I was already booked on an introductory open water swimming session in July, but the promotion of the Great North Swim and ongoing mild weather made me itch to have a go. Luckily a local organisation, SwimYourSwim, had a session today and I was able to get time off work to leave early.
The traffic to Doncaster was terrible, to my inexperienced eye, and made the journey rather stressful. At least this confirmed to me why I live within walking distance of work. There was a bit of a delay in starting the session even after we'd filled in the usual forms and disclaimers. This made sense as it enabled the regular swimmers to get in the water as quickly as possible but really there was no need to arrive 30minutes early, as advertised.
Alistair got us to think about his 'pool' and how it differed from the local tiled, chlorinated swimming spot. This useful exercise highlighted the dangers and opportunities as well as the chance to relish the deceptively rural location of this 24m deep gravel path. After instructions on the wetsuits we were told about cold water immersion and how to acclimatise to the water. Actually, at just below 20°C the water was pretty mild.
Initially I certainly felt the reflex and could appreciate the danger but the process (and wet suit) were effective and eventually submerging my face didn't seem so bad. Gradually we made our way into the water with a few easy strokes to a buoy and then the next until I felt confident enough to get a good rhythm of freestyle. We'd been told to try lying on our backs, using the buoyancy of the wetsuit, to have a rest, or call for help if need be, and I was surprised at how easily I floated.
The water was reasonably clear and certainly in the shallows it was possible to see pond weed and the sandy floor of that part of the lake. Naturally along the way I had a mouthful and although I endeavoured to spit it out it tasted fine.
After completing 1 lap of the 200m course in sections we set off to do a second lap. Straightaway I went face-in for freestyle and only stopped at the halfway point whilst we regrouped. Sighting was a bit of an effort as it broke my rhythm. It wasn't clear that my unilateral breathing made me veer off in any particular direction as sometimes I was tending to the left, others to the right.
The session came to an end all too soon, really I could have gone around again, and that's a great way for a training session to end. Far better than to feel you've been pushed too much. Alistair and the club swimmers were very supportive and made us newcomers feel at home. I'd recommend the course but do remember to take some flip-flops along.