As previously mentioned I am registered for an Open Water Sprint Triathlon due in 9 days despite never having been in open water.
Fortunately, the same local location which hosts the Triathlon has Open Water Swimming sessions for £5 a pop. They have an 800-metre square loop around the perimeter of one of the lakes.
I am doubly fortunate that a kind Pirate aka @magnacarter offered to stick with me the whole way round. We had arranged to meet at 5 pm and the weather gods had obliged by giving us 25-degree centigrade weather. It was tropical. The water temperature was 19 degrees centigrade.
We met and started getting changed. I wore my triathlon suit under my wetsuit to simulate the same conditions as the Triathlon. I also had a neoprene cap and goggles. I saw some people with ear plugs and wondered if I was missing a trick. My host suggested they were not essential.
We entered the water and the nerves started racing, it took a few minutes to get used to the water. It felt cool rather than out and out cold. The key I was told to spend more time at this stage so you are fully acclimatised before trying to swim. Apparently, the water enters the wetsuit and forms a seal keeping the heat in. The wetsuit was doing funny things too, it is very buoyant especially if you are on your back – it’s like it pulls you up. It also means it’s a little tricky to regain position as you would in a swimming pool.
It felt like an eternity before I was ready but we set off for the first leg of the ‘square loop’ – maybe 100m-150m to the first buoy. I began swimming breaststroke with head above the water. There was an element of panic and I kept stopping and treading water. @magnacarter was right next to me offering encouragement. As soon as I put my head under the water all I could see was green. It was murky and I couldn’t see the bottom, or anything else. I was struggling to breathe out, I was holding my breath.
As soon as I put my head under the water all I could see was green. It was murky and I couldn’t see the bottom or much of anything else. Very slowly we made it to the buoy. I won’t like if I was alone I would have bailed by now. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have got into the water.
As we rounded the first buoy the distance between 1st and 2nd buoy became apparent, it was miles away. We kept going with me trying to calm down and breaststroke normally. It was getting easier. I could feel cool water jets on me at different stages which were down to the spring-fed nature of the lake.
The second and third buoy were even further apart I would estimate approximately 300metres. I was struggling with swimming in a straight line by this stage. It’s so much easier in a pool so with many visual cues, lanes etc. By half way between the buoys, I would say I was relaxed and comfortable. The earlier panic had subsided and I was
By half way between the buoys, I would say I was relaxed and comfortable. The earlier panic had subsided and I had a near-normal breaststroke action with breathing out in the water.
The rest of the swim was nice my back was hurting a little and I think this is because the wetsuit was keeping my legs so much higher in the water that my back was arched more than normal. I switched to Front Crawl for the last 100metres. I am not a great front crawler but it was so much easier than in a pool, you don’t have to kick your legs at all and they remain in the correct position.
Thirty-Four minutes after starting we had reached the end of the lap. We both exited. @magnacarter went for another lap while I got changed and soaked up the atmosphere. The warm weather meant it felt like being on a holiday abroad.
I am proud of myself for completing the lap. I don’t think I would have the confidence to do it alone but I can see myself getting there. The 1000metres non-swim swim I did in a pool did wonders for confidence.
After getting showered the Tallington Lakes guys had two big buckets/barrels. One with soapy water and one with fresh water to rinse your wetsuits. I borrowed a hanger and allowed the wetsuit to dry. Next time I will bring a watertight container for my boot as my car was soaked.
Finally would like to thank (again) @magnacarter without who was super helpful. Bring on the Triathlon!