The Big Brutal Swim

swimmersSo an open water swim, mid August in South Wales,it’s called “” but swimming steady stroke rate low impact how “brutal” can it get, even over 10km…Well that was the thinking anyway and why Rosie Brister, Andy Parratt  and myself found ourselves heading across to North Wales this weekend to Llanberis commonly known as home to the Slateman.

I elected to spend an evening in Rhyl about an hour away on account of that being the cheapest hotel I could find and get up a little earlier in the morning for registration.5:15am, alarm goes off and I awake to the sound of strong winds from the seafront,hmm a little ominous but surely the lake is more secluded than the sea from the strong westerly wind?Time for the transient athletes breakfast of instant porridge in a pot, and onto the  road looking out the sea looks a little calmer now,yay!
I’m a bit early so wander down to the start, talk to Richard the race director who’s taking the water temperature – 16.2°C impressive based on the overnight rain.I’m also informed it’s a deep water start and not a running entry as advised in the race pack. It’s windy but not as windy as when I left the hotel. I wander back, register collecting the tag and the wonderful lime green cap, very fetching, and find Andy P arriving.It’s a good 1.5 hours before the start so I fuel up, more carbs and caffeine before donning the neoprene and lubricating up(including the underarms considering the distance). Wander back past registration and find Rosie getting changed, so the full ‘team’ are here.

Race briefing highlighted the usual rules, confirms it out every 2 laps which are 1.25km a piece, shout your number and then back in for another 2 etc depending whether you’re in for the 2.5, 5 or 10km events. Ok competitors you can enter the water – actually quite please, but that winds up and it’s coming down the lake,  each out leg is going to be tough. Moving out into the deeper water you can feel the swell, that’s going to be tiring.At this point I should confess I harboured hopes of a 3:15 type of time based on earlier 5km performance but these conditions aren’t conducive to hitting that,lets aim 3:30. 

And we’re off,somewhat more civilised than the average triathlon getaway – a little feet tapping but no punches or kicks.I can see Rosie setting off well but I’ve lost Andy in the mix.I start calm,into a steady stroke and kick nice and early but as we move further up the lake the waves are remarkably large, it’s ok breathing on the right but the left is more risky but I continue with it for the time being. Couldn’t find a decent draft – with everybody setting off together there’s a mix of speeds around so just settle into my own pace. It’s not easy going but hey this is the ‘brutal’ you signed up for. Laps 1 & 2 pass reasonably comfortably and I swim in close for the first exit. It’s shallow and some others are walking through – nah this is a swim!  So it’s first mistake time in my enthusiasm to get back in I catch my feet on rocks in the shallows at entry. As I get try and recover my rhythm I’m feeling the pain in my foot – damn, have I cut it? Just keep tapping away it’ll go with the cold surely, out leg feels tougher this time, those waves can’t be bigger, can they?Around the 3km mark I start doubting the sanity of this the buffeting is incredible, sighting is a hit and miss but at least I’m going straight.  Reminding myself “it’s the BRUTAL” and dig in and complete the next 2km, but it’s getting rougher out there. Halfway and it is1h48

And it was – the waves somewhere between 2’ and 3’ high, a sea swim would have been easy. You can feel it lift you around in the water, so is this what swimming uphill feels like? The next 2.5km really hurt, I develop an interesting flatulence issue(handy for extra buoyancy I suppose) and can feel fatigue starting to affect my stroke, the left arm recovery barely leave the water. Getting past that I exit/enter for the last time,right big push time. Decide to not use my kick on this lap,waves really bad now, hope the other guys are going ok. Given up on timing, it’s survival get round mode. I press on through the washing machine effect and onto the last lap and those horrific waves, my recovery stroke isn’t even leaving the water at times but not giving up at 9km even if I feel like I’m going backwards. Buoy 2 left turn across the wind, Buoy 3 left again, this is the home straight. I kick now but I feel static but the gradually the finish beckons. Another battering swell and now it’s the shallows and I stagger out,forget to stop the Garmin(which lost signal anyway)photographed by Emma who tells me Andy is half a lap behind(circa 4hrs) but Rosie was beaten by the swells and pulled out after an awesome 7.5km. A quick look,stop the watch 3h51m15s,more than happy in the conditions which I’d happily describe as bl**dy awful! 

Still always next week at Manvers to break my 10km PB now, let’s hope it’s nowhere near as windy!