After three open water swims and a few issues getting in / out of my wetsuit (OPEN WATER SWIMMING: LIKE A DUCK TO WATER?) it was time to head to London for the Swim Serpentine. I chose this event as a good baseline to see where I am up to with my swimming and see if I could make the cutoff time for the 2.4-mile swim at Ironman UK next year. So far in training I had swam 1 mile twice in the swimming pool and twice in open water at Boundary Park, the water temperature here was 21c for my three open water swims.
I was swimming in the 2-mile 11:30 (pink) wave. I got the 07:12 train down to London and stopped off at Starbucks for a traditional pre-race latte & cinnamon swirl then walked over to Hyde Park to watch some of the earlier waves. As I don’t usually arrive at an event until last minute I used this time to have a look around and find out where everything was before heading in for changing at 10:30.
The changing tent was better than I expected. Heated, carpeted and plenty of chairs for changing and surprise surprise, I managed to get my wetsuit on without any trouble, even ensuring it was pulled over my shoulders and not tight on the neck.
Off I go, out of the tent, bag dropped off and ready for swimmer checkin.
Once checked in there was a 30 minute wait until start time. The dunk zone opened 20 minutes before we were due out, this gave us the opportunity to get into the water and get a feel for it. The water temperature today was 15c, some 6c cooler than any of my previous open water swims. To be honest, the cold water was my biggest worry. I went into the dunk zone 10 minutes before the start and yep it was cold but after a few mins it didn’t feel too bad. We were called out of the water, given a quick briefing on safety and the course and it was time to swim.
I dropped in and surprisingly it didn’t feel as cold as I thought. I was able to get swimming straight away and breathe fine. The only issue was finding some space, lots of people swimming at differing speeds using freestyle or breast stroke. I swam past a few people and some came past me too. After 2 minutes of swimming I checked to see if my watch had started given I forgot to do this during my last open water swim and once again I had forgotten to start it. Rather than giving up like last time I started my watch and continued on with the swim. Two 1 mile laps around the lake.
The first lap went well, I was 1 mile in and feeling good, not out of breath and not tired. I had found my own space with a group of four similarly paced swimmers in front and was chasing them down. The second lap was much of the same, following these four around and feeling good swimming at what for me felt like a fast pace. Half way into lap 2 we were joined by a bunch of swimmers in orange caps, these must have been the next wave to go which was a half mile swim. Things got a lot more crowded for the final half mile. Just as I was 100m from the finish a lady was screaming for help and waving her arms around. Some swimmers had stopped and were going over to her and two canoeists came quickly over to help her, it sounded like she had cramped up.
I crossed the line in 1hr 14 mins, I think I had put 2hrs down on my application so well within that. When getting out of the water and trying to stand up for the first time my legs were really wobbly. This is something I will have to learn more on and get used to, taking on a 112 mile bike ride with legs like that will be a tough ask.
Once out of the water there were some hot tubs for us to relax and warm up in. I didn’t go for this, I just wanted to get changed and head off for a warm coffee.
Again, the changing tent was heated and very well received by all. I dried off, battled my way out of my wetsuit and got dressed.
This was a really well organised event ran by the same team who organise the London Marathon, Big Half & Ride 100 so what else would you expect from those guys. The lake was clean, lots of safety canoeists and speed boats around to help those who needed it very quickly. The onshore facilities were excellent, I have already mentioned the changing tents and hot tubs but there were plenty of other tents offering advice and selling their products.
In summary, I absolutely loved this event and will definitely be back in the future. As for the Ironman cutoff, I think with a 1:14 time I will be well inside the 2:20 for a 2.4-mile swim. This was my first big swim and will give a good baseline to compare back to in spring when I do another 2 mile open water swim.