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Ross Edgley completed the Great British Swim on Sunday 4th November, conquering a world record-breaking challenge that saw him swimming 1,792 miles over 157 days. There to meet him at the finish line was Ironman Hawaii 2018 silver medallist Lucy Charles, who had given Ross some swim tips during his epic adventure! We took the chance to catch up with Lucy, as well as to collect a very special 220 Triathlon competition prize. Read on to find out more…
220 Triathlon: You gave Ross some tips during his challenge – what were they?
He’s just amazing isn’t he! I used to swim the 10km and that felt like a long way – two hours of swimming – but he’s been swimming 12 hours a day! I don’t know how you prepare for that. I mean physically it’s tough, but I can’t even comprehend the mental side.
I tried to give him some tips, but I’m no mega-ultra swimmer! I always say anything to do with swimming is about staying relaxed. It’s about keeping your mind relaxed, about letting it wander and think about stupid things – like what you’re going to eat when you get out! He’s certainly been eating a lot on that swim as well, which is good!
220 Triathlon: Was this swim going to be won or lost based on controlling the mind?
Yes. If it had been me I would just try not to think about how far was left and just to be in the moment, to hopefully think about other things. It’s about keeping your stroke rate nice and relaxed and like I said, I think I would just be food motivated! I’d be thinking ‘when I get out I can eat that massive brownie’!
I actually went to the Red Bull centre and I knew some of the guys were heading from there to see Ross, so I packed up some homemade brownies for them to take up to him to help him out a bit! A few more calories! I don’t know how they managed to fit all the food he needed on the boat, let alone how he ate it. He was eating a lot of bananas and I heard at one point he requested Big Macs – you’re probably craving everything during a swim like that!
Lucy chats to Ross following his epic swim challenge. Image: 220/Gavin Parish
220 Triathlon: What technique advice did you give Ross?
The best benefit you can get as a long-distance swimmer is from the wetsuit, so it’s about making use of the wetsuit and the kit to help you, to get that extra buoyancy. I don’t actually kick my legs now when I swim, it’s about just letting your legs drag and trusting the wetsuit to give you that buoyancy. You burn more calories if you kick too much, so just keep them relaxed.
Ross had some shoulder issues as well, so it’s about managing that. I heard he had a good physio who helped him, but god knows what pain he must have been going through. I had shoulder injuries when I was swimming more distance, but I never did that kind of mileage in a day! I think Ross actually benefited from going without sleeves on his wetsuit at one point as that would have given him that mobility back in his shoulders.
I just can’t imagine what he must have endured and what muscle strains he must have picked up though! Then there was the wetsuit rubbing, the jellyfish stinging, god knows what else!
220 Triathlon: As a fellow open-water swimmer, were you surprised by the affects on his body?
Oh god yes! Things like the salt on his tongue for example… I wouldn’t even have thought of that and it happened really early on! Then there was the chafing on his neck and he was wearing wetsuits day in day out aggravating it. I mean, you can get quite a bad chafing in a triathlon even doing a short swim but when you’ve got that every day… He’s got the nickname rhino neck and with good reason!
I think he’s immune to jellyfish stings now as well. I’m not actually a big fan of the sea believe it or not, my thing is to get in and get out as quick as I can so I don’t see the things swimming about! He’s far braver than me!
220 Triathlon: How are you feeling after your amazing result at Kona last month?
I couldn’t have been happier really! If someone had said to me ‘you’re going to do an 08:36’ I’d think I’d have won by 10 minutes – so to do an 08:36 and still come second… I couldn’t have done anything more!
This year we were so lucky with the conditions, too [Lucy set a new women’s swim record]. Next year we might have crazy winds and god knows what in the sea, so that definitely helped. I think it will be difficult to beat the swim time again. The run might be possible though, that’s the part of the race where the conditions don’t affect things too much. I think if I’m going to improve it will be on the run section.
I feel like I’m still quite young in this sport and there are ways we can still improve so hopefully next year we can go one better! I haven’t been in the sport that long, but even in that time the standard of the women’s racing has improved so much, it’s great to see.
The bike was a big change this year [Lucy rode the new Specialized Shiv] and I think it definitely benefited my race, because you can carry so much nutrition on the rear of the bike now. On the latter part of the race I’d saved that so I didn’t have to use aid stations which helped.
I’m with Roka now, too. Last year I tested swim skins by a few brands as I didn’t have a sponsor and the Roka was the one I really liked, so having that definitely helped as well!
220 Triathlon: Where can we see you racing next?
I’m having a bit of downtime now! I’m getting married! But I think Ironman South Africa will be my next race in around April time. So I’m looking forward to that one!