Name: Waveney River Swim
Next event: 23 June 2019
Distance: 11.5k (leg 1: 4.9km, leg 2: 3.3km, leg 3: 3.3km) solo or relay
Water type: River
Wetsuits compulsory? No
Safety: Tow floats compulsory
Spectator friendly? Yes, there is a public path next to the river
More info: broadsswimming.co.uk
After a glorious night’s camping in Norfolk (shout out to Two Rivers Campsite – highly recommended) I turned up at Beccles Quay to register for the Waveney River Swim.
Organised by the formidable Melanie Holland (solo channel swimmer and part of Big Rick’s successful 4-way Channel relay) the event is a great addition to the summer swimming calendar.
At the start line everyone assisted each other with suncream, tow floats and vaseline. Swim chat was full of tips and support for those who were nervous about the swim. At 11.5km, this isn't an event for novices, although I’m sure not many would attempt an 11.5k as a first crack at open water swimming. If you do – hats off to you, and please tell us your stories. Anyway, for me, I certainly felt that the atmosphere, organisation and swimmers’ chat made it clear that there were very few (if any) for which this was their first rodeo.
Arms and legs
In an interview at the European Championships last summer Jazz Carlin said that “outdoor swimming is different to pool swimming as you’re not swimming up and down a lane on your own, and it does take a bit of getting used to that there are arms and legs everywhere and you need to hold your own.” For me, these other people, arms and legs, and not being confined to a lane, are some of the main reasons I love swimming outdoors.
As a skins swimmer, you’re used to being one of a few on the start line. While the glorious sunshine of last summer put some dent in that with water temps of 19-20 degrees, a skins-heavy line-up, even in the faster wave, is a testament to the ‘non novice event.’
All counted into the water, we milled around waiting for the start. For me, this means decision time – how confident am I of being able to keep pace with the leaders of the pack? Should I lead from the front or go to the side and then try and claw back? Fresh from a coaching seminar, I mulled over drafting and pacing strategies, which inevitably all went to pot before the first feed stop.
At the start, I earmarked some people to try and keep up with. However, very quickly, before the first bend of the river, they were well ahead and I found myself next to an Ironman swimmer, who kept me company to the first feed stop, where we’d caught up with a pair of tow-floats that had previously been ahead of us. The swim is broken into three legs with two feed stops.
Swimming, for me, is all about the people. It’s having someone on your feet at the start, and someone to chase. It’s about catching a recognisable tow float in front of you and trying to catch up. It’s the understanding nod at the feeding kayak before you break away and swim off again, either alone to get ahead of the game, or to chase someone you’ve just seen disappear around the next bend.
There’s a familiarity you get swimming alongside someone, breathing in sync so you get to know their goggles and stroke timing, but not a clue what they look like out of the water. And it’s also the people you chat to before, during and after events, and the friends you make along the way
With waves setting off in reverse speed order, we all collected at the end, all finishing fairly close to one another. Mel greeted every swimmer as they climbed up the narrow ladders at the quay, and everyone milled around, sharing a barbecue, greeting family, and discussing swims we’ve done or hope to do. There was also a nice crowd during the presentations, where I was surprised to be the third fastest women’s skins swimmer and 15th overall with a current assisted swim time of 2:51.
Thanks to Mel for a great swim event, to the lady with a yellow tow float who I followed for 4km, and the the guy who let me pace off him and draft for 3km into the finish.