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A Catalina Channel swim in memory of Jody Jones

Later this year Mark Johansen will attempt to swim the Catalina Channel, from Catalina Island to Los Angeles, to honour the life of his dear friend Jody Jones.

This September, Mark Johansen will attempt to swim the Catalina Channel in memory of his dear friend, swimmer Jody Jones, who died last year of bowel cancer. The 21-mile swim from Catalina Island to Los Angeles will also hopefully see Mark complete the Triple Crown of open water swimming.

However, the journey won’t be easy. The swim will involve swimming through the night with some interesting sea life including dolphins, seals and sharks for company. We caught up with Mark to check in on how his training is going, and how he feels about the challenge. 

When did you complete your other two swims for the Triple Crown? 

I swam the English Channel solo in September 2014 in a time of 14 hours 8 mins. I also swam Manhattan 20 Bridges in September 2018 in a time of 7 hours 52 mins. 

How are you training for the Catalina Channel swim?

I decided to attempt Catalina while on holiday last December and started training seriously while still in Lanzarote. Since returning I have swum around 100km each month, with one week in each month being high mileage where I have completed the Catalina Channel distance (32km) over four days. All the other weeks have been spent in the pool working on my speed, stamina and technique and at my club (Ruislip & Northwood Masters). I’ve not done any outdoor swimming, yet. 

Tomorrow I fly to Lanzarote with my wife for two weeks and I will be kicking off my open water swimming in the sea. We will also have access to a 50m outdoor Olympic pool, so it’ll be a mix of open water and pool for speed and endurance. By the time I return, the waters here will be warm enough for serious mileage, so I’ll be swimming at my local venue Denham Waterski Club and The Serpentine. I will be attending a few days training camp in Bournemouth in June with the Durley swimmers, and will doubtless join them for some weekends through the summer.

The Catalina Channel swim mainly takes place at night as conditions are better with lighter winds, so I will be looking to complete a couple of long night swims here in the UK. I am currently working on securing a venue and support for this.

As summer progresses I will be working towards my longest swims, which will probably happen around the end of August (a month before my Catalina Channel swim). These will probably consist of 7hr and 6hr swims on consecutive days, though I might adjust these times depending on how my speed is and how much distance I manage to cover in the time. After that I’ll be tapering and gradually winding it down – although we have booked a few days in San Francisco before heading to LA so we can do the famous Alcatraz swim.

Is there anything you’re anticipating that will be particularly challenging about this swim?

The Pacific is a big bit of water! It could get rough but conditions in the late summer are supposed to be generally good. Obviously, the night swimming is something to consider but I’m sure I’ll be fine as I’ve done a few relay stints in the English Channel at night – including one in December when it was blowing force four and the water was 10 degrees. There is a lot of sea life including big sharks such as Great Whites.

Please tell us more about why you’re doing the swim, and why Bowel Cancer UK is a charity that’s close to your heart.

I wrote an ‘In Memoriam’ feature for Outdoor Swimmer in December to honour my dear friend Jody. Most readers will know Jody for her swimming achievements: her impressive list of marathon swims including countless 10km’s, the BLDSA Torbay 12km and the Thames Marathon 14km, which she did twice. In August 2016 she swam the length of Lake Windermere in horrendous conditions taking 7 hours and an annoying (her words not mine) 30 seconds. All these swims in a standard costume, cap, and goggles.

Jody passed away last year after a five-year battle with bowel cancer but she leaves a lasting legacy having shown us that great things can be achieved in the face of adversity. She swam the English Channel in August 2019, two years after her stage 4 diagnosis and between bouts of chemotherapy. Swimming the Channel was a lifelong dream for Jody, but she didn’t want to stop there, she planned to go on and complete her Triple Crown, but sadly, this was not to be.

Jody wanted to live life to the full. She wanted to swim, she wanted to sing, but more than anything, she wanted to be with her family and see her kids grow up. Bowel cancer took those things away from her, and I want to complete this swim so that others might not have to suffer as she and her family did. Bowel Cancer UK is the UK’s leading charity in this field and has a vision for the future where nobody dies of the disease.

You can donate to Mark’s JustGiving page here. ‘In Memoriam for Jody’: read Mark’s memories of his dear friend here, an extract from the December issue of Outdoor Swimmer.

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.