The 2006 season was spent developing my open water swimming techniques and skills, I raced all over Europe in the LEN open water cup. That year was amazing for honing my race strategy and also allowed me to be exposed to a variety of different conditions, from the freezing murky water of the Royal Albert Docks to the sweltering waters of the Mediterranean sea. I found early on that I prefer Cold Cold water, the closer to the lower legal limit the better. Back when I was racing you were not allowed to wear wetsuits which I am very happy about, I don’t think I would have enjoyed or been so successful in Marathon swimming if I had been made to wear one, I just over heat really quickly and I have yet to find a wetsuit that fits my shoulder without cutting my neck to bits!!!
I was very successful in the 2006-7 season, I amassed the most points in the European Cup league and went on to win the Final in Navia – Spain by nearly 10 seconds ( I think it helped that the water was a barmy 14.9 degrees and the Italians hated it).
2007 I broke through into making waves in the global field, in the March I was selected to swim at the World Championships in Melbourne. I was so super excited!! I love Australia and being able to go to a world champs was a dream come true. The race was held in the iconic St Kilda beach, it was 4 laps of 2.5km. The day before was our warm up swim- where you get to swim the course and cement sighting markers etc, that morning on the news there had been a shark attack 2miles around the course so all the swimmer were a little twitchy getting in. Once in we realised that Sharks were not the most pressing issue we would be dealing with as there were THOUSANDS of jelly fish! They were HUGE and not at all fun to be stung by! So the night before the race not only were we nervous of the event but also felt the fear of knowing that tomorrow we were all going to be stung whilst we swam!
The Pesky Jelly fish!
The morning of the race was the same as normal except when it came to starting the race, it was the first race where dive starts were allowed. I remember so clearly swimming out to the pontoon and hearing girls scream and cry as they were being stung on the way to the start line. The race was brutal, not only being stung repeatedly by jellies but all the competitors were so physical and unrelenting in the onslaught of flying arms and the occasional kick. Keri-Anne Payne and myself were at the front of the pack for the majority of the race, which had hidden perks. Not only were there less arms to bash you but you could see the bin lid sized jelly fish approaching so there was a higher chance of dodging them.
I came 2nd in that race and won my first world Championship medal. To this day I still find that hard to believe in a year I went from never having swam the event before to medalling on an international field.
Looking at the Jelly fish at the start line!
Cheesy grin with my Silver Med
That race gave me a huge confidence boost going into Olympic year. I wrote down a list of goals and aims for the season. They included winning and Olympic medal and also making the final in the 800m final. If anyone had read these they would have though I had lost my mind as I was ranked 98th in the world on the 800m freestyle at the time. The 2008 season I worked so hard, really pushing myself into places I have never even though possible to physically reach. A could of examples of training sessions are:
10x 400m freestyle in a 50m pool off 5mins holding 4.25-4.30 for each 400.
10x800m Freestyle in a 25m pool off 10mins, 9:45, 9:30 x 3 then one max!
I loved hard work and knowing when I got out of the pool that it was one session when I had got better and one session closer to being the top of my game!
In the March of 2008 I swam at the Olympic trials, I competed in the 200m Butterfly where I made the Qualifing time for the Olympics but came 4th so wasn’t selected and my main event the 800m freestyle. I surprised everyone that day by beating some amazing Swimmers to come 2nd to Rebecca Adlington and qualifying for the Olympics. The elation I felt that day makes me smile and it is a feeling of incredible pride to know that the hard work I put in was worth it.
Later that month I was back in Saville racing at the World championships which doubled as the Olympic trials. I cam 2nd in that race and secured my spot for the Beijing Olympics.
In next blog I will tell you what it is like to hear your name being called out as an Olympic medallist.