The call of the River again!!
We are now just under a month away from my next little challenge – OH BUGGER! That means we are just over a month away from the Hippo Hitchup. Where, the Slimhippo will hopefully NOT turn into the runaway bride and agree to be my wife. Best I think about planning the wedding then!!!!! Or at least helping out my awesome wife to be with all the planning. As you might have gathered, I am not one to organise things, I leave these tasks to the Awesome Slimhippo as she is just sooooo good at it. When I do things like this I generally go at it alone as I am so bad at planning and organising. At least if I stuff things up there is only me to blame.
Sorry, I digress. When I booked this swim, I had a few friends who were interested in getting back into open water or trying it for the first time so I went ahead and booked it as a team this year. Total distance is just under 10Km and I have done it 3 times already so decided it was time to share this awesome day out with a few others. Well time has moved on and sadly some of the original team have alternate obligations that have come up and cannot be avoided, a bit like ——lets see———, maybe a wedding to plan for! But I am not letting this one go, yes it is 5 days before our wedding and there is always a possibility that I could get sick. Touch wood, I have never been ill in all the swims I have done. There is always a 1st time though. I am farming out the job of collecting family and friends from various airports to other friends and family but I was not going to cancel this swim. Well, I am pretty glad that I did not. And here is why.
Earlier this week I got an email reminding me about this swim. As I was now a few swimmers down, I either needed to find replacements or do most, or all of it on my own. Doesn’t bother me either way so I decided to cast the net out to a few groups that I swim with. Well, to say the response was overwhelming is a bit of an understatement and the very first person to respond was Nerys Pearce. Not wanting to bring down the standard of the team, – not that the standard is particularly high to start with – it has me in it! I started snooping. This is where you have to love the web and social media. The one downfall is that you only get snippets of peoples lives and those are generally the good bits.
So the team now is
Leg One – Start to Marsh Lane Weir 1.9k – Vicky Hassell
Leg Two – Marsh Lane Weir to Manor Farm Weir 3.5km – Nerys Pearce
Leg Three – Manor Farm Weir to Slough Weir – 2.6km – Tom Rogers
Leg Four – Slough Weir to Finish – 1.5km – Zimhippo
Vicky has been part of this team from the start and is the main reason that I am doing it as a team. Relatively new to the sport of open water swimming and is more prone to doing really silly things like Triathlons but was up for a challenge, She will be leading us off and will no doubt put in a good show to get us in the mix. She will also be doing the Club to pub Henley swim later this year and got into a more sporting lifestyle about a year ago. Like myself, She will also be getting married later this year so has to curtail her challenges due to other commitments.
Nerys will do the biggest leg. Primarily because she asked to and When I started snooping around the web what I discovered is something pretty insane. Her Facebook page is pretty much a rundown of nearly every sport you can do as a paraplegic with a special soft spot for paraplegic skiing and powerlifting – with shoulders to match. She can slice through water at about 4.1km/hr. I know most open water swimmers would kill to be able to do that sort of speed. Nerys was a combat paramedic in the British Army before she was left paralysed from the chest down in 2008 after an accident. It took her quite a few years to come to terms with what had happened. She has now embraced her situation and having chatted briefly, her story is both heart wrenching and inspirational. I can only imagine what it must have been like. She took part in the Invictus games in 2016 bringing home a medal haul of 10 medals. Her goal this year is to swim to France. I cannot thank OSS Windsor and maidenhead who welcomed this lovely lady into the sport of Open water swimming with open arms.
Having done the Channel, I have an idea of the mindset needed and Nerys has it it bucketloads. I also know how expensive it is and Nerys has a gofundmepage. Should any of you wish to help her in her challenge, then please do.
Tom Rogers will then take over from Nerys for the third leg and I think the nicest part of the swim. Tom was a couch potato 6 years ago and decided to lose some weight. He entered a few 5k runs and enjoyed them. He then got chatting to someone about Open Water Swimming and gave it a try and is now hooked. Although he hasn’t entered any long swims this year he has done Dart and jubilee a couple of times. He regularly swim in the river lea at Hertford with his run/swim buddy.
My snooping around for information on Tom has revealed that he likes running, spends a fair amount of time on two wheeled contraptions, both motorised – which tells us all we need to know about his preferences for leather, pedal powered mmmmm!!!! He may like lycra too much! not many signs of neoprene. Contact again came through OSS group. A very similar background to me and lets hope that his participation will sway him more into the water than onto a saddle of some description
The final – and shortest leg will be done by yours truly, the Zimhippo. I am sure I do not need that much of an introduction for those who have been reading my blogs for a while
So why the buildup blog to the swim?
One thing I would like to impress upon you is, being part of this world of Open water swimming, or any sporting sphere, brings you into contact with some truly amazing people. People from all different backgrounds who all have a story to tell. Each and everyone I have met from Celebrities in this sport to MBE holders and people with disabilities, old, young, rich, poor, even a few questionable Kiwis and South Africans. ALL are absolutely amazing with phenominal stories as to how they got here.
Who knows if it is fete or just good luck but Nerys’ story really hit a chord with me for several reasons. The first is that her life changed in 2008 when she was hit by a car. My circumstances in life and my journey that I am now on, also started in 2008, and whilst her life was going through turmoil, Mine was changing and I became a channel swimmer. The 2nd reason this resonates with me is, there was yet another amazing person – Ros Hardiman – who was instrumental in my transformation from super sofa sloth to the Zimhippo. Ros, also a paraplegic was training for her channel attempt and it was an honour to share the water with her and when dark times appeared, all I needed to do was to look for inspiration from Ros.
The third reason this resonates with me is that My father became disabled from a botched Knee replacement when he walked into surgery to have it done, paid the princely sum of about £20 000 (NO NHS in Africa I am afraid) and came out in a wheelchair and his life changed forever.
Bearing in mind the last point, I do not know Nerys’ circumstances before her accident but I can empathise with the turmoil that she subsequently had to endure and here I am nearly 10 years later meeting these phenomenal people whom I can only have admiration for and they will continue to be an inspiration for me as will all who take on their various challenges now and in the future.
And Finally I would like to share a thought. What you have and you hold dear could be taken away from you in an instant so treasure what you have NOW and live for NOW. Be aware of the future but do not let it stop you doing things now. TOMORROW is a gift that some of us may not get and if we do it could be better or it could be worse.
See you all in a lake river or Ocean soon