Friday 27 September 2019
As a child/teenage swimmer I flatly refused to participate in open water swimming due to a propensity to be a ‘germaphobe’, not to mention whatever might be lurking around in the water or at the bottom waiting to ‘get me’. However, don’t knock it, I was wrong! At age 18 I gave it a go and have never looked back. My advice to any swimmer is, give it a go, but make sure you do so at organised training sessions in a safe environment; six sessions before you make a final decision as to whether you wish to continue. However, I suggest purchasing a pair of specialised open water goggles, I have memories of finding myself floundering around in reedbeds, wondering what I was doing under over hanging tree branches and nearly swimming straight into a concrete pontoon before acquiring a pair of my own.
This is my fifth year competing at the National Open Water Championships, and the year I finally entered as a master, having competed in previous years as a senior age group competitor. 2019, saw not only a change in date for the event but a change in venue as well. This year the master’s championships were held in September having been held in conjunction with the age group championships in previous years at the Rother Valley, Sheffield in the month of August.
I was keen for this year’s competition to take place as last year it was cancelled due to bad weather, a great disappointment for everyone taking part, as well as, the officials who give up their time to run these events. The new venue was the Nene Valley Country Park, Peterborough which boasts two large lakes, vast open areas, excellent leisure facilities and restaurant with seated viewing area of the lake where the event was planned to take place. On the day the weather held, sunshine, with a breeze and no rain; the water temperature was taken to read nineteen degrees and; therefore, wetsuits were declared optional. With the number of entrants down on last year’s numbers I decided it would be prudent to wear the wetsuit as it gives 10-20 percent extra speed in the water due to buoyancy.
Having taken the decision to compete in all three events I was aiming to complete a total of 10K; over the years I have leant this distance is easier on the body’s energy levels swum in one race, when done in three separate races it tests muscular recovery due the faster overall pace in each distance swum. Keeping warm, taking on fuel and hydration is paramount to preventing muscles from seizing up. The 5K distance was the first event, swum five times around a one-kilometre course, it took me three laps to find my rhythm and with the wind blowing diagonally across it was easy to become blown off course; consequently, spotting became an important pastime. The 3K followed two hours later with the wind increasing, and with it, so did the possibility of wandering off course. I was at this point, beginning to become suspicious that the wind was moving the marker buoys making the course distance larger; an issue when using very large air-filled balloons held down by length of rope with a weight on the end. Following the completion of this event I was suffering aching muscles and a sense that I was getting old. Another two hours and we were off again, 2K and a faster pace, this was going to be down to skills such as drafting off other swimmers, excellent spotting and saving enough energy for a strong finish.
Success! Three gold medals and having survived the 10K challenge I was still standing in a reasonably upright position. What a brilliant day out! I have made a number of new and like-minded friends, met up again with a few old ones and we will probably do the whole thing again next year.
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