This is what it’s all been building up to. To have 50 swimming experiences written about, and 5000m of swimming in a freezing cold lido in October. To raise money for Macmillan. To try to beat my boss. This was a brilliant day and I would recommend everyone to do one of these swims, no matter what your ability is and what distance you decide.
Initially, inspired by Kate, I signed up for this in the Summer. I then mentioned it to some others and Jim signed up for the 2k (without whom I wouldn’t have done half of the swimming I have over the last 2 years) and Ross signed up for the 5k (he’s a hero) and unfortunately I also mentioned it to my boss (who is very competitive). So that was that, a good supportive group of us taking on the challenge, and obviously the main focus of the event took a dramatic shift from being in itself an achievement, to it becoming a race.
The last few months of training (most of it recorded on here) has meant a lot of swimming and a lot of office banter. In the run up to the day I had done the full distance a few times, including a dress rehearsal (with wetsuit at the lido).
I didn’t set up a justgiving page as suggested as I knew it was do-able and I’m hopefully going to save requesting sponsorship for more a more challenging swim, but thank you so much to everyone who sponsored Ross (and possibly me via him) he raised over £500. EPIC.
On the day I got up and took the wise decision to get the train (not cycle) to Herne Hill. I was rushing as Jim’s swim started at 10am, and I managed to get there at 10.15. I went out to poolside to cheer him on and pretend I hadn’t actually arrived late. I asked the very lovely people who were running the event if he was in the pool. The lane steward thought she may have missed him, the people at the registration stand hadn’t seen him, and just as I thought he’d bailed, I looked to the reception, to see him stood in the queue. He didn’t realise it was today.
Apparently it doesn’t matter what time you turn up, half an hour late is fine, as long as you are out of the pool by the end of your allocated session. He threw his wetsuit on and himself into the water. It was great being a supporter, half being supportive, half being abusive to encourage him to steam past the people who had been in the pool half an hour longer. I just kept getting the response “I can’t hear you, I’m swimming!” so I took some time to go and get a tea from the stand, and discuss how I may have made an error in tactics by not eating a banana for breakfast. I went to get changed and saw ladies shivering in foil blankets and being plied with hot drinks by volunteers as it was so cold in the water they couldn’t take it. The nerves were creeping in.The crowd looked fantastic, there was a lady swimming in a superman t-shirt accompanying a 9 year old girl in her swim, and people swimming just in cossies in the 15 degree water, others in sailing wetsuits which must have made the swim 10 times tougher. Up to the end of Jim’s 2k, everyone else in that session had finished, and he had a very enthusiastic crowd cheering him on for the last couple of lengths. Including the commentator/compere/DJ.
The rest of us were doing the 5k with a noon start time. This had been reasonably well orchestrated as my boss had sent an email when the start times were issued in September (which somehow got my start time moved to meet his) demanding us being able to swim at the same time (and therefore directly compete with each other). Wetsuits were donned by 11.40am for the warm up dance; jogging, star-jumping and hip rotating through the weirdest few minutes of my life. We were told the massively motivating news that so far, the day had raised £17,000 for Macmillan. That’s a nurse for 4 months.
Then we were in the pool. I was in the first lane, swimming alongside a wall (not happy about that) and the three of us were all in separate lanes (at least that’s something). It was not warm in there, I’ve never been happier to have a wetsuit on. The swim started reasonably well, although I don’t think that planned completion times (given at time of sign-up) had influenced which lane people were put in. The lane setup was the same as usual at Brockwell Lido, and it’s usually pretty comfortable to get passed people there. what was a bit of a shock was how turbulent the water was, it was more like swimming in the sea! I think I probably swallowed at least my bodily volume in water. I settled in to a reasonable pace, and the first half went pretty quickly (mostly thanks to great people supporting). There were intervals where I thought I might stop for a little break, but then just carried on ploughing through the waves.
When I got to halfway, I was going to take a short breather, but as I arrived at the shallow end, my boss was in the neighbouring lane said ’52’ to me. This totally threw me. As far as I had counted we were both at 2500m, not 2600m. This was a bit of a turning point as I knew I’d struggle to catch up 2 lengths at this point, and also I started to doubt my counting. It is such a long time to be in the water and counting how many lengths/how far. I’d discussed different tactics with different people; counting down backwards, counting in 50m or 100m blocks, or tallying up the number of lengths. I opted for counting up in the 50m lengths as I thought it would help me stay on track.
The second half was much more of a struggle. The wetsuit was eroding away the skin on the nape of my head, and my bright green Macmillan hat was riding up and ripping hair out of my scalp. I started to get extremely bored as well, staring around at other people (there was a chap swimming in just a pair of white speedos, why?) and getting a bit fed up of being constantly hit in the face with water ricocheting off the wall. As I got closer to 4k I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but started to doubt my counting, as I was thinking further and further ahead, keen to finish.
At 4800m I was ready for the homeward sprint, and at 4875m I heard it announced that the first finisher was about to arrive. I got to 4900m and my boss had just reached the finish. I still had 2 more lengths to go, my heart literally sank, but I splashed my way up and down for the final time, and then grabbed the little silver bar around the edge of the pool, done! I got beaten, but it was still very much worth it, second place in 1hr 23mins (only a couple of minutes faster than I had swum a week before with a terrible hangover). It was so lovely to see my friends faces and then have a couple of triumphant pictures, before peeling off the wetsuit and heading to the pub.
This was such a thoroughly great day, and really great to swim with such wonderful people, and celebrate with such a supportive bunch. And have beautiful ‘Thank you’s for all of the people who donated by Ross’ gorgeous girlfriend Becky. Can’t think of a better way to raise money, roll on the next one!