Kate, who loves beer as much as she does swimming, found the Henley Club to Pub event and as early as May she was rounding the troops for an evening out in Henley…even though she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to come as it had potential to clash with her channel relay if it got delayed.
The swim is 1.5km in the Thames and the finishers receive a commemorative bottle of beer and the medal is a bottle opener.
With potential Channel relay clashes the only confirmed attendees 1 week before hand were me and Katie. 1.5km for us is short so after realising the F3 were doing a swim at Shiplake, Henley the morning after, we decided to enter that 1.5km as well. So that was going to be 2 swims in 12 hours. 7pm and 7am.
Kate ended up doing her Channel relay on the Monday prior so decided to come down and then with the imminent arrival of Bertha, our friends doing a 2 way channel crossing were told that they weren’t likely to go until Wednesday following week, so suddenly we had a few of us going down.
I decided to wear my BlueSeventy Helix wetsuit and was the only one of our group to not be in the “traditional” category.. call me a “cheat”, “wimp”, whatever… but sometimes it is nice to go fast.
The boys set off at 7pm from the rowing Club and then it was the turn for the girls to get in the water for our start. I positioned myself at the front – not something I tend to do, but with the knowledge that I was potentially going to have to swim through some male swimmers, I decided to try and limit the female swimmers I would have to pass. Jeremy, from Henley Swim, set us off at 7:05 and the race began.
The first part of the course was against the current, so it was good to know that things were going to get relatively easier once you turned the corner. 2 swimmers sprinted off at the start. I don’t do this tactic very well as I prefer to build over the distance, where perceived effort increases but generally speed remains consistent, so I let them go and didn’t expect to see them again. 300m later I was neck and neck and due to some careful kamikaze weaving through swimmers, I still managed to take the buoys tightly and realised the other 2 swimmers were no longer aside me. With open water swimming, without turning on your back, you don’t know where the other swimmers are. They could quite easily be drafting off you and waiting until getting close to the finish and then sprint past using the energy they have saved by drafting. This was always going to be a fun swim, which they always should be, otherwise what is the point of doing them right?, so decided to relax and have some fun. This fun manifested itself in playing the simple game of “pass as many people as possible”. I knew I only had under 1km on the home straight and it was with the current so had potential to go quickly, so I set about ticking off the swimmers one by one. Secretly my aim was to try and catch Brian and every skin swimmer I passed I was disappointed to realise it wasn’t him. (Turned out he got to the end about 2 minutes before me! – so my goal was unrealistic to say the least!!).
Before I knew it I could see the bridge and the finish buoy and more importantly the pub! So I hiked up the effort for one last time and sprinted to the finish – partly waiting for a female to pass me but it didn’t happen. I was kindly helped out the water by another swimmer and the Mayor of Henley was there waiting to shake my hand. I found Brian and his friend, then a lady came over and ask me if she could take my photo with the mayor as I was first female. How exciting! Sod any prize.. I got my photo taken with the mayor of Henley, full on garms and everything!
Shiplake was a great venue for a swim. We registered and headed down to the Thames, where I realised I hadn’t put in my contact lenses. As Brian summarised in a text to me “Amateur hour on the contacts Manda”. Just when you think you have this racing stuff down you do something like this but fortunately I had my dodgy prescription goggles with me.
F3 were putting on 3 swim races, 750, 1.5 and 3km. The 750m set off first and then the 1.5 and 3 set off next. I positioned myself as I do normally, a bit further back and Katie was directly behind me and waited for the GO. Then off we went…
You think it would be easy to tell which way the Thames is flowing and it was definitely obvious at the Club to Pub but constantly through this 1.5km – that was a pure 1 lap, I questioned whether I was swimming with or against the current. As the race goes on everything feels like you are swimming against the current (especially as we had swum the night before and even though we are used to longer distances) but then as the finish approaches it can mentally go one of 2 ways.. you feel like it is never going to come or you receive a boost from seeing the finish line and feels easy. Me and Katie had completely different experiences. She felt the last 200m, where you round the final buoy and turn back towards the finish, was the hardest, whereas I thought I was swimming with the current and it went quickly.
The race panned out that several swimmers went off at the start and me doing my usual plan of slowly knocking them off one by one. There was one who I couldn’t get but as we approached the finish he didn’t stop.. he was doing the 3k. So I exited the water as the winner of the 1.5k.
Thanks to Henley Swim and F3.
Swim: henley swim – club to pub and F3 henley 1.5
Cake: hummingbird vanilla cupcakes (thanks to Brian @brian_m_foley )