So after putting behind me the 1,000 length swim attempt, today I started my open water swimming training.
I’ll be honest, I was completely dreading it – the thought of swimming in freezing cold water made me very apprehensive. Regardless of this, I turned up at 5:30pm around some very experienced looking swimmers and me looking like a complete novice not knowing what to do.
I got my wetsuit (total hire + entry cost was £16 ouch) and went into the changing rooms. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, how to put on the suit or which way the zip goes, where I store my extra things, if people go out in their shoes, with a towel, where the actual expanse of water is we’re swimming in. SO, I took it really slow watching everyone without looking like an absolutely stalker – all of the men getting changed into their swimming gear must have been getting pretty nervous with this ginger guy taking ages and looking at everybody haha. At one point two friends who were chatting together offered to pull up the back of the zip on the wetsuits since it’s so hard to do it yourself (note: the wetsuit is put on with the zip at the back). I then thought this would be courteous to do this for other people I got chatting to – they gave me a complete look of ‘you touch me and you will be sorry’.
So I got ready, put my stuff in the locker… again very slowly so I could follow one guy out who was brimming with confidence and he knew what he was doing. He was so cool he actually didn’t even walk outside with his wetsuit zipped up, waiting until the final minute to zip it up – what a pro!
So we made our way to the floating island area and I thought I can’t just go in and wing this – I need to tell an expert I’m new and for some information. I also said that I’m doing breaststroke – convinced that this would be seen as a rare/stupid stroke to do in open water swimming after speaking to a few experts asking me to avoid it. A passive but friendly organiser told me that there were two routes to take, one being the full 500m lap or I can cut across half way and do a 300m lap. He didn’t say anything about me doing breaststroke.
I stared at the expanse of water quickly working out that THAT would be the equivalent of doing either 20 or 12 x 25m lengths of a pool but in freezing cold deep water, in a wetsuit – something I’ve never done before. So I asked “Is there somewhere I could practice just to get my confidence up” and he smiled like ‘OMG mate’ but friendly enough pointed to two floating platforms about 20m apart I could swim between.
So rather than jumping straight in like a hero I walked in slowly like a jessie – immediately feeling the cold. I swam 2 lengths between the two floating platforms feeling cold water fill inside my wetsuit – not knowing if this was normal?? Was water supposed to get inside? My god so cold – anyway at this point I decided to go for the 300m and swam like a 60 year old lady with my head well and truly out of the water and taking an age to make some distance. I went down the first section of the lap, looking for the half-way mark so I could cut across for the 300m course but I couldn’t see it due to trying to not panic and also climatise to the water. So I followed everyone else on the 500m course instead.
On the final section of the lap I started to get a little used to the water and noticed there were actually quite a lot of people also doing breaststroke, some actually getting their heads underwater. I started to try this but again my god the water was cold! My quadriceps were killing from keeping my body flat because my head was so much out of water. So I kept trying little by little to put my head underwater. I even got a mouthful of water – EWWWW seriously it was horrible – like pond water.
After completing the lap, I got out for a little breather not knowing if we were allowed to do another lap?! The organiser I spoke to previously was kind and warm and asked how did I feel and am I going to do another lap? So after a quick breather I got back in, this time feeling miles more confident and started trying to get my head underwater.
I started getting used to it and up to a point after half way round my second lap I was doing full breaststroke like I would in a pool, full head underwater looking at all of the water weed and sediments pass under me like I was going warp speed in outer space ha! My imagination!!
After the second lap I took a breather at the floating platform but not getting out. There were also a few other people having a break and for some reason I next said something pretty stupid. I heard a guy complaining about a particular ailment he was having with his neck and that he was only able to do 2 of the 3 laps he wanted to do. He was going on about how he didn’t feel too disappointed but would have like to have done 3. Then next I asked another guy close to us all how many laps would be a mile and he said just over 3 laps. So I thought with the extra swim I did between the two floating platforms at the beginning I shouted “I may as well crack on with it then – I’ll never forgive myself if I get out just doing two” and swam off thinking “what the hell did you say that for? That guy and everyone doing one or less will be cursing you to death”…. aaaahhh oh well I didn’t know em anyway!
My final lap was fine – it takes a while to get round it but to be fair it is the equivalent of doing 20 laps without a break. My head was that much underwater my eyes actually started getting used to the dark-greenness of the water and I started to see lots of lovely objects inside. I was going at a fantastic pace once I learned how to do breaststroke in open water and guess what? I zoomed past ‘the guy’ who went outside without doing his wetsuit zip up until the last minute! Yeah ZOOOM just shows my pool training has massively helped me!
After my final lap I got out and immediately felt the warm water in my wetsuit drain out of me! So that’s what it does!!! It pulls in water and your body heats it up and you (technically) don’t get cold apart from your hands, head and feet. I felt great though – I could have done a fourth lap but I thought that would be something I could aim for next time I come.
I felt really REALLY proud of myself! It was nowhere near as terrifying or as difficult as I thought it would be. I took a quick picture and video with my waterproof camera which you can see below.