A nice early start on a mid-July Sunday morning saw around 1500 people line up on the banks of the River Thames at Hampton Court for an iconic 3.6km swim to Kingston Upon Thames. The water temperature was a tropical 18.9C. Whilst most people had opted to wear a wetsuit I lined up with a couple of others in just my speedos. The water temperature wasnt going to be an issue and although there were around a hundred other people in my wave, the race was very much with myself!
My target was simple - to match or beat the time I did last year - 55:33, however last year I did the race with a wetsuit. Some people find that a wetsuit adds very little to their speed, however for me I fly with a wetsuit. Even with all of the training I have been doing this year, it was going to be a big ask.
We had 5 minutes or so prior to the start of the race to paddle around and warm up. I was a little worried that I would get cold hanging around in the water as I wanted to conserve energy for the race. I didnt need to worry though, my acclimatisation work throughout the year was paying off nicely.
We were called to line up and smile for the camera just before the airhorn sent us on our way. I had decided that I would not go for an all out sprint to get some clear water, I took off at a decent pace but wanted to ease into the swim. Others flew off all around me in what felt like a mad panic. After a few hundreds yards the field opened up and I edged over as close to the bank as possible so that I could follow the shortest path and also to stay away from most of the other swimmers. I find it hard to find a good pair of feet to draft off and prefer the challenge of doing the whole swim on my own steam.
I steadily increased my pace throughout the swim. As I passed the 2400m buoy I decided to up the effort further. Ahead of me I could see swimmers in my wave and some from the elite wave that had set out 5 minutes ahead of us. They were my target, rather than focusing on the 1200ms to go I concentrated on trying to catch as many people as I could. By the time I reached the 400m to go marker I was almost at an all out sprint. I saw a fellow non-wetsuiter from my wave just ahead of me so I upped the pace even more to catch him. With 200m to go I passed him and saw two more swimmers in front. I tried to dig in as hard as possible to swim them down, I managed to get just ahead of one of them as we exited the water.
I really enjoyed the race and had swam as hard as I could for the last third of it. Knowing that I couldnt have put in any more effort I hoped that I had managed to smash my time from the previous year. I glanced at my watch as I stood up out of the water and jogged to the timing mat - 57:05 - just over 90 seconds short of the mark....gutted!!
Well, at least I know what to aim for next year :-)