Since the 2008 Olympics which coincided with the launch of the Great North Swim the popularity of pure Openwater events has exploded. With the likes of the Outdoor Swimming Society, Chillswim, Henley and the British Long Distance Swmming Association ‘swim only’ events have never been more popular. Corinna swims with us at London Fields on Tuesday and was an alumni of Millfield as I was. I got to spend my 2 years there swimming in the old pool. Now they have a 10 a lane 50m pool on campus.
Here Corinna explains how BLDSA hold their Champion events. Great work Corinna, well done on your 3rd place and good luck with the next.
On 3 August I was in Holyhead for the BLDSA Champion of Champions – my second attempt after a DNF at the Dover event.
The Champion of Champions takes the form of three races – a 5 mile, 3 mile and finally a 1 mile swim. The times are approximately 4 hours for the 5 mile, 2.5 hours for the 3 mile, and 45 minutes for the 1 mile… but that includes your rest. So the quicker you swim, the more rest, recovery and warming up time. (As with all BLDSA events, it is non-wetsuit). My attempt at Dover was tough, I was pulled out after 7 laps (3.5 miles) in the 5 mile event due to uncontrollable vomiting. Whether this was seasickness, vertigo, gels, or a reaction to the 14 degree water and a bit of chop, I don’t know. I used that first recovery to warm up and take a seasickness tablet and continued for the 3 and the 1. After coming so close to finishing, I was disappointed, and pretty desperate to prove to myself that I could finish this challenge. Which is how I ended up in Holyhead!
We were lucky to get calm water for the start of the five mile, the tide was out, and after making sure I was vaselined up and had my earplugs (anti-vertigo), my travel sickness pill, and a swimming costume full of gels I set off. I took the five mile pretty steady, being nervous after the Dover events, but the 10 laps ahead of me soon became 2 and I was feeling good for the last mile. There were some super speedy swimmers there, and I was lapped by a few of them, but there were also a couple of breaststroke swimmers which made the event feel like less of a race but more of a friendly swim with lots of like-minded (slightly mad) pals.
Five mile done (2 hours 20), I got dry, changed into a new costume, had some ovaltine and snacks, and half a (family!) pot of Ambrosia rice pudding. It was soon time to get back into the water for the 3 mile and I set off with a bit more confidence this time, keeping up with a few other people. After a couple of laps I realised I was keeping up and so kicked a little more, focused on keeping my head still, my EVF and rotation, and ended up overtaking a couple of the swimmers I noticed had finished the five mile ahead of me. I’m not usually competitive, but I challenged myself to stay ahead of the swimmers I had overtaken. And I did! The three mile felt like an awesome swim, I was really pleased to have been able to keep up the pace. When I got out I realised that I had finished ahead of a few of the faster swimmers with a time of 1 hour 20 – hurrah!
A shorter break this time, another dry cossie on, more ovaltine and what I now considered to be the almost magical rice pudding, and we were ready to get back in for the one mile. I emptied the tank on this one – mainly because I knew I could and also in the knowledge that this was the final swim of the day and there were hot showers in the clubhouse… and beer!!! After a sprint finish against two speedy chaps (apparently the marshalls on the turnaround boat were cheering for me – thank you Amanda and team!!), I was finished in 24 minutes and 52 seconds (ahead of the guys 😉).
I was super pleased to have finished this event after the Dover challenges, and the icing on the cake was the fact that I got my first ever trophy for third place – just 90 seconds behind the awesome Liane (who has a DOUBLE channel crossing under her belt). The best thing about this event was the people though – I turned up on my own and everyone was just so friendly. I was even invited to join a relay team to swim Loch Lomond on the August Bank Holiday weekend. I’m 100% in!
Thank you to Dan and the Tuesday morning crew for keeping me going and positive – I have had my moments and they are always there to help get me back on track with a few kind words and lots of encouragement!