When my local lake reopened in March, I was straight in like a flash. The water was cold, at just 7.5 degrees, so in the first week I swam one 500m lap to get used to it. Putting my face in the water that week was one step too far, so it was a leisurely heads-up breaststroke to acclimatise, as it had been months since I was last there.
It was around this time that I became aware of Henleyswim.com and found their online cold water challenge - Brass Monkeys. I saw that if I could swim 1000m in water that was under 8 degrees, I could get the “Intrepid” badge! Loving as I do all things prize related, I set myself the goal of 1000m the following week, which went well. I was even able to put my face in the water for several strokes at a time on the second lap, which was progress indeed. Wanting to challenge myself further, I decided to aim for another badge. So, in week 3, I swam 1500m. By then the water was around 9 degrees (it had to be under 11) so that gave me another “Intrepid” badge to add to my collection.
I then started wondering about entering other swimming events, and that was when I found the Henley Mile swim. At the time, I had never swum a mile before in open water, so it seemed like an excellent challenge to aim for. I was still feeling fairly nervous after the two less-than-enjoyable triathlon legs, but knew I had plenty of time to practise. Within a few weeks however, I was regularly swimming 2km per session, so I also entered the Selkie Henley Classic, the Sundowner from Challenging Events, a sprint triathlon, and the Serpentine Swim in September!
The Sundowner was the first event I did on 19 June. It was at Ellingham lake, near the New Forest, and the aim was to swim as many 1.2km laps as you wanted – between 5pm and 10pm. I did a total of 4 laps that night which, with a bit of weaving to and fro, meant that I had become a half marathon swimmer on my first event! 3 hours of breaststroke however was really tiring and got me thinking about working on my front crawl next.
The following weekend on 27 June was the Selkie Henley Classic. This is such a unique event as it provides the opportunity to swim a 2.1km upstream section of the regatta course, before sunrise! It was very surreal leaving the Premier Inn at 2.25am and getting to the event village just before 3am. I’ve not willingly been awake in the early hours for a long time!! I was in the leisure wave, which was due to start at 4:15am. There was a slight delay, so we got into the water closer to 4:50am, but I had completed the 2.1km by 6:10am which felt amazing! It was a lovely event as there were so many other breaststroke swimmers, so I felt very much at home. My Swim Secure dry bag really came into its own this day as I was able to swim with my shoes, phone, and valuables, as the bag drop was unmanned.
After completing the Selkie Henley Classic, I decided I would like to start swimming front crawl. The wetsuit I wear is not designed for breaststroke, and my knees were starting to ache for longer distances. So, I returned to the lake, and decided just to go for it!! In all the weeks that I’d been swimming breaststroke, I never wore goggles. I didn’t need them in the freshwater, and I’d been working so hard on my breathing that wearing goggles often felt like an extra level of sensory deprivation. Mastering having my ears covered with a swimming hat had been challenge enough! But I managed 2km of the lake, doing front crawl and wearing goggles, which I was delighted with.
The Henley Mile on 11 July was a brilliant event! I’d highly recommend it. You were able to choose your start wave time, and so I opted for 11.45-12.15. This meant I could easily travel from Kent on the day. I managed to do the whole mile front crawl, in 38 minutes, and was absolutely over the moon!
I’ve got a Sprint triathlon booked at Dorney lake on 29 August, then my final event of this year is the Serpentine Swim in September. The triathlon swim is 750m, and the Serpentine is 2 miles [3.2km]. I’m now aiming to swim front crawl for both events, and that will be what I work on during my upcoming lake sessions every week. I think that what I really needed was just time in the water practising - to put all the elements together – wearing goggles, managing my breathing, working on sighting etc.
Next year I’m setting my sights higher and I’d absolutely love to swim the Thames Marathon, which is 14km, so I’ve got of work to do… but can’t wait to get stuck in!
Written by Lins Buck.
You can follow Lins on her Instagram account @lakelife_lins.