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Meet our September issue’s reader cover star!

Our September cover model is 31-year-old reader Jenny Rice from the Lake District. She is an outdoor swimmer and swimrun athlete and will be competing in the Ötillö World Championships next week. We caught up with her to find out about swimming in the Lakes and how outdoor swimming has changed her life 

How does it feel to be Outdoor Swimmer’s cover star? 

Odd, especially as people have texted me after recognising me from behind… should that be taken as a compliment?! 

Where was the cover shot taken?

Our regular swimming spot in Windermere is the Millerground boathouse jetty. The photo was taken on a cold morning in March – hence my slightly tense walk to the end of the jetty! I’d have been thinking, ‘why am I doing this?’ and then spent too much time faffing before finally jumping in and swimming a very short distance!

Stavanger Swim © Paul Scully

Jenny Rice

Who do you swim with?

A growing band of all sorts of swimmers from the south Lakes area. Our group of swimmers has grown from two (myself and husband, Paul Scully) three years ago when we first moved to the Lakes (from London, where I swam with the Serpentine Swimming Club since 2009), to four the following winter, and then this year we’ve had more and more people ask if they can join us. The most we had one morning was 20, but there are consistently five to 10 of us. 

It seems there were lots of people locally who wanted to swim but didn’t have anyone to swim with, or they have been encouraged along by a friend and discovered they love it! Through the warmer months we swim to buoy 13, which is about 150-200m from the boathouse (depending on the wind direction!), and then some swimmers go further, swimming a mile or km, others just chat and float around! It’s a wonderful place to be on a morning before work, with views over to the Langdales, and across to the woods opposite. As the temperature drops this winter, we’ll keep swimming to buoy 13 for as long as possible, before sticking closer to the jetty, and returning to the buoy next year as Windermere warms up again! 

 What would you say to someone considering getting into outdoor swimming? 

If you can find people to swim with, either through a Facebook group or local club, then that’s a great way to start. For me, joining the Serpentine Swimming Club was life changing – with the people I met (including my husband!). I was surrounded by people who were always up for, and suggesting, all sorts of adventures. And more recently in the Lakes, it’s been fantastic meeting local swimmers at Millergound, Windermere. Despite the lack of facilities, we enjoy a thermos of tea and – if we’re lucky – cake, whilst shivering and chatting after our morning swims to buoy 13. 

You are the brains behind the outdoor swimming session at the Kendal Mountain Festival. What can we expect to see there?

I am so excited for the Alpkit Outdoor Swimming Session this year! Last year the session covered a diverse mixture of swimmers and explored the creativity within the swimming world, looking at poetry, photography and art, as well as featuring marathon swimmers. 

I thought I’d struggle to programme a session to match it, but this year is looking just as interesting – the hardest thing has been deciding who to ask to speak given the amount of swimming related creativity and athletic endeavours that have been undertaken this year. 

We are delighted to welcome back host, Colin Hill, whose energy and love for swimming really got the audience excited last year! We have three speakers, Tanya Shadrick – writer-in-residence at the UK’s oldest lido will talk about the life and swim diaries of visionary wild swimmer and former OSS press officer Lynne ‘Rivers’ Roper, who died of a brain tumour in August 2016. Jenny Landreth will be talking about her book, Swell: A Waterbiography, a wonderful history of women’s swimming, combined with her own swimming story; I read it a few months ago, and absolutely loved it. We’ll also hear about Beth French’s epic year: after deciding to end her Oceans Seven in a year attempt a few weeks ago, she’s keen to share with us what she’s learnt along the way. We also have some great films we can’t wait to share, and a few other surprises in there. The outdoor swimming session is on Sunday 19 November at 9.30am and tickets go on sale in mid September. It’ll definitely be worth the trip to Kendal!

How are you feeling about the Ötillö Swimrun Championships?

So I’m taking part in the Championships in Sweden on Monday with a partner who has never done a swimrun race before…! My usual partner, and fellow Buoy 13 swimmer, Claire Wilson, who I qualified with is unable to compete due to injury. My new partner, Cat Slater from my running club, Helm Hill, has raced in triathlons before… but not for a while! We’ve had three swimrun practices together… and that’s it now until the big day! I’m optimistic that we’ll make a good team, with her being a super strong runner (she won the Lakes Sky Ultra a few weeks back, a crazy race involving a lot of technical scrambling along the ridges of the Lake District), whilst I’ll be the stronger swimmer. We’ll let you know how we get on!