Dart 10K – September 22nd 2012

The Dart 10K has been and gone, and excellent fun it was too.  My decision to break the back of the journey the night before, and not to do the 4 hour journey on the same day of the swim was, in retrospect, probably a good one.  I had a comfortable night in a B&B in Taunton, and a leisurely 1 hour drive down to Totnes in the morning.

Parking in Totnes was not especially easy, nor were the traffic wardens especially able to use common sense.  There we go – won’t say any more.

Registration was busy, with a great atmosphere amongst the 800 or so excited swimmers.  The day was cool and fine: distinctly autumnal.

The organisation around the start was excellent.  Infact, the organisation of the whole event was very good, and the OSS are to be congratulated on this.  The four waves were set off at approximately 15 minute intervals, starting with the ‘leisurely’ group, then the mediums, the fasts, and the elites, all based on information provided before the event about pool times for a mile.  I set off with the 200 or so red hats in the fast group.  Lots of neoprene with only the occasional hardy skin swimmer (respect!).

They got even more respect once we had got in.  The Dart was not especially warm at the start.  I was glad to be in a wetsuit!  The brain-freeze only lasted a minute though, and I soon settled into a leisurely stroke.  Conditions in the first half of the race were excellent, and the views spectacular.  I concentrated on keeping the stroke long, and not going out too hard.  The bilateral breathing was working beautifully, as it did all day, apart from times when I turned it off when the going got choppy later on.

A couple of times during the race I nodded off in my own little zone and found myself separated from the other swimmers by 20 or 30 metres, particularly when tributaries came in from the right and I veered into them.  The boarder safety crew soon set me straight though, and with only a little swearing I headed back to the proper route.  More surprising was the amount of time spent swimming in shallow water so that I was actually touching the bottom with my hands.  At one point I was even beached on a corner.  Note to self:  improve navigation skills!

Feeding stations were found at 3.5 and 6.5 k approximately, where Lucozade and Jelly Babies were dispensed.  I was playing with the idea of steaming on through in pursuit of a good time, but in the ended elected to stop, take off the goggles, and soak in the atmosphere for a couple of minutes at each of the stations.  I learned that Lucozade leaves an unpleasant acid feel at the back of my throat, and that Jelly Babies taste odd mixed with salty water.

The last 3 k or so were the toughest, as the wind was blowing against the tide going out.  While the tide was conveniently assisting the swimmers, it got very choppy with the opposing wind.  I battled through though, and it was this part of the race when I felt that the training paid off.  I just kept going.  Eventually I wobbled out of the water in Dittisham, and unsteadily made my way up the beach to the timing mat, and to the reception area, where I proudly claimed my commemorative mug, filled with non-commemorative hot chocolate.

Once I freed myself from the constraints of the wetsuit, I realised that I felt fantastic!  Not particularly weary at all.  Could I have gone a bit faster?  Not stopped at the feeding stations?  Who knows?  Either way, I was very contented with my time of 2.32 which put me 78th.  What I didn’t realise at the time was that so many people were struggling, primarily with the cold, but also with the choppiness in the last couple of k.  651 finished.  I was lucky to not feel the cold at all after the first minute or so, but then I am blessed with a generous layer of ‘bioprene’.  Many people I saw at the start were not so blessed, and it is understandable that they might have struggled.

Will I go back next year without a wetsuit?  I hope so.  I seem to burn pretty warm when swimming hard.

All in all, a great day out in South Devon.  Lots and lots of people really challenging themselves with a long and hard swim.  It was much easier than I would have predicted when I first registered.  I am really happy that I pushed myself hard enough in training to be able to say that.

Next year, Windermere, Bridge to Bridge, Dart 10K again – no wetsuits allowed!

I also managed to raise £650 or so for Gt Ormond St – bonus!!  If anyone who sponsored me is reading – thank you very, very much.

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