Updated: Aug 17, 2020
I read a thing the other day ….. I read lots of things to be fair but this one made me think about what I can offer you…. My lovely clients… that the other coaches working at Lake 86 can’t. I’m not an Olympian, I haven’t swum the channel, I don’t coach a big pool based swim club, I don’t have access to an endless pool (well, I do but I’d have to charge you so much to cover the pool hire that it is a non starter…..)
So, who am I and why should you choose a coaching session with me?
I have always been a swimmer first.... since primary school (I was lucky enough to attend a mainstream local school with it's own pool!), secondary school (with a pool just down the road!), through uni (lovely 50m jobby in Leeds city centre) and early years as a teacher (special school with its own pool... I was in the water when I heard that Lady Di had died!). I have always enjoyed a pool swim, chlorine and all! I always swam in the sea during childhood holidays and trips to the beach. But my Open Water journey really started at the Tri20 centre in Reading with one of their ‘Introduction to Open Water’ sessions… probably about 2010/2011 around the time my mum was battling terminal cancer. It was a long trek to Reading (I hadn’t yet discovered the Water Park and Open Water Swimming venues were much fewer and further in between than they are now) and the water was mostly full of triathletes, who as any OWS will tell you are a different breed, highly lovable but different! It was a cold dreary day, I didn’t know anyone, I had a new wetsuit that just made me feel like I couldn’t breathe and I wondered what on earth I was doing here but…. I did have a triathlon in mind after a number of conversations with some of the swimmers from our local tri club who I knew from the pool. I certainly never imagined how that day would change my love for swimming so drastically from a chlorine related hobby to a passion that now makes me want to jump out of bed at stupid o’clock in the morning on a dark cold icy winter’s day and drive 45mins to a body of (occasionally frozen) water for a 10min dip with a select bunch of very special people.
Of course, I loved it… what’s not to love about swimming Open Water? I loved it so much that I went back, again and again and again ….
Westonbirt was my first triathlon (pool swim, beautiful ride and run through the trees, highly recommend for a newbie!), closely followed by Mid Sussex (also pool swim) and then finally into open water events at Eton Dorney with a 3k OWS and a sprint tri just 2 weeks later. The sprint Tri turned into a pile of Standard (Olympic) distance races and eventually brought me full circle back to Reading and the lake at the Tri20 centre for the Quintiles Tri (Reading is seen by some as the ‘birthplace’ of Triathlon in the UK). I love triathlon but sadly it doesn’t love me so much these days and the running is proving more tricky with knee and back injuries…. But it means that I 'get' it when you talk about transition and brick sessions and how to fit in training for 3 disciplines instead of just one
The 3k swim led onto a series of 5k swims and then almost inevitably a move to10k and events like the Thames Marathon. 10k is now my favourite distance when pandemics don’t interrupt training and lake/pool access! And just when I thought this year was going to be a 10k desert I spotted a post about an event in early September which was just too good to miss (fingers crossed for no local shutdowns or COVID19 related hiccoughs!)
Ahhh … the swimming trips. There are now a good number of companies that run organised swimming holidays in seas, lakes, rivers all over the world… basically you swim, eat, swim, eat, sleep repeat for a week (or more if your budget allows!), preferably somewhere warm and sunny. I have been lucky enough to swim in some amazingly beautiful warm, clear waters like those around Sardegna, the Tremiti Islands, Split, Spain’s Costa Brava and Turkey and to meet some fantastic folk in and out of the water. Though it is true to say I’m less keen on the salt water mouth and the jelly stings!! Of course you don't need an organised trip, I equally love a quick jaunt to Porthcawl, Bude or to Clevedon or to the nearest bit of accessible coastline...
Guildford lido…. I don’t really remember how those swims came about, probably an article in Outdoor Swimmer Magazine but it always seemed like a good idea at the time…. The challenges: Guildford 12 - to swim a mile an hour, every hour for 12 hours, 2Swim4Life – a mile an hour, every hour for 24h and then XLR8 a mile every 45mins for 6h (8miles)… hey … what sensible swimming lover wouldn’t want to do that!!!! I have a love/hate relationship with the Guildford events (who knew?!?!) that will likely linger for many many years to come but I learnt a fair bit about swimming in the cold, swim nutrition and sheer grit and determination although some may call it pig headedness…. .
Somewhere along the way I decided to train as a Level 1 swim teacher (assistant) and my tutor Esther was so fantastic (and also an OW swimmer) that I went back to do the Level 2 and then to teach in my ‘spare’ time. Back then I worked in Special Education…. A more than full time job so fitting in some swim teaching wasn't so straightforward but I instantly loved it! I did a RLSS NRASTC (National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches) course and am just about to do the RLSS Open Water Lifeguard course (delayed from the start of the season thanks to….. the global pandemic!)
Like many I started out as a fair weather swimmer and would hang up my wetsuit over winter until the spring came around again and the waters warmed up a bit. That didn’t last long and I now swim in open water throughout the year and yes, I’ve been known to crack the ice on the surface in order to get a swim in if need be. I have been super lucky to find a group of winter swimmers to swim with, to shiver with, to laugh at the hot water bottles stuffed down our dry robes with and to eat cake with.
I was never a club swimmer as a youngster. I only joined a formal swimming programme about 4 years ago. I loved the swimming, I loved the structure, I hated the changing room ‘politics’ and the busyness of the pool where individual goals and aspirations were just lost in the ‘one-size-fits-all’ ‘set’ for that session. I found another masters club and thankfully a brilliant coach who actually coached and taught, I loved every swim. Coach left but thankfully a new coach arrived who took the time to ask what people were working towards and wrote 2 very different sessions/sets to support different types of swimmer in the water. I was lucky, this was a lesson that stays with me always when I’m with a swimmer in the water. It’s not about me, my goals or the club trophy, it’s about the swimmer.
One day I had a random conversation with a swimmy friend about the ‘new’ STA Open Water coaching qualification, closely followed by the chance to take that qualification with Keri-anne Payne as the tutor. Yes, that Keri-anne Payne, Olympic medalist, 10k OWS world champion and one of my biggest Open Water heroes…. Certainly too good an opportunity to miss. Sitting in a room with a small group of super keen and interesting swimmers/coaches from varied backgrounds and experience, soaking up the enthusiasm and passion, the many pearls of wisdom and amusing stories over that training course was just huge. I came away with a very loudly buzzing bee in my bonnet and a fantastic Risk Assessment Spreadsheet (among other things!).
So that’s me (the abridged swimmy related version anyway). I’ve ‘met’ some incredible people who I just love and who continue to amaze, inspire and support me. My ‘Swimming family’ are spread across the world, some I have never met and some I see every week. The start of 2020 saw the start of the million metre challenge sadly scuppered by a global pandemic, but it also saw the start (albeit somewhat delayed) of TT Open Water Swim Coaching. My passion to bring others safely and confidently to the sport I love. It’s not just a job (ok.. I am kind of hoping it will pay the bills as well), it’s a way to share something that is so powerful and so special that it doesn’t seem right to keep it to myself!
I’m passionate about all things swimming. Pandemics aside I swim every day, in a mixture of pool and open water sessions. I read about it, I watch it, I watch films about it and listen to music about it, I follow lots of swimmy groups on Social Media from little river swimmers to the Channel pilots. I’m passionate about helping other swimmers, whatever their ability and whatever their goals. I’m not about ‘one set/drill/practice fits all’ and I absolutely get that not everyone wants to swim 100m in under 1m20s (but if you do, I can help you get there). Front Crawl isn’t the only stroke that matters … did you hear about the teacher who swam the channel backstroke and set a new record last week?….. just awesome! If you want to swim heads up breast stroke then that’s fine with me. OK, I might suggest an easier way that’s less stressy on your lower back but it’s up to you to then take it or leave it. I’m about getting people safely into the open water so that they can have a crack at loving this crazy addictive sport as much as I do. And if they don’t take to it like a swan on Lake 86 then at the very least I hope they will take away the skills they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe in, on and around open water. I'm about making OWS accessible to as many people as possible, so I try to keep my prices down and welcome as many people as I can.
My only regret? That my mum never got to know/see me competing and coaching in the water. She was a regular swimmer, maybe that’s where it all came from….
Photos thanks to Jo Turchet Photography - ok I'm biased but she's fab... check her out at https://www.joturchetphotography.com/