FEATURES,  Readers' Swims

How swimming 3.8km taught me to love the sea…

Some opportunities are too good to turn down. So when the organisers of the annual BEST Fest in Mallorca called me and asked if I’d like to take on their new 3.8km tri-distance swim race, saying ‘yes!’ was a no-brainer. Clear blue seas? Sunny skies? Access to the centre’s elite 50m pool to train in? Count me in!

The only thing is though, is I hadn’t really done much sea swimming before – training mostly in lakes – and am a real swim newbie. I survived though (obviously!) and learnt a lot from the experience. Here are my tips:

1. You’ll need to be able to adapt. I was expecting calm waters, but a breezy day meant the course was changed from two large 1.9km laps to four smaller 950m laps and the sea was quite lumpy. Psychologically, this meant having to prepare myself to cope with the unknown.

2. Swimming against waves is quite a ‘unique’ experience! At times I felt more like I was surfing than swimming, as the sea threw me about. Getting into a rhythm helps, as does not worrying too much if you go to catch the water and find nothing but air under you. Just focus on the next stroke!

3. Sight more regularly than you might like. I aim for a ‘crocodile eyes’ glance every nine strokes in the lakes, but the waves meant the buoys were often obscured when I lifted my head, so sighting more regularly was a must to stay on course.

4. Enjoy the experience! Swimming in the sea over a long distance is magical. I saw fish both large and small and could see the rocks and plants in the seabed beneath me. Far nicer than a murky lake. Just bear in mind that the salt will turn your face into a prune… and that loads of lube is a must to avoid chafing in saltwater.

5. So many people worry about coming last in races. Well, with a time of 01:40:23, I did come last! You know what though? It was a lot of fun. All the kayaks guided me in, everyone was on the beach cheering and I got a real heroes welcome. Shame I spoiled it by standing up too fast and falling flat on my face…!

Find out more about the BEST swim centre here www.bestswimcentre.com and about BEST Fest www.bestopenwater.com. Helen Webster is Editor of 220 Triathlon magazine: www.220triathlon.com

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.