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The Apex of the Seas

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  • goldenboat27
    I haven t been writing articles as frequently as I was hoping to, due to so many other projects (like last weekend s awesome Self-Transcendence
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2003
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      I haven't been writing articles as frequently as I was hoping to,
      due to so many other projects (like last weekend's awesome
      Self-Transcendence Triple-Triathlon). So, without further ado,
      here's another article...

      Mark


      THE APEX OF THE SEAS

      It is known as the Mount Everest of swimming: the 22-mile
      stretch of water between Dover, England, and the coast of
      France, presents the highest goal, the pinnacle of achievement
      for distance swimmers.

      There are longer swimming routes, of course, but it is not
      merely the distance that gives the English Channel its
      reputation. Turbulence, powerful currents and low water
      temperatures conspire against the determined swimmer, along
      with all the traffic of the world's busiest shipping lane. Small
      wonder that, for years, many considered the Channel swim an
      impossible feat.

      The person who proved them wrong was an Englishman,
      Matthew Webb, who crossed the Channel in 21 hours 45
      minutes back in 1875, battling nausea from a jellyfish sting, and
      taking swigs of brandy from his support crew to resist the water
      temperature of 14 degrees Celsius (about 58 degrees
      Fahrenheit). Despite more than 70 attempts, this feat was not
      repeated for another 36 years!

      Nowadays, swimming the Channel is slightly more common --
      English swimmer Alison Streeter has swum the Channel a
      record 39 times -- but even so, only the toughest swimmers
      need apply.

      Karteek Clarke, from Edinburgh, has run several marathons and
      a few ultra distance races. However, like several other students
      of Sri Chinmoy, he has also been inspired to take his endurance
      capacity to the water. He has now swum the Channel five times,
      one of only a handful of people to do so.

      "On the one level," he says, "it's a great goal to have through the
      winter, to keep you focused on your training. On another level, it's
      just a great thrill to do an event like that. It links in very closely
      with meditation to me, going beyond your capacities. You find
      yourself doubting your capacities, but when you meditate on it,
      you find that you can tap in to the energy and capacity."

      Karteek discusses his achievements with humility. To him, the
      "hero of the Channel" is not himself, nor any of his fellow
      swimmers, but his friend Devashishu Torpy, who has led the
      support crew for Karteek and others on several
      Channel-swimming expeditions. (Despite the time it takes to
      swim the Channel, the UK-based Channel Swimming
      Association doesn't permit swimmers to hold on to the boat at
      any time, not even during rest breaks. However, for obvious
      safety reasons, swimmers must be accompanied by a vessel.)

      Before the event itself, Karteek trains for several months. He
      swims three miles, a few times each week, usually in a pool.
      Three months before the event, he increases his training to
      longer swims, in open water. His spare time is spent raising (or
      earning) money for his swims, which cost a minimum of £2,000
      each time (including £1,500 to hire a boat with a crew).

      Astonishingly, Karteek never wears a wetsuit for his
      Channel-crossing, following CSA rules. While training, he has a
      high-fat diet, partly so that his body can withstand the cold
      waters. However, while undergoing this training, it can be very
      difficult to gain weight.

      When Webb swam the Channel, over 120 years ago, the strong
      currents meant that the 22-mile distance became a 50-mile
      swim. Today's swimmers time their swims for better conditions,
      so Karteek's times have always been safely under Webb's
      21-hour milestone. When he first swam the Channel in 1997, he
      did so in under 12 hours. Three years later, his second attempt
      was dogged by bad weather and force five winds, leaving him
      seasick. Nonetheless, he still made it to the end within 15 hours.

      His third attempt, in 2001, was blessed with good weather,
      allowing him to finish in less than 13 hours. His personal best
      time, the following year, was an excellent 10 hours 53 minutes.

      "It's a great metaphor for life," he says. "You have to fight against
      the tides, the bad weather and the feeling of seasickness to get
      to the Golden Shore. It then gives you a lot of strength in your
      day-to-day activities."

      In 2003, he was plagued with seasickness again, to an even
      greater extent. However, he persevered, reaching the coast of
      France in 16 hours -- his slowest time so far, but still reaching
      his goal.

      To some swimmers, this was possibly his most impressive
      swim. Speed is one mark of achievement, but enduring the
      remorseless waters of the English Channel, for so many hours,
      is a victory of another sort. When you have swum the Channel,
      how can you be anything less than a champion?
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