Brigette Hobart Janeczko, a resident of Bright's Cove in Jefferson, attempted a solo swim of the English Channel on Saturday, July 6. After six hours she "ran into a ton of jellyfish" said her husband Bob. It was at this point that Bob took matters into his own hands and the swim was aborted. The following is Bridgette's account of her experience.
Many thanks to those who wished me well pre and post my English Channel attempt, and continue to support my efforts. After some doses of Benedryl I’m feeling fine today. I always hoped when the day came for my first DNF that I’d handle it well, and I think I am. First, I honestly feel mentally and physically great and feel nothing but gratitude for Bob’s call. I’m blessed with not just a perfect hubby, but a solid reliable crew support.
My entire experience has been nothing but great since I arrived in England. I’ve met so many wonderful people, swimmers and non-swimmers. I’m leaving with new friends, and the knowledge that my new approach to mental and physical training did me well. I was feeling nothing but pure bliss for my entire swim, and I just felt so strong and positive.
One of the last words spoken to me on shore by another channel swimmer, Loretta, observing for a relay team stuck in my mind – just relax and enjoy your channel experience. I did just that. When my observer looked at me with a WTF look on his face and said the water is 11, I looked to Bob who nicely translated to – it is 51-52. I recall shaking my head no because I thought he was kidding. One toe hit the water and I said oh, wow he is serious. I stayed positive and let my body embrace the temp as I swam to shore to start thinking ah, mental training is paying off!
A special thanks to Tom Meade’s efforts in this area! I spent a lot of effort on cold water acclimation and felt confident. I started feeling fine, and embraced the temps by going out faster than normal. After that I could feel it get warmer (solid 58ish), thrilled I was under 20 sec on feedings and peeing between feedings (good sign meaning my kidney’s weren’t shutting down and my body heading towards hypothermia) – my body was fine. I felt stronger than ever with boundless energy- even my tapering was paying off.
I saw a few jellies early on under me and took in their beauty and reflected back on my first 2008 one mile ocean swim my swim buddy Erika convinced me to do. I was freaked by the ocean and closed my eyes until the lifeguard startled me when he told me I was going in the wrong direction. Lesson learned – one must keep eyes open to navigate, which meant I had to get over my fear of the ocean and embrace it. I felt so thrilled I was now swimming over them, admiring them. I wasn’t worried about a sting at all. I was stung in Tampa so I knew it would hurt but I’d get through it because I did before. You learn something from each challenge in life to apply to the next. While I could’ve lived without the stings in Tampa Bay swim, I left saying “at least I know I won’t have a negative reaction!” I saw few more and fine again.
I couldn’t believe how awesome it was swimming in the channel, and how fast time was going between feedings – a sign of pure bliss. I was just so excited to be in the channel – 33 years after I first said I was going to swim the English Channel one day. My shoulders suddenly felt as if I exchanged them with my 17-year-old body. Everything was falling in place. Could I really be one of the lucky ones where everything just aligns and works out on attempt one?
I was thrilled to be fundraising for the Nazareth Fund – a place where I enjoyed many great swim years, made many friendships that have lasted through today, and where I currently serve on the Board of Trustees. I showed up in my new Purple and Gold swim parka symbolizing our school colors, and discovered I actually matched my boat. I thought wow, how cool to pick out probably the only purple boat in the entire English Channel to be my pilot- meant to be! Gosh when your parka, and nail color match your boat you’d think nothing could go wrong!
I was finally at a point where I started to think about my landing, something I forbid myself to do until I earned the right to do so. So many times I’ve been asked “what will you think when you finish?” or “what will you do next?” I’m sure I frustrate folks when I say I haven’t thought about it, or I haven’t planned anything because I want to focus on the channel until I’m done. But now I was finally feeling that wow, this could really happen.
And then it didn’t.
I went from feeling on top of my game, to clueless where I was even swimming in minutes. I read over and over, it then comes down to luck. There are so many variables – temps, weather, sea sickness, just a bad body day, injury. Jellies – honestly, never gave them a thought and when I spotted my first one I recall thinking huh, jellies in the channel- thought they liked warmer water. I’m so much like my Mom – she said the same thing when I talked with her! Then I was fascinated by my close up shots and wished I had a camera.
I last remember swimming through what seemed like endless jellies and thinking wow, so many and so cool. I felt the stings and said wow, not as bad as Tampa, must be cuz I’m numb from the cold temps. That thought made me giggle as felt I was making the best of the temps. My core was warm, my limbs numb and fortunately I never experienced shivering until I exited. I swam on and then suddenly I felt drugged, then my left side of my body was doing its own thing and I recall trying to focus to swim through it but was really disoriented. I heard Bob’s voice and from that point I really thought I was chatting with them, but Bob said nope, unresponsive. In my mind I was swimming through it, but his vision had me not even rolling my head to breathe and my left side just doing whatever. I remember feeling like someone was strangling me and trying to focus on breathing, but was at peace doing so – no panic, no pain. It really wasn’t a bad experience for me since I was in la la land, but I’m sure I stressed poor Bob out and for that I’m sorry. He’s done nothing but support my goals 100%, and unfortunately he had to make a decision that I’m sure is hard for any crew to make. But it was the right decision, and one that I’ve accepted, agree with, and greatly appreciate.
While this didn’t go as I hoped, I am really feeling good, strong and healthy today. I’m touched by the many words of inspiration and support I’ve received from family and friends before and after my attempt. I’m staying positive, looking forward to getting back to the states to swim with my swim buddies as we train for our Manhattan Island Relays on August 10th to support Ilse’s selected charity, Hands on the World Global. I am blessed with a great team at Paradigm, and look forward to wrapping up some current projects and starting some new exciting projects on our agenda. I’m sure all our kiddies will be thrilled they see us in person now, and don’t have to Skype again.
When I did Manhattan Island in 2012, I met fellow swimmer Steve Faulkner. Steve and I became swim buddies as we found our goals were the same in 2013. Steve was part of my Catalina crew in 2012, and offered to pet sit our kiddies (3 cats, 2 dogs) while we went to England so we could go away and be at ease they were cared for at home. He even did a Skype session for me to see them all pre swim! We did our long winter training weekends together, and we’ve done so much prep and planning for our channel swims together. Most of all, I’m honored to serve as Steve’s crew for his upcoming channel attempts and I’m committed to staying focused and positive, so he can have the same dedicated crew experience I had with Bob – one that truly understands it is all about the swimmer and their safety. I mention this because I previously said if the weather doesn’t work for me in July then I’ll go on Steve’s spring tide in August. Now I’ve been asked if I’ll give it a go again this August. I now see that is not realistic time for another attempt, or fair to Steve or my MIMS relay team. Open water swimming has changed my life so much, and for the better. I’ve become more balanced in my life, and I’ve met so many incredible people, and traveled to places I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. It is much more than one event. But most of all, I feel I gained another brother through swimming with Steve, and I look forward to focusing on his safety while supporting and encouraging him through his channel swims. My parents and in-laws had the comfort of knowing I was in good hands with Bob, and I hope Steve’s mom has the same comfort with me. Therefore, I’m focusing on reviewing the available dates for the 2014 English Channel swim season.
Thanks again to all of you for your support, and a special thanks to my parents and in-laws for their constant support. I’m sure they thought their worries were over when we became responsible adults, and now they find themselves following a GPS Tracker in the middle of the ocean and wondering what went wrong when the boat suddenly turns rapidly back to shore and we’re out of cell range. For those few hours of stress – I’m very sorry I really am leaving healthy, injury free, and content. I came here with no other ‘next’ swim planned because I said anything can happen, and I want to focus on the channel until I hit France and I plan to keep my word and my goal Until then I remain grateful I’ve been blessed with so many family, friends, good health and a supportive hubby!