18th August 2021
My friend Jannicke has become a very keen, and rather skilful, open water swimmer and she foolishly invited me to join her for a swim in the London Docks. Even more foolishly, I accepted. It meant that I had to join various outfits with long acronyms which became rather stressful to organise, so I gave up, but only after forking out some enrolment dosh. The cold winter passed by and Jannicke persuaded me to try again and with her help I ended up with an app on my phone called ACTiO and I think I am a member of NOWCA. I’m not sure what that means, and their website doesn’t help, but I can guess the first bit is probably National Open Water…..
After going through the painful setting up bit, it is all now rather easy. I just tap on the logo and book my swimming time in any of their locations. As of 18th August 2021, I have only tried the Royal Docks and Millwall Dock and I have to say it is very enjoyable. I have been told St Andrews Lake in Rochester is an excellent venue. Unlike a swimming pool, packed with people ploughing up and down, the docks are massive so there is tonnes of space. The swimmers look like little dots in the distance. When you arrive for the first time you are given a wristband which you must take each time. It is used to log in and out, so the organisers know when the area is clear. You need to wear a colourful hat too, my is pink.
The Dash and Splash
I can’t remember who pointed this out to me (Jessica?) but I stupidly took up the bait. It sounded like a Park Run but starting with a 750 m swim. It didn’t sound too hard, so I logged on to book myself in. Luckily it was full up and a great feeling of relief came over me as I left my name on the waiting list. Imagine my horror when the following day they said I had a place! So, I arrived in my “board shorts”, as I think they are called, and an old pair of trainers only to find about 50 super fit swimmer all in flashy wetsuits many bearing the logo LFC or maybe LCF whatever that is. In any case, I was obviously out leagued and felt like sneaking off. Too be honest 750 m is about my limit and without a wetsuit the water felt pretty cold. My aim was to survive! There were three waves, I was in the “Casual Wave”, in my case the extremely casual wave. We were to start at 1905. I dived in in my swimming shorts as everyone else lowered themselves down the ladder in their cosy wetsuits. The very friendly organiser who seemed to know everyone, except me, shouted a few words of encouragement, and we were off. Suddenly that yellow buoy seemed rather a long way away. There was no way I was going to do front crawl all the way around without killing myself so I resorted to breast stroke with the odd bit of crawl to break up the boredom. Quite amazingly I wasn’t the last person, only because my breast stroke is not too bad – well compared to my crawl. Eventually, rather cold, but still alive I arrived at the steps to climb out. It took 29 minutes which is very slow, buy hey I was still conscious even though very wobbly.
I dabbed my wristband with the organiser and went to the transition zone where I fumbled with my shoes eventually needing to lean on the fence for support. My tee shirt got stuck to my wet body in a very weird way and I set off running the 5 k course around the docks. After 500 m I got into my stride and actually overtook two people!
I finally arrived at the check in after another 29 minutes to complete the course within the hour. I came 36th. Don’t ask how many people entered though!
Would I do it again? Probably, with a wetsuit.