Flying down the Thames in rather chilly conditions!

One of the great things about triathlons is that with three different disciplines involved you can still train for at least one of the disciplines if you pick up an injury.  As my last post mentioned I have stupidly managed to pull my quads playing hockey – this happened to be the day before my next event which luckily was a swim!

I entered the Human Race Hampton Court Swim (2.25miles one way down the Thames) back in July wondering if I was able to swim that far but thinking I should at least give it a go.  Sadly though due to the bad summer that the UK had, the race was postponed from July until October as the river was considered dangerous and too full of animal poo – lovely!

October however is just when the weather has started to turn and my bad luck with conditions for races this year held out.  It was one of the coldest days of the year so far!  My wave was setting off at 8.50am so I arrived at the car park at the finish in Kingston at about 7am.  The car was still showing an outside temperature of only 2 deg C and the river was covered in thick fog!

We then had to take a boat down the river to the start – which took over half an hour and made me realise just how far 2.25miles actually is!  The boat trip seemed to go on for ages and we were freezing cold but by the time we reached the registration point (and the huge queue there!) it had reached a balmy 5 deg C – almost tropical – NOT!  I really was wondering what on earth I was doing and this was made even worse as due to the queues I had no time to go to the toilet so had to get changed straight away.

View of fog on way to the start of the race – it was cold!

Now wearing a wetsuit is actually reasonably good at keeping your body warm before the start – the problem was my feet.  To ensure that baggage and dry clothes are waiting for you at the finish line you have to hand everything in before the start.  This means you need to spend the 20mins before the race in bare feet, on cold damp grass in 5 deg C.  It was not fun.  Different tactics were being employed by my fellow competitors from sitting down keeping feet in the air, jumping up and down to standing on other peoples feet – I even saw one person getting a piggyback!  But everyone was looking longingly at the few people who had booties!  If there had been someone there selling them they would have made a fortune!

At this point I was wondering what an earth had possessed me to do this.  I was questioning my sanity!

Triathlons get cancelled if the water temperature reaches 11 deg C – we were told the river temperature was just 12 deg C – the coldest I had swam in all year but on getting in it felt warmer on my feet to be in the water than on the grass.  This all changed at the moment when the cold water started to trickle down my back!  I then realised how cold it was!

The race organisers knew it was cold so were good at getting us started very quickly.  They told us the race would probably be quite fast today due to the current but none of us realised just how fast until we were underway.  I was in a wave of people who had put the maximum time down so there were quite a few slow people in my group.  As I had delayed getting into the water until the last minute I was one of the last people to start.  This mean the start was a little messy and I had to make my way past a number of slower people – one of whom breast stroke kicked me in the chest which was quite uncomfortable!

But once I was out of the way of the slow people at the start I really started to enjoy.  I had got used to the water temp, the sun had come out so the air temp had warmed up and due to the current I felt like I was flying.  The current was absolutely amazing.  My strokes felt so effortless and the glides were endless.  I was steadily picking off people in front of me and overtaking making my way up the field.   Sighting was easy as it was just a case of keep the bank on your left.  However I did end up swimming into one of the big buoys because I wasn’t sighting enough and I was swimming much faster than normal!  It was great to look at the bank and see supporters having to run to keep up with us!

Despite my misgivings at the start I really started to enjoy this swim and felt almost cheated when I rounded the final bend and could see the finish.  I wanted to test myself at swimming the distance and this felt too easy!  This was shown in my time – I completed 2.25miles in 42min 46secs!  Only 10mins slower than my 1500m lake swim and 5mins faster than my 1500m Marlow swim which involved swimming upstream for 750m!!!!!  The current is great when it works in your favour J

The Thames isn’t the cleanest of rivers and on getting out I was told that I had a very brown face with white panda eyes! Not my best look but I made sure I drank a can of Coke afterwards to kill any bugs.  Urban myth or not, so far it seems to have worked!

Based on the temperature of the water sadly I think this will be my last open water swim for this year but now I’m interested in the Dart 10km swim in September next year.  Apparently it’s a similar with current swim so got to be worth a try and it’s a long way so a new challenge to look forward to J

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