To the unknown, Craig Frederiksen would seem like any ordinary 31 year old. In addition to his day-time job, he coaches the local high-school boys and girls swim teams. Craig is a former collegiate swimmer and is a recent U.S. Masters Swimming Open Water National Champion. On top of these accolades, this Moline, Illinois resident has his sights set on what is to be his biggest swimming challenge yet: to swim across the English Channel.
The English Channel is the body of water that separates southern England from northern France, and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The English Channel is approximately -19 nautical miles (38,000 yards) or 35 kilometers (35,000m). The tides are strong and change direction approximately every 6 hours and can flow up to 4 nautical miles per hour.
The Channel Swim
A significant factor in open-water swimming is ‘experience and habituation’. Most open-water swimming events are in cold (<18°C) water resulting in significant cold-induced stress. The human body needs to control its core body temperature within narrow limits to maintain normal function and survival. Maintaining core temperature is achieved through a balance of heat production (a by-product of energy production) and heat loss.
Water is 25-times more conductive than air leading to a 4-fold increase in heat loss for anybody immersed in it. In open cold water, heat production becomes essential in maintaining normal function. Put all these things together, include a large portion of mental tension, and you have one of the hardest swims in the world!
The 40,000 Yard Swim Workout
In order to help prepare, Craig swam nearly 23 miles (800 laps) at the Moline YMCA on a Saturday last month. That distance was well over twice as far as he had ever swum before.
The swim was broken into a 5,000 yard warmup, then 14 x 2,500s.
Craig trains with a focus on high volume workouts that regularly total 10k or more to increase aerobic capacity. Below is a typical 10k workout for Craig:
The challenge will come at the end of August — a 21-mile swim from England to France across the English Channel. Swimmers are required to hire a boat and captain in addition to bringing their own crew. Craig’s window to attempt the swim is Aug. 28 to Sept. 4.
Swimming the English Channel is considered to be the Mount Everest of Swimming. “The pilot will get a hold of me when there is a strong enough weather pattern to hold for an attempt. We’ll be launching from the white cliffs of Dover and going straight across to Cap Gris Nez.”
“train for the cold, and then lastly, you’ve got to be ready for the conditions,” Craig said. “You’ve got a lot of things working against you.”
Hypothermia, chaffing, and constant exposure to salt water are the biggest concerns in addition to the distance. Craig will apply lanolin, or sheep’s fat, all over his body to help protect his skin and provide some insulation to help retain some heat. “Swimming 40,000 was a huge confidence booster for me. The longest I had ever swum before that Saturday was 15,000 yards. I swam 40,000 yards in one shot. I really didn’t think I was capable of that.”
Making An Impact
Only one in five complete the swim. There have been nine fatalities of swimmers attempting to swim the channel since 1926. He hopes to complete the swim in under 12 hours, but just finishing is a major accomplishment.
Craig cites the support of his Maroon swimmers has been a big motivator. The Moline YMCA also started its own English Channel Swim Challenge to support him.
“They are 50 percent of my inspiration, to be honest,” Craig said of his swimmers. “I really want to do this to promote Moline swimming and raise awareness of our program. And, hopefully, generate more interest in the Moline Blue Marlins and the high school swimming program.”
The Two Rivers YMCA has created a group for those participating in the Swim With Craig – English Channel Swim Challenge. In this group, swimmers can swim their laps, track distance, and keep up with each other! All participants receive a t-shirt and are invited to participate in the awards & recognition program on August 4th, where Craig will be speaking about this experience.