The North Channel

My journey to the North Channel goes all the way back to 2011, when my good friend Craig Lenning became the first American to complete this swim. He was the 12th person to make it across the North Channel (his was the 16th swim, since legends Kevin Murphy and Alison Streeter had already racked up a few swims each by the time Craig arrived).

Back in the day, we didn’t have fancy GPS trackers to watch our friends travel across oceans, so we relied on spotty Facebook updates from Craig’s captain.

I cried when the video of his finish was posted: A flashing light in the middle of the night on a cliff wall in Scotland, then the bullhorn signaling Craig’s arrival. Truly an historic swim.

But when Craig came home, the stories he told were horrifying. Freezing cold water. Tricky currents that made him swim in place for hours. Thousands of giant lion’s mane jellyfish, some the size of cars, that thrashed his arms and legs. He remembers the buzzing pain of his skin for days afterward, as he sweated out their toxins. To this day, he shudders when he talks about his experience.

Craig is not one for exaggeration, so his stories were enough to swear me off the North Channel, indefinitely.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

Over the years, however, I’ve followed more and more swimmers in their journeys across the North Irish Sea.

Since Craig’s swim, Caroline Block has become the Queen of the North Channel, amassing more crossings and hours in the North Channel than anyone else. She loves the beauty of the water there and keeps going back, year after year. I’ve talked to her about her experiences and she always says she finds the cold and the jellyfish manageable.

Another friend, Darren Miller, swam the Channel in 2013. His experience was similar to Caroline’s- barely any stings and he speaks of the water as almost mystical.

But, still, I’ve heard the horror stories of swimmers becoming delusional as they approach the finish, many hospitalized and permanently injured from the jellyfish toxins. Swimmers have been hypothermic, pulled from the water mid-swim. Stung in intimate places. And though I’ve never asked, I’m certain the failure rate across the North Channel far exceeds the success rate.

Needless to say, this is a potentially dangerous swim. And for years and years, I’ve wanted no part of it.

However, as I’ve been slowly (and un-purposefully) knocking off the Ocean’s Seven swims, I began to realize that at some point, I was going to have to tackle the North Channel. (I have completed Catalina, Molokai, the Cook Strait, and the English Channel, with a genuine desire to do Gibraltar and Tsugaru. At the end of the day, I know there’s no way I’d just skip the North Channel.)

Just as I was starting to wrap my mind around this inevitability, Jacqueline with Infinity Channel Swimming reached out. Her timing was pretty incredible- I’m still not sure how she knew I’d been thinking about it. But, in a delightfully manipulative message, she told me it was her dream to have me come to swim the North Channel, and she offered her support should I decide I wanted to attempt it. I initially put her off, but kept coming back to the idea, and her persuasive message.

The North Channel was in my head, Jaqueline and Infinity had an opportunity, and I eventually broke down and said: Yes, I’ll come.

The North Channel

The first available slot was an early season slot, July 3-9, 2022.

“Don’t you have anything later in the summer, like August or September, when it’s warmer?”, I remember asking.

“Definitely not”, was the reply. I guess luck and dream boards would only get me so far.

I chewed on the undesirability of an early July slot for a week or so, before finally committing. Colder water meant fewer jellyfish, right?

And so, the training began in earnest. I swam Monterey Bay last fall as a test swim for both the cold and the jellyfish. I swam the water down at Chatfield until it froze, ending my open water season in December with an ice mile. I went to San Francisco in February, where and Amy and Greg Gubser took me on a six-hour tour of San Francisco Bay in 51-52 (11-12C) degree water. I survived that swim relatively unscathed, which was a huge confidence boost. In March, when the Gravel Pond was still partially covered with ice, I was in for short swims, gradually increasing time in the water as temperatures slowly rose. As summer heated up the Pond, I drove to high altitude every weekend, in search of colder and colder water.

Twin Lakes training swim

I don’t love the cold water the way some of my peers do. I definitely don’t thrive in it or seek it out or gleefully leap in on cold, blustery days. But, as I trained, I remembered: I CAN do this. I may not love it, but I AM capable.

And in addition to chasing cold water, I put my head down and trained hard and fast with Fast Mike. Starting in January, I began building yardage in earnest, averaging over 40km/week by March and finishing with six weeks straight at 60km. If I was going to be freezing and lashed by jellyfish, I told myself, at least I’d be strong and fast to get it over with faster. Leading up to this swim, I’ve been swimming faster than I have in years.

If I was going to do this swim, I was going to be as prepared as humanly possible.

And every single time someone asked me if I was considering a double, I laughed. Anyone around me over the last year knows how absolutely terrified I have been of this swim.

Could I manage the cold?

Could I handle the jellyfish?

Amy and Caroline talked me off the ledge more than once.

One time across the North Channel would be absolutely plenty.

On our way to Northern Ireland!

My mom, Ryan and I arrived in Belfast about five days before my window opened, hoping to acclimatize and calm my nerves before the actual swim. When we arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, with rain pouring down, I knew I’d done the work. But as any of us who have ever attempted a Channel swim knows, being prepared means nothing if the ocean decides to spit you back out.

We booked a delightful Airbnb in the small town of Donaghadee (which I am happy to report I can now say correctly, after two weeks of trying). Donaghadee is just down the coast from Bangor, where Infinity leaves from, but is the starting site of most North Channel swims. Walking around the little harbor, you can see tributes to the North Channel and Tom Blower, the first person to complete the swim. And every day, a group of skins swimmers, The Chunky Dunkers, meet at high tide to swim. Amy had connected me to their leader, Martin Strain, so on Wednesday, we made our way down to the slip for our first introduction to the group and to the North Channel.

Martin and his Dunkers welcomed me with open arms. As Martin pointed out the 1km swim route around the Harbor- swim out past the buoy, to the harbor wall, then straight across to Pier 36 and Kelly’s steps, then back to the slip- I have to admit I was nervous.

“What’s the temperature?”, I asked. I’d been avoiding that question for weeks, but now that I was finally here, I felt like it was time to know.

“Oh, it’s warm. About 14 today”, Martin informed me cheerfully.

“And what about….out there….”, I asked, gesturing to the Channel beyond the harbor walls.

“Oh, probably a little colder, around 12”, he told me.

“And what about the jellies?”

“We haven’t seen any in the harbor yet this year.”

Ok, good news all around. So, I strapped on my green tow float and walked down the slip, with the last of the Dunkers.

“It’s warm, it’s warm, it’s warm”, I told myself as I neared the water. Then, as my toes hit the water, “it’s not warm. It’s not warm. It’s not warm.”

As I stood there with my toes barely touching the water, Andrew Keay walked up and joined me. Andrew is an Australian swimmer, who was also in Donaghadee to meet the Dunkers and to wait for his turn to swim the Channel.

“It’s not too cold today!”, he informed me cheerfully, as I was dying inside.

Fortunately, Andrew also likes to stand for a while before getting in, so we waded in slowly, discussing our chances in the Channel and learning a little about each other. We bonded instantly.

Eventually, to the leers of the returning Chunky Dunkers, Andrew and I took off for an hour-long swim.

I blasted through the first 1km loop quickly.

“It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok” I kept telling myself. And it was. After about a loop and a half, over by Kelly’s steps, I pulled up to wait for Andrew to catch up. And then we started chatting and treading water, marinating, if you will. We gently floated back to the slip, laughing and talking for the last 30 minutes of our swim, only putting our faces in to swim back as we realized it was raining and we felt bad for our people, standing on shore waiting for us.

As we walked out of the water, Ryan, my mom and Andrew’s partner Ranu were laughing at us. They’d become friends just as fast as Andrew and I had.

And so we got into a routine for the next few days: Meet the Chunky Dunkers for a swim, explore the town, and then I would work in the afternoon.

On Friday, Andrew and I met up with Jacqueline at the Bangor marina, and I got to meet her for the first time. She greeted me with a big hug and walked us back to see the Infinity boats and let us explore the marina’s facilities.

Infinity has a few boats and multiple pilots, and as Jacqueline explained, they would assign boats and pilots as we got closer to our swim starts. Head Pilot, Padraig Mallon, would send us daily updates at 6 pm to let us know what the weather forecast looked like.

And then as the group of us were sitting in Anantya, laughing and discussing our upcoming swims, Andrew said it. Something like, “….and of course if Sarah wants to do a double, you’ll just let her turn around.”

And as if they’d planned it, Jacqueline smiled, “That’s always a possibility.”

It was a quick interaction. I laughed it off. No way in HELL was I interested in swimming a double North Channel. Hard pass. That water was cold enough and I hadn’t come face to face with a jellyfish yet.

For Cod and Ulster field trip with the Dunkers!

I lasted less than 24 hours.

The next morning, I was laying awake in bed with Ryan and I asked him, “So….. if I wanted to do a double, what would you think?”

Ryan, being used to me by now, affirmed that if I really wanted to do it and we thought it was safe to do so, he’d actually think it was quite fun.

And so I stewed on it.

The weather was not cooperating, so I had plenty of time to think about it.

Maybe. If the weather was perfect. If I could get across in under 12 hours. If I didn’t get stung too much. Maybe. Less than 1% chance. But maybe.

As our second week wore on, with no break from the weather, Andrew and Ranu took a trip to Dublin and Galway. Ryan, mom and I visited the Giant’s Causeway and then took the long way from Northern Ireland to Cork via the Cliffs of Moher to visit friends attending Ned Denison’s Cork Distance week. Our good friend Elaine was there and she had an Airbnb with a few extra beds, so we happily spent a few days down south, before heading back to Donaghadee on Thursday, hoping for a Friday or Saturday swim.

As the days wore on, I was still thinking about the double. Not speaking it to anyone. Just thinking.

Padraig was in touch daily, like clockwork. He was suggesting a small window looked good on Friday, but possibly Saturday, though the last possible day we could all swim was looking best: Sunday.

“If we can’t swim until Sunday, there’s no chance for a double,” I told him on Wednesday, officially voicing my thoughts on the topic.

He told me he’d keep that in mind as the week went on.

On Thursday, he let me know the weather wasn’t playing nice and he felt like a double was going to be impossible. In his gut, he said, it wasn’t the right window to try. I was not disappointed and did not press it.

On Friday, we agreed to meet up to discuss our options. And as we were sitting in the Salty Dog across the street from the Bangor marina, drinking tea and coffee, all of a sudden were making an entirely new swim plan, based on the near-certainty of a double attempt. I know Jacqueline had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.

Initially, when I pictured a double, I had envisioned that I would start at the same time as Andrew and the other swimmers, and then if it was good, I’d just flip and come back. But, with the weather situation and our flights home, that wasn’t an option.

As Padraig looked at his weather apps and the tides, he saw our opportunity immerge. It would involve a bit of a gamble with the weather, but, it looked like we could start in Scotland on Saturday evening, then swim to Ireland, land when the boys would be taking off, and then have perfect weather for the return trip to Scotland on Sunday.

“I’ll give us 13 hours to get over there. You can’t be slower than 13 hours, but no problem if you’re faster.”

The only concern was the wind. Padraig was worried we’d get to Scotland and the wind would be blowing and gusting too hard to swim safely, but it was our only chance to sneak one in, given our parameters. He wanted to go home and look at it more before we committed, but two hours later, Jacqueline texted:

Here we go….

Day SATURDAY (2 Way)
Meet time 1600 hours
Start time 1800 hours
Skipper Padraig
Infinity Crew Milo
ILDSA Ruth and Cara
Swimmer Crew Jacqueline, Ryan, Becky

Oh boy. Ready or not.

It felt like I had picked my fate and now all that was left was to play it out and see how it turned out. We’d forced a plan: Would that result in failure? Or would Padraig’s brilliance pay off and give me a chance at the impossible?

The last marinade with Barry and Andrew in Bangor on Friday afternoon

Making feeds

I slept surprisingly well Friday night and even managed to nap the next day. In the packing, I realized I’d forgotten my bag of Desitin, Lanolin, gloves and my mouthwash bottle. So, despite a frantic walk to the pharmacy Saturday morning for supplies, everything was going smoothly.

We loaded Anantya quickly on Saturday evening at just past four and motored over to Scotland without incident. It was choppy and windy, but Padraig was happy with the conditions. It wasn’t ideal, but I’ve definitely swum in worse. Besides, choppy waters keep the jellies down.

Ready to go!

Padraig pulled me up to Scotland and pointed me to a cliff ledge a few hundred meters away from the boat. I took one look at the waves crashing against the cliff and asked for a better start point. He scanned the shore and found me a tiny sliver of sand to start from.

Mom and I got me greased up, and just after 6 pm, I slid off the back of the boat, and swam toward Scotland.

Water temps were 12-13 / 53-55 degrees the whole way. Warmer in Scotland.

Whew. Cold. But ok.

I waded out of the water, then quickly raised my arms up over my head and walked right back in and started to swim toward Ireland.

Sorry it’s blurry.

Almost immediately, I started seeing dozens and dozens of jellyfish, floating a few feet below me in the clear blue-green waters. Visibility was great so I could easily dodge suspect stingy things, but the water was choppy, making it hard to get into a good rhythm.

I quickly lost track of time. The night is short that far north, making it feel like I was swimming in a perpetual twilight. At some point we switched my day goggles to a clear pair with my trusty blue light on the back. Immediately, my goggles fogged and try as I might, I could not get them to unfog. My vision would be blurry for the duration.

At one point, I noticed it was near full dark, so I asked what time it was: 11:45 pm.

Jacqueline had said the sun would come up by 3:30, so as the last of the daylight left, I prepared myself for a mere three hours of pitch blackness.

So far, I’d managed to avoid most jellyfish, only hitting a couple of small ones here and there, but in the dark, I was terrified of what would lurk below.

I was also fighting a bit of nausea and was worried about getting sick overnight. My last few ocean swims had been major puke fests and I wasn’t looking forward to another night of freezing and puking, with my new jellyfish buddies.

However, just as the sun set, the wind died down, sooner than Padraig had predicted, and instead of getting sicker as the night went on, I started to feel better. I was sketched out by the currently unseen jellyfish, but happy to not be sick or feeling too terribly cold.

It was intensely scary, but also, somehow, manageable.

I could feel the water pushing me in the right direction. I wasn’t puking. I wasn’t getting horribly stung.

It was ok.

Lap 1

At one point in the night, Ryan yelled down some really great news: “You are swimming really fast, maybe on track for a record!” I scoffed at him- the record is like nine hours and I’d been predicting an 11-13 hour swim, so I brushed him off. About 30 seconds after this news, I put my left elbow straight into my first lion’s mane. Ouch. And a few minutes later, I nailed a second one. Oof.

Night Swimming

So, when an hour or so later at another feed stop, Ryan told me that the tide had turned against me a little and that I could back off the pace if I wanted since I was now off the record pace, I was neither surprised or disappointed.

“Don’t worry though, you’re still swimming really, really fast”, he assured me.

I knew the choice in that moment: Push for a record or save energy for a double. I still hadn’t decided what I wanted to do. Part of me wanted to push hard, for an excuse not to turn. But, while I still hadn’t committed mentally to a double, I backed off.

“Save your energy,” I told myself.

I purposely don’t count feeds or try to pay attention to time, so when I started to see a faint lightening of the sky an hour or so later, I knew we were close to 3 am. I was doing the math and knew that if Ryan was right and I was swimming well, I could expect to be landing in Northern Ireland here pretty soon.

It was getting close to decision time.

When we started the swim, I had pictured making the turn in Ireland in full daylight, around 6 am, with a better sense of how I might feel from a cold perspective and a good idea of the impending weather. But, it was still night, and dark, and the idea of turning around to do it again seemed very unappealing. I was hitting a few more jellyfish now in the calmer waters, but at least when the sun came up, I’d be able to see them. Still, I was tired from 9 hours of swimming and the prospect of turning to do it all over again was daunting. It seemed like every 5 minutes, I changed my mind. I’d go through a smooth period and start to feel confident, then I’d hit a jellyfish or a cold patch and do a total 180 on my decision.

And then, before I knew it, Milo turned on a spot light. I could see a sheer cliff up ahead and, in the illumination, hundreds upon hundreds of jellyfish. Some were harmless moon jellies, but suddenly I was seeing more and more massive lion’s mane. Milo would find one in my path and wave the spotlight on it so I could avoid a direct hit.

My nerves were frazzled and my adrenaline was pumping at an all time high. Padraig gave me direction at my last feed to swim to the cliff and touch it, then turn around and swim back to the boat. There would be no beach to walk onto. Just as well, since I knew I’d never start swimming again if I had the chance to get out of the water.

I slowly, slowly picked my way toward the cliff, dodging jellyfish, heart racing. The water was calm, so I wasn’t afraid of a rock bashing, but the swarms of jellyfish had me near tears. I touched the coast of Ireland with one finger and turned and swam as fast as I could back to the boat.

Lap one was complete.

And I did not want to continue. Yet, I also didn’t want to quit. I was completely, and utterly, indecisive.

I was tired, but I’d just finished lap one in ten hours and four minutes, shockingly fast. During my brief break at the boat, Ryan fed me some soupy oatmeal and the team encouraged me to keep going. Padraig told me that the weather for the rest of the day was calm, so the return journey would be flat water, in the day time. They could see I did not want to swim, but no one asked me if I wanted to get out. Ryan is experienced in hard turns and while he didn’t force me or manipulate me, he did handle me perfectly.

If I got out now, I reasoned, that would have meant I swam the North Channel the hard way, braving the pitch black for no reason at all.

And then, Elaine’s words came to me from my English Channel Four Way: We don’t make decisions in the dark.

While it was slightly light at 4 am, it was still, technically, night time.

Might as well turn around and see what happened on the way back. There wasn’t anything saying I couldn’t get out later if I wanted to.

So with heavy arms and major doubts, I put my goggles back on and turned, back toward Scotland.

Leaving Ireland behind

The daylight didn’t provide quite the relief I had hoped. With the light, I could see the lion’s manes, now on the surface. My entire crew lined the side of Anantya, Milo with a whistle at the ready. And for the most part, they were able to guide me around the biggest road blocks. I still managed a few direct hits, but nothing crazy. Frazzled, I could see giants floating beside me, living up to the lore.

As I swam, I was mainly feeling less than enthused. At a feed stop not too far into the return trip, I asked how long I’d been swimming back for.

Jacqueline’s reply: 3.5 hours.

“I dunno guys, I’m not feeling all that great.”

Ryan, always calm, “What can I do for you?”

“I’m not sure anything will help.”

“How about we try some warm feeds- that might make a difference”, Ryan said.

“I dunno. Sure. I guess.”

“Let’s just give it another half an hour and see how you feel.”

“Sure. Fine.”

I spent the next 30 minutes writing my Facebook post about how I gave it my all, but at the end of the day, I felt like it was the best choice to get out (which is totally fine, btw). I was shivering as I swam, had received dozens of stings, and really felt like being warm and dry. I’d spent nearly 15 hours in the North Channel and felt like I’d proven my worth more than enough. I was at peace with quitting. I had nothing to prove.

Yet, I still couldn’t find the words, “I want to get out now.”

So, I did another warm feed, still questioning if I should keep going. I knew I was on the edge of hypothermia and exhaustion. Padraig came out and reassured me that they had my back- which I took to mean that I could swim myself silly and he or Milo would be happy to jump in and rescue me in a second if I needed it. It was oddly comforting.

About an hour later, with two rounds of warm feeds in me, Padraig poked his head out again, “Hey, your speed is back up! Whatever you did is working! Keep up the good work!”

And, somewhat shockingly, I realized, I DID feel better. I was still cold and tired, but I wasn’t shaking as much. My grumpy patch had faded and I was swimming relatively comfortably again.

Nope, I don’t kick.

And Ryan with the reassurance, again, “I know you don’t feel great, but you’re still swimming like 3 miles an hour. You’re really close to halfway back already.”

That seemed too good to be true, so I shot back, “Yeah, but the Sea giveth, and the Sea taketh away.” Just because I was flying high on a tide at the moment did not mean that I’d be flying with the current the entire way back to Scotland, though an 8 or 9 hour lap two sounded highly appealing, if entirely unrealistic.

I never get too upset or too excited on a swim- so while my crew was encouraging about speed and the time it would take to finish, I kept in mind that it could always change. Keep it neutral, is my motto.

So, when after an afternoon of plugging away consistently, seeing Scotland looming closer and closer, when the coast suddenly STOPPED getting closer, I wasn’t overly upset at the news from Padraig:

We were stuck in a current. I’d been there about an hour already and they were hopeful it would break soon, but they weren’t sure exactly when. But, once it broke, we’d be able to slip into Scotland no problem.

I spent the next hour trapped on a treadmill. I could tell I was so close to Scotland, but no amount of effort moved it any closer. So, I went on autopilot. The water had warmed up a touch and the sun came out, pushing the jellyfish lower in the water. For the first time in the entire swim, I was content. I knew we were going to make it. I was happy to just swim.

I spent 30 minutes, begging the ocean, in my head, with all my might, “Please break, please break, please break.”

And then Padraig was yelling: The tide broke! Swim into Scotland!

Coming in for landing!

The tide had changed, mostly, yet the final two miles were taking forever. Still, I could see progress. Yes, I was breaking all the rules and looking ahead every so often. I needed the reassurance. At a feed stop, I looked ahead and then up at Ryan and Jacqueline: The coast was SO CLOSE.

“Is this my last feed?”

Jacqueline grinned, “Yes, it’s your last one.”

And I put my face down and swam for shore. A few minutes later, I could feel the water pushing against me again.

“NOOOOO,” I screamed (in my head). So, I picked up my pace and started begging the ocean again, “Please let me through, please let me through.” What I thought would take half an hour took closer to an hour, yet, inch by inch, I arrived in Scotland.

At one point, I could tell the water was getting more and more shallow, though I was still fairly far off the coast. But, then, all of a sudden, I could see the bottom of a very sandy, friendly beach.

Anantya dropped back, leaving me to the final few hundred meters to shore. I swam in farther than I needed before dropping my feet to the ground, standing up for the first time in nearly a day.

Slowly, wobbly, I waded my way out of the North Channel.

Lap 1 had taken 10 hours and 4 minutes.

Lap 2 had taken 11 hours and 42 minutes.

Total time in the North Channel: 21 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds

And the first ever two-way North Channel was done.

I’m not gonna lie. The jellyfish stings after I got out were horrifically painful and I spent about 8 hours in a panic about how terrible my flight home the next day was going to be. However, after several scalding hot showers, some Claritin, some Pepcid, and some Benadryl, the burns and weeping were manageable. By the time my flight left the next day, I was somewhat itchy, but 99% comfortable. Truly, I’d take the stings over again for the chance to finish this swim.


With a few days and a few thousand miles between me and the North Channel, I can honestly look back and say: I am grateful for this swim and what it taught me.

I have spent nearly a decade being terrified of this this swim, that ocean, these jellyfish. And now, having put it behind me, I can truly appreciate the beauty.

I experienced all of the worst that Craig did- the stings, the cold, the currents. But, I also experienced the beauty that Caroline sees. The stunningly clear water, filled with living creatures. The striking landscape of both Northern Ireland and Scotland. The warmth and friendliness of the people. It is a special place and I understand why people want to swim it. And it’s a reminder to always respect the ocean.

Every marathon swim is a team effort, and this one felt even more so. I wasn’t convinced I had it in me to do this swim. I hadn’t even really thought about it until a week before we did it. I hadn’t packed enough CarboPro, so I had to lessen my feeds to make sure I had enough for a 24-hour swim. Seriously, if the swim had gone over 24 hours, it would have been cookies and M&Ms until the finish.

Yet, it seems everyone else around me believed in me, more than I believed in myself.

Since I announced I was going to the North Channel, the first question everyone has asked, “For a double?” I couldn’t even conceive of it.

Yet, sitting on a boat, with family and new friends, joking about something I hadn’t even dreamed of, it suddenly seemed possible and within my grasp.

“We love a good adventure,” Jacqueline had said.

And, then, when the weather wasn’t ideal, Padraig worked hard to think outside the box and create a swim plan from nothing, at the last minute.

In the blink of an eye, everything seemed to come together, for one special moment (eerr… one special day) in the North Irish Sea.

Swims like this take magic, and we certainly found our share of magic.

I should probably have started with my thanks, but here we are, the best for last.

To my new friends the Chunky Dunkers and Martin: Thanks for making the North Irish Sea as warm as humanly possible and letting me share a part of your history.

To Andrew and Ranu, my new Australian friends: Thanks for keeping me company and sane while we waited together. You’re both swim family now, whether you like it or not. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to share the water with you, Andrew, and to have had a chance to cheer you along.

To Cara and Ruth: Thank you for the cheers and songs and jellyfish guidance. I can’t remember which one of you assured me that the moon jellies I was seeing wouldn’t hurt me, but thank you for your calm in a moment of panic. I’m so glad you were both there.

To Milo: God bless your whistle and reassurance in the worst of the jellyfish.

To my momma, who begged her way onto the boat in such a persistent way I could never say no to: I love that you’re willing to be sick to come and help me achieve my goals. There is no better cheerleader on the planet and no one can give me an emotional boost the way you do. I’m so glad you want to be a part of these adventures, even if they require peeing in a bucket.

To Padraig: You are one of the finest pilots I’ve ever worked with (and there have been some good ones). It’s so much easier to swim knowing the person at the helm has everything under control and believes in you, too.

To Ryan, who puts up with FAR more than any man should have to, in the pursuit of my dreams and goals: Thank you for being by my side every step of the way. For letting me do another ice mile (when I’d said never again), all for the cold training. For driving me all over Colorado this last month to find cold water. For saying “yes” when I asked if he thought I could do it. For always knowing what I need and what to say to me during a swim to keep me going. For the warm feeds and the Advil when I don’t ask. For being nervous and scared and putting his fears aside to let me swim. I love you and know I couldn’t do this without you on the boat.

And, finally, to Jacqueline: No part of this swim would have ever happened without you. It was such a joy to meet you and to have you cheering and encouraging me every stroke of the way. I think this swim was more for you than for me in a lot of ways, so I hope I did you proud. It was an honor to swim with you and Infinity. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for this swim.

15 thoughts on “The North Channel”

  1. Congratulations Sarah – you are an absolute beast!!!! Your swim was just a few days before my first-time (successful – eeeee!) English Channel swim, and I cannot tell you how inspirational it was to watch you swim. You were a LOT of what I thought about during those last few crazy-making days waiting to know when I would swim, and if anything could calm me down, it was the thought of you. Of course, now you have me a bit worried – I too have NO North Channel aspirations 🙂


  2. What a legend of a human being you are – by words, deeds and obvious feelings for other human beings. Proud to share the oceans with you. Thank-you for this beautiful account.


  3. Sarah it was an absolute pleasure to meet you before our swim. Hope we took a few stingers for you on Thursday night to clear the way a little 😀😀 (we know it doesn’t work like that but a nice thought). Huge congratulations- one way was definitely enough for us).
    We are trying to complete the Seven as. Team of 3 so hopefully we might cross paths again.
    Best wishes and will watch your future swim with interest
    North Norfolk Crawlers or the 3 pink ladies as we have been newly named by the Donaghdee dunkers.


  4. What an amazing swim, Sarah! And such strong spirit. I absolutely love how human you make superhuman feats look, it’s so humbling. For someone who swims a lot in cold water, anybody would think you’d like it more but, hey ho, it’s actually pretty cool that you don’t care for cold water. Thank you for being so inspiring !


  5. I cozied up with my coffee and read your entire story. Definitely in tears by the end. What an accomplishment! Thank you for inspiring me to challenge myself, even when I don’t want to. I hope you never stop writing about your swims. It is so meaningful to share in your adventures (from the cozy comfort of my couch)! Thanks for being 100% YOU!


  6. Sarah, Wow what a remarkable journey. Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts and experiences with us as you swam this remarkable double. Reading this from your perspective was such a special thing. You are inspiring, talented and brave. I feel so humble to call you my teammate.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a great account of the swim Sarah and the challenges you faced. It’s reassuring to know you face the same doubts as the rest of us. Hearing you had made the turn for a 2-way created such a buzz on Dover beach and Emma incorporated that into the pre-swim briefing, that you were out there making history (again). Congratulations and thank you for the write-up. You inspire us all to push ourselves to achieve more than we think is possible X


  8. Coach! What a great write up! I laughed, I cried and I sat here in absolute awe of you. You’ve taught me so much this year as I prepare for my “big swim” in 3 weeks. Thank you! And thank you for sharing this epic swim. Cheers! 🙂 Windy Tuttle aka “the guppie of the group”


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