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My Henley Mile Experience

Two months ago Katie from Cakes vs Scales shared her preparations for this year Henley Swim Festival with Simply Swim. One month on from her return to the Henley Mile Katie gives us a look inside her race-day experience!


My evening before swimming the Henley Mile certainly wasn’t a rock and roll event, I headed up to bed early and dutifully set my alarm for 5.30am. I went over my kit list for the hundredth time, just in case something had decided to jump out my bag.  I carefully ticked off the most vital pieces of kit ready for the swim.


Wetsuit – Check. Goggles – Check. I.D – Check. Flip-flops – Check.


The only thing left on my “To Do” list was try to rest and avoid snoozing my early morning alarm, simple really. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I jumped out of bed, bursting with positivity. Fortunately, I’m well adapted to training early (around 7am) – I knew these early starts would come in handy.  Whilst I fully respect that everyone has a different approach to event fuelling, I often head out to my training sessions fasted. My number one piece of advice with pre-event nutrition is not to try anything different on race day, stick with what you know. Therefore, I made an effort to make sure I was well hydrated and ate a hearty flapjack 60 minutes before we started to swim, which actually made a really positive impact to my energy levels.


When we arrived at Henley, the first thing we did is head to the registration tent, we collected our swimming caps and timing chips, all a very efficient process.  The ‘pick your own’ items for the goodie bags are a great idea; it promotes less waste as you can grab exactly what you fancy.  It also means I got the snack I wanted for post swim.  The clock was ticking, so we headed back to the car and changed into our wetsuits, before heading to the meeting point to start the walk to the start of the swim.


On our journey to the start of the swim my anxiety started to kick in, whilst I wasn’t concerned about my ranking against the other swimmers, I was overthinking my strategy. Therefore, after the safety briefing, I decided that the ideal solution would be, to let the faster swimmers enter the water first and keep toward the back. My husband was swimming too, so we agreed that we would meet at the finish line, wished each other luck and at the sound of the horn, we all began to swim.


For me the first few minutes of any kind of event always feel a little surreal; my adrenaline goes into overdrive and it can feel a little bit overwhelming. I stuck with my plan which was to alternative between breast stroke and front crawl and work on short, sharp sprints. Gradually I feel into a groove with two other swimmers, the pace felt considerably faster and I was determined to keep up. I continually told myself positive affirmations, whilst ticking off landmarks along the way, before I knew it the Finish line was insight.


One of the elements I love about swimming the Henley mile is the fact you finish back near the event registration.  Which means that the upbeat music and crowds gave me a massive boost for the final 100m section. I dutifully tapped my timer on the finish line and climbed out of the water to be handed my medal and be reunited with Graeme. We headed over to the bag drop and waiting on my phone was a text message with my provisional race result, which exceeded even my wildest expectations. My mile time during training had consistently been between 60-65minutes and with sheer determination and great conditions, I’d completed the mile in 42.36.


What I really want people to know, I’m not a natural swimmer, I don’t have a flawless technique and I’m certainly never going to take first place. It’s actually the fact I get to take part in these events that really matters, I hope that my journey can encourage others to try and share that we can be successful, whatever that means for us.


Thanks for having me Henley that was the most rewarding swim of my life.