Inspirtion Station with Frankie Durbin

As we all know at the moment the world is in a pretty crazy place, and we could all do with some inspiration. Luckily for us we have an abundance of inspirational athletes on our A-Squad! I’ve been super lucky to have had a chat with Frankie Durbin about her experience in the sport of swimming and triathlon.

I did my first triathlon in 2014 as a challenge after a surfing injury lead to some nerve damage in my left leg. I was swimming/cycling/running as part of my rehab from the injury, and because I grew up in a competitive swimming club I have always have been sporty. My little sister already competed in triathlon and challenged me to give it a go and prove everyone who said I wouldn’t be able to run (because I have no feeling in my left leg) wrong. At my first open water triathlon I qualified for the British Age Group team, which was a huge surprise! And from there I fell in love with the sport.

When it came to triathlon, my love and ambition quickly grew developed. I raced at European and World Championships as well as National Elite races as a junior, taking home 2 World Aquathlon (swim-run) Bronze medals.

In 2018 I was training really well and had high expectations for the Summer season, having just received my first senior elite start… but sadly the season was cut short when I broke my hip. Since then, I’ve had 2 surgeries to fix the fracture, spent many months in a wheelchair and on crutches, and was diagnosed with a pituitary tumour – which is actually what caused the fracture in my hip. I was told I would probably never race again by some doctors, but I was determined to prove them wrong… and this weekend I completed my first triathlon in over 2 years!

Swimming was the first sport I was allowed to do again after each surgery and as I wasn’t able to kick or push off a wall, the open water soon became my home. I’m also a swim teacher and triathlon coach, so I spend almost all my time at the lakes or a pool! Even more so following the challenges of COVID19, where here in England we were able to return to lake and sea long before the pools reopened. So between my job and training, I’ve spent most days there this summer. I’ve picked up a few pretty awesome open water swim tips after all this time, I’ll leave them at the end of this blog for you!

Open Water Swim Tips!

How do you know you are swimming in a straight line?

Sighting! Every 9 or 12 strokes lift your head up to see in front of you. It can be done just before you breathe (look up then turn your head to the side like a normal breath), or like a water polo stroke. Look for a land mark or if there are swim buoys in the water then those.

How do you keep your stroke correct?

Drills! At the beginning of my swims I like to do some drills to ensure my stroke is good and if I start to feel it going later in the session I do some more!

How do you know that you are swimming at the right pace?

I use my apple watch (or any sports watch) in the water to help see what pace I am at. But I find it good to also do some interval sessions like in the pool but I change pace after a certain number of strokes rather tha doing lengths e.g 50 strokes hard, 25 strokes easy and repeat.

How do you keep yourself entertained?

Well personally I don’t find open water swimming too boring, especially if you go to different locations as you focus on swimming to a landmark or buoy. You can also get some headphone that work underwater (I use Aftershokz ones) which makes it more interesting. When allowed you can also go with your friends and stop at each buoy or landmark and have a chat which makes it more fun!

How do you keep your mind off the scary fishies?

Haha well just don’t think about them! In some lakes the water is dark so you cant see them, where as others you can. When I raced in Cozumel (Mexico) the water was crystal clear and you could sea all the fish, which was actually amazing, but just think you are bigger than them so they are probably more scared of you than you of them! The only things I hate are Jellyfish, but you can push them out of the way on the top round bit just don’t tough the tentacles and wear a wetsuit so they are less likely to sting you

Any other tips that you would like to share! 

  • Acclimatise to the water – if its cold get in slowly and slowly put your face in – if its freezing can be best to keep your head up a little at first
  • If you are wearing a wetsuit make sure it is tight fitting and you have it pulled up onto your shoulders enough to get maximum movement
  • Use goggles to suit the conditions – clear ones or mirrored or polarized etc
  • Always have someone watching you if it is not an organized swimming area to make sure you are safe