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challenge accepted?
Andrew Wells Winter 2018

Are you a competer or completer? Possibly a question you have seen before, but is this the real divide in swimming? In my opinion, itís not. These people are the same, the group of swimmers who want to be pushed to their limits, to feel that sense of achievement, going further or faster than they have gone before.

Waiting for the gun to go, you canít know who has worked harder to get to that day, is it the speedster with perfect technique who is going to win or maybe itís the person at the back who could barely swim a length the year before? Unless you have them under 24hr surveillance, only they will know what they have been through to get to that moment. Whether we would class them as a competer or completer will largely reflect their swim standard long before the event was even entered.

What unites these people is working towards a challenge, something to push you to go faster, further, colder. I see a much larger divide between those who need that challenge and those who just enter the water for the pure joy of it, the wild swimmers. Maybe I do swim just for the joy of it sometimes, but most of the time I need that goal, that challenge. For me, often the challenge has been to compete be faster but for other events the goal is just to finish it depends on the event. The joy of wild swimmers, their love of the water is amazing, it just isnít me, weíre different.

Swimming, particularly outdoor swimming can be a very social sport; but it is also very individual. In the water you are alone, even in the craziest of mass starts. When you reach the end, there is only one person you need to impressÖ yourself.

If you are going for speed you could come near the back and be happy that you have swum better that you have before, broken your personal record, or you could come first and feel deflated because you know inside you swam poorly and the position was purely because no other fast swimmers turned up. The same with distance, if you swim a mile for the first time after working up to it for months thatís a real achievement , finishing a 27th 10k can be just a bit meh.

Some sports have a clear goal, score more goals, get more points but swimming isnít the only one where we have a choice we can win by going fast, but we can also win by going further. Think of our cousins in the Triathlon world; compared to us swimmers they seem to be more race orientated, all about speed, but Iím not convinced thatís true. Just as many will be there to meet their goal of finishing and their sport provides stepping stones for those who want to base their challenge around completion. Moving from a Super-Sprint, possibly with a pool swim, through Sprint, Olympic, Half-Iron onto the full Iron distance offers challenges for nearly every standard. Even the crazy few have the Double, Triple, Deca or even legendary Cadburyís Double Deca to aim for, each step pushing the body and mind that bit further.

I have had the privilege of seeing a Deca up close, for those of you who donít follow triathlon thatís 10 iron distance triathlons in 10 days. Were they the fastest athletes in the world, no, towards the end there was lots of walking, but the commitment was immense. The mental strength to keep going for 10 days with minimal sleep is off the charts. Of course, there is a physical component too, and it was truly heart-breaking to see the organisers having to stop one competitor in the last few days because although his mind was willing his body couldnít continue.
deca uk
Would you put yourself through 10days for hell for a little trinket like this (to avoid any doubt, Iím not a triathlete), no sane person would. It is all about the challenge, proving to yourself that you can do it. Maybe some of us need to swim round Britain, but for most of us our own personal Everest will be a little less extreme.

Nowís the time of year to plan for next year, to look through the listing which is the one in technicolour, the one that says Iím right for you, pick me. Only you can decide which event will inspire you to work that bit harder and feel that joy, relief, achievement when you reach that goal.

Pick something too easy and it wonít work, your brain knows you too well, doing something easy doesnítí push you and isnít a big achievement. You need to push yourself to be that bit faster or go that bit further. Something maybe not possible right this second, but not completely out of reach. A target you can visualise reaching but have that bit of doubt too.

I have three main events picked out for next year, each a challenge, each pushing that bit further in a particular way. Will I complete them all? I donít know, they are true challenges for me. Not completely impossible to visualise, but failure canít be ruled out either. I know one thing, if I reach a finish line 'meh' wonít be the first thing in my mind.

Next year should be a true adventure; why not pick out an adventure for yourself?

Why not look at these sites to get some inspiration for next year?


AS YOU'RE HERE: The HOWSC website is maintained and run by HOWSC members and relies on voluntary contribtutions.  Do you have something you'd like to share?  Maybe reflections on a recent swim, tales of adventures in far flung places, an account of your watery accomplishments? Photographs, videos, poetry, prose, art and more will all be gratefully received and published on the website for all to admire.  Contact Mark Reed to discuss or submit your contribution.  We look forward to hearing from you.
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