You will have noticed that I mentioned one hundred and twenty swimmers in my wave and one hundred and eighteen who got into the water. The two who didn’t were a lady who was using a walking stick and was making her way slowly down the slope towards the water, and me. I had been hanging back with a couple of friends who were swimming skins and wanted to wait until the last possible moment before taking their coats off. At the start, they joined onto the tail of the wave but I hung back. I absolutely hate big starts where you end up swimming into people’s feet and have people swimming into you, and my timing chip wouldn’t start until I went over the mat into the water, so why rush? Much better to start in my own time and get into a comfortable rhythm in clear water.
When I finally waded out and put my face under to test the seal on my goggles, the water was opaque with mud churned up by everyone else getting in, making me even more glad I hadn’t rushed. Within a few strokes, though, it cleared, and I was swimming up the lake between moored boats, the orange tow floats of my wave disappearing into the distance in front of me and a lone kayaker following me at a polite distance. At this point I reminded myself firmly of Colin’s advice, and that of swim coach Dan: “Don’t rush. Don’t take off like a rocket, you’ll blow up later. Start as you mean to go on, a nice steady pace you know you can keep up.” And I also reminded myself of David’s words. As a kayaker, he is always being asked by swimmers “Am I last?”, and the answer is always, No, you’re not.
So I set myself not to worry, although I have to say, the lake looked awfully long and it seemed to take a very long time to reach the first marker buoy, half a mile across the lake. By then I would have expected to be settling into my rhythm, just enjoying the swimming and letting my thoughts flow with the water, but somehow it just wasn’t happening. Maybe it was the first half-mile diagonally across the end of the lake, when for some reason I kept swimming to the left and had to keep correcting my course. Maybe it was that mass of orange tow floats seemingly so far ahead. Maybe, more likely, it was having to keep an eye out for the marker buoys for the miles and feed stations. Normally on a distance swim I don’t think too much about how far I’ve gone and how far I’ve got to go, but when you’re sighting for the next buoy, it’s hard not to do that. It doesn’t help that my distance sight without glasses is not great. It’s amazing how far half a mile can seem when you’re thinking “Where’s that bloody buoy? I can’t even see it! Is that it? No, that’s a kayaker. It’s got to be a quarter of a mile now, hasn’t it? Where the hell is it? Is that it? God, that’s miles away.”