Finally, a swim that fully went to plan this season. I last swam at this event in 2015 and recorded 1:59. You should not really compare swims like these from one year to the next but it is nice to just flat out be quicker and enjoy it come what may. However, rainfall, tides and positioning in a very wide river all make for completely different events. I use the word event rather than race as when Kate Rew initially came to me with the idea of a 10km river swim many years ago <I helped write the training plan on the OSS website.> it was to be a fun, enjoyable mass participation event quite unique in its approach. If you have seen the swim exit on a sunny day with the deck chairs and cheering crowds you will know what I mean. Think village fete rather than swim race. However, you cannot help feel that there is a competitive element between the two days wondering who had the best conditions or the strongest currents. This weekend just gone a little breakdown suggested Sunday was the harder day or the least assisted. The following show the number of swimmers who swam –
Sub 2 Hrs Sub 2:10 Sub 2:30
37 89 344 – results from Saturday
15 42 180 – results from Sunday
Not conclusive by any means but interesting. It might have been that the overall quality of swimmers on Saturday might have been better but at the other end of the spectrum the 600th swimmer was 2:50 on Saturday and 3:23 on Sunday, with over 1300 swimmers finishing.
You also have the interesting idea of what time you depart impacts your swim. The tide looked to be turning at 9am yesterday, the River at the start area in Totnes was extremely static. Those leaving at this time would have had less help at the start compared to the Elite wave leaving at 10am. I swam in the Fast wave departing at 9:45 and the Elites went off at 10am. 6 from this wave beat me so was pleased to have been quickest on the day from my wave.
I was pleased to be 4mins quicker than in 2015 but I try to measure my swims a little more internally to check on progress and see how I did. Openwater is many amazing things in terms of swimming but what it is not is accurate when comparing distances, events and performances from year to year or even day to day. So many factors to consider, so many contributing factors beyond your control and some within. I was pleased to get so many within my control right this race and some of those out of my control not playing a part having had an upset stomach at London Docks, goggle malfunction in Oxford, tired arms in Sheffield and Camping woes at Henley!
I was testing a new 2018 sleeveless wetsuit for Speedo so was keen to put that through its paces. I only had a brief chance to swim in it the previous week so this was a risk but minimal as I know the products intimately. Fuelling was also going to be critical to get right. Swimming hard for close to 2hours is very different to swimming 6 x 1 hr steady with 5hours rest between each swim as we did in Geneva. I took a Powerbar Hydro Gel as they settle quickly and don’t really need extra water just before starting, at the 4km food station and the 7km station. For events over 5km I usually like to carry my own supplies in the form of gels inside my wetsuit around the leg/shin area. They seem to cause no irritation there and I forgot about them once the race started. I fatigued heavily with 1km to go so may have just run out of energy but the weather deteriorated significantly at the end of the event so it might have just been a tougher swim at this point. Pacing for the most part was good, I saved a little for the end knowing when the River opens out it does get choppier and harder to navigate. I kept breahting under control knowing my HR was remaining sensible. The start was probably the hardest as it felt extrememly cold and I had to resist the temptation to speed off trying to warm up. The early KMs passed by and we were all keeping right but I was passing people form the earlier waves on their left trying to be considerate and staying within the channel marked out by the safey cover. I don’t think there was a single minute where I glanced up or breathed left or right and not see some form of safety cover. The OSS really have this aspect perfected.
I ‘only swam’ 10079m which considering how accurate the course is I am really pleased to have only added this small amount. Swimming any event for the second time is probably the best preparation you could ask for. Knowing approximately where the aid stations are going to be, where is half way, when you pass that particular boat ramp it is only 2km to go, what to look for in the distance when the river widens all helps. At times it is not easy to accurately get across some the larger openings so familiar landmarks will help.
Arriving at the finish to the deck chairs, the helpers, the hot chocolate then this suddenly becomes a real reminder about the true history of this event. It is all about fun, sense of accomplishment and comradery of all regardless of ability. I swam a similar time last year for the Coniston 8.5km lake swim to give you some idea of how much the current helps. This event is a great way to achieve the 10km badge of honour as a stepping stone to longer events if you are building up. Good luck in 2018 if you are contemplating entry. This is truly a classic on the openwater circuit.