BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Carol Bossert, a graduate student at Indiana University, is preparing for an August day when most of her body will be covered with a thick coat of grease.
She's crossing the days off a calendar that is posted on her living room wall--anxious for the moment when she'll leave Dover, England to begin her attempt to take the 26-to-30 mile swim across the English Channel.
Bossert, 25, will have her body coated with four pounds of grease. The $60 worth of grease is used to insulate the swimmer from the Channel's cold water. But, the greasing is only one small step in preparing for a feat that thousands have tried and only about 300 have accomplished.
Bossert, who started swimming competitively in high school, decided last July that she wanted to swim the Channel--regarded by many as the ultimate swimming challenge.
Since October she has been swimming almost five miles a day, six days a week at the Bloomington YMCA. And she's also been lifting weights three times a week and does a four-hour endurance swim every month.
"The sick thing is, I'm having a blast--it's the most fun," said Bossert, a student in the IU School of Business.
"I can't even imagine burning out. For now I really look forward to my workouts," she said.
Her aspiration to make the marathon swim started when she spent a semester in France during the fall of 1983, Bossert said. That's when she and some friends took a trip to Calais, France, a town on the channel, and rode a ferry across to England.
"I spent two hours on the boat, thinking 'this is incredible. I've just got to do it,' " she said.
On the return trip, Bossert stood on the rail and marveled at the size and power of the Channel, she said. Photographs Bossert took during those ferry rides now decorate the refrigerator in her Bloomington apartment.
Her training and studies produce a busy day. She gets up early, studies for a few hours, goes to classes, teaches a French class at IU in the afternoon, swims for 2 1/2 hours, teaches a children's swimming class, studies some more and goes to sleep by 10:30 p.m.
The long day, however, doesn't produce exhaustion, Bossert says. In fact, she's jovial about her experience. She laughs and smiles when she talks about getting up early.
"People tell me my face lights up when I talk about this," she said.
Bossert is also cheeful when she talks about the possible dangers she might face during the swim--cold water, jellyfish that frequently sting swimmers and being hit by one of the 500 boats that operate the Channel daily.
And Bossert is making an effort to gain weight--"not as much fun as it sounds," she said. The weight would help her retain heat during the swim, Bossert explains.
She and her coach, Dave Tanner, have discussed the strategy whe will use to battle the Channel.
The English Channel is 22 miles wide, but currents and wind can stretch the swim to as many as 30 miles, Bossert said. The swim could be completed in 10 to 12 hours, but could take as many as 18 hours.
"I want to get out of there as fast as I can. I don't want to mess around," she said.