This morning I had my induction to open water swimming at Stoke Newington West Reservoir. It was epic and very very pleased to say that it was all quite straightforward and I will definitely be doing some training there. I managed to get into my wetsuit, and even helped other people into theirs (shock!) before swimming the 750m round circuit. Today is a proud day.
Getting up at 6.20am on a Saturday is not my favorite thing, but this morning there was a good challenge ahead, and if I didn’t manage to pass this, then there’s no hope that the 5k swim in October is going to happen.
The reservoir is beautiful, it was a gloriously sunny morning, and as you go into the big entrance hall it all feels very grand. You have to take part in an induction to be able to swim here, hence the prescribed start time. Just gone 7.30am a very northern instructor met a group of 20 of us and took us to a classroom facing out onto the water. He gave a VERY no-nonsense lowdown of how things are. Basically, ‘Don’t be an arse’. Which was refreshingly blunt and appreciated. We signed a form to say that we wouldn’t be an arse and understand that if we are asked to do something by a member of staff it’s for a reason, and then we were showed the door to the changing room. The simple instruction of ‘Get changed and I’ll see you out here in, ooh, 7 mins’ was a statement that filled me with dread.
Here, I must veer off and explain. After doing a bit of research online, I have found out that I do not need to wear a run of the mill ‘wetsuit’ that I might have before for sailing. Oh no, I need a specific one for swimming, commonly known as a ‘trisuit’. Excuse me if I’m boring you…last Saturday I went off to look for one of these and found just the one specialist shop in central London, Ocean Leisure. The lady who helped me there was an absolute saint and if I manage to make it through this swim any medals go to her. I said I needed a Trisuit, she explained that can mean 2 things; a swimsuit with a padded arse and cycling shorts for triathlons, or the swimming wetsuit. Just the wetsuit for now. I put the other trisuit on underneath to help me get in and out of wetsuits, and I definitely needed it. She talked me through the 3 wetsuits they had in stock, starting from £259. I nearly died. The lady handed me a pair of cotton gloves which I had to wear to try to protect the coating on the wetsuit.
I started to try on the first one. 20 mins later, still trying to get the first one. Yeah, cotton gloves, just take a moment to think about the logistics of putting on an all-over skin-tight rubber leotard wearing cotton gloves. Are you with me? after beeing taught all of the techniques and jumping about a lot, I was in. For the lady to pinch the back of it and tell me it was too big, but the smallest they have. The second wetsuit same story and she said that after trying 2 most people give up. I needed a wetsuit for the induction in 7 days. Wetsuit 3, same deal. By this point, I have been in the shop for 1.5 hours. Sometimes they have last season’s stock out the back, and a fourth option appeared, coming in at £80 less. Same issue with the fit. By this time I had nearly given myself a hernia contorting myself in and out of the stretchy fabric. Like when Spiderman (3) tries to take off the ‘bad’ suit and it won’t let him go. Very hot and flustered I started to head home, and en route started to research some online options. Wiggle had a good selection and I found that Zogg’s sizes seemed to have a smaller cut to the ones I had tried in the shop. It arrived in time. On Thursday evening, it took me 37 minutes to get into my new wetsuit, it’s definitely smaller than the ones I tried. Literally never been so compressed. I checked the fit and all seemed fine based on the advice from the super helpful lady in the shop.
Now back to today, a 37 minute PB time for wetsuit-getting-into is hardly on par with the 7 minute expected time of today. And in a group changing room. Fight or flight time. I did it! There was a lady next to me who had clearly not been through my shopping experience, so between 3 of us we managed to squidge her into hers. I wasn’t the last one out of the changing room *beam*. I donned the luminous orange hat we had been issued (mandatory wear), the first swimming hat wear since the synchronized swimming experience, and we were off to the water. A slippery slope into the water and once in we got asked to plummet ourselves to the bottom feet first, into the wealth of bird poop beneath us, then to swan dive and pick some up. Delightful. The 3 courses of 200m, 400m and 750m were explained to us, a quick swim in a pack to a buoy and back and we were out on our own.
The water is lovely, you can’t see a thing through your goggles (not just because of fog in my case) the weeds produce little green bits that are all in the water. It does feel totally different from swimming in the Serpentine. The water feels a lot cleaner, and you don’t feel as though whatever it is in this water is going to leave a green film covering you. I did a nice slow swim next to a girl I had met in the training for a bit, and then legged it the second half way round (had to get to work).
The biggest surprise was how rubbish I am at going in the direction I think I am in. There is no tide or anything, but you have to keep lifting your head up to ensure you are going towards the correct marker. I was all over the shop. It is difficult to pick up a pace when you constantly need to lift your head up and check where on earth you are. However, I’m sure that this will improve with practice. It was a great sense of achievement to have gone all of the way around (even though I need to do this about 7 times eventually).
Off to get changed. There are 4 showers in the ladies changing room, with curtains. Really nice modern facilities, good push-button showers with temperature control. Open changing area, but nobody cares about that anymore! Oh, and of course I need to mention that the locker takes your 20p.
This place is awesome, It’s somewhere that the staff are clearly very proud to be, and where you feel extremely privileged. Ruddy awesome experience.