September is over and with it ends a well-deserved break from my training routine. A whole month where I can train however I feel like. No stress, no expectations, no performance. Plenty of time to step back and to reset.
This year, my break was rather intimate and mainly focused on spending quality time with my family. Besides the visit of my mother, Martin and I went to Cracow for a long weekend. We had been invited by my “brother-in-heart” Nicolas and we were blown away! The place is beautiful and incredibly well-preserved. It’s clean and welcoming. It’s full of life and the food is great. And most of all, it’s got the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Never in my life I’ve been so deeply moved and felt so connected to history. The visit of the camps was amazing and terrifying at the same time and it reminded me of how lucky I am to live in an Union that has made it impossible for history to repeat itself. Thanks to the EU, I’ve never lived in fear of my neighbour countries invading Belgium three times in a row. I’ve never lived in fear of coming home and finding my mother raped and my father shot in the back of his head in our backyard. I haven’t been hunted down and put to death for my sexuality. A privilege that dates back no more than two generations! During the visits, I had history right at my fingertips. I could almost touch it! Standing in that room in Auschwitz, in front of several tons of hair shaved from Jewish women tortured and killed by the Nazis, I understood today’s Union is not perfect, but surely I can live with those imperfections as they help guarantee our freedom and our safety. Fuck nationalism!
On the other hand, taking a break from my swimming has given me more time to think about the next season – my ambitions, my balance between work/sport/family, my finances, possible sponsorships, etc. It’s a lot to process, but luckily for me I’m not alone. A special friend of mine, whom we’ll call “Happy Gums” to preserve her anonymity, helped me prepare for my meeting with the journalist from Helsingør Dagblad and she gave me ideas and inspiration for my blog. She’s a real happy-thought spreader, so it’s fantastic to have her by my side when doubts start to creep in – and they do quite often, however smug and conceited I may appear. 😉
Besides, I may have found the right person to help me work professionally on my confidence and my goals. I believe in fate and coincidences and my brother-in-law’s 40th birthday party a few weeks ago was no exception. By chance (or thanks to my sister-in-law’s subtle plan) I was seated next to Eva Hesse Lundström. Eva is a journalist who works as a PR-consultant. I don’t know if it was her curly hair, her wild entrance at the table or her unruly laughter, but there was something original and very “undanish” that got my attention. A couple of weeks later, we met again for coffee to consider a possible collaboration in order to help me find sponsors. I was struck by Eva’s professionalism – she was effective, in full control of the agenda. She introduced me to the basics of PR. She was ambitious but honest and realistic. Wild, but far from idle. She gave substance to our mutual considerations and I decided to go for it.
I left our meeting with some challenging homework. Just when I thought my break was over, I’m now spending hours reviewing myself, my goals and my intentions in order to put some clarity into this insane project of mine. It’s a bit like staring at myself in a mirror and digging deeper and deeper past every layer of reflection. And it’s not always very pretty! PR or not later on, a bit of introspection feels like a healthy process right now and I’m quite sure I’ll benefit from it not only in my sports, but in my jobs and in my private life as well.
But where does all this thinking leave me as to my next swimming season? Well, my head is pretty chaotic at the moment, but one thing is sure – I’m going for the Fehmarn Belt again in 2017 and ultimately the Triple Crown. And in order to spice up my winter training in the pool, I’ve decided to work on my butterfly (which pretty much means starting from scratch again! 🙂 ).
In the meantime I’ve lost most of the weight I had gained up to my crossing this summer. Little by little, I’m going back to my regular training regime, reducing my outdoor training as the water temperatures begin to drop. By now, most of my fellow swimmers have hung up their wetsuits for the season, so the tough part is about to start for me – to keep on swimming in the open water while all the others enjoy the warmth of the indoor pool. But this year, I’m really looking forward to the challenge. The more I’ll push my acclimatization to the cold, the better my season will be.
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