Race Recap // Great North Swim


This past Saturday, I took part in the Great North Swim! I'd watched from the sidelines last year as Phillip, his Mum and Auntie took part around this same time last year. I'd been doing my swimming lessons for 2 years and had only learnt to swim in 2011. The thought of doing an Open Water Swim like them was terrifying but I was encouraged by Phillip to at least try some Open Water Swimming.. so that same year, towards the end of the season, I hired a wetsuit and did my first OWS. By the end of the season, I'd made the expensive decision to buy my own wetsuit!
Fast forward a year and I've come leaps and bounds in my swimming lessons, I can swim front crawl and breaststroke with ease(mostly..), I'd done countless Open Water Swims since the season had started.. and that once terrifying thought of getting into Windermere for the Great North Swim wasn't oh so terrifying.. infact I was quite excited!

We all picked the 3pm wave on Saturday. Me, Phillip and his mum all headed to Phillip's Aunties on Friday morning ready for the swim the next day.

The Day Of..
It was absolutely miserable the morning we woke up. It was pouring down with rain and terribly windy.. alot different to last year where it was pretty warm with no wind! The nerves kicked in slightly. We headed out for a run in the morning and then had a delicious brunch to fuel for the swim in the afternoon.

We travelled by car to the event, we parked in a Garden Center, we went inside to use the loos, not knowing how busy it would be at the actual event.. I had my Tri Suit under my clothes which may have not been the best idea as I had to completely strip off completely!
It was a long old trek with our swim bags down to the start area, I have a big Tri Bag and had my Dryrobe packed for after the swim, so it was pretty heavy on the shoulders. We scouted the start area once we arrived and then headed straight in to get changed into our wetsuits.

I hadn't used the changing rooms the year before, obviously, but was told the tents were alot smaller this year.. and it made it very crowded, with very little places to get changed, I almost tripped over several bags in the area.. and the changing rooms were heated too, making it disgustingly hot with so many bodies inside a tight space.

I got changed out of my wet travelling clothes into my wetsuit very quickly in order to get out. I then stored my bag in the separate baggage area.
Then it was pretty much time to get into the warmup area ready for the swim. I'd seen the water which looked very choppy and it had made me incredibly nervous.

We all headed into the acclimatization area about 10 or so minutes before the race start.. The temp was 15.6 degrees but felt WAY colder! I felt something floating about around my ankle when I got into the water and reached down only to find my timing chip had come lose and was about to come off. Phillip and the others had wandered ahead and fortunately, a lovely man helped me re-attach my chip correctly!

I was super worried about my chip coming off mid swim after that and was constantly checking up until the race start that it hadn't come loose. The warmup was done a few minutes before the start and did just the job, we had some last minute advice from Olympic Silver Medalist, Keri-Anne Payne.
My super serious.. Im so f*cking nervous face! xD
The Race..
The swim started at dead on 3pm. I stayed towards the back of the pack to let the eager swimmers run in and then walked on into the water. It was very crowded at the start, there was alot of touching and alot of kicking for a while before everyone started to spread out. I accidently kicked someone too close to me at the start(my poor toe is suffering atm..).
It was fairly choppy in the water and took me a while to stop panic setting in. I'd never swam in any sort of choppy conditions, I had no idea how to breathe properly with the waves, so it took me a while to get into a rhythm.

The first half a mile seemed to fly by once I'd gotten going. It was almost a straight swim down with a turn around at the other end. I kinda rode the waves as they pushed me along the course, I'd found a steady rhythm of breathing with the waves so I didn't really get any water in my mouth or anything.

At the half way point, however, I knew I might be in for a spot of bother trying to swim against the waves. I had a couple of moments in the water where sheer panic set in and the waves were crashing into my face and I'd get a mouth and nose full of water. I ended up resorting to breaststroke when it happened and calming my breathing before getting back into front crawl.
It's like where's Walley.. I'm in this shot! Find me! ;)
Before long, I could see the final two buoys to swim between - I'd be told to keep an eye out for them as they were a sign of being towards the end. I finally passed under the finishing gate and was SO relieved to be finished and out of the water. I headed up the ramp and spotted Philip, his Nan, and Uncle spectating. I stopped for a picture or two before continuing on to meet them. There was a gate ahead to have chips scanned, my chip didn't scan correctly and my number had to be manually entered.
My watch reported 42.13 for the swim(including the delayed stopping of my watch after pictures), so I thought I'd probably have a time of under 40 minutes but my official time on the website shows 42.16.. so I'm not sure whether my chip was working correctly and maybe my time only ended after it was manually entered, either way, I'm happy with the time I got and happy I even finished based on the swim conditions!
Overall Thoughts..
I'm super happy to have completed the Great North Swim! The actual event was really well organised, especially as we had extra swimmers on the Saturday due to Sundays events being cancelled due to the weather. Baggage was relatively straight forward(though bags weren't checked at all), they were put in sections based on surname and collecting bags was easy too, just collect your bag and show your number and baggage tag on exit to ensure you didn't pick up the wrong one.

The race pack afterwards was great, a couple of great snacks including some Bounce Bites and a Clif Bar(which was delicious!), a bottle of water, a breakfast drink and also a cotton t-shirt which I enjoyed and the all important medal! :)
I'll definitely be entering again next year(and hoping for some better weather)!

Question: Have you ever swam in choppy water before? Anyone ever done Great North Swim before?

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  1. Well done Laura! It's amazing you haven't been swimming for that long and now you are so good at it. I am not a great swimmer and I would never have a courage to swim in choppy waters.


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