Like throwing yourself into a washing machine mid-cycle. That’s how I’d describe open water swim racing. I’ve been there, jostling alongside all those victory-hungry competitors, elbows sharp, heels sharper and limbs flaying as they propel through often wind-whipped and choppy waters. Sound inviting?
Spare a thought then for Perthshire’s Team GB triathlete Jayne Emery who just two years ago, conquered a lifetime’s fear of water by learning to swim – all for the chance to plunge herself into the world of open water swimming and the sport of triathlon.
And wait, there’s more! Not only has Jayne, 26, slayed her swimming anxieties, she’s now a Team GB triathlete and later this year will be performing on an international stage, pitting herself against some of the world’s finest athletes at the European and World Championships for duathlon and triathlon.
Not bad for a young woman who only two years ago was taking her first ever swimming lessons and was afraid even to take her feet off the shallow end.
Now Bridge of Earn based, Jayne squeezes in a rigorous training regime of swimming, biking and running involving around 11 sessions a week alongside a string of exams to become a chartered accountant.
Only two years ago Jayne was taking her first ever swimming lessons and was afraid even to take her feet off the shallow end...
And this Friday, January 31, the Kirkstyle Pub in Dunning, where Jayne works part-time, is hosting ‘Get Jayne on the Plane’ – a fundraising event to help with covering her kit, training and travel expenses.
“I’m really quite overwhelmed by it all,” said Jayne, “Everyone in the pub has been so amazing and supportive. I feel so lucky!”
Lucky? We think you’ve earned every penny with your extraordinary feats of determination, hard work and mental toughness Jayne!
Originally from Aberdeen, Jayne was always into sport as a youngster but her real love was horses and while her three brothers took swimming lessons, she preferred to spend time riding.
“We never took family holidays by the water or anything so I never really felt the need to swim and wasn’t into it,” Jayne explained. “When I was older, I ended up dropping Higher PE because we moved to a school with a swimming pool. We were supposed to swim and I remember being so embarrassed because of course I couldn’t - I just hated that feeling and it ended up becoming a hatred of swimming.
“I never went to any of the school camps because I didn’t like the thought of being in a boat on the water. It was always a fear and deep down I knew it was irrational but I never really had the motivation to get over it,” she added.
As she got older, that motivation would come by way of the Olympic Games as Jayne become fascinated by the sport of triathlon. Realising how much she’d been missing out on by avoiding the water, she focused on learning to swim so she could one day compete in triathlon. And she wasn’t settling on a gentle foray into the sport – she was focused on a 113km Half Iron Distance – that’s a 1.9km swim, 90k bike ride and a 21k run!
First she found herself a swim coach to learn the basics at the University of Stirling and within a few months had found the skills and confidence to compete in her first race, a shorter training event in the lead up to the Half Iron distance.
“It ended up being a bit of a kick in the teeth,” she remembers, “It was a 400m pool swim and I’m a racer so was trying to chase down the girl in front of me. But I went out too quickly, lost all my oxygen and panicked. My coach was yelling at me from the side lines and broke me out of the sweat I was in. I managed to finish but at the end of it I did wonder if I’d bitten off more than I can chew with everything. But the other option was to give up and I’ve never done that!”
Before long Jayne was training with the Stirling Tri Club and taking on the event she’d set her sights on – Aberfeldy’s Scottish Middle Distance Championships. This time the swim was in the open waters of Loch Tay – the part of the tri she was most anxious but now ready for.
I just hated that feeling and it ended up becoming a hatred of swimming.
Despite feeling daunted (and being kicked in the face a couple of times during the swim!) the event signed and sealed Jayne’s love for triathlon and spurred her to consider the sport on a more serious competitive level.
After discussions with fellow Stirling Tri Club members who are Team GB and world competitors, she set out on her journey to the European and World Championship qualifiers last year.
And after successfully fighting to secure her place, Jayne will represent Great Britain at the ETU Sprint Triathlon European Championships in Malmo, Sweden and the Sprint Distance Duathlon World Championships in Almere, the Netherlands this summer.
Jayne, you’re an inspiration to us all! We wish you all the very best with your training and when the race days come round. If you’d like to help Get Jayne on the Plane, pop into the Kirkstyle Pub this Friday from 7.30pm for a huge night of live music, auctions, luxury raffle and much more! Check out their FB page for more information.
***Pictures courtesy of Laura Hay at Eilidh Robertson Photography***
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