Hey Peeps, don't ya know it's been awhile since I have down one of my interviews of amazingly awesome and rad ladies, but here is my latest one, and boy is this chick inspiring, motivated, and showing us all how to kick our fears and anxieties in the butt! How? you might ask? By swimming the English Channel this year!! How mind-blowing, exciting, and extraordinary is this?!? Hazel is only 16 years of age, and has already achieved many inspirational swims in the past few years. So grab your cup of tea, pull up your chair, and get ready to read an incredible interview ...
Hazel, you are going to embark on an amazing journey in August next year – swimming across the English Channel – can you explain how you first came to the idea that you wanted to do this?
I started open water swimming around 5 years ago this is when I was completing the smaller swims such as 3k. I then found out that USWIM had a Channel relay going out that year and I was massively interested in making my challenge harder. We had long talks with coaches, successful channel swimmers and also family as it is a huge investment and also you have to be 100 percent sure you want to do it, it was the best decision I ever made and I cant wait for the day and for the rest of the other swims.
To swim the English Channel is a huge challenge and not a lot of people would choose to do it, just over 1000 swimmers have been officially recorded as crossing the channel successfully! How are you preparing for the swim and how do you envision the swim to be like?
When preparing for something like this you cant do enough of something. Practice makes perfect and you cannot afford to not practice or prepare something you think you wont need as you probably will need it. When you think you have enough add a few more because when your out in the channel there is no way of accessing more things which you might need, Preparing is a massive part of the channel challenges, everything has to be prepared and your crew need to understand it fully but you also have to practice; you have to practice failing, being sleep deprived, being hungry or not being in control. I have an idea of what I want my swim to be I think everyone would like the perfect swim with the 7am swim start and then swimming into the night or starting at night and swimming into the morning with the perfect conditions which would be the calm sea and being able to get into France without a fight but really we all know that wont happen. You go out when the weather and conditions are at there best
What equipment, assistance, etc, will you be using to help you cross the channel?
While I swim the English channel I will have a support vessel. Mine is Louise Jane with Andy King as my pilot for the swim. Andy has the final decision about everything during the swim and he is the only person other than me who can stop the attempt. I will also have a crew: a crew of around 6-8 people which so far include, My support swimmer and successful channel swimmer Ella Dunn who I have been training with for a few years, My dad as I have never completed a big swim without him, My brother to complete Social media I.e. updating face book, twitter and blogs and hopefully another one of my very good friends one who is also a channel swimmer and the other who crewed my two way Windermere in August this year.
You have swum distances before, what is the longest distance you have ever swum?
In one swim: it would have to be Two way Windermere which was 21 miles in 10 hours 50 minutes and then following that it would be the back to back 6 hour swims then 7 hour swims. I have also competed 6 x 6 hour swims ; you only need one 6 hour swim to qualify to swim the channel solo.
How do you prepare mentally for such a long swim?
Its just a swim.. you have to make sure you stay calm and fully understand what you are doing. There is so many other things that you cant control for example jellyfish, other wildlife, weather and the tides these are things you cant change or prevent so you have to be mentally prepared to be able to adapt; if the tide turns and your on the last mile to France you could be facing another 6 hours to get in and you have to be able to keep your mind strong enough to think “ yes I can do this” which after 12+ hour swimming could be a bit tricky or if you miss cap griz nez due to tides or your feeding times being too long this could add another 9 hours on to the swim as you would have to swim to the other side.
As a swimmer, when I had long, distance training sessions to get through, I would often sing songs in my head, particularly high beat songs, as I would set my stroke rate to the pace of the beat. Do you have any mental coping mechanisms that you use to get you though long training sessions and/or races?
All my training sessions are long, from 2 hours up to 6 in a pool and then the swims in open water could go on for 10 hours + so singing is definatley something that ALWAYS happens. I also spend a lot of time while training thinking which is not always a good thing but it depends what kind of day I have had. I enjoy thinking about things that have happened and being in the water they are no longer there, its just me and the water. Bit of friendly competition always keeps the session cheery so maybe racing a fellow swimmer or changing the sets a bit to keep it fresh helps. Overall the main thing that happens is I go into a day dream where I have my swimming pace and im kind of in the zone, this is when I use quotes such as “just keep swimming” or if I am finding the session hard I say to myself “you wont get to France if you don't do this” bit harsh but it works and it keeps my legs kicking and arms moving.
What is a typical training week for you? AND how do you fit your training in around you education and social life?
A training week starts with Mondays off for a rest day the reason for this is weekends are full of morning swim after noon sea/lake swim and then back in the pool in the evening so the Monday off gives my body time to repair itself. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday usually are one hour morning session before school and then 2 hours in the evening or in the summer/open water season Wednesday nights are at Salford and Thursday evenings are at a lake in Cheshire with USWIM. Weekends are usually spent either away from home training or Saturday in one place and then Sunday another sea/lake swim and then masters on a Sunday night. Fitting a social life around this is not easy and I cherish all the free time I get but mainly spend it sleeping or doing paperwork for the channel arrangements. My friends and family have understood that I am not available a lot of the time and they plan around me which I appreciate so much. When I have to say no to things it is hard and sometimes can make you feel down because your missing out but the social time with all the people I train with makes it worth it, the hardwork and achivement that comes out of training makes saying no worth it as well. I am not going to say that my education is easy to fit around my training or should I say my training around my education because it is not. In some cases it is not too bad as there isn’t as much work to do or there are no exams coming up but when im flooded with coursework or have to revise for exams it can get a bit tricky but it can also go the other way where I have to miss school to attend swims and do things due to swimming commitment. For example this year I was lucky enough to be part of a world record group who swam the Caledonia way in Scotland for pancreatic cancer but with this amazing opportunity I had to miss 6 days of school which is a lot of work to take or come back to, I do not struggle to complete all work or get my grades as training has been part of me since the age of 5 but missing the days do definatley make a difference to your knowledge and you just have to work extra hard when you return. On the other hand my school are massively supporting me and actually only found out how successful my swimming had become when I won 1st junior girl for the British Long Distance swimming in June but ever since then they have been behind me all the way and supporting me as much as they can over the next 8 months before the swim.
Is crossing the English Channel your biggest swimming goal? Or do you have other goals in swimming that you would like to achieve?
The EC swim is only the tip of the ice berg for me, its classed as the Mount Everest of the long distance swimming world but if I am successful in my attempt next year I will go on to complete the Oceans 7 swims. This includes swimming : Irish Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar. Being a winter swimmer as well I am also in training to complete my ice mile in February which is a mile in waters under 5 degree.
If you could choose to hold a dinner party for the top three swimmers of all time who would you choose to invite and why?
I really cant decide with this as im actually lucky enough to know a lot of the best swimmers but if I had to pick it would be Lewis Pugh who is one of the most inspirational people I have ever known. Lewis the 1st person to complete a long distance swim in the north pole which was -0.3 degrees.
I would love to continue to help you out in any way I can Hazel, because I think what you are wanting to achieve is pretty special, so over the next year I would love to do occasional updates for my readers on how the crossing plans are coming. In the meantime, is there any particular support you are looking for or needing that perhaps, some of my readers, could help you with?
If you would like to support me with my swim your business / organisation might like to provide sponsorship for…
Free or discounted services, for example;
Entry to swimming pools / Open water venues
I also asked Hazel's parents a few questions about how they are supporting Hazel and what it's like to be the parent's of a highly motivated and big dreaming athlete ...
Mr and Mrs Killingbeck, thank you for letting me interview you and Hazel and to try and find out more about Hazel swimming the English Channel. Firstly, how do you feel about Hazel wanting to cross the channel? Was it a surprise, or is choosing big challenges such as this a usual thing for Hazel?
We are incredibly proud of Hazel for her decision to swim the Channel and all her training. It was not a surprise when hazel decided to swim the channel as we had discussed it in depth together and with her coach who at the time was actually down in Dover on the Manchester USWIM channel relay.
How will you be supporting Hazel in the lead up to the crossing and during the crossing?
I will be part of her crew on the boat which is a massive privilege as I will get to see first hand what happens and the whole thing.
Is Hazel the only swimmer in the family, or is it a genetic trait?
It is a genetic trait as I was a swimmer before I was diagnosed with MS. When Hazel was born we were very strict about making sure she knew how to swim just for safety reasons but Hazel began to compete and then took it further as she got older.
What advice do you have for other parents out there who’s children are setting great big dreams and lofty goals?
We believe as parents that you should allow your child to want to do as many big dreams in their life’s. Especially at a younger age like Hazel it is something they have for life the people they meet, them experiences that they will get to have like Hazel. Make sure they want it and make sure they work hard.
Wowee, what an interview, Hazel is one very special young lady, and she really deserves all the support that people can give her (and her parent's are pretty special too - supporting her on her big journey to English Channel glory). If you would like to support Hazel you can check out her blog, her MS fundraising page, or her twitter feed. Please get behind her 100%, we, as a society really need to support young people in whatever their dreams are and help them succeed, because it is youngin's like Hazel that are our future!
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright