Wednesday, July 16. 2008
Sorry for the delay in getting this up. Between my brain being fried and bad internet connections it took me a couple days. Today is Wednesday 7/16, but on SUNDAY JULY 13, 2008 I SWAM THE ENGLISH CHANNEL! ENGLAND TO FRANCE! 10hrs and 50minutes. Alright so now for all the details.
Last I wrote I was still waiting. I spent my last week leading up to the Channel Crossing swimming about an hour a day and watching DVDs and eating my face off with the rest of the time. I tried to swim in a pool one day but I had to get out because my toes literally felt like they were on fire! During the course of my last week I met some more cool people at the beach; Karah from San Francisco, Jeff from Colorado, Neil from San Fran, a team and solo swimmer from Iceland. Anyway on Saturday Ali gave me the green light that Sunday was the big day. I went to bed early, no problems sleeping and was up early ready for GAME DAY!
I got on Alison Steeter’s boat at around 6am. They still had some boat things to do before motoring off to Shakespeare Cliff to start so I went below and took a nap. They woke me up earlier than most swimmers because I am so pale and had to sunblock-up. My mother Dolores Dios her boyfriend Tom and my friend and goalie Kyle Davis were on the boat with me. Alison was my pilot and had her crew there too. Kyle took a funny photo of me (not posed) where I am jumping off the boat “Peter Pan” style. I swam up onto Shakespeare beach, took a knee, said a prayer and then got up to swim. They blew the horn and then I was in the water, not too quickly, I go slow even if I had just been in there. I took off swimming fast though, and almost crashed into the boat in record time. Everyone was screaming at me and I stopped a few feet from the back of the boat. I then moved to the right side of the boat and set off towards France.
The swim was amazing. The water is so clear. People always wonder what swimmers think about while swimming. Honestly, I prefer to zone out. The temperature was 61 when I started and got warmer the whole way across. When I swim I count my strokes between breathes. It is very rhythmical. 1, 2, 3, breath, 1, 2, 3, breath… etc. This occupies my main thoughts on something, then I just have to worry about that subconscious voice. I am a religious person. I went to High School at St. Benedicts in Newark, NJ. During the first half or so of the swim I was mostly thinking to myself how amazing the day was and to appreciate the perfection and beauty of God’s creations, and how lucky I was to be out in the middle of the Sea experiencing things that many people may never experience.
The day was great. The Sun shinned on my back all day long, the Sea was as flat as you could pray for and the water did not feel very cold. But the swim wears on. I did not wear a watch but I counted my feeds. When you are swimming your crew has to feed you so you have the strength to go on. When they decided, about every 20-30min, Kyle or my Mom would lie down on the side of the boat and reach down to me with a cup of warm Maxim. I would swim ahead of them, flip on my back, glide back – grab the cup, roll over and tread while drinking. Chris one of Ali’s crewman was great. If I took a second longer than he liked he was “Encouraging” me to continue. “This is Not a McDonalds!” “Quit Sight Seeing!” “SWIM!” But I did not take too long anyway. I didn’t want to stop. I was swimming with a steady stroke count the whole way, about 71 strokes per minute. In a pool that would take me over 75yds below 100yds, I have an ugly short non-rotating water polo style stroke. Kyle and Charlie from Kingsdown joked watching me once that if they didn’t know me they wouldn’t think that stroke would get me to France. As the day wore on my stroke stayed the same, strong all the way but I think I was pulling less water sometimes.
So I counted my feeds and put it in my head that the swim would take me like 16 or 18hrs even though I hoped that I was lying to myself. Eventually we hit the shipping lanes and that was cool. Ali timed it right and we didn’t have to stop but there were huge super tankers, cargo ships and all sorts of things. I got very excited seeing them because when I am back in New Jersey I watch them from my Mom and Grandmother’s porch. I kept saying that those boats were going to my house. Jeff from Colorado left a few minutes ahead of me and I was chasing him all day long. He was a very strong swimmer and unfortunately I heard he actually got held up by one of the tankers. Apparently Ali overheard the radio conversation and the Ship Captain was from Russia or Eastern Europe and have never heard of Channel Swimming and kept saying he saw the boat but no swimmer. I don’t think the stop hurt Jeff very much. He completed his swim in 10:30.
Another cool thing about the shipping lanes was there were these crazy seagulls. I think they must live off the ships. They also might of thought I was food because the kept buzzing me. They were flying what felt like just inches over me. They were lucking I was on a liquid diet because I probably could have used my polo legs to pop up and grab one of them! They might mess with some people making them think they are closer to shore than they actually are, but I had a good idea where I was so it was nice to have the company. I had some other company that nobody, Thank God, told me about. A SHARK! Apparently there was a big ‘ole 15ft shark swimming out in front of our boat. The crew reassured Mom and everyone that I had nothing to worry about because he, “Only ate the little beasties” aka “fish” I’m glad nobody told me because I would have been worried.
About 5 or 6 hours into the swim my left leg started hurting. My hamstring or something in the back of my knee hurt on every kick. So I stopped really kicking with my left leg after a while. My shoulders took turns hurting. I threw up a little in my mouth about 3 times while swimming, my back hurt, my hands got sore. I never said anything or complained though. I just drove on. If you stop to complain it just makes the thing that is bothering you worse, it gets in your mind and you need to stay mentally strong. When the swim got worse I started thinking about Jesus, John F. Kennedy and Alvar Nunez Cabaza de Vaca. Cabaza de Vaca was a Spanish Sailor who ship wrecked with his crew in Florida and walked all the way back to New Mexico and then Mexico city back in the 1500s or so. Hs crew was him and three others after the wreck. When things got bad for him he reassured himself that Jesus’ suffering on the cross was much worse. JFK swam 16 miles in the Pacific dragging a friend with his teeth! I always thought that Jesus is God, so he could have gotten off the cross whenever he wanted but he chose to stay on there. I imagine that the pain and fear all of those men felt was infinitely worse than the little bit of discomfort that I felt. So I’d put my head down and drive on.
I had Alison Streeter, the Queen of the Channel taking me across with the best crew anyone could hope for. I had nothing to fear or worry about. Kyle said I got less witty as things wore on. One time, Kyle tried to tell me how France was getting closer. I was not letting myself look or think about France. I told him, “That’s a … that’s a … Visual… a visual lie!” then Ali was like, “An Optical Illusion?” and I was like “Yes! That’s why you’re the Queen!” then put my face back in the water and kept on swimming.
Eventually I got really close to France, obviously, and then during a feed Ali was like this might be your last feed. I was thinking, great, am I close or is she going to make me swim the last hour or so with no food. I had myself at 11:30 in my head when it was actually probably like 10:30 or something. I kept on swimming then the boat was yelling at me again. I looked up and Kyle was in the water next to me wearing his American Flag cap just like mine. I started to think, great, I have miles to go and I am slowing down so much I need a pacer, then Kyle told me to look up and I could see people on the beach in France! My Mom and Tom took out my Grandfather’s (John Dios) flag. My Grandmother (Marcela) told me to take it with me when I told her I wanted to bring a flag. Earlier in the week I had been swimming with Karah from San Fran. One day she wore an American cap like me, the next she wore a yellow one. She said she thought the yellow was warmer. I told her, “These Stars and Stripes keep me warm.” When I saw Kyle and those Stars and Stripes flying off the boat I warmed right up, I had gotten colder as the swim wore on even though the temps were going up, and everything that hurt stopped hurting. Kyle and I swam hard the last couple hundred meters to France. There were waves and sandy beaches. I tried to body surf in. When we hit the beach I got up and took off running. I was so excited I had done it! Kyle got up and ran with me. We were sprinting across the shores of France. He was like, “How are you running right now?” I answered, “We only have ten minutes I want to see something French come on!” We ran off the beach and found a bridge. I stood on the bridge and was happy to stand on something the French built in France after swimming there. We ran back to the boat, then I was like, “Oh man, I have to swim back out to the boat!” That might have been the worst part of the whole ordeal. I got back in, and swam out. I had done it.
On the boat I started to feel bad. The salt water messed with my throat and I was having a little trouble breathing. I threw up a couple times, although I didn’t have much to throw up. I went below and went to sleep for the ride home. When we got back to Dover I felt fine. I went and took my first hot shower in ages then we went out to the Pub. We went to the White Horse, a local place where Channel Swimmers can write their name on the wall. I signed the ceiling above the door next to two of my good friends and mentors, Tim Lawrence and Matt Johnson, both US Air Force Academy graduates. Tim is in Afghanistan right now. He actually called during my swim from there. I forgot to mention that. That was a huge motivation to know he called from overseas to check on me! I yelled from the water that I had been thinking about him and my Academy roommate Ryan Tate who is in Iraq right now. Tim and Ryan really helped keep me warm while I was swimming cause I kept thinking about how hot they must be.
So I wrote on the ceiling:
Matthew James Dios Price
E-F Con Dios
Go Army Water Polo
The beat Air Force was a joke for my Air Force friends.
Ali came to the pub and had a drink with us. I skipped the beer and had a couple Vodkas on the rocks. I needed a strong drink after everything.
Thank you so much to Alison, Freda and Neil Streeter and everyone else in Dover who has been so supportive and wonderful to me. To my Mother who always believed in me and gave me my love of the water and supports all my crazy endeavors. And my brothers who I wish could have been with me. To Kyle for helping me train and rest, to Tom for being there and taking all the time to come over too, to my boat crew, to Tim, Matt and Karen Reeder my Air Force mentors. Karen is the one who lets me post on this site, she can actually go correct my Go Army, because she is faster than me and she was a big help in my success too. To all of you who are huge parts of my life who have been supporting me and following me through all this. We all have more to do though. I have more events to complete this summer, and more money to raise for the fight against cancer. Thank you all so much though for helping me accomplish my dream.
I am in Sennen Cove, UK near Lands End right now. I will be going for a run today to start getting ready for the Ironman. I can’t wait to get back to the US and see you all soon.
Thanks again. If I forgot something or you want to know more, let me know
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry