beauty

“This swimsuit goal was about much more than my body."

That’s me. The one in the navy swimmers. I actually think I look pretty good for 49 – and to tell you the truth, I should have looked great. I’d been training for this moment for six months. And talking about it for about 15 years.

reinventing yourself
"That's me." Image: Supplied.

You're right - the picture shows a lot. Too much, many would argue, and they wouldn't be all wrong. I'm certainly no Elle Macpherson in Barbados. There's a bit of cellulite and yes, I'm lily white. That's how I roll. By this stage, I've been bitten by about, oh, 653 sea lice and the itches are about to start. I don't much care because at last, after talking about it and saying I was going to do it and then never actually doing it, I am finally and officially reinventing myself as an ocean swimmer.

You might have picked the spot - the warm, flat water of Noosa, perfect for an ocean swimming novice. The Noosa 1000 - my event - is broken into age divisions. I was at the very top of mine in terms of years, which I think accounts for my poor placing just a few rungs from the bottom in terms of times. But who cares? Because this picture proves I'm an ocean swimmer.

But there's a lot you don't see too. You don't see all the pool laps I did to prep for this event, or how nervous I am because this is a seriously big deal for me. You don't see my sister - herself the queen of reinvention having taken up triathlons in her mid-40s - and how she coaches me through the unfamiliar world of competitive sport for grown-ups, strapping on ankle timers and not eating too much but eating just enough. You definitely don't see how in awe I am of all the very fit bods around me, and how humbled I am by the less-than-perfect physiques that, like me, are giving it a go anyway.

"I became a different person." Image: Supplied.
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You don't see how I flounder at the start, close to last into the water, but then settle into my stroke, pulling through water churned up by my fellow swimmers, trying not to swallow too much of the Pacific and trying to find my way through the pack. You don't see how much I laugh when I surface mid-way through the M-shaped course to hear my sis yell 'C'ARN DARLIN'', taking the mickey out of an old bloke who yelled the same thing to her a couple of weeks earlier and whose encouragement kept her running when she wasn't sure she could.

And you definitely don't see the bit where the next wave of competitors enters the water and I'm a bit put out because a 14-year-old practically swims over the top of me. Seriously - where were his manners?

Here's what that swim proved to me: it's a cliché, but you really can reinvent yourself and your life. You can go from being a bit of a physical cot case to anything you like, because I did. If someone had told me a year before this picture was taken that I'd be competing in one of the biggest sports carnivals in the country, I'd have laughed at them. But once I actually committed to doing it (and I'll admit a couple of glasses of red might have contributed to that decision) I became a different person. It kind of shifted my head; I was no longer someone who might do something, maybe, if the planets aligned and a choir of unicorns chorused at dawn. I was someone who put in what was needed and actually did it.

Now take a look at this picture. That face? That's the face of someone who's an ocean swimmer AT LAST. Who's reinvented herself from someone who talks a lot about what she's going to do to someone who actually does it.

Have you reinvented yourself?