Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.
I’m pretty sure Coleridge hadn’t The Big, Mad Swim in mind when penning his epic poem, but I reckon I’m starting to feel a fraction of the Ancient Mariner’s pain. Fine, I still haven’t quite left the comfort of carpet underfoot just yet, but even planning for a challenge so at odds with my landlubber leanings is making my barnacles blister.
My relationship with the big blue has always been stormy. Since its tide turned against me, scalding my toddler torso into permanent scarring, I’ve never trusted that still water routine. For three decades, slurping and showering were all the contact we required – and, trust me, it would have been supervised had common decency allowed. Why did I need to be near open water anyway? On this island…
But when crossing a foot bridge induces panic attacks and vengeful puddles regularly invade nightmares, it’s difficult to ignore the everyday effects of such a debilitating fear. During my Glasgow 2014 challenge then, I not only faced down social anxiety to wrestle, tackle and forward roll my way to better mental health, I also had to find a way to embrace the water – or at least let it embrace me.
And it’s amazing the difference that whetting my whistle has made to my life. Sure, it’s been a terrifying voyage, from the deep end of aquaphobia through the rapids of counselling and intensive lessons to finally come ashore somewhere along the coast from swimming proficiency, but the joy of pushing through a phobia to paddle more or less gracefully out the other side is beyond description.
While my stroke isn’t strong nor my breathing easy, I’m really starting to embrace the nature of freestyle with a style that’s free from any skill. Luckily though, for my around-Britain attempt, I have Scotland’s open water guru, Robert Hamilton, coaching me towards better technique. His knowledge and experience of the swimming sphere is rivalled only by his enthusiasm, and I can’t quite believe how fortunate I am to have him in my corner – even if that corner is 1800 miles long. After only two lessons, I’m already starting to feel more comfortable in the pool and, while, I’m not quite ready to move onto the wilds of outdoors, the deep end is beckoning me ever nearer.
In just over ten months, I’ll be diving into the biggest challenge of my life. I’ll be scared, for sure, petrified even. But those are familiar waters for this anxious soul to navigate and, if these last few years have taught me nothing else, I’ve surely learned how to keep my courage afloat.
For more information on open water and Total Immersion swimming, take a look at Robert’s website: www.vigourevents.com