10 (Awesome) Days in Dover: Revisited!

Posted: August 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

I promised I would start by recounting July 12th, 2018 on Shakespeare Beach in this post, but that’s proving to be somewhat difficult.  There’s way too much backstory, and nothing will make much sense until I can provide more details from 2016.  (and honestly, this is the funny part… so you won’t want to miss this!)

I first need to introduce my partner in crime… my sidekick…my wingman… Mr. Swimmer Extraordinaire… Curtis Vredenburg!!


Curtis is my best friend and teammate who shares my last name as his first name, so I guess it’s understandable that everyone we meet is super confused about our relationship. Most people see us and think that we could be married, but somehow we laugh way too much when we’re together, so then they’re left wondering what’s up.  Fact is, we travel extremely well together and fortunately our husbands don’t seem to mind.


Curtis is the one who got me into this whole mess to begin with, so it’s important that I explain a few things.  We met ages ago when our kids were in a little half-day preschool together.  I spotted Curtis (new dad) standing alone across the playground as I was busy trying to navigate my way through groups of chatty new moms talking about breast feeding.  People have a way of finding each other in this life, and so you could say that we found each other that day.

In fact, you could say we saved each other that day.  We’ve been best friends ever since.

One evening, somewhere in 2014, Curtis and I were discussing the impending approach of his 50th birthday over a very nice bottle of Bordeaux.  He said he wanted to do something BIG.  Several glasses of wine later (or was that bottles?) we landed on swimming the English Channel.  “Why not? That’s BIG!”  “No reason. Let’s do it!”

It was as simple as that. Curtis turned 50 the summer of 2016, so that was the year we needed to make this happen.

Long story short, we found Trent Grimsey.  A tall, handsome Australian swimmer who holds the world record for the fastest channel swim at 6 hours and 55 minutes, completed on September 8th, 2012. (unheard of, and still unbroken!!) Turns out, after a bit of research, Trent had a gig where he would take one relay team across the English Channel every year.  Not only that, but he would swim with the team. (Um… Epic!!)  And not only that, but the team would get 6 months of customized training drills from Trent leading up to the relay.  And, if that weren’t enough, he provides personal coaching in the Dover harbour whilst in England awaiting your swim.

Dream. Come. True.

Condensing an even longer story, Curtis and I both managed to get on Trent’s team. We got serious about our swimming, trained year-round in the chilly Puget Sound for the next 24 months, and finally made our way to London in July 2016.  We wandered around with our suitcases and decided to spend our first night in the very fancy neighbourhood of Chelsea (as one does).  We recovered from our jet lag by drinking wine for lunch, going shopping and eating in the finest restaurants. (in that order).


Whilst in Chelsea

The next morning, after eating a “Big English Breakfast”, we took the train to Dover and it was time to get down to business.  We met Trent on the beach for an evening swim before dinner.  This was our first introduction to the Dover Harbour.  “Crikey!”  Trent would say… “It’s COLD!”  We had a few laughs, met some other Channel swimmers on the beach, and Curtis and I tried to keep up with the legend himself.


Meeting Trent Grimsey at the Dover Harbour

Afterwards, over dinner, we decided we would meet every morning at 7am in the pissing rain for swim drills in the harbour. (whose idea was that??)  But it was time to get tough and get serious.  (BTW, no wetsuits allowed in Dover.  1 swimsuit, 1 cap, and 1 pair of goggles. That’s it.)  Leave a towel on the beach and hope that it’s not completely soaked by the time you’re done.  Okay, we’re ready for this!

However, that evening Trent got a call from our pilot, and the news was not good.  The weather forecast called for high winds and rain for the foreseeable future.

In fact, the forecast was so bad that our pilot could say with 100% certainty that no boats would be going out for the next 2-3 days, so we needed to find a way to entertain ourselves.

Okay.  Deep breath.

This was a “good news/bad news” situation for us.  On one hand, our 8-day window was ticking away, but on the other hand we had the luxury of time to relive our fun in Chelsea!

“Really??” you’re thinking, “That’s where you’re going with this story?”

Here’s the deal: we kept to our 7am swims drills every morning, but Curtis would often remind me with an elbow nudge that “a lovely French meal is only 21 miles away!”  So one night we popped over to France for dinner.  Yup, just popped over to France (as one does).


Dinner in France

On other days we roamed around Dover, got our nails done, went shopping, and cooked amazing lunches in our apartment, and then took leisurely afternoon naps.  Life was good.

One evening we got lucky and won a ton of money in a casino and then promptly met a bunch of new friends, including a homeless man and his dog.  That ended well for everyone, including the dog. (The butcher down the street got a handful of our casino winnings in exchange for a sack full of freshly cut dog bones.)

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We won big!

Some nights after dinner we would join our new mates for a pint or two at the local pub. (Okay, full disclosure… our new mates were the bartenders.)


Our new friends in Dover

On another night we cheered on a local channel swimmer who was singing songs he wrote in a quaint little venue.  By the way, update on Tony:  He just “smashed it”, as they say, and completed his solo swim across the Channel (just yesterday!) in 17 hours and 13 minutes.  Talk about a Rock Star!!!


Our new friend Tony

Fact is, Dover was growing on us.  We amused ourselves as the days ticked by, waiting for a break in the weather.

If you’ve already read my previous blog post, then you know how it all ended.  We swam the Channel at the tail end of our window, but not to France.  In the end, I would say that we both remained positive and upbeat, and we had a great experience swimming north and south in the Channel with Trent and our other teammates.


On the “Optimist” with pilot Paul Foreman

The White Cliffs of Dover are truly stunning when seen from the water at sunrise.  I have memories of the sun glistening off the rocky coast and lighting up the cliffs, as if they were on fire. The timeless beauty of the scene will take your breath away.

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Sunrise on the Channel

I remember leaning over the rail of the boat as Trent flashes us a smile from the water.  I capture that moment on camera.

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Trent Grimsey, enjoying life!

Our 10 days in Dover had been good to us.  Of course, the weather wasn’t what we had hoped for, and we definitely struggled with feelings of disappointment from time to time, but overall we were in good spirits.

The hardest day was the day I left Dover.  It was the day after our swim window closed.  I’d picked up a few pebbles from the harbour earlier in the day and put them in my pocket, and then my family and I boarded the ferry to France to make our way to Normandy.  While on the ferry I walked outside to look at the water.  It was the first beautiful, calm day I’d seen all week, and the water was like glass.

I reached for the small pebbles in my pocket and this was the first day I cried.  I mean really cried.  I realized that I had been playing the cheerleader role for 10 days, trying to keep the team positive, and it finally caught up with me.  This was my tough day.  I felt like diving in and swimming to France right off that ferry.

The disappointment of not making it to France would creep into my thoughts when I least expected it.  Unfinished business has a way of keeping you up at night.  My family and I had traveled to Normandy for a relaxing vacation, but after several nights of tossing and turning, I knew I had a decision to make.  Securing a boat and a pilot is typically 2 years out and time was wasting.

Often when trying to decide on something important, I use the Jeff Bezos method of decision making called “Regret Minimization”.  (you can Google it)

Simply ask yourself 2 questions:

“Will I regret doing it?” or “Will I regret not doing it?”

And there’s your answer.

I also had Warren Miller in my head: “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do!”  At this rate, I thought, I was looking down the road at being 2 years older, so I felt multiple pressures of time, aging and regret minimization.

The answer was clear.  I needed to make another go for France.  Not knowing where to start, I looked up Trent Grimesy’s pilot, Michael Oram with the CS&PF (Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation).  Trent set his world record with Mike, and I needed some good juju for my second attempt, so I decided that Mike was my juju.

That night, just less than a week after our Channel swim, I sent Mike an email inquiring about open slots for the 2018 season.  (I did not know yet if this was going to be a solo attempt or another relay, but my main goal was to reserve a boat.)

The good news is, I locked in dates securing a 9-day swim window on a Spring Tide, slot 1, from July 11-19th, 2018.

I was thrilled, but it was still 2 years away, which seemed like an eternity.

“What do I do now?” I asked.

“Train and Save” said Mike. “Train and Save.”


More to come…




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