This is a Guest Post from Chris Thomas, a surfer who shares my passion for open water swimming!
What Swimming Means To Me
Swimming has become my main form of exercise over the past few months as knee problems have prevented me participating in many sports. It is a great feeling to jump into the cold water in the morning and is an excellent cardiovascular activity with minimal strain on the body. I found that as my fitness in the pool increased it became slightly boring just swimming back and forth for thousands of meters and I was looking for an alternative…
Open water swimming allowed me to escape the lines on the bottom of the pool and the smell of chlorine on my skin. It gave me a great sense of freedom being out in the ocean, allowing me to enjoy the coastline of the U.K. I found that there were many events held around the UK and the motivation of swimming or racing with others added to the excitement. I took the plunge literally and signed up for my first open water event.
British Heart Foundation Bournemouth Pier To Pier Swim 2010
The British Heart Foundation Bournemouth Pier to Pier Swim is an annual event held in Bournemouth between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers. It is the largest charity sea swim in the UK with 1200 entrants swimming 1.4 miles down the coast.
As I had covered the distance comfortably in the pool and sea in preparation, I was confident in my abilities. It was however my first mass start and the thought of 1200 people running into the water made me slightly apprehensive. In order to reduce the chance of getting kicked or punched in the face I approached the front of the group. Next to me stood the likes of Ironman triathletes and a Michael Phelps looking character. I started to breathe deeply.
Suddenly the horn sounded and I felt the people behind surge forward, making me sprint towards the water. I made an attempt of diving into the water trying to use some of the speed I had already generated and sprinted towards the first buoy. I felt bodies all around me, legs kicking, arms flailing and water splashing. As I made my way around the buoy the pack started to thin out and I began to relax my stroke trying to get into a rhythm.
The buoys along the beach indicating the course were fairly spaced out and the current and chop on the water made it difficult to swim in a straight line. I spent the next thirty minutes weaving in and out of the buoys, with the pier in the distance slowly getting closer and closer.
With 500m to the pier, I started to head diagonally towards the shore and increased my stroke rate in a final sprint to the finish. I felt the water slowly start to get warmer and then my hand touched the sand, I had made it. I stood up and started to run out of the water. I felt out of breath and dizzy after the final sprint, and the run to the finish was a blur.
As I crossed the line I was surrounded by fellow swimmers and handed a medal and applause from all the friends and families watching. It was a great experience, cementing my love for swimming in open water!