There’s no water, which is a problem when you’re swimming.
We’re one hour away from starting and the tide is out. We could jog to the first buoy and walk half the course. However, as the beach is flat, it didn’t take long for the water to rise and for me to take off my trainers and put on my goggles.
By the time we start, as fireworks explode to our right blanketing the start in smoke, we actually have some water to swim in, which is good, as there’s 2000 people behind us in wet-suits.
The start area is crowded. Somehow we ended up near the front of the pack. The swimmers aren’t separated into different groups so it’s everyone for themselves as we’re herded into a big pen on the beach. It’s good to be near the start because even with only a few hundred around us the water is crowded for the first 10 minutes. Everyone is turning, kicking and trying to find their rhythm. 2,000 people means 4,000 legs and 4,000 elbows to avoid.
But the swimmers quickly become spread out. The swim course at the Long Course Weekend takes in two laps of Tenby harbour in a rough anti-clockwise triangle along the coast, back through some fishing boats, before turning back to shore for an Australian exit, which is not an upside down exit, but a short run along the beach before returning to the start for a second lap. I don’t know why it’s called an Australian exit. It should be an Austrian exit as you’re surrounded by land.
I’ve not swam 3.8 km this year. The longest I’ve swum is 2.5 km. It’s also a sea swim and the last time I swam in the sea I was sick after drinking too much salt water. I wasn’t looking forward to this but, while choppier than it looked, the conditions were good, I was able to settle into a rhytmn and I had the advantage of being near the start and getting the benefit of the tide. How can the tide be a benefit? Well, as it was coming in, those at the back has to swim further than those at the front who get the benefit of splashing through the first few meters and having more of the beach to run up for the Australian exit.
It’s not enough of an advantage though to beat Iain. As our GPS showed later, he was able to swim in a straightline, I, on the other hand, made at least three breaks for the open sea. My sighting is so erratic that for one leg of the swim it looks like I’m drawing a staircase on the GPS map.
I finish five minutes behind Iain. The second lap feels easier than the first though at one point I spot one man clutching the anchor rope of a fishing boat with an expression which said “I will only release this for death or a rescue boat – and I will gladly accept death than swim another meter!”
I know how he felt after needing the rescue boat myself the last time I tried a sea swim. It was at the Weymouth Half in September 2014. The organisers had promised a calm swim but the wind was in the wrong direction and the water was choppier than a hyperactive lumberjack. It was impossible to swim over the waves, instead I had to duck under and try and swim round while trying not to drown or get pushed back to shore. By the second lap I was vomiting from drinking too much salt water. By the final 400 metres I’d called over a canoe twice to give me time to hang on while I vomited over my wetsuit. The third time I called the canoe I knew the swim was over. I was too weak to keep fighting and I just needed to get back onto shore.
That’s why I was nervous about this swim. I hadn’t swum in salt water since and I knew I needed this swim as good preparation for Norseman. I needed to know I could swim the distance and that I could swim in the sea.
So, while I was feeling tired towards the end of the swim, I was also feeling happy as I knew the distance was okay and I’d overcome my nervousness about swimming in the sea.
Then I found out that Iain had finished ahead of me. And that I needed to win the run and the bike if I was to have any chance of beating him in competitions this year.