Just 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!