Sunday, 23 January 2011

UK Cold Water Swimming Championships

Off to Tooting Bec Lido yesterday to take part in the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships. It was a cold, grey morning as I trudged across the common towards the lido yesterday, and I have to admit that my heart wasn't really in it. This cold water business is not really my thing, although regular readers of the blog will remember that I rather enjoyed a chilly dip in Parliament Hill lido in December. Consequently, my swimming involvement in the event was rather modest - just the 30m freestyle. The rest of the time was spent watching the races and catching up with old and new friends from the training camp in Cork, Swimtrek, and from those summer weekends down in Dover.

I performed with my customary mediocrity in my race - I think I came about 13th overall in the heats, and consequently, was spared having to get back in again to swim in the finals! To be honest, although I enjoyed the event as a whole enormously, I didn't enjoy my race much. Like all the races, when the time came for my heat, we had to jump straight in, then wait, holding on to the wall with one hand, and with shoulders submerged. Once everyone was ready, we were counted down and off we went. It was only a few degrees in the water, and I found the combination of putting my head in and then sprinting quite unpleasant - much worse than at Parliament Hill, which had been colder, but I had kept my head up. My hands, feet and face quickly went numb, my whole body was stinging and tingling and the 30m seemed to go on forever; it's amazing that even over such a short distance, I could feel the cold sapping my strength and slowing my stroke. I was very relieved to have it over and done with when I finally touched the wall and hauled myself out; I grabbed my stuff and headed straight for the sauna, which was packed with bright pink swimmers warming up and chatting.

I was certainly relieved that I hadn't got carried away when registering and signed up for the 450m endurance race. For someone like me, with very few opportunities (and very limited inclination) to acclimatise by training in very cold water regularly, it would have been a very tough challenge, and not one that I think I could have completed. But many congrats to those who did it - amazing.

But the day as a whole was great fun - it had the feel of a country fair (a hog roast, children selling cupcakes, a hat competition), but at the same time, was run like absolute clockwork, with swimmers assembling, changing, being briefed, and being taken to the start in a slickly organised and friendly, well-practised routine. The whole thing was managed and executed by a large troupe of volunteer marshals and safety crew - many thanks to all of them, who stood around in the cold for hours keeping things running and making it a fun and safe day for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Hi - I was there too. A great event, and really well organised by all the SLSC volunteers.

    There are some pictures of the day at


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