The night before the Henley Mile
It has been quite a journey just to get to this point. I had every intention of writing a blog most weeks, until we decided to move, which we are in the middle of at the moment. For many reasons life takes over and our plans have to change, however I realised that even though things can change, it is always good to have a goal. It can take you right out of your comfort zone and also out of everyday day life which for me, has been very refreshing.
So far you have read about my first two open water swims, with a little bit of progression. I had much to thin about before the next one. I was finding that I was getting really out of breath in the lake, especially at the beginning. I had read that a good warm up before swimming or any event can really help to increase the heart rate and slow down any anxious breathing.
My third open water swim was booked in at the local lake, Stanborough. This is a smaller lake than the previous two which was welcoming, however you can’t see through the water it’s so green! I arrived early and took a stunning photo for motivation and did some stretches in the hut overlooking the lake. Heather who runs Amanzi Open Water arrived to help me through this challenge. I really would not have even contemplated this without the encouragement of Heather. We went for a short jog together to increase my heart rate further in preparation for swimming. Once in the lake, the same happened as before, and I could hardly breathe. Here we go I thought, it is never going to happen. Breast stroke, front crawl and trading water eventually got me round one lap of 400 metres and it was then time for Heather for take her next group into the lake. There was only one thing for it, I had to try this on my own. It felt like I was leaving my Mum for the first time. I swam to the second buoy all front crawl before taking a breather and then to the next one, and then to the next one. I had actually got around on my own. I was so excited that I had to try it again. I pretty much made it round in one go on the third lap. I was thrilled and so happy, it was actually coming together now.
Open Water swim number four was at Box End for a fellow Amanzi swimmers birthday. This lake you have to swim with a partner. There were four of us, all much faster than myself, but kindly prepared to swim with me. What happened on this swim you may ask? Well just the same again. Panic. One lap swim and stop, swim and stop. Second lap, nearly all continuous swimming. This is getting quite frustrating now. The weeks rolled by and the pattern continued.
Myself and the other ladies who won a place at the Henley Mile through this girl can campaign were invited to Henley to see where we would be swimming. Most of us were able to meet and it was very reassuring that none of us were fully confident or even had been in the open water. It was wonderful to feel the excitement of the challenge and see the beautiful place where we will be swimming. I couldn’t resist and had to have a little paddle.
I managed a few more swims, none of which I was able to just get in and swim continuously without stopping or gong into breaststroke. It seemed that it would take me about 400 metres to warm up before I could carry on without stopping. Once I had warmed up though I managed a couple of laps in one go. I was so pleased with myself. I then tried to swim a mile in the lake. Whilst it was broken down into stages, I was finding that not having a pool wall to stop at was pushing me and increasing my swim fitness. The weather was getting warmer and less layers were needed to swim in. This was actually becoming a wonderful start to my weekends. I was getting used to setting alarm earlier on a Saturday morning than I would during the week. I took a most unflattering picture of myself, however I don’t care as I have reached that point that I am working towards my goal of Open Water Swimming and whilst I’m progressing slowly, I am pushing myself right out of my comfort zone and loving it.
When I set myself this challenge and before I even knew about the Henley Mile, This Girls Can campaign, I booked a women’s only open water triathlon. This was fast approaching and I had not been doing any running as my back was playing up. I was fully prepared not to go. One of my friends kept saying that I should do it and just walk the run section. The day before we went to Stanbough Lake and both had a tough time starting the first lap. I was encouraged to do the triathlon as it would help me with the Henley Mile, which I thought was a good idea. The triathlon bought with it a bag of nerves. I felt really sick. All I wanted to do was lay down and watch tv. The heat was immense and many women were swimming without wetsuits. There was no way I was going to do that. The briefing started, then it was into the water for a deep water start. Gosh, I could actually see through the water. I kept to the back as I knew my place and swam. Yes, I swam front crawl all the way round and loved it. The rest was tough through lack of training and the midday sun, but I completed my first open water triathlon!!
The following day, Heather had arranged for fellow Amanzi swimmers to swim at Denham Water Ski Lake and stay for the BBQ afterwards. The had certainly warmed up the water since I was there last time (my second swim), however with the breeze myself and my friend decided to keep our wetsuits on. It was actually fun. We did one lap and then decided to see what the difference would be swimming without wetsuits. Swimming in a swimsuit or skins as it’s known felt great and like I was at one with nature. I was absolutely buzzing afterwards. It was the best experience so far. The endorphins had kicked in and I was on such a high.
It is now the night before the Henley Mile, and I am actually considering that maybe, just maybe that I might not wear the wetsuit. I’ll decide on the day. Wetsuit or no wetsuit I am determined that This Girl Can!!