It was warm and sunny when Alistair MacLeod and I set off from Worcester towards Windsor, and it was for that reason that I forgot to take my coat. When we arrived at the lake for today's event, however, it was just nine degrees, and it was pouring with rain. We had to park some distance away from the start, and I was soaked by the time I arrived at registration - soaked and cold.
For most of the contestants, the Eton Dorney 10km race was just that - a race. I used it instead as continued cold water acclimatisation. My indoor swims tend to be at a steady 2.5km/hr, so I anticipated this swim taking me in the order of four hours - if I could maintain the same pace outdoors as I do in the warm water!
Compared to the 12 degrees at Windermere just over a week ago, Dorney was like a bath at 16.5 degrees. It was a shame that the outside temperature was so cold and wet.
It must be mentioned that the vast majority of contestants choosing the 10km distance then swam in wetsuits. Only a few of us swam without. The lady giving the briefing thought we were mad.
The event consisted of swimming 1.25km up one side of the Olympic rowing venue, then down again the other side.... four times, in an anticlockwise direction. I mention this last fact as it served to make things somewhat difficult for those of us who breathe to the right, as it was awkward to ascertain where we were, and if we were swimming in a straight line. For the first lap I swam straight past the feeding stations, not having looked over to the left to see them.
Laps one and two were completed in 59 minutes, and then an hour and a minute respectively. After that my speed dropped off a smidgen, and I finished the event in four hours and twelve minutes.
I was one of the very last out of the water, but the only aspect of timing for me was of continued exposure to the colder water. Next week I have a six hour qualifying swim back in Windermere, and no matter how fast I swim, it's the time that is all-important, not the distance.
All in all I feel comfortable and confident that I can now complete the qualifier satisfactorily, and today's milestone was an excellent confidence boost towards that important event.
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One time soldier, part-time author, full-time training manager, husband and father.