Last Sunday morning at 2:30am I (Manda) arose to make my way to the annual Henley Classic. The race starts at 4:30am as the sun is rising. This sounds massively anti-social, however, it actually has the opposite impact and somehow results in everyone being really chatty and enthusiastic about the pending sunrise and accompanying swim.
I was in the performance wave, which meant that I would be in a male and female joint wave setting off just after the elites. My previous gripe with Henley swim events was that they tend to set the men off before the women at their races. For some women this is obviously preferential as it means they don’t have to deal with some over-enthusiastic men at the start lines. However, for me it often can mean ploughing through directionally challenged men (note: I’m aware women are equally directionally challenged) so the performance wave is perfect, even if I couldn’t remember voluntarily entering it!
I started near the front of the wave so there were a few moments near the beginning where I couldn’t stroke as I was sandwiched between 2 people, but it soon cleared and I was swimming side by side another female. After about 1.5km of the 2.1km swim, she either put in a little spurt or I had a mid-race nap (I know which one is more likely) and before I had chance to follow suit she had 5 metres on me, which only increased until the end of the swim.
I got out of the water where my husband was waiting for me and first thing he said was “You aren’t even out of breath. Did you even try?” Now, knowing he had driven me to Reading, then got up at 2:30am to drive me, Kate and Pivo to the start AND was needed to drive me home, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to say what I was thinking. So he just got a “I am a long distance swimmer sweetheart..that was barely a warm up”.
We walked back to the race HQ (which is mid-way down the course) and had some tea, whilst we waited for Pivo. At this point I realised I was 1:30 slower than 2011 – cue another wonderful comment from the husband “Well you are old and hungover. What did you expect?”
Katie and Kate were still at race HQ as their alumni match wasn’t until 5:30am so I wished them good luck. After watching them swim past, we headed back to London and I was back in bed before 8am.
I am now wondering why I haven’t gone the last few years. Roll on 2016 and getting my time back closer to that of 2011… or maybe even beating it.