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Chat: Chloe McCardel

Monday, August 8, 2011

Interviewer: Chloe, thank you for talking to us tonight, in our live online chat room.

Chloe McCardel: Thank you for having me, I’m looking forward to the questions.

Interviewer: Now we will go to the questions from our guests.

SplishSlash asks: Can you tell us when you started swimming seriously and when you started to think about channel swims?

Chloe McCardel: I started competitive swimming at 12 years but marathon swimming at about 22 years when i swam a 11km race and I really enjoyed the swim, I was the first female home. I'd heard of the English Channel and thought I should have a go at doing it. That was in 2007

Jeff asks: When is the best time to attempt the swim?

Chloe McCardel: The best time is in the English summer or early Autumn, so that's early June to mid-September.

Mark asks: What training and how long should they be training for before attempting the swim?

Chloe McCardel: Most people attempt a single crossing and you would probably want to swim 25kms a week for at least 8 to 12 months to increase your swimming volume. You also need to swim in cold water in the months leading up to the English Channel, and most people need to put on a little bit of body fat to keep warm. A few 6 hour cold water swims are also very beneficial.

Nick asks: What hazards are there when attempting to swim the channel?

Chloe McCardel: There is the cold water which can induce hypothermia. Also objects floating that have fallen off shipping containers as the Channel is a big shipping passsageway. Jellyfish and sometimes the boat can roll on top of you and you could dislocate your shoulder. That actually happened to Des Renford.

John asks: What nutrition do you need to have during the swim?

Chloe McCardel: Nutrition is really important to me I have a combination of carbohydrates and substance called Siberian Red which helps with my endurance and oxygen levels. This keeps me swimming at my best.

swimfan asks: What is the fat that you put on your body - is that sheep's fat? Do you think it really does keep you warm or not?

Chloe McCardel: Yes it is wools fat called lanolin and it also has bio effectives which is a natural substance and Vaseline. This helps keep me warm and helps in a small way with floatation and reduces bather rub or friction.

peasron asks: I must say, what an achievement! I’m wondering did you receive any financial support from anyone for your swim costs?

Chloe McCardel: Yes, I have been very lucky to have a few sponsors to assist with my costs this year, but I wish to have another attempt later this year and I am eagerly looking for a major sponsor to help with the large associated costs of the next attempt.

JaeF asks: Hi can you please tell us what drives you to push yourself so hard? Your motivation is incredible and inspiring

Chloe McCardel: Thank you very much for your comment. I am driven to try challenging goals and I want to be a role model to others who have dreams as well and who are looking for inspiration in their own journey.

MattRabbitt asks: Have you ever seen a shark whilst trying to cross the channel?

Chloe McCardel: No I haven't! The channel is too cold for sharks they like warmer waters. There are lot of jellyfish I have to dodge, and some of them are the ones that sting.

swimfan asks: Was that the first time you saw the story? You said you didn't remember anything so was that the first time you saw it, or had you seen the footage before??

Chloe McCardel: I love the question! I have memory loss from about hour 15 of the swim for 5 hours afterwards, until I arrived in hospital and I said to my husband "why are we in hospital? Are you sick? Am I sick?" I hadn't seen the footage so I was very eager to watch it tonight.

Chris asks: Was it hard to find people to swim long distances with you when you were only 22?

Chloe McCardel: Well, there aren't many people that do long distance swimming in Australia so I don't have many buddies to train with over long distance in the open water. When I go to England every year there are lots of crazy people like me swimming up and down Dover Harbour so I never get lonely during my training for the Channel swims.

siouxz asks: The channel is 'the' marathon swim - are there any similar but in warmer waters?

Chloe McCardel: No, I can't think of a similar swim that is so well respected and so difficult from International levels, when compared to the English Channel.

RocketSalad asks: Has anyone ever swam 4 laps?

Chloe McCardel: LOL !! No, nobody has but I am sure someone will do that some day and when I do 3 laps I'll definitely consider turning around for the 4th. That's if my husband doesn't stop me of course. I say that because being on the support boat is nearly as hard as doing the swim so I would have to ask my husband if he'd be prepared to stay on for another 15 or 20 hours longer than it would take to do the triple.

dmgrant asks: Hi, Inspiring effort. Did you have some form of medical professional on board for your swim?

Chloe McCardel: Yes, I have a team at Solagran and they have a bio-chemist named Dr Soultanov who has worked very closely with me on my pre-swim, such as nutrition and diet and also on my event day nutrition which we call "feeds" whilst swimming the Channel. My performance this year was much quicker than previous years and I attribute that in a large way towards my nutrition.

Christian asks: What did you find the hardest thing about the swim mentally?

Chloe McCardel: I didn't find it mentally tough. I was really relaxed, happy, focused and I swam very easily the whole way up until my memory started to fade at about hour 15. It wasn't a mental struggle, it's just that I don't remember what happened.

kiwiclimber asks: Hi is there any mental training you can do to increase your confidence. How much does your mental strength play in the swims?

Chloe McCardel: Firstly there isn't any specific mental training you can do but doing cold water swims for 6 hours or more is very challenging for your body because it's so cold your mind has to become strong and has to become determined to complete your training swims. Your body wants to get out of the water and your mind has to say no. That's kind of the way to do mental training. When things are tough in the English Channel, e.g if the tide turns against you and you're being swept away from land it can be very demoralising as you can be swimming on the spot for hours on end. That's when most people fail the single crossings when they are only 1km or 2km from touching French shore. It can be very hard when your muscles are in pain or if you vomit or your body gets cold or your feet aren't going too well. That's when your mental toughness has to kick in and you rely on your support crew more.

missjackiech asks: As someone trying to acclimatise to cold water myself (in the UK) did you find you needed to put weight on/gain body fat to help with this?

Chloe McCardel: Yes, I gained 7kg this year. A bit of body fat is important but what is more important is cold water acclimatisation which you can only get from swimming in cold water for long periods. Make sure you focus on doing at least 3 or 4 6hr swims before you do your marathon.

RocketSalad asks: What was more important....starting your swim to have max daylight or to work with the best tides?

Chloe McCardel: Working with the best tides which means the lowest tides, is definitely the most important. We booked our Channel swim time a long time in advance so we could get the lowest tide or one of the lowest tides in the season. Even though the Channel is only 34kms in a straight line, if you swim it on a medium to high tide you could end up swimming well over 50kms for one crossing, which we didn't want to do.

SHERIELI asks: Congratulations on a fantastic achievement. I have a friend who is attempting his first crossing in about a week and was wondering if you have any top tips?

Chloe McCardel: Don't give up! I think the two most important things is to be mentally really strong when things get tough and make sure you have a support crew who are very committed and don't get seasick.

Nickiheat asks: How long did it take you to make your first crossing?

Chloe McCardel: This year my first crossing took only 9hrs and 3 minutes and it is currently the fastest crossing of anyone this season to swim the Channel. My support crew played a large role in helping me get there so quickly.

Aron91 asks: How do you keep awake while swimming for so long no coffee involved haha, also where do you go to the toilet?

Chloe McCardel: I've never had trouble keeping awake, I guess it must be the cold water and the constant exercise. With regard to the second part of that question, as I'm not allowed to touch the boat or anyone else I've no choice but to "go" on the way.

missjackiech asks: How do you train for the cold water when you are in Australia! Do you swim all year round outdoors?

Chloe McCardel: I train 50 weeks of the year, I swim in the pool for interval (speed) training and strength which my coach Buddy has done a terrific job helping me with. I also swim year round in lakes, the Bay in Melbourne and the ocean even in winter when the water temperature drops to 6C

JaeF asks: Is it difficult to keep your mind occupied or focused whilst swimming for so many hours?

Chloe McCardel: No, I get into a rhythm with my swimming and it's like getting in to a zone and I become very relaxed and it becomes almost automatic like being on auto pilot. It's kind of like relaxing and watching TV for a few hours you don't really think about the time passing.

helenj asks: Did you have a full medical support team with you? I was concerned when they had you moving around as anyone with an extremely low temperature of only 28 degrees can trigger a cardiac arrhythmia.

Chloe McCardel: My support crew on the boat have first aid qualifications and my pilot is extremely experienced with English Channel swimming he has been piloting for many years and they knew when the time was right to get me out of the water. When I got back to dry land I went straight to the emergency department at the hospital, where they looked after me very well.

Numan asks: I was completely stunned to see that you had no apparent available treatment for hypothermia than a blanket and that you were left in the water as long as you were when you began to falter. Who makes the decision to pull you out?

Chloe McCardel: It's a joint decision between my support crew including my husband and the pilots (there are two), but the pilot has the final decision if there is a disagreement. It is very rare for there to be serious medical emergencies while swimming the Channel and I trust my support crew and my pilots implicitly and I believe, and the doctors at the hospital believed, they made the right decision.

Aron91 asks: Just wondering if you have a day job other than swimming it wouldn’t fund enough? :)

Chloe McCardel: Yes, I am a part-time first aid trainer and funnily enough I teach people about how to treat hypothermia, so I know about the text book way to treat hypothermia and I think my support crew did a fantastic job. No, my job wouldn't be able to support my swimming but luckily I have some great small sponsors.

peasron asks: What sort of costs are involved for a swim attempt?

Chloe McCardel: My suggestion if you're interested in Channel Swimming in general or about costs would be to go to the website of the Channel Swimming Association who govern swims between England and France. http://www.channelswimmingassociation.com is their website.

RocketSalad asks: Are you keen to have a crack at the record? Its 7h and 3 min.

Chloe McCardel: No, my goal is to test my limits in ultra-marathon swims 100km or more. I will leave the shorter swims to the speedier swimmers.

anewmans asks: Such a swim seems to definitely be risky to your health, possibly even long term. Is it worth it? Would you recommend other young athletes risk their health for sport?

Chloe McCardel: The doctors in the intensive care unit were very positive and supportive of my swimming endeavour and believed that my strong fitness helped me to recover very quickly. I have had medical checks and I have no health issues short or long term from the swim even though I needed to go to hospital straight after the swim to be warmed up. Athletes increase their health and fitness and strength by being involved in sport and channel swimming is a very controlled sport with support crew, official observers, trained pilots and it is generally very low risk sport to be involved in.

acox asks: Firstly.... Are you mad? you nearly killed yourself. Why would you want to attempt it again?

Chloe McCardel: If I have a challenging goal that I'm determined to achieve and a wonderful husband and support crew who want to help me and if it inspires others, if that's what madness is, then I think we're all a little bit mad. I would love the opportunity to attempt the swim again but I would need a major sponsor to come on board and my husband to agree to defer our honeymoon for the third time as we only got married in March and he's had no time off between work and supporting me.

Interviewer: I am sorry we are out of time, do you have anything else you would like to share before we finish tonight?

Chloe McCardel: Thanks very much for being part of my journey I would love to answer any other questions via my email which is chloe@chloemccardel.com Because I'm still recovering it may take a few days to get back to you but I'm happy to answer questions. Thanks to 60 Minutes also for allowing me to share my journey and dreams with so many Australians. PS: Jo, you owe me a cold water swim ;)

Interviewer: Once again thank you for joining us, and goodnight.

Interviewer: This concludes our chat with Chloe McCardel, Sunday August 7, 2011.

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