Annual “Steve Wand invitational Memorial swim”

This past Saturday was spent swimming. Yes, it is that time of the year when Mark Sheridan and his team put on the Steve Wand invitational memorial swim. Five years ago Mark and a few others trained with Steve Wand. At some point Steve went on a training ride and was involved in a fatal road traffic accident. Kent Air ambulance was called out but, sadly, Steve passed away.

The following year, Mark and his swimming friends – who had swum with Steve – decided to raise some funds for Kent Air Ambulance, by organising an invitational swim in Steve’s name. With Steve’s Family taking part, it was an emotional affair. This event continues to this day and is now in its 4th year. Each year Mark and his team invite swimmers to help commemorate Steve and raise more funds for Kent Air Ambulance.

I am honoured to be one of those invited swimmers (Kitted out in my beloved crochet shorts and looking like a terribly dressed 80s aerobics instructor – I am sure you can spot me in the photos). Although this is not a format I like, the cause is good so no matter how many times I tell myself I am never doing that again, when the invite email comes around I always find myself agreeing. The format is 100 x100m (10km in total) There are 4 lanes of difffering speeds and for my sins, I always end up in the fast lane – setting off on 1 min 45 seconds. The slowest lane goes off on 2 minutes.

This year was different to most years in that I actually did a little bit of training (my mother would be shocked and proud)! Last year I got caught out with no training and fell apart after 8km so this year I had to at least finish! My training was in a heated pool – to help me get used to the warm water. I think hot water acclimation is as much of a thing as cold water acclimation. The longer I swam the hotter I became, so I had to get used to my body’s reaction to the heat. With the belief of, “train as you mean to swim”, all my training consisted of X by 100m, just increasing the distance.

At first I was doing 20 x 100, then 30 x 100m, 45 x 100m and my last training session was 60 x 100m. The thing that stood out for me was my consistency. I was totally expecting that the longer I swam in my training, the times would drop because of my lack of fitness. However, this was not the case and I was very pleased that I could get up to 60 without my speed wavering. So with a meagre amount of training done, my expectation was I would be able to get through the swim but my pace would slow after about 7.5km. Well below shows that this did not happen.

I knew my times for the event would be slightly slower as I had been training in a 25m pool, and the event was in a 50m pool so you have less turns and less opportunity to use your pushoffs, and they were about 3 seconds slower. What I am very surprised at is the consistency that I managed to maintain – only let down by some wise guy in our lane suggesting we do the last length butterfly (you know who you are)!

Thank you to all my lane swimmers for dragging my hippo hide to the end. I actually slowed in the middle bit then sped up in the last bits . Swimming 10km will always elicit an emotional response and as we finished there was a massive sense of relief that it was done. One thing that put this event apart from other events was the participation of the younger generation. In the fast lane you had 3 teenagers hanging in there with the elite, veteran and swimmers like me (I don’t think there is a catagory for rotund hippos in a pool). In the next lane across you had girls as young as 11 doing the whole 10km. This swim is a massive undertaking for an experienced marathon swimmer but to see the young ones stepping up and smashing it was truly inspiration in itself. But, what was to come was to have us all holding back the tears.

After all was finished and we were gathering for the post swim feed, Travis arrived. Travis is Steve’s son and he appeared, briefly, then disappeared. Before the prize-giving, Mark wanted to play us a song. This was no ordinary song. Travis, who has an interest in Rap music, had created a song about his dad, and how he is dealing with his grief, a message to his deceased father.

WOW. I think all who listened were fighting to hold back the tears. Such an emotional, heartfelt rendition of how he and his family dealt with the immediate aftermath of Steve’s passing, and how he is trying to deal with his grief. It was a truly moving song and Travis has an enormous talent. Whilst I would not want to share the song due to its personal theme, it encompasses joy, heartache, regret, humour and above all, love. He does produce other music which can be found on his soundcloud page

Travis Wand Soundcloud

But the song he shared with us is his special one – maybe one day he might be in a position to share it. Travis came and joined us later after the song had been played and got a rousing round of applause.

The event concluded with amazing food, put on by Team Shezza and the Wand family, and it was time to depart from this year’s event and say, I am never doing that again —————until I get the next invite.

In other news

The week Prior to this event was my birthday and I decided to give myself a present of publishing my very first book. Let’s do something different.

In the last week I have had loads of support and many asking for signed copies of it. I thought that people wanted a an e-book version but I was wrong. There is a lot more interest in a paperback version so I hastily had to redo all the formatting to get it published in a paperback version. I can now say that it is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats. If anyone out there wants a copy, but does not use Amazon or a computer, please let me know and I can arrange to get one to you.

Thanks to many people who have helped on a project which has taken about 4 years and something I definitely thought I would never be capable of doing. Seeing a book written and published by me is a very surreal thing. Just reading it blows my mind when I tell myself that this is something that I have created. I am not a professional author, nor a professional swimmer but it reads like it is written by a professional. For that, I have my editors and fact checkers ( Laurie-Anne Jones, Dr Audra Schlachter and Dr Nicholas Murch) to thank. You have taken my random musings and put them into a sensible tome of information.

My biggest wish is that the information held in this book inspires someone to take up their challenge and find their extraordinary. One thing I have learnt is that we are capable of SO much more that we ever believed. The great thing about open water is that neither speed, age nor ability determine the succesfulness of your journey. It is truly down to you , your passion and the wonderful people you surround yourself with.

Best wishes for the festive season from the Hippos and I look forward to catching up with you at some point in the future.

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