Report from Howard
Rather like public transport you seem to wait for ages then two come along at once. Here as promised is the second of my reports from the recent world championships, this time the aquathlon which was 1000m swim followed by a 5k run.
Several years ago I made the mistake of not doing an open water swim before I raced one. When I got in the water that time, not only was it like I had never open water swum before but like I had never even swum before!. You learn from such experiences and I vowed I would not make that mistake again. 3 days before the aquathlon and I had still not been in open water so I braved a non wetsuit swim in the chilly atlantic near where we were staying. It took me about 20 minutes to acclimatise, then I swam OK for a bit, then needed a day to thaw out and stop shuddering!
The day before the race I donned my wetsuit and went for the reconnaissance swim at the race venue in the river. The weather in Spain had been wet and cold up to the Thursday before the race so the river in which we were to swim was full of fast flowing chilly water. It took several minutes to get rid of the ‘brain freeze’ that happens when you get into water at about 11 degrees or less. Once used to the water I swam quite well for about a third of the route and decided there was no point in getting cold and tired the day before the event.
Come race day I was able to get into the water and acclimatise with a few others downstream before the officials decided that was too sensible and called us out of the water. Watching the other waves go there were quite a few who could not overcome the cold and current and had to be fished out, race over. I got into the water as quickly as possible to have the maximum time to acclimatise again and swam across the river to the race line. The gun went off as I got there and those behind had to swim across the current during the race.
I had finished in front of all this age group at the equivalent event in Denmark last year so my hopes were high even though the venue then was not as popular as this one. I knew straight away when a jetski scorched past and swamped me with waves that it was going to be a hard slog today. The wind was also up as the start was four in the afternoon so there was a troublesome choppiness on the water that made breathing difficult. I got into a reasonable rhythm on the stroke and followed the most efficient line adjacent to the marker buoys. The stronger swimmers who were coming across the river from behind kept interfering with the optimum route and upsetting my stroke. Others in front slowing down also impeded progress. The water was chill and the current was strong and it seemed a long way to the point where you had to swim across the current to get to the return route on the other side of the river.
To get safely round the turn buoy you had to go a bit upstream to avoid get tangled in the mooring ropes as they were up high at full stretch. Then the fun really began. The fast strong swimmers from the women’s wave caught me up as I made the cross river turn. A world championship race so they are not going to pussyfoot past you, they just swim over the top like you are not there. Try moving your arms to swim or keeping your head above water to breathe, pretty tough. No holds barred just to keep moving myself. I can only liken it to being in a washing machine for a while. Made it round the turn and found some clear water which was probably a bit out of the fastest current back to the exit but I did not fancy fighting for space all the way back with a bunch of Amazons. It was easier going back with the flow but still not an easy swim and the exit was a bit chaotic with exhausted old men barely able to stand up and strong women in their prime barging past.
I got out of my wetsuit fairly well but my recovering knee was not able to support me on one leg so I fell whilst putting my running shoe on. (my bum still hurts) put the other on whilst seated which is the text book way of not doing transition. Anyway up and away and onto the run. I felt the effort from the swim as soon as I got into my stride so I had to pace myself into the first part of the run. It was into the wind along the river to a turn point after a slight elevation and two laps of that. I had seen a rival I beat last year leave transition as I had entered and he was the one I was after. His run was a few seconds faster than mine so I was never going to catch him but I seemed to overhaul quite a few in the age group. It was hard to tell if they were on the first or second lap but I did manage 5th fastest run in the age group with 21.54 for the 5k that put me into 9th place in the category. 5th GB so no prequal for the next one. I am still optimistic of getting to it though as the conditions here upset the form book. They reduced the swim in the aquabike later by half. My next aquathlon is the european championships and has a swim of 750m in a lake so hoping to do relatively better, especially if it is a wetsuit. My swim here was 5 minutes slower than last year due to the conditions and my run about a minute down due to the chill and effort. Did not do what I had hoped because of the water conditions but must not grumble about 9th at the worlds.