The Great swim experience

I recently travelled to the UK to take part in the British Gas Great Swim Open water event at Alton Waters in Suffolk. It was a two fold situation in that I was on a bit of a scouting mission to suss out how an event like this runs, as I’m working on a similar event which will take place in Killaloe later this year. It was also a good opportunity for me to introduce a different sort of race into my racing calendar.

The Great Swim series has a number of different events scattered around the UK over the summer months and is aimed at the beginner right through to the elite athlete. Within each event competitors can choose from a ½ mile, 1 mile or 2 mile swim. For the Alton event I was in for the 1 Mile. The event kicked off early on Saturday morning and by 10am when I arrived the place was already a hive of activity with lots of spectators & stalls set up on the site venue. I picked up my race chip and had a quick coffee while I watched the 2 mile swimmers in action and the waves before me warm up. I must admit it was a bit strange not to know any other competitors but I think it’s good to do things like this, it gives you a certain confidence and of course an appreciation of the support when you come back and do races with club mates and friends. Before I knew it it was my turn to get suited and hop in for my swim warm up. The water temperature was 16 degrees which I was pretty happy about but most of the other competitors in my wave complained of the cold! I told them they should have been in Castleconnell the past few weeks but I don’t think they understood

In my wave there was an air of friendliness, it was definitely male dominated and had less swimmers than previous waves as it was the “Sub 30mins” slot. We all did our swim warm up in the roped off acclimatization area and I have to say this worked well; not sure how feasible it would be in a triathlon but was definitely something worth having for an event like this. So after the swim warm up we also had a quick land warm up which was a 2 min aerobics session to high octane music and it really got both the heart rates and spirits up. Again not sure how this would work in the “Tri” scene but I enjoyed it…when in Rome or Suffolk I guess

So once the land warm up was done we had a one minute count down and off we went across the mats and hit the coolish Alton water. I got away with the first pack but could only hold them until the 2nd buoy. As the pack rounded the buoy I collided with another swimmer and my goggles were knocked off. I tried not to let this phase me and quickly switched to my back and secured them back onto my face, flipping over again to continue swimming. The key here was not to panic so off I went again however with 6 more buoys to go the lead guys were now well out of sight. I continued on, focusing on my stroke and tried to be streamlined through the water. Before I knew it I was passing the last buoy and exiting the water reminding myself not to start undoing my wetsuit. I could just imagine the local papers reporting a crazy Irish woman who striped off on exiting the water in a swim event so that was it, not a bike or a pair of trainers in sight, the day’s race was done.

Overall I really enjoyed the event. I was impressed with the efficiency and how everything ran like clockwork. So here’s to a similar scenario at our own open water swim event the “i3” in Killaloe this September.

My advice is if you get the opportunity to try one of these events “go tri” it it will add spice to your racing season and warm you up nicely for the i3 on Lough Derg this September!

For more info on these or similar events check out
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