• Lifestyle

13 Can Too seasons and counting

It’s lucky 13 for Sam Guthrie who, after a late start to the sport and a cancer challenge of her own, continues to find joy in experiencing new ocean swims.

Samantha Guthrie has always loved swimming but it wasn’t until her mid-thirties and a knee injury that she decided to try her hand at ocean swimming, which led her to join the Can Too programs.

“I have always enjoyed swimming but never participated in squads. I just enjoyed school carnivals and water polo in my youth,” said Ms Guthrie.

“It wasn’t until I hit my mid-thirties and my knee decided that I could no longer play as many team sports as I had been that I decided to try my hand at something lower impact but more daring (in my eyes).

“My sister-in-law told me about Can Too, as she had just completed one of their running programs, which led me to join the Can Too 2011/2012 Summer Swim Program. At the end of the swim, I completed my first ocean swim, the 1km at the Cole Classic.

“I thought, what could be more daring than swimming in the uncontrollable ocean and I was petrified before it. I committed the cardinal sin of swimming the first 100m breaststroke because I couldn’t handle all the swimmers swimming all over me.”

Couldn’t get enough

Despite Ms Guthrie’s traumatic first ocean swim experience, the magic of the ocean couldn’t keep her away, bringing her back for another season of Can Too and 11 more since then, seeing her meeting some of her greatest friends along the journey.

“Despite how my first race went, the competitor in me thought – ‘imagine how much better I could swim if I did the whole race freestyle?’, which saw me come back,” said Ms Guthrie.

“I had just started training for my second season and discovered I was pregnant. I continued the training program and completed the 2km Bondi Swim at 20 weeks pregnant.

“It felt amazing to achieve something like that while pregnant, and from then on, I was hooked on Can Too and ocean swimming.

“Can Too has really stretched me well out of my comfort zone, and the people you meet and do the program with are what make the program truly amazing. Thirteen years on from my first Can Too season, I now count some of the first Can Too’ers I met as my dearest friends.”

A closer connection

These days, Can Too is just a little bit closer to Ms Guthrie’s heart than when she first started the program after going through her own cancer battle.

“After having my baby, I had a little bit of time off from swimming, slowly getting back into another Can Too here and there,” said Ms Guthrie.

“When my daughter was two years old, I was deciding if I wanted to start my next Can Too summer season when I found a lump under my arm. I initially didn’t think anything of it but did get it biopsied.

“The results came back, and I found out I had breast cancer in my lymph nodes. My whole world was completely upended. I went from trying for another baby to having to make medical decisions and asking myself questions such as, ‘Do I have my mastectomy now or later? And ‘how am I going to manage chemo with a toddler and a nearly full-time job?’

“One of the first things I did after my diagnosis was donate to the Can Too page of my old Can Too captain, now a dear friend. I felt like donating to help eradicate cancer was one of the only things in my control.”

Ms Guthrie with her ocean swimming friends

A supported journey

Through Ms Guthrie’s cancer journey, she found solace in swimming and lent on her Can Too friends to help her get through cancer treatment.

“When I dropped the cancer bomb on my old Can Too captain and friend, she sprung into action and made me do swimming squads with her throughout my treatment,” said Ms Guthrie.

“Looking back on it, I don’t think I would have tolerated the hell that chemo is nearly as well as I did if I hadn’t been swimming through it all.

“Once I finished my chemo and radiation, I had a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction. This gave me a new body, which was very different in shape from my old one. But it could still swim, so I continued to swim.

“Even with my successful cancer treatment, the side effects still took a lot away from me in terms of function. But I’m grateful that swimming has not been taken away from me, and it helps me stay fit and to manage my ongoing side effects from the cancer treatment, such as lymphoedema.”

Taking on greater ocean challenges

Over the years, Ms Guthrie has worked her way from 1km ocean swims to 10km ocean swims, each time finding more joy in the ocean.

“My first ocean swim was the 1km Cole Classic, and then I graduated to the 2km North Bondi Roughwater and then the Palm Beach to Whale Beach Big Swim,” said Ms Guthrie.

“From here, I branched out to do 5km events, including the Balmoral Swim, Cole Classic, Sydney Harbour Splash, and the Malabar Magic.

“5 years ago, I did the Mana Island 10km Swim, which I loved because the water was crystal clear and 27 degrees. I have also done the South Head Roughwater and Great Keppel Island swims in a relay, which have been a lot of fun.

“I love doing all these ocean swims, and my favourite thing is being fully immersed in nature. There is nothing more awesome than being in the vast ocean, where you are surrounded by moments of wonder, even in a race.”

Ms Guthrie at some of her ocean swims over the years.

Back in it at South Maroubra

This weekend, Ms Guthrie is adding another swim to her list as she tackles the 2.5km at the South Maroubra Ocean Swim.

“This is my first Can Too season in a few years because I have had a shoulder niggle, so I have been avoiding heading back to the pool, but easing back into swimming with my Can Too training sessions has been great,” said Ms Guthrie.

“I am hoping that I will be able to keep chipping away at my fear of waves by getting through the South Maroubra break, and then once I’m out the back, I look forward to finding the peace of the ocean and tackling the mental and physical challenge of getting through 2.5km.

“It’s my first time attempting this swim and I’m looking forward to adding it to my repertoire because I know every swim is different and a whole new experience.”

Events discussed in this article

  • Recommended
  • Ocean Swim

South Maroubra Ocean Swim

  • Sun, 26 May 2024
  • Maroubra NSW
  • Written by Suzie Ryan on 23 April 2024
  • (Updated on 23 April 2024)
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