By Maja Lorentzen, communications consultant, Danish Swimming Federation. Photo: Private
In the calendar of Inken Frellesen there’s marked a big X on the date of Copenhagen Swim. This year it is the fifth time that the 60-year-old ocean swimmer participates, and she can hardly wait.
“I think it is a fantastic event. There is always a good ambiance, and everyone can participate - young and old, fat and thin. And I find it completely unique that you can swim like that in a big city,” explains Inken.
This is despite the fact that she has been unfortunate the past four years – her swims around Christiansborg have offered both health problems and bad weather. But that doesn’t dampen the anticipation.
“It’s not the event’s fault, it’s just unfortunate. I am very much looking forward to participating again,” says Inken.
Started late with open water swimming
Today, Inken Frellesen is an experienced open water swimmer, but it is not because she has been swimming in open waters for many years. It all started eight years ago.
“I started quite late and couldn’t crawl at all in the beginning – it took me a few years to learn,” she says.
It is a skill she is very happy to have today.
“Open water swimming is my great passion. It’s almost meditative, I think. In the places where I swim, there is plenty of space. You can see fish and crabs, the ocean can be calm or with waves and the sunlight is always different – so it’s never the same experience,” Inken explains and continues:
“It’s never boring. I always feel good afterwards and I get so happy from swimming in open water.”
Participating despite resistance and counter current
Inken Frellesen has participated in the TrygFonden Copenhagen Swim for the past four years - but it has been far from a success every year.
"The first year the trip was absolutely terrible. I had an exertion-induced asthma attack while I was in the water. I couldn't really breathe and had to take a break every tenth swim catch, so it took me a long time. I finished, even though I probably should have stopped. The next year I had an asthma spray with me, but I didn't get asthma. Still, I had a hard time making the trip. It turned out I had shingles," she says and continues:
“The third year I was there, I had a migraine the day before, but the trip turned out okay. The next year was 2021, and there was such terrible weather. I didn't have any health problems, but there was a lot of counter current, so it was hard to swim the course. I just hope the weather will be good this year and that I won't have health issues.”
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Despite the resistance - and the counter current - Inken participates year after year and is very much looking forward to joining in for the fifth time on Saturday 27 August 2022. She has been going to swimming lessons this winter to get fast and is now training 3-4 times a week in open water, so that she can reach her goal.
"My goal is definitely to do the route in under an hour this time. Then I’ll be very happy. That should be possible if the weather is good and if my health is on top that day," says Inken.
The first time is nerve wracking
Inken finds that taking part in the Trygfonden Copenhagen Swim for the first time can be quite an ordeal, and that it is quite different from other exercise events.
"I have run a lot and participated in many half marathons. To me that’s not anything special. But when I had to participate in the TrygFonden Copenhagen Swim for the first time, I was really nervous. It was transcendent to line up and jump into the canal for the first time. I was really out of my comfort zone. I was nervous about whether I could find my way around, whether I'd get squashed by the other swimmers, or whether I'd get stressed or confused."
Still, she often encourages other swimmers to participate - even if it's their first time.
"It's not as difficult as you might think, and anyone can join in. You don't have to crawl all the way either, you can easily swim breaststroke in between. Just do it - enjoy the ride and take it as an experience," says Inken.
But before you jump into the water, Inken has some important advice for you:
"Get yourself a proper wetsuit and a decent pair of goggles - and practice swimming with the equipment in open water before the day of the event. Ear plugs might also be a good idea to avoid getting seasick."
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