This past weekend was world swimming day, and you all know how much I love swimming… Two years ago I began swimming, after taking several years off exercising to have kids, I did a short, really short, little swim across Silvermine Dam. It was freezing cold, close to the middle of winter and I loved it… since then I have been swimming and swimming. From a mile or two to Robben Island and a couple of weeks ago a 12 km crossing across Langebaan Lagoon.
The purpose of my swim was to raise funds for The Protect the West Coast Foundation, I am very close reaching my donation target… and my campaign will remain open till the end of the month. Massive thank you to my friends and family who have supported this project so far. If you would like to help me reach my donation goal, then please just click on the image below.
7 Questions Asked and Answered
Several people have asked me how on earth I trained for a 12km swim… the thing is, you need to believe that you can do it, and that depends on the people you mingle with. When you never interact with swimmers, then swimming 500m can feel like a long way… but when you hang around folk that swim miles further than I could ever dream about… then 12 km seems achievable. And so with an achievable 12km event in my sights… I plotted and planned, with all the help and encouragement from Cape Town Open Water Swim, to make it happen.
- Prepare your focus and stick to it: At the start of my training I definitley could not have swam 12km across Langebaan Lagoon. I had no idea if I actually could swim 12 km in the open ocean or not, but I did know that I wanted to swim that finish shute. That finish looks about 20m, but is more like 100m. Every single swim I had building up to the day, I was focused on the distance… and on the day, the finish line. When I got there and had to climb onto the quay with arms and legs that had just kicked for 12km, well, it was then that I realised that I hadn’t really thought it through very well… and getting out was the hardest part!!!
- Preparation is Key: You can prepare for all the physical stuff… chaffing, get some anti-chaff cream and thank me later, make sure you have powder with you to help get your cap on, make sure you have adjusted your goggles before you hit the water… refine, refine, refine… every time you hit the water make a plan to tweak and improve something before the next swim.
- Slowly build up your training: I added a kilometer a week to my long swim, and every third week or so I took a mini-break. For this event I was only thinking about covering the distance… 12 km is a long way to swim and I needed to know that I could actually do it before the day. I started weeks in advance… and picked a day for my long swim and stuck to it, no matter what. Even so, I knew disasters could strike… so I factored in a couple of easy weeks and yes… we had tight lockdown (no pool swimming) suddenly in the middle of training, so those week I focused on recovery and loads of sleep.
- Train your Mind: A lot of this kind of event is a mind game. You have to believe that the people around you really want you to succeed. The support crew are there to support you and cheer you on, they really want you to finish… but in our heads we start to think, “…everyone finished hours ago, everyone has gone home…” I am under no illusions, I am slow, in fact, I define back of the pack athlete and even so… no one, NO ONE, has ever gone home before I have finished.
That being said, training your mind is probably the hardest part. The big question everyone asks is what on earth do you think about while you are swimming for several hours… the first thing I do is appreciate my surroundings, and what beautiful surroundings we have here. What a joyeous priviledge it was to swim along the West Coast on the most glorious spring day. Swimming far in a pool is a whole ‘nother game… there will be times when you want to just stop, and then you tell yourself… just a little more, you can always swim a little more and often when you do, you get another energy burst and you are good to just keep on going.
- Sea swimming is essential, but safety is more important: So I would have liked to get more sea swims in, but I also have to accept that I have I can’t always find a swimming buddy and also I am a mom of more than a few kids… sometimes I can only train when it is dark, late in the day or really early in the morning, which are not ideal times for ocean swims. A lot of training in the gym pool, but at least one if not two longer swims in the sea, each week, to get used to the cold.
- Fuel for the Event: Forget everything you have ever heard about “calories in/calories out” and all that… this is a time in your life when you need to fuel up. There is a 1.5 hour bus trip to the start of the swim, and I spent that time wisely… in the past I have sat on the bus for swim events and piled on all the nerves until I was literally paralysed. Well this time I fuelled up instead… drank my energy drinks, made sure I got some bars in, so that by the time I got to the start I was well and truly good to go. Also, I have in the past made the mistake of missing a feed on the swim, in order to get to the finish faster… that is a ridiculous idea, when you have far to go, you need to fuel as you go, the seconds you save by not stopping will turn into minutes lost when you run out of steam further down the line.
- Doubt your Doubts: And finally, you are going to have several doubts, big doubts, several before the day and even more on the day. The thing is, in that mad moment when you signed up, you really believed that you could do it… even momentarily… you knew that it was possible… never stop believing that… put your doubts safely into a box and forget about them. Doubt your doubts… don’t leave them lingering in your mind for a couple of strokes… shut them down immediately… really, you can doubt those sneaky doubts and just keep going for a little while longer… next thing you know it you are there.