SWIM: one woman’s journey coping with grief.

When I was young, all my best birthdays were spent in the valley – picnic on the banks and swimming in the rivers with my favourite people. I was lucky enough to grow up in the Lake District in England, where there’s no shortage of green grass, sheep and cows peppering the landscape. Jumping off bridges into deep pools of water on weekends and running through fields as part of our P.E lessons at school, were the norm. 

Over the years as I grew up, career, illness, location all got in the way a bit from me being able to really submerge myself in my wild swimming and the outdoors. When I finally left London and moved to the Peak District, my swimming world opened up to me again. I was invited for an outdoor swim and it was so much fun! I went with a group of friends who did this most mornings before they went to work. They were seeing wonderful sunrises and having these magical experiences together before they had even had a bowl of cereal. I was intrigued. My love for swimming outdoors had been quite a solitary experience up until now (apart from when I was a kid). I was fascinated by this pull to the water these, mainly, women had. I admired their friendship from a distance and wanted to know more about the levels of support they were offering each other in a more conversational-way whilst in the water.

I was particularly struck by how many people were using the swimming in cold or outdoor water as a way to aid or help ‘de-fuzz’ the problems and struggles they were faced with in their day-to-day life. As I talked more to the community of swimmers I found these struggles included grief, long-term illness, depression, anxiety, stress, IVF treatment, post-natal depression, menopause…the list goes on. What they all had in common was that this swimming in open water, the freedom in it, the healing power, the coming together in shared experience, was helping a lot more than anything else in their lives. 

I wanted to explore these stories and create something that would follow a journey and highlight this ever-growing number of people coming back to nature. When I talked in depth with people I came across stories of heartbreak, determination and healing: a father’s loss of his child takes him to the water everyday whereby he swims the length and back of a reservoir- head in, no stopping, letting the water guide his path. A woman’s loss of her young niece and nephew and her ability to be able to cope with it all and support her loved ones, found in the renewing power of outdoor swimming and community in the water. 

So I set about combining my two passions – the outdoors and theatre; pulling together a team to help me devise a show, SWIM, which would incorporate the gift of storytelling in live art and intrigue the outdoor world to experience theatre in a way that felt familiar to them because of the nature of the topic.

I have already been on a year’s journey with SWIM. From the first pitch to the theatre, to finding the team to make it with, to working with Adventure film Festivals, Outdoor swimming communities, running workshops with outdoor swimming enthusiasts and those who use the outdoors to aid them in their bereavement. I have met incredible people, inspiring people, passionate people, kind people, talented people, generous people. It has been so encouraging. I have LEARNT SO MUCH! 

I am SO excited to have been given the opportunity to take my show to the Pleasance in Edinburgh this August. As part of my initial interview for the award, I told the Pleasance that I wanted SWIM to not only be an exciting new piece of theatre, but by being present at the Fringe, represent the bigger picture of what I believe all artists who create such things – live art and entertainment deserve – well-being. Whilst we are up at the Fringe for the month, I will be encouraging people to get outdoors, take a swim in the sea, look after your mind and your body whilst pushing at an incredibly demanding feat to promote your art. There will be a weekly swim happening at Portobello Beach for all those who are working at the Fringe.

However…

The only way that we can take SWIM to Edinburgh and get the message of the show out there is by raising the money to take us there. I have worked long hours (!) to ensure that I raise the funds in order to take SWIM to the masses and cover the costs in order to do this. Your support is integral to this being achieved. Overcoming adversity

13 years after being diagnosed with an illness which brought my career to a standstill and stopped me being able to to be outdoors as much, here I am wanting to take my second piece of theatre I’ve created and happens to be all about overcoming struggles and getting outside more! I have my health, fitness and verve for theatre back – help me do my best for this project.

Support SWIM

With my local friends now watching the sunrise and talking life
With my local friends now watching the sunrise and talking life


Being a Woman In Adventure

I’m Patricia Berthelier, a dedicated 63-year-old French mountain bike and gravel bikepacker, and I’ve become addicted to ultra distance bikepacking!

I started cycling at the age of 40 and took part in my first Etape du Tour two years later. After this, I went on competing in lots of century rides all over France, and even Europe. Later on, I took to long distance cycling and rode Paris Brest Paris’s 2007 edition, which empowered me to be at the start of ultra-distance road cycling events like the Raid Provence Extrême or the Raid Extrême des Vosges the following year, in France. Or the RATA in Austria. Then I grew somewhat uneasy with road cycling, mainly because I missed a connection with something greater. So I turned to mountain biking and got involved in multi-day races, but that wasn’t it either.

I had been reading Jill Homer’s inspirational tales of her Iditarod Invitationals and of the Tour Divide, as well as Esther Horyani’s recounting of her own stupendous bikepacking feats. I was awed at what they had accomplished, and at the same time knew that their tales had irretrievably set me on the path to similar challenges. So when the French Divide, a 2,200km long mountain bikepacking race across France, was created four years ago, I had to take part. And I did, the following year, at the age of 61.

It was so beyond what I had ever been able to imagine. Indeed that was a life-changing experience. So the next year, in 2018, I was at the start of ACT5, a 1,000 km mountain bikepacking race across Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Holland – shorter but much more demanding and rugged than the French Divide. That was another life-changing experience.

In the meantime and since then, from the lucky ultra-distance bikepacker I was, I’ve been making progress towards being a master of ultra-distance mountain bikepacking, because that is what I really want to be. My focus is on riding effortlessly and joyfully for hours on end, day after day, and to be able to take in with gratitude whatever comes my way. On my own, or with my mate. And all that thanks to that deep connection I have with energy, nature, and the Earth when I’m out there bikepacking.

And that is exactly what I want to share with fellow women, especially those who think they’re too old, or too unsporty, or not daring enough, or too fearful, or too ignorant of mechanics or orienteering or GPS navigation, or bivvying, or whatever. Because when we are outdoors and in remote surroundings, relying on ourselves only and our bikes, and nature’s bounty, we become free and whole. We can all become that if we are willing to be it, believe it or not, it’s that easy!

So my deepest desire is to get as many women as possible, and men too, on the road to self-confidence, self-reliability and to re-connecting with nature and who they truly are. Through 24-hour or multi-day bikepacking trips I’ll organize, in France or wherever I get the impulse to ride to, and with the help of my capacity as an Access Consciousness facilitator. How does it get any better than that?!

If you are keen to learn more about my story – listen to my interview on Strava’s Podcast or read an account of how I overcame my fears.

Submitted by Patricia Berthelier – check out her blog and website or follow her on Facebook, Tumblr and Strava.

Opportunity: Women’s Outdoor Leadership Course

Here at the Outward Bound Trust we believe that role models matter to the young people we work with and so we want to play a part in providing opportunities for the next generation of great female leaders.

50% of Outward Bound course participants are female, yet our instructional team is not representative. We recognise our traditionally masculine roots and in 2019 are committed to taking action to redress the gender imbalance in our workforce. We don’t know if this is an answer to increasing representation by women within the outdoor sector. But we do know that if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll likely get what we’ve always got. This is an opportunity to challenge ourselves, tread new ground and hopefully learn a lot through the process.

Shared on behalf of Outward Bound Trust – find out more on their Women’s Outdoor Leadership Course here.

Health

I am training for my first two 100m rides, after having had a kidney transplant (which is failing) and a heart attack. I am 47 and have never felt fitter. The determination to succeed at being as healthy as I can is what drives me, bearing in mind that just two years ago I was also three stone heavier. Explore what you can do, go out there and make a start, and enjoy your journey; this is about achieving something for yourself.

Submitted by R C Armstrong-Buisseret.

Getting lost but not

To quote Emil Zatopek the great Olympian distance runner of the 1950’s

“If you want to run a mile, run a mile . . . . . but if you want a different life, run a marathon”

I see this every day on my wall planner and I suppose this has inspired me to believe in what you think is impossible is possible with training, foresight and a great plan. So Go For It!

Submitted by David or Rusty Robinson – follow him on Twitter.

1st-time mam to 1st-time Ironman in 18 months!

Having been to spectate at Ironman Tenby, I was inspired, I wanted to have a go! I bullied my husband into it in 2016 when our baby was 5 months old. My husband was the guinea pig!

He had trained well and I wanted him to tell me if he thought I could do it. He loved it. So a year of hard work preparing, juggling training, baby, and back to work, I did it!

It has given me more confidence than I ever excepted. The sense of achievement and empowerment I now have to take on new challenges in all areas of life is something hard to explain. So many people miss the point and focus on weight loss and being skinny and getting a certain time. I loved every second and smiled all the way around the course! It’s about enjoyment! I am strong mentally and physically as a result. I have met some inspiring people who support each other and do not judge. The challenge was a personal one, against myself! And I certainly won!

Submitted by Elinor Morgan – follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

Just do it – you’ll surprise yourself

If you have ever thought about trying something, just go for it. Even if you are older or less fit than you used to be you may well surprise yourself at what you are capable of. And it is such fun and so rewarding – you don’t have to be an athlete, just get out there. Don’t put it off – live life!

Submitted by an anonymous but wonderful woman in adventure.

You can go further than you think

In December 2016, my life caved in. Facing new physical and mental health challenges, I felt like I’d lost everything. Except, I still had my bike.

I started cycling everyday – come rain or shine – even if it was just around the block or the local park. It got me out of the house with a purpose, it got me exercising, it got my endorphins racing, it built my confidence, it built my self-esteem. It helped me get my life back.

Fast forward to July 2017, and the woman who couldn’t get out of bed seven months before ended up completing her first Century Ride. Now I’m part of a great cycling club, getting to know my local community, and planning a solo bike tour for next year.

If things seem impossible, change your perspective – a bike ride is a good place to start.

Submitted by Emma – follow her on Instagram.

Sold the house, quit the job at 40

After sitting at a desk for 25 years and contributing to a “normal” way of life, my partner and I gave it all up to pursue personal wellness by doing what we want to do.

We have been at it for 3 years now and while the original plan has changed drastically, that has made us realize even more that we continue to change, and that’s okay. Everyone changes and as long as you manage your own expectations, you can maintain your sense of balance.

Submitted by Amanda Prenty – visit her website or follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.