With just 4 weeks to go until I attempt to swim to France, my mileage is going up with six and eight hour swims at the weekends – I’m exhausted, but on track.
With the tragic news that channel swimmer, Iain Hughes, died last month attempting to swim the English Channel, I spent some time (while swimming for 6 hours) thinking about why I do these challenges. It’s a question I am asked several times a week.
My channel journey began in 2020 with an English Channel relay with all the Mermaids, and from there I got the bug. As channel swimmers we normalise what we do, to us it is a nice (but tough) day out swimming. In reality it is an extreme sport, and therefore has risks attached to it. Eleven swimmers have died trying. Iain’s tragic death is a reminder that this is no walk in the park and that channel swimming comes with extreme risks.
I have prepared as best I can and have a solid support network. To successfully swim to France you must:
· Sleep – the most important thing.
· Train properly – I have the fantastic Sophie Whitworth, who has written me a full training plan.
· Join a channel tribe – I am part of Durley Sea Swims & Dover Channel Training. It is here you find out all you need from people who have done it and who are on the same track as you. I’m lucky that I have a fantastic group of ladies I regularly swim with here, in Henley.
· Never take your family on the support boat, you need to have a separate WhatsApp group for them, they will be worried.
· Have a great support team, who know you and know how you swim.
· Nutrition – train and practice with different mixes making sure you are happy. I don’t cope well with too much sugar. Don’t forget you can’t get on the boat to go to the loo!
· Train when it’s raining, train when you are tired, train when it’s rough, just swim & keep swimming. Never miss a session, always complete a session.
I do it because I can, I like to push myself, I love a challenge, and I believe in the power of saying yes! Saying yes over the past few years has brought me a great deal of stress but also incredible opportunities and a huge amount of fun. I’ve had friends who haven’t made 50, you only get one go at it, be the best person you can be and live it to the full.
This month has been a fantastic whirlwind. It began with Durley Sea Swims training camp, which was Monday to Friday, the sea was fairly cold at 13 degrees, so longer swims were tough.
A lovely ITV reporter joined the Mermaids in the river at the break of dawn for a beautiful swim and we featured on their news and weather segment. We joined RiverAction UK for a wonderful event in Henley Town Hall with our old friends Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, local river campaigner Dave Wallace, some fantastic representation from our rowing community, our town district and county councillors, and lots of passionate swimmers, paddlers, kayakers and paddleboarders. And of course, lots of people who just love our town and our precious river.
With the worrying news that Thames Water is in serious financial trouble, we have been asked to comment for the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Times, ITV, local radio and Radio 4 Today programme, the BBC and even American Public Radio! News of the scandal of sewage pollution has spread across the world.
Mermaid Jo and I had a wacky morning on Russell Brand’s boat talking about sewage and we had the privilege of meeting some of our heroes including Sir Steve Redgrave and naturalist Steve Backshall.
The week culminated with a Mermaid visit to the Houses of Parliament and the launch of RiverActionUK’s Charter for Rivers. We never thought that our love of our river could take us on so many adventures. We must keep up the fight to bring about real change and protect our beautiful rivers for people and nature.
If you would like to donate to our 2023 swim challenges please visit www.henleymermaids.com and click on the donate button.
As always huge thanks to our sponsors Philip Booth Esquire Estate Agents, and Better, Henley Leisure Centre.