It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post, way over a year in fact, so this is a round-up of my 2017! There were no big swims for me in 2017 and what many of you may not know was that in February I found out I was pregnant. I then suffered from hyperemesis for most of my pregnancy but during bouts of feeling well I got out and managed to get some swimming in – it was one of the very rare things that didn’t make me feel or be sick.
So instead of doing any big swims and enduring long training swims I decided to have some fun with my swimming. I was interested to see how my pregnancy would affect my swimming and people’s perceptions of a pregnant woman swimming in colder waters or in the sea. I also enjoyed doing some talks about swimming the Channel and the need for commitment, determination and courage.
My first two talks were in March, firstly in a primary school and then the week after for International Women’s Day, completely different audiences but both with very similar messages – put your mind to something and go out and achieve it no matter what barriers are put in your way.
In April I enjoyed some swims at both my local lido Tooting Bec but also headed back to Brockwell lido where back in my late teens I worked as a lifeguard for a summer and also taught swimming, I always love going back there especially as it was a beautiful April day. It was my first time swimming in the cold water whilst being pregnant and I was 3-4 months pregnant. I had spoken to my midwife about swimming in colder temps and was pleased with her positivity about it ‘if it’s something you have been doing then carry on doing it, but if you start shivering in the water then get out’. I had heard stories in the past of midwives and doctors advising against it so it was nice to hear it was okay. Doing reasearch there is very little advice on swimming in open water whilst pregnant – only information on hot water and saunas etc and general exercise. I remember being cautious first time I got in, getting my legs warmed up first before getting my stomach in, but once I was in I was away swimming as normal and really enjoyed it. At this point I didn’t look pregnant so there were no comments from anyone as to whether I should or shouldn’t be doing swimming.
From the colder climates of London’s lido’s I then headed over to Dubai for a week to enjoy some much warmer swims in the sea, having grown up there I always enjoy my swims in the gorgeous clear water. Whilst swimming however, I did start to notice that I was getting tired more easily and was out of breath very quickly especially in the rougher seas so did a few 30 minute swims rather than longer swims as I would have done before. All enjoyable though as always, but it reminded me that perhaps I needed, whilst pregnant, I might have to take things a little easier.
At the end of May, Tom and I decided to head down to Rye for a few days and tie in a trip over to France as I hadn’t had a chance to see my landing of my English Channel swim from land side. We just drove over for a few hours and headed to the lighthouse at Cap Griz Nez, it was a miserable day and as I looked down to the rocks where I landed and then over towards England I still to this day can’t believe that I made it. I remember the pain but the determination and I will admit I had a little cry to myself as it all came flooding back. It was a reminder to me of how far I had come over the years to achieve something pretty special.
After swimming in Tooting Bec Lido for a few weeks I wanted to head to a few other swimming locations I hadn’t swam in for a while or never visited just to add some variety to my swimming. Some of these pools included:
London Fields Lido – I managed to fit in a trip here for a swim before it closed for renovations for the summer, I believe it is about to finally reopen after many delays. It is a lovely pool although can be extremely busy. It is 50m and heated all year round.
Lake 32, Cotswolds – I went to visit Kerry in July and we headed to one of the many lakes there for a dip. Again another great facility open to open water swimmers and triathletes to use at certain times to swim in with marked out distances of 400m, 750m and 1500m. The water was lovely and clear and not too weedy which was nice.
Wycombe Rye Lido – A 33m heated lido, Tom my husband and I visited here having not been before. It was a beautiful sunny day and we got there before all the families and sunbathers. Again great facilities and a lovely little cafe to grab a smoothie afterwards.
Hillingdon Lido – This is a 50m unheated Lido which used to be known as Uxbridge Lido. Brian joined me here and we had the whole pool to ourselves, I really hope that more people start using this pool not just on the sunny days, it is such a great facility.
Guildford Lido – Guildford is a 50m lido which is heated to about 25 degrees during the summer months and during the winter heated to about 10 degrees. One of my favourite retreats and often quieter than many other heated lido’s but used well.
Hampton Pool – A pool which is open and heated 365 days of the year and is 36m long. I have been heading here for a few years but can be very busy at times, it is even open on Christmas Day but unless you go very early you won’t get to swim much just wallow in the water with many others.
Oasis Lido – In the heart of London close to Tottenham Court Road you will find a little piece of paradise, the facility boasts and indoor and outdoor pool. The lido is 27.5m and heated all year round and even includes a few palm trees to really give that tropical feel. Another pool I have frequented many time over the years and one I always enjoy going back to.
Crystal Palace National Sports Centre – This was the only indoor pool I swam in during my pregnancy – I swam in the 50m racing pool but there are 3 other pools at the centre as well as many other facilities.
As I swam at the various locations above through my pregnancy I received a variety of reactions and the closer I got to my arrival date generally the more negative feedback I got. Things such as ‘should you be tumble turning’, ‘the cold water could harm your baby’, ‘I don’t think you should be swimming as much as you are’ I often heard and were always greeted with a smile The funniest reaction I found was from other lane users when I got into the fast lane. I always looked to see where my speed might fit and on the whole it was in the fast lane, and generally I was the fastest person in the lane. I used to find that people didn’t like me being in the lane and would often push-off in front of me or try to keep up with me as if trying to prove a point. I did enjoy overtaking these types of people, just because I am pregnant doesn’t mean I can’t swim! I did have to adapt my sets and rest a bit longer than I previously would but other than that there was nothing wrong with my swimming!
When I was 7 months pregnant Tom and I decided to have a staycation and we headed on a little road trip for 2 weeks. Our trip took us to Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset and included a few swimming trips. A quick dip in the sea in Lyme Regis, many swims from the beaches in St Ives, a day at Jubilee Pool and we finished with a swim around Burgh Island.
Jubilee Pool and Burgh Island were places Tom and I had wanted to swim for sometime and were purposefully added into our holiday agenda. Jubilee Pool is an art deco fresh sea water lido based in Penzance. It is open through the summer and is triangular in shape so a nice change to the usual rectangular shape many pools take. It was a beautiful day when we were there and the water was lovely, a nice change having a salt water lido as well. Whilst I was there, there were many pregnant women enjoying the pool, one who was even a week over her due date. It was nice to see and seemed to be celebrated rather than frowned upon which was great and a nice change.
You’ll find Burgh Island opposite Bigbury on Sea in Devon. It is famed for its hotel which is only accessible via foot or tractor at high tide and over the years many swimmers have swum around it. We met up with a friend of mine Sarah whom I had met in Majorca a few years back whilst on a long distance training camp and is a fellow Channel swimmer. Due to the timings we had to swim at low tide and went round it anti clockwise. It was quite rough as we swam round with a large swell but as it had been a while since I had swam in conditions like this I relished it. There had been some concern from friends and family about whether I should be swimming in the sea without support especially as when you get around the back of the Island there is no exit points. However, I had taken a few safety precautions (which I also would have taken if I wasn’t pregnant). These were to research when high and low tide were and when the best time to swim it would be, speak to the lifeguards beforehand about the conditions and weather as well as letting them know when we started and when we arrived back as well as taking a tow float with me. It is a wonderful swim and I definitely recommend it. If you don’t fancy doing it on your own Swimtrek do a trip with support as well as various charities who run charity swims around it.
At the end of August I was asked to be interviewed for a short film that Shimnix Films were producing about ‘The Space Outside’. My interview focused on swimming outdoors whilst being pregnant. It launched on the 1st January and can be viewed on the link above – the second film in the series. It was lovely to be included amongst so many inspirationally adventurous women.
In September Tom and I headed back down to the south coast to join Adventure Uncovered for a swim through Durdle Door and round to Man O’War and back again. The beautiful summer sunshine was out and Tom and I joined a group of other people including the Wild Swimming Brothers for a really enjoyable swim. At 8 months pregnant it was nice to be off my feet and enjoying the weightlessness of swimming. There was another pregnant women in the group and she had concerns about swimming in the sea and cold whilst being pregnant. It was nice to be able to share my experience of the past couple of months with her and assure her that swimming in open water whilst being pregnant was completely safe. There is such a lack of advice anywhere on the subject and many pieces of it are very much on the cautious side rather than the ‘carry on as before’ side.
One of the other things I really enjoyed this summer was helping Outdoor Swimmer with some reviews, namely a swimming costume review and kit review. Outdoor Swimmer is a great magazine for open water swimmers, a great read if you are keen on enjoying the water in the great outdoors. During September I had decided having been so ill through my pregnancy to work part-time so had 4 day weekends, I was able to put this to good use and head down to Tooting Lido and help the team out trying out various pieces of kit. Some pieces of kit have come such a long way and it was fun seeing how different pieces are able to aid training.
The last thing I did swimming wise was just two weeks before my due date. I had been asked to speak at the WEConnect International Europe Conference at the Barbican. I talked about my Channel swim and the challenges that came with it and the courage and determination that came with taking on such a challenge and the similarities to that of being an SME. It was such a nice way to round-up my year before my next challenge – becoming a Mother.
In October my little boy, Buddy, was born. I had to have a caesarean so 2 months in I still haven’t been able to swim but am hoping to soon… so watch this space! However, next week I start the journey of my son starting to enjoy the water as he starts his swimming lessons. I am looking to being in the water again, however, this time I will be there supporting my son as he builds his confidence over time in the water and I only hope he enjoys it as much as me.