I am self trained and coached- I do not have a particularly supportive family. I am also a self employed single mother- so where on Earth did the gumption, energy and well…. everything else needed to swim channels- come from?
I knew that whatever else was required, my son was not to suffer for my ambition. I wanted the impact to be minimal on him- but showing him the determination and drive, sacrifice and joy of realising a dream at the same time meant not shielding him entirely. First major decision was to train for longer and less intensively to avoid him feeling displaced. I gave myself 18months. I was already swimming half distance quite comfortably if not very fast in a pool.
I figured that if I built up a really solid endurance level, say popping in a half distance once a month without it affecting my work the I would be in a pretty good position to push my limits. I took to using a day off a month to swim 11miles in the time Dylan was at preschool. Then I picked him up, carried on my day; put him to bed then stretched and slept deeply myself. I felt ready for more quite quickly- in fact, I was champing at the bit a year ahead of my dates!
As I said, I don’t have the most supportive of families- they are lovely people, but as a single mother, the onus is on doing that and nothing else. Having ambition outside of my child-raising has been viewed as selfish and wanton. Swimming has become a swear word. This was a huge stumbling block to my quest- the implications of not being able to share excitement and triumph with those nearest has such profound knock on effects that it all but silenced me. It stymied my fund raising attempts almost entirely. I felt unable to speak out about my (selfish) dream that I was realising and putting myself forward became really uncomfortable. In fact, this is something I am challenging myself to change still.
The distance was never the biggest worry for me- the cold was something I was concerned about as the first thing anyone said was ‘you need to put on weight or you’ll never survive it!’ I was 57kg, and felt good. Still, I sought out advice from a nutritionist who was an endurance runner and they concurred that I would benefit from added padding. I’m not sure now that it was necessary, but I at least found someone to rattle on about my ‘journey’ with.
And I swam til December, started again in feb and that made all the difference. I switched to flip flops in feb, no coat and lightweight clothes helped build the tolerance to our beloved climate.
I realised that looking to others for permission or appreciation was never going to get me there, and coaching myself became part of that. Knowing my mind, going beyond imposed limitations and really exploring the levels of strength it takes to do something not in spite of, nor to spite, nor even regardless of others’ opinions meant that I was free to feel the joy and my son gets the full expression of that. Noone can tell you when you’re ready. If you don’t give them permission, no one can tell you you’re not!