Fort Myers, Florida – Heather Roca breaks down the most difficult parts of swimming in 30-minute increments.
“I can do anything for another 30 minutes,” she told herself.
When it gets tough, she will reduce it to 100 strokes. 30 strokes. 1 meter. She even imagined each of her supporters swimming with her. Something to keep human feats that sound impossible achievable.
Last month, Fort Myers Roca completed a double crossing in the English Channel. This is a 21 mile swim from Dover, England to northern France. Roca swam 42 miles non-stop in 25 hours and 7 minutes, becoming the 38th and 10th American to complete an unthinkable open water swimming challenge.
“I thought it was arguably the hardest thing I’ve ever tried and would definitely push me to the limit and really risk failure,” Roca said.
Roca overcame cold water, fatigue, physical distress and mental fatigue and completed a difficult swim.
“I want to say I’m still recovering from it,” she said.
Ginger Tompkins, Masters Coach of the Gulf Coast Swim Team and Roca’s training partner, said swimming this long distance requires concentration and mental strength.
Roca refused to sneak in suspicion or distract her from her goals.
“Her mental strength in terms of human performance is extraordinary,” said Tompkins. “I think she’s an inspiration.”
Decided to take a double
After graduating from Fort Myers, Roca was part of Greenwave’s 2003 Women’s Swimming State title team. She continued her athletic career as a long-distance swimmer at Gardner-Webb, North Carolina.
Her swimming career allowed her to see the benefits of physiotherapy, which prompted her to pursue the field. Roka specializes in helping people recover from a stroke.
“You can go home and you can do things again because you can help people understand that life will last … it was challenging but very fulfilling. “She said.
Her dream of swimming in the English Channel began as a teenager.
“If most swimmers are totally interested in open water, the English Channel always seems to be their goal,” Roca said. “The toughest people are in the English Channel-it’s very famous and in the spotlight.”
Roca first completed the channel swim in 2017, finishing in 12 hours and 13 minutes.
She vowed not to do it again, but six months later she signed up for a double. We needed encouragement from Roca mentor and American record holder Mercy McDonald across most channels.
Swimmers need to sign up for a channel swim many years ago, as boats can only be used by so many people and they need to expand their swimming.
Roca wasn’t sure if COVID-19 would delay her chances of a double swim. She knew it was happening last October, so she had to start training.
Roca had a better idea of what to expect in her first swim under her belt.
“It really helped me mentally-like I know I don’t enjoy swimming at night,” she said. “So, when I got into that idea, it took me a lot of time in the dark and I was able to handle it better than it was at the beginning.”
Train south to swim north
Training in Florida meant that Roca couldn’t reproduce the 59-64 degree water he would experience in the English Channel. She planned some cold swims, but due to the pandemic, she didn’t end up in a pandemic.
She swam in San Carlos Pool three days a week for nearly two hours each morning. One afternoon she swam in her friend’s lake. And on weekends, I swam as much as I could withstand at Vanderbilt Beach.
“I didn’t have to go for more than six hours to see how warm it was,” Roca said.
All this preparation was done during her full-time job in life care and two jobs as an adjunct professor teaching in a physiotherapy program at the University of Florida Gulf Coast.
The level of preparation is very important for the durability required for a 42 mile swim. Still, it’s hard to explain what happens when you’re swimming alone with a small boat.
“You are in a dynamic environment,” said Tompkins. “Conditions can change every 10 minutes. You should always pay attention to what is changing and what is happening.”
Roca was fortunate that she didn’t have to quarantine in England before she could swim. The 10-day UK quarantine regulation for American citizens was lifted shortly before she took off. It allowed her to train at Dover Marina the week before she swam.
Roca’s younger brother, Michael Roca, wanted to travel with her as a crew member, provide support, and witness potentially amazing results. Dave Chisolm, who was introduced to Roca through McDonald’s, was also an important member of the crew.
25 hours 7 minutes
The mechanism of swimming is that the captain of the boat navigates and makes sure that the swimmer is nearby. The crew is also on board and is responsible for hydration and feeding of swimmers. There are also observers on the boat to ensure that swimmers follow the rules of marathon open water swimming.
Roca started swimming at 10 pm on August 20th.
Swimming in the strait means constantly adapting to various factors such as tides and winds.
“There are so many elements that we can’t control, so we really need to let go and learn how to be at the moment,” Roca said.
Michael Roca said he was “never bored” when he saw his sister fight through a tough job, but he did his best to hide his nerves.
“I was a little worried when I saw my sister pass her body through something like that,” he said.
Roca changed her feeding pattern early in the swim and chose to replenish every 30 minutes. The first half of the swim was manageable given Roca’s previous experience, but it was daunting to know that she had to look back and do it again.
She finished swimming in France at 10:16 am on August 21st.
Roca described the second half of swimming as the most difficult mental and physical test of her life.
“When it comes to fatigue, things really hurt in about 15 hours and I knew it mentally.” OK, in 15 hours my wrists and shoulders really hurt. Can you continue? “Roca said.
Michael Roka was impressed by his sister, who maintained a count of 70 strokes per minute during the first 16-17 hours of swimming. Over time, it began to fall to about 60. But when the captain asked if he could pick it up to handle the flow of the last three hours well, she was able to face the challenge.
The captain provided Roca with the best advice: to focus on the 1 meter of water in front of her.
“I stopped focusing on where I was going and focused on every stroke at that moment. You don’t have to worry about how long it will be. Just focus on what’s happening right now. Please, “she said.
When it got dark again, Roca said there was no way to stop. She went too far.
It did not shatter concerns about what could happen towards the end of the swim.
“I was very cold,” she said. “I think others were confident that I would end. I certainly didn’t mean to say I couldn’t continue, but it was still behind my head Are we going to miss the tide? Am I trying to keep pushing too much? Are they going to pull me out? “
A sense of “pure relief” struck her as Roca hit the white cliffs of Dover’s coastline and achieved her monumental goals.
“I usually don’t get emotional, but I was so proud that she was able to do something like this,” said Michael Roca.
It was 11:07 pm on August 21st.
Roca thought she felt better than she was after the marathon swimming.
“People were like hugging me. I say,” I’m fine. ” They said, “You’re not fine. You’re shaking here and there. You can’t walk.” Roca recalled.
“Her hands and feet were completely white,” said Michael Roca.
Heather Roca felt numb and tired and was able to manage just a few hours of rest before the plane returned home. She had to go back to her work routine shortly after the channel swam, as she had been taking off all the time.
For life goals that may seem scary, Roca recommends breaking it down into smaller, more feasible pieces.
“Choose what you intend to enjoy, it’s a challenge, and then push yourself, and when you think you can’t go any further or complete it, you do so You can, “she said. “Focus on what’s in front of you very quickly. Don’t get caught –” I’ll never be able to do this, it’s too difficult. “
“More swimming is coming,” she said, in the future of Roca. Probably not in the 24-hour range.
However, Heather Roca makes it difficult to count her from businesses by land or especially by sea by pushing herself in such an extraordinary way.
“Defeat or failure is not her choice,” her brother said.
Follow the news-Press sports reporter Dustin Levy on Twitter: @DustinBLevy.
42 miles in 25 hours
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