FROM Buckie swimming pool to a gruelling 20k non-stop swim Down Under is not a journey many make, but that is just what former Buckie woman Justine Jones has done.
Ms Jones, who has been living in Western Australia for the last five and a half years working for an environmental consultancy firm, recently took the plunge in the Rottnest Channel Swim, which crosses the stretch of water between Perth, WA, and the island the event is named after.
Nine months of training, mainly swimming in the local river due to the number of sharks in the sea, then undertaking a qualifying session with a target of swimming 10k in four hours or less, had to be undertaken before even earning her place in the starting line-up.
Although the third time she has taken part - the other two were firstly as part of a four-strong team and the other as one half of a pair - it was a dream come true to accomplish the feat on her own.
"Doing this on my own was a bucket list item, to be honest - I always wanted to do the solo crossing because you get a personalised number plate," she said.
"I finished in nine hours and two minutes; I had hoped to come in at around eight hours, so if you factor in the time I spent fighting myself internally to keep going my actual swimming time was probably around eight and a half hours.
"I finished 175th out of 260, which is still a pretty good achievement, especially when you consider about 60 competitors didn’t finish at all.
"I’m very happy I did it although the time it took to train over nine months means its something I don’t think I could do to my fiancé again! I’d do it again as part of a team but not as a soloist."
Ms Jones stopped every 25 minutes or so for a couple of minutes to eat half a banana and to take on some water, all the while facing 40C heat. She was not allowed to touch her support boat or the three-strong team in the water with her, while getting out of the water was also forbidden.
Paying tribute to her support team, Ms Jones said she would never have been able to complete it without them.
Her mammoth swim has also helped raise cash for her fiancé Joel’s school in Sierra Leone - for more information see her Just giving Page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Justine-Jones2
The Rottness challenge is a far cry from Ms Jones’s days of early promise at Buckie Swimming Pool under the watchful eyes of the likes of John Addison, Gwen Mair and Pat Phimister back in the 1990s. Describing herself as a "water baby" she said she recalls swimming from a very early age, joining the swimming team when about nine or 10.
She added: "Open water swimming wasn’t something I even really knew about until I moved to WA, but then it’s not 24C in the sea at home!"