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Thursday 22 September 2016

Rutland Water Swim: Invasive Piggies & Hitching a Lift on a Lilo

I’m not much of a swimmer. In triathlons, it doesn’t matter how carefully I position myself I ALWAYS seem to be behind someone with wildly flailing legs. Or maybe I just have a face that begs to be kicked. Either way it’s the same result, I end up with my goggles around my ear and someone else’s piggies up one nostril. It’s not pleasant.

I’d been making an effort to enjoy swimming a bit more this year. I’d not had any terrible swims so far and I appeared to no longer be terrified at the prospect of climbing into icy water with massive fish or the intrusive feet of strangers. I’d obviously lost my senses. Or getting smacked in the head with other people’s limbs had become the swimming norm.

By far my most successful swim since I started open water swimming had been last year’s Rutland Water swim. It had been a 2 kilometre swim across Rutland Water after a lovely relaxed crossing on the ship Rutland Belle. I’d had a relaxed start and had drafted a pair of (non-nostril-invading) feet practically the whole way across, completing it in 36 minutes. A time I’ve never been able to replicate and I’m not sure I’ve had a more peaceful or beautiful swim since.

This year’s Rutland Swim didn’t start quite so well. I was up at the arse-crack of dawn to register and I don’t like mornings. I’m not a morning person in the way that Vlad the Impaler wasn’t 'a people person'. Even after 3 cups of coffee I struggle to operate and I only realised something wasn’t quite right when I tried to put my hands in my trouser pockets for the 4th time and failed.  I was wearing my trousers back to front.


Things could only get better, right?

I righted my trousers and for a while things went well. I got to registration in time. Picked up my hat and tow float and even saw the lovely Mary of Inspire2Tri. I stopped for a chatter and after a lovely catch up, Mary reminded me I only had 10 minutes to get my wetsuit on and catch the boat to the start.

10 minutes? Ages!

I started climbing into my wetsuit and then spotted some tri club friends who were doing the longer swim and stopped for a chat with them too.

Checked watch. Ok. 5 minutes. Better get a crack on. Fully rubbered up, I wandered off around the beach and over the headland ... to see the Rutland Belle crammed with people in wetsuits and nautical looking people doing boaty things like throwing ropes back onto the ship.

Now I’m not a boaty person, but even *I* know that this usually means that the boat will be going somewhere fairly shortly. Like the start of a race.


I broke into a gallop. Or what would have been a gallop if the beach wasn’t full of sharp pointy stones and shells. It was probably more aptly described as a really-fast mince. Or possibly a more flaily version of riverdance.

I had a vague impression of wetsuit clad people in the boat looking at me with what could best be described as “What the bloody hell is she doing?” expressions as the Rutland Belle pulled smoothly away from the quay and I minced at high speed along the beach.

To be fair they were probably wondering why I was doing my best Michael Flatley instead of trying to catch the boat.

Which incidentally left 2 minutes early.


I was left with 2 options. Go back to the other beach and do the 4k swim instead of the 2k swim. Or lie on the dock sulking and clutching my tow float and see if the boat came back.

4k swim? Um no. Just no. That’s almost a parkrun.

Lying on the dock it is then.

I wandered over to see if I could find a good spot for maximum sympathy and get myself into prime position for offers to be rowed over to the start by someone who understands boats. Or at the very least owned a lilo and an oar.

It turned out there were about 20 of us that missed the boat.  It was going to be a very over-subscribed lilo. Rumours were around that the boat was going to come back but no-one was sure who actually said this or to whom. It was like that bit in Children of Men but with more full-body rubber and less bombs. And no babies.

We heard the horn go as the 4k swimmers set off.  Phew. Well at least that option was definitely off of the potentials list. I also discovered that I’d forgotten my boat ticket. Well THAT would have been embarrassing had the boat stopped and come back to me.

Wandered back to kit and retrieved boat ticket and as I came back over the headland, realised that the boat was on its way back. I made an effort to walk a bit quicker. Missing the boat once was stupid. Twice ... probably not something I could blame on anyone else. And I really WASN’T keen on that lilo.

Got thankfully onto boat after NOT being asked for ticket. Or questioned about being ‘that idiot’ who sprinted around the headland dressed in rubber and started dancing on the beach. Phew.

Took a seat on the upper deck and enjoyed just sitting down and not rushing around or worrying about having to sell flip flops for a lift to the race start. As we got going, the safety announcements started on the boat. “The lifebelts are located here, here and ...”

I snickered. A chap opposite quipped: “I  don’t think I’ve EVER been better prepared for a boat to sink.” We looked around. EVERYONE was dressed in wetsuits, with goggles and swim caps on and wearing a tow float. Should the Rutland Belle go under, we’d probably all be ok. Although there would probably be lots of moaning about missing race starts and we’d be demanding medals.

I was even more prepared than usual, wearing a Garmin on each wrist. I wasn’t being extra keen – I’d just promised to lend one to a friend who was on the first trip across the water. I’d hoped she hadn’t already started the swim or she wouldn’t be very happy with me. Although the sight of me sprinting along the beach like a twat probably made up for it.

The boat arrived at the Abbey on the edge of the water. I spotted Rae and handed the Garmin over and apologised for my lateness. The race briefing went smoothly and we all headed into the water in our timed waves. The bottom was slippery but the water wasn’t as cold as I’d expected, although the clumps of weed clutching at my legs were a shock.

We got a few strokes into the water, which was gradually warming up thanks to the rapidly expelling bladders of the swimmers. It’s not unusual of to hear a wail of “Wait ... I haven’t finished yet ...” as the starter horn goes at these races.

We got swimming fairly quickly and there was the usual flailing arms and legs, however goggles stayed on and I didn’t get too bashed although I did get shoved by a couple of aggressive breaststrokers. Swim stroke description there, not molestation report.

I kept a be-goggled eye out for feet going the right speed but couldn’t find any going at a speed that I could hitch a quick lift on. The swim route went towards the tree lined promontory and then zagged across the water towards the beach the 4k swimmers had started from. My goggles quickly misted up which helped a LOT when I realised that the swimming caps were the same colour as the marking buoys.

Luckily a helpful pair of feet came swimming past and I quickly caught them and sat behind. The buoys took a long time to come past. I’d been suffering from a nasty virus recently and I could tell that it hadn’t shifted and was still with me, along for the ride like the way I was following the 10 little piggies in front.

There was a bit of a cross wind resulting in some waves coming in on the last section. I kept thinking it was another swimmer on my left but it was the splash and swell of the waves on that side. It could almost be a swim in a gentle sea except that my mouth wasn’t filled with the taste of rotting seaweed and dead sealife.

Distracted by the waves I accidentally poked the pair of feet I’d been following. They unexpectedly disappeared as the swimmer stopped, presumably to give me a mouthful of abuse for piggy-prodding after the lovely lift I’d had across Rutland Water. I shouted a quick “Sorry!” and headed on towards the beach which actually appeared to receding despite my frantic flailing and kicking.

I put my head down and just cracked on. Just think of the ice cream afterwards. Head down and windmilling my best front crawl stroke, I eventually made it into a massive clump of underwater weeds which marked the start of the beach and the beginning of the end of the swim.

Into the finish funnel, medal around my neck, chafing inspected and baggage retrieved. I got a hug from my speedy friends who had finished well before me despite swimming twice the distance and grinned for a quick photo.  

Swim  - tick!
Medal – tick!

But more importantly I didn't get kicked in the face. Or have toes up my nose. Win. 

All I needed to do now was to get my best smug morning-exercise-done expression on and choose my finishers ice cream flavour.

Winning at mornings.


  1. What a great writeup. Almost makes me want to swim. Well, maybe watch someone swim then.

    1. Ha ha!! Thanks John. Go on ... you know you want to have a nice swim in a lake!!