After a rescheduled swim from 1st July to 7th August the wait was agonising but well worth it. Two foot swell, three foot waves, asthma attacks, friends and family, sharks…OK, thankfully no sharks!
With the delay I had time to train with the East Dorset Open Water Swimming club. Turned out that first session I joined, which was taken by a previous Guinness World Record holder for the cross channel swim, was one of their monthly feed ups so after an hour in the lovely warm water in Sandbanks I managed to scoffed my face on sausage rolls and spicy chips!
The new date also coincided with the family descending from London, with a special guest from Kenya. Naturally this meant chapatis, lots of meat and red wine but I swerved the late finish on account of the activities planned for the next morning…
With a choice of a 12 pm or a 10 am start I was booked the 10 am wave in order to potentially make the best of the conditions and time a lunch time visit to Urban Reef. With the challenge of starting in Bournemouth and finishing in Boscombe with seven people we took the bus into Bournemouth. The pier approach was packed with swimmers and well wishers – the 10am wave must have had close to 400 swimmers.
The briefing was exactly as described, brief: mass start into the water and out to the first big pink buoy, swim parallel to the beach and no far than the pink buoys until the buoys guiding the swim in to the beach and finish under the inflatable finishing banner. Thanks for the fund raising. Simple.
There was a little time to soak up the atmosphere and chat to fellow swimmers. I bumped into a few people I knew so shared thoughts on times, conditions, aims etc…largely gallows-type humour as I’d never swam this far in open water before and neither had they. The sea looked a little frothy but nothing too hairy. I caught a few pics with the family and then the gun went off!
Having not had time to warm up in the water the first sensation was, naturally, cold! Suprisingly cold?! I pushed through this, possibly caught up in the wave of peoople rushing into the water, but by the time I was into my stroke the cold was still pretty noticable. Also, the combination of swell (a couple of feet) and waves (a couple of feet) meant that the conditions we’re pretty challenging. Finding a rhythm was proving difficult.
After a couple of hundred metres swimming I realised I wasnt quite prepared for what as needed. A combination of the conditions, swimming in a wetsuit and not taking an asthma inhaler right before the start meant breathing was a challenge. Not an issue on land but 100 feet from the shore and having to work hard to keep your head above water was a problem.
After loosening my wetsuit to free up my chest I waved for a Jetski to shore. There was no way I could cope with the conditions. The jetski back to the beach was a definite eye opener and a wake up call. I couldnt believe that after the aspirations and epectations shared on the shore I was heading back in nly 15 minutes into the event. This wasn’t the plan and whilst I was in dire need of help I knew this was only circumstance, I had an opportunity too resolve my condition which was asthma.
After a sit in an ambulance and a squirt of Ventolin from a friendly St Johns helper I was back in the water! Yes. Time out of the water and a few minutes to recoup and it was back on. Getting a regular stroke and breathing was challenging initially but after 4-5 minutes of persistence things started to settle down and I started passing swimmers.
First bouy. Second buoy (half way). Began to feel more confident and had the odd conversation as I passed the spotters on their paddle boards. Third buoy. End in sight
By this point I was feeling pretty relaxed and was enjoying myself! My breathing had settled down and I was maintaining a steady three-stroke-breath rhythm. The wave/swell combo was still reasonably problematic to me, a new open water swimmer so occasionally I was breathing every other stroke on the shore side. Thoughts were turning to lessons learnt and what did I have left to finish as quickly as possible.
The swim in to shore and finish across the line confused the senses! I was more weary than I’d expected and the emotional components of earlier in the swim must have been present as my mind naturally whirred back through the race. Nevertheless the feeling was great and I’d completed my first open water race at a time of around 50 minutes, for a 1.4 mile course.
Hindsight brought some valuable lessons. Using an inhaler before running and cycling is unnecessary but for swimming it’s essential. The demands on your body, whilst perhaps not as intense, are all consuming resulting in huge cardiovascular demands. Add the constriction of a wet suit and your lungs are under severe pressure.
I also require a nose clip. Swimming in a pool they aren’t needed but in open water they are on account of the water temperature. When I swam the Swanage triathlon I thought my head cold was the issue but having just completed Bournemouth pier-to-pier without a cold and the same issue it is clear water temperature affects me in this way.
Lots of training to do before New Forest middle distance at the end of September – let’s see if I can fit it all in!