Beth French Ocean’s 7 Swim Challenge : It’s ok to not get where you thought you were going.

One final pre women’s adventure expo blog, catching up with headline speaker Beth French. We’re looking forward to hearing more tomorrow.
Beth embarked on a challenge to swim the Oceans 7 in 12 months. Having completed the Catalina Channel, Gibraltar Strait, Cook Strait (making a successful crossing just days after a thwarted first attempt,), Molokai Channel (including a close encounter with a shark at 1am in the morningBeth was well on course to achieve this epic challenge.
Then 7.5 hours and over 23km in to the 30km crossing  of the Tsugaru Strait, Beth made the decision to get out of the water, and on to the boat, marking the end of her Oceans 7 in 12 months challenge.
We caught up with Beth to find out more about the bold decision to stop, what she has learnt from her experiences and its impact on her life and plans for the future.

Why did you decide to get out of the water?
Getting out the water was not a snap decision. I got in the water intending to complete the swim. But after a couple Of hours, when my mind settled, the only thing i couldnt get rid of was the realisation of the detrimental impact the stress of all this was having on my autistic son over months. His stress levels meant that he was no longer coping with everyday life very well. I needed to show him he was more important than anything else. Reaching the other side was not just irrelevant at that stage, but was exactly the wrong thing to do. Telling him was not enough. I needed to show him. I swam for a further 5 hours to make sure that it wasn’t a blip, but it all came crashing down- the months we had both been coping, trying to juggle the stress and my trying to just carry him until the end of the project. I got out with a smile on my face, sure i was doing the right thing for my family. I have nothing to prove.

dyl and i

What have been the highs and lows of your oceans 7 journey?
The highs are without doubt the amazing swimming community i have encountered around the world. People getting in touch and sharing my challenge, offering encouragement. And reaching a place in my life where i feel empowered and free, to change or remain as i see fit, in a life that i love. I think the lows will always be the concerns i had about Dylan not feeling safe when i was in the water. Its a horrible feeling knowing that what you are doing could be damaging your child. Luckily, dylan and i are incredibly close and we are looking forward to adventuring together more. It has taught him so much and i am immensely proud of him for managing to cope for 5 years of my channel swimming!

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What have you learnt? How do you feel physically and emotionally?

The biggest surprise to myself is that i feel stronger and better now than I did in September. With only 5weeks between each of the first 3 channels, it was a gamble as to whether the body can recover enough- add to that jetlag again and again! I feel physically better than i thought i had any right to feel. Its an amazing sensation. Emotionally, it’s been a bit up and down- i feel completely fine about my decision and happy with my ‘journey’ and all i have learned. After any major event, there is a slump. I have had 5 major events in a very short period of time. I am exactly where i need to be. In recovery. I am just surprised by how little my body is requiring rest. Yay!

What impact has this journey had on your understanding of challenge and adventure? What advice do you have for anyone embarking on a personal challenge?

I think a single channel swim teaches you about yourself. So many major swims so close together, yes, i learned about myself but i also learned about the very nature of challenge. The goal is somewhere to aim, passion and drive move you towards it, but the very personal reason to want to reach the end is different. It is like an unformed question, and if you find the answer to why you were there in the first place, the end result becomes irrelevant and so there is no failure, you have arrived!! I think i would advise people to know why you want your goal, and give it your all, without losing sight of why you wanted it in the first place.

How has your relationship with swimming and water changed, if at all?

I am so grateful for my relationship with water- it is where the world makes sense to me. I am free of all landbased external demands and expectations so i am free to explore my inner landscape. It is solace and my forum for challenge, all rolled into one.

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What next?
Enjoy getting wet, take time to adventure with dylan; wait for something to grab me. Its amazing knowing i have the capacity to go extreme, but i have nothing to prove. I have been adventuring since i was 18, so who knows what direction it will take me in next!

Cake was an integral part of your training. In your opinion, what, so far is the best swim cake for optimum swim performance?

The best performance cake ended up being a completely made up recipe that i called protein power. It was coconut flour, cocoa powder, condensed milk and egg. The texture was like fudge, but was so filled with energy!

What swimming costume did you wear for your swims and why?
For the swims i wore a tyr fusion swimsuit. I found they held up really well with all the Vaseline which usually trashes the suits and they were comfortable and didnt rub.

Thanks Beth – we can’t wait to hear more at the Women’s Adventure Expo. And even more excited now, following the release of her awesome Oceans 7 feature Documentary Trailer too!

 

 

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CAKE UPDATE

It’s been almost two weeks since we announced our groundbreaking research project in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies (IISCS).

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Our mission? To resolve one of the toughest questions in open water swimming: What is the best cake for optimum swim performance?

The response from the cake eating…sorry… we mean swimming community; to submit scientific data for our project, has been phenomenal.

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From the salt water of Spain…

JCR swim

 

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Swim Quest, Ray Gibbs from Swim Canary Wharf and team, having a really tough time on the frontline of #swimcake studies in Formentera.

To training pools of Australia…

@mullycron 13th October 2015

To London’s Lido community

Ruth Corney and Caitlin Davies, Gospel Oak 13th October 2015

Gospel Oak with Caitlin Davies & @RuthCorney

Caitlin Davies and Ruth Conroy 13th October 2015

Caitlin Davies lead the charge facilitating #swimcake data submissions from all over London, including this of Hampton pond – Thanks @ruthcorney!

To the Lake District…

Val Smith of #ThisGirlCan 'Val versus Cake" enjoying peanut butter energy bars and a dip

Val Smith of #ThisGirlCan ‘Val versus Cake” and team enjoying a triple dip in the Lakes powered by Bllueberry Muffins

And Italian fresh water lakes

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Thanks Becky and SwimLab!

To the rewards of the  Golden Gate Bridge…

A hard earned Peanut butter cheesecake.

A hard earned Peanut butter cheesecake.

IISCS research fellows have been putting themselves on the frontline – no matter how far they had to swim or how much cake they had to eat.

Brockwellswimmers early research feedback

Brockwell Swimmers early research proving messy

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Team Mermaids swam 4k for these cupcakes #commitmenttothecause

Yes endurance sports can be tough, but with the right team , physical and mental preparation, anything is possible #nevergiveuponyourdreams.

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It can be tough on the frontline

Amy Sharrocks’ Baked Alaska also brought an awareness of global warming…

Amy Sharrocks 13 October 2015

And @Loveswimming’s cakes were certainly made with a cause – to raise money for her local swim club.

Cake from @loveswimming

Cake from @loveswimming

Of course, early on in a project like this it can seem like there’s an impossible mountain to climb, but one of the great things about the open water swimming community is that there are always friendly people around to inspire and guide you.

We were particularly grateful for Oceans 7 and Farallon Islands swimmer Kimberley Chambers‘ kind words:

“I applaud your perseverance. And thank you for pursuing this pressing issue :)” Thanks Kim!

Swim Cake

Swim Cake

We’re learning so much from these selfless #swimcake endeavours.

For example the Swim The Eden Wild Swimming Brothers, favoured Batternberg for their epic swim – “With wet fingers the marzipan keeps the cake dry”

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And Beth French will be relying on Chocolate Coconut brownie for her world record setting Ocean’s 7 in 1 Year Challenge.

More info on the latest scientific #swimcake data can be found on the Institute of International Swim Cake Studies Facebook page and via @SwimCakeStudies on twitter –

Of course it can be daunting on the SwimCake frontline, but your Swim Cake data is critical, so please get in touch with details of your selfless #SwimCake endeavours – Together: Yes. We. Can.

Thank you!

A Lotus Rises in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oceans 7 in 1 Year

In September 2016, British Endurance Swimmer Beth French will commence her world record setting challenge to swim the Oceans Seven in one year. She will be swimming to highlight the relationship humans have with our fragile but vital oceans, looking at environmental issues in the marine ecology as she goes.

French is no stranger to overcoming incredible challenges. In 1993 ME had caused her to be wheelchair bound, but she recovered after almost a decade since contracting this debilitating syndrome. As such, she has, “different parameters for coping.”

Her previous swims include, the English Channel, the Molokai Channel – a British female first and the 26 mile Scilly Island Channel from Cornwall to St Mary’s – a world first. A Lotus Rises spoke to French about this incredible challenge and the power of mind over matter both in and out of the water.

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Beth in her element

This is EPIC! What inspired you to undertake this challenge?

I concocted the mad notion that I could swim all oceans seven channels in a year when I was up a gum tree, about 5miles from completing my solo crossing of the Molokai channel in Hawaii.

A couple of miles earlier, I had hit a wall… Recent heart-break meant I fell off the wagon psychologically, and I’d been beating my pain into the water for about 7hrs before that. My left elbow had twinged previously and all of a sudden, I couldn’t move it at all. My left shoulder froze- I could no longer get it out of the water to swim front crawl, nor could I put any resistance through it via breaststroke.

But this channel swimming lark is not for the faint hearted (or sane) so I one arm doggy paddled the last 7 miles, which with the Pacific swells, took me a further 12 hrs.

I’m not ashamed of holding the longest crossing of the Molokai channel to date- I swam for 24hrs 10mins, non stop. I realised that I loved channel swimming, but wanted more than an expensive day trip- I wanted to see if I knew how to drive my body well enough to recover quickly for the next one…. And the next one…

Having recovered from ME, which is relentless, I have different parameters for coping, I guess.

Beth French

What order will you complete the swims? What are the logistical challenges?

The order I am attempting the channels is to begin with the north channel from Ireland to Scotland. I want that one in the bag – It’ll be the coldest and I don’t want to have to attempt that without a full tank of gas. Then the Catalina channel in California, then the Molokai channel, the Cook Straits of New Zealand, the Straits of Gibraltar, Tsugaru channel in Japan and finishing with the English Channel in time for my 40th birthday.

How do you prepare physically? What does your training schedule look like and how will you avoid injury and ensure you have time to recover between swims?

Preparing for something like this is a pretty individual thing – I train a lot less than people expect, due to my ex ME health and hyper mobility.

I can’t train twice a day, or even every day like some competitive pool swimmers. I’m a single mum, which actually helps with the mental training and dealing with sleep deprivation, so they are not new experiences. I have a very physical job, 9hrs of deep tissue massage back to back 3 days a week and I’ll go train after at least one of them to really get the endurance going.

I sporadically torture myself with random sets of say, an hour and a half legs only, or towing my son in a dinghy in the sea.

You use what you have, so I get my son to sit on my hips and do lengths of front crawl with a 7yr old on me- great resistance training and efficient use of time.

Avoiding injury would be nice- because of my job I am pretty clued up with body mechanics so I go to the gym a couple of times a week to work on specific areas that need strengthening.

I also avoid over training. In this kind of event, one channel becomes training for the next, so it’s a perpetual taper once you are in it.

Beth French

You were ordained as a Buddhist nun. Please can you describe the relationship between your meditation practice and swimming. In particular, the importance of mindset for endurance swims.

In my 20’s when I was wandering the world learning different indigenous answers to ME, I ordained as a Buddhist nun in Thailand in order to intensively study vipasanna meditation, which has been popularised as mindfulness.

The mind is such an incredible weapon, but without training it easily works against us. The monastery was such an amazing experience and taught me so much about inner strength.

Swimming is a dichotomy of sensory deprivation and overload at the same time. You are forced to come face to face with your internal workings both physically and mentally and it is invariably your emotions that end a swim. You are immersed in your experiences moment to moment so you have to have a really strong grip on how you handle highs and lows to ride them out regardless in order to keep going.

Euphoria may feel great, but allow it to bubble up too much and you’ll be exhausted the next minute or hit a depression and slump. Learning to shepherd your emotional state means you can channel anything back into your swim.

Beth French

After 6hrs, you rely on your mind about 50%, I reckon. After 12 hrs it goes up to 65% mind, then when you are talking 20+ hrs, I’d say 80% is mental. Think it and your body will follow.

As you know, at A Lotus Rises we are working in partnership with the International Institute of Swim Cake Studies (IISCS), on a global research project to answer the question: What is the best cake for optimum swim performance?  Please can you help us with this critical research – What is your cake of choice for your Oceans 7 Challenge?

I am happy to help with this important research.  My cake of choice is a malt chocolate coconut fudge brownie. You can read a blog post I wrote about that on my website here.

What’s your favourite swim spot and swimming cossy?

My favourite swim spot in the world is kealakekua bay on the big island of Hawaii. The water is so stunningly clear, spinner dolphins come in to play and it’s utter heaven.

In England, I think you’d have a hard job beating the Isles of Scilly. Gin clear water, stunning scenery.

Beth in her favourite cossy

Beth in her favourite cossy

My fave cozzie is a metallic fish scale print little number by the finals. I’ve seen an awesome one that has your internal organs printed on it- would love to get my hands on that! I enjoy a collection of novelty hats too, including a minion one that says have a nice day of the back of it and a good old candy skull one.

Thank you Beth and thank you for letting us be part of your wonderful adventure!

You can follow Beth’s incredible journey on Twitter and Facebook.

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!