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Friday 26 October 2018

Swim Rutland 4k: A bit of chop and a bit of smug

I've taken part in this iconic event twice before with mixed results which have included missing the boat across to the start and rushing across the pebbly beach in my wetsuit like an anxious walrus, doing my fastest 2k swim time after picking up a pair of particularly quick feet and being particularly pleased at being able to warm up my wetsuit for the first time in the traditional swimmer way. My resulting smugness almost resulted in me missing the start.

However, this year instead of the usual 2km swim across Rutland Water and taking the iconic ship The Rutland Belle to the start, I would be swimming there AND back. A 4km swim and my furthest distance to date. Eeek. 

However, it was a great place to do this, I've swam in this reservoir many times including during races such as The Vitruvian and The Dambuster and during the summer open water sessions and I was exciting to do this event in somewhere so familiar. That didn't mean that I wasn't nervous. I was eyeing up swimmers at the start checking out the feet and hoping to attach myself to a particularly non-kicky but draft-friendly pair. I was however a little concerned about the weather.

The skies were a slate grey and the wind, having swirled across from the US hurricanes, was blowing hard and rocking the bright orange buoys that marked the route across to the now deconsecrated St Matthews on the shore at Normanton. Rutland Water is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in Europe and it looked a long way across today. 

At least I didn't have to worry about the organisation. Swim Rutland is run by the same people as the Rutland Marathon and Half-Marathon and everything runs like clockwork. I knew I would be in safe hands for my longest swim distance as there were always plenty of safety crews with kayakers and Stand-up Paddleboarders along the swim route. 

Ok. Deep breath. And in. I followed the crowd of people in yellow swim hats – the mad people doing the 4km swim. And tried not to think about the people doing the 8km swim … Maybe one day. But not today. 

A deep breath and we were in. There is something relaxing about swimming a long distance. There isn't the rush and panic and crush that you get in shorter distances as people jostle for position. There's time to find your pace and find your rhythm. And in my case find a likely pair of feet to draft.

I spotted a likely pair early on and followed on. When I'm a bit nervous about a swim, I find that finding some feet to draft relaxes me further. There is no pressure about pace, about sighting. You can get into your own rhythm and just concentrate on stroke, pull and breathing. If the feet are going quicker than you'd like then you can speed up or let them go. Or if too slow you can pass the swimmer or slow down. No pressure, no stress, just swim. 

Due to the wind, the swim out was tougher than I'd expected. There were some waves halfway across which is unusual for Rutland Water. It was strange going up and down with the waves almost as though I was in the sea but with fresh water. It was tough making headway but everyone was in the same water with the same conditions and the feet I was following stayed in sight so I clung on and followed them through the chop.

Coming in towards the Normanton shore, I could see the abbey when I sighted on the left hand side. It was a striking sight, especially against the dark and stormy skies. About 50m from shore, the stream of swimmers turned around the last buoy to the right and came back around in a u-turn towards Whitwell. 2Km done. 

Coming up to halfway through the chop, I suddenly had cramp in my right calf. My foot jerked up and I stopped swimming and clung onto my tow-float to give my legs a break and a chance for the cramp to ease. Ugh. How frustrating. The lovely feet I had been following disappeared into the distance as I bobbed along with the waves trying to relieve the pain in my calf. I massaged it with my hand and decided to strike out again. 

Just 1 kilometre to go now and I was going with the wind rather than against it this time. My arms were fatigued now as I was swimming twice my usual 1900m distance and I was ready to reach the finish which I could now see on the bank I was swimming towards. Stroke, pull,Stroke, pull, stroke, pull, breathe … and repeat. Coming up to the bank I could feel the soft touch of weed on my legs and could feel it as I pulled my hands through the water like mermaid hair. Pull and stroke. Breathe. 

And I could feel the stones under my hands. 

I stood, realising that I'd finished 4k of swimming and wondering how this girl who had started open water swimming not that long ago had done this. 

And I was proud.

If you fancy having a go at this event the 2019 Rutland Swim is 11/08/2019 and costs £38. Enter here. 

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