November 2018, I arrive at my first open water swimming camp. I am exceptionally nervous, I have absolutely no idea what to expect – I am a swimmer yes, but I have never swum more than 5km in the open water, this is a whole different ball game. I had so many concerns going through my mind. Have I brought the right stuff? The plan says we are going to swim for 6 hours, will I be able to do this, surely not? How will my body react in the cold water? But my biggest concern, was by far, am I going to be accepted?
Last year, I finally made the decision that my channel swim leg will be done in a wetsuit. For me this was a difficult decision, but ultimately my challenge is different, it’s not about getting a certificate to say I have crossed the English Channel. The fact of the matter is, I can’t afford to put any body fat on and I sure as hell can’t afford to get hyperthermia. Fortunately, I am very lucky to have Zone3 supporting me and providing guidance on suit choice!
So here I am, quite literally throwing myself in the deep end, rocking up to a camp with 12 hard core open water swimmers. What on earth were they going to think of this 9 ½ stone sooky la la (this is my favourite term for a wimp, used regularly by my mother in law) in her wetsuit? After all, I had already been told in jest that there is a nickname for people like me, ‘wetsuit w*nkers’.
I decide I am going to face it the only way I know how, with confidence. I will watch people and pretend I know what I’m doing, and I’ll put my wetsuit on very last minute so no-body has a chance to challenge me. All the while, I am dying inside, shit I haven’t brought enough food, I don’t have enough bottles, I can’t leave my wetsuit to the last minute because I need somebody to help do it up – HELP! Please somebody come to my rescue, open up the ground and let it swallow me!
Fortunately, all my fears were laid to rest pretty quickly, I was welcomed by Debbie and Derrick owners of Big Bay Events and I immediately felt at ease. One by one I introduced myself to the other swimmers and quickly realised no person was the same, each having their own reasons for being there and goals to accomplish. A few people asked me about my wetsuit choice, but it certainly wasn’t met with the hostility I was expecting. Cue – big sigh of relief.
Now to lay the other concerns to rest, primarily, can I actually do this!? What the heck is 6 hours of swimming going to feel like, what on earth am I going to think about? Well I was about to find out…. In I get, 1 hour goes by, 2 then 3, 4, 5, oh my gosh I am actually going to do this, I am actually going to swim for 6 hours. Who’d of thought I could do this? ME, me, I should have thought I could do this, why? Because I can! I am learning each and every day that I can do anything I put my mind too. I am also learning that I have a very warped imagination and my internal juke box needs a serious update, but that’s another story.
Fast forward 3 months, I have now successfully completed 11 Robben Island Crossings, 2 Preekstoel to Mykonos crossings and was part of a world’s first, swimming from Preekstoel to Mykonos and back (24km) in one go – Go ME!
The moral of this story, believe in yourself and your own ability, take that leap of faith! How we build things up in our heads are not always as they seem…..and for those that may judge, remember everyone has to start somewhere and everyone has a story!