The achievement doesn't make the person...the person makes the person!
I DIDN'T swim the Dart10k in 2022. In fact, even if I got to the start line, I might well have been fished out before I got to the end...or because I had planned to swim with a friend (or rather - he promised he'd swim with me, which is the only reason I agreed in the first place) with the adrenaline, a favourable tide, and a little bit of luck - I might well have been drinking my hot chocolate at the Dittisham finish line.
But I didn't do that.
The Dart 10k 2022 was cancelled because of inclement weather.
...and I could have got a refund on the jumper, I could have said - that's ok, keep the swimming cap and the mug - but hell no...I said - send them anyway...after all a picture speaks louder than words...maybe if I just post it, I can pretend...
...but I didn't.
Here's what I DID though:
1. I agreed to sign up at all. I said to the friend who convinced me to put my name down that I was considering trying open water swimming. I wasn't a swimmer - I could swim, but not with my face in the water, and I didn't swim beyond a pool...and even then it was a pool on holiday somewhere hot! BUT he had done the Dart a number of times - before his stroke in 2019, and this was going to be his comeback...and as such he said he'd swim with me...which if nothing else could be of help stopping him going off too fast!
2. I trained. I trained really really hard. I joined a gym with a pool and I went three mornings a week before work, and I built up my times, my speeds, and my technique. From Jan 6th until September 3rd, I didn't miss a single session - even working around my unpleasantly heavy periods each month! And I followed the Dart10 training plan - building up to swimming 3, 4, 5k, right up to 8k three weeks before. I started taking cold showers daily, and while I was also running on alternate days to maintain cardio fitness, I started strength training one day a week to build my back and arm muscles. It got to the point where I (and thankfully being self employed I could do this), moved my office hours from a 9am to a 10am, and once a week an 11am start because my workouts were getting longer and longer).
3. I started open water swimming. This old dog had to start learning some new tricks! The water was 16 degrees in May when I first got into Willen Lake. Thankfully I had a brilliant coach - channel swimmer Ben Brophy - and by my 4th session I was at least able to swim about 400m. From then on, I was in the lake every Saturday morning at 8am and even did a 24hr open water relay where I did two hours back to back. Oh, and during that event I noticed that I was actually confident enough in myself to say to someone else who looked as pained as I did a few weeks back "are you ok"...and knew I'd be able act if they said no!
4. I kept going. I found out as the weeks went on that I really didn't enjoy swimming long distances. I loved what it was doing to my body shape and my fitness, but I thank the universe for bringing my awareness to bone conductor headphones...every time I knew I was in the pool for longer than 30 minutes, I would listen to Elton John's AIDA, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and Jesus Christ Superstar...also Starlight Express and Little Shop of Horrors...it's not so much my musical taste but I recognised that I got on well with the bpm of those shows. AND although I had some really bad sessions, which knocked my confidence (and despite the damage I was doing to my bleached hair) I always knew on September 3rd I would dig deep, show up and step in.
5. I swam 10k. I'm not going to lie, I genuinely felt a sense of relief that not only did I not have to swim but that decision was completely taken out of my hands. I didn't have to swim. BUT, I'd been sponsored - with both the 24 hr swim and the Dart 10 I'd raised over £500 for Level Water...and well, look at points 1-4...was that really going to be it...all that work for the best part of 2022 just to get to the finish when I hadn't even reached the start?
So, I messaged said friend with "I'm doing 10k in the pool tomorrow, I start at 8 - want to do the same and we can synchronise watches?"
On Sunday 4th September 12.45, after 4hrs 20, two breaks for some gels and water, and 500 lengths of a 20m pool, I completed "my longest swim on Strava"! Actually for the first 5k my pace was really good, but I really had to push for the second half. My friend - who was always going to be the faster swimmer completed in 3hrs 30 at the London Docks - BUT just knowing we were swimming "together" was kind of cool...after all, he's the reason I was there.
So, yes, I got my mug, which is sitting with my medals and swimming hats from events, and I got my swimming hat - which I'm going to use in the pool because I need a new one that doesn't pull on my poor broken fringe, and I will wear my hoodie with pride.
...because that hoodie represents to me the three values that I hold dearest of all - Integrity, Effort, and Friendship...I didn't swim Totnes to Dittisham, but I went the distance.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the practical "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; or her Radio Show "The Wellbeing Lounge", and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt
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