Welcome to Mallorca where some people come to relax and gaze at the sea while others beat their hearts out training to swim it. I’m on the southern tip of the island in a small hillside village overlooking the sea called Cala Figuera. This area has become the training grounds for countless World and Olympic champions and I’ve come here to help my friend Anna Wardley train for the three major swims she’ll be doing this summer; swimming around the islands of Jersey and Tiree, and the Isle of Wight. Anna is a bootstraps kind of an athlete. She took up swimming in her early thirties, decided to swim the English Channel, and she’s been making up challenges ever since. I first met Anna in Turkey five years ago when we were both swimming the Hellespont crossing from Europe to Asia. We became instant friends and I’ve been following her amazing achievements ever since. To date Anna has crossed the English Channel, competed at the World Ice Swimming Championships on the Finnish-Russian border, swam the Hellespont Race in Turkey, the 21-mile Double Windermere in the Lake District of English, and the Gibraltar Straits from Europe to Africa. Anna trains all year long at home in Gosport, the South of England but she also works as a freelance journalist for the BBC, and publicist for the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a charity which runs two specially equipped Tall Ships to accommodate disabled sailors. On top of all that she has raised over £40,000 for charity through her swim challenges.
I arrived here May 1st and the next day kayaked for her on a three hour swim, the day after that piloted a zodiac for her 12 hour training swim, the day after that for 8 hours, and the day after that we both got a massage from Sven, the famous German Masseuse.
Anna has her own open water style and you won’t find it in any training manual. But lest you think she takes these major challenges frivolously, think again. She’s a logistical genius, juggling schedules, equipment, and support crews with her day job as a journalist/publicist. There’s always a solid plan and a list which she sticks to very seriously until catastrophe strikes, and then its plan B tempered by her British good humor, grit and a lot of hard work. Once on the swim, she puts her head down, one arm in front of the other, and its serious swimming from beginning to end. She feeds every half hour and it’s not only energy bars and sports drinks, but solid food like pasta, fruit, pudding, English tea biscuits, Gummy-bear like candies called Percy Pigs and an occasional Red Bull (don’t tell anyone that I gave it to her). After the swim, in a shivering state, there’s no hot tub awaiting her, but instead it’s a slow warm up over many hours wrapped in layers of clothing and warm blankets.
In case you think that Anna is the only one here that has done some serious swimming you’re wrong. Kevin Murphy, King of the Channel is here helping to quailify English Channel hopefuls. Kevin holds numerous records including 34 English Channel crossings, 2 of them double crossings. Kevin’s advise on channel crossings is “just keep swimming until you get there”.
We all ask ourselves why people set out upon these monumental journeys. How do they overcome their fears and calm those voices that tell them to turn back or get in the boat? I asked Anna this question and she simply said, I don’t know – it’s an interesting life, filled with interesting people, beautiful places, it’s never boring and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. I wonder if it’s as simple as what George Mallory said about climbing Mt. Everest, because it’s there - or maybe their real purpose is to inspire us all to do a little more than we imagine we can do.
To read more about Anna’s swim challenges or follow her on Facebook or Twitter go to: www.AnnaWardley.com