Punching kicking and scratching – and that was just the men!

The Thames at marlow pre race

I thought that it would be a good idea to see how my swim training is going so I entered the 1500m distance at the Human Race Marlow swim event.  I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do the distance somewhere other than my training lake.  This was one lap of a 1500m course in the Thames.

As ever the event was a very early start – 8.20am so I had to leave home at 6am to get there but it was a glorious sunny day.  Despite getting there in plenty of time – I still ended up cutting it very fine for the start of my race as I was stuck in a queue for the toilets.  Why don’t these events ever have enough toilets?  I was there for over 30mins – blokes don’t realise how easy they have it sometimes!

Finally I just made it to the start on time – but I was one of the last to enter the water!  There were 96 setting off in my wave (all women and 4 men who had missed their earlier start!  Maybe they were stuck in the queue for the toilets too!).   The start wasn’t too bunched or vicious which was good and much nicer than I was expecting.  The water was cleaner than I imagined the Thames would be and Marlow is a very pretty setting – luckily the swans had decided that they didnt want to play with several hundred swimmers so they had moved by the time race started.  The start of the course was a short swim down to two buoys by the bridge.  I got there and wondered why people were so far away from the buoys, I did my turns close to the buoy as had been taught and made up several spaces.  It was as I was going round the second buoy that I realised what had happened to everyone else – the current!  I guess with all the rain this year it was only to be expected but it didn’t help.

The up stream section of the race

On rounding the buoy I felt like I was swimming in treacle – pushing hard and not going anywhere – it was like I was trying to go the wrong way up a down escalator.  Sadly this stretch was 750m long right up the centre of the river.  It seemed to go on for ever.    Eventually I got into my stride and started to make headway.  Up until now it had been quite a pleasant race.  There was very little bumping or kicking going on and everyone seemed considerate to each other.

However when were about 1000m into the race the quick boys from the mens 3km race started to catch and overtake us.  They were so aggressive – anyone would think they thought they were in the Olympics! They were pushing, hitting and swimming over us and forcing their way through when there was no spaces – no consideration for anyone around them at all.  Luckily in my swim training with RG Active we had practiced the physical side of swimming a bit (as its often like that at the start) so I didn’t panic.  Several guys now have bruised ribs as they tried to swim over my legs and sink me!   Another guy who was swimming without a wetsuit now has 2 nail marks on his back from when he punched me in the forehead and cut me up so there was nowhere for my arm to go.  It was really quite unpleasant and really messed my stroke up.

Finally the upstream stretch was over and I reached the two buoys at the end.  I rounded the first close to the buoy and the current then tried to take me off away from the buoys– the problem was I still had to get around the second buoy so it was another fight back upstream to get around the second buoy – there were several of us trying to do this and it was at this point that my calf so helpfully decided to cramp up meaning I couldn’t use my right leg!  Finally though I was able to go with the current and swim down to the finish.  I felt like I was flying – swimming with the current is so much better!

With my medal at the end 🙂 Wetsuits are really not flattering!

I passed the finish line and it was over.  Despite the current and the aggressive men I enjoyed the race.  Getting out of the water was a challenge though – you had to jump up onto the pontoon.  I got my upper body on and then got cramp in my quads and calves – I was stuck!  I looked like a beached whale stuck there.  Just to make my humiliation complete the official photographer was there taking my picture!  My dignity was spared though as it wasn’t deemed good enough for the website – phew!

I was quite disappointed by my time of 47mins but everyone I spoke to said they were 10mins slower than they normally were which made me feel better.  I came 63rd out of 96 and was 10th in my age group which wasn’t too bad.  The main thing I take from this was the confidence that I can swim the distance and have the legs left at the end to cycle – if I can avoid getting cramp getting out of the water!.

I am now starting to think – I wonder if I could do the 3km distance….


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