As Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Times’ Style supplement and former editor of Elle and Cosmopolitan magazine, 48-year-old Lorraine Candy is one of the most recognisable faces in British publishing. Her job takes her abroad for weeks at a time and to multiple evening events, which she juggles with the no-less demanding role of being a mother of four.
So what made the already time-poor Editor-in-Chief (who couldn’t swim more than four lengths of front crawl two years ago) decide to take on training for the seriously tough Lake Geneva ‘Signature 70’ relay swim?
Ahead of the 6-person, 70km relay, which takes place in just over a week’s time, I put some questions to Lorraine in order to find out.
Where did the idea for this epic challenge to swim Lake Geneva come from?
I have a dream of becoming a marathon swimmer. I wanted to have an adventure in lovely clean water somewhere in Europe so Googled ‘Geneva swim’ and hey presto.
Tell us about your fitness background – you’ve done some triathlons in the past, haven’t you?
I’ve done some sprint distance triathlons, but I do everything slowly and usually in a team. I want to stay fit as a mum and for my work so I like to try new things every year, though swimming and running are my favourite. But I ride horses, have learnt some boxing. I like to be active and tend to avoid yoga or quieter forms of sporting fun.
You’re doing the relay with a badass group of women (and one man!), most of whom don’t have any distance swimming experience – can you tell us about them?
There are six of us in our Swim & Tonic team: Dipa Jaintilal, a fellow parent and mum-friend of mine; Lisa Potter-Dixon, Head Make-up Artist for Benefit, who I’ve previously completed two sprint triathlons with; open-water swimmer, Kate Orr, also 48; Kate’s teenage daughter, 16-year-old Elsa; and Dan Bullock of Swim for Tri, who is a triathlon swimming coach with long-distance open-water swimming experience.
We have a WhatsApp support group called the Geneva Nitwits which has been one of the best elements of training for Geneva.
How long do you estimate your 10km section of the 70km swim will take you?
For the relay we have to be capable of swimming for an hour, non-stop, six times over a 35-40 hour period. I have no idea how long it will take me – I don’t really care about times to be honest. I will just swim for an hour each time.
What’s the greatest distance you’ve swum in open water so far?
The longest so far is two, 2-hour swimming sessions to qualify for the Geneva relay. No idea how far that was, though – we don’t do that [log distance], we just log time in the water.
Part of your Lake Geneva swim will be at night – have you done any night swimming?
The night swims will be a first for us as we haven’t managed to fit this into our training, but we have talked it through with open water swimmers and we feel OK about it. We’ll just deal with it on the day and get our heads around it then!
You have four kids and a super-demanding job – how do you fit your training in?
I train to take part not to win, so for me the only thing is to remain injury-free and have a good time. I get up super-early to train and I do it between taking kids to things or during my lunch at work.
Do you train with a coach?
I just do Dan Bullock’s Swim for Tri sessions and train with Nuala Muir-Cochrane (former GB international swimmer and English Channel soloist) who teaches at Parliament Hill Lido
What does a typical week’s training look like for you?
We have all been swimming 8-10k per week – as suggested by swim coach and team member, Dan Bullock – sometimes less when outside as we’re slower in the lake than the pool. I would love to do some core work in the gym but I don’t have time, so it’s just swimming.
You had a panic in the lake during the Blenheim Triathlon. Are you more comfortable with open water swimming now?
One of the reasons to do Geneva was to finally put that panic to rest, and I am now happy to say I have. With swimming you just need to do it again and again to get better.
How will you be fuelling your swim and when will you eat?
We have a plan that our nutritionist Kasra Ghaharian has put together and have taken advice from previous [Geneva swim] relay teams. As Kas says in my blog, we’ll be followed by a boat and there’ll be no organised feed stations. We’ll be able to rest and re-fuel on the boat during our five hours off [Lorraine and her team will each swim for an hour and then have a five-hour break] and Kas has devised a warm rice pudding recipe for us with this in mind.
You’re swimming without wetsuits. Have you done much cold water acclimatisation?
Yes, we have been doing this since February when the lido was 8 degrees. It has been the hardest but most exhilarating part of training.
Have you got any strategies to help you power through when the 10km swim gets tough?
Yes, we all have different thoughts on this. I tend to think about what I am going to write for my Sunday Times Magazine Parenting column or about work stuff. I also go through to-do lists for the children and think about things I want to do with them. And then I have a mantra ‘I am at ease’ which helps settle me down too.
Tell us about Level Water, the charity you’re supporting…
Level Water helps children with disabilities get one-to-one teaching. Kids with disabilities find it tough to integrate with normal sporting lessons at school but the one thing they love according to Level Water is swimming, a sport which is a gateway for them to so many other things. Level Water matches children to teachers in around 50 pools in the UK – around 400 children a week are learning to swim with them, so we decided to use our Geneva swim to raise money for more lessons.
You can sponsor Lorraine and the Swim & Tonic team here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lorraine-candy
What swim kit have you found you can’t live without for training?
Bananas and our Dryrobes have been invaluable during the April/May lake swims.
With just over a week to go, how are you feeling?
I alternate between extreme excitement and sheer terror – we [all team members] often all have dreams about the night part of the swim or about what is in the lake.
Which sponsors are supporting you with this momentous challenge?
Tudor Watches have paid our entry fee and I’ve been using their new watch to train with as it is tested in Lake Geneva. Dryrobe and Speedo have kitted us out too for the big day.
What do your kids think about your swim across Lake Geneva – do they realise how incredible a challenge it is?
They are unimpressed – they are now used to me taking up new challenges and working towards something – nothing impresses a teenage girl! But they are all really good swimmers which reassures me as we holiday a lot in Cornwall and are all learning to surf.