivational talks I could not wait to try it out.

The program I set out for myself is great to do in a 50metre pool and a welcome change from the usual training in a 25m pool.

  • 3000 metres straight swim - the start of every 50m is done with a sprint - endurance
  • 1000 metres using paddles, pool buoy and ankle band - strength
  • 1000 metres using finger paddles and pool buoy - entry/stroke
  • 1000 metres using fins and board - kick, various
  • 1000 metres using fins swim - 50m F/50mS
  • 1000 metres various skills and strokes

I have done this program before and it is a little boring so this is a good time to try out the waterproof iPod. I attached the small waterproof case to my goggle strap with it's patented clip design - the iPod is very light, felt comfortable and the music very clear. The time and laps went by quickly .... it was great, it was fun and the combination of swimming with music ... wow! what more can a swimmer ask for? I loved it and if you are interested have a look at the website http://www.swimman.com.au/

Last Saturday after pool training, we went down to the Swan River for some open water training. We - teenage girls/boys from Churchlands High School who are training for a 6 person team to swim the English Channel this July, Selwyn, myself and our Coach, Pauline Pratt on ski. As usual there were so many brown jellys and our poor Coach was a sitting target for flying jellies. Splat! Splat! and soon Pauline was covered in brown jelly substance! We were almost in the middle of the river and laughing so much we had attracted three dolphins .... these beautiful creatures circled us and played close by for some time (maybe to figure out what all the noise was about) and then they headed into deeper waters. Pauline soon forgot about the jelly throwing and was thinking the same as I - we were blessed with their presence.

How good was that - thats - open water swimming!

Just Keep Swimming - A Breathtaking Experience