Channel challenge: Wallingford woman prepares to swim notorious crossing
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff writer | August 06,2014
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Bethany Bosch of Wallingford was at National Night Out in Rutland Tuesday evening raising money for White’s Pool and her upcoming English Channel crossing.
As a young girl, Bethany Bosch saw a movie about a person swimming the English Channel and thought, “I could do that.”
Bosch said it was a lofty ambition she’d never expected to realize, but it was never far from her mind. Next month, though, it may become a reality as the 29-year-old Wallingford woman is poised to make the attempt.
“When you get into the sport, there are other swims that other marathon swimmers consider more challenging, but this is the iconic one that everyone can relate to,” Bosch said.
Intrepid Athletics, a local nonprofit group dedicated to athletic events, is throwing a departure party for Bosch from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday at White’s Pool. The party will serve as a fundraising event for upgrades to the pool, which is due for repairs.
Bosch leaves for England Aug. 26, and will wait in Dover until tidal conditions are favorable, expected Sept. 1-6.
“You don’t get to go too far away from the shore,” she said. “It’s not a vacation.”
She said the Intrepid Athletics Facebook page will have a link to a tracker so people can follow her progress across the channel.
A straight line from Dover to the exit point at Cap Gris Nez in France is about 22.5 miles, but currents in the channel can make the trip much longer for a swimmer — a successful 1923 swim covered an estimated 56 miles. The fastest recorded time is 6 hours and 55 minutes. Bosch said her goal is to make the crossing in 15 hours.
“You just get into a groove and you keep going,” she said. “It’s very fun, very comfortable. Most of it is mental. You’re in sensory deprivation and you have to keep yourself good company. I sing. I think about all the people I love, people who’ve inspired me and their stories. ... You can’t let yourself think ‘I’m cold, I hurt,’ you just have to keep going.”
Bosch said she expects to burn roughly 1,000 calories an hour — she said people come out of the channel having lost weight during the swim — and the crew in the accompanying boat will give her a liquid feed mix every half hour to replace about 300 calories.
“They stop me every half hour, throw me the bottle,” she said. “It’s not a lot. Most of the energy comes from stores I already have. I’m just using that to keep from crashing.”
Her training regimen includes yoga and special shoulder exercises, but Bosch said she is doing most of her training in the water to avoid an injury on land. She has also been taking ice baths to acclimate herself to the cold.
The first recorded channel swim was in 1875. According to the website for the city of Dover, which appeared to have the most up-to-date listing, 1,426 swimmers have made 1,903 confirmed solo crossings. That is far fewer than the 5,656 successful climbs to the top of Mount Everest — as of 2012 — since the first recorded summit in 1953.
Despite her early ambitions, Bosch said she only came to marathon swimming recently. She was part of the Rutland Rec swim team as a kid, but was always slow and never thought she was any good.
She got back into swimming a few years ago, when a friend who was training for a triathalon wanted somebody to swim with. Soon she was swimming on her own.
“It became this thing,” she said. “I was wondering how far I could go. I was in the pool one day and I did 5½ miles. That was 400 laps. I said, ‘I really ought to be training for something.’”
She completed her first 8-mile swim in 2010, and has steadily built from there. She has already crossed a greater distance than the English Channel, swimming 25 miles across Lake Memphramagog in September.
“It’s a little bit longer than the channel, and it’s a freshwater swim so it’s a little tougher,” she said. “You don’t have the salt water helping keep you bouyant.”
In her fundraising efforts for White’s Pool, Bosch said she would ultimately like to see an indoor pool built that could house swimming programs year-round.
That goal could be a way off.
“Right now, there’s not a lot of talk or action going on as far as a new facility for rec,” said Alderman Thomas DePoy, vice chairman of the recreation committee.
Right now, DePoy said, the department is trying to do as much as it can with the recently acquired Courcelle building. He said they are still analyzing the space, trying to figure out the best uses. He said White’s Pool remains of great importance to the city.
“It’s well-documented, the trials, the tough goes we’ve had over the years,” he said. “It’s been a money pit for us, but the city doesn’t want to do away with the service it provides. ... It’s what we have and we’re still using it, for better or for worse.”
DePoy recalled that the long-defunct plan for a regional recreation center included an indoor pool.
“It was a great concept,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was something the city and this area couldn’t get together on. We’re at where we’re at right now.”
Even so, DePoy said if someone managed to fund an indoor pool — a cost he guessed would be in the low millions — the city would probably be happy to take on the operating costs.
Bosch said she saw raising money and awareness for White’s Pool as a worthy cause.
“I just think it’s one of the best things Rutland has to offer,” she said. “I swam there growing up and I love it, and I want to give back.”