Monday, 23 September 2019

Woman conquers fear of water with swim every day for a year

Woman conquers fear of water with swim every day for a year

A WOMAN from Henley is celebrating after undertaking an open water swim every day for a year.

Kate Goodman, who embarked on the challenge to overcome a fear of water, completed the final stage with 30 fellow members of the Henley Open Water Swimming Club on Saturday.

The group camped overnight on a private field off Willow Lane, Wargrave, before getting up early for their weekly swim on a stretch of the River Thames near Henley Sailing Club.

They hit the water at 7.30am and swam about 1.5km in a circle before enjoying a barbecue breakfast to mark Mrs Goodman’s achievement.

The 42-year-old, who lives in Farm Road with her two teenage children, joined the club two years ago but soon started having panic attacks when getting into the river.

She had hardly ever swum in open water before so did not realise it had this effect on her but wanted to prove she could conquer it.

Mrs Goodman, a student paramedic who is about to sit her final exams, started swimming daily on August 25 last year and would complete distances of between 250m and 1km depending on the weather and the season.

She often swam near the Flower Pot at Aston as there is easy access to the water off Ferry Lane, or would go further upstream near Wargrave and Shiplake.

She has also swum in London, Scotland and even in Henley’s Slovenian twin town of Bled, where the club took part in a race on Lake Bled earlier this summer.

Mrs Goodman said: “The final day was beautiful — we couldn’t have asked for better weather and it was lovely to have so many members supporting me.

“Most of them were there the night before and we stayed up late chatting then the others joined us in the morning.

“They were impressed as I know some people weren’t sure it was possible to keep it up for a year. Now they know that when I say I’m going to do something, I mean it.”

Mrs Goodman was inspired to join the club by her partner Malcolm Burfitt, who is a long-standing member and witnessed most of her swims during the year.

She said her challenge was hardest in winter, when it was pitch black and temperatures were below freezing, although once it warmed up she was often bitten by “duck fleas”, a type of river parasite.

Mrs Goodman said: “When it’s minus 5C your fingers and toes begin to hurt within seconds of getting in the water. You can only do about 10 minutes because you start to develop hypothermia.

“I never swam in Henley itself because it’s just too busy with rowers and it’s hard getting in and out. It was mostly upstream or downstream from the town with a few trips to the seaside.

“It was really satisfying to finish because there’s a massive sense of achievement after some dark times in those winter months. It’s quite a commitment because you’ve got to find an hour for it every day and there were a few times where I didn’t get out until 10pm as it took that long to summon the motivation.

“You’d think it would get easier after winter but on the very first day that the water felt warm, I came out itching all over because of parasites.

“It’s a common problem and people try all sorts of things to deter them, from oils to smelly things like garlic, but I’m not sure any of it works.

“I’ve also had cut feet for most of the year from where I’ve got in and out of the river on hard ground and my legs were constantly getting scratched by undergrowth.

“However, I’ve totally conquered the fear and it feels amazing to have broken that mental boundary. Now that I have no fear at all I’m thinking of getting lessons to improve my technique.

“I feel a lot more motivated generally as overcoming any fear is very empowering. I know that if I can get through this, most other things are easy.

“I think everyone should try doing things they find uncomfortable or frightening. All too often, we’re the ones standing in the way of ourselves.”

Although she has completed her year, Mrs Goodman is still swimming in the river daily and has no plans to stop. She fits this around skateboarding and stand-up paddleboarding, which she took up this year.

She said: “I’ve got a streak going now and I don’t want to stop because I might regret breaking it. My daily swim is a really good time to think and I can’t imagine not doing it.

“My mum wants me to stop because she was very worried about me over the winter. She found it terrifying and was constantly thinking that I was going to drown.”

Mrs Goodman thanked the many passers-by who cheered her on throughout the year.

She said: “I’ve spoken to so many strangers who wanted to know what I was doing and were so encouraging when I explained it. It’s funny because they’d be standing there in a hat, scarf and coat asking ‘is it cold in there?’ and I’d be thinking, ‘well, what do you think?’

“I’ve made connections with so many new people as a result, which is the beauty of doing something like this. I might even try scuba diving next. I’ve mastered being on the water, so I might as well see how I cope under it!”

• Four members of the Henley Open Water Swimming Club plan to swim the Channel in relay next June to raise money for Henley Music School.

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