Sunday, 29 May 2011
Speedo Open Water 10km Swim
I sit here writing just hours after completing my first 10km swim. I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d share the experience.
Why swim 10km?
I love swimming. It’s certainly my strongest of the three triathlon disciplines. Having raced two Ironmans over the last two years, I decided this year is about new and different challenges. Events that pushed the comfort zone or which a PB would not be possible. I’d got into a rut of only racing events where I’d have the chance to set new best times. Just the thought of swimming 10km in one go scared me, yet made me feel excited about giving it a go. So I did.
Not ideal but when is it ever? I raced a middle distance triathlon one week ago and raced it quite hard at that. It left me pretty knackered at the start of the week. I managed a 2.4km swim on Tuesday and that was that. No amount of swimming in the lead-up week was going to make a difference anyway. The other area of preparation I was clueless about was nutrition. How do you fuel before and during a 10km swim? Learning is all part of the fun I guess.
It doesn’t get much better than Dorney Lake. Venue for the Sprint Kayaking and Rowing events at the 2012 London Olympics. And to think, it’s a school’s facility. Those Eton boys have it good. Having done a few tri races there before I knew what to expect. The only difference this time was that we were swimming in the return/warm-up area that sits to the side of the main lake. Two feed stations were set up on pontoons in the water at each end of the course so we never needed to exit the water at any point.
10km course = 3 loops. Straight up and back.
Being a 10km, I thought people would take the start chilled (which of course we all were due to the water temperature) but man was I wrong. Off went the siren and on came the boxing gloves. I stayed relaxed and never got agro. After all, there was a long, LONG way still to go.
Nutrition wise I had a gel 15 minutes before entering the water and left a juice bottle and two gels at the athlete feed station.
I found some open water, got my breathing regulated and got into some long gliding strokes. Breathing to my right it was quite enjoyable seeing all the spectators walking along the bank. It made me think that if you’d want to take it super seriously, you could get someone to walk alongside at a specific pace and stay with them.
A great surprise after about ten minutes was seeing some mates who’d taken a detour on their ride to come and lend some support. I acknowledged them with a devil’s horns hand signal, followed by pulling a tongue, just to make sure they knew I’d seen them. It was a great motivator and much appreciated as it looked colder out the water than in!
Back to the swim. Well, I just swam. I sighted every now and then, sat on a pair of feet and drafted at times but I can’t really think what else occupied my mind. I sang, thought about my breathing, pace, life and about a 100 other random things.
My pacing strategy was to try do the swim under 2h45m. This works out at 1:39min/100m pace for the swimmers amongst you.
Completing the second lap (6.6km mark) I was thinking about laughing off any nutrition. I was feeling strong, weeing quite a bit (which told me I wasn't dehydrated) and worried that stopping would lose me time and placings. But then a few negative thoughts started creeping in (a negative mood is my first indication of needing to get fuel onboard) so made the call to get a gel. The feed stop was quick and I never lost any placings – result.
With the final lap to go, I decided to up the stroke rate and push a little harder. It had felt easy going. Rounding the top buoy for the last time was a big boost. Roughly 30 minutes to go. And about 10 minutes later is about when I started to feel uncomfortable. Heavy arms, aching shoulders and core, etc. I concentrated hard on my technique but think at this point I was squirming around like an eel.
The best way to describe the final 15 minutes is to imagine hardener being added to a tub of resin. Slowly but surely the mixture starts to harden. It felt like the water was turning to jelly.
At 200m to go I kicked as hard as my legs could and finished with a ‘sprint’ for the line. Job done. 2h48m30s. Bleak not to go under 2h45m but overjoyed to have completed my first ever 10km swim.
I’ll definitely be back for more, but maybe that’s because I’ve got water on the brain.
Human Race run a slick operation. They’re a business and their entry fees reflect this. That said, their events are popular and professional. Plus the number of marshals and safety staff on course was praiseworthy. Thanks to all these people.
There were 750m, 1500m, 3000m and 10,000m swim options. Personally I think the starts could have been staggered better. I was very surprised at the number of 3000m competitors I caught and had to swim thought. This is always going to be an issue on a looping course and Human Race can’t help if people start breaststroking after 50m.
All entrants were issued with a t-shirt. Happy days. But no medal/finishers gift? Maybe I’m an endurance snob but I’d love to have been given something showing I’d done the 10km versus the 750m. A minor thing which shouldn’t overshadow a great event. Long may they continue to do these swim only races.