The Outdoor Swimmer Henley Swim Festival takes place on 14 July. It’s going to be a fabulous day of river fun with a range of activities and retailers celebrating the best of a British summer Sunday by and in the water. In advance of this year’s event, we’re following the preparations of three swimmers as they get ready to take on one of the Festival challenges, and offer them advice to make the best of the day.
(And remember to book your place before the end of April when prices go up)
My name’s Emily, I’m 15, and I’m doing a four mile swim at Henley Festival. I’m super excited as I’ve never swum this far before but have wanted to try an endurance race for a while. I love sport but triathlons are my favourite. I started when I was eight because of the Olympics and have just carried on from there. Swimming has always been the most enjoyable part of a triathlon for me but I’d never swum open water or long-ish distances until last summer. My mum told me that a lake had opened near us and asked if I wanted to go and, like any crazy swimmer, I was thrilled by the idea of swimming in a freezing, muddy lake.
The lake was small (about 250m round) so I set off doing laps. To my surprise, I found it easier than swimming in a pool and more relaxing.
One day, I saw these people swimming laps and heard that they were training for an Ironman, the longest triathlon in the world; they were swimming 12 laps (about 3km). As a competitive swimmer, and just generally competitive person, I was not going to be outdone by this group and immediately set myself the challenge for my next swim. Turns out I was pretty good at swimming long distance and enjoyed it. It was the lake’s owner who encouraged me to do a long distance swim and my mum who found the Henley one. This event interested me as you have a break every mile, which is good for me as I’ve never swum this far.
I have upgraded from my surf, three-quarter length wetsuit to a Huub Atana one, (which has made swimming much easier!) and now look like a pro. I haven’t started training yet as the lakes aren’t open but still train in a pool for my triathlons. I’m excited to keep you up to date on my training and journey towards the Henley Open Water event!
Great news that you’ve signed up. I’m sure you’re going to have a brilliant time and, I suspect, leave a lot of older swimmers trailing in your wake. Your excitement and enthusiasm are fantastic and given the swimming experiences you’ve described I can’t imagine you will have any difficulties on the day. However, if I may give some advice, it is as follows:
- Make sure you’ve got all your kit checked and ready at least one day before the event. Check your goggles are clean and in good condition, and have a spare pair with you, just in case. You will also need shoes for walking to the start four times, and possibly spares, in case they don’t get returned to you in time for the next walk. Ensure you have some anti-chafing cream to protect your neck and consider reapplying it after each swim. Bring a jacket or changing robe you can pull on over your wetsuit between swims, in case it’s cool.
- Be prepared for a mass start. These can be hard to practise outside of an event so think through in your head how you will deal with it. I would suggest hanging back on your first mile to get a sense of how your speed compares to the other swimmers. You may then find you want to be nearer or at the front for later swims.
- Think about pacing. It can be tempting to start a swim fast, especially for someone as enthusiastic as you. Remember you’ve got four miles to swim, so take it easy on the first one.
- Try to eat and drink a little after each swim – enough to give you an energy boost but not so much you feel full.
- Finally, don’t forget you need to walk four miles as well as swim them!
Simon Griffiths is founder and publisher of Outdoor Swimmer