Wild Swim Podcast 0:13
Welcome back to wild swim podcast. In this episode I’m speaking to record breaking swimmer, Jo Jones about her attempt to swim across the Bristol Channel. Jo is a lifelong swimmer, who started swimming outdoors at age 12. And now nearing 30, Jo enjoys every aspect of outdoor swimming. She’s swum some of the most recognised swims in the UK, including the English Channel, the Bristol Channel and Lake Windermere, and in February 2020, she won the 500 metre Freestyle at the GB Ice Championships.
Jo is also an open water swim coach and hopes that through chatting and sharing swim experiences and offering coaching, she can help others to get into the water for the first time, and achieve the goals, they may have set themselves along the way.
During the pandemic, I’ve really missed swimming. But after slogging out on training for the Dart 10k in 2019, I secretly enjoyed being able to take it easier this year. It’s fair to say that Jo took a different approach in deciding to train for and take on the Bristol Channel! I remember following Jo’s journey on Instagram and seeing the heartbreak when the swim was called off. Jo takes us through that experience and her eventual successful crossing.
Tell me, how did you get started with outdoor swimming?
Jo Jones 1:32
It feels like I’ve been outdoor swimming for ever, basically. So I started when I was, I think I was like 12 or 13. So my dad’s also a swimmer. And we were in the same swimming club, and he and some friends decided to do an event in the sea. And so I went down to the beach with him. And I remember him saying, you can watch the bags if you want or you can come in for a swim with us, it’s up to you but if you’re on the beach, you might get bored. And it was just a no brainer I was like well I don’t like being bored.
Wild Swim Podcast 2:05
Yeah, what a choice, watch the bags do something interesting!
Jo Jones 2:09
But I was like no, I sod it, I’ll come for a swim, and I just loved it. I loved feeling really small in this massive expanse of water, and it being really comforting. Kind of being like ‘okay this is like my place in the world’ or the world is massive, and I’m quite small and obviously, and I just and I it suited my style of swimming, which is kind of one speed, which is a fairly decent speed, but I have one speed, and that’s it. And I can do it for quite a long time. So I’d always been getting frustrated in clubs swimming. So I kept going down and kept going down and did as many swims as I could. We live we lived in southeast London so it was a bit of a drive to the seat but it was always worth it. And then I went to Uni in Bournemouth, obviously had the sea, which was a major factor, carried on swimming. And then I fell into river swimming which is my absolute favourite. So I’ve got into outdoor swimming because I didn’t want to be bored at the beach, and it’s basically taken over my life and I love it.
Wild Swim Podcast 3:08
What is it about river swimming that you love?
Jo Jones 3:11
So I really like that you don’t get salty. So, the sea is so special, but I think with river swimming I can kind of fit it into my day better because while you might smell a little bit like river you don’t feel like you’ve been in the sea. Like you know when you go in the sea and your skin feels kind of crisp and sticky and you have to have a shower… in the river, particularly the winter you can kind of get away with it so I can sort of swim before work before I was when I was going into the office and not have weird looks and not feel like I’ve been for a swim in like stuff. And I like the greenery around it. I feel like the sea is beautiful because it’s so vast, but sometimes you don’t see a lot. So you kind of, it all looks the same. Whereas in the river, I like the greens I like the flow of it I like, that it’s often near fields. Yeah, I find it a lot more interesting. I think that’s why one of my favourite things about outdoor swimming is the variety of it. You know in pool swimming, there are different pools, but they’re all kind of rectangular with lanes in, lane ropes in them. I love that river swims and sea swims and lake swims are so different from each other but also on different days the river can feel completely different and in different seasons it can feel completely different so it’s like a different swim every time. And I just love that variety.
Wild Swim Podcast 4:34
That’s one of my favourite things too. So I guess talking about sea swimming and river swimming leads us nicely into talking about the Bristol Channel
Jo Jones 4:43
Wild Swim Podcast 4:43
So tell me a bit more about that?
Jo Jones 4:45
Yes. So, last, last summer, I swam the Bristol Channel. It was a challenge I picked up during lockdown kind of… 2020 was a weird year, I think we can safely say that.
Wild Swim Podcast 4:57
Jo Jones 4:57
And it’d been on my mind for a little while, and I kind of went, I need something that I can control. And I was like I want to have something to work towards, you know, just to kind of motivate me because I’m not swimming in a pool I’ve lost a couple of months and I just want to see if I can do it. And I’d been thinking about the Bristol Channel for a little while, so it fascinated me since I found out about it, because I saw a Facebook post pop up, and it was about, that it was like eight, it was like a number of years since the first person had done the swim and it was a woman, and she’d swum from Western Superman to Penarth. Or the other way around. And, you know she’d beaten so many people because loads of men said, it wasn’t possible and she just did it. Some 16 year old girl just did it and I loved that kind of defiance of ‘no you can’t tell me I can’t do this’. So I loved that aspect of it and then the more I looked into it, I kind didn’t find a lot of information. So the Bristol Channel has only been done like 21 times. I think I’m the 20th or 21st person to swim it. And that’s over four different routes. So it’s a fairly new swim in terms of numbers in the marathon swimming block. And I like doing swims that are have an emotional connection too. So I swam the English Channel, because my it was a family swim so my uncle had done it, and my dad and I had on a relay, and then I went well, I’ll do a solo then, and then with the Bristol Channel, my family’s in Bristol, so my husband’s family live in Bristol, and I love the idea of doing a swim close to family and finishing somewhere where they could meet me, so I just was really drawn to it. For both emotional reasons and because I couldn’t find out a lot about it, and it didn’t seem many people have done it.
Wild Swim Podcast 6:48
I love that the fact that you couldn’t find out much about it was something that drew you into it rather than being like, why haven’t more people done it, why isn’t it up there with some of the other channels firms that you hear about.
Jo Jones 6:58
Yeah well, it was because it was fast done quite a while ago so it was first done… I should really have got the dates up you know, nearly 100 years ago. And why hasn’t it been done and there are some significant challenges which I think are reasons why it hasn’t been done very often, but also finding a pilot was very difficult. But that’s one of the joys of it being an unknown swim so it was last swum in 2017, which isn’t too long ago but it is long enough that people can stop, change jobs and stop doing things so I was almost frustrated that I couldn’t find any information and that made me want to do it more.
Wild Swim Podcast 7:48
And you’ve mentioned some of the challenges that meant that not many people have done it so what kind of challenges are there with that swim?
Jo Jones 7:54
So I think the pilot has been one of the challenges so when there isn’t a consistent pilot, it’s difficult because people don’t know where to turn, and you need a pilot with quite specific knowledge because the Bristol Channel has a second biggest tidal range in the world.
I have so much more respect for the sea from learning about the Bristol channel swim because the tides are phenomenal, and you can’t break a tide, like you can’t argue with the sea. So that’s a big factor as well and it’s the tide is so fast that actually, I’m not gonna say it will prohibit some people swimming it but it is a factor in terms of speed. Because, from my understanding the way the Bristol Channel is structured as a location, it’s not like Bournemouth or other places where there’s kind of miles and miles of sandy beaches. There are a few alcoves of landing spots, and then sheer rock. And so, where I was finishing in Clevedon, and there’s a, there’s a Clevedon Pier. And then the beachy bit, if I missed that, there is a, maybe 100 metre alcove, a mile, a mile down the down… upstream up river up… a mile up. And if I missed that, then I’d be heading to Portishead which is eight kilometres away.
So it’s kind of it’s one of those things that if you want a beach landing. There are quite a few and far between. So you need a pilot that knows the tides knows your speed, knows how to work it so that you can get to where you want to get to because if you don’t you’re kind of got a lot further swim!
Wild Swim Podcast 9:27
When I was looking yesterday it seemed like there were different routes, so which, did you say there were four?
Jo Jones 9:31
Yeah, so there are four routes that have been done, down, across the Bristol Channel, there’s also swims along the Bristol Channel. But yeah, so there’s four routes, there’s the one that was first done by Kathleen Thomas, which is Penarth – Western Super Mare. There’s then a really long one, which is, I think it’s been done like twice by two different people, and that’s from Ilfracombe in Devon, up to Swansea, and that’s a monster of a swim, but you’re, you’ve got better tide. There’s then the swim that is now the selected swim for the original triple crown, which is, like, 20, to 23 miles, and that’s from Glenthorne thought Porthcawl, and I’m not pronouncing any of these right! And then there’s one I did, which is like my favourite one, which is from Penarth to Clevedon.
I chose that one, one because it was like 13 miles so it was long enough but not too long because I didn’t have massive a time to train. At the time I booked it, there wasn’t any distinction on which Bristol Channel some counted the original Triple Crown, so half of me was like well that’d be nice to tick off, or get one more towards but they have now put a restriction in there on distance. And I loved the idea of swimming, like an epic pier to pier. So in Penarth pier is like a juggernaut, it’s like some thick formidable structure that looks like it’s off the side of a castle, and then you sort of swim over and you swim to Clevedon which is just this beautiful, dainty, artistic pier.
Yeah, that was how I chose the route I did, but like so there are four and I’m sure that I think I’ve seen on some Facebook groups that people are planning different routes, because it’s quite an unknown area.
Wild Swim Podcast 11:24
And what’s the Triple Crown?
Jo Jones 11:26
So the original Triple Crown is a ridiculous challenge if I’m completely honest! So, yes, this one is, the English Channel, the North Channel – which is a heavy beast in itself, and then the Bristol Channel. And until 2020 they hadn’t specified which Bristol Channel, so I went, I do the easy one, obviously! I mean I haven’t decided if I’m going to do the North channel yet, but I thought if I’m going to do too, I might as well do two.
So they’ve now set it as the route that’s a similar distance to the English Channel, which kind of makes sense but I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t know that beforehand because, well, I was hoping to like jimmy a little bit, but it does make sense. And for any women looking for a first, it hasn’t been yet finished by a woman. So, if you’ve got two out of the three done, get the third one in, haha!
Wild Swim Podcast 12:20
Jo Jones 12:21
Yeah I mean it’s only the North Channel or the Bristol Channel, it can’t be that hard! I joke! They are terrifying swims. The North Channel terrifies me more than anything else because the jellyfish and the cold.
Wild Swim Podcast 12:31
So tell me about the first attempt that you had to swim, which ended up being called off?
Jo Jones 12:37
Ohh, this, this is probably out there is like quite a disappointing weekend.
So I had the swim booked for like middle of September. And I’m normally really good at kind of holding it in and going, I’m not going to set in stone that it’s going to happen because it’s a swim and it’s outside and anything can happen and the weather can call it off.
But this but, you know, we haven’t seen our family in ages, and we hadn’t really had a had a holiday so we went let’s build a weekend away around it. So my parents and I, my husband and I both booked some hotels in Wales. And then for the night after the swim, we booked some really fancy hotel in Bristol, that’s like more money than I’ve ever spent on a hotel ever to like celebrate. And we booked a meal for my parents, my husband’s parents and me and my husband, which we’ve never done before but we were like hey we’re all in the area let’s hang out.
And then, driving down to Penarth, I got a phone call from the pilot saying “have you seen the weather?”. And I’d looked at it and it looked a little bit dicey, but I was really really praying, it’d like, get better. I was like the wind, the wind or stop, it’ll be fine. This is my weekend to swim, it’ll be fine. And the pilot just went “it’s Force Four, Force Five winds”, which are quite fast, they were red on my, on my weather app, which I guess is bad. I don’t really understand weather I’m trying to get better at it. But he basically said it would be quite dicey, he said this, he said it was doable, but I would have to give the okay because he did not think it was advisable. So I spent the entire drive to Wales furiously Googling like, what weather meant. What whether you could swim in.
I made like a plan B, plan C and I was like okay, there is a window that I can swim. I’ll get the swim done it’s going to be fine. Rang the pilot, we arranged that I was the best time for me to do it was either the Sunday or the Monday, and he went yeah that’s fine.
Well, it should have been fine, except… the boat broke. But I don’t know what happened but I got a phone call on a Friday morning saying I’m really sorry but your boats broken.
And I had a plan for weather. I didn’t expect the boat to break. So it was a complete left fielder, and I cried quite a lot.
And then my husband and my parents just went okay, we’re in Wales, let’s make the best of what we can so we did some amazing lovely things, and it was a nice weekend. But it was in under this cloud of disappointment that for no fault of my own, and no fault of anyone’s own a boat broke, so I couldn’t get my swim done.
And because the boat had broken, he wasn’t sure when it will get fixed, because he needed to send it off for a part so he wasn’t like “okay you can do it next week” it was “I’ll let you know when it’s fixed. And if there’s time left in the season, you can give it a go”. So I went, I basically been sulked and did like very little swimming for a couple of weeks because I was like, urgh, my swims gone, meh.
But yeah, so that’s really not the gracious story of having a swim cancelled, there’s probably better coping strategies but I ate food, I had fun with my parents, but I was quite disappointed.
Wild Swim Podcast 16:09
I think it’s real though like when you spent that time building up to it, you said about all the planning you’ve done around it, and the celebrations that you had planned and stuff. Like you said to have it taken away to one of those elements that you can’t control that, that is really tough.
Jo Jones 16:24
Yeah and I think I, I always try and train in the worst possible conditions so I’ve done some swims in awful weather. So I’d done some swims on the cusp of Force Four which are like 16 mile an hour winds, I think. So I trained for bad weather. You know I trained, if it was a bit cold I trained for a lot of things but I couldn’t… there’s nothing you can do about breaks.
Wild Swim Podcast 16:48
There’s no training for that!
Jo Jones 16:50
I was like, “Oh what!” Yeah. And, you know, and it was just a fluke thing so one of the guys on the boat pulled his bag and it caught something and it pulled a pipe out, so it wasn’t even anyone’s fault, it just happened. But I did get to do it in the end. And that was the saving grace.
Wild Swim Podcast 17:07
I was gonna say, but it got rebooked…
Jo Jones 17:08
Wild Swim Podcast 17:09
How long was it between it being called off and then you get into try again?
Jo Jones 17:13
It was just over two weeks, so I was meant to do it in the middle of September, and I did it on the 27th of September. So, and obviously September’s a really, really funny month then outdoor swimming in that. It’s fine, and the water’s fine and the weather’s fine, but it does start to tail off towards the end of September, it becomes a bit more volatile as you head towards autumn, which is why I wanted earlier in September.
And so I had a phone call from the pilot, saying, “I can borrow a boat and there’s a window at the weekend, if you want it.” I was okay, well, from what I can see temperature the air temperature looks quite cold. And the water temperature has gone down to like 15, 16, which again isn’t cold but I’ve been training in 17, 18. And while there was a weather window, there were some serious periods where it’d be really gusty and windy. So I was like okay, if I’m gonna do it, it’s gonna be a hard swim, and I’m not sure if I’ve trained enough for a hard swim, like you know you go through training plans and you’re on the back of a couple of years of really good training. 2020 was not a year of a couple of years of good training; we all had months out of the water and we all did the best we could. So while I swum in varied conditions I didn’t have a lot in the tank, and I was like I don’t know if I’ve got a hard swim in me. And so I dithered for like three days. I booked the observer, I got I booked all the hotel and stuff, and then spent three days going, “I really want to do it but I don’t know if I can”, “What happens if I get pulled out”, “What happens if a b c d”. So like the day before, I just rang the pilot and went “the weather looks like it’s getting worse” and he went, “yeah the winds picked up a bit”, and I went “I don’t think I can do it then”. And I put the phone down and just felt dread. I was like that was a horrible decision, but at least I’ve made a decision. I hoped that sitting in it, I’d feel better. And I spent an hour going “Why did I do that? Why did I do that? Why did I cancel it?” And I rang my friend Caroline. She just said, “Would you be okay, if you just started and got out? Would you feel better starting getting out than not starting?” and I was like “yeah, absolutely I would feel so much better trying than giving up my chance to try”. Which I just done! So I rang the pilot back, like an hour later, and was like, “I made a, I made a huge mistake. Please let me try, please let me swim!”. And he sighed and went “oh, I just cancelled the boat”, but he was able to get it back again with the mindset of, let’s see what happens. And I can’t, you know, let’s just start swimming and see what happens.
And that was my mindset and I said to, like I had a plan to like whack on social media so people could come and meet me afterwards and this and that and the other, and I just went no, let’s take all the pressure off let me just swim. This is something that I want to do, if I make it then I’ll share it if I don’t make it I’ll share that. But let me see what happens before I chat about it.
So I started the swim, and the weather was fine. And I was like okay that’s an hour done. Good. And then I got into the second hour. And I was like Okay, good. The winds not picking up, but it might be later on or what if it’s pushed back so I’m actually finishing in really bad wind, where I was like, nevermind. Let’s just keep swimming, and the wind never picked up. I was reading my reports and the wind got to like five miles an hour over the whole day, rather than 16 miles an hour forecast. So I’m so pleased that I tried, and I’m so annoyed that I almost didn’t. That was one of the biggest learning thing for me of the whole experience is don’t give up because of a what if always try.
Wild Swim Podcast 21:10
That’s so interesting to hear you say that and the fact that you did cancel it and think, “I’m not going to do it” and then change your mind because I know when I’ve been facing the bigger challenging swims that I’ve done, there’s always, well there’s, there’s several moments in the training where I’m like “I don’t think I can do this” and I just think I’m gonna quit. I get to that same point: Wait, I’m going to regret it more if I don’t even try, than if I try and fail, but the whole way through, up until you finish I think you’re still going, what if what if what if!
Jo Jones 21:39
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely and I did. So I, I, the water I didn’t know this in the swim because my observer very wisely, he told me it was about 16 and a half degrees, and I jumped to went “Oh, that’s a bit chilly!” but, okay 16 and a half. It was actually 15. So I was completely right to be chilly. And I’ve been swimming for about three and a half hours. And when you’re swimming time just goes warped. And I love that, but I also really don’t like that. And it wasn’t until like the last two, you know the last little bit of the swim. When I was like, “I might make this actually, I might make this” but I don’t think I don’t think you believe it until you’re nearly there.
Wild Swim Podcast 22:25
I think a big part of swimming is controlling your mind – and maybe sports – is controlling your mind when you’re in that moment as well especially such a long distance swim. Was there things to see, did you have the kind of stuff you love about rivers there or was it more like the expanse of the sea?
Jo Jones 22:42
No! I think I saw a buoy, like a floating buoy thing. There was an island, like there was, I swam past Lundy Island at a distance, but there was a lot of just water, and a boat, and swimming across the channel and I found this with English channel as well. It’s like you’re on a treadmill. So I try and breathe bilaterally, but I when I’m swimming a long distance I’m lazy so I don’t. Bilateral is when you try and breathe on both sides. And I try really hard to do that. But when I’m doing a long swim on autopilot. I just breathe to my left, so I’m just going, breathe, look at the boat, do some strokes, look at the boat, do some strokes, look at the boat, do some strokes. So I don’t see anything, so it feels like I’m on a treadmill. And it’s only when I look up, or occasionally look to the right, correct my neck. Oh okay, I’m a bit closer than I was, I thought before. But with such a long distance as well. The horizon is deceptive. So, the English Channel is a perfect example of this, you can see France from about five hours in. You have a lot of swimming left to do! “Ah, you know, I can see France, it can’t be much longer!” and then like seven hours later you’re still not even there. And the Bristol Channel was similar. So from about, for the last hour or so there was this green line thing on the horizon, and I was like, what is it? But it’s not getting any closer. Maybe it’s a wall or something, maybe the pier’s just the other side of it. But it was the pier. I’d forgotten that the pier was green, and from the boat they could see it getting closer, but from the water, you can’t see anything. In my opinion.
Like I say time warps and on marathon swims, particularly marathon swims that you want ratified, you can’t wear a watch and you’re allowed to swim cap, goggles, swimsuit. And that’s it. And so I didn’t have my watch on. So I have no idea on timing. I mean the first hour I felt like it took forever. And I keep looking at the boat being like when is this feed gonna come because it feels like it’s been days, and it hasn’t even been an hour, and then eventually it came and I was like was that it was that an hour. And because I’m so used to having a watch on me or having something that tells me what the time is, to swim without I just had no idea of the concept of time.
Yeah, I was very happy to get that first feed! I mean like I say, I’m so motivated by food. A lot of people have really strict training plans I just treat swimming a bit like a buffet! So I had a massive bag of food, and I’m not even joking! So I have a massive bag of food, and I’d ask the feed for what I wanted at the next feed. So the first thing I just had like some orange carb powder drink. And I was like, “Can I have a hot drink next time?”, say did me a hot drink the time after. Then I saw somebody a pork pie, and I went “Oh I’ll have a pork pie actually”, and I just go through, because I just think about food all the time when I’m swimming, and that’s what helps me. So I make sure all my nutritional stuff is covered in the drink. And I have a little buffet!
Wild Swim Podcast 25:53
I love that. You talked about some of the challenges like, you know, not knowing what the time was and feeling like the pier that you could kind of see, but wasn’t getting any closer. Were there any other challenges on the swim?
Jo Jones 26:06
Like I say I expected there to be challenges in terms of the weather. And there weren’t so that was almost a non-challenge. But that meant that I was almost, I psyched myself up for a difficult swim. I’d gone “okay it’s gonna be really, tough I’m going to get really tired” and then I wasn’t. And so I think the main challenges in the swim, were just my brain, and kind of recalibrating as I was swimming going, actually, this might be right.
Yes, actually so it was… from what I thought would be a really hard swim. It was alright, again, I, I definitely could have found it easier if I trained harder but I think I’m very proud of the fact that I had, I could do a swim at all. And I think because I expected it to be really choppy and cold, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make it past halfway. I was just really happy to be there and happy to be doing it, so it didn’t really feel like a challenge at all, it was just like I’m just swimming.
And I think, compared to the first attempt when I’d said I was doing it on like my Instagram, but I was a bit disappointed, I wanted to keep for swim when it did happen quite small, so it was just me and my family that knew really like the people that were on the boat, but I liked that there was no challenge of “what am I gonna say to people if it doesn’t happen” or “what do other people gonna think”, I loved that when I shared it, it was something that already happened, because I was so proud of it, I was proud of the fact that I started. I was proud of the fact that I got to halfway. I was proud of the fact that I got to the finish, and then they told me my time, and it turned out that my time was the fastest ever.
To have gone from not even, to have literally cancelled the swim because I thought it’d be so difficult, to getting the fastest time by like seven minutes was just a bit of a mental rollercoaster. Because I have this thing when I get nervous, I do false bravado jokes. I don’t know if it’s a coping mechanism or a really bad strategy or what. And so on the boat and I kind of, I said to the observer, and my dad, “if I’m around five and a half hours shout at me because that’s the record”, but you know if I’ve got 10 minutes to go and I’m not going to court past shout at me. And that was quite an I kind of got in and I don’t know why I said it because I didn’t expect it to happen. And now was really weird because that’s exactly what happened. On my last feed they went “Jo, you’ve got 10 minutes left and it’s quarter past, get!”. And for someone that’s not a sprinter, therefore doesn’t do any kicking. I suddenly like got a load of energy and was kicking and sprinting and about 10 metres later went “don’t like that. I’m knackered”. So, settled back into my normal stroke, and was like, “Don’t get excited because, one they might be wrong, and two, that can’t be right because I’ve been swimming for ages”. And I got out and I just heard my dad shout “Jo, you’ve got the record!” and I was like, “what?!”.
So it was just, yeah, it was that was a weird one itself almost… Yeah, kind of going from, “I don’t even want to start this because it’s going to be going to be hard” to “okay maybe I can finish”, to “Okay. I think I’ve got the fastest ever time”. Cool. I don’t know where to file that in my brain.
Wild Swim Podcast 29:35
It would be interesting to know if you’d approached it with a different mindset if that might have changed the result, like if you’d been focused on getting the record rather than just like “I’ll get to, I’ll do an hour, I’ll get to halfway….”
Jo Jones 29:47
Yeah and I do wonder that because results for me have always been accidental in the I’ve always done the swims because I love the swims and I want the challenge for me and I want to do the best that I can, which I think is the way you have to approach swims but, like, I’m a, I am a very good swimmer, but I’m used to not being great. In the levels of competition I used to do, I knew I’d never made nationals or wouldn’t get picked for the club gala. So I was always very happy being good but not great. So I’ve always just swam and gone, as long as I’m happy with what I’ve done, as long as I haven’t let myself down, as long as I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve won for me. Because winning is never going to happen, you know, getting a getting a result it’s never gonna happen. So I just have to make sure I’m happy for me.
And now to have got a record thing kind of accidentally – not accidentally because I knew, I knew it would be possible if I trained really hard, but I hadn’t trained really hard. So I didn’t think it was possible. So it’s now recalibrating my brain to going: I have got a fastest time. And I don’t ever want to lose the fact that I did the swim because I wanted to. And I swam it because I wanted to see if I could do it, I wasn’t chasing a record and I don’t ever want to chase times or records or bests or whatever because that makes the motivation external rather than because I love it and because I want to.
Wild Swim Podcast 31:14
And do you think now that you’re, you label yourself as a great swimmer?
Jo Jones 31:19
No, no, no! Not at all! I think… maybe… sure but I think I just like swimming. And I’ve always just been very happy, swimming because I love it, and being as good as I can be. And I guess it’s…. I would now say yes, I am as great as I can be, but it’s weird to associate words good and great when all you do is just because you love it. It’s a, I don’t know it’s a weird one. I think that’s the wrong way of me saying that’s weird. My brain kind of misfires. But yeah, I don’t know. It’s weird!
Wild Swim Podcast 31:58
I guess it feels like, I can’t think of the word but almost like cheating to say, I actually enjoy it, you know, and I am good at it, but I mainly do it because I enjoy it, not because I want to be the best.
Jo Jones 32:10
Yeah, I don’t, I always… I have been thinking about this a bit recently. And I think it’s always important to do something because you love it and have the results almost be accidental or to pick up results along the way, rather than aim for them because particularly in outdoor swimming, you can’t control, so many factors that will affect the time of the swim. If you’re chasing a time, if you’re chasing a time and the tides weird or there’s a chore, or you didn’t sleep great the night before or if you go and you’re on your period like, there’s so many things that can affect the swim, because there are so many more uncontrollables. I think it’s just you do the swim you can, enjoy the swim you can, and the results are almost additional but also accidental when you pick them up along the way. Whereas I think if you go in and go, I’m gonna do this because I want to win it, then you might be crushed if you don’t and you might enjoy the experience less. And that was why I was proud of chatting to my friend Caroline she went, “would you be happy getting out?”, because I think I’d seen the swim as, a finish or a fail. Like you know if I didn’t make it, then I’d failed but actually the failing is not starting. And so the achievement for me with the Bristol Channel was getting in the water and going. And then once I was in the water, it was out of my hands whether I was gonna finish it or not because I was gonna swim until I couldn’t swim anymore. And hopefully, that’d be Clevedon, and it was Clevedon, and it was in a brilliant time. But the achievement I could control was getting in. And that’s what I want to take into future swims. What I can control is starting.
Wild Swim Podcast 33:56
I think that’s a really good way to think about it. When you finished the swim, did you get your celebrations? A reversion, version two of them?
Jo Jones 34:08
It wasn’t the celebration I pictured it in my head but it was actually lovely, like I had, it was me and my dad or my husband, my husband had driven around. And they were like the two most important people on my swimming journey because they’ve been with me who have a whole thing of like ups, downs from when I was a teenager, my dad to obviously my husband who supports me in and out now. So well that wasn’t a massive celebration I had the two most important people there. And then we went for a meal so we went to like a Mitchell and Carter steakhouse and I had the most, oh I had such a good steak! It was so good. Again, I’m so motivated by food, like, so it was a lot more low key, but I think like with most things in life, I got what I needed at the time. And I think after trying to make something so big and celebratory happen, and then it didn’t happen. I’m so pleased, it was quite small and organic.
Wild Swim Podcast 35:04
Yeah, it sounds really nice. I finish podcast episodes by asking people about their dream swim.
Jo Jones 35:12
Oh my gosh, I think, because I want to swim everywhere. And there are so many cool people in swimming. I couldn’t choose like I’m really, I’m very very very fortunate, so I used to work with Outdoor Swimmer magazine which meant I’ve swum with some of my heroes, and I’ve met them and had coffee with them and breakfast with them. So I’ve, in the swimming with people things I’ve had some of my dreams wins, I think it’s not so much a where, but I’ve always wanted some under a waterfall, and I’ve not managed to do it, so that’s, I think, a dream, for the moment. I don’t really have any swim like oh my gosh, that’d be amazing to do. But in retrospect, I like that. I love doing swims and then reflecting on them and going actually that was a dream swim. So, I don’t know yet! I’ll swim in a waterfall. And then I will pick up the people I want to swim with along the way.
Wild Swim Podcast 36:08
I think there’s something really nice about realising afterwards that you’ve had a dream swim, rather than sort of aspiring to get to one, which may be ties in with all the things you’ve been talking about with the Bristol swim as well.
Jo Jones 36:20
Yeah, I mean don’t get me wrong the list of swims, I want to do get longer and longer, the more and more I learn about swimming, and so I started off my swimming journey when I was a teenager thinking the English Channel was the only swim in the world. And I remember saying I can do the English Channel and I can stop swimming forever, because I’ve done the only thing that matters.
Wild Swim Podcast 36:37
Hardee, hardee, hardee, hardee, har! Because that’s not going to happen. You know I’d love to do Manhattan, I’d love to swim in the Caribbean, I’d like, I’d love to do the Hellespont, having worked for Outdoor Swimmer magazine for a couple of years. I now know there are an endless number of phenomenal swims out there. So I think every single can be a dream swim in some way shape or form, and I’m just, I’ll just, I would like to swim everywhere, it’s all on my list.
I like that!
Thank you so much to Joe for joining me on the podcast. I think it’s really interesting that Jo’s mindset of taking on the swim piece by piece and just trying to enjoy it could well be something that led to her getting that fastest time.
And I think I also want to say to Jo, that even though it doesn’t compute in her head, I think she must be a brilliant swimmer to take on something like that, during a pandemic and bounce back from the disappointment of the first attempt. One of the things that I tried to do this podcast is show the highs and the lows. Because if you’ve ever pushed yourself to take on a challenge, whether it’s your first one kilometre swim or a Ice Mile or the Bristol Channel! You’ll know that they go hand in hand.
Thank you for joining me and listening to this episode and as ever, please like and subscribe on wherever you get your podcast from.
Until next time, happy swimming!