English Channel world recorder holder, Trent Grimsey (6 hrs 55 mins, 6 Sept 12) describes Brisbane’s Sutton’s Beach on his website, ‘Great one day, perfect the next’. I must have been at a different Suttons Beach the day I swam there in what was to become my defining channel training swim.

At the time things weren’t going that well for me personally and I was in a depression the like of which I hadn’t suffered for a while. I retreated to Brisbane for a long weekend for some much needed family love and support.

Channel training makes no allowance for depression and my program called for a 4 hour Saturday swim when I just wanted to stay curled up in bed. Open water isn’t plentiful in Brisneyland but I knew that the only way out of my depression was to exercise.

We headed to Suttons Beach where the Brothers Grimsley run an open water swimming squad on Sunday mornings and, as it happened my brother in law was attending as the volunteer doctor for a group of special kids undertaking nippers training with the local Redcliff Surf LifeSavers.

My Sutton’s Beach was bleak and choppy; the waters were neither still nor surf and the shoreline was as dull as the day. I trained with Grimsleys for an hour and then belted out three more hours on my own. It wasn’t pretty, but the four hours got done.

Defining swims are almost never the glamour events in my experience. They are more likely to be the sneaky little ones that creep up on you and smack you in the face as they dare you to dig deeper than you were expecting.

This particular swim was important because no one was watching – not even my brother in law who was more into his cryptic crossword than either me or the special kids: all of whom happily survived that day.

When your coach or training mates are around or you’re competing in a big event with someone waiting for you at the finish line of course you rise to the challenge of the day. It’s what you do when no ones watching that defines you.