Cambridgeshire based calendar sales agent Steve Lake has more than a little resting to do this week, after undertaking a huge challenge on 1st September in aid of the Special Baby Care Unit at Addenbrookes Hospital near Cambridge.
Returning from a family trip to the Isle of Wight three years ago, his son asked him if he thought it would be possible to swim from the island to the mainland. This sowed a seed in Steve’s mind, and liking a challenge he decided to give open water, long distance swimming a go.
Training in the local river his first challenge was a swim from Portsmouth to Ryde in September 2014, completed in 2 hours by swimming breast stroke. Having enjoyed this he began to wonder what else he could do, and he considered the idea of swimming the English Channel for the following six months. At first he could not get his head around the distance of at least 21 miles, and the amount of time he would have to swim for. This could extend to over 16 hours of swimming and is mightily daunting to the most experienced of swimmers. The biggest challenge however was the stroke – at this point he could not swim front crawl, and he knew if he was to cross the channel, this would be an absolute necessity. Liking a challenge, Steve set about learning front crawl, and he trained, trained, and trained some more, signing up to swim the channel in February this year.
Steve set out from the UK coastline last week on 1st September and here at Rose Calendars we tracked Steve on his attempt by plotting his course on a special website designed for this purpose. We knew the challenge was tough and so we were gutted to learn today that unfortunately Steve did not make it the whole way across to France. What he has achieved however, is altogether much move moving, and we totally admire him for his attempt.
Steve swam for 7 ½ hours and covered a distance of 6 miles. Conditions were tough. As can only be expected, he is really disappointed. Having trained hard for 18 months, he thought he had it covered. Battles were lost in the lumpy sea with wind against the tide as he progressed into open water (even though his pilot Simon described conditions as good for the channel). Vomiting frequently, he struggled to take on more fuel quickly enough and became utterly exhausted. He is most disappointed about knowing that 80% of the challenge was mental, and 20% was the swimming. Having thought he had the resolve to push through as he has done in other challenges, he was left wanting and no matter what he tried, Steve couldn’t get the negativity out of his head as he ploughed on through the waves.
He’d asked not to be told how far he’d got, but at 6 hours he had to know. To find out he was barely 6 miles from Dover as the crow flies (albeit the tide had taken him in an elongated curve) was a killer in his mind, knowing that in training he was achieving 9 miles in the same time. In the next hour and a half he did the maths and realised he would be looking at a 21 hour swim (maybe more as the wind was getting up). 10 of those hours would have been in the dark. Already feeling cold, despite his wet-suit, the negativity tightened its grip and he found he couldn’t think of anything positive for more than a few seconds. His stroke rate dropped. The irony was that his shoulders, whilst inevitably aching, were not a problem, but his mind was, and a few more ill-timed waves and consequent mouthfuls of sea water put the writing on the wall. After 7 ½ grueling hours he was only a third of the way across and seeing tankers heading south far ahead of him, told him he was still in the English shipping lane with quite some distance to go to the half way point.
As he boarded the support boat, he was greeted by his team, including 2 of his sons. Emotions were high, and the words spoken at that point will remain with Steve for a long time to come. He was impressed by his 13 year old son’s maturity and consolation and formed a very special bond at that moment. He will take this life experience with him and feel the benefits of this perhaps more than if he had completed the distance, feeling gratitude, love and exhaustion.
Since returning home, his son has frequently joked as to which CHANNEL he’d like to watch on the TV and other such gestures, which has kept Steve’s spirits up. On reflecting on the attempt he tells us that out of the 6 boats which attempted the crossing, 3 turned back. Demonstrating that less than half of solo attempts are successful.
Rose Calendars has sponsored Steve and he is delighted that through the generosity of his supporters, he has raised over £4100 for his chosen cause. He’s had many congratulations and messages of support in praise of his honesty and integrity. He feels that he has set his children an example not to be afraid of failure and is overwhelmed by the support, love and consolation he has received. The outcome of his attempt is surely a positive one, and something he should be very, very proud of.
This was what Steve said today:
If there’s a lesson to come out of this, a learning point I hope my kids may take from, (admittedly not my original one) – that of tenacity and triumph in adversity, instead, perhaps it can be a lesson to not fear failure. I set out to swim the channel and I failed in that objective, but that I set out at all has merit.
A friend of mine, far more eloquent than me, wrote in his blog today – “I love failure, you should love failure. We should embrace failure as our biggest opportunity to grow, not as the biggest threat to our self-worth. At the end of the day, those who don’t try, can’t fail. And the brave will try, fail, learn, grow and try again”
Well done Steve