I’d like to take a minuet to reflect on my This Girl can experience one week on from the big day.
Firstly can I say an enormous thank you to everyone involved in making the Henley mile possible, Juliet and the rest of the crew were amazing from the very start of my journey, the wonderful ladies on registration Who took note of my terrified face and directed me through the process, the safety crew who don’t know it but their mere presence and reassuring smiles were what gave me the mental strength to keep going. Without all these people giving up their Sunday these event would not happen so hats off to you all Thank you!
Katia, thank you for such wonderful photos that seemed to capture the thoughts running through my head perfectly , you’ve given me pictures that I will be able to look back on and enjoy my experience again and again, I very rarely like any photos that are taken of me but you have managed to capture so many that I love! So Thank you!
I’m going to be honest, my training up to the event had mostly been pool based, time restrictions and various other obstacles had made getting down to the open water a little tricky. I could manage a mile in the pool fairly comfortably so was feeling positive that I would be able to manage a mile in the Thames it can’t be that different right?……… Wrong Wrong Wrong!!!
As I got into the lake 2 weeks before the event my confidence levels were high, my new wetsuit was feeling comfortable, I was ready for this next step. After a safety chat and some words of wisdom from the lovely crew down at Thorpe lakes open water swimming, in I plopped.
That’s when everything changed…… As I started to swim I was very aware of how different swimming in open water really is! I was finding that within 200m I was struggling to breathe, I couldn’t understand why, I kept plodding on thinking it was just because I needed to warm up a little and get into the swing of it, but nothing was helping feeling hot and bothered I resigned to the fact I couldn’t swim and breathe in open water.
But I wasn’t going to let it put me off completely so the next day I headed down to another local lake to try again. But my experience was the same there I was in the middle of a lake some 400m later fighting for breath and desperate to head back to the safety of the shore. I was hot and the wetsuit was feeling very tight, so I decided to try for another loop minus the wetsuit to see if that helped. And at first it did but then came that now familiar feeling I’d suddenly become very aware of my breathing again. It didn’t make sense to me, I’m far from super fit but I’m no couch potato either so why was I struggling so much? I can do the distance in a pool so why not in a lake? I resigned myself to defeat and headed home deflated and pondering withdrawing from the event.
I was talking to a friend about it, she’s is a very blunt lady who will always say it as it is, she reminded me how cross I would be if I took the easy way out and just quit, and how disappointed she would be, so after a stern talking to I was back on track.
With the negative feelings of quitting pushed aside I decided to consult Guru Google,
I found so many articles in various magazines and suddenly it all seemed to be making sense, it wasn’t my fitness that was letting me down it’s was all in my head!
Although I wasn’t thinking negative thoughts in particular, I was aware that my comfort in the pool was mostly down to the fact that I could swim away following my blue line painted on the bottom, almost so relaxed that I would just swim without even thinking about it, my breathing was relaxed and effortless. Lap after lap back and forth never really far from the edge of the pool.
In a lake you are surrounded by beautiful scenes, but as soon as my face hit the water my blue line had been replaced with a murky sometimes bottomless mystery, who knows what was lurking below? Suddenly I’m remembering those all those episodes of criminal minds I’d watched and picturing a hand floating up towards me!
And then there are the weeds, what if they wrap around my hands and feet and I sink to the bottom? This problem with my breathing was clearly all in my head, I was in fact having panic attacks! I’ve been fortunate enough to have never really suffered with anxiety so these feelings were so new to me.
But I’d left it so late to get into the open water I’d now found myself with just one weekend left to get over it.
With this new knowledge I concentrated on working on the mental strength needed to complete the swim rather than the physical.
The following weekend I headed back out to the lake, I concentrated on putting my face in the water and really thinking about my breathing I did find I could go a little further this time, perhaps I could do this after all?
The week leading up to the swim was a mix of excitement and fear, people would ask me how quick I was aiming to complete it, my reply was simply I’m just aiming to survive it!
The day itself came around so quickly, after a night of little sleep and much tossing and turning, I was up and loaded full of calories, at that point I was even more grateful for my feeding tube, because my nerves were so bad I’d have never managed to stomach breakfast! The kids were dragged out of bed and with a final kit check we headed out of the door.
Arriving at the Temple meadow car park the beauty of the area took my breath away, it was just such a stunning setting. Registration done I went in search of the other awesome TGC ladies.
As the time was edging closer to our start time my nerves were growing, that pit of your stomach fear that grips you tight was ever present. The little voice in my ear telling me I could still back out, slip away quietly no-one would notice would they?
Then my daughter hugs me tight and tells me she’s proud of me, that simple gesture willed me to push that nagging voice aside, I needed to show her that I wasn’t a quitter I’d made a commitment and I was going to succeed.
We walked down the start line, there seemed to be so many people still in wetsuits despite the boiling temperature, had I made a mistake deciding to leave mine behind? Was this the key to my survival? after all I was going to need all the help I could get. More panic set in.
After a quick safety briefing this was it show time…..
The water was colder than I thought it would be, but while waiting to start I acclimatised to it, no backing out now I was in and ready to go.
Then we were off, I had planned to hang behind allowing the pack to race off, so that I could have the space I needed to take it at my own pace, I started slowly concentrating on the tips I’d picked up along the way, and trying not to think of what might be lurking beneath.
I kept a slow and steady pace, and started to feel more comfortable in the water, the safety crew always seemed to be just a few feet away, this helped massively to keep me calm and focused, Juliet had told us that the temple was not far from the finish line, so I used this to sight and as it grew closer and closer I realised I was swimming and breathing, I might just be able to do this!!!!
And then suddenly there it was the finish line, I’d actually done it and to my surprise enjoyed it.
I was on such a high getting out of the water I’d enjoyed it so much I was wanted to do it again and again!
The sense of achievement was overwhelming not only had I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone but I’d proved to myself and to everyone around me, that I was more than just my condition, I was able to pick myself up dust myself off and push forwards, and despite my moments of panic I’d managed to dig deep and find strength I didn’t know I had. This Girl Can seems to sum it up nicely.
Thank you to all involved, without the opportunity you gave me, open water swimming would have remained firmly on my “to do” list.
And most of all thank you for welcoming me into your community, I’m afraid I’m here to stay now, I can’t wait until my next event and plan on adding many more in the future! Who knows perhaps I’ll do suits v’s skins next year……..
See you all soon.