Bantham Swoosh – Sat 6th July 2019

12th September 2019

6km, open water. Current assisted.

Amazingly, I didn’t even blog much here about this at the time, yet it was a most enjoyable event, in the most excellent company of some local fellow open-water swimmers.  My entry had been confirmed very late, and other activities meant that I only managed 12 miles of training, fortunately most of it in open water.

This is an edited version of a blog I wrote elsewhere – no extra photos I didn’t even wear a watch.

This year Mr, Jet and I took our tent ‘big blue’ and joined the other Fetchies camping in a field at Bantham in Devon. Unusually we took too much kit and had to lug it from the car park. I’ll know better if I do the event again.

864-ish swimmers today, and enough safety people on paddle-boards and surfboards to check that every one of us was safe and headed in the right direction. Superb organisation.

We had agreed not to try to keep together in the water as we swim at different speeds, and one yellow hat among hundreds looks much like another! We stood together for the inaudible safety briefing then wished each other a good swim, with many fishy puns from K, which helped to settle the nerves, and prepared to set off.

I watched K, E and N join the middle wave of starters. They said S had moved to the rear of the pack but I couldn’t find her. As a newbie I chose to start at the back.

There was one woman who had determined to be the last one into the water, so she and I, both in our wetsuits, stood on the jetty with four men ‘skins’ swimmers behind us. I think they might have been the equivalent of tailwalkers. The official photographer clicked with phone and SLR and then it was time to go.

I’d chosen to go barefoot rather than add another layer to the unnecessary (but mandatory) insulation provided by my wetsuit, which was a good decision. It was a very hot day, the water must have been in the high teens, and I’d been worried about getting overheated on the swim. The water was around 15 degrees, and I  was just OK, although on a couple of occasions I pulled the neck of the suit to get more water through it to cool down.

The tide was retreating fast so I had the benefit of the river current and the tide from quite early on. The water was very shallow and for much of the early part of the course it was possible to stand up, even for me! Lots of swimmers took advantage of this, as did I when my hat and goggles started to peel off and needed adjustment. It was in the muddy bit though and the squelch between my toes wasn’t something to savour or prolong. Who knows what lives in there! Weaver fish?

Starting at the back meant I passed quite a few slower swimmers and found myself targeting individuals to ‘pick off’ throughout the race. It was a deliberate tactic, and the right decision, because I wanted to start slowly and not race away then feel exhausted, and it boosted my confidence to be overtaking people.

The first tributary is muddy, murky and slightly salty, but we then joined the main part of the river, and I found myself swimming (breaststroke) through a lot of surface debris, mostly foliage and weed. It soon cleared and became much more interesting and comfortable. Back to front crawl.

We switched sides of the river a few times, swimming over sandbanks from one channel to another to stay with the faster current. As the water cleared I was able to see fish swimming across my path, crabs running along the sandy river bed, muscles/oysters(?) on some rocks and even a jellyfish float past underneath me – there are advantages to wearing a wetsuit! I even spotted the ‘oldest water skiing club’ sign and the samphire beds.

Much of the river bank was heavily wooded and I found it impossible to know how long I had been swimming, or how far I’d travelled, but I did notice that the scenery was passing faster than usual, thanks to help from the retreating tide. The occasional seaweed plants were trailing in the direction of the exiting water and whenever I looked up I could see the yellow hats ahead of me and the safety crew on each side so spotting was very easy and I never struggled to identify the route.

The water speeded up until I could see grains of sand being bowled along the bottom; I saw Bantham village, then the boats, and suddenly the swim was coming to a close. The pink boathouse, the swoosh and then there were marshalls standing on paddleboards directing us to the beach. Just like that it was over.

At this point I discovered that I couldn’t stand up for dizziness and spent some time on hands and knees in the water with a marshall holding my arm and telling me to take it slowly. When I said I was OK and tried to stand up he still held my arm and said he wouldn’t let go until I proved I could walk in a straight line. It was an effort!

I’d just convinced him that I could find the finish mat on my own when the shouts of the support group got through to me and I saw my fellow Fetchies and Mr waving to me, with Jet straining on his new lead to reach me. Pose for photo, stagger over the mat and then rejoin the group to wait for S who arrived a couple of minutes later. She had the biggest grin. :-)

… I’m home, sunburned, salty and tired. But fellow Fetchies, ‘I Swooshed’ :-)

Bib #90 , Female
Chip time 01:41:06
Finished 10.0 KM <— I think this is a mistake as my understanding is that the course is 6k-ish
Speed 5.93 km/h <— based on 10k?
Pace 10:07 min/km <— seriously current assisted!
Wetsuit Full length wetsuit
Position 525 of 747
277 of 444 women
5 out of 8 F61+

That’ll do.

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