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Open Water Series – Eton

27 May 2012 2,117 views One Comment

When Chris asked for a definition of open water swimming I couldn’t do much better than “not going to the gross swimming pools we have here”, so this is for his benefit:

Open water swimming takes place in outdoor bodies of water such as open oceans, bays, lakes, rivers, canals, and reservoirs. Thank you, Daddy Wikipedia

We didn’t have a name for it in Australia, it was normal, but I’m glad it’s a big enough thing here because it’s a great chance to get into some decent water without getting your passport out. This race was part of the 2012 Speedo Open Water Swimming Series, the first event was at the start of May and there are more through to September.

The venue was the man-made Dorney Lake, a project that was conceived by Eton College so that they had a rowing alternative to the Thames. That’s pretty indulgent isn’t it. Yes, we’ve got one of the most iconic rivers outside the front door but we want our own paddling pool too. It’s paying off, Dorney Lake will be the Olympic and Paralympic venue for rowing & kayaking and if you’ve got tickets you’re in for a treat: the area is gorgeous, a massive park, lots of good facilities, and they were throwing up tonnes of ringside seating.


Catherine and I got there with heaps of time before the gun. Good job because the aforementioned massive park meant the race registration etc was a chunky walk away from the car. Catherine had registered for the 3km aaages ago as part of her fully planned and sensible and ridiculously long distance training schedule. I was along for the chat, the brunch, the sun and the spectating. That was until we found out they were taking on-the-day entries and I booked a place on the 1.5km. There are times when spontaneity is good, hopping on a plane to go and meet a hot French backpacker you’ve known for 20 hours for example, and then there are times when spontaneity demonstrates that you’re still drunk from the night before. This was closer to the latter. Especially because I was going non-wetsuited.

The following hour looked like: multiple enquiries about water temperature • multiple, very varied replies about water temperature • “can i have a banana please” • heads turning in surprise as i walked around in togs • jokes about borrowing an extra swim cap • “can i have another banana please” • relief about start time being put back half an hour on the basis that it would warm the water (eh?). You get the idea.


Catherine was in and away first but it was a big crowd for the distance so I didn’t see her. It was deep water start which means we had paddle in, swim to the start line and tread water to wait for the gun. Getting in was a bit evil. The water was all stirred up muddy n weedy and it was cold, took my breath away.

Now, I love swimming, especially in open water, but I just can’t decide if these events are for me; it was a proper scrum all the way round, people pushing, grabbing, slime-ing their way past each other, it was intense. For the first, I’d say 600m, I wasn’t really thinking technique or speed, just survival, honestly. And then it spaced out a bit and I got into my stride, relaxed a bit, got into some good breathing patterns and tried to weave between lunatics. I kept thinking how quickly a new frame of reference changes your judgement. Ten minutes in the water and the height of selfishness was breaststroke and the height of stupidity was stopping.


Two laps for me, four for Catherine, out at the ramp, over the timer mat, straight into a photographer (really!?), medal (yeee), fresh water and that was it, back on track for chat, brunch, sun & spectating :)

I got 35 minutes which I don’t reckon is too shabby. My pool time for 1.5km would be 30 minutes – without the temperature & race dramas – and it beats my Half Ironman pace which is a bit of a surprise. Nice excuse for some (more) pub carbs. Muy buen.


post event (seem to have grown some chins!)


One Comment »

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Swimming, Hyde Park Lido said:

    […] but that was enough, and added bonus it only costs £3.50 after 16:00, whoop.  It was warmer than Eton on the weekend, 20 degrees I was told, and didn’t bite when I got in so that was nice but ew, […]

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