Active Blu - Open Water Venue.

Active Blu - Open Water Venue.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Meeting Sue


Sue Oldham – Getting better with age.


"My advice to other swimmers, or non swimmers, is don’t put off doing things, life goes by so quickly and one never knows what will be around the corner so make the most of this time, it can never be retrieved”.
(Sue, Oldham, 2013)

An inspiration to many wishing to challenge themselves this year.

Sue is an inspirational, modest Character, having only started swimming in her 40`s, She is best known as the oldest women to swim across the English Channel. At the age of 65 Sue entered the record books finishing her swim in 17 hours 11 mins. However the list of records, stories and amazing accomplishments is endless.
Based in Perth Australia, I had a rare opportunity to catch up with Sue and ask her a few questions regarding her swimming back ground, who inspired her and her greatest Challenges to date.

Emma:  “Please tell me about how and when you got into swimming”?

Sue: “About 20 years ago a friend suggested I join a Masters Swimming Club as I was looking for some sporting activity but one that would fit in with a job that, for several months of the year, took me interstate every couple of weeks”.

“I had never had a swimming lesson in my life and to be truthful not swum in a pool either.  I remember my first training session where I would manage to swim 25 meters and then have to get my breath back before I could swim back to the blocks!!  But I persevered and eventually became an adequate swimmer.  Through that club I meet my friend Les Stewart who had swum in the 1956 Rottnest Channel swim as a 20 year old, without a cap, goggles and a support boat with a dodgy engine, with the crew eventually resorting to oars.  Les suggested I join him, his son and another friend in a four man relay swim to Rottnest and so that was the beginning of my ocean water swimming passion”.

Emma: What or who inspired you to take up Marathon swimming, why the English Channel?

Sue: “Once I had done a couple of Rotto team swims and then two duo swims with Les I thought I would have a go at a solo crossing.  I didn’t know much about training sessions in those days and although I swam in the ocean every day it was only for about 2kms at a time.  But I had some very good and experienced friends with great advice.

Emma and Sue - Jan 2013
After a couple of solo crossings I knew I needed to do more training and eventually in 2003 found coach Pauline Pratt.  Pauline had coached the first WA man Mark Crowther to swim the English Channel and in 2005 she took her first junior six man relay team across.  

She encouraged a few masters swimmers to consider a relay crossing for 2006 and I was one of the lucky ones.  During the year my friend Selwyn Jellie asked me to join him in the extra sessions as he thought he would tackle a solo crossing.  I readily agreed and after a couple of weeks asked Pauline if she thought I would be good enough to do a solo crossing myself.  She told me to be at the training session that night, so I took that as a 'yes'”!

Emma: “When swimming the English Channel can you describe what your most prominent thoughts, Highs and Lows of the swim”?

Sue “I feel I was very fortunate as on my first solo crossing in 2006 we had swum a six man relay crossing a month before and not only had the encouragement and support of my team mates but of Pauline and our skipper Eddie Spelling. 

Team mate Tony Parbery was also training for a solo crossing but unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity that year but was successful in 2008.  Selwyn insisted he would be a part of my support despite having only completed his crossing two days earlier.  He also interrupted his holiday in 2010 to be on the boat and plans to come again for my 2014 crossing.

Like I said I am lucky with good friends.  During the swim I followed Pauline's instructions, think about family, friends and all the Barracuda swimmers who have encouraged me and swum with me during training sessions.  

Training for a solo crossing is an 12 - 18 month plan and all extra activities go on hold, such as a social life, because the demands are to be as fit and focused as possible.  So during the swim I would consciously think of all these special people and I enjoy long distance swimming, the further I swim the better I got.

In 2010 for the first six hours all I could think of is that I am totally mad, what on earth made me think I wanted to go through all this again but once I settled down and found my rhythm it became better.

I guess like most swimmers towards the end I would think I saw those rocks and headland: why is this taking me so long but eventually I made it and when I walked up to the beach it was the most unbelievable feeling and it still makes me emotional when I think about it.

It was the same feeling when I first swam the Rottnest Channel crossing.  I am blessed that l have the ability to dig in and never give up (bloody minded one could say), at the time of a swim, I am strong, fit and well prepared & don’t feel the cold”.

Emma:  “Since being involved within the sport, what are your proudest moments and why”?

Sue: “Proudest moments: I am so pleased with being successful & not letting anyone down.  Although I haven’t had any sponsors, I have had the support of family and friends, my coach Pauline has spent hours making sure I am ready and I have a great skipper in Eddie Spelling.”  

Also I just remembered I have world records”:

·         A member of the oldest 6 man relay team in the world to swim the channel in 2006.
·         Oldest woman to swim solo in 2006, regained that title in 2010.      
·         Member of the oldest 4 man relay team in 2012 - swimming with the oldest person, Roger Allsopp which was a lot of fun and a great privilege.


Emma: “What would your advice be to anyone thinking about taking up marathon swimming”?

Sue: “My suggestions are join a club, it is very difficult to maintain the discipline necessary to maintain the training. Also get an experienced coach who understands marathon swimming.  Be prepared to put your whole focus into the training, your life depends upon it”.

Emma:  What next. Do you have any other aspirations”?

Sue: “What next: well keep healthy and fit and maybe do another English channel swim in 2016.  Everything depends upon health and finances.  But I can dream and wish I had started when I was younger but I guess I haven’t done too badly considering I didn’t start swimming until in my mid 40's”. 

Emma: “Anything else you would like to talk about to inspire, educate or advice our readers”?

Sue: “My advice to other swimmers, or non swimmers, is don’t put off doing things, life goes by so quickly and one never knows what will be around the corner so make the most of this time, it can never be retrieved”.


Thank you Sue your words have been truly inspiring. 




Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Keeping your cool on event day…

Perth is hosting the Worlds Largest Open Water Swimming Event on 23rd Feb 2013.

Rottnest Safety Briefing - 2013

Thousands of swimmers from across the world are participating in the 20km event, so as you can imagine this is going to be one wild day!

With so much commitment and dedication shown from the swimmers, skippers, kayakers and support crews over the last 6 months, the question is:

How do you keep your cool on event day?

Event Day

The actual day is a huge occasion with thousands of participants, big crowds and boats, let alone the challenge of swimming 20km. It is all ahead of you and it is vital that we take it all in, celebrate how far we have come, take a deep breath and just do your thing. No matter what your challenge, keeping your cool and enjoying the experience is the most important thing at this point. 

Remember your training is done, you know how to swim and everything you have learnt and gone through in preparing for the event will help you achieve your goal. The hours training in the pool and open water, the pacing sets we have practiced, remembering your motives for entering the event as well as all your nutrition practice, will help you to complete the swim.

Open Water Squad Session - Perth

Below are a few very simple tips to help you:

1 – Remember you have done all the training, it is just another day, you know how to swim and pace yourself. So try not to think too much about the bigger picture, break the challenge down into small sections.

2 – Make sure you are well prepared. Your nutrition is ready, your safety team is briefed and you give yourself plenty of time to get to the beach. Try to eliminate any un necessary stress.

3  – keep focused on your needs. Get the right people around you to support you and that have your interest at heart. Do not underestimate the power of supporting friends.

4  -  When on the start line, take time to check your event goals, keep focused on swimming your own event and most importantly – Relax.

5 – Once you have started, try not to worry about other swimmers. They have no impact on your race. Keep your focus on your race / pace / split time / nutrition whatever helps you keep swimming. Try not to change your event plan last minute.

6 – Know that at some point you will get tired and may even want to give up. If you can try and focus on the real / simple things around you, this will help distract those unwanted thoughts. We all go through it and also come out the other side -  Maybe focus on your breathing and think how calm it feels, or how clear and clean the ocean looks. Try to think positively, this will keep you swimming.

Super Series 10km qualifier
7 – Keep the focus on what it will mean to finish the event. The satisfaction you will get on completing your goal,  or the feelings you will experience from such an achievement. Imagine swimming down the final 100m onto the beach and smiling having completed your dream, goal or challenge.

8  - Finally, enjoy, have fun and if all else fails – smile to yourself. It really does help.

I wish everyone good luck and I look forward to sharing your success and a drink with you on the beach at the other end. Happy Swimming  :0)