AUTONOMOUS AQUATIC INSPECTION AND INTERVENTION
Words By: Jen Price
As always I hugely underestimated this challenge. Even as I entered the water I thought ‘I think this might be a bit of a cop-out’, and ‘maybe I haven’t made this hard enough?!’
This thought was definitely due to the persistent feeling of it all still not being quite enough. Ridiculous I know, but it’s there nonetheless. It’s partly imposter syndrome and partly the people and social media I am exposed to. In particular for this challenge, a few days before I started, I noticed that a friend of mine (a renowned excellent swimmer and successful channel crosser) is going to attempt to swim around the island of Jersey. This will be an incredible feat (it is something like 40 miles!) and, without doubt, my swim marathon pales in insignificance.
Because of this, I keep having to remind myself that I am not an elite athlete (I’m definitely not a pro swimmer and I don’t even particularly like open water) and each challenge has been difficult relative to my own ability, and my capacity to train for 8 different disciplines!
I think we all feel like this at times. That somehow because someone else goes further or faster, that our accomplishments are diminished.
This is bonkers and I know it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it.
I have friends who can swim further than me, cycle for longer, climb more technical mountains, or maybe they’ve even crossed Antarctica (ladies you know who you are). I have to remind myself that I’m not trying to do a ‘first’ or break any records. I’m trying to challenge myself past my own limits and, in so doing, raise awareness for a good cause.
Safe to say I was reminded of this at about the 7km mark when I hit a bit of a wall (not that I knew this was a thing in swimming). I just started to get very tired and very cold, and suddenly it wasn’t so fun. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t in doubt about finishing, and it definitely hasn’t been the hardest challenge, but it was still a good reminder that this was a challenge for me. The furthest I’ve ever swum in one go.
It was a good lesson to be reminded of: don’t compare yourself, own your own challenge!
Besides, this challenge was always supposed to be a little bit of a breather. And by breather I mean it required minimal planning and only took up 1 day. This is in stark contrast to many of the others, such as the 5 day ultra-marathon I am starting in less than a week… and so I always figured I would allow myself a slightly simpler activity at this point in the year.
Of course, when you have less to think about, you often apply yourself less. I fell afoul of this by only completing a quick map recce and half a physical recce. Turns out Google Earth is not the best way to measure distance and may result in a last minute panic amendment to the plan to make sure we actually hit 6.2 miles/10km (and are able to get out of the river and back to our cars).
Lazy planning aside I’m glad I was able to approach this one with much more chill. Often I don’t realise how much tension I am carrying prior to a challenge; there’s always the risk that the transport will fail, that I have forgotten a critical piece of kit, or that I might get ill/ injured. So, it was refreshing to just turn up and swim.
Another enjoyable element of this challenge was that I was joined by an East Midlands University Officer Training Corps cadet, Huw. He brought a mini support crew and bags of enthusiasm, I also didn’t have to worry too much about him drowning as it turned out he was a faster swimmer! And before anyone gets on their high horse about how this is supposed to be a solo challenge, one of my biggest aims is to encourage others, particularly the next generation, to take part in adventures, so who would I be if I had said no?
Besides, none of this has so far been completely ‘solo’, and it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that there is always a support crew or supporting element. I think it’s rare, if impossible, to undertake challenges of this scale and duration without support. Not if you want to be both mentally and physically whole at the finish.
So, I will end with a big shout out to James (a.k.a Hercules) and Maddie who were the SUP safety crew on this challenge, and to everyone that has and continues to support me on this pretty epic journey.