I took part in Jane Tomlinson’s Swim For All at Pugneys Country Park in Wakefield on 10th July. It’s a new event, but attracted over 500 swimmers, completing (not competing – this was an event for everyone, so there were no winners) 500m and 1500m heats.
The Swim For All will become part of a series of events organised to continue the work of Jane Tomlinson, a Yorkshire woman who raised £1.85 million for charity whilst suffering from terminal cancer. Jane completed full iron distance triathlons, marathons and long distance bike rides – so what better way to commemorate her memory than by motivating others to get involved with sport?
I also really like the amount of emphasis that is placed on these events being inclusive; I really think self-confidence is one of the main factors that stops people getting into running or swimming or triathlon, or whatever it is they want to do – I know it certainly was for me, I used to worry so much that I’d be last!
On the day of the swim, I would be completing alongside Garnet (the boyfriend) and my good friend Sarah – and this would be her first open-water swimming event.
I was dealing with a seriously bad hair day when this picture was taken – luckily I had a nice orange rubber hat to put on over the top of it.
The organisation of the day was fantastic – the swim was chip timed, and there were lots of kayakers out on the lake for safety – more than I’ve seen at any other triathlon. There was also a strong presence from Wakefield Triathlon Club, helping people in and out of the water – good work guys!
All three of us ended up in the same wave for the swim – the elite 1500m wave. This resulted in both myself and Sarah looking nervously at each other, her because it was her first time, me because I’m definitely not an elite swimmer. Garnet just looked a bit pleased with himself.
We collected our orange hats and timing chips from the reception (no queue, that’s organisation for you!) and got our numbers written on our hands in marker pen. We were due to go off at 10:30. The lake at Pugneys is shallow and warm, making it a great venue for an event like this. The swim set off from between two short jetties, which formed a holding pen when a rope was strung between the two. Our wave had about 40 people in it, and after a thorough warm up from an “activator” from Wakefield City Council, we were checked in and held at the start.
There was plenty of space, so I scooted over to the left hand side of the pen and positioned myself at the front.
It turned out we were in the same wave as Jane Tomlinson’s daughter. There was quite a lot of photographer attention on her, and Garnet comprehensively photobombed her. He’s the one with the beard.
The course was marked with buoys which you had to keep on your left hand side all the way round, with larger inflatable buoys at the turn points. Up to the first turn buoy, Sarah was right up beside me. I noticed she was occasionally breaking into breaststroke, and I tried to get up alongside her to ask if she was OK, but she was going too fast! I rounded the first buoy in her wake and didn’t see her again. Afterwards, she said she had felt a bit panicked at the start but at the first buoy she decided to “have a word with herself” and got into it after that. Mass starts can be very intimidating – I try to channel the adrenaline into swim speed to get me away from the pack!
I made a bit of a mess of my sighting as I was going around the course and ended up getting lost. In places around the course there were buoys on the left and the right as you swam and I think I looked up, saw the ones on the right, looked to the left, couldn’t see any buoys, and so headed off to the right. This turned out to be a mistake, and the buoys on the left were actually behind a safety kayaker. Ooops. After I realised I as being shouted at as I was going the wrong way, I got back on to the course – I think I might have swum about an extra 150m.
Must. Learn. To. Sight. PROPERLY.
I made it out of the water in 37:27 – hardly elite pace, but it’ll do – turns out attempting to do endurance sports with a hearty hangover will severely impair your performance. Garnet finished in 31:57 (also hungover) with Sarah just behind him – but without her timing chip! Think I might start using a safety pin in addition to the Velcro strap on the timing chips just to make sure I still have it at the end of the race.
Just to complete a lovely morning, the sun came out as we finished and we sat in the sunshine to dry off. We collected our race momentoes – a t-shirt and goody bag with the usual weird squished fruit bars etc. A pleasing addition to the goody bag was a chocolate Rocky bar – my mum always used to give me one of these after my swimming lessons when I was a kid – ah, nostalgia! As we were drying out, we all got text messages with our times – it was really good not having to wait until we got home to find out how we’d done.
We also let the puppies have a little swim in the lake after the race – it truly was a Swim For All!