Fat Can Stories: Caroline Sale
Fat Can stories not only celebrate cycling achievements but a variety of fitness accomplishments. Today Caroline is talking about her recent achievement of swimming 11 miles around Lake Windermere.
“I grew up spending all my spare time in water. As a competitive diver and swimmer, I was happiest when submerged. Then life happened and I got on with that, but water is still my happy place where I can move fluidly–on land, I flounder, in water, I flourish.
At the age of 48, I picked up swimming again as part of my bid to get fit for 50! My brother was already indulging in open water swimming, and I joined him, it sounded fun. My first swim was in Windermere when I completed 1 mile, so it seemed only fitting that my furthest swim should happen in the same place.
However, it wasn’t plain sailing. I have been struggling with my swimming recently, mostly due to the love I have developed for my bike. (Thanks FLAB, I love your gear!) But, I lost my Mum in April and that hit me harder than I was expecting. She loved swimming, so going to the pool became quite difficult for a while.
The lack of training filled me with dread for the event; but speaking to my kayaker, Claire, whose job it was to lead me up the lake, I found myself strangely calm. I didn’t have to sight anything, Claire did it–I just had to follow her boat.
Just before I left the house at some ungodly hour, I grabbed my sharpie. On one side of my hand, it read, ‘one km at a time’ and on my palm, ‘#fatcan’. I’ve spent countless hours at races with people looking at my size and judging me (until I beat them), but today I needed all the help and belief I could muster! These two little reminders empowered me.
We set off just before 7 am. I turned my arms, looked at the trusty vessel that was my guiding light, and knocked off the miles. Claire’s kayak was branded ‘Pyranha’ – a name now indelibly burnt into my eye sockets. I had decided that every 3 km was a day of the week so I would complete a week’s training – she totally bought into that, even calling out ‘well, that’s Tuesday done; see the car ferry in the distance, well that’ll be the end of Wednesday – so let’s go’.
There was a halfway cut-off time, but I knew that I could easily make the halfway point before that. We had agreed that I had to get there and then take each extra km as it came.
We stopped momentarily when Langdale Pikes came into view to have a moment to remember my Mum – she loved those peaks and I needed to let go. Claire got it; we bobbed quietly before she leaned down and whispered, ‘see that white house, that’s the finish!’ I screamed, very loudly, put my head down and pushed to the finish.
Completing this challenge was like nothing I have ever done before. I felt so inspired by myself, and by others around me. There was such a lovely feeling of camaraderie – it wasn’t a race. It was definitely a journey.
Open water swimming led me to a level of fitness that got me onto my bike, and I’m about to attempt running. It has opened so many doors for me with other achievements and new friendships. I can’t thank the water enough for what it has given me over the years. Whilst I’m still a large lady, I know that my fitness levels are pretty good, and I can keep pushing myself to new and tougher goals.
Embrace your cuddliness! #fatcan”
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