With the triathlon season soon starting, the swimming lakes are starting to reopen and it’s time to take my pool-based training into the open water.
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the reopening of Trifarm after swimming there a few times last summer. It’s a great facility with an 800m swimming lake, 10km cycling route and 1km running track. Plus they sell cake and bacon sandwiches for after your swim!
I booked onto a coaching session lead by Tri ‘n’ Swim Well (love that name) along with Glen and my friends Hayley and Andy from Havering Tri. We were split into intermediate and novice groups and coaxed into the 13 degree water.
The temperature was definitely bracing and it took a while to acclimatise. We started swimming towards the first buoy straight away to keep moving and avoid getting too cold. It was Glen’s first time in open-water and he struggled to breathe as the cold water can be a shock to the system.
Our coaches instructed and followed us from a kayak, at least they got to keep dry and warm (ish)! We swam as a group to each buoy and stopped to listen to feedback and instructions. The lake is lovely and clean, and its shallow enough at the edges to stand up. We stood on the squishy, slimy lakebed to warm our feet and tried not to think about what might be down there!
Throughout the session we went through different skills such as sighting, swimming alongside a partner and stroke technique. The instructor complimented me on my sighting skills- it was nice to have some good feedback on my swimming! I picked up some tips such as sighting wide of the buoy when the wind is creating a current in the lake, so that way you will navigate on course towards the buoy.
Another challenge was swimming in a straight line- it’s so easy to veer off course without the lanes of a swimming pool to guide you. We swam with our eyes closed to see if we could stay on a straight path. As expected I pulled over to the right, my stroke is quite imbalanced and I have a stronger pull with my left arm. It’s something for me to work on!
Glen is a strong swimmer and soon shot to the front of the pack, once his body had acclimatised to the cold water. I find swimming in a wetsuit very tiring, the rubber sleeves provide more resistance and each stroke seems to take more effort. I was pretty exhausted by the end of the session!
We spent an hour swimming two laps of the lake, totaling 1600m (1 mile). Our group joined up with the novice swimmers, and we set off on a mass start to simulate race day at a triathlon. Drafting on the swim saves a great deal of energy (it’s said up to 25-30%) for the rest of the race. I swam behind Hayley and had the benefit of being pulled along in her slipstream!
Glen and I had brought our bikes to make the most of the session at Trifarm, so we set off on a ride around the country lanes. Our cycle involved a lot of stopping and starting as we were unfamiliar with the route and had to check the map regularly. We took a few wrong turns but it all added to the mileage. It was a hilly route and I pushed to keep up with Glen’s pace. We arrived back at Trifarm after 27.3 miles, and we did think about going for a run but decided against it!
I’ll hopefully get in a few more sessions at Trifarm before my first big race of the season. I’d thoroughly recommend Tri ‘n’ Swim Well sessions to anyone new to open water swimming. It was £17 for the session and they are running throughout the summer. They also hire and sell HUUB wetsuits, which are considered to be the best on the market.
Spending the morning at the lake, meant that I missed out on the buzz of spectating at the London Marathon. I had a lot of catching up and congratulating to do on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram when I got home!
Have you ever tried open water swimming? Did you watch the marathon over the weekend?