Getting 2018 off the ground (in May!!)


So the start of 2018 was pretty tough. I had an operation in December that put me out longer than I’d expected & then my breathing went completely AWOL in February. Coupled with my daughter being diagnosed with a liver condition in March & I’d decided to cut my losses (& my frustrations at being unfit) & call it a day. 

It’s easy to forget that I went for 12 years without swimming except on holiday. So I can remember what it’s like to have my evenings free, to not walk into a classroom, have the kids say “Miss, it stinks of swimming pools in here” & replying “sorry, that’s me!”. I’ve spent far more of my adult life not swimming than swimming. And a very small part of me I guess, misses that. 

So with my decision shared with my husband, daughter, parents & coach I headed out to the BEST Centre, Majorca with the swimming club for a training camp that had been arranged ages ago. I didn’t know how much swimming I’d do, I just needed to get away & relax. As Jon Bon Jovi so accurately put it “sometimes you’ve got to get away from what you love doing to find out if you really like it anymore”.

50km, 10 sessions & 5 days later I realised that actually what I disliked about swimming was being too busy to do it properly. When I was away I was completely selfish- I ate, trained, slept, ate, trained, ate, drank gin & slept. It was exactly what I needed & I loved it.

Returning to the UK with newfound enthusiasm, I entered a couple of open meets to test out my 800m speed. This plan backfired. They were Level 1 meets (most of them I looked at were due to the National qualifying window) & as a ‘16 and over’ swimmer, I’m actually pretty slow. My 09:40 entry time was rejected from both. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty annoyed- but, swimming is still a young persons sport. At 16, I went sub 9 minutes & while I’d have loved to get a swim, I can understand why meet organisers don’t want millions of 800m heats just to cater for people like me that could’ve realistically given birth to any of the other competitors!!

So, I was now fit- but lost. Ellie’s health was still patchy & so I hadn’t entered BESTFEST as I usually would. This is a great early season OW event to focus on. 2 weeks out from the start, out of nowhere- Dave & I decided that although he wouldn’t get the leave to come with me, Elle needed some sun & I needed a race. 

So we booked it. Now I’m a planner. I like everything to be organised. This time we were completely last minute & it threw me. I entered the 1.5km but was reticent to enter anything that meant Elle would be on her own for too long. I wish I hadn’t have worried and had raced a couple more. We were inundated with ‘babysitting’ offers & I’m so grateful to James, Claire, Becky & families. Next year!! 

As it was I just raced the 1.5km. I knew from training I was in good shape- but I’m also another year older & aware that improvements are harder to make! I’ve been working a lot on my leg kick & speed, so when the race set off at its usual relentless pace I was better able to go with it than in previous years. As I came into the bay hanging onto the back of a large group I knew I’d struggle to pass anyone. A beach finish is not my strength. I can’t run at all- even less so on sand after a 1.5. So I resigned myself to finishing last out of the group & loped across the line. My time of 19:14 was 1:15 faster than last year & reflects the progress I’ve made. Finishing 4th, ahead of swimmers I’ve never beaten before was the icing on the cake. 

I’m now on a lounger, by the pool- listening to Ellie splash around on a lilo. I’ve trained today (as I have most days), I raced yesterday & we’ve got 2 more days of doing nothing together. It’s safe to say we both needed this break. 

So, 6 months into 2018 & I feel like I’m finally where I wanted to be back in January. I’m fit, focused & happy. I’ve tried the patience of everyone around me- my husband & coach especially, but if I’ve learnt anything since the start of the year it’s that sometimes not planning & just going with it, is the way forwards!!


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