Ventures into the murky unknown

Having gained 30 medals in her professional swimming career, including Gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Susie Rodgers needed a challenge. Find out what happened...

A few months ago, I called time on my competitive swimming career after 6 years and thirty medals topped off with an individual Gold at the Rio Paralympics. After the parties stopped and I had seen all my friends and family, the reality of normal life returned. Everyone else carried on, switched sports, went travelling, but I returned back to work with a thud. I missed that bubble and routine and I have had some dark and lost moments in the past ten months, wondering where life would take me now. In all honesty, nobody has that answer for any of us. So, I looked at what I enjoy. I love water, I love being in it, swimming does make me happy! But I wanted a new challenge. When Sophia Warner, a former Paralympic track and field athlete got in touch to say she was starting a charity event called “Superhero Triathlon”, where Para athletes and stars on TV were captains of triathlon teams with teams from all over the country competing against each other in a family event, I signed myself up with enthusiasm!

Susie Zoggs Blog 1 - OW swim_edit_

As the date of the event at Eton Dorney drew nearer, I realised that I needed to get myself familiar with the outdoors. I have done one open water race in the past. It was with my old Masters club in London. We swam half a mile downstream in the Thames (in the nicer part!) and ended the swim with a nice BBQ meal and a large glass of wine. So, when my friend Dan from the company Swim for Tri mentioned he has a Saturday morning open water session for triathletes to train each week, I thought I would give it a go to get my body used to being in the cold again.

My alarm went off at 6:30 on Saturday and I rolled out of bed, remembering all those 5:30 starts I used to do with dread and forcing myself to wake up! I got in my car and drove to Stubbers in Essex, slightly worried by the looming clouds and then the mass downpour of rain…. Not the best day to pick I thought, especially as my Zoggs wetsuit is not quite adapted yet!!!! I never shy away from a challenge though, I have always been notorious for enjoying pushing myself, not only as an athlete but as a kid, throwing myself into the sea at the age of 6 when there were sharks prowling beneath.. So a little cold cannot hurt, right?!

I signed up, got my wristband and walked to the end of the jetty, handed my leg to one of the guys and dipped my toe in. Oh. My. Goodness. ICE COLD! Never have I felt the cold so much. My “shock winning face” returned all in one go! Just go, just launch Susie... I was off to start my kilometre swim. The first thing I noticed was I sped up very fast and started to gulp air with the shock of the cold water. I was trying to warm myself up but then when I started to feel out of breath and dizzy, I realised my pace was far too fast, so I slowed myself down and calmed myself. I know my mind can get in my way and I am a regular practitioner of yoga meditation because, I have always needed to keep my mind under control ever since I was an athlete. Another thing that struck me as I kept to a steady pace around the circumference of the lake was that there was nowhere to stop! Where is the wall?! The murky, green water swallowed my hand as it entered in front of me, there was nothing but green murk beneath me. I don’t get fear of what I cannot see, but I hate buoys. Something about them ever since I was a kid… I have this fear of large objects coming up beside me when I am in the water..! Better rethink freediving with whales then…

Half way round, I realised that I was comfortable with the temperature and enjoying being in an alien environment... As I came to the finish, I got out and was handed a dry robe and a cup of tea to warm up. It felt like step one to get myself used to the water and I cannot wait for my wetsuit to be ready, because I think it will make a difference to my buoyancy. I felt a tingly sense of satisfaction as I drove home, despite needing a long rest later and a lot more food than I anticipated, I enjoyed my peaceful foray into the murky unknown. Like life, it can be dark, it can be hard to see where you are going, but sometimes you just dive in and see where you end up.

edit Susie Zoggs Blog 1 - OW swim 2