My underwear comes off, bare bum exposed. Don’t worry about my modesty; there is no one in sight! Every other human has enough sense not to be on a beach in this weather. Swapping my warn trackies and coat for a pair of slightly damp swimming trunks and some goggles seems preposterous. I stand there, toe to toe with this watery giant. Have I picked the wrong fight? A tide of uncertainty washes over me.
It has to be done. No time to ask questions. I take the dive…I’m off.
There are times in all our lives where the situation in which you find yourself is ridiculous. What unpredictable combination of events and decisions has lead you to this point? Some may only find themselves in this spot once or twice a year but for others, this position is far too familiar. I am in the latter cohort, and I love it!
This particular occasion resulted from my necessity to train in cold rough seas without a wetsuit. This isn’t a normal everyday requirement, but when you set your goals high the hoops you have to jump through to reach them get higher as well. Breaking down your lofty ambitions into manageable steps makes them seem more achievable. For me, a current ambition is to swim the English Channel.
At this point in time, I would probably make it half way, freeze up and be pulled from the water before I passed out and drowned. It would take a miracle for me to stand on a beach in France (but I would give it a good go!). However, I recognise my current ability and understand that this dream may take a while.
Instead, I am preparing to jump for the next hoop. A 5k swim across the solent, from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. For seasoned Channel swimmers this is child’s play, a dip in the kids pool. However, for an inexperienced open water swimmer like myself, it presents a considerable challenge. Crossing one of the most tidal, choppy sections of the English coastline whilst dodging huge container ships will be interesting. I hope I can get across.
To give myself the best chance of success, I have been training for months. Completing the qualifying 5k pool swim in a great time was a confident start. Yet, you have to get to grips with sea swimming, battling the cold and riding the waves. This obligation lead me to this fateful afternoon on a Dorset beach amidst a veritable storm.
There is a period that lasts about 5 minutes (depending on water temperature) when your body is like ‘WTF are you doing, go back to warmth, moron’! But as your head cools down, you catch your breath and your extremities become numb, an odd sense of euphoria sweeps you. You are doing it, one more step (or stroke) towards your goal.
Despite the craziness of these situations, you need to be pushing your personal boundaries. Have you bitten off more than you can chew? Are you interviewing for that ‘unattainable’ job, pitching for a huge investment, talking to that 10/10 girl, blurting out true feelings to your boss, bungee jumping, quitting everything to follow your dream or leaping out of a plane? I’ve done all of these in some form and never looked back. Arriving at John O’Groats after 9 days and 947 miles of cycling was another self-inflicted task I set my self. But, I successfully made the monstrous journey despite the precluding doubt about my preparation.
I believe that you need to challenge yourself to find out what you’re capable of. If you don’t back yourself, who will?
While this brash approach may not be the best for many measured situations, there are times when you just have to do it. Whatever ‘it’ is … just give it a go. This mindset may give you an edge and make you achieve things that were previously a dream. I bet you will surprise yourself. Don’t look back or be scared of the depths of the unknown.
In approximately 4 hours I plan to be diving in off a pier in Portsmouth, aiming for the Isle of Wight. As wind speed pushes 25mph and swells are up to 1m high, it is touch-and-go whether it will go ahead. Secretly I’m glad it’s rough out there! I relish the challenge and can’t wait to get stuck in.