Inspiring woman Jayde Richardson – open water swimmer 

 

 I met Jayde through a mutual friend and was surprised by how humble she was.  Jayde is an amazing swimmer with focus and an appetite for challenge.  I was curious at how she prepared for such an epic adventure – swimming the English Channel.  I’d been a keen multi-day hiker for many years but if you get tired you can have a rest day and a massage.  What Jayde can do astounds and amazes me!  Here’s how she got started and eventually successfully crossed the English Channel as Tasmania’s second inspiring women to complete this epic swim.  Over to Jayde . . . . . 

How did you go about preparing your body for a 33 km swim?  Can you give us some insight on what makes you tick?

I had a 2.5 year build up for my English Channel crossing, beginning with booking my swim in April 2017 and working from there for my September 2019 crossing. I was beginning from a solid level of fitness already which worked in my favour, consistency over time is key. I had to complete a 6 hr swim in 15 degrees or less water to qualify which I did in mid may 2019 from Clifton beach in 13 to 14 degree water and cooler air temp. I was also coming off 5 shifts at work where I had been on my feet close to 40 hours and I was a bit sleep deprived. It sure was a grind but gave me huge confidence once I’d ticked this last box of qualifying. I’m very intrinsically driven and I enjoy seeing what I can do against myself. I also don’t give up easily and can be sometimes a bit too stubborn.

Jayde Richardson open water swimming
Jayde Richardson

Did you have any high or low points during your preparation?

I got influenza A only weeks before departure for the UK which was a bit of a challenge mentally to remain composed, rest up and have faith in the work I’d already done. I also had a new house so it was a busy time of life for me. I visited my primary school, which is actually the local catholic school and also the local public school to talk about my upcoming swim. The kids asked amazing questions and I was blown away by their level of interest. I walked away from these talks feeling very inspired.

How did fit all this training in – can you tell us how and why the commitment to training enriched your life – rather than created a tipping point?

Fitting in training was a balancing act as I was working in a hospital at the time (I’m a nurse), sometimes working night shift, sleeping all day and then attending a 5pm session. It was what I knew at the time and I made things work whether it meant training morning, midday or pm depending on the shift I was doing. Things such a preparing meals in advanced and writing lists helped me feel on top of things and is something I still do now 3 years on. I was surrounded by lots of great people which kept me going, some great work mates (one which lives 2 doors away! 🙂 ), some much wiser than me masters swimmers on the other hand some up and coming kids with huge futures ahead of them. I’m lucky enough to still be involved in this space. Being around like minded people really helps, especially during the times when things aren’t going smoothly. 

Did you have any high or low points while swimming the English Channel?

I swam a few days early as it turned out due to poor weather about to hit. This meant I was now battling a big spring tide and not the nice neap tide we had mapped out. I’m strong and knew that I would be okay swimming in this but deep down I knew the time would now be slower than originally anticipated. A wise person said to me ‘time is irrelevant for a channel swim’ which is something I still have to remind myself of today. After 10 hours I looked up and saw Cap Griz-Nez what looked like being trans Derwent distance away. In my head the 20 to 30 minutes estimated turned into 2.5 hours fighting the tide that had changed and gone the other way. I was basically swimming on the spot and exhausted. I’d strained my hip flexors 4 hours into the swim (old running injury) and I was now worrying if I’d be able to actually walk on dry land in the coming days. I quickly learned why this part was referred to as the ‘swimmers graveyard’. A lot of swimmers get pulled at this point due to exhaustion. Giving up was never an option in mind. Obviously a high point was finally finishing and thinking of all the people back home who had followed via live stream and supported me no matter what. My late cousin Ed was also front of mind the whole way and to this day remains my motivation to live a life which is true to myself. I raised $15 000 for local charity ‘speak up stay chatTY’ and it still holds true to me to keep the conversation going about mental health. 

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of doing something like this?

I’d say surround yourself with great people who have your best interests at heart and talk to others that have completed the challenge already. Build up slowly and carefully and don’t panic when things don’t go perfectly. Have faith in yourself and enjoy the process. 

 

Emotionally and physically what have you learned about yourself

I’ve learned that I’m a lot more resilient and capable than I thought I was. Also, a big takeaway for me was that things are not always going to go to plan and that is okay- you can still find a way to make it work! Just to keep on persevering and moving forward is the most important thing. 

Got a funny story for us about this adventure?

A seal was very close to me only 400m or so from France! I had no idea as I’m often in my own head whilst swimming and I was so exhausted by this point in time. Everyone on the boat was screaming (there is a very funny video) as the seal was about twice my size. 

What’s next?

At the moment I’m keeping fit and enjoying life. I’m going to the Gold Coast in November 2022 to the Masters Pan Pacific Games where I’ll race in the 4km open water and a few pool events too. I’m also likely to line up in the 1 mile beach run and 4km cross country now that I’m old enough for masters Athletics. Running and triathlon were sports I enjoyed and did well in as a teenager, injury and life challenges brought me back to swimming. This will be a good social event and a chance to catch up with friends from the mainland which has now been a good few years since the global pandemic. Next summer I plan on swimming the Derwent River Big Swim again with the aim of going faster and breaking 7 hours. I’m currently the 4th fastest female all time and would like to improve on that. 

Jayde 
Jayde Richardson open water swimmer

Jo Cordell-Cooper operates the award winning business Jo CC Holistic PT, offers personal training, stress management strategies, preparation for hiking workouts, and adventure travel to multi-day hikes, locally and overseas.  Jo’s personal training private gym is in Geilston Bay, just east of Hobart, but you can work with her online too.  Join us on facebook in my free group Holistic Hiker for more healthy lifestyle tips and tricks.

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