Last week the video crew here at Simply Swim got the chance to catch up with Sean Conway's "Swimming Britain" team to find out how his epic journey is shaping up.
They had this to say...
Its great to see them pulling together and finding a routine that seems to be working for them. They've since arrived in Ireland, which seems like a great accomplishment in itself when you consider the early struggles of poor weather conditions and seasickness.
The human guinea pig (sean conway) is battling with the expected struggles of maintaining energy levels and a healthy weight. However thats not all he's had to contend with. A recent increase in Jelly Fish swarmed his path in the Irish sea, presenting another difficult challenge that he had to overcome. We're unsure on whether or not he made it through unscathed or not, but one thing we do know is it will take a lot more than a brood of jelly fish to deter this man!
Hi. I'm Sean Conway. I'm currently a month in to the Speedo Swimming
How's the journey going? It's going a lot better now than it did at the
beginning. It's great. We've finally fallen into a bit of a routine with
the crew and I. The first few days were really tough. Obviously, I hadn't
swum any distances like I've done in the last 3 weeks, so my shoulders are
really sore at the beginning, the weather was awful on the first week, the
support boat couldn't get near me because the waves were too big. As you
know, the weather's been amazing for 3 weeks, so someone up there's looking
after me and giving me some calm weather. At the moment, things are looking
Funny story; there's loads of funny stories. The first one being all the
crew except Jez, the skipper, got seasick within half an
hour of Day-1. Even though I put on the interview questionnaire 'Do you
suffer from seasickness?' they assured me they didn't, but to be honest,
even I was sick in the beginning. There was a point where M was in a
bucket, I was throwing up overboard, Owen was on deck somewhere, and we
actually made only 1 mile progress that day. It was quite funny now looking
back, but at the time, we felt awful.
Couple other things: The first time we saw dolphins it was a bit of a scare
because we didn't really know what these fins were shooting through the
waves. That was quite funny. Those are the 2 that stick out, but there's
been a few others and more to come, hopefully.
The hardest part has definitely been the first 2 days; getting around from
Land's End to probably all the way to Sinai were two or 3 days where the
waves were just not in our favor. The support boat couldn't get near us. It
was just myself and M in the kayak by ourselves for hours on end. Still
hadn't quite worked out the nutrition and all that, so was struggling
nutritionally. Also, I was in the last week of planning a big expedition,
there's so much going on; you're trying to do all your paperwork at home.
When you're leaving home for a good 3 months, you've got to make sure your
gas bill's all sorted in advance and your rent's sorted in advance, so you
don't generally get that much sleep in the lead-up to a big adventure. I
was just really tired, really fatigued, even before I started. The first
few days were quite tough.
Also, we're finding our feet. I was finding my feet in the water, the crew
are finding out how things like at sea and trying to overcome seasickness.
Those first few days . . . there's a notorious day called Lighthouse Day,
which was I think in Day-2 or 3, where we eventually . . . I had to beach
myself on big cliffs because I couldn't get around the headland because the
tide had changed and there were no beaches. I had to scramble up rocks and
everything. That was quite tough, but it's been a lot better now.
Typical daily routine; it's very tidal-dependent. At the moment, I've been
getting two tides; I get an early morning tide and a late evening tide. I
get woken up by the crew about 40 minutes before I'm in the water. I'm in
bed; I have a My Protein shake with carbon protein to recover. I then put
all my kit on, which is quite a long process because my Speedo wetsuit's
really perfectly well-fitted and it takes a while to get it on. Sometimes,
it's quite wet from the night before, so that even takes a bit longer. Once
it's on, it's super-snug. Then in the water. I've probably swim for about
1 1/2 hours to 2 hours at a go, then I need to stop and feed; eat and have
loads of calories. I try and have about 1,500 calories every time I eat,
and then back in the water. Do that for 6 hours at 3 sessions, probably
with a good tide.
After that, I have to break because the tide's then going against me and I
go backwards. This is when the adventure side is coming out, because
generally I'm we're in a place like this, we can anchor up our boat in the
background and we can go exploring. It's been brilliant because we've
explored shipwrecks and beach where you can only get to from the sea. It's
amazing to see Britain from the coastline point of view. Even parts of
Cornwall; you think of Cornwall as being really quite populated in loads of
places. We didn't see people for days on end because we were at sea, going
ashore, and catching fish and cooking it on the beach. It's been amazing.
Then obviously, this tide's back in my favor, usually in early evening at
the moment, but obviously that shifts. Then back in the water and repeat it
again for another good 6 hours. Trying to do about 10 hours in the water at
Then in the evening, if we can anchor up and come ashore, we do that. If we
can't, we stay on the boat, and then do the same thing the next day. I try
and have a rest day every . . . one rest day a week, at the moment. Didn't
have any for the first 2 weeks, then had a few days off. Got a few days off
here in Wales before the next big crossing.
What am I thinking of while I'm swimming? Usually, about when my next meal
is going to be. I try and switch my brain off, to be honest, and try . . .
if I'm thinking too much, it just takes forever. I like exploring. I
generally at the moment breathe to my right only, which is not great for my
style, but it means I can look at the land at least and explore the
coastline. I'm thinking about food a lot because I need to keep warm.
Thinking about the next place I'm going to stop at. The crew and I have
designed some cool routes to stop at some cool places on the coast. Looking
forward to that and just trying to get the miles down, to be honest. I try
and listen to music when I can, and that does help me switch off a bit and
keep swimming; makes the days go shorter anyway.
The hardest part with every day is just getting in the water in the
morning, because it's so cold. I'm still not used to it. All the swimming
crowd are really giving me grief because I'm cold in a wetsuit and they're
out there just was their small Speedos on. Just trying to not mention the
word cold; we've banned the word 'cold' on the boat. We're not allowed to
talk about it. If it wasn't cold . . . that's the thing that really gets me
at the moment; it's just the coldness. I'm getting better at it. I'm either
acclimatizing or actually it's getting a bit warmer anyway. I just try and
focus and zone-in, which is quite hard. That first moment, I always lose my
breath a bit. Then I do about 100 meters really fast, get warmed up, and
then it's fine. Just that first moment, this is quite a few photos that the
crew take of me just sitting there trying to go, "Oh, no. It's so cold,"
I'll get over the cold soon. I've better because Scotland is going to be
way colder than this, so I need to man-up a little bit, I think.
Physically; I've never done a sport that's so physically demanding.
Obviously, the last big adventure I did was cycling-based. With cycling, at
least you got the down hills to recover a little bit, have some water, that
sort of thing. It's a whole new different challenge, this. Burning a lot
more calories than I thought I would be; having to eat a lot more
frequently and a lot more protein in my diet just to build the muscles.
Keeping on top of my diet is the thing that helps the most, trying to cope.
A lot more stretching; need to do that a lot more. I think it's just the
eating, the diet thing, is the thing that I probably slacked a bit in the
lead-up. I really needed to focus on that a little bit more.
I'm getting stronger. The first few days are hard, but my shoulders are
strengthening up. I've lost pretty much as most of the weight I can lose.
I'm down to the thinnest healthiest I can be. If I lose any more weight
now, I'm going to start losing muscle mass, and I don't want to do that. I
think I just need to eat more. Just burning so many calories, 700 calories
an hour as opposed to, I think I was only burning 300 or 400 when I was
cycling. Still little early days. It's still 3 weeks in so I'll no doubt
have a different answer in a month's time. At the moment, it's just mainly
nutrition. With the help of Stowaway Foods and My Protein, that's
definitely helping me.
The support from companies, brands, the general public, and the charity
have being amazing. War Child have been brilliant; they showed me a lot of
love. That's great to help raise money for people in Central African
Republic. Speedo have been brilliant, as well. They've got a really cool
little page on the website which actually documents my route, which is
quite . . . there's loads of content on it, and that's a great. I got the
Speedo wetsuits are amazing, as well. You guys at Simply Swim, being super,
super-great with helping me, coming in doing some filming, and supporting
me in the crew with kit, which has been great. My Protein and Stowaway for
our nutrition; without them, I'd be a lot thinner right now. Just the
general public on Twitter and Facebook's been brilliant; getting messages
every 5 minutes and people showing their support. A few people saying,
"After seeing your swim, I want to do the Channel," which is brilliant.
That spurs me on. It's been great.
The great British public, generally on route, have been brilliant. The crew
and I've been offered free accommodation, meals, people have helped us go
and get fuel, petrol, and food when we come to shore. It's turning into a
great social adventure, which is what I wanted it to be in the first place.
The kit from Simply Swim that's helped me the most are the fins. I'm using
fins when the tides are against me. There's been some places, especially
when you cross some big eddies, the tide swaps, changes direction and I
wouldn't make any progress. The problem with the fins is it kills my legs,
though. It's quite tough, so I've had to strengthen my legs a bit and that
sort of thing. The thermal kit I'm wearing under my wetsuit has really
helped me with the cold; wearing a hood, keeping your head warm; that's
really helped. Gloves, actually, because quite sometimes, there's so many
jellyfish, I don't want to get stung or anything.
I actually pulled my tricep a few days ago. When I took a stroke, I put my
hand on a massive jellyfish. My knee-jerk reaction pulled back, and I
pulled my tricep. That was halfway across the Bristol Channel so I couldn't
rest or anything, so I was dropping my shoulder and swimming in circles.
The crew were getting really annoyed because with 4 strokes, I was heading
off in a completely wrong direction. It's been really useful having that
kit onboard. Hopefully, it's not going to get too much colder, otherwise I
might need more thermals.
The next part of the journey. Actually as of today, it was a very off-the-
key decision. We were sitting in the pub with the crew having a bit of
downtime and we were scrolling on the map. Just the corner of Island came
into view, and we're like, "That can't be Island. It's not that close," We
zoomed out, and we just didn't realize how close Island actually was. The
original plan was to go up Wales, cross to Isle of Man, up to Scotland, and
then across the [inaudible: 12:18], which would've been 3 big crossings.
We've had such good weather, that we've decided to instead of do those 3 do
one bigger crossing to Island. Then it cuts out the other crossings because
we can't rely on having good weather for the next month. If we get stuck at
the beginning of a crossing with bad weather, we could wait a week or more.
While we've got good weather like this, we're going to do a big crossing to
Island, which is going to be a whole new chapter to the adventure. Very
last-minute decision, but that's part of the adventure, is having a bit of
fun and exploring new places. The crew and I are really excited about
exploring the east coast of Island, getting all the way up to above
Belfast, and then cutting in to Scotland from there. It also probably saves
us a week. Hopefully, I can get to Scotland before the water gets too cold.