When I announced to G that I was going to enter an ‘Open Water Swimming‘ event at Henley, he looked at me like I’d completely lost the plot and started laughing. In all honesty, I completely understood his reaction and it was justified.
Swimming has never been at the top of my ‘Love List‘ and it’s most certainly not been a part of my training routine, so what on earth made me change? If I’m being frank, I’m not good at coming out of my comfort zone, I’m not normally the sort of person to say YES and then work out how I’m going to do it. But then I made that choice that for once I was going to be that person.
The only way I was going to make any progress and understand my limitations, was to head to the pool and swim for 25 minutes. Through the eyes of an experienced swimmer, this would be an easy and pleasurable experience, for me, it was slightly different. I arrived at the swimming pool with bleary eyes, no swimming cap, and my swimming costume on under my clothing as if I was 6 years old again.
During the following two weeks, I made time to include swimming into my weekly routine, I was finding setting a rhythm tough and I was starting to seriously question my ability to swim 800m without taking a break. Feeling determined I kept on training, remembering that it doesn’t matter how long it takes me, we are all beginners at some point.
A good friend of mine suggested that we visit Boxend Park so that I could try out ‘Open Water Swimming‘ before the actual event. With feelings of apprehension, I read the safety guide, set a date to visit and wondered what on earth to expect from my first ever open water swim. The night before my training swim my wetsuit turned up; well this was a whole different experience altogether. It was roasting hot, I’d just got back from a busy day at the office and then G and I spent a good 10 minutes trying to force my hot, sweaty and bloated body into a wetsuit. It wasn’t my most alluring moment, I was instantly convinced that I’d be wearing my wetsuit for the rest of my life, it’s a good job that it is rather fabulous.
I woke the following morning feeling confident, excited and ready to start my new adventure…
We arrived at Boxend, I changed into my wetsuit (with huge success, it only took me around 5 minutes this time) and headed out to swim. I was really happy to see that there was a man-made dock where I could ease myself into the water without feeling too exposed. Once I’d climbed in, I felt a huge rush of adrenaline and excitement, we started swimming, I was being continuously lapped and it honestly didn’t matter one tiny bit.
I felt hugely empowered and completely caught up in the moment, I was exactly where I wanted to be.
With around 300m left to go, G suggested that we go for a second lap, I wasn’t 100% sure of my ability but with my new determined mindset, I said yes. Once we were back at the dock, I stopped and took a moment to clear and tighten my goggles (my rocky error was wearing them a little too loose!) and started on our second lap. I was filled with newfound confidence, freedom, and joy – The 800m flew by! Obviously, it was all going too well, esp when I completely missed the steps out of the water and left the lake with the style of a beached whale, by belly flopping and wiggling onto the dock.
My advice from my first ever open water swim is:
*Always swim with a partner, at a dedicated venue for open water swimming.
*Ensure that you can swim at least 800m without stopping in a pool before heading into the open water.
*Don’t forget goggles and a brightly colored swimming cap and plus I’d suggest practicing putting on your wetsuit beforehand.
*Read, remember and respect the safety rules at the venue.
Have you ever tried open water swimming before?