The Men Of The Olympic Marathon Swim -- July 17, 2012
TSUGARU CHANNEL, Japan. July 17. BLOODIED from cuts on rocks and battered by a ful day of constant turbulence, Darren Miller crossed the Tsugaru Channel in Japan in 15 hours 55 minutes last week.
Guided by Captain Mizushima's steady hand and constant navigation of the shifting currents, Miller completed his fifth channel (of seven channels) in his quest to achieve the Oceans Seven.
Miller started soon after sunrise at 4:10 am in the 68?F (20?C) water that warmed up to 70?F (21?C) as the sun rose. While the water temperature was comfortable, it was the infamous Tsugaru Channel that churned up the waters for Miller. "I have never been in anything like that," said the English, Catalina and Molokai Channel swimmer. "It was real tough."
"When Darren missed the cape (on Hokkaido), I didn't think he would make it," commented his brother Matthew who was on the boat. "I know my brother is tough, but I was just being a realist, not a pessimist." With Miller constantly tossed like socks in a dryer, the crossing was a classic battle between man and nature.
The swells running fast from the Sea of Japan were strengthened by strong cross winds running perpendicular and diagonal to Miller's course. Every arm stroke looked like Miller was fighting the sea. He would punch through one side of the wave and come out the other.
Instead of riding on top of the water as he perfected as a collegiate sprinter, he was spending more time gasping for air between irregular swells. Up and down, left and right in completely random patterns, his strokes were cut short by walls of water crashing upon him by the angry sea. Frustration showed on his face and was clearly evident in his voice as the constant surface chop was relentless for his nearly 16-hour swim.
"Talk to me," he pleaded during one feeding stop early in the mismatch. "How much longer?" His team replied, "You're going to face this for a long time. Stretch out your stroke and keep your kick up. Find your rhythm. You're moving, despite what you might feel."
Slammed in a unsynchronized manner by the dynamic environment of wind, waves and currents, the schizophrenia of the Tsugaru Channel took its toll on one of the leading athletes of the Oceans Seven. As he relaxed his stroke, he began to slip through the turbulent sea like a butter knife rather than a sledge hammer.
The release of tension in his upper body was only temporary as the water began dropping from 21?C (70?F) to 16?C (61?F) as he approached Hokkaido on the north side of the Tsugaru Channel.
But Miller forged on and finished in 15 hours 55 minutes to move to the forefront of the Oceans Seven challenge.