Seventy-four days into his epic 100+ day swim circumnavigating Great Britain, Ross Edgley is the only man in history to have swum so far, for so long. Speaking to Ross on the west coast of Scotland, we talk jellyfish, tongue loss and a severe case of rhino neck…
220: Congratulations on setting a new world record, how are you feeling after having swam 74 consecutive days at sea?
RE: Do you know what? Not too bad. All of the cuts and bruises and ailments and chafing, we kind of discovered how to manage all of those now. So, I actually feel good. It’s now almost a case of mentally celebrating a little bit, but knowing we’ve got so far to go as well.
What main challenges have occurred mentally and physically throughout your journey?
We joke a lot but probably one of the lowest points was when the chafing was at its worst – we called it ‘rhino neck’ –and I was waking up with chunks of my tongue on my pillow, I was just in absolute pieces. If you start getting any sort of wounds and cuts, they can just deepen and turn into sea ulcers. These get deeper and deeper until they reach the bone and tissue. So that was a concern.
Your shoulders were tight before starting, how do you rehab and recover on the boat?
Generally, you should look at your kinetic chain of how the muscles join and how everything works cohesively together. If you have a weakness, it will manifest itself over days, weeks, or in this case, months. So, it’s actually helped iron out a lot of bad habits that I’ve picked up swimming. With shoulder injuries, it was more about prevention than cure. So, I modified my swimming technique. Instead of being fast in the water like I’d want during a triathlon, I’ve had to become more efficient instead.
Did you ever feel like giving up?
My thinking has always been: ‘Be so naïve that you start but so stubborn that you finish.’ Honestly, I didn’t quite realise just how hard this was going to be. But even in the darkest moments, I was thinking: ‘Well I’m not going to give up.’ Worst-case scenario is that I’m pulled out by a safety boat, best-case scenario is that I finish this and arrive at Margate!
What would you say has been your favourite moment so far?
A minke whale followed us for 5 miles across the Bristol Channel. We reckon that the whale thought I was an injured seal because it basically just guided us all the way to the Welsh waters. Another of my favourite moments was in Sidmouth. I was exhausted and the entire crew was asleep. Somebody came out to the boat. Realising what would make me feel better, they bought us fudge and cake. Seeing that we were all asleep, they just left a little note saying: ‘Keep going and all the best, didn’t want to wake you’. It was so sweet!
Tell us about your diet, you’ve mentioned gaining weight – Is that deliberate insulation or a fuelling miscalculation?
Haha, it’s a bit of both. I knew that the Scottish waters weren’t going to be kind in terms of temperature. I thought look, if ever you’re going to put on a decent amount of seal blubber, now’s the time. With everything I was asking of my body, the least I can do is make sure I met its calorie requirements. Also, if ever you’re going to be able to eat 10,000 calories a day, swimming around the coast of Great Britain is probably one of those times. So I thought I’d just take that opportunity because I love my food!
What have been your go-to foods for fuelling hard exercise?
Before I started this, I did quite like a curry or something spicy. But because of salt tongue, now I just want something stodgy and bland. It started with just porridge oats. Then I was like okay, get some chocolate sauce on that. Once you’ve done that, get a pack of biscuits and crumble them on top. Put it back in the pan to thicken up, and it’s just like cookie dough. That’s become my go-to.
How do you find swimming in the dark?
The night swims just don’t get easier, especially now in Scotland with the giant jellyfish. You’re putting on a wetsuit, it’s 2am in the morning, and you’re thinking: ‘I’m probably gonna get stung. I don’t know how many times. I don’t know when it’s going to happen. I don’t know what sort of jellyfish it is.’ Yeah, the night swims aren’t great…
What tips would you give someone just starting out and feeling the pull of adventure?
I believe that everyone has something unique that they can do. I’m not a fast swimmer, but one thing I am good at is just eating and floating very far every single day. Getting started, one of the first challenges I ever did was a marathon, pulling my own car. All I had to buy was a harness and some rope. You start small, with something that you don’t need any funding or support for, that you could do this weekend. It [doing extreme challenges] attracts like-minded people who want to get on board, that’s the beauty of it.