The other night I went to see a talk by English Channel swimmer & record holder Penny Lee Dean, who also wrote the book, Open Water Swimming, which I have learned a lot from over the years.
Sadly, she has acquired both Fibormyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and now in her 50’s is moving around pretty slowly.
Nonetheless, the talk about her swimming career and the details about the English Channel swim were fascinating, and there’s a lot that can be learned from Penny.
She emphasized the mental training that it took to do what she did in setting the world record in the English channel. One of her mantras leading up to the race was, “The colder the water, the more comfortable I become.” Another was “Each time I move my arms, it relaxes them.”
She said she had 4 goals in swimming the Channel:
2) Break the MENS world record
3) Break 8 hours
4) Break 7 hours
She accomplished 1-3 and finished at 7:45.
There were so many challenges she had to overcome. This was 1978, and no one had any idea about how to do the nutrition for the swim. The current near the end of the race was pushing her back, so she was swimming in place for 20 minutes at one point!
One thing her crew did right was to count her strokes per minute. Her LOWEST stroke count was 89 strokes per minute!
After taking several questions from the audience, she demonstrated the freestyle pull (which was good, although, in my opinion people obsess too much about how to pull before they even learn how to rotate their hips, which is far more important!).
Overall it was a very interesting talk, and I wish her well with her battle to get back to a normal life and be able to swim again.