Full Moon Swim – Getting Cold in the Cam

Yesterday was my first night swim.  a Facebook shout-out a week before had prompted 6 hardy souls to meet at the Riverbank Club on the Cam under the full moon. Philip Hodges, Tom Reed, Bryn Dymott and the Helens Gibbs and Liddle and I changed into togs, hat and goggles, before heading off to the Red Lion in Grantchester in one of the cars.  We were to swim down from Grantchester down to Newnham, where we left our clothes in ‘Ted’s Shed’.

A short walk across the meadows at the back of the Red Lion car park led us to the river, lit up beautifully by the moon.  The cold wet grass made my feet cold, so as we entered the water at an entry point usually used by cattle, the water felt pleasantly warm.  This came as a shock; the blackboard at the Riverbank had suggested that the river temperature had dropped a further 2C since Sunday, and was only 11C.

As we waded in and took the plunge though, it soon became clear that 11C was all too accurate.  This was a new temperature low for me.  The others were well used to these sorts of conditions, but judging by the noises, starting off was chilly for them too, after a long summer season of warmer temperatures.

This was quite a social swim, lots of chatting and head up breaststroke, interspersed with stretches of front crawl or butterfly (!) to help keep warm.  The moon did its best to light the way as it beamed down through the hazy cloud, but at times it was very dark under the tree-lined sections.

The water felt very cold at the beginning, but soon felt incredibly refreshing, purifying even, smooth and silky against the skin.

It was about 1.4 km to get back to the Riverbank Club, which probably took 40 minutes or so (I didn’t time it).  Getting dry and clothed was a hurried and clumsy affair in the semi-dark shed, only partially lit by Helen’s head torch.  I just managed to get that all done before the afterdrop caused the shivering to kick in.

All in all, a very enjoyable evening’s swimming, embracing some colder water than I have experienced before, and with some very lovely people.

Dart 10K 2013 Finished

The Dart 10K was on Saturday, and it went pretty well on the whole.  As I explained last year, it’s not a ‘real’ 10K, as the swimmers are set off around slack tide, and get a considerable assist from the outgoing tide, and from the flow of the river.

This year I opted to do the event non-wetsuit, setting off in the same wave as last year, the ‘fast’ wave.  I am not sure I am ever going to fit in the Elite group, which contained some awesomely fast swimmers.

Here are me and my buddy Mike prior to the swim:

Is that a Go-Pro down your Speedos, or are you just pleased to see me?

Is that a Go-Pro down your Speedos, or are you just pleased to see me?

Compared to last year, the water at the start was like a bath, a good four degrees Celsius warmer at 16C, which seemed to hold fairly steady throughout the course to the finish at Dittisham.  There was a bit if argy-bargy over the first couple of hundred metres, but everything held up well, including the same pair of excellent Predator reactolite goggles I had worn in Windermere a few weeks earlier.  No fogging, and excellent visibility throughout.  It was a shame I didn’t make more solid use of that visibility as we will soon discover!

There are a couple of feeding stations on the course, at approximately 3.5 and 7 km.  This year the plan was to ignore both of them, and steam on through.  Lucozade goes really badly with salt water anyway so I was in no mood to stop for it.  The race flew by.  The stroke felt even, and powerful throughout.  Here is the GPS track of the event from my watch:

My Swim Route - some room for improvement

My Swim Route – some room for improvement

I had a bit of a navigation malfunction just before the second feeding station where I ended up heading up towards the creek.  This resulted in a 90 degree turn being required before the long haul down the wide, and an extra bit of swimming.

In the end I finished in 2 hours 20 minutes on the chip timer, and the Garmin suggests that I was averaging 21.5 minute miles.  I would normally expect to average 26.5 minute miles in salt water over this distance, so my true time is closer to 3 hours.

In the end I finished 62nd out of the 607 finishers, and was second fastest non-wetsuit swimmer, behind the very speedy Andrew Allum who finished in a shade under 2 hours – awesome swimming !  I knocked over 10 minutes off last year’s time, despite not having a wetsuit this time, so that feels like progress.

I am not sure I will have the time/money to do this event next year, but it was fun to do it this year for sure.  I have not swum 2 hours 20 minutes uninterrupted before, and on the whole it felt fine.

Well done on the organisers again on putting together a slick operation, and an enjoyable day!

Here are the Saffron Walden 4 apres-swim. (Jason Betley 2:20, Greg Lawson 2:54, Pete Wagstaff 2:48, Mike Ratcliffe 2:17 – 49th)

The Saffron 4

The Saffron 4

Dart 10K 2013

Tomorrow is the Dart 10K again.  A week or two earlier than last year, in the hope that the water might be a little warmer than last, when a lot of people were pulled in the first, coldest, third of the swim.  It will be interesting to see just how warm it is this year, as I am non-wetsuit this time.  I spent 45 minutes in the River Cam last night which has gone down to 14C from 17C only 10 days or so ago, and that was great.  I am hoping that the Dart is not at the 11C it was reputed to be last year, but if it is, then I will just have to get on with it!

Last year I wasn’t that impressed with the feed (small cups of Lucozade and a few jelly babies),  so this year I will just steam on through without stopping.  I am sure I can manage 2.5 hours without food so long as I am adequately carbed and hydrated……

Update after the event – J