Saturday saw (probably) my last open water swim event of the year and I realised that I hadn’t written anything since the first one back in May – time for an epic end of season round-up!
After my early acclimatisation event at Salford Quays I embarked on the Capernwray Mid-Week Series. I’d done the final one of these in 2016 and planned on doing all 4 this year; surmising that it would be a useful way of gauging my progress monthly on a relatively fixed course/distance. Plus, being on a Wednesday night, I could fit them into our race calendar without too much potential clashing.
The Sprint Tri and Aquathon were cancelled in June meaning that everyone was doing the swim only. It was going to be busier, albeit less frantic, as most would be doing the 1.5k rather than their usual 500m sprint. Finding the feet of the leader, I settled in there – a pretty unusual spot for me as I can’t help feeling a wee bit guilty drafting but I thought I’d play the tactics game for a change! I bided my time until an opportunity arose at the start of the final lap; on catching some stragglers I used them as cover to make my bid for the front. Emerging ahead, I didn’t know by how far, I just had to make sure I stayed there for the last 500m. 1st female, 1st overall – a good start!
The rest of June was busy with holidays and Dave’s races so I didn’t manage to fit in another event before the next Capernwray at the beginning of July. With the water starting to warm up, this one would be hectic. It also saw EPIC Events take over the organisation from My Tri Events – a lot of companies have disappeared and events been cancelled this year; there appears to be bit of a monopoly emerging, seemingly leading to less opportunity and diversity unfortunately. Anyway, the triathletes were back with their usual argy-bargy gusto in the first few hundred metres. Getting caught up, I lost my nearest rival’s feet and spent the rest of the time playing catch up. In a last ditch effort for the line I nearly had them, neck & neck, just a few metres more would have done it. In the end, I stumbled from the shallows, crossing the timing mat seconds after them. Turned out it was a mate, Paul Julien – I swore I’d have him next time! 1st female, 4th overall if I recall; faster than last month.
Approaching the end of July I ventured to Wales for the Snowman Swim; a mile in the stunning Llynnau Mymbyr in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. I expected it to be colder, what I didn’t bank on was the 25 knot wind howling through the valley! For safety, the course was changed to 2 smaller loops. The first leg was sheltered and I was doing OK, then we rounded the bend into the brunt of the waves – full force in the face, my lungs were flooded – gasping, coughing, breathing every stroke to clear them, fighting the urge to stop. It was lost already. My pool swimmer’s stroke – shallower breathing and arm recovery – doesn’t lend itself well to choppy waters. Even with the tailwind there was no respite, the waves washed over from behind, forcing you forward – no rhythm, no style. I struggled on, only to be smacked in the face by a wildly swinging buoy, digging my goggles painfully into my eye sockets. Then I lost a contact lens and the rest was a blur of continuous spray and fury – all composure gone! 3rd female, 4th overall.
A mere few days after Snowdonia, I was back at Capernwray for the August swim. Fairly uneventful in comparison; though I did gouge my numb foot trampling on the stones, not even noticing until blood poured out of my shoe whilst getting changed afterwards – ahh, the joys & pains of Raynaud’s mixed with embrocation and adrenaline! Fastest time there so far. 1st female, 4th overall (again).
My only Aquacycle of the year was cancelled in August. I was pretty gutted as had been doing early morning timetrial-esque bike loops, trying to garner some speed. I’d even bought a (slightly) sillier helmet and had plans to borrow TT bars. I had to find something else to replace it with but most weekends were already taken. The only option was a trip back to Fell Foot, Windermere for the SleekerSwim “wild swim”. I’d done, and won, this one twice last year and rocked up with a faint air of complacency. Bad idea! At the briefing they mentioned changing the finishing line due to the current force of the flow; having only paid the map a cursory glance, I assumed they were just slightly shortening the distance and the push back upstream. Once in the water I overheard the support kayakers, “green caps, 2 laps” …2?! Heck, where am I meant to be going? Like the Pied Piper I set off and took everybody way too far down the river – oops! Fortunately, it didn’t affect the result; 1st female, 2nd overall – only the guy who won did the correct course.
Returning to Capernwray in early September for the last of the series, I knew I was going to have my bottom handed to me on a plate before I even entered the water! The founder of the aforementioned SleekerSwim was there, who’d literally just returned from some amazing performances at the FINA World Masters [Pool] Championships in Budapest.
Unsurprisingly, no 1st place this time – 2nd female/overall. Irksomely, just 1 second slower than last month though, with some terrific triathlete tangles at the start, that’s pretty consistent and I couldn’t really expect more.
And so, on to the last event of the season. It seemed fitting to finish where I started, at Salford Quays, yet with something a little bit different – the Uswim Neon Night Swim. It’s not a race; there are no winners and no timing (though when has that stopped anybody?!) Cautionary advice: DO NOT go to watch “IT” just before plunging yourself into the murky depths of a pitch-black dock, surrounded by glowstick-filled balloons! Sinister thoughts of grey sewer water and partially submerged bodies are not conducive to performance or enjoyment! To be honest, it wasn’t for me, the darkness and disorientation added to the motion sickness I often get in open water (yup, weird, I know). Been there, done that, got the finishers medal …“next please”!