Earlier this year I paid my entry fee for Blenheim Triathlon and committed to taking part in my first Triathlon to raise money for blood cancer and equally for the personal challenge. I thought no more about the event until in late sunny April, a friend reminded me I had the event in early June, rather than late July as I thought. With a slight sense of panic, I realised that I had a month less to prepare than I thought. This was a little daunting as I had not done any swimming in preparation for the event and last swam at school in my early teens, a long time ago.
At the beginning of May and with the event looming, I got into our local pool to try out my 30-plus-year-old front crawl. I would not describe it as a complete success. I managed one length, almost drowned myself and was completely out of breath by the time I got to the end of the 25 metre pool. On the next occasion, trying harder, in the same way lead to even more disastrous results. This time I had the added humiliation of the local Triathlon team bombing up and down in the lanes next to me, making it all look so easy.
So I figured needing to swim 750m at the start of the Triathlon in a wetsuit, and in the open water lake, I better try and learn how to swim more effectively. I thought I would do this by forgetting what little I knew and starting completely from scratch. An experienced Triathlete, who happens to be a client, gave me some useful pointers and armed with these and some online research I started again.
Over the next five weeks, I swam almost daily and concentrated on learning (and perfecting) one skill needed to swim the front crawl. These skills included learning how to breath properly, balance in the water etc. Over the space of the following few weeks, the distance I could cover and my confidence in my ability to learn all improved. Two weeks before the event, I invested in a wet suit, found an open water swimming lake South of Oxford and took the same approach to learning how to swim in open water.
Finally the day arrived and on a very wet Saturday at the beginning of June, I headed off to Blenheim Palace with a few thousand other people to take part in the Triathlon. by now I was at least confident I could complete the swim. As it happened, I got carried along by the crowd and excitement, completed the swim faster and more confidently than I expected and successfully completed the whole event.
Reflecting on my Blenheim Triathlon experience, I think that I actually learnt a lot about learning. Finding the right people and tools to help, putting in the effort and taking one step at a time can really deliver impressive results. To be successful, you need to be prepared to completely rebuild the skills one step at a time. Starting with small steps gives you the confidence to take the next and then the next bigger step. Trying too much at once will not allow you to learn and advance. And of course having a goal, or even better, a hard deadline gets you focused to put in the effort and time to master the skill. Before this event, I never dreamed I could comfortably swim 750m, in a lake, in the rain!
I would like to thank everyone who sponsored me to help raise over £340 to help beat blood cancer, the reason for all this hard work in the first place.