Life For A Child Button 2

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dive In!

At 2 am, take a dive into cold open water, full of jelly fish, debris, and heavy ship traffic.   Plan to swim a relay with a team of 6 people, and anticipate the entire event to take somewhere between 12 - 15 hours.  Weather and tide conditions will be unveiled along the journey, and the risk for hypothermia is very high.  You will not be permitted to wear anything that offers thermal or buoyancy protection. You might get seasick while out of the water, but a very precise nutrition plan will be in place, and you'll need to adhere to it regardless of how your stomach is feeling.  You cannot be assisted by another person or flotation device at any point while you're in the water, and an observer will be watching closely to make sure that all rules are followed to a T.

Now do all of that with Type 1 Diabetes.

On July 21, 2011 a 6 member relay team set off to cross the English Channel.  Three team members live with Type 1 Diabetes, and were sporting their Animas Vibe insulin pumps.  The team saw victory in 13 hours and 26 minutes!

I am honored to share this first person account from the team's Captain, Mark Blewitt.


The Animas Channel Swim team of Matt Cox, Claire Duncan and myself, with type 1 diabetes plus Lorcan, Pawel and Boris started when we met up in the marina car park in the early hours of Thursday morning. It was a hive of activity and our specialist diabetes nurse, Vreni was there ready to accompany us on our challenge to cross the channel. Family and friends - Lucy, Deborah and Emma from Animas came down to see us off and the photographer was dispatched to record events for posterity. 

Description: Claire Duncan.MG4We started the swim just before 2am. It was dark and we needed two strong, experienced swimmers to lead us out to a good start. So out of the harbour, in the black of night, I was swimming first. I slipped into the inky sea with the aid of a “million candle” spotlight on the beach at Samphire Hoe, off we went. We learnt that seven escort boats were out at the same time meaning a busy day in the Channel. All had chosen our same start location with the hope of finishing at the Cap Gris Nez.

Once back on board after my opening stint, I managed to get a couple of hours sleep, whilst Lorcan and Pawel swam. Happily I woke up just in time to see Claire get into the water.  Claire looked very relaxed and had lovely effortless strokes - making good progress. Next into the water came Matt.  Matt was swimming breaststroke and the team were all in awe simply because as freestyle swimmers we all appreciate that swimming breaststroke is slower, colder and hence harder in open water.  At this point it should be noted that Matt’s namesake, Captain Matthew Webb swam breaststroke back in 1875 when he became the first person ever to swim the channel.  Little did Webb realize what he would be starting.

In between our turns in the water, we followed the team’s progress on the real time satellite maps, sending the Animas team on shore text, picture and location updates as often as possible.  We were making good progress and for a long while there was much speculation about whether we would finish in under twelve hours. 
During the course of the swim, the team on board the boat avidly listened to Claire and Vreni discuss diabetes management.  The non-type 1 members of the team know that channel swimming requires a fine balance between expending energy and intake of food whilst swimming.  The other team members showed their admiration that our metabolic condition does not stop us completing such challenges and competing in demanding sporting activities.

Matt was showing off his waterproof, real time Continuous Glucose Monitoring enabled, Animas Vibe pump, while Vreni lead a good discussion about what BGs actually are whilst Lorcan made good work of his second swim. We later had some unexpected excitement when Pawel came close to a very large, NYK container ship! Claire’s second swim was as relaxed as her first and Matt too executed a glide that Captain Webb himself would have been proud of.  As I prepared for my final spell in the water I knew this was the time to give it everything.
We arrived at Cap Gris Nez in 13hrs 26mins, a fantastic result! We’d done it!  We popped open a well earned bottle of champagne to celebrate and enjoyed a leisurely cruise back to Dover. 

We had a great time in the channel.  Thanks to Eddy Spelling and the Anastasia support boat crew.  Thanks to Jill our observer, Nick Adams and Kevin Murphy, Secretary of the Channel Swimming and Piloting federation (CSPF) for his patience in allowing us to make changes to the team at a late stage.  

I have had the pleasure of several relay swims over the years but I can honestly say this was one of the happiest I have been on.


You are an inspiration and an incredible example that 
life with Type 1 doesn't have any limits!

Follow Me on Pinterest


  1. NOW THAT = AWESOME! Thank you for sharing. I have the perfect post for tomorrow now. Thank you for the idea Wendy!

  2. Very cool! Love to see inspiring stories of people living with D without limits! :)

  3. what an amazing story! thank you for sharing the inspiration!

  4. Great interview - thanks for posting! Heard about this swim and was wondering how it went. Very cool to hear a first-hand account!


Candy Comment Love!

P.S. (Moderation has been enabled due to mega-spamming sugar cubes.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Life For A Child Button 2
While I'm happy to share our experiences with what works, and what doesn't work, for the management of Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease in our house, please do not mistake anything you read here for medical advice. Decisions regarding your/your child's health care should be made only with the assistance of your medical care team. Use any information from this blog at your own risk.