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Swimmer Stories : Jo's Cross Channel Swim for Aspire

Welcome to our first Swimmer Stories post! Jo recently got in touch wanting to share her experiences of sea swimming for the first time with the Simply Swim community. We've enjoyed reading about her experience so much that we of course decided to feature it here, but have decided to make Swimmer Stories a regular feature on the blog. We love hearing about other peoples experiences of swimming, good and bad. So whether you're completing a challenge for yourself or for a cause, whether you want to share your experience to help others or you've had something bizarre happen to you on a swim that you just want to share with everyone - please get in touch (scroll to the bottom of this post for details). And read on to hear Jo's Swimmer Story... Sea swimming is a completely different kettle of fish from lake swimming. I found exactly how different at the weekend. I’ve always been a swimmer. I then made the move into open water swimming a few years ago and loved it. I quickly decided that wearing a wetsuit wasn't for me though – I didn't like the restricted feeling and felt that my range of movement was hampered – so I swim without a wetsuit. Then last year I read an article about swimming the English Channel as part of a relay for Aspire, a spinal injuries charity ( with a team of 6 swimmers. Each swimmer takes it in turn to swim for an hour and then you rotate swimmers until you reach France. I can swim for an hour – how hard can it be? The answer, I discovered, is very! I trained through the dark, cold winter months and ventured out into lakes in March to get used to swimming in cold water again. However, nothing quite prepared me for Dover. Standing on the beach in Dover harbour early on a Saturday morning looking out and only just being able to see land on the other side was daunting. The cold I was ready for – I'd experienced my hands and feet going numb before and knew what the shivery, trying-to-get-yourself-dressed-without-dropping-your-towel dance, was like. What threw me completely though, was the murkiness of the water. I could barely see my hand in front of my face! How on earth was I going to swim if I couldn't see where I was going? I felt panic rising as I could feel other swimmers in the water near me but when my face was in the water I couldn't see a thing! I kept swimming in the hope that if I was slightly further out, the water would clear. It didn't. It just changed from being a wall of cloudy grey that swallows your hands to a slightly clearer dark blue that just nibbles at your finger-tips. I calmed down and got into my stroke. Everything was going fine until I decided to take a breath as the tide started to come in. Coughing, sputtering and choking I started to tread water. Salt had coated my tongue and the inside of my mouth and lips. Feeling like I was about to throw up I floated for a few minutes. I knew that I had to get over this, so I let my stomach settle for a bit then I set off again – this time keeping my mouth firmly closed until I knew my head was above the waves. Heading back into shore I was met with howls of laughter – the salt had swollen my tongue and lips. I now looked like I’d had some bad Botox injections!  My boat leader handed me an orange which helped, but I was then the source of all jokes for the rest of the weekend. An hour later it was time to get in again. Ok, I thought, I can do this. It can’t be as bad as last time. Just swim past the murkiness and keep your mouth shut. I did and I can honestly say it did get easier! Sunday morning I found myself one of the first swimmers on the beach – eager to get in! I was surprised at how exhilarating I found it. Back to the lake tomorrow – can I swim without waves and salt? If you wish to support my swim please visit   -------  Jo Blount   Do you want to be featured on our blog with your Swimmer Story? Email and put 'Swimmer Stories' in the subject line, with your story (min 400 words) and at least one photograph to illustrate your story and we will contact you if you've made it onto the blog! Please note we only link to charities and just-giving style pages in a Swimmer Stories feature.