Two weekends of swims!
Apologies for the late posting of my blogs. Life is a bit hectic at the moment. It has been an interesting couple of weeks on many levels but I have managed to get some decent swims under my belt and also a bit of coaching. Two weekends ago I had the Humdinger swim. I had transferred an entry from another person as they would not be able to make it. Its format is pretty simple: a 1 km loop in a lake and 6 hours of swimming, with the objective being to swim as many laps as you can in the 6 hours. With the previous weeks activities of work and house hunting and fighting with landlords/developers/agents, to say I was prepared, or looking forward to the prospect of swimming 6 hours would be ambitious. Normally the thought of being able to escape life by losing myself in the water would be very inviting but this time I really was not able to muster the enthusiasm that I would have liked. Still, I had entered and I needed to do it.
As the weather was pretty warm, I decided to mix all my drinks and make them cold so after mixing up my feeds and then getting packed, the lovely Slimhippo took me off to the venue and got me all set up. The start time was 3pm with a finish time of 9pm. She saw me off then disappeared to go and do her own thing for the next 5 hours until she came back to watch me finish.
The Swim was made up of relay teams of 2, 3 or 4 people and soloists, bioprene and neoprene. The start was a deep water start with the aim to touch in at the finishing gate to get a lap logged. Also in this area is where people were able to feed and also change over if you were in a relay. A relatively simple format but as a soloist, it was 6 hours so a good time work on your mental game. For me the plan was to swim 6 km (about 1.5 hours) and then come in for a feed then carry on. Feeding after that was to be every hour. The first 6 km went according to plan, as did the next 4 km to take me to just under 3 hours. At this point the gremlins started to appear and when I came in for my next feed I decided to get out and go and see what my position was. I punched in my bib number and it seemed that I was in first place. This was hugely uplifting and got me back into the water to carry on. This is also the time when I realised the error that I had made with my feeds. As all of them were nearly ice-cold, After the feeds I was getting cold and struggled to get warmth back into my body.
I ploughed on, nothing much to say about the actual swim as it is a pretty mundane event and I had long since lost count of how many laps that I had done so it was just a case of swim to the end of the lap then repeat and after each 4th lap take on some feed. What was of more interest was where my mind was going. I was switching more often into breaststroke, taking longer at my feeds and then, at about the 4.5 hour mark, I then had the internal dialogue about exactly when I was going to finish. With only entire laps counting towards the finish result, what time would I call it quits? I had it in my mind that 5 and a half hours was a good time to finish and not bother with attempting another lap. Then there was another part of me saying let’s make it 5 hours 40 minutes and there was yet another, more logical part of my mind that, at this point was saying lets see how long you are lapping when we get there and make a call on it then. Whilst these three gremlins were working themselves out in my head – it seemed like they were trying to negotiate BREXIT in there! I just kept swimming. When 5 and half hours came up, I was now into my 20th lap and finished it in 5 hours 38 min. I now knew I was lapping at about 16 minutes a lap. Do I finish now or carry on. At this point I did not know what position I was in. I managed, after a real shouting match – in my head – that if I do not do this last lap and I drop a place because of it, I will never forgive myself. I trundled on, and at 5 hours 53 minutes I finished the lap. Now there was really no point in carrying on as I knew it was impossible to do 1km in 7 minutes. So I finished. To my delight, the Slimhippo had come back to watch me finish.
Looking back over the results you could see how my mental capacity had slowly deteriorated over the 6 hours. It is not a pretty sight but still got me to the position where I won an event – FINALLY – 3rd places are getting a bit boring.
So all in all a decent swim and I was the overall solo winner, completing 21km in under 6 hours. Not what I was hoping for as I had an idea that I wanted to do a minimum of 22 laps and I had not achieved it so I went into a real downer. NOTE TO SELF, NEVER TAKE ON A LONG DISTANCE EVENT WITH AN EXPECTATION IN MIND. I soon learnt how badly I had messed up my feeding regime with the following hour when I pretty much drank anything I could; coke, fruit juice, water, beer, Fanta… I was feeling okay but was just so thirsty. I think I really messed up my electrolytes. It was big learning curve on the feeding front. This was followed by the obligatory stop at KFC for a massive Burger and chips and – more fluids. I reckon in the 2 hours after my swim I must have drunk about 4 – 5 litres of fluids of some description or another.
The following week I decided to take it easy and also to do a bit of coaching with Anne, who had approached me earlier on in the season and asked to be coached. It was great not having to swim and rather coach. Time will tell if I am any good at it!
Henley Club to Pub
A week later, I was to take on a totally different swim. Not anything like my normal swims at 1.5km, it was going to be a fun swim. The clue is in the name. Nothing serious but a bit of a wallow up and then down the river for a bit. Starting at the Henley rowing club and finishing at the Angel pub in Henley.
In the preceding months. the Zimhippo had been contemplating a new swim wardrobe and I had approached a very lovely lady about being instrumental in kitting out the Zimhippo moving forward and she had jumped at the opportunity. Irene Blair offered to knit me a new set of crocheted pants and has been at it for a while, on swim holidays, in between swims and also in between supporting her amazing daughter Colleen, crocheting away to produce the new kit for the Zimhippo. She had also gone the extra mile and made Harry Hippo – my mascot – a crochet waistcoat. Irene, Harryhippo and Zimhippo love the kit and will love showing it off – starting with Henley Club to pub. Slimhippo Feels really left out now!!! Fancy making a dress by any chance???
We were ready! Time to go and have a wallow in the River Thames. It was a bit of a trek from the carpark to the start location but walking through Henley town made the walk more interesting and fun. Soon we were at the registration area and along with about 750 swimmers we got through the process of registering before catching up with many familiar faces, and receiving high praise/odd looks for the new super smooth racing shorts. I met up with some more of the Teddington masters team and we had a phenomenal bunch of swimmers swimming for the team. As is usual in these races, I ended up in the performance wave; not a wave I relish being in, but it is what it is so best get my big boy pants on – oh, they already were on! Suck it up and go and swim.
Soon we were herded into the starting paddock with the Hippo waiting at the back. No point in being in the water for any longer than I need to be. Finally with about 2 minutes to go, I ditched the racing trunks and went back to my more traditional crochet pattern swimming trunks. There was a collective AAaaaahhhhh! when this happened, but there was no way I was getting my new super smooth pants dirty in the Thames! This was not a race to the bottom of the Thames, but rather along it! Then we were off. The plan was to swim up river to a set of buoys about 500m upstream, then cross the river, around an island, and proceed down said river to the finish outside the Angel pub. As I am still learning to pace myself for distances a lot longer than 1.5km, I decided to NOT charge off with the lead pack and just settle straight into my comfort stroke from the start, not in the pack and way out to the side so I was not fighting with other swimmers. The lead pack broke off and I was left in the 2nd pack and then after about 300m I started to move my way through the group and then onto catching the stragglers of the lead pack. I swam right near the edge, rather than in the middle of the river. I do not know if there is any benefit or not as there was no current on the day.
I slowly worked my way to the back of the lead pack and then passed a few of them whilst paddling toward the finish, which was a gantry above the water that you had to tap your hand on to register a time. 21 minutes and 40 seconds after the start, it was all over. Still in the water, I met up with the people who had beaten me and congratulated them. Three of my Teddington teammates were ahead of me as was some other very good friends who had opted for the neoprene approach. We then left the water right outside the pub to be handed our medal and a beer and proceeded to meet the mayor of Henley. Poor guy, having to stand there and congratulate 750 plus swimmers coming out of the water. At least he was kept well hydrated – with, you guessed it, more beer. You have got to love a sport that rewards you with free beer at the end of a race. It seems to be a theme of these last two swims. Who needs Energy drinks and recovery fluids and electrolytes when you have beer on hand? And don’t forget the burgers after the event and then an evening of frivolity at the Angel pub. It is quite interesting to see rubber clad people in a local pub just going about ordering drinks. For some that might be a dream of some sort come true. I missed the prize-giving – but, you guessed it, the prizes were ——- more beer. Again, how could you not love this sport? The reason I missed the prize-giving was another reason I love this sport, meeting more amazing people. We got chatting about many things so I did not even know prize-giving was happening.
It has been a great two weeks at possibly the two extremes of open water swimming. A nice sedate 21km wallow at the one end and a short sharp dash at the other end. Both ending in beer and Podium places. On the 21km I was 1st male with 21 km finished and, at the Henley Club to pub the details were as follows but the only stats I am interested in is 2nd Place out of the Bioprene brigade
I would highly recommend both these swims. The Humdinger is available as a relay team, or Soloist, if you are working towards something with a little more distance involved. As a solo swim, it may be more a case of “Type 2 Fun” (fun after the event!) but it is a great event with a myriad of swimming abilities present on the day. The Relay team with the most laps achieved 29 laps. It makes my 21 laps look a bit pathetic. I suppose that is solo vs relay.
The Club 2 Pub in Henley is part of the Henley swims and although I have not done all of them, it is a great fun event, again open to all abilities with 4 different waves to choose from and one of them being a wave specifically to swim with friends rather than try to beat everyone. These are definitely two swims that you need to put on your calendar for next year.
For the forseeable future, it is back to doing a bit of coaching and a 3km race on Thursday at my local lake. Possibly I’ll do a longer swim on Saturday before I NEED to get back to reality with a bump and pack up the Hippo Hacienda to put our entire house in storage in anticipation of our impending move on the 11th of August, to where, we are not yet certain, but I am sure something will come up. Either it will, or we will become the homeless Hippos. Not something I am relishing – the packing and moving – but that is why I have my swimming. Somewhere in the middle of this packing and moving though I will be back at Henley for their 14 km Marathon river swim – An opportunity to remove myself from the rigours of life and get back to basics. A time to think and contemplate and prepare. Very soon after this, we will find ourselves heading up to Scotland for a little 35 km swim in Loch Lomond. In all honesty, I cannot wait to get that one done so I can then focus on real life again. Something I am not very good at but the Slimhippo is bloody phenomenal at it.
Till the next blog stay well and above all enjoy life. It is not a trial run! So grab every moment, live it and live it well.