Where: Southbourne Beach, Dorset Map
Course details: Instructions
Distance: Swim 3800m (OW- Sea)
Facilities: Showers on beach, Café on beach, Public toilets.
Technical: Run into sea, 3 clockwise laps of a rectangular then out and finish on land through gantry.
Freebies: Swim hat. Water. Various cakes, cereal bars.
So this was to be my second long swim series race of the year, returning to the venue when I first had a go at them last year. Last year it was tough, a character building swim in a poorly fitting wetsuit that was fighting me with every stroke and a brutal current. Time 1:41:19. Roll on this year and my time at box end was a much more acceptable 1:04:58. Determined to be prepared I have been watching the weather and the tides. Wind was set to be a light/non existent offshore breeze and there was a double high water tide with a stand during the swim, or so I thought. Having swum a 65 minute one earlier this year I had high hopes of going sub 70 given the sea and my almost lack of swim training recently.
So up at 0545 to have breakfast before leaving at 0700, things were going well light traffic wasn't a problem and got there a bit earlier than planned. Registered, got my hat then headed off to off load my morning cup of tea. Walked back up to the car and got my stuff together and prepare (mentally). All was going well till the dreaded pre-race AD moment came. Right get a parking ticket and head back down to the facilities. Upon taking the change out of my pocket I discovered an Imodium instant, obviously from my last race. The triathlon gods were looking out for me. Having reduced my racing weight I headed off to suit up and warm up. Getting in the water it felt bloody cold, still got myself acclimatised, checked goggles weren't going to leak, a few lengths then out to the race start. The number of people opting to go sans wetsuit was surprising, didn't they realize it was cold? No surprises at the race briefing, lets get ready to rock.
Stood on the start line, on the left 1 row back, 5-4-3-2-1-Go! Sprint down the beach, over the gravel, high knees and off through the washing machine. Whilst the adrenaline of the moment meant I didn't feel the stones, the cold water made it feel like someone had hammered nails into my feet once I started swimming. Coming up to the first turn buoy and I had somehow managed to get in the middle of a pack. Crap. Round the buoy, yep there is a pair of feet, dodge left, dodge right, clear water without getting kicked, phew. About halfway along the top of the course I saw a submerged yellow buoy, odd, bit hazardous. Still get on with swimming, next urn buoy check of the watch, 12mins, hmm might have overcooked this a bit, this should be into the current and hard. Oh well. The rest of the lap was pretty uneventful, completing it in 23 minutes and change.
Onto the second lap, round the buoy and onto the top of the course. Next thing I know I am confronted by the biggest jellyfish I have ever seen. It wasn't a submerged buoy, it was a jelly fish, about 2ft in diameter! Shit, has it got huge stingers out the back. Nope, major relief at that point. Seems somebody is looking out for me. Round to the halfway turn buoy, 11 minutes for that half lap. OK so I'm swimming well on this part of the course, round the buoy and back inshore, round again to follow the shore, about halfway along my hat decides to pop off. I'm not going to lose another one, so I grab it and try to stuff it down the front of my suit while swimming, nope bad idea as it starts to let water in. Ummm. Up my sleeve! Roll onto back, up the sleeve, onto front and off. Yep that works. Finish the second lap, 25 minutes. Huh? it was shorter, my first split was faster, whats happening? The current, shit, its going west, the tide must be ebbing.
The offshore leg confirmed it as I was getting pushed down onto the buoy, adjust direction to ferryglide, round the buoy and down to wards Boscombe, annoyed at my target slipping away I start to crank up the power. All seems to be going well till I realise I'm getting sucked out to sea and end up swimming much further. Damn, 13 minute split. Back inshore to the next turn, Whoa! another huge jellyfish. Reach the buoy, there is a serious angle on the warp, yep the current is running the opposite way, long slog home then. And that it proved to be, reached the final turn and headed inshore. The tide had gone out far enough that there were no some bigger breakers on the shore, swim in as far as possible, up, out and sprint for the line. It's over.
Lost my actual splits taking my wetsuit of, but looking at the sheet I managed 79th out of the water in 1:20:16. Not exactly impressive. Not sure whether to be pleased at finishing, and except the current pushing me back as the cause. Or whether it is my fault for letting fitness slip too far. I felt I swam consistently. Well who cares for the next hour. My roast beef is ready!