At the weekend, I took part in Swim Serpentine for the second time – this year tackling the two mile wave to fundraise for Antenatal Results & Choices, in memory of our friends little girls, Neve and Matilda. For those who have followed along on social media, you will know that I only started open water swimming last June, going from being terrified of the water to swimming one mile at Serptenine in 2018 to fundraise for Tommys, the Baby Charity. It was a huge charity – an Ignite Your Lion Heart challenge, and I loved it.
I absolutely missed swimming over the off-season, and come April, got back in the lake ready to train for the two miles. Last year, I instantly said that I was going to come back and get the other medal. Despite a whole extra season to train though, I didn’t really feel ready. The season seems to disappear so quickly, and with only being able to get to the lake at the weekend, there wasn’t a great deal of time to build up.
I did get to train in the River Thames over the summer though – taking part in the Henley Swim Festival. It was really good fun, and a great opportunity to explore a new environment to swim in. I was also really pleased that I swam in a similar time to Swim Serpentine last year, at approx 45 minutes.
After Henley, I tried to up my distance and managed to get one swim in just under the 2 mile mark – 2,800m. The main aspects that concerned me were swimming past the exit and starting again, and being in the water for potential two hours without stopping, drinking or eating. Having not tested myself on this, I just simply wasn’t sure how it was going to go.
I also wasn’t able to train for a fortnight prior, and the last swim that I did, truly panicked me! I wrote about it here, but it really unsettled me. Having enjoyed or at least felt comfortable for the whole season – it really shook me and didn’t feel like the best preparation for Swim Serpentine!
Having done Swim Serpentine before I did feel a lot less nervous about the logistics and I think that really helped. Knowing what to expect was super helpful. I made sure I had a dunk in the pool – absolutely felt colder than the advertised 18 degrees…
My wave wasn’t until 3:10pm, so a lot later in the day compared to by 6:30am training swims! Being a breastroker, I have tended to hover towards the back, and out to the side at the start, so as not to get instantly swam over. Luckily, my wave wasn’t too hectic a start, and after a little bit of a rocky start to get my breathing rhythm going – I started to get into the grove.
I quite like the Serpentine route as with the exception of the long stretch at the back, it feels quite broken up by turns at quarter and three-quarter miles – although these were a little busy with people. What I love about open water swimming is the lack of people, so this is always my biggest frustration. My eye sight let me down too, and I almost swam the wrong way through the buoys, but luckily spotted it before someone spotted me!
I came round to the one mile at the start time for the next wave. As this wave was a one mile, they were a little bit more ruthless on the start and having got into a nice, steady breaststroke surrounded mostly by other peaceful swimmers, it was a bit of shock. I kicked at least 8 people behind me (not intentionally, obviously!) as it was so busy. Eventually, I stopped apologising…
I managed to see my cheer crew on both miles – or at least they could spot me – without my glasses on I’m reliant on seeing overenthusiastic waving and recognising voices! The first time, it totally gave me a burst of adrenaline that threw me completely off my rhythm. The second time it gave me a push to up my speed for the home straight, as I felt they were pushing their luck to get back to the finish less than half a mile away – I had every aim to beat them!
As I approached the finish, I popped my goggles off so I could take it all in. It was beautiful weather and I tried to, now and then, swim granny style with my head up just to take in the environment and the enormity of what I was doing. Helped out of the water, I instantly felt that sea legs wobble, and went and found my family (who did manage to get their in time!). It was wonderful to get out and now share that I had done it! It was, one day, an impossible challenge!
I was shattered though. I absolutely pushed myself, and my time of 1 hour 35 mins shows I was kept my one mile pace across the two miles and was realy chuffed with that. I was aiming for under 2 hours, so absolutely smashed that. Although time isn’t something I’m normally bothered by (I don’t swim with a watch, for example), it still felt good to know that I was able to sustain that pace.
Not long after I got my medal, and we headed off home I instantly felt hungover. The dehydration set it, big time. Having exercised for an hour and a half without drinking, my body was feeling it. I had made sure I was drinking enough all week to help ensure I was hydrated, but I guess no amount is enough to prevent that. Head banging, wobbly legs, slight delirium and the classic craving of a Mars Bar and a can of coke! After all the food, and a good 24 hours later, I could stand up without my head pounding again.
It was a long journey home and an even longer day – but I’ve come away feeling super proud, still loving open water swimming, and having my sights firmly on my next challenge; front crawl.
If you’d like to sponsor me for my swimming this year, please do support ARC, here. Thank you!