Picking up her pebble from the beach in France, Tyneside swimmer Vicky Miller became an official Channel champion.
Enduring jellyfish and choppy waters, the 28-year-old swam the 21 miles from Dover to Cap Gris Nez in France in this year’s quickest time of 11 hours and seven minutes.
Only 26 British women have ever achieved a faster time and so far this year Vicky, of Jesmond in Newcastle, has the quickest crossing time by any swimmer, man or woman.
“I was determined to reach the French beach and pick up a pebble that would signify I had made it and was officially a Channel swimmer,” said Vicky.
“Nothing was going to stop me doing that because I had put in so much effort to prepare for the swim and it paid off in the moment I had that pebble in my hand. I’m really proud of my achievement.”
Vicky swam more than 310 miles in the first six months of the year as part of her training, but it all paid off when she went into the sea at Dover at 2am earlier this month.
She said: “It started really well and I enjoyed swimming in the dark when the sea was flat and calm. The first few hours were great apart from the jellyfish and the seaweed, which were a problem.
“The second half of the swim was not as much fun, though, because the sea became really choppy, much rougher than I’ve ever experienced.
“I was thrown around and tried to get more shelter on the other side of the pilot boat, but that didn’t make it any easier.
“I found it really difficult and it didn’t help that I could see the French coastline after about eight hours - and it didn’t seem to be getting any closer.
“I was tired at that stage and the waves were driving me a bit crazy, so I had to have a little word with myself to say ‘Of course you’re really tired - you’re swimming the Channel’.
“I remember thinking that I simply had to put one arm in, then the other arm and I would get there eventually. It was tough, but I didn’t think for one second that I wouldn’t succeed. I was 100% certain from the start that I would make it.”
Vicky even managed to overtake two men who had started three hours before her. She said: “It was all about getting to France, not about doing it quickly. My fast time was a bonus.”
Vicky started swimming at Jesmond pool when she was five with her parents Mike and Lorna, who were on the pilot boat that guided her to Cap Gris Nez.
She went on to swim for the City of Newcastle team and competed at the national championships before concentrating on long-distance events.
She said: “Some people who attempt to cross the Channel haven’t done much swimming in the past, but my muscles have inbuilt swimming
“I didn’t have to worry about the stroke which came naturally, so it was all about building up my stamina to prepare for the challenge.”
Vicky, who now works in London as a brand manager for Procter & Gamble, is a member of the Torq endurance swim team.
She will be back in the water on Saturday for a one-mile race and is scheduled to tackle a five-mile course on Coniston Water in September.
She is also planning another major challenge next year. “I want to do another big swim, so it may be Lake Zurich, the Straits of Gibraltar or Loch Ness,” she said.