After three months of training – largely consisting of me ‘re-learning’ how to swim the front crawl properly, it was finally time to literally take the plunge. I stood on the hill next to my wife, simply staring out towards the lake at Blenheim, shocked at the sheer distance between the launch pontoon and the starting buoys!
As you know, 400 metres along the lake was going to be a massive challenge for me. The truth is, I had never swum that distance before without either touching the sand in the sea or resting at the end of the pool for a few seconds at least.
There was no turning back now and in a strange way, that sort of comforted me in the midst of the palpable fear I was feeling. I knew I was a far better swimmer than I had been prior to my training but would it be enough?
I had learnt techniques designed to help me swim further, using less energy but I also knew that in open water there was the distinct possibility that all of that would disappear and it would simply be a swim for survival!
As it happens, that is exactly what happened as I set off after the claxon rang out across the water. Encouragingly, loads of other swimmers were doing the same as me, front crawl but heads out of the water. I later spoke with other inexperienced, open water swimmers who said they put their head under the water once and their brain to them, “Forget that!”
By the time I got to the end of the swim, I was utterly exhausted and grabbed the arm of one of the volunteers helping anyone to get out who needed assistance. I collapsed onto a nearby bench to stop myself from falling over altogether. After a minute or so, I began the 400 metre climb to the transition point to collect my bike and then spotted something that made me feel like it had been placed there just for me. It was a classic Winston Churchill quote, with his indomitable face above it, “Never, never, never give up!”
I was so relieved to have completed the swim. All I had to do now was jump on the bike and enjoy the fabulous views around the estate, and then grind out the run, which I knew would be a slow pace but definitely achievable.
By the time I crossed the finish line, one hour and eighteen minutes after I had made that first tentative stroke, with my name announced over the PA system, my arms in the air, I was one happy, somewhat emotional and definitely a bit tired man. I had done what I said I would do – Completed not Competed in my first triathlon and now I could relax!