Athlete Alexander Sharvadze told The Challenger how he managed to swim in 11 hours 56 minutes to cover a distance of 25 kilometers from St. Petersburg to Kronstadt and what helped him move to the goal.
I’ve been swimming since I was three years old. Before going from St. Petersburg to Kronstadt by water, he participated in relay races.
But for the first solo race for a long distance, he decided for the first time.
To prepare physically, before the swim I was engaged in crossfit (four years), well, and swimming, of course. On average, sailed from three to ten kilometers per training. I began to prepare according to this scheme: the first kilometer - a warm-up, then a kilometer - a crawl, another kilometer - with different breaths. In each subsequent workout, I swam 10 minutes longer than in the previous one.
I didn’t prepare mentally, I just knew that I had a hard start.
How did I decide to take such a swim? I had confidence that I could do this. I did not see a danger to life: I understood that something terrible would hardly happen to me. Plus, I was interested in testing myself.
But I did not imagine that the conditions would turn out to be so severe: headwind, 14 meters per second wind, two-meter waves.
The fight against the elements was the most difficult test. The course intensified so much that for an hour I remained in place. I remember how I asked the team that accompanied me on the boat how much was left, they answered me: 12 kilometers. An hour later he asked again - and received the same answer.
According to the rules of the race, I should not have touched the boat, I had to eat directly in the water.
It was necessary to replenish energy reserves constantly, otherwise the forces would end very quickly and the risk of getting hypothermia would increase. At first I ate every hour, then reduced the intervals and ate every 40 minutes. During the swim, in my diet there were four packs of noodles, four paired sneakers, four cinnamon rolls and a liter of cola. There was also a can of condensed milk and a sandwich with butter. All this is not useful, but the diet turned out to be high-calorie.
Sometimes the waves covered my head right during the meal - while I was eating noodles, the wave came and washed everything from my bowl.
I was wearing a very warm wetsuit in the water . Its thickness is 5 mm, on the legs and arms a little less - 3 mm. It was comfortable to swim in the Gulf of Finland in such a wetsuit, only toes and hands and head were freezing.
By the time it became really hard, I was already swam most of the distance.
Only eight kilometers remained to the finish line. I was worried about the pain in the arm, but proper preparation and good physical fitness helped to stay on track.
The captain of the team provoked me, he said: "It will all be over as soon as you want" . Or: "Just say it, and we will stop all this, let's not suffer." For him, consciously sailing into such a storm is a reckless, inadequate and crazy act.
But it was important for me not to give up and get to the finish line.
The first thing I did after I went ashore was to take off my wetsuit and put on a parka. I felt very cold, I began to shake like a leaf in the wind. So much I’ve never been cold. I had plans to mark a successful finish with the team.
But on the shore I received a gold medal and realized that there was no power left. I went to recover and sleep off.
I have not yet realized how difficult this test was. My shoulders hurt, I lost 7.5 kilograms, but I do not regret anything.
Doctors said that my health is okay after the swim. I drink vitamins, lead a calm lifestyle, and so far I am not training.
For those who also want to test themselves during the swim, I would advise you not to go immediately to solo swimming. You can cross the Baikal or Issyk-Kul with other athletes in the relay. If you try and understand that this is your element, then you can think about a long single start.