Entering the competition to swim the Henley Mile was one thing – winning it was quite another. It felt like the right time to do something like this and meant that, if I won a place (which of course there was no way I could), at least I had done it publicly so I couldn’t get out of it!
Winning felt amazing. I was so surprised and thrilled to be considered interesting enough to fit the bill that I didn’t really stop to think about what swimming a mile in open water really entailed. The more time I have had to think about it, the more ways this challenge feels enormous.
I used to be a strong swimmer but always sprints. I never, ever managed any distance swimming – possibly due to a bad dose of whooping cough as a child and almost certainly due to an inherent laziness. I tend to sound like Darth Vader at even the suggestion of physical exertion so endurance was never my thing. To be honest, until now, I’d never been someone that considered any form of exercise my ‘thing’ and that is proving a tricky mindset to change.
I have honestly found my first few training swims to be pretty disheartening. I know I am a good swimmer – I still have the skills and technique and so I can manage half a mile without much training but that involves a lot of stopping, puffing, wheezing and general faffing about. How I’m going to do the full mile at a respectable pace without stopping is completely beyond me and I am (quite unexpectedly) feeling very daunted.
Whilst the physical side of things is concerning, given that we’re swimming in buoyant wetsuits and travelling with the current I could probably lie on my back like a chubby, neoprene-clad otter and make it to the end eventually. The real battle for me is to (publicly) overcoming my deep seated fear of failure.
My 2017 diary has ‘Progress, not perfection’ emblazoned across the front as a reminder to try to maintain momentum as I frequently find myself unable to make a start on something if I can’t envisage exactly how its going to end. I am probably the best person I know at starting something and finding a completely legitimate, plausible reason to stop because I’m not meeting my own expectations. Whether that’s a diet, a walk or a competition application form (It took me about 5 goes at the This Girl Can application before I finally submitted it).
I have to learn something completely new for this challenge – and its got nothing to do with swimming. I’ve got to work out how to be completely and genuinely satisfied with ‘just’ completing the swim and not constantly thinking about how I could have finished a bit faster or done a bit ‘better’. At the moment I have got no idea how I am going to manage it but I suspect getting in the pool and ploughing up and down a bit rather than tapping away at my laptop might be a good start.
Time to stop overthinking it and get some slow, steady lengths under my belt. Watch out Berkshire – Tortoise in training!
p.s other obstacles I have to overcome are 1) to happily take and publish photos of myself and 2) punctuation!