Wow here I am, my website is nearly finished and I am VERY excited! I am super Dyslexic and writing is not my strong point! (ask any of my English teachers) but I thought I would have a go at blog writing....... wish me luck!
Where to start?...... I thought I would be very self indulgent and take a trip down memory lane and I am going to tell you all about how I first got involved in open water swimming and how it has changed my life.
I was born in Cornwall, growing up surrounded by beautiful beaches and tranquil rivers it is no surprise I am a water baby. My earliest memory is being in the water ( mainly wallowing in the muddy parts of the rivers with my dog). My parents tell me that growing up I had no fear of water and I only ever asked to go to the swimming pool, which is quite surprising as my dad admits to nearly drowning me as a baby. He was bouncing me on his knee and talking to another parent when the lifeguard came rushing over to tell him that each time he dobbed me down my head was being fully submerged! (I am not sure my mum knows about this even to this day!). Luckily this didn’t scupper my enthusiasm and I was soon in enrolled into swimming lessons.
My first swimming coach was an amazing man called Mr D, he was fantastic, he made swimming so much fun and I can still remember his jokes to this day. He suggested I join a local swimming club, Bodmin dragons. It was at that swimming club that I cemented my love of racing and I learnt that to be the best I had to work harder than everyone else.
Me and My dad in the early 90's at Bodmin swimming pool.
Cornwall at the time didn’t have the best track record for sending swimmers to National Championships, In fact before me only one swimmer had ever gone before. When I was 13 I qualified for my 1st national event, the 200m butterfly. I had never swam in a 50m pool before and the heat swim was a steep learning curve. I finished the swim and I had never felt pain like it! I was convinced that I never wanted to swim that event again, so I was dismayed when my coach came over and informed me I had made the final! I locked myself in a toilet and cried. That evening I raced in the final, I was only 13 and believed that if I didn’t try my hardest it wouldn’t hurt as much, how I was mistaken!! After 3 lengths I was last and I vividly remember feeling so embarrassed that I was losing that the last 50m I gave it everything I possibly could. I came 4th and that swim changed my life. I got out of the pool and felt disappointed, ashamed that I will never know what I COULD HAVE DONE, so I made a promise to myself that no matter what I did I would try my hardest. Even now 9 years after hanging up my racing goggles I can hand on my heart say that was the only race I didn’t do my best in, which is a liberating feeling.
Me coming 5th at National's in the 200m Butterfly
Up to the age of 19 I had only ever raced in the pool, I specialised in the 200m Butterfly and 800m Freestyle in my view the hardest of the pool events. I had won national gold medals and had been to the World short course championships in 2004 but I had not really felt I had reached my potential. when I got asked to swim this outdoor distance event I had never heard of I jumped at the chance. British swimming up to that point had never really invested much time or money into open water, it was a niche event that was seen at the time as ‘an event for failed pool swimmers’. In 2006 it was announced that the 10km marathon swim would be in the Beijing Olympics, so suddenly there was this new interest in the event. My first 10km was in Saville where I was completely clueless on the skills needed to race in open water. I had never even hard of sighting or drafting so that first race was a real eye opener, I came 25th out of 40 but my goodness I LOVED IT! I loved the brutality of the distance as up to that point the furthest I had ever raced was 1500m and I revelled the physicality of the turning buoys, (I think the judo skills I had learnt when I was younger came into play there!).
I was hooked on open water racing- little did I know then how I would take me all over the world and even into Buckingham palace!
In my next blog I will continue my story with a tale of jelly fish, glory and heart ache.