So, I’m not a complete weirdo (debatable) but I do like things to hurt a little bit. There needs to be a little bit of effort, otherwise it’s not worth doing right?
That’s why the Thames swim, a 2.25 mile river swim from Hampton to Kingston, made it onto The List.
It wasn’t that long ago that swimming 25m without stopping was a struggle, so this swim was meant to be my big challenge of the year. That chance to show any doubt in my head that I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to.
Things didn’t turn out quite as planned.
So, up I get at 4am. I’m nervous. I feel sick. But I’m obviously hungry. I shovel down the biggest bowl of porridge known to man. Briefly feel a bit better but then remember why I am up at this ungodly hour on a Sunday. I am going to get in a freezing cold Thames and swim more than 2 miles. Gulp.
I meet my bud Lil (@lilhoughton) at Kingston. She is an awesome swimmer and is off in the first wave as will swim sub 1hr (she actually swam sub 35 mins!). She’s looking forward to it, I’m just looking a bit green around the gills. In fact, I wish I had gills as that would make swimming a whole lot easier.
Anyway, off we pootle to get the ferry from Kingston to Hampton. Lil thinks this is a good thing to do as it will let me see the course. In reality it has the effect of making me feel more nauseous. I swear I see eels (or sea snakes as Flic later teases me) and the water looks cold, brown and completely uninviting.
Why am I doing this? I hate swimming. I’m crap at it. Why wasn’t I doing the Run to the Beat half marathon? That’s much more up my street. But I’m here now, and I’m no quitter so I have a word with myself and crack on.
Lil gets in the water at 8.30 and is off like the speed demon she is. I hang around for an hour, psyching myself up, trying to keep warm and trying to forget that I’ve seen on Twitter that the water temperature is 12 degrees. Brrrrrrrr.
That hour goes pretty quickly and suddenly I’m in a starting pen with a host of other fools. We are all wondering why we are doing this. It seemed like a good idea in the summer when the swim was actually meant to be – our washout of a summer put paid to that though.
There’s some good banter in the pen and we all agree to get in the water and have a group pee to increase the temperature a couple of degrees.
In we get. Yep. Cold. No, not cold. Baltic. And the current is strong. We have to swim hard to stay where we are. This is probably the hardest bit of the swim.
Suddenly the gun fires and we are off.
With the current behind me, I feel like I am flying rather than swimming. That said, it’s still not entirely comfortable for me. The current is so strong I’m a little bit scared of getting washed away. I’m getting bashed a bit as stronger swimmers power through.
After about 15 mins I get into my stroke. So much so that I forget to sight and swim straight into the bank. Oops. Then I find someone’s feet to follow. I remember to sight this time.
I’m not actually having much fun. I’ve swallowed quite a bit of water because the cold keeps taking my breath away. And now I’ve started to get a bit bored. There’s nothing to look at to distract me from the monotony of stroke, stroke, breathe (I’m not bilateral yet!) and because I’m getting bored that voice in my head is starting to question whether I can do this. Then, I look up and there in the distance is the yellow finishing chute. It’s come a lot quicker than expected due to the ridiculous current and at the moment I’m happy about that.
Suddenly I am finished and being helped out the water. I feel sick and dizzy. And I think I have finished in around 45 mins. That’s half the time I expected. I should be happy but now I feel deflated. This was meant to be a big challenge for me, something I didn’t think I could do. But it’s over now and it wasn’t THAT hard. I so wanted to tick this off The List, but looks like it is gonna have to stay. Still, at least it means I can rope my partner in crime Flic to do it with me next time so that we can swim into each other, apologise every time we do and then get a fit of the giggles.
Onwards and upwards (or downstream-wards)