Tag Archives: open water swimming

Long Course Weekend: Swim

9 Jul

This weekend, Stuart and I headed off to Tenby for the Long Course Weekend with a couple of friends, Roelie and Sergio.

Originally, I intended to train for the full weekend as a precursor to doing my first Ironman next year. I’ve swim the distance before and have completed 5 marathons, but I’ve only cycled 100 miles (rather than 112 miles)… And I’ve not done it all back-to-back!

Anyway, as I’m 6.5 months pregnant, I’ve dropped my distances down to 1.9k; 45 miles and 10k whereas Stu is doing the whole event.

We arrived just after 3pm, so headed for a car park in town to go straight to registration. As we were entering the car park, I spotted former LRR Kelly and her husband, Ed.

The registration hall was quite busy and very hot. As I was in the queue, I spotted Roelie, so we agreed to meet up after we had finished registering. Roelie has also decided to do the 10k run, so she went to buy a coach ticket. I didn’t realise that I needed to buy one, so it was fortunate that we bumped into her.

Stuart pointed out that we ought to eat before the swim, so we went to a nearby bar and ordered some pizzas. I can’t eat nearly as much as I used to, so after I’d had half of it, I felt completely full.

Just as we left the bar, we spotted Sergio running down the street. We called him over and the 4 of us agreed to meet outside our hotel at 5:30pm.

Roelie led the three of us down a shortcut to the beach. It was quite a precarious zig-zag trail, so I was glad I had proper shoes on!


(c) Roelie Hempel


(c) Roelie Hempel


(c) Roelie Hempel

On the beach, we saw our first jellyfish of the day – a large barrel jellyfish. There has been a lot of talk online about how many would be around, but they don’t bother me as much as they used to.

I was a little nervous about the swim as the water temperature was said to be 14.5C and I don’t cope well with cold water. Also, I’ve had a bad cold this week, so I was worried that the temperature would set off my asthma and I would have to withdraw.

After we handed out bags in, we went down to the beach. We had expected to have 15 minutes for acclimatisation, but they were already telling people to head towards the start pen. As I was getting my goggles on, Stu said hello to Gemma Marshall. Gemma used to train with LRR and STC and is a fantastic all-around athlete.

Fortunately the temperature of the water didn’t feel that bad in the acclimatisation swim, which gave me a bit of confidence. Also, the sea looked calm, which was good as I’ve only swim 1.2k in open water so far this year.

There were huge crowds on the cliffs and beach and a massive sound system, which created a party atmosphere. We had to wait in the start pen for over 20 minutes, which was a little nerve-wracking. I chatted to some other women at the back of the pen, although it’s hard to have a conversation when you have ear plugs in and it’s very noisy!

The gun sounded and fireworks went off. For safety reasons, I started at the very back. This was a wise decision as Roelie, who started mid pack, said it was one of the roughest swims she has done in terms of being swum over and hit by other competitors.

I think my sighting to the first buoy was good – I noticed that most swimmers at the back were hugging the shoreline, which must have added distance and was also choppier. A few people were a bit disoriented and we’re heading straight for me, so a kayaker had to redirect them!

Unfortunately, there were a lot of boats in the bay and so on my way to the second buoy, I had to ask a kayaker to point it out to me – I turned out to be hidden behind a lifeboat.

After rounding the second buoy, the sea got much choppier and it seemed to take an eternity to reach the third buoy. It was also a lot busier. By the time I entered the water, the fastest swimmers were half way to the second buoy, so they started passing me. Stu saw me on this section, but I was focusing on ‘Just keep swimming’ as there was a 1 hour cut off.
Despite the enormous barrel jellyfish we saw on the beach when we arrived, I only saw a couple and 2-3 smaller (moon?) jellyfish. Everyone had said there were lots of jellyfish around, but it was a little overcast, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t see more.

I hadn’t realised that the timing was gun to chip, so my official finish time was 1:10… Starting at the back of 2000+ swimmers means a long wait. My Garmin said 1:01. I was a little disappointed not to have finished in under an hour, but I need to be kinder to myself at the moment.

LCW swim 1 LCW swim 2 LCW swim 3

Stu was waiting for me at the finish. His official time was 1:03, so he was interviewed by the TV crew as he finished with the elites.

Sadly, I don’t think Stu has realised just how well he did. He was in the top 10 finishers doing the full long course weekend, so was meant to have a full time trial start from a ramp for the bike leg at 8am. He was totally unaware of this as he set off for his 7:30am mass start. I hope that somehow someone told him! As for me, I have until 12:45 to wait for my bike leg.

The medals that finishers get are quite impressive. Gemma Marshall shared a fantastic photo of her medal – I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing it here:


Monday Morning Motivation – Bring it on!

4 Apr

For those of us who aren’t hardy enough to swim all year round, it’s almost open water swimming season – are you ready for it?

This Girl Can advert

Scilly Swim Challenge – the big day!

12 Sep
Osmo preload

Osmo preload

We’d got everything ready the night before, so just needed to get dressed and eat breakfast. I opted for porridge with protein powder (as usual), and a bottle of Osmo preload (kindly provided by ProBikeKit). The night before, Roelie and I had drunk a bottle each of Osmo preload hydration in pineapple margarita flavour. I could taste the pineapple, but hadn’t realised it was margarita flavour, so it was tangier than I expected. It is recommended that female endurance athletes drink a bottle the night before extreme endurance exercise and some more 30 minutes before exercise. I figured that it might be more than 30 minutes before I started exercising, but that a bit early would be better than not at all.

Unfortunately, we weren’t quite as organised as we’d hoped and when Chris, the swimmer in the apartment next to us, knocked on the door, we weren’t ready. Five minutes later, we headed down the path towards the beach, where everyone was waiting. The sky was grey and the water looked cold and uninviting, but it was too late to back out now. Jane, our host, arrived with her camera and took a photo of the group of us. I also spotted someone with a SUTRI hat on, so we went over and said hello.


Soon, we saw the kayaks appear, so we finished putting our wetsuits on and clambered down onto the beach. There, three flags were set up and the baggage boat had arrived. I took my bag over and was then asked by a ‘skins’ swimmer if I could deposit her bag – this made me so nervous as I was afraid that I might drop it in the water.

I’d made the decision to wear my new wetsuit, with bootees, gloves and two hats. I chose not to wear my neoprene hat as it’s just not very comfortable. (Later in the day I spoke to a swimmer who had a strapless neoprene hat. She explained that it was made by P-Bear, who custom make a variety of neoprene swimming hats – that’s now been added to my Amazon wish list!)

We were told that we would set off in waves with the red/fast group going first, followed by orange/medium and then the green/slow group last. I gave Stu a final hug and the adventure started.

Stuart's pre-event selfie

Stuart’s pre-event selfie

Swim 1. Bar Point, St Mary’s to Higher Town, St Martins (2 miles; 3.2k)

There was about 10 minutes between each of the waves, so there was plenty of time to get nervous. I tried to set off at the front of the group, but it was a bit like the mass start in a triathlon. The water didn’t feel terribly warm and I realised that I hadn’t used my inhaler – oops. I did my best to keep up, but could see others pulling away, so I decided to try to keep as many people within my sight as possible.

I didn’t really have a clear idea of where I was heading, but felt that following others should be OK. After we had got a little distance from the shore, I realised just how choppy it was. I felt like I was constantly being slapped by the water, so I had to change my breathing. For a short while, I was breathing on every other stroke, just to avoid being hit in the face.

Luckily, everything started to settled down and I swam for quite a long time. Sadly, I was approached by a kayaker and was told that I needed to be picked up by a boat. I had been aware that this was a possibility, but it was somewhat disappointing. The adverse weather conditions and the late start meant that it was necessary to hurry some of the group up. I climbed into a boat that already had two swimmers in it and was moved about 300m, where I was offered the chance to get back in to rejoin the other swimmers. One of the ladies was too cold and didn’t want to get in, but I literally jumped at the chance. Usually, I lower myself very carefully into water, as I hate being submerged, but I didn’t want to miss out, so I closed my eyes, held my nose and launched myself off the side of the boat. I then swam as quickly as I could to catch up with the other swimmers.

When I climbed up the steps on the quay, I saw my bag, but couldn’t see Stu or Roelie who had already headed off. I got my flip-flops out and put them on over my swim socks, which fortunately have a split toe. I then saw Bryony. It was nice to see a familiar face and she was incredibly positive.

When I arrived at the cricket pitch, people were eating and ranking everywhere. I had a small piece of cake and a veggie hot dog, along with a cup of tea. I then drank some more Osmo mango during exercise drink. Maybe technically I should have been drinking it whilst swimming, but I figured that between swims would also count as ‘during exercise’.

A bad picture of Stu at the cricket pitch

A bad picture of Stu at the cricket pitch

Roelie enjoying a cup of tea

Roelie enjoying a cup of tea

I removed my bootees for the walk to Lower Town; swapping them for a cosy pair of socks and some Skechers. The weather was starting to brighten up, but I wanted to stay warm.

On the way across the island, a car wanted to go past. Most people stepped off the road, and I managed to walk into a patch of stinging nettles – ouch! If I hadn’t removed my bootees, I would have been OK. I didn’t have any cream to put on my leg, but I figured that the cold water would be soothing!

Stuart and Roelie having a laugh in the sun

Stuart and Roelie having a laugh in the sun

Stuart and Roelie

Stuart and Roelie

The view towards Tresco fomr St Martin's

The views were stunning

Tamsyn and Stuart

A rare picture of Stu and I together.

View towards Tresco from St. Martin's

There aren’t many photos of me from the day, but whenever I wasn’t in the water, I had on my cherished Team SOAS beanie to keep me warm 🙂

View towards Tresco from St. Martin's View towards Tresco from St. Martin's

Swim 2. Lower Town, St Martins to New Grimsby, Tresco (1.8 miles; 2.9k) (lunch)

At Lower Town, I decided not to put my bootees back on as I’m never convinced that they help with my swimming, even if they do keep my feet warm. I think the problem is that they were a great bargain (£5), but I would probably have been better off with a slightly smaller size.

This was a tough swim. Every time that I thought I could see the beach that we were heading towards, we had to swim away from it and through some rocks. However, I managed to stay calm and reminded myself of Dory’s catchphrase: ‘Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…’

When we arrived at Tresco, the sun came out which was lovely. People started to warm up and as it was quite a long walk, there were a lot of opportunities to chat to people. I had a chat with the amazing swimming ambassador, Beth French. She explained that her next challenge is to swim the Seven Channels and that she is currently seeking sponsorship for this endeavour.

The weather was really grey when we arrived at Tresco and there were even a few spots of rain.

Tamsyn in the sea

That’s me emerging in the background

Tamsyn in the seaTamsyn in the sea

People were sitting around in the field by the community centre eating and drinking, but the mood was slightly more subdued.

Roelie and Tamsyn

Roelie and I enjoying a well-earned break

I didn’t fancy a pasty (and didn’t think there were any veggie ones), so I had a small cup of soup and a snickers. Then I rummaged around in my bag and found the nectar of the gods: Honey Stinger energy chews in cherry cola flavour. I was sent them by ProBikeKit and was keen to try them. They tasted good and were easy to digest. They also had the benefit of having caffeine in them, which helped to perk me up.

Swim 3. Old Grimsby, Tresco to Annaquay, Bryher (1 mile; 1.6k)

As the swim from Tresco to Bryher is very short, we were told that we would be setting off very close together. The green group went first. We were told what to aim for and were horrified to discover that the spectator boat had suddenly decided to start moving and was going through the pack of swimmers :-O It was only afterwards that we realised that this was simply our impression, and that actually it was because the current was so strong that some of us were pushed towards the boat.

I really enjoyed this swim as the water was very calm and the sun was out. It didn’t take long and we could easily see where we were heading. It was also nice not to be one of the last.


Yes, you are seeing correctly – the cakes are on the altar!


Swimmers in church

Sitting in church surrounded by swimmers in lycra and neoprene with swimming hats still on their heads is probably the strangest thing that I’ve ever witnessed

Stained glass window

The stained glass windows showed scenes from the Scillies with appropriate text, rather than traditional religious images.


Stu warming up in the sun



Roelie discovered that it wasn’t easy to remove her wetsuit whilst wearing her Garmin!

Swim 4. Rushy Bay, Bryher to Samson (no stopping) (1/2 mile; 800m)

In the briefing before this swim we were told that if we were considering not doing the long swim, we shouldn’t do this one as it would be difficult to pick people up. Lots of people decided to pull out and the green group ended up waiting for about 20 minutes for the bags to be loaded onto a boat, the other swimmers to set off and for the new spectators/retired swimmers to be picked up.

Weed Scilly

As you can see in this picture, there was a lot of long seaweed! © Joanna Clegg

I had a chat with the team and explained how keen I was to give it all a go, but that I appreciated that they had to consider everyone’s safety, so if I needed to be picked up, that would be OK.

The short swim over to Samson was fine. I crossed the sandbar with a skins swimmer and then we were into a rocky/seaweedy area.

Swim 5. Stony Ledge, Samson to Porth Conger, St Agnes (3.3 miles; 5.3k)

When we had crossed Samson, the water wasn’t deep enough to swim, but it was hard to see the bottom because of the long strands of seaweed, so some people tried to swim. I was grateful that I had my bootees on and managed to keep wading. It was difficult for the kayakers, so they went around the side. Unfortunately, we didn’t properly regroup before starting again. By this stage, we could’t see the previous waves.

It was getting quite cold and the wind had got up, so the sea became increasingly rough. I did everything I could to keep other swimmers in my sights. I managed to hang onto another swimmer, which gave me some confidence as I’ve realised that I really hate feeling alone at sea when I’m quite a long way from the shore.

I think I swam for 1.5-2km before a kayaker came near. I really struggle to hear when I have ear plus in and with the rough sea, I really couldn’t understand what the kayaker was saying. I thought they were directing me to the boat, so I swam over.

The people in the boat were surprised and asked me whether I wanted to be picked up, which caused a bit of a dilemma. There were already two swimmers huddled in the boat and I didn’t want to quit, but I had now lost my swimming buddy, I reluctantly climbed aboard, managing to severely bruise my shins.

I felt like a quitter, but felt slightly better when I heard calls go out on the radio to start picking up the rest of the green wave. We were transferred to the spectator boat, where everyone was very generous. We were offered dry robes, scarves, hats and various other items of clothing, which I declined as I really didn’t feel cold.

When we got to the quay at St Agnes, we were just in time to see the first of the red wave swimmers arrive.

I disembarked and found my bag. I was then asked to keep an eye on a swimmer who was crouched on the quay with a dry robe on. He was a skins swimmer who was shaking with the cold. I asked a spectator if they would be able to get the man a hot drink and they generously gave their hot drink. Unfortunately, the swimmer’s hands were shaking so badly that he was unable to drink it.

Swimmers on St Agnes

There were bags all over the quay

Some of the few swimmers who made it to St Agnes

Some of the few swimmers who made it to St Agnes

I put on my dry robe and headed up the quay to where the hot drinks and cake were. I then walked down to look for Stu’s bag to help him when he arrived, but I was too late – he was already there. He said that he had done 4km, but although his arms and legs were moving, the sea was so rough and the current was so strong that he had not been moving and had been fished out. I later learned that half of the orange wave had been picked up (Roelie was also picked up) and several other red wave swimmers. I was disappointed, but it made me feel less bad about being collected.

I decided to refuel with a few more Honey Stinger energy chews and some Osmo so that I would have enough energy to keep swimming. I was pleased that I wasn’t feeling too fatgiued. I hadn’t been sure of what my nutrition strategy should be, but everything I ate seemed to work well.

A decision then needed to be made about the final leg. I was determined to do my best to finish what I had started, but in the end, the decision was taken out of my hands. Some of the swimmers were close to hypothermia, the wind had become much stronger and the light was failing, so it was decided that it was not safe for us to try to finish the event.

Roelie and Tamsyn

I really need to work on my selfie skills!

Roelie, Tamsyn and Stuart

Selfie with Roelie and Stuart

I’m not sure that these pictures from the boat trip back show just how rough it was.

IMG_6264 IMG_6262 IMG_6261   IMG_6258

When we got back, we then had the trek across the island. We had forgotten to bring a torch with us, but were able to enjoy the sunset.


In the evening when I got back, I showered and then slathered on some Flexiseq sport. I wasn’t sure whether it would work, but my muscles and joints were aching and I knew I needed to be ready to swim again in the morning.

Swim 6. Porth Conger, St Agnes to Porthcressa, St Mary’s (2.2 miles; 3.5k)

I had been looking forward to celebrating on Saturday night, but a good night’s sleep meant that I was ready to tackle the final swim. I wasn’t aching particularly, although my legs were very bruised and my neck was chafed – I’m taking the lack of weary muscles as being a sign that the Flexiseq worked. Roelie also felt prepared, but Stu’s arms were shot from his valiant effort the night before. As he has a torn calf muscle, he is unable to kick, so his entire swim had been arms only.

Morning briefing Scilly

The morning briefing © Gordon Adair

Stuart accompanied Roelie and I on our walk to the other side of St. Mary’s. I had a much smaller bag than the day before as I knew I wouldn’t need multiple pairs of shoes or lots of nutrition. There was also a much smaller group of swimmers than the previous day; I noticed several of the slower swimmers had decided not to do the final leg.

We walked to the  quay at St. Mary’s and were loaded into a boat to go to St. Agnes. Stuart wasn’t able to come so he headed off towards the garrison to be able to watch the swimmers.

When we got to St Agnes, we put our warm clothes and bags onto the boat and got into our groups. As usual, the green wave was the last to leave

Waiting for the start of the final swim. I can be seen near the front of the group in a wetsuit with purple cuffs and ankles.

We were asked to try to stick together a group as much as possible. I went to the front of the group near to Beth French, in the hope that I would get a good start and would be able to stick with some of the other swimmers.

© Joanna Clegg

It wasn’t long before the majority of the group started pulling away from me. I saw two swimmers off to my left, so I decided to keep them in my sight and try to make my way towards then. Not long after, a kayaker pulled in front of us and pointed out that we were swimming as a 2, a solo (me), and another two with Beth and that we would be better off sticking together. This seemed logical to me, so we had to tired water until the other had caught up. We then set off again, but one woman decided to strike out on her own. A second swimmer and I tried to keep up but we couldn’t catch her. Unfortunately, this meant that we pulled away from the skins swimmers.

When we got into the most open part of the channel (where the Scillonian goes), it was again very choppy. I wasn’t really sure where I was aiming. I had been keeping an eye on the swimmer on my left, but I lost her in the swell. After a few minutes, I started to panic (if you’ve read any f my other blog posts about sea swimming, you’ll notice that this is a common theme – I really hate the feeling of loneliness when I out at sea). I knew I had to keep moving, but negative thoughts started to enter my mind and I was considering attracting the attention of a kayaker or a boat (although I couldn’t see them either). Just as I got to my most panicky, I spied the other swimmer who was now on my right. Her appearance was enough to calm me down a bitIMG_6293IMG_6295

A short while later, the two of us got to calmer water nearer to land. A kayaker gave us some instructions – I didn’t understand a word – and I set off with the other swimmer. It is so reassuring to know that there are other people around.

I could finally see Porthcressa beach in the distance. The sun was shining and the water was calmer and warmer. I knew it was quite a way off, but I started to feel much happier – the same feeling when you get to 23 miles in a marathon and you know you can do the last bit!

Stuart was up on the cliffs, so he took a lot of photos of the swimmers coming in.

We then got to a very seaweedy bit. The water is so clear by the Isles of Scilly, so I could easily see the bottom, even though it was very deep. This distracted me quite a lot as there was so much to look at. I saw lots of fish, a couple of jellyfish and some crabs 🙂

After a while, I got through the seaweed bit, and then I got very cold. I wondered whether I had pushed myself too hard and I didn’t want to be removed for the water, but it was the coldest water I had encountered during the weekend. I decided to try to pick up the speed in the hope of warming up. I started kicking quite hard and making my strokes as long as possible.


Finally, I made it. I went to put my feet down… oops… the deceptively clear water meant it was still too deep. I swam a few more strokes and then stumbled onto the beach.


I went over for a hot drink, and another slice of cake and watched the last swimmers arrive. It had been a tough weekend, but I achieved a seemingly impossible goal.

Tamsyn and Bryony Lishman

Celebrating with Bryony at the end


I watched the last swimmers come in and then we headed off for some more food!

When I got back, I had a shower and used some more Flexiseq Sport.

In the evening, we went over to St Martins for the celebration event.

looking back towards St. Mary's

This shot was intended to give an impression of how far apart the islands are.

Karma at St Martin's

Arriving for the party

It was really nice to have a celebratory drink and some food with everyone who had taken part in the event, but to be honest, we were all so tired that we wanted to go home and go to sleep!



the harbour at St. Mary's

The harbour at St. Mary’s

So, that was the end of an amazing week. Below are some images that I took on the Scillonian on the way back from St Mary’s to Penzance.

Tamsyn and Stuart

Selfie with Stu

Land's End

Land’s End

St. Michael's Mount

St. Michael’s Mount



When we finally got back into the harbour, there were sailing boats everywhere. The wind that had plagued us for the week had finally gone and the boats were becalmed.



A video showing what it was like for the fast swimmers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4Snz-Hf-pE

Write up on the event by Beth French: http://www.h2openmagazine.com/features/scilly-swim-takes-biscuitand-cakeand-pasty/#sthash.jUB75Jnv.dpbs



2 Sep

Well, the adventure has a started 🙂

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. I’ve been busy trying to get everything ready for work as it’s the start of the academic year, whilst also preparing for two conferences, and also getting stressed about the Big Swim. Disaster has also struck… I first bought a MacBook Pro in 2006 and was very happy with it, but in 2011, the battery overheated and warped the laptop, so I got it replaced. Sadly, my newer laptop has befallen a similar fate. It has overheated and has damaged the graphics card, so it has gone away to the Apple Store to be repaired. This is hugely inconvenient for many reasons, but it also means that I’ve been struggling to blog (I am in awe of anyone who regularly manages to blog on a phone).

Since getting back from Dublin, I’ve done nothing but swim. There have been no running sessions, and my cycling has been limited to my daily commute. Unfortunately, I was more fatigued from Dublin than I realised and I’ve had some awful swims, which has dented my confidence a little. I also went to a tri club swimming session with a coach I hadn’t met before. I knew I wasn’t swimming well. At the end of the session, the coach asked me how long I had been swimming for and I replied, “Two years”. His response, “Hmmm. I just don’t know where to start.” which didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

I sat down with my coach, Olly, and worked out what training I would do in the fortnight leading up to the swim. I decided to go for more pool sessions, rather than lake swimming as I’m more concerned about my speed than my endurance and I know I’ll be OK in the sea. Olly reassured me that I would be fine, but I know how slow I am.

Sunday was Lymington Sprint Triathlon, which was my club’s championship race. I really wanted to do it, but Olly firmly advised against it (“No!” Was his exact guidance), so I was sensible and just spectated. It looked like a lot of fun, with a 500m swim in the saltwater baths.

Monday was a Bank Holiday, which was great as it gave me an extra day at home, but it also meant that there was no Tri Club swim in the evening. As a consequence, Roelie, Stuart and I decided to go to Boscombe (where I recently did a 3.8km swim) for an hour of swimming.

I thought Boscombe should be relatively safe as it’s where sea swim events are held. There is a long promenade with some brightly coloured beach huts, and also a shower area. On Monday, there was a beach volleyball tournament taking place… However, it was raining, so most participants were wearing more than skimpy bikinis!

There were quite a few jellyfish in the sea when I last swam here, but the sea was a little colder and it was overcast, so I didn’t see any. Another positive, was that it was not at all breezy, so the sea as beautifully calm and still and it was easy to see the bottom. As we walked down the cliff path, we could see a couple of open water swimmers in the sea.

We arrived on the promenade by the lifeguard hut, which had red and yellow flags outside, however, the area marked out for bathing is only about 25m wide, so we decided to ignore it. As there were no waves, we knew that we did not have to go very far out to swim. We chose to swim parallel to the shore, so that if anyone had a problem, it would be easy to get back to the beach. I also agreed with Stuart that he would loop back to keep an eye on me as he’s a much stronger swimmer than I am. (Although I’m a terrible swimmer, I’ve always felt reasonably confident about my ability to float or do backstroke. However, the tragedy of Paul Gallihawk – a novice triathlete who drowned during the swim of his first race – has struck a chord and has reminded me of just how dangerous open water swimming can be). The positive of swimming close to shore is that there were no boats or jet skis around, so I wasn’t afraid that I would be run over and die like Kirsty MacColl (one of my greatest swimming fears).

I had realised in the car that I had forgotten my Garmin, but Stuart kindly agreed that I could borrow his, as I wanted to see what my pace was like.

We started by the pier and swam 500m down to the lifeguard hut. I had a quick look at my watch and was pleased to see that I had swum the 500m faster than in 2:29/100m (40 minute/mile). I wasn’t sure which way the current was going – this had also been the easy section during my last swim here. I turned around and saw that Stuart had joined me. He decided to do some lazy backstroke and I followed him. I didn’t think I was drafting particularly, but was amazed to find that my pace for the second 500m was 2:01/100m – that’s faster than I do in the pool!!! I did 500m in 10:04 🙂

I turned around and did another 500m, pausing briefly to smile and wave at another open water swimmer. At the lifeguard hut, I turned around and swam back, keeping an eye on Roelie who was swimming to my left. Roelie and Stuart stopped, but I kept swimming around in circles to get the final 10m that I needed to finish at 2000m. My final time was 45:23. I really enjoyed this swim as a I had felt calm and had not pushed too hard, but had swum at the necessary pace. Bizarrely, when Stu uploaded the data onto his computer, it said I had only swum 1999m, and we he exported the file and sent it to me, the data was different again. How can that happen?!

Yesterday evening, we drove down to Cornwall. There were some very slow drivers on the road (30mph in a 60 zone!) so we didn’t arrive until nearly 11pm. This meant we had enough time for a quick cuppa before going to bed. This morning we had an early start and were quayside in Penzance by 7:40am.


In the queue for the Scillonian, we met another swimmer. He said that he has swum 5km in a pool, but his longest open water swim is 1 mile, which has made me feel a bit better.

The weather was relatively good and the sea wasn’t too rough, but I felt really queasy, so I spent quite a lot of the voyage up on deck in the fresh air.

It was such a relief when land came into view!


There were also a few sailing boats.





After we disembarked, we walked across the island to our apartment. We spent a little while unpacking and then headed out to find some lunch. Fortunately, there was a cafe not far away, with beautiful sea views.



Then we went for a walk into town. We intended to go for a practice swim, but it had turned a bit cold and we were feeling tired, so we decided just to go to Co-op to buy some food for our evening meal and for breakfast. After walking a short distance, e found we had some followers!


So, we’ve had our first day on St Mary’s. Tomorrow, we’ll probably go for a short swim and then on Friday there is an acclimatisation swim where we will be put into groups. I know I’ll be in the slowest group, but hopefully there will be others who swim at my pace.


Reflecting on the forthcoming Scilly Swim Challenge

19 Aug

It’s only 2.5 weeks until my “A-race” (*it’s not a race, it’s a challenge!) and I’m starting to get nervous.

I met with my coach, Olly, today to map out my training for the next two weeks. There are quite a few things that I’d like to do between now and 5th September – including an RR10 (club race), a sprint triathlon and some parkruns – but I need to be sensible and only focus on training that will help me and not doing junk miles that will fatigue me. I’ve scheduled in several swim sessions per week and have cut right back on the running and cycling (although I’ll still be cycling to work every day). I also have a brand new pair of trainers, so I may sneak in a slow jog to try them out.

We’ve received an outline plan for the Scilly Swim weekend, which starts on…

Fri 4 September:

1400 to 1600hrs – Registration for all, Porthmellon Beach, Hugh Town, St Mary’s. Please have identification and sign the disclaimer. You will receive your swim hat, some goodies and entry number, we will mark your number on your ankle and hand.

1800 to 1900hrs – event brief and 1 mile acclimatisation swim from Porthmellon beach (please note this is compulsory and will give you a feel for the water and allows us to confirm pods for each swimmer).

Stu, Roelie and I will already be on the island, so making the registration session shouldn’t be a problem. It’ll also be fun to see the event swimming hat. I’ve got lots of swimming hats from events that I’ve done and I’ve never worked out what to do with them – I’ve got plenty in my training bag and will never get through them all. I’m wondering whether to turn them into bunting for my training room. Anyone got any good suggestions?

ScillySwim hat2014

I’m thinking of taking my old 2XU wetsuit to use for the acclimatisation swim. This will mean that my new wetsuit will be dry for the first swim of the day on Saturday. I have no idea where the acclimatisation swim will go, but I’ll need to make sure that I can complete the mile within 40 minutes.

After the acclimatisation swim on the Friday night everyone will be allocated a swim pod (either Red, Amber or Green) with matching swim cap colour and allocated kayak and safety boat cover. I’m assuming that red will be the slow group, which will be me… but maybe we’ll be green.

Sat 5 September:

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  • 0700hrs –  Meet at Registration point, Porthmellon Beach. 3.5km walk to Bar Point carrying swim equipment.
  • 0830hrs –  Swim Bar Point to  Higher Town (St Martins)  – 2 miles (3.2k). Walk to Lower Town.
  • 1115hrs –  Swim  Lower Town to  Old Grimsby  (Tresco) – 1.8 miles (2.9k). Walk to New Grimsby. (Lunch stop here)
  • 1345hrs –  Swim New Grimsby to  Church Quay ( Bryher) – 1 mile (1.6k).  Walk to Rushy Bay.
  • 1500hrs –  Swim to Samson (800metres). Walk to Stony Ledge.
  • 1515hrs –  Swim to Porth Conger (St Agnes) – 3.3 miles (5.3k).
  • 1800hrs – Swim to Porthcressa (St Mary’s)- 2.2 miles (3.5k).

That’s 10.8 miles/17.3k in total! I know it’s going to be really tough, so I’ll just have to do the best I can. I’ve read several blog posts and forum posts where people said they got picked up last year, so I think it will be surprising if I managed to complete the entire event. I hope this doesn’t sound defeatist – I’m just being realistic. It wasn’t long ago that I’d never done more than 2000m in one day. The toughest section will be the long swim from Samson to St Agnes. Even if I can’t do that, I hope I’ll be able to do the final swim to St. Mary’s.

Today the sea temperature off St Mary’s is 16.7°C (62°F). It would be good if it stays that warm, as we have been warned that it could be 13-15°C (55-59°F). Not everyone will be wearing wetsuits, but I think I’ll pack my neoprene gloves and booties in case I find the temperature too cold.

We’re expected to finish by 7:30pm. After that there will be a beach reception. I hope I have enough energy left to party!

Sun 6 September:

If the weather is bad on Saturday, the event will be moved to Sunday. In the evening there will be a reception on St Martins.

Then it’ll be back to the mainland on Monday, ready to head back to Southampton before flying to Manchester for a conference. I’ve found out that I’ll be near to the aquatic centre, but by that stage I may never want to swim again!

At the moment, I feel a mixture of nerves and excited anticipation for this event – I want more time to train, but I also just want to get started. Stu and Roelie are both much stronger swimmers than me, but they’re also both battling injuries, so I hope that they are fit and healthy enough to do the event… although if they slow down a bit, that’s fine too.

Salty Sea Dog Long Swim 3.8k

16 Aug

After getting up early to watch the Salty Sea Dog Triathlon and then doing a reasonably quick parkrun, I was feeling a little hungry by the time we had to get ready for the Salty Sea Dog Long Swim, but there was too much to do for me to think about eating.

I went to register, which is where a problem occurred. One the day bookings had been so popular that there were no timing chips left. The assistant explained that we could enter at a discounted rate, but that we would not get an official time. I needed to do the swim as I have the Scilly Swim Challenge coming up… but it would be gutting to have my second longest swim as another unofficial swim, even if I were allowed to wear a Garmin this time.

Fortunately, after a short wait, it was decided that some of the timing chips that had been used earlier could be reset – excellent! Onto the next problem – payment. Card payments are usually accepted at this event, but the event director who manages the transactions was currently out on a boat, rescuing some buoys that were floating towards France – darn! The events team were very trusting and told me that I could come back and pay later.

I went over and had a quick chat with some other members of STC and former member, Mike, who had cycled down to Boscombe and then it was time to get ready.

In theory, if I’ve swum 5km in 2:05, it shouldn’t be too hard to swim 3.8km in 1:50… but the 5km was in a calm lake and I didn’t have to sight much.

I headed down to the beach with Donna and Jamie, another STC member. Donna and I went for a quick dip in the sea and I was pleased to find that it was a lot warmer than the water in Dun Laoghaire last weekend. We then headed back to the start area where each person’s chip needed to be checked. My chip didn’t work, so I was asked to wait on one side whilst it was reset.

After my chip was reset, I headed over so that the first two buoys of the rectangular course were lined up in front of me. The tide had turned and had started to go out and the current was going to the east, so the first two sides of the rectangle should be the easiest ones to swim.

In the pre race briefing, we had been told that the 2.4km race would be 2 laps and that the 3.8km race would be 3 laps… but that if anyone who had entered the 3.8km event wanted to finish after 2.4km that would be fine. It’s the kind of comment that I don’t need to hear as I knew it would be easy to bail, but I can’t afford to quit right now.

Soon, the horn sounded and we were off. I waded out as deep as I could before I started swimming. It didn’t take too many strokes for me to get into a rhythm. the sun was shining and the sky seemed beautifully clear blue. However, it wasn’t long before I saw my first jellyfish.

When I did my first sea swim (at Weymouth last year), there were lots of enormous barrel jellyfish and I freaked out whenever I saw one and would start swimming away from it. At Fowey harbour swim last summer, there were lots of compass jellyfish, which can deliver a nasty sting, and around the back of St Michael’s Mount there were smacks of tiny moon jellyfish, so I’ve managed to get a bit accustomed to them. I keep reminding myself that if I have a wetsuit on, only small parts of my face, my hands and my feet are exposed, so I should be OK.

There were a lot of jellyfish at Boscombe, but I did my best to swim over them. I reasoned that if I were not going to hit them with my face then as long as I kept my arms moving for a couple fo stroke and didn’t flail my legs, I would be OK.

When I got to the first turn buoy, my sighting had been a bit too accurate and I got clobbered around the head by a lot of other swimmers who were trying to take the racing line – ouch!

I got into a pack of swimmers who were moving at about the same speed of me, which helped me to feel comfortable and confident. We stayed together until we turned onto the last side of the rectangle. At that point, I decided that they were heading for the wrong buoy, so I thought it would be stupid to follow them blindly. I struck out on my own and realised too late that I was heading for the buoy that signalled the swim exit – oops. I swam hard to catch up with the pack, but it tired me a little.

Part way around the second lap, I decided that I needed to rinse my goggles. The sun had started to go behind clouds, it wasn’t as warm and the wind was getting up, so the sea was a little choppier. I was finding it difficult to sight and thought rinsing my goggles would help. It was such a big mistake. I took off my goggles an started treading water, which gave me cramp in my calf. I put my goggles back on and had to swim with my arms only for a couple of minutes to ease my leg off.

Soon my leg felt better again and I was able to catch up with some of the other swimmers.

When we passed the exit buoy, everyone who was around me turned off and I was a little tempted, but I know I’m capable of swimming 3.8km, so I kept going. I had to tread water for a little bit as I tried to get my bearings, but soon I headed off again. I had glanced at my watch when the others turned off and saw that the time was about 1:05, so I felt confident that I could complete the swim in time.

When I turned out onto the long back straight, I had a glance around and couldn’t see anyone, but I pressed on. However, I was starting to get really nervous. It felt like I was a long way from shore on my own and I wondered whether anyone knew I was still out there, even though we had been counted into the water. In previous events, when I have been at the back, I have always been accompanied by a kayaker, but I couldn’t see any of the event support staff. The buoy also felt further away – was I tiring, or had the buoy started drifting? Then I heard a boat. Unfortunately, I have an over-active imagination and can be relied upon to fear the worst in any situation. Having tackled my fear of jellyfish, I am still afraid that I am going to be run over by a powerboat like Kirsty MacColl. I looked around and could see the boat, so I started treading water and waving. The boat started coming slowly towards me and the crew asked if I were OK, or whether I wanted to hang onto their boat for a bit. I said that I had panicked a bit, but that I was Ok now. They then asked me what lap I was on. Instead of sensibly replying that I was on my third lap, I said, “The last one!” I then set off swimming again.

The boat followed me at a distance to the far buoy and then sped off, so I was alone again… fortunately, a kayaker soon started paddling over. I decided that if the kayaker were paddling by me then they would probably let me know if I were swimming in completely the wrong direction, so I decided to focus on trying to swim as quickly as I could against the current, so that I wouldn’t miss the cut off.

Finally, I got to the turn buoy and swam as quickly as I could towards the shore. The water seemed a bit churned up and murky, but I knew I had to ignore it and press on.

I waded out of teh water and checked my Garmin. My official time for the 3.8km swim was 1:49:04. It was slower than I’d hoped for, but at least I finished before the 1:50:00 cut off (and I wasn’t last!)

Crazy Garmin swim data

Crazy Garmin swim data

My Garmin came up with some completely crazy data today – I swam for < 2 hours, but allegedly I took 58, 773 strokes – my arms must have been whizzing around like propellers!

This was a really good event, but I think I need to speed up if I intend to race this distance again.



Ironman Dublin 70.3 – The swim

10 Aug

We got up early and got ready quickly. Breakfast was just a Fuel protein porridge pot, but I was feeling so nervous that I didn’t think I could eat any more. We had agreed to meet Steve in the lobby at 6am, but we there ready and waiting by 5:50am. I was glad that we hadn’t stayed in central Dublin as we would have needed to get the shuttle bus out to Dun Laoghaire.

Preparing for Ironman Dublin 70.3

10 Aug

Stu and I drove to Holyhead on Thursday afternoon/evening. The traffic was heavy, so Stu did the first section on the motorway, and then I did the twisty bit on small roads in Wales. The scenery was absolutely stunning and several of the lakes and rivers we passed looked like they’d be great for swimming in, albeit somewhat cold.


We stayed in Holyhead overnight and then went to the ferry port in the morning. Steve texted to say that he was in the queue – we looked over and realised that we could see him. After we parked, we found a table on the ferry with enough room for us all to sit down.

I spy Steve and Suzanne's bikes

I spy Steve and Suzanne’s bikes

On arrival in Dublin, we headed straight for our hotel in Dun Laoghaire (Dunleary). The hotel had a lovely view across the bay, but we were not in sea view rooms. After a bit of time for unpacking, we decided to head into Dublin to register. An announcement had been made that it would be possible for run bags to be left in T2 at that time. In hindsight, we should have spent a bit more time preparing and doing that bit as it would have saved time later.


Steve kindly drove the five of us into Dublin. We parked up and went to register. It was a relatively easy process, although I was worried as Stu and I have not received English Triathlon cards yet and only had printed emails and screenshots. Fortunately, this was enough. I was surprised to be given a choice of hat colour – pink or white. I chose pink as I already have a hotel had (STC) and I don’t have a pink hat. However, I was a little frustrated that the women’s wave had been given such stereotypical colours. Stu got an orange hat and Steve was given a choice of two shades of green. We were also given nice rucksacks with our info in them and wrist bands were attached to us.

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After the (terrifying) race briefing, we had a look around the expo, but I was determined not to be tempted by anything. I liked the design of the official race kit, but I thought it might be tempting fate to buy something before the race, and also I can’t believe that any kit could be as comfortable as my SOAS kit. There were some good bargains to be had, but nothing was in sizes that would fit Stu and I – the items were mainly L or XL. There were also some cool MDot branded t-shirts, but I wouldn’t want people to assume that I have completed an ironman.

By the time we got back to the hotel, everyone was feeling tired and hungry. I had looked up places to eat in Dun Laoghaire and Olivetos, the hotel restaurant, had a good reputation and some positive reviews on trip adviser, so we decided to eat there. It was a good choice. The restaurant had a pizza oven and the pizzas were delicious. I ordered a chorizo pizza with mushrooms instead of chorizo as the other ingredients, including pine nuts, rocket and spinach, sounded good. I couldn’t eat the whole pizza, but I did manage to squeeze in some tiramisu!

Steve and Stu waiting on the prom

Steve and Stu didn’t seem too impressed by our antics on the beach


Annabelle found a tiny crab

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T1 before the bikes arrived.

After eating, we went for a stroll along the promenade. The sea looked beautifully calm and the bay was quite sheltered, but I learnt at Weymouth just how quickly sea conditions can change. Steve and I went down to the water’s edge and dipped our hands in. It was a little cool, but didn’t feel horrendous, which was good.IMG_6026

On Saturday morning, there was an acclimatisation swim from 9-11am and bike racking was available for most of the day. We agree to meet the Cookes at 9am to stroll down to the swim area. I was surprised that Steve already had his wetsuit and dry robe on, as it was fairly warm.

Scotsman's Cove

Scotsman’s Cove


The small bay seemed fairly busy and a little disorganised. The buoys hadn’t all been put out yet and no-one seemed to know what was going on. Stu, Steve and I got ready and went down to the water’s edge. We were told that we couldn’t start swimming yet, as some boats with buoys needed to go out. That was fine. We stood at the water’s edge and my feet and ankles froze. I think the temperature was about 14C, but it felt much colder and I experienced real pain. If I had been at Lakeside, I would have walked away immediately. I spent a while wading in. Steve and Stu left for a swim, but I just wasn’t ready. Eventually, I took the plunge. I could feel my lungs tighten, but the water didn’t feel as bad on my chest as it had on my feet. I started swimming and was able to breathe, but my forehead felt very cold. I could only managed to breathe every two strokes.

Dublin swim

A slightky blurry pic is the only evidence of our acclimatisation swim ©Claire Cooke

After about six minutes, I started relax a bit and was able to swim properly. A couple of men who were in the sea chatted to me. One was the UK’s East Coast and was used to sea swimming without a wetsuit, so he was fine. The other chap was a local Irish guy. He explained to use about the currents and the tide times, which was helpful.

I quite enjoyed the swim back. The water was clear and calm… And it didn’t feel too salty. However, I got distracted  looking at the sea bed and managed to swim into a seaweed covered rock – oops!

After a single 400m loop and about 30 minutes in the sea, I decided it was time to get out. Although it had been agonising at first, I was glad to have the chance to erasure myself that I could do the swim in the morning.

Annabelle was playing with another little girl in the sea, but she didn’t have a swimming costume and had on knee-length denim shorts, so I offered her my swimsuit. She accepted it and was quite happy playing in the sea – she’s definitely made of sturdier stuff than me!

After the swim, we went back to the hotel to collect our bikes. Stuart had warned me on the trip over that he might not take part and I was already aware that if he started, he would probably only do the swim and the bike. Unfortunately, Stu found that he was unable to kick at all in the sea and he realised that if anyone else touched his leg, he was in agony, so he decide to withdraw. I think this was an admirable decision. If it were me, I would probably have tried to do the race and would have risked further injury, because I am stubborn.

I showered, sorted out my bag for T1 and headed down to transition. It was fairly quiet when we got there, so there was plenty of time to walk around and put our bikes in place. unfortunately, bike covers were not available and we were told that rain was forecast for overnight 😦


After racking up, we went back to the hotel before going to Nando’s where I had a really nice quinoa, avocado and sweet potato salad. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it much as I was really worried. When we had gone back to our room, I realised that I had left a few crucial items out of my T1 bag: towels, my protein shake and an inhaler. I asked Steve whether he thought I would be able to access my bag in the morning. He said that I might be able to get the inhaler added as a medical need, but that I might get a 5 minute penalty. This made me feel stressed, but it was too late for me to do anything about it. It was then back to the hotel for an early night.

My first ever 5km swim (technically a DNF)

19 Jul

Second event of the weekend for Team Smith was Carn Brea and Helston Inaugural Open Water Swimming Meet at Stithians Lake. Stu and I had noticed this event was taking place not far from my mum’s house in Cornwall, so we decided that we might as well take part before heading back to Southampton. I’d read in the rules that there would be a 2 hour cut off for the 5km swim, so I emailed the organisers and explained that I would be on the borderline for the cut off and might not make it. I received a really nice reply back that stated: “Please come to the event. It is very rare that swimmers are pulled out of the water unless for safety or medical reasons.” This reassured me that I could take part, so Stu and I both entered the 5km swim.

When we got to the venue, we collected our swimming hats and I realised that there were not many people doing the 5km swim (3km and 1.5km events were also taking place) – I think only 5 women had entered, and 3 of them were super fit 15-17 year olds. The race briefing was very detailed and strict with an explanation that there were be warnings shouted at 15 mins, 5 mins and every minute thereafter before the start of the event – there was none of the usual jokiness of tri briefings.

Stu and I then went to get our numbers written on our hands. We had been warned that each competitor would have to keep count of their laps and at this point I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed to wear my Garmin, which caused me a real panic as I never swim without it and can usually push myself to go a bit faster when I realise that I’ve been day dreaming. I was also told that one of my finger nails was too long and would have to be cut, which seemed a bit strange as they’re all the same length.

Stithians Lake

We got into the water and I felt much calmer as it was 19 degrees and although Stithians has a reputation for being one of the windiest lakes in the UK and the weather was grey and overcast, the lake was completely still.

27 of us lined up, the horn sounded and we were off. It was a triangular course and almost everyone seemed to have turned past the first buoy before I was even half way there, but I just kept swimming at my own pace.

There’s not much I can say about the 5k swim itself. The lake seemed quite clean, but is very deep, so there was absolutely nothing to see, which was a little dull. It was 10 laps of a 500m triangular course, so I saw Stu go past twice whilst I was swimming.

After I’d swum 9 laps, a kayaker came close to me, so I stopped swimming and he told me, ‘You’re doing well, keep going’, so that’s what I did. Finally, I finished my 10th lap and swam over to the pontoon (we had been told that we had to touch the pontoon to get a time) and then I swam to shore where Stu was waiting.

Everyone said well done to me and after a quick shower I headed back to registration for a free cuppa. Staff there were writing certificates and they were asking what to do about the people who DNF’d and at that point my name was brought up. I was quite surprised and said that I hadn’t DNF’d, and that I done the 5km. I was then told that as I’d only completed 9 laps within 2 hours, I was down as a DNF. This was completely gutting. I wish that I had been warned when I entered. A few minutes later, a member of the team spoke to Stuart and they agreed to give me a certificate saying 2:05, which is my estimated finish time, but that I would have to go in the official results as DNF as I was the only one in the age category and couldn’t be eligible for a prize. So, I know that I swam 5km, but I’m not sure whether it really counts because of the ASA rules (and I’ve no Garmin proof that I did it… although as a wetsuit entrant, we weren’t following ASA rules anyway).

5km swim certificate

The big positive from this weekend, is that I swam 7.5km in two days and have swum 11.5km this week, which is far more than I’ve ever managed before. Also, if anyone is ever in Cornwall, I can highly recommend Stithians lake as a tri venue – there were loads of cyclists from Trilogic, the local tri club, enjoying ‘cakey tea’ in the cafe there


St. Michael’s Mount Swim

19 Jul

Back in January, Stuart and I signed up for a 2.5km swim around St. Michael’s Mount in aid of the Chestnut Appeal, a local cancer charity. We thought it would be a good step towards the Scilly Swim Challenge and also an opportunity to go home to Cornwall for the weekend. We chose this event because the Chestnut Appeal is a men’s cancer charity that supports men in the south-west – Stu’s dad is a cancer survivor and my dad died of cancer.


The day of the swim finally arrived and after a morning in St. Ives, we headed into Penzance for a bit of shopping before travelling back to Marazion. We registered for the swim and got our numbers written on our hands: 26 for me and 27 for Stuart. We then had an hour or so to wait before the event, so we went to the Godolphin Arms, a nearby pub, to have a (non-alcoholic) drink.

The race briefing was at 5:30pm. It was relatively informal and we were asked to be considerate of swimmers of other abilities. Fast/competitive swimmers were asked to line up at the water’s edge, with slower swimmers a couple of steps back and the slowest swimmers a bit further back on the beach.


Last week there has been some concern about how rough the sea was, but it looked very calm and still as we were waiting, which helped to calm my nerves a little.

St Michael's Mount

St. Michael’s Mount is a tiny Cornish version of France’s famous Mont St. Michel. On the island there is a historic property that used to be a monastery and is no home to the St. Aubyn family. It’s managed by the National Trust and is a beautiful place to visit. At low tide, it’s possible to walk across a stone causeway to the mount, but it is cut off when the tide comes in.

tams and stu2

Stuart and I at the water's edge

Stuart and I at the water’s edge

There was a bit of time to acclimatise to the water and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite warm. Most swimmers had wetsuits on, but there were a few brave skins swimmers, including one lady who was sporting a fetching red polka dot number with matching lipstick!

tams and stu3

Stu and I got chatting to another swimmer whilst acclimatising

At 6pm, we went and lined up – Stu at the water’s edge and me a bit further back. The horn sounded and we were off. Marazion looks deceptively flat, but I was only able to wade about 5-10m before I had to start swimming. It wasn’t the usual rough triathlon start, but quite a few people ahead of me were doing breast stroke, so I had to watch out for feet, which is tough when you are also watching out for stray clumps of seaweed. Farmers regularly gather seaweed from the beach here to fertilise their fields – there are large beds of bladder wrack and my enemy, oar wrack, which seems determined to strangle me.

SMM swim

After the group had thinned out a bit, I really started to enjoy my swim. The water was calm and clear and there was a lot to look at underwater, including the cobbled causeway that can be used to walk to the Mount at low tide. I found that I was swimming a group with quite a few others, which was reassuring.

As we got towards the rear of the mount, the water started getting really choppy, and it was hard to see which way to go. We had been warned not to go too close as there are a lot of dangerous rocks, but I couldn’t see any of the safety kayakers who were meant to be guiding us away from the rocks.

choppy at the back

Choppy sea behind the Mount © Karen Wolff

I did a couple of strokes of breaststroke to get my bearings and felt a stinging sensation in my foot. I put my face back in the water and realised that I had swum into a smack of moon jellyfish 😦 They were quite small (7-8cm diameter) and very pretty, but I didn’t want to touch any more of them.

the view from the rear

It was a beautiful evening and we got to see the rear of the Mount © Karen Wolff

swim in

© Karen Wolff

There were some very large waves, which made sighting hard and my stroke became quite erratic. I was really glad when we finally rounded the corner and I could see the long harbour wall along the side of the Mount. I managed to catch up with a group of three local swimmers and although I thought I could pass them, I decided to save some energy and draft them for a bit. The sea is much deeper on this side of the mount, and although there was still quite a lot of seaweed it wasn’t possible to see the bottom. There was a schooner anchored just off the mount, which was interesting to see.

We had been told to head back to the slipway to finish the swim, but high tide was at 7pm and so it was really hard to see the slipway, so I decided to follow the others… But then I realised that their sighting was worse than mine, so I struck out on my own. After a few minutes, a kayaker pointed out to the others that they were going in the wrong direction, so they started following me.

Soon we could hear the cheers of the supporters on the slipway and beach wall. I got out of the water in 57 minutes and was handed a medal by a young lad, before collecting a bottle of water and a delicious Philps pasty – why aren’t pasties given out at the end of every race?!

Made it!

Made it!

tams SMM swim2

just finishing

The end of my swim © Karen Wolff


I really enjoyed this event and would strongly recommend it to others.