The day I’d never expected had finally come, I was the proud owner of a Zone 3 Aspire Limited Edition Wetsuit, I carefully unwrapped my exciting new garment and wondered ‘How on earth do I put this on?
I decided I needed a practice fitting, before venturing out in public. Ten minutes later, a whole lot of laughter and some gentle persuasion, I was in! I was adorned in my new wetsuit and feeling high in spirits for open water swimming. The following morning we woke early and ventured off to Boxend Water Park to get some much needed practice in ahead of Henley.
I eased into my wetsuit, grabbed my goggles and strolled towards the water. I was thankful to see a dock which allowed me to ease myself into the water, no dive bombing for me. Once in the water I took a few moments to gather my thoughts, prepare myself and catch my breath. In all honesty, the first few strokes felt completely surreal, almost as if I was learning to swim for the very first time. Other swimmers glided past me, I watched the colourful hats disappear into the distance and continued my first 800m lap.
At around the 600m point my husband suggested I aim for a second lap, feeling confident I agreed and before I knew it, I’d completed my first ever open water swim and a whole mile. I left the water with a huge smile on my face, high on adrenaline and feeling accomplished. Whilst it might have taken me 62 minutes to complete my first ever mile in open water, I’d found courage to start something I never considered possible.
The following weekend was The Henley Mile, we arrived early and took a walk along the route to shake out our slightly tiresome limbs from the 12km Obstacle Race we’d completed the day before. It was a beautiful sunny day, what good fortune to be able to take part in an open water swim during a heatwave? The route was direct and clearly marked, with plenty of safety canoes and an ideal pathway running parallel to the route for spectators to provide support along the way.
What surprised me was how friendly and welcoming everyone was, not once did I feel caught up in a competition or have that dreaded feeling of apprehension about being judged for my finish time. It was clear that the stronger swimmers were taking the lead and due to the wide swimming lane, I was going to have plenty of space to go at my own pace. The registration was very slick, plus there was the added benefit of being able to ‘build your own goodie bag’, this lead to me getting what I wanted with little to no wastage. The goodie bag consisted of a very handy ‘Simply Swim’ drawstring bag which I filled with tasty bars, herbal tea, suns cream, protein powder and green cola.
It was then time for me to change into my wetsuit, plus my swimming cap adorned with my race number (the irony of me being ‘number one’ isn’t lost on me!) and goggles. We were then led to the dock where we were going to enter the water, the organizer talked us through the safety briefing and our chips were activated as we climbed onto the dock. We then swam to our start point, I had a few moments to calm my nerves and start my watch as the countdown started.
During my pre-event research I discovered that it would be best for me to start at the back due to my lack of experience and pace. Starting at the back also means you can dodge most of the feet, no one wants a kick in the face. I soon found my groove and started catching up with other swimmers, with a stroke of confidence I was overtaking and before I knew it the ‘Finish’ line was looming. The swim felt as if it had gone by in a flash, was I dreaming? No, the lady that had never swam seriously was swimming in Henley.
I climbed out, accepted my medal, grabbed a cup of water and tried to catch my breath, within minutes my phone was buzzing. I’d received a text message advising that my finish time for my 800m swim was 21.58. I entered the water expecting to finish in my existing time of around 30 minutes and somehow the crowd, other swimmers and a huge stroke of luck led me to a new personal best. I was on top of the world, taking on this event had given me not only a huge confidence boost, but opened the doorway for a new hobby. Encase you’re wondering, I’ll be back next year and I’m going to take on a 2km swim in August, you can’t stop me now!
Katie is a food, fitness, lifestyle & mental health blogger. You can find out more about her over at Cake Vs Scales.