Succeeded in labuan cross channel open swimming 5.4km

I attempted to swim the labuan cross channel swim last year… Attempted and was only successful halfway. I reached pulau papan, but decided to quit due to sea sickness, and dehydration from several vomiting… While swimming. this time, 28.June 2013, I was successful. 🙂
Training for the distance was not a problem, considering practice and the total immersion technique. My main worry was (other than sea creatures) motion sickness. For a whole year I didn’t think about it until a week before the event. Then I started to research, the cure that was cited was often eating ginger and wearing earplugs. The normal sea sickness medication of dramamine was either ineffective or it may cause drowsiness, not something I want to feel when swimming a long distance.
I also read about sea sickness in Wikipedia, how it is the incongruence between our inner ear’s sense of balance and movement with our sense of sight, causing the brain/mind to think we are hallucinating due to a toxin in our body, which it then tries to expel from the action of vomiting, ginger apparently reduces this effect by emptying the contents of the stomach into the intestine. It is unclear of how it affects the brain.
I found a motion sickness pill at guardian that contained ginger (contents labelled zanziber, which was scientific name for it). Additionally, I avoided citrus fruits and apples, and instead carbo-loaded with bananas.
On the night of the swim, I had an early dinner at Singapore Chicken Rice. I was pleasantly surprised that they served ginger as condiments, naturally I added some to my chicken. Then I made sure I had enough sleep as last time I didn’t cuz I was too excited.
Early in the morning, I woke up, had my one litre water, my canned tuna breakfast, and did my morning business. I warmed up by walking from the hotel to the water complex, a 1km walk. Arrived so early no one, not even the organizer was there at 5.30am.
When the swim started at 7 ish, I had just swam a few metres when a dark skinned guy (looked like a jamaican with dredges) turned back, seeing panic in his eyes, it didn’t bother me why, just thought that it was his first time in these murky and salty labuan waters. Later I heard he got kicked in the head. Then there was this lady who was asking passing by swimmers if they mind pacing and accompanying her as it is her first time. Seeing that I was practically the last guy there and I didn’t mind the company, I obliged, but informed her that I may be swimming slower than her (which it turned out wasn’t the case). So we swam together, and I found myself sighting often then I originally intended, once every two strokes, and occasionally signalling to her to correct her course, there was a male swimmer we passed by that then tagged along. I only realized in the middle of the swim to pulau papan, that I had no sign of sea sickness. I thought it might be the remedy, but then close to the jetty when I was able to see the sea floor and leaving number 6 behind (i just realize I don’t know her name, but that’s the number written on her limbs), I began to feel dizzy. Quickly thinking that it was the act of focusing on my swim partner, I waited for her and arrived at the jetty together. I avoided seeing the sea floor, kept looking at number 6 when I breathed, and kept telling myself and my brain, that I was not hallucinating, that I was swimming in the water, in quite choppy waters by this time.
At the jetty, there were a few swimmers who went up, I guess they were intimidated by the choppy waters, but I also realized that the way back filled with buoys were obscured by the waves, and the finishing point was slightly blocked by a drifted tanker. I remembered there was a clear line of sight when I started.
After dehydrating at the jetty, and one lady swam back with a kayaker to guide her,we decided to swim back. I was slightly worried that either the ginger was wearing off, or that the waves were getting bigger, and couldn’t see the tower that was present at the starting line. but I remind myself to just do what I was doing from the beginning. I swam unsure of the finish line, just swimming towards the buoys, and the kayaker who is now quite far away. We reached the half point again, reaching the buoy close to the blocking tanker, then I could see the tower and the finish line, I was relieved. But then I saw a line connected to the buoys under water, I felt dizzy again, I could also smell the diesel fumes, and then I saw a piece of plastic drifting underwater, my gag reflex activated and I puked. Last year I stopped to puked, but seeing how closer I was, I didn’t stop, I continued my front crawl, breathed on my right, and puked to my left, for about 3 times. The taste of banana and garlic actually tasted better then the salty see :p
I then chose to close my eyes in the water, only opening to my right to see my swim partner. I realize at this point we have left the third swimmer behind. But as long as she could keep up, then I was determined to swim fast to reduce my chances of breaking down. The waves at this point was pushing us to the shore, but derailed my partner a few times to the right, but as we neared the finish line, I decided to hurry, taking care not to see the sea floor.
As I walked in shallow waters, I saw my wife walking down to greet me, she had not woken up when I left, but she came around the time I estimated I would finish. The feeling I had was that I was invincible. And it was great that my wife was there. The other bruneians had finished earlier, some of them still at the finish line sharing their experience with each other.
And thus ends my story on my SUCCESSFUL 5.4 km openswim at 2hr 47mins, I was informed later by another bruneian that a professional open swimmer recorded his swim on his GPS to be 7km rather than the informed 5.4km. My guess was the drifted tanker caused us to swim around it at a longer distance. I also checked Google earth. The straight distance would have been 5.4km, but it might have been more 😀
At the end I got my wife to take picture of me at the finish line and later with my swim partner, number 6, whose name is apple sin.
My next marathon open swim I’m gonna need ginger pills and some bananas, I wouldn’t mind swimming with apple again :p I think she smiled everytime she breathed when swimming. But I am definitely gonna need a swimming partner…. Wifey?…… 🙂


8 thoughts on “Succeeded in labuan cross channel open swimming 5.4km”

  1. Hello, i am planning to join the labuan channel crossing this year and read ur blog. Was wondering if the water is quite clean, underwater visibility ok (or very muddy like in penang) and if there are jelly fishes ; )
    Thanks for sharing ur experience

    1. Update on the visibility and jelly fish. 2016 the water was very clear, and i saw some small jelly fishes the sizes of small tomatoes. i panicked when i saw them and swam a bit faster. heheh.

  2. I guess you are signing up for next week? 25 April 2015. The last few times I have swam. the water is not blue clear, but you can see upto 20 metres, there is a distance close to the islands you can see the ocean floor. There were no cases of jelly fish, although the local mention of sharks, but I did not notice any.
    I haven’t swam at penang yet. although I am looking forward for langkawi ironman at the end of the year.

    1. nope. is the registration out yet? in my experience, the official website tourism keeps on changing, and the events are announced relatively last minute. latest i experienced was 1 week before event.
      I can see the event is listed on the tourism website, but i cannot find the registration form anywhere. I will send an email to the gov website to enquire. thanks for reminder.

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