The swim is down the river following the Dart estuary from Totnes down to Dittisham and we were in the ‘fast’ wave (can you swim 1 mile in under 35:00).
The organisers, while busy posting hundreds of photos of the Saturday waves and finishers were steadfastly ignoring the many questions online about the water temperature. That should have told us everything we needed to know.. At the start and safety briefing they muttered something about 160 but that was clearly a fib. I’m getting better at judging the temperature and I know that if my hands and feet instantly go numb and I get pins and needles in my head that it is <140.
As we discussed pre-race strategy having found Colin on the bus to the start I kept my counsel as my plan was simple – draft Suzannah all the way and burn past in the last 50 with a flourish of butterfly! Being equipped with long levers and big paddles would make all the difference.. sadly not. Before we’d even gone 100m she was gone! As, by 500m, were all the others in the fast wave, even the nutters without wetsuits had all left me for dead and buried. The good news was this meant I basically had a solo support crew of paddle boarders and a jet ski all the way down.
Swimming is great for solo time, contemplation and people who are comfortable with themselves. Obviously I am none of these things. By about 3k my hands had gone past cold and numb to being completely useless claws. I was trying to catch and pull with my forearms as my hands were just flopping about uselessly on my wrist. Time went a bit funny – there were points when I looked at my watch ages apart to discover I’d only gone another 400m, and others when 20minutes and a K had passed. I got to the first fuelling raft and grabbed a handful of jellybabies and was pleased that the first 4k had come up rather quickly in about 1:10, and set off again.
Thankfully the water actually started to warm up as the river became the estuary. Albeit the wind and rain really picked up too creating a lovely set of choppy waves to tackle.. The saltier it tasted the warmer it was and I got my hands back and felt like I was actually swimming again. Beginning to pass the earlier slower swimmer waves helped cheer me up too. Then, the second fuel station, more jelly babies and a little “only 2 miles to go” to myself. Then suddenly my watch was flying and it was 5m, 5.5, and 6.0 and I could start looking for the finish.
As I got to the end and wobbled out of the water (cold water swimming does really funny things to the legs when you first hit solid land) Suzannah was there waiting with her phone unkindly taking pictures of me as I muttered about ‘endurance athletes’ and ‘never again’ while shivering in a total and brutal way. A hot shower and a cup of soup helped enormously. It was absolutely honking it down and blowing a gale, so not a day to enjoy a burger on the fete on the green sadly.
I’m not going to end by thoroughly recommending this one. Am I glad I did it, absolutely! Will it be an annual fixture, absolutely not!
It takes about the same time, and is as mentally tough as, a Marathon. But in a totally solo environment in brutal cold and murky water, an extreme test of mental resilience.
We managed to get a fab post-race pic of the four Fast Wave Windies after, wrapped in our finisher towels (a great touch).
80 Colin Williams 2.17:16
132 Chris Chaundler 2.24:17
195 Suzannah Kinsella 2.31:33
438 Lloyd Collier 2.55:25
559 Margaret Patrick 3.10:02
648 finishers on the day.
sorry, fat fingers. corrected now!
Nice write up Lloyd!
It certainly was a testing, lonely swim - the conditions didn't really allow for buddy swimming and I only got brief glimpses of the countryside over the choppy water. But it was good fun and I'd defiantly recommend it for the challenge.
Amazing work everyone and great write up!