Come on a journey with IRONMUMS ambassador Lee Bova as she takes on her biggest goal yet.
In December 2016, still on a high after completing Ironman Australia in May but unable to continue running because of a knee injury, I set myself the challenge to swim 5km at the Williamstown Open Water Challenge. The weather was wild, windy and cold on the day of the event and it whipped up an impressive swell in the normally calm waters of Williamstown beach. Having never swum that distance before, I wore a wetsuit for extra buoyancy and protection against the elements…and regretted it every minute I was out in the sea. It was uncomfortable and chafed me horribly, and I felt like a powerless cork fighting against the current in the rough seas. I finished that swim elated I had been able to make the distance…but disappointed that I hadn’t enjoyed it as much as I thought I would, having felt suffocated and restricted in my wetsuit. I made a promise to myself as I crossed the finish line that I would return to this event in 2017 to take on the 10km challenge, and that this time I would ditch the wetsuit in favour of the feeling of freedom swimming in the open sea.
Fast forward almost 12 months, and as the recently appointed ambassador for Ironmums, I had enjoyed success in the events that I had entered so far under the instruction of my new coach, Naomi. The idea for the 10km swim was still bubbling away in the back of my mind but I had been doing a lot of run training and brick sessions, and swimming was something I did only a couple of times a week, and never for more than 3km in a session. With two weeks to go, I sent a message to Naomi that I was hoping to compete in the event and asked her thoughts about whether I could do it. Barely missing a beat, she typed back, “Ok, cool. Confident you can do 10km swim?” And I knew in that moment she was going to get me to the finish line of this epic swim.
I should explain at this point that for me, swimming has always been my “natural” thing. I can find no trace of any other swimmer on either side of my family history. I am also THE most inflexible person in the world, and previous visits to physios and therapists have left them aghast that I would even consider swimming long distances with my ridiculously stiff shoulders and back. Nevertheless, I can put this unlikely combination of body parts into the water and they somehow come together and seem to work pretty well. This certainly doesn’t mean that I am a great swimmer by any definition; it just means I don’t stress about swimming events. So in my mind, I was hopeful, if not actually confident, that with a bit of specific distance training, I could indeed swim 10km.
Well, I certainly got what I asked for in the way of specific distance training in the next two weeks – I did a double swim day every second day, peaking at a total of 7.6km over a double swim session on the Monday before the event. That was a massive swim and whilst I felt ok at the end, I also felt the first shadow of doubt that I could actually achieve this goal. My long-time slightly dodgy left shoulder was pinching a little and my back was sore, and I knew I had still only reached ¾ of the race distance! I babied my shoulder for the next day or two and put my sore back down to having done so many tumble turns in my local 25m pool (for the record, 7.6km in a 25m pool is a whopping 304 laps!) However, I tried to comfort myself with the fact that I had a slight taper week ahead and would also not have to face a single tumble turn during the actual event.