Phew! It’s near on impossible to drown in a wetsuit!

Shelly Beresford -

It’s official, there’s just three weeks to go, well under three weeks in fact. I’ve got butterflies just typing that! You see, I’ve been thinking and doing and writing about this for so long, the actual event doesn’t seem that real anymore!

The training has been going fairly well and I’ve even been enjoying it a little more! Since my last update I’ve ventured out into the open water for some swim practice. For the last three Saturday’s I’ve been up bright and early and swimming in Shepperton Lake! Wow! I cannot emphasise enough how different open water swimming is to swimming in the comfort of a 25m pool!

My friend’s lovely/crazy husband (who is also a friend of course!) has been having lessons there and he invited me along to gate crash which was very kind. My first attempt was lesson free however, just me, him and a big old lake! I was to meet him there at 7.30am and that was quite late in the day by all accounts, the lake was buzzing with people and a lot of them were finishing up for the day – amazing, who knew that Saturday mornings were made for open water swimming?!

My first experience was a little overwhelming; this is a lake in (practically) London after all. I paid my money, squeezed into my wetsuit (with assistance from an expert on hand!) and listened intently as the teenage girl pointed out what was what and told me the rules of the lake.

There’s a lot to take in when you’re staring in horror at the distances marked out in front of you. A 400m triangle in the inner bit, and a 750m loop in the outer bit. Believe me when I say the 400m triangle looked terrifying; don’t even start me on the 750m loop…

Lovely/crazy friend stayed with me for an eventual three triangle laps and all the way I fought with the swimming demons. Surprisingly, I returned the following week (not that there’s a choice as to whether I swim in the open water or not!) but this time the coach – Mark, a triathlete himself – could fit us in for a 30 minute lesson. Wow what a difference someone watching you makes. He canoed by the side of me and watched me splash and splutter and swallow half the lake on route to the first buoy, he then assessed my “technique” – this didn’t take two minutes – and he confirmed that my sore neck is mainly swim-related and I should immediately stop trying to breathe on both sides! Wow. Neck soreness reduced by half.

We then focused on my entry and reach… wow! Within five minutes I could see where all my energy goes in the water. Why haven’t I signed up to lessons before now?!! Seriously! What a fool I have been! We finished the lesson with a bit of drafting – amazing, apparently illegal in the triathlon, however… – and a lot of “crocodile” eyes, this is basically how you’re supposed to sight and not go off piste in the swim.

There’s a lot of off piste in open water, so sighting is massively important, who wants to waste energy swimming more than they have to by going 10m in the wrong direction?! In the actual triathlon, the trick is to pick a landmark and then swim toward it. Very sensible. Easier said than done with swimmers all around, the realisation of being in the Thames and trying to remember to breathe, plus all the newly learnt technique things!

I had another lesson this past Saturday, there I was 6.30am in the lake, just lovely/crazy friend and Mark for at least 15 minutes it was just glorious. The best thing about it was the continual realisation that it is very difficult to drown in a wetsuit; the worst thing about it was the continual realisation that 750m is a long way. Funny enough the early start didn’t even factor as an issue. Weird. I’ve changed.

The good news is, I’m confident I will not drown in the Thames. The other news is, I just might be able to complete the swim, but seriously don’t be thinking there will be any time goals here. Survival is still my number one objective, even if it takes me all afternoon…

The reason for my bonkers behaviour is of course ABTA LifeLine. Raising money and hopefully a little awareness for the great charity.

The charity helps out in all kinds of ways; just one great example, is it helped a chap, a former holiday rep, after he was left disabled in a road accident whilst working abroad. Being left disabled was obviously a huge thing to deal with, and following his accident he had to have counselling to help him come to terms with what had happened. Counselling helped him turn his life around and he was really keen to help others help themselves too.

This is where ABTA LifeLine stepped in, thanks to a financial award, he studied and passed a postgraduate counselling course and he has become a fully trained counsellor. Amazing, a small award was life changing for this guy. And this is just one of the many examples of how ABTA LifeLine has supporting ordinary people who have needed that helping hand.

If you’d like to sponsor my efforts and can spare a few pennies for ABTA Lifeline, please donate via my Just Giving page.

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