Coming back to life.

10th January 2017

It has now been 1 year, 1 month and 22 days since I stopped my wild ways.  Weight: 137 kg’s; total loss: 36 kg’s.

I have just come back from a holiday in Salt Rock and am ready for the New Year.  2016 was a tough year, but it sure ended better than it started.  Let’s just say my future was not very bright at the end of 2015, and it took me pretty much 14 months to get myself out of the shit.  But now I am full of positive energy and a few kilo’s lighter.

In the latter stages of last year I was suffering from a bit of boredom.  The time that I used to spend drinking is now free and except for sporting activities, there is not a hell of a lot to do in Windhoek if you don’t booze.  Hence my attraction to the desert and being ‘out there’ in nature.  I have experienced on my walks that everything is connected … mind, body and soul.  I can’t find peace while I treat my body like hell, and my spirituality suffers when I don’t have peace.

The thing with stopping drinking is very few people get it right.  The stats apparently show that only 20% of drinkers that try to stop will stop, and only 6% of those will do it without professional help.  I was ‘lucky’ I had a near death experience, so as I sit here I really don’t want to drink and have no intention of doing so ever again.  I learnt the true meaning of fight when I was told I was hours away from death.  However, in true Chad fashion I surrounded myself with the best help I could get and was open to their kindness. From the bottom of my heart i am so very gratefull to all of you. I pray that i can make you proud.  The power I have received from getting control of my life is impossible to explain.  To wake up not in mental and physical pain is such a relief.  Walking was my way of keeping it together.  Every year or two I would get out into the desert, live simply and with no excess.  I would come back with renewed energy.  But sooner or later the booze would catch up with me as it always did.  Just like all addicts it would put me in a darker and darker place each time.

When I was young I was a crap student … I just had too much energy.  All I wanted was to play sport.  I had this love-hate relationship with my teachers … the academics hated me as I kept disrupting the class (we used to pull out every second thread in our school ties for every caning we got from the headmaster – mine looked like a piano tie!).  The sports teachers digged me as I would play everything.  My Dad owned a sports shop and one thing he could give me was any sports equipment my heart desired.  I played it all – tennis, cricket, golf, rugby, hockey, swimming, soccer, squash, indoor cricket, bowls – I even joined the chess team! (OK, that was to meet girls!).  I was a really happy youngster.  Unfortunately my Mother passed away when I was 14 and I found sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.  And the end of a promising sporting career.  A life in tourism has not been great for abstinence, not to mention the waistline.

Ingi reckons I suffer from adult ADHD … she’s only joking … I think! (Hmmm …)

I am in search of a new challenge, probably in the sports area.  (Bad time to start studying now, lol!)

I need something that ticks all the boxes:

Physical challenge

Mental challenge

Endurance challenge

Alleviate boredom

Meeting other people

Promote weight loss

Basically something I can sink my teeth into.

I did a really great walk this year and as much as they have become something I will do as long as I can, I wanted something different.  As part of my rehabilitation I read a book called ‘From Whiskey To Water’, by Sam Cowan.  When I read it through, I thought this book is just like all the others – the author spending two thirds of the book telling you what they went through.  As horrific as it always is, it was the same for all of us – hell on earth.  But I am tired of beating myself up.  I wanted to find out more about the swimming and what the author’s life was like after giving up and how she stayed clean.  Most importantly I needed to fit back into society without my wingman.  More about the water side of the book and less about the whiskey.  So I started reading up more bout swimming as a replacement for the time spent drinking.  A healthy distraction.  So when my guru asked me to set some goals I wanted to achieve in the close future, I decided to swim the 7.6km between Robben Island and Cape Town on Freedom Day, 28th April 2019. So thank you, Sam Cowan, for planting the seed with your awesome achievement!

I have no idea what to expect but I believe it will be extremely cold.  This will be the brief story of my swim to the life guard station at Bloubergstrand.  Wish me luck!

There is a lot of training that goes into a swim like this.  Naturally you need to be fit enough but there is the added problems of really cold water, currents, I presume, and of course, my fear of those big bluegrey fish with the louvres on the sides of their faces – the Great White shark! (Called Johnny’s in my world.)  The Johnny fear is a mental problem which I will have to overcome as well as many hours of training in the pool and ocean to get acclimatized to the cold … I guess???

17th January 2017

I swam today for the first time at the Olympia public swimming pool.  I only did 4 lengths, stopping after each … What The Faaaark … *&%$# !!!

I will be swimming every day just to get fitter but at the moment I am doing a lot of research on the web.  The cold is going to be a real problem.  Since my illness I have been getting very cold – the problem is my liver.  It is a common complaint for a person with a compromised liver.  As the liver is what detoxifies the body it works pretty hard and they call it the furnace of the body.  My flame is a bit dimmer for now.  Also  since I was pretty much bedridden for 3 months, I have lost a lot of muscle mass – also an indication of a dodgy liver.

Seems like for now it is all about swimming lengths.  I will be reading up as much as possible and going to meet up with Bruce Salt (Namibia’s first male to swim the English Channel) for as much info as I can get.

22nd January (135kg’s)

Bruce has put me in contact with Ryan Skinner (Namibia’s ex-national swimming coach), who will be helping me.  I will be doing an hour 3 days a week to start.  I wonder if he realizes he has the Great Juggernaut in the pool! … lol.

Due to the weight I have been carrying around for the past decade my joints are very painful and inflamed.  All the stupid shit I used to do has caught up with me and the broken bones hurt.

I believe the right outlook on this is to swim one length and take it from there … so here goes.

5th February 2017 (134kg’s)

Well, that is week 2 done and dusted – I really enjoyed it.  Ryan is a great guy with lots of patience.  Everybody seems to like him, so very cool.  There are lots of different people in the group and unlike when I was a kid, they actually want to be there.  Everyone swims well and I have some catching up to do.

I had to go out and buy fins, scoopy things, pool buoy and floating device.  These apparently were for training.  As it turns out, it is awesome.  I naturally presumed we would just be swimming up and down, but we do all kinds of sets.  Finning, pulling and other stuff.  The other folk in the group are way fitter than I, I feel like I am flopping around like a wounded Gnu in a mud puddle.  Some are twice as fast but I will hang in there.  Surely I will get faster in time.

Another shitty thing is there are no pool stairs – you would swim into it, of course.  And since my power to weight ratio is cockeyed, I can’t get out of the pool.  Ryan has to drag me out while I give it my all from the pool.  Needless to say I feel like a fat twat at the moment!

13th February 2017 (133 kg’s)

It has now been just over a month since this whole process started.  Here is how I rate the first month:

Fitness:  2/10

Stroke:  2/10

BMT:  3/10

I have really enjoyed this month.  I am getting to chat and socialize with more folk.  I am seeing results in my fitness and I am starting to swim more like The Hoff now than a baby elephant, but a long way off the Thorpedo!

Naturally it is summer now so no problem with the cold.  I must say that even in December in Natal I was wearing a light jacket.  The cold seemed to just be in my bones.  The power is positive thinking, the decision to not let it scare me has seemed to have added a few degrees to my body temperature.  I now go out of my way to get myself into cold situations and am finding it more tolerable.

My sleep at nights is much more restful and the endorphins that flow through my body for a few hours afterwards give me a cool natural high!  I also seem to be less stressed so my work environment is a lot more relaxed (much to my staff’s relief!).

Overall it has been a great month … but, today … Swakopmund!!!  Later today I am going to swim a bit in the cold Atlantic … let’s see.

I went down to the Mole in Swakopmund.  The sea was calm and in the Mole the water was very still.  The water was 17° and off I went.  I did not realize how much more buoyant you are in the ocean.  No, really … the swimming seems easier as you have less of yourself in the water.  That is about the only advantage, though.  I did an easy swim out to the end of the rocks.  I thought, what the hell, and swam into the current coming up our coast.  I expected it to be colder but it was actually warmer.  I swam with the current for 50m.  It happened so quickly that I decided to head back to shore.  It was a lot more effort but, damn, the water moves fast.

The next day was tougher.  The water was 16° and a lot more choppy.  I did pretty much the same as the day before but when I walked out the water my skin was red and tender and I was a lot more tired.  The current was much stronger and colder.  I was swimming in one place for a few minutes before I broke through the current.

So definitely a whole lot of respect for the ocean.  I swam no more than 500m and it was very different.

6th March 2017

I am back in Windhoek now and had a good swim this morning.  I am definitely getting fitter and I lasted the whole session today, even if I only did 50% of the distance that the others did.

2 weeks before I go down to Hermanus for our yearly golf camp.  So as much swimming and golf as I can fit in before then.

25th March 2017

As you can see more than a month has gone past and … nothing happened.  Well, actually, I lie … I really enjoyed the golf tournament and I won it!  Really cool and it was one of my goals for this year, sooo … booooom!  The guys were all a bit rusty as not much gold for anyone nowadays.  I also boxed clever:  I started playing almost every day for 2 weeks prior to the event and got my eye in.  Everyone says it is because I am sober and sure, that is part of it;  however, I am much thinner, fitter and clear headed than I used to be and am playing better golf.  So suck it up, guys, and go and practice!

I unfortunately got bronchitis 3 weeks ago and that put a stop to the swimming.  But I have been back for a week now, and getting into it again.  Actually the rest did me great benefit.  The time off has let my muscles relax a bit and I did not lose any of my fitness.  In fact, I feel pretty good.  I seem to have put on some weight, mainly due to the 10-day holiday!, but also some muscle.  My guns are looking bigger than ever 😉

I am now in Swakopmund for a little swimming.  Saaaaskia is in town and I have decided to coincide a visit with a swim.  I swam twice on the Saturday and Sunday. The water was 19° and calm.  A real joy.  The bloody seaweed that wraps around your feet, though, could cause a man to drop a coney in his cozzie!

2nd April 2017

So during the week we had a farewell braai for Saaaaaskia.  I was chatting to Lindy and she was doing a triathlon this weekend.  She suggested that we put a team in and that I swim 600m, Roger cycles 14km and Liz runs 4km’s … and so team ‘Fat Kids Are Harder To Kidnap’ was born.

I was really nervous the night before.  Would I cramp, be able to do the distance in one go, lose my cozzie, drown in front of everyone, and, worst of all, would everyone stare at my excess skin>

Thanks to the miracle of sleep I felt great the next day, really confident, and decided if I was going to drown, at least there are a lot of triathletes around to save me!

Some people did stare at my skin and fat but I wore it like a battle scar.  Went there, did not get beaten … what else you got???!!!

I started from the back and never really went anywhere else.  I stayed at the back of the pack for 200m then the others started to pull away from me when I changed my stroke to get some air.  I came flopping in third last.

But I won!

1½ years ago I was battling for my life, now I have just finished my first competitive swim.  I am crying while I type!

Lindy, Roger and Liz, thank you so much and long live team ‘Fat Kids Are Harder To Kidnap’!!

7th April 2017 (133kg’s)

Weird day today.  This will be my last swim for 7 weeks!  We are going to Europe for 2 weeks and then I go on my walk for a month.  I realized today how much I am really enjoying this swimming.  If I had known I would have started it earlier.  The folks in my swimming group are really cool.  Just nice people wanting to get fitter.  We share some jokes and the vibe is very chilled.  Whatever the outcome of this adventure, I will keep swimming for sure.  It has really made me feel stronger, fitter and my mind is a lot more calm.

Poor Ryan has to deal with an over-active puppy but he does it with a smile on his face.

I went to the pool today at 3pm.  The air temperature is in the middle 20’s and the water temperature 20°.  Not cold at all but fresh.  As the school holidays are over and the autumn coming, there was only one other person there.  The water is crystal clear for the same reason.  I put on my paddles and a pool buoy between my knees (yes, you read right … bwahaa!) and went very slowly.  I must have swam continuously for 45 minutes.  It was indescribable.  For the first time I felt like an endurance swimmer.

When I get back in June I will be throwing myself into training but first … holiday and walk … yaaayyyeee!

Fitness:  3/10

Stroke:  3/10

BMT:  2/10 (have had a relook at this as this is actually going to be the big one)

BMT is short for Big Match Temperament.  This I remember from my tennis days and mine is not bad.  My Dad, Barry, had really great BMT.  I remember as a child I was a ball boy during a club final he was playing.  He was down 5-2 in the final set.  As he crossed over to face what was most likely Martin Ried’s final service game, I asked him with a tear in my eye if he was going to lose.  When he heard that, Barry was never going to lose in front of his son.  And he did not!

Our pool.

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17th June 2017 (weight 124kg)

The walk was just amazing.  It was particularly good for my head.  I lost some weight and my endurance BMT is good.  At least better than it has ever been.  At around 10km into every day it became unbearably hot.  Lots of insect bites and the blisters on my feet burnt like the fires of hell.  This is when I would imagine the pain and discomfort during my swim to Robben Island.  I would hang in there and push myself until I could not anymore.  Amazingly I still always had a little extra when I needed it and strangely I am actually looking forward to testing myself.  It has not been an option for me in a very long time.  I am excited!

So with the 7 weeks’ break I luckily did not lose too much fitness.  My arms, however, have lost a bit of their power.  So they get quite tired.  I really hope to break through soon.  I really want to go to the next level.  This, however, is not going to happen with my current lifestyle programme.  What can he be up to now, I hear you ask … bwahaa.  Well, let’s see, there is that small problem with the cannon ball and the feather, not to mention, bwahaa!  OK, really, my diet is terrible, I am not getting to swim 2 or 3 weeks in a row without something happening health wise and then between you and I, I have been puffing on a few smokes.  Don’t tell anyone ;).  However, that was a dumf*ck idea.  How can I be committed to doing this swim if I don’t eat properly, not to mention getting into a routine with training is vital.  As I sit here, about to (hopefully) watch the Springboks kick some perfumed French ass (sorry, Beatrice), I have 20 months until Freedom Day 2019.  I have made a decision that the swim is actually very important to me.  The elements play a big part in this but I really want this.  30% of my day is spent dreaming, reading, imagining and living swimming.  Somehow like my walks, I have stumbled upon something that gives me great enjoyment.  I have lost a lot of weight, which makes me feel good, but now it is time to work on my mental side.  The water makes me feel alive.  For so many years my emotions were frozen by addictions, now the water reminds me that I am indeed alive, that I have as much right to a happy life as anyone on this earth.  When the water is really cold and my skin burns, I think of the physical pain I used to be in on a daily basis while drinking and you know what … no pain in the water yet even comes close.

22nd June 2017

The Eppifanny

I had a breakthrough.  I seem to be too fast … OK, not quite! … bwahaa!  I have just been pushing myself too much and ended up having to stop after 100 or 200m to get my breath back.  Ryan now has me slowing right down.  Concentrating on my form, distance per stroke and breathing … NOT SPEED.  We do some sets where you start really slowly and progressively increase your speed.  This really works.  I have adapted it into the whole set.  So instead of trying to go faster during the warm up so I can get close to the other swimmers’ distance, I go really slowly and find my groove before increasing my effort.  You know what … this white man has got rhythm!  So now that I seem to be realizing that this is not a race against anyone else (my competitive side coming out).  This is totally about me getting across from the Island.  Nobody else that is swimming with me should matter.  I will have enough problems keeping my mind from losing it, hypothermia, hydration, currents and not to mention the Johnny’s.

I found during my walks in the desert when you are down and out and all the elements are fighting you … that moment when you need to dig really deep.  You have been sent into battle and it is him or you.  You find out who you really are, not who you think you are or who others think you are.  You can’t heal until you find that out and begin to love and accept yourself.

As a lot of your senses are dulled from being in the water, your sense of feel is not.  Faaark!, it gets cold sometimes.  At the moment fitness is my main concern but the cold is still to come.  Oddly, I am quite excited about the cold.  Testing myself under extreme conditions should be interesting.  I have always played sport where it is you against another competitor.  This is different.  My goal is to swim from Robben Island to Cape Town, not to beat anyone, but to empower myself by trying to achieve a dream that 2 years ago was totally impossible.  Sport is an awesome part of straightening your ship, to get a bit of direction.  It takes time, especially when you are a physical train smash.  If you are just able to hang in there through the really tough beginning, the results are so sweet it is like an angel pissing on your tongue 😉

As I have done 90% of my swimming in the pool, I am hoping I will find the same peace in the open water as I do in the desert, to rebuild my mental strength by experiencing peace and sanctuary oneness under water … ommmmm.

Ryan putting us through our paces … 😉

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It is the end of July now and the temps are at about 22° during the day.  When we swim at 7:30am it is between 8-10°, however, the water temperature is good.  Some kind folks have donated some solar heating systems to the pool and se swim at around 22°.  This is fine for me and the combination of the two is pretty much where I am happy at the moment.  Let’s see what August brings …

8th August 2017

My fitness has improved.  So has my flexibility, weight and general mojo.  I am fully in a better place.  Ommmmmm.  I have started to accept that this will take time.  What I am experiencing is a whole lifestyle change.  Sometimes it is hard to understand that the results are not immediate, especially for me.  I am now not so freaked out by the whole process.  I still think about the day itself and imagine what it will be like, but I want to now enjoy the whole experience.

Every stroke I swim I am closer to my goal.  Sometimes I swim with a smile on my face 😉

So things are all starting to make a bit more sense.  Lots of long km’s ahead but my plan is now to do some events inbetween.  Team ‘Fat Kids’ are reuniting for a triathlon in Mariental and the Swakopmund Triathlon in early December, where our hero will swim 500m and 1km respectively.  Then the Jetty Mile also in Swakopmund on 27th December.  The swimming is going well but I always seem to have something going on which disrupts my groove.

Swimming through winter was not so bad, mainly because we have a heated pool.  The real cold is yet to come.  Next winter won’t be as much fun, I bet … lol.

I am getting fitter and herein lies my quandary.  I have sooooo much energy.  Physically and – verbally – I’m afraid.  The businessman in me is trying to figure out how I can bottle it.  Red Bull stands no change 😉  My freaking mouth is way faster than my brain and I keep spouting all this stupid shit.  Guess people think I am still drinking, ha, ha!

My happy swimming buddies.

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21st September 2017 (weight 120kg)

Today we wished Archie Graham good luck on his Channel swim attempt.  He has been swimming with us doing ridiculous amounts of laps most days.  He swam through winter in the outdoor 50m pool that was 12° … respect, man!

Now that I have been swimming for 6 months I am beginning to realize what he is going to attempt.  Chatting to him this morning, he reckons it was much harder preparing than he thought.  If I was a betting man (pretty much the only vice I have not had … bwahaa), he is going to kill it!

Go, Archie!

23rd September 2017

I went to the pool this morning at 6am.  The class for the advanced starts at 7am so I was just there to get some extra laps in.  I still have the getting-out-the-pool problem and Ryan is away with Archie.  I was just going to swim until 7am and then one of the guys could help me get out the pool.  Sooo … after doing my most graceful entry into the pool, I was horrified to discover that I had left my goggles on the bench.  So after a few minutes of self-flagellation, I had no option but to try and get out 😉  I would not say it was pretty to look at but success is sweet, baby!

Another first for today was to swim 2 000m without stopping.  Yeah, baby, yeah! … getting there 😉

27th September 2017

Bloody weather! Archie managed to swim half way across the Channel before it got too cold and a decision was made by Skipper, coach and swimmer to LIVE to try another day. An incredible achievement nonetheless.  Well done, man!

I look forward to your next challenge Archie.

The lesson I have learnt here is that we are only human.  After witnessing just a small percent of the training Archie put into this – just to mention he is already an IRONMAN – which believe me, made our sessions look like geriatric water aerobics.  The cold water has a different plan on the day.  Yesterday or tomorrow he probably would have made it.

Archie, you da man!

This will once again be a life altering experience for me but to remember you can try as much as you can to steer your life in a direction but ultimately you are not in control … so don’t forget to enjoy the ride 😉

10th October 2017

I went tiger fishing this last weekend at Ngepi Camp in the Caprivi strip.  The camp is on the Kavango River which feeds the Okavango Delta.  Naturally there are lots of crocs and hippo’s there.  My swimming was not stopped though, as they have a croc-proof cage in the river as their swimming pool.  The current runs through it so I was able to swim in once place for over an hour each day … pretty cool, hey 😉

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I then went home via Tsumeb to swim in the 50m pool.  I am afraid I have just had a wake-up call.  When you swim in a 25m pool you glide for at least 5m after your push off from the wall and let’s say you glide in your last 2m.  You are only swimming 18m of every 25m.  In the big pool you push off less and in open water not at all … I did not do so well.  Also the cage in the Kunene was tough.  I could not get my breathing sorted.  Maybe too many campfires!

Either way it is time for me to do some hard training!

Time to stand tall.

My plans for next year have still to be decided but I would like to do as many events as possible and I guess it is time to start doing some cold water swims to see how I can handle the cold.

No need to worry about that now.  I have training to do!

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Surf’s up, dudes … ChadmanSwimming out.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Coming back to life.

  1. harald

    Great stuff Chad…. keep it up…. nice to have you around !

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