Last Saturday I ticked off May’s challenge and swam 3.8km in open water at the U-Swim Media City event. I didn’t stop swimming (like I had to covering that distance in the pool) and I didn’t finish last – it was all-in-all a successful day!
The run up to this one wasn’t as smooth as I’d like. I dove feet first into preparing for it, racking up the distance in the pool, feeling pretty good about myself after swimming my first mile in probably a decade. It was all going so swimmingly, and then open water sessions arrived. Cold, no-touching-the-floor open water. I jumped feet first into that one too and got a little bit of a cold shock.
My brain froze with a combination of the sheer cold and utter terror that I’d swam 100m out into open water and didn’t think I could make it back. Cue friendly safety canoe toeing my sorry self back to the pontoon. Tip number one for open water swimming: don’t listen to your friend’s advice and jump straight in and swim.
And then my shoulder went. Agonisingly and just 3 weeks out from the event it was a trip to the osteopath for a very painful sports massage. Following advice, I kept to swimming no more than 2km, with the pain easing. After a few days off (and knowing I had a last minute sports massage already booked to fix it) I decided to do the distance in the pool.
It was boring to say the least! 152 lengths of a 25m pool isn’t the ideal environment to swim 3.8km but the elation of knowing that both my shoulder and general fitness could stand the test of the distance was such a confidence boost.
On the day, the glorious sunshine on arrival quickly turned to grey clouds and imminent rain. I nervously stood with the other swimmers and precariously edged my way into the water. Cautious of sticking near the back to not get in anyone’s way. I just had to do 3 x 1km loops and 2 x 400m loops and I’d be done!
Did I want to swim the whole time? No. Stopping seemed like such a nice idea, especially during my second lap when the idea of having to do that all over again was just painfully cold and tiring. But then I saw my nephew, waving and smiling at me from the quayside.
And I remembered why I’m putting myself through all these challenges, he’s the reason. To make him proud, to show him that bad things can happen but a positive outlook and hard work can make something good come from it all and to remind him that “you didn’t come this far to only come this far”.
It worked, my latest challenge and writings have seen my 10-year-old nephew sign up for his first 5km Race for Life in Preston next month, fundraising in memory of his Mum. At the same time, I’ll be tackling an Olympic Distance Triathlon, but his effort is far more courageous and challenging. He’s running to make his Mum proud, and to show others that you should celebrate and (as he told me on our training run on Sunday) “to not think about the sad times but to think about the good times”. He’s my hero, my inspiration and my reason for always pushing forward.
Alfie’s first training run – 2.2 miles on his first ever day on the “couch to 5km”