thames-marathonJust after finishing the Thames Marathon 14k in 3:33!

Swimming’s my best of the triathlon disclipines. I’ve swum since childhood, achieving the dizzy heights (hmm) of regional success before I quit just before I reached my teens (when everything went a bit wrong). I still swam now and then for the next fifteen years or so, but it wasn’t until my early 30s that I took it up to any real extent again. I was dedicated again (almost obsessive, to be honest), going to the early morning swims with absurd frequency. I began to be worried if I couldn’t fit a swim in…I sort of miss those days now! I’ve been asked to join the local masters’ club a few times, but the training is late in the evening…and I don’t think I could take the nerves again. I used to be so anxious before club training sessions, let alone the actual swimming galas, and it’s a similar thing with the triathlons – so I don’t think I’ll be doing any serious stuff anymore.

I used to love swimming – it was the only place where I could be in ‘flow’ and zone out. It was also the only time I felt at ease with my body. I can be graceful in the water, whereas on land I’m gauche and clumsy, self-consciously aware of every move I make. I’ve lost these connections, to an extent, over the last eighteen months – but there have been fleeting moments of feeling at one with the water. I swam 7.5k yesterday, and although it was a sluggish, ghastly swim, there was a brief time where I felt no border between the water and me. As if we were a team, enjoying each other’s company…it was strange, as if I had morphed into fluidity. A gorgeous few moments, even if they were all too brief!

I started to get into outdoor swimming a long time ago (I didn’t realise it was known as outdoor/wild swimming back then. I just, er, did it). Living near the sea helped, I guess! I found a few other souls who also did this: I swam with just one other person for a while before I changed location (she was lovely and probably has little idea of her positive impact upon my life at that time). Once I’d moved I sort of fell in with a local group who were the bees’ knees, as far as I was concerned. The group’s swim location helped too, being a quiet bay that looked beautiful whatever the time of year, whatever the weather. And there were seals! I had no idea that I’d be scared of swimming with seals – but I was unnerved to be ‘bumped’ by them (I do adore these creatures though…it was just the shock, I think. Oh, and thinking that it must be one of the monsters from the deep. Ahem). But I loved (and still love) this wonderful place.

The group were fab. Everyone was friendly, without being extrovert and ‘alpha-y’ (oh dear, I do need to widen my vocab!), and people did things at their own pace: there was no competitiveness, no smugness – just acceptance and a quiet welcome to all. I began to swim with other groups when I had the chance, and there were some lovely people around…but I was also ignored at times because I wore a wetsuit, and I don’t think I helped matters by leaving straight after the swim. Most of the time I had quite a trek home, so I needed to leave there and then, and I was also usually blue from the cold and the Raynaud’s – I needed the warmth of my car and then – oh, the sheer joy! – my hot bath! But this meant that I didn’t stay around for cake and a natter, and I think this was seen as my being a tad aloof and unfriendly.

I had always swum long distances, and at this time I started to discover the swimming events that take place across the country. I have no preference about where I swim, I can keep going for yonks in a pool or in outdoor water…I just don’t seem to be bored by it (I wish I could same the same about running!). I do wish I didn’t see it as a competition thing though – honestly, you’d think that I would’ve seen gorgeous scenery during these sea and river swims…but no! My memories consist mainly of river banks and endless sea horizons. Harrumph!

Just before the start of one of my river swim events