Swimming, Swimming & Running


Photo: Courtesy: awoladventure/HenleySwim.com

I'm sure it's not the case, but in this update it looks as though a few members have fallen out of love with their bike as it features a lot of the wet stuff and some serious running.

Ed starts us off:- 'As a rower in a previous life, I spent most of my time trying to stay on rather than in the river. The mysterious and powerful water was something to be respected, lest it catch you out. Who knows what lives beneath its murky surface? A dunking in the Thames was definitely to be avoided, with my long-held belief that it was more sewage than anything else. How my attitude has changed since swimming with TTC and some of its crazy members! These days, a river swim is exciting and something actively sought out. And so I entered the Henley Bridge to Bridge marathon swim - not a race, but more like a sportive. At 14km, a distance I would normally think twice about running let alone swimming, it was going to be a long time in the water.

Having entered months in advance, I had plenty of time to prepare. I started off well, managing some 4-6km pool swims in the early season but, true to form, I arrived at the start feeling woefully under-prepared, having only managed to cram in my longest OW swim (3km) the week before! Nevertheless, I was confident I would finish, given it was downstream! That said, the lack of rain meant the current was pretty weak at an estimated 1kph, so I was going to have to do most of the work. The day itself started early, with registration at 05:30 at the prestigious Leander Rowing Club, where the GB squad hangs out. (I’ve long since let go of those boyhood dreams!) By 07:00 we were in the water ready to start, a big mass of neoprene (and a few hardcore swimmers without). The klaxon sounded and it was the usual washing machine affair. I did my best to avoid flailing feet and arms, setting off at a ‘steady’ pace. The first section went up the Henley Regatta course, offering me a new view of the landscape. After an hour and 4km, I arrived at the first lock and feed station. Some friendly marshals helped me out and I walked the 100m or so to the re-entry point, grabbing an energy drink on the way.

The second section was the longest at 6km and I knew I had to pace it right. Fortunately I seemed to be moving steadily through groups of swimmers and the pleasant scenery helped to pass the time. It certainly beats staring at the black line in the pool! Another lock meant a quick refuelling opportunity before the penultimate 2km section. By this time, mid-morning, there were a few boats about, but the on-water support kept us apart and I made it across the river to the final feed stop without incident! This time it was a bit further to the re-entry point (which my shoulders appreciated), so I jogged. I remain unconvinced about SwimRun...

Photo: Courtesy: awoladventure/HenleySwim.com

The last couple of kilometres beckoned and the end was in sight, metaphorically at least, considering my goggles had misted up somewhat. By this point my arms were beginning to tire, so I just focused on maintaining technique. Soon enough it was over and I emerged from the Thames in Marlow after 3:28, fairly satisfied and ready to raid the free samples on offer. Importantly, perhaps for the first time ever, I didn't vow ‘never again’! The Good points? Well-organised, nice scenery, good free samples, no sewage! and the Bad points: It’s 14km......

Photo courtesy Breca Swimrun

Meanwhile Kathy decided that a bit of swimming was not enough for her: -12 months ago, on a bit of a high after surviving my first half Ironman, Paul suggested we try something different for 2018, how about a swim run. It will be fun! Good intentions of a quiet evening the night before were swept away in white wine as the rest of the gang arrived at the caravan having already been to the pub.

Stood at the race briefing, my partner in crime told me he couldn’t hear what was being said so I needed to be his ears.. WTF.. I knew his sighting was as dodgy as mine, he couldn’t hear and then he tells me he’s colour blind! Not the best for my pre race nerves as we needed to sight red and white flags! We set off, eager to get going running from the start to the first swim, only to find that due to low water levels, we actually had to walk in mud up to our knees, and being short, it was up to my hips.. now not the steadiest in these situations, Duncan came to my aid and we managed to finally get to the water and swim.

All going well until we needed to get out over slippery rocks.. I was on my ass before I’d put a foot down, Duncan laughing so hard, then also fell over.. we couldn’t stop giggling, each time one would get up, laugh and fall back down. Crawling out of the water, we were off again.. a longer run this time, we’d been going about 5 minutes then totally out of the blue, Duncan tripped in front of me.. I luckily avoided him but (hanging head in shame) started to laugh. All ok, we carried on.

First steep climb came and went with the first checkpoint aka the all inclusive buffet. For me a quick Jaffa cake and a couple of jelly babies and was ready to go, but my partner had other ideas.. I lost count but a good handful of cake and sweets were consumed. The water was beautiful to swim in, a bit choppy but mostly clear. We made it to the other side, although we mistook a boat with red sail as the exit point and added a few extra metres to the swim. Running again led to another trip for my partner, luckily a tree stopped him from a nasty fall, and another buffet.. again Jaffa cakes, potatoes and sweets.

The monster climb was next, a long and tough 5 miles but we did it and were looking forward to the last swim to cool down. Swim, however is a slight exaggeration, more akin to bog snorkelling.. smelly, yeuck. Finally a jog back to the finish and all done. 9 runs, 8 swims and 25k .. don’t quite know what went wrong as the race card was 20k..

We didn’t win, but i have to say I haven’t laughed as much in a race as this one.

Mistake number one, agreeing to something without looking at the race card or elevation! How did I miss the ‘steep slopes’ in the event info?

Mistake number two, getting lost on the course (I’m sure some signs went missing)..

Best bit.. having a great partner who supported me the whole way round, thank you Duncan.

Also big thank you to the rest of the swim run crew.. Paul, Russell, Amber, Dave, Ozz and Nicky..

Would I recommend, yes I would, it was really well organised, but don’t underestimate the tough run conditions as I did.

Photo courtesy Breca Swimrun

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