A feed at Corbière
"Ability can be learned, stamina can be built up, but bottle is all in the mind," she says. "You just have to really want to do it, and after a while you learn that if you do keep plodding slowly you will get there. You have to trust yourself."
A 10.5-mile swim covering the length of Lake Windermere and a 12-hour split-session (six hours on Saturday and another six on Sunday) in training definitely helped her prepare both physically and psychologically, though Dr Nic is quick to downplay her accomplishments, perhaps because she genuinely feels so comfortable in the water.
"People tend not to believe that I even like jellyfish," she laughs. "I think it’s because you don’t see much in the water other than blue. Yes, they sting, but it’s never worse than stinging nettles. It’s not their fault either – they’re not seeking you out, they’re just lying there minding their own business!"
Pressed for strategies she uses to distract herself while underwater, she admits to singing motivational songs and focussing on other people. "Knowing that people were thinking of me and waiting to hear how I’d got on meant I really couldn’t get out," she says, referring to her dedicated forum support thread. "I just couldn’t bear to have to tell them all!"
Out In The Cold
An encounter with floating sea creatures wasn’t the only aspect of Dr Nic’s swim to garner admiration among those more at ease on dry land. Under triathlon rules, swimmers are permitted to wear wetsuits when the water drops below a certain temperature. Open water swimming regulations however, stipulate that swimmers can wear only a swimsuit, cap and goggles.
"People have a thing about being cold," she says, "but I think a lot of it’s mind over matter. At the beginning of the season (May) I was training for short 20-minute spells in water that was just 10°C. As the weeks went on, I gradually increased the time I spent in the sea and I simply got used to it. Plus, on days when I wasn’t training, I’d acclimatise in other ways - not wearing socks around the house, taking cold showers, or wearing fewer layers outside."
Replacing pool sessions with open water swims began in earnest from late-Spring onwards as Dr Nic trained with the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation in Dover at weekends. "At the most I trained for about 20 hours a week - no more than some would for an Ironman. In fact, I probably had to ‘find’ less time to train than most triathletes since the majority of my training was at the weekends."