Mum Swims 19.7km: Cottesloe to Rottnest

If mums weren’t already ruling the world, this mum is definitely ruling the open seas! Meet Anna (34), a local mum to two boys (Harry 2y8m and Bruce 4.5 months), who is training to swim her 7th (!) Karma Resorts Rottnest Channel Swim. The inspirational story from this beautiful, driven mum will leave you with a feeling that everything is possible, even with a newborn and a toddler in tow!

Anna and her eldest son Harry.
Anna and her eldest son Harry.

What is the Karma Resorts Rottnest Channel Swim?
It’s one of the largest open water swims in the world that takes place annually in February. Swimmers depart from Cottesloe Beach and make their way across the Channel covering 19.7km of Indian Ocean to finish at Thompson Bay, Rottnest Island.

How many people are competing?
The number of swimmers is capped at 2,300 and consists of three categories; Solo, Duo, and Teams of 4.  Swimmers are surrounded by a support network of paddlers, boat skippers and crew. The popularity is increasing every year, with the recent 2014 Rottnest Channel Swim having a 27% over-subscription. Anna has previously done 3 (!) solo crossings and this will be her 3rd (!) duo crossing. She also competed as a team a few years ago. Anna: “This year I am swimming in the mixed-duo category. Having just had a baby in June there is no way I would contemplate doing a solo crossing. I actually didn’t think I was going to do anything but a friend from my swimming squad, Ian, asked if I would do a duo with him and I was immediately hooked on the idea.”

How many hours does it take to swim across?
In 2014 Anna did a personal best time of 5hr09 for a solo crossing. So hoping the weather conditions are favourable Anna and her partner’s goal is to finish somewhere between 5hr and 5hr15min. Anna: “Keeping in mind A LOT of training still has to be done between now and then. I have lost a lot of fitness and speed during pregnancy and in the first few months post baby when the majority of the day (and night) is spent sitting and feeding. But in the last few weeks I feel like my body is starting to get back to “normal” (whatever that is these days!) and my endurance fitness is slowly starting to come back.”

Tell us about your training and diet plan?
I train with the Peter Tanham Swim to Rottnest squad at HBF Stadium. I have trained with this squad since 2006, my “swimming family” are such an important part of my life, the friendship and comradery is what keeps me and most of our squad doing the iconic Rottnest Channel Swim year after year. I believe consistency is the key when it comes to training for the rotto swim. My goal for training at the moment is to complete 3 x swimming sessions a week (4-5km/session) and do at least 1 x 10km run per week…. if I am able to do any extra training that will be a bonus! I do all my training in the morning at 5:30am…so ideally the kids are still in bed and  I try and get home before 7:30am so my husband can leave for work. Can I say, I am very lucky my husband supports my training! I would also like to participate in some of the many open-water swimming events that are held most weekends during the summer, apart from being fun, these events are a great opportunity to practice swimming in the ocean and compliment the training we do in the pool… but in saying that I have to be mindful that weekends are our family-time and I don’t want swimming to dominate our family life.
I don’t follow any specific diet plan. As a rule our family eat relatively healthy and we try and limit processed foods and sugar. I still have 4kg of weight I gained during my last pregnancy that I want to drop (oh to fit into my clothes again….*sigh*) so that motivates me to eat well. However I have to admit since having second bub my daily vice is a coffee (thank goodness for Nesbar SMS orders!) I don’t think  I have ever needed/craved/been obsessed with/loved/worshiped coffee as much as I do now!”

What is the motivation to do this swim?
There are a few things that motivate me to do the swim….firstly as mentioned above it is being part of the squad, having friends to train with, banter with and being part of the swimming-community inspires me to participate in the swim. Dare I say it, swimming also gives me a break from the kids, it is something I do for myself that doesn’t involve them. I can go training in the morning and not think about changing nappies, cleaning the house, cooking, groceries, tummy time, negotiating with a mini-dictator (i.e. my 2.8year old!), it keeps me fit and gives me a good dose of endorphins which I believe ultimately makes me a better mum as I am happier and gives me more energy to look after my boys. I also think it is good role modelling for my boys to exercise, be healthy, stay fit, and participate in community events. Doing the swim to Rotto definitely also motivates me to be able to get out of bed when the alarm goes off at 5am (if I’m not already up doing a feed!)  Having a 4.5month old and a toddler “sleep” is a magical word, it is something we always want more of and strive to maximise each night…I am still getting up to feed my darling baby boy twice, sometimes 3 times a night and honestly if  I wasn’t training for the Rotto swim I am sure I would be much more tempted to stay in my warm comfy bed sleeping, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

How do you overcome a mental or physical block during the swim?
I have never had an issue with a mental or physical block during any of my swims. I have always done enough training that I know roughly how long it will take me and what the “pain-factor” will be. Totally the opposite of my experience of labour with my first son… not knowing when it would end and the unknowingness of contractions… Kudos to all the mums, having a baby is WAY harder than swimming to Rotto. However in saying that, I guess I have been lucky that the weather has always been relatively good every time I have swum to Rotto. Having to do the swim in rough conditions would obviously be more physically demanding but I can only imagine psychologically it would be very challenging, especially if you are doing a solo as it is a tough event on the best of days let alone swimming 20km in rough seas! Fingers crossed for good weather for 2016!”

Good Luck Anna! You are an amazing role-model for your boys and an inspiration to all women and mums. We wish you a successful and (most of all) fun Rottnest Channel Swim in 2016.

Event date: 27 February 2016