“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink…”
… because I can see a shopping trolley, a thin layer of green slime and an alkie having a piss behind a bin.
The River Clyde that splits Glasgow in half like a razor through a throat is not a river you swim in, not unless you have a radiation suit, a snorkel and bath of hydrochloric acid to scrub yourself clean. The River Dee splits Chester apart like a blue ribbon. It’s clean, genteel and demands that you dip more than your toes into it. It’s a proper river. Not like the Clyde, which, to Glaswegians, is less a river and more a naturally occurring accessory to murder.
Until three years ago I would never have thought of swimming in any river. I could barely swim in a swimming pool. But, after accepting Iain’s challenge to take part in Challenge Henley Middle Distance Triathlon and swim 1.9 miles in the River Thames, I knew I would have to learn to swim ‘proper’ as I only knew the breaststroke.
They say that before you walk you should learn to crawl, but, for swimming, before you crawl, you need to learn how to drown. Repeatedly. I spent three months just learning to breath out of the side of my mouth without swallowing half of the pool. It was slow going but I kept practicing and followed my coach’s instructions to the letter. Unfortunately, that letter was W for “wrong”, my couch was Iain and while he should have been teaching me my ABC’s he missed out the basics and had me working on a swim shape that made me look an epileptic squid. You’re meant to glide through the water. I sunk.
Lesson: don’t appoint a ‘coach’ who only learnt to swim the week before you.
By July, I’d started to feel more comfortable swimming and had entered the Deva Triathlon in Chester which involved a 1.5km swim in the River Dee. I was nervous. It was my first time swimming in a river and I wasn’t sure what would happen. Would I be able to swim in a straight line? What if someone kicked me in the face during the mass start? And, most importantly, would the water be as warm as a bath or as cold as a shower when the hot water switches off (which everyone knows is the coldest feeling in the world)?
I shouldn’t have worried. I started at the back, so avoided the fight for the front. I swam in a straight line, which was brilliant, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t always the right line…. and the water was warm. Well, warmish. Well, not cold. Well, okay, it was cold, but I soon adjusted.
The Deva Triathlon was the first time that I thought I would actually complete Challenge Henley. I’d survived the swim. The bike race was fantastic, with a trip to Wales, smooth roads, and largely open and traffic free roads, and the run was a very pleasant three laps round the river, a park and a suspension bridge.
In one go, it became one of my favorite races – and I’m looking forward to returning this Sunday for another go. This time, I know how to swim (not like Iain taught me), I know more about racing and I’m out for revenge. I lost to Iain last weekend at the Stirling Sprint Triathlon and this is my chance to even the score.
This Sunday, it’s Todd v Todd.