The first in a series of blogs from Laura Kennington:
Looking at a map can cause all sorts of trouble – The Channel Islands Triathlon was formed during one of those troublesome map afternoons. I had it in my mind that I’d quite like to take on a little swimming challenge this year and, separate to this, that it would also be fun to circumnavigate around an island in my kayak. In the midst of drinking too much tea and scribbling down various options, I found myself looking at the Channel Islands; 3 of them were ever so close together. It was like Buy One Island Challenge and Get 2 Free – too good to resist!
The decision was made and my own unique triple island triathlon was born – swim around Sark, kayak around Guernsey and cycle around Jersey.
With no real focussed swimming experience, I knew the swim would always be my toughest discipline but I had no idea just how important technique was to swimming. Having previously thought I was a fairly strong swimmer, I very quickly realised that I was terribly inefficient and had a lot to learn. I reached out to legendary Ironman Coach Mark Kleanthous to explain my rather unique triathlon and to see if he could help unleash my inner mermaid. Mark jumped on board (excuse the pun) straight away with huge levels of enthusiasm and his support throughout the training process has been invaluable.
The early stages of my training were based at the 50m Olympic Pool in Stratford, London; a stunning and inspirational venue, but nevertheless those early weeks of training used to fill me with dread. I felt like I was fighting every lap and a recurring ear infection meant that progress was slow. I couldn’t see how I’d ever make it round Sark at this rate.
With morale pretty low, I took a trip to Guernsey to meet some of the local swimming community and sort through a few logistical matters. This trip was magical for many reasons, not least for the rather humbling dip in the local open water bathing pools. The water was a painfully cold 9 degrees, the waves were crashing violently over the side and I swallowed a great deal of salt water before getting out feeling utterly defeated, with bits of my skin turning a special shade of purple. Meanwhile, the local swimmers merrily battled on and throughout the weekend everyone I met was really generous with their advice and encouragement – I was definitely surrounded by the people I needed to learn from!
Once again, keen to proactively tackle my weakness, when I returned to London I was introduced to the ladies at Tri’N’Swim Well who helped tweak my technique further and also provided me with my wetsuit, meaning I could now start to focus on open water swimming and build up my tolerance to cold water. They also suggested I get some swimming ear plugs to help with the repeated ear infections – this was a total game changer and for the first time since training began, I started to feel like I was making real and tangible progress.
Training is now mostly based out of the London Royal Docks and I actually really look forward to these sessions. The laps are around 200m and I love training outside whilst the cable cars track along overhead. I feel like I’ve relaxed into the pace of training – slowly but surely building up the distance and time spent in cold water , learning not to fight against every lap, settling into the mental and physical rhythm as busy London life continues all around. When fatigue kicks in I think of Dory from Finding Nemo – “Just keep swimming”.
The moment I started this challenge I was full of naïve excitement about what might lie ahead. In the months since, what has followed is the deeper realisation of just how tough this challenge is going to be – but with that has also come a deeper appreciation of just how much you can achieve with perseverance. It has been a wonderfully tough journey so far and there is so much more to come!
Watch this space for regular updates from Laura and you can follow her adventures here:
Laura spent her early years as the only female sibling on a farm in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. She discovered adventure at an early age by embracing muddy countryside exploration with the beloved family dog, Hobo, a White Alsatian.
Later moving to London to pursue a career in the arts, she trained professionally as an actress and a singer, and worked within the performing arts industry for many years. It was here that she discovered a passion for charity, through her work with the Helen Bamber Foundation and iceandfire, amongst others. Focussing on another passion, fitness, Laura became qualified as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor. With this unique insight into the inner workings of the human body and how it copes under physical stress, she found herself curiously exploring the limits of her own body – she hasn’t looked back since!
Previous adventures include solo kayaking in Russia, sailing back to the UK from Sweden and solo cycling the world’s longest coastal route in Ireland. Having quite literally leapt out of her comfort zone a few years ago whilst cliff-diving in America, she now enthusiastically encourages others to think big, be brave and to start now.
For more inspiring ideas of getting active in the Channel Islands, go to: www.visitguernsey.com