If you go down to the waters of Seaton Carew, don’t be surprised to see a group of middle-of-the-night swimmers.
That’s because six athletes are preparing for the challenge of a lifetime - they’re going to swim the English Channel in June.
And to prepare for it, they are battling through the waves off Hartlepool for anything up to five hours at a time.
It’s all part of an acclimatisation programme for the super six who are all members of the Tri Life Warriors triathlon club which is based in Hartlepool.
Tri Life founder Matt Turnbull is one of the swimmers and he is joined by Linda Brown, Dave Fox, Alex Vizaranu, James Simpson and Sean Iley.
They spend their time in waters which sometimes only reach 13C and are building up stamina, resistance to cold, and coping with big waves.
This is not just about swimming the Channel, it is about the challenges that come with it but it is also about raising money for a very important causeMatt Turnbull
They have their Channel Swim slot booked for the first week in June when they will head to Dover and team up with the skipper of a boat they have hired.
Then, it’s a waiting game for the skipper to say the water currents, weather and conditions are all right for the swim to start at a point near Dover ferry port.
Once it does, each participant will spend up to four hours of non-stop swimming during which they can’t stop or touch the boat. If they do, they are disqualified.
Then, when the next swimmer gets into the water for their relay leg, they must jump in behind their colleague and swim past them for the leg to be counted as official.
It’s highly technical and the ultra-athletes will also have to cope with unusual challenges such as:
• Becoming disorientated by the amount of time they spend lying flat;
• Contracting stomach upsets from the swims;
• Temperature survival;
• And numerous issues to do with swimming in salt water.
But if they achieve their goal, of swimming across to France, they will have swum the Channel and hopefully raised lots of money for research into motor neurone disease.
Matt, who won a Best of Hartlepool Role Model of the Year Award in 2017 for tackling seven triathlons in seven days, said: “We are training to do at least four legs each and we have got good experienced swimmers.”
Matt is teaching his fellow swimmers about the correct techniques for such a complicated swim (where the environment including coping with big waves can be a challenge),
He added: “We swim at Seaton Carew at night because night swimming could be something we have to do during the challenge.
“We have chosen MND as the charity as it is very close to the hearts of some of the team.
“This is not just about swimming the Channel, it is about the challenges that come with it but it is also about raising money for a very important cause.”
Watch out for a Just Giving page which will be coming soon.
In the meantime, people can find out more about Tri Life by visiting its Facebook page at The Warriors - Tri-life Triathlon.
FACTS ABOUT MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE
MND is a fatal, rapidly progressing disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
It attacks the nerves that control movement so muscles no longer work. MND does not usually affect the senses such as sight, sound and feeling.
It can leave people locked in a failing body, unable to move, talk and eventually breathe.
Over 80% of people with MND will have communication difficulties, including for some, a complete loss of voice.
It affects people from all communities.
Around 35% of people with MND experience mild cognitive change, in other words, changes in thinking and behaviour. A further 15% of people show signs of frontotemporal dementia which results in more pronounced behavioural change.
It kills a third of people within a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis.
A person’s lifetime risk of developing MND is around 1 in 300.
Six people per day are diagnosed with MND in the UK.
It affects up to 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time.
It kills six people per day in the UK, just under 2,200 per year.
It has no cure.
To find out more about MND, visit https://www.mndassociation.org.