In the summer there is nothing better than being outside all day. Being near a refreshing body of water on the first forecasted hot weekend of the year doesn’t hurt either.
My friends Josie, Helen, and I signed up for the Jubilee River Swim a few months ago with the intention of helping our long(er) distance swim training and getting to be a part of a very cool event even if we weren’t quite ready to swim the entire 10k ourselves yet. After a quick call-out on Twitter for a 4th team member, we were joined by Krista who passed our rigours application process of owning a wetsuit and promising to bring something delicious for the post-swim picnic.
We made our way to Slough via Paddington from all corners of London early on Sunday morning and quickly registered at the race HQ. With our swim caps in hand we then realised we hadn’t quite figured out the logistics of a 10k point-to-point relay race and who had to carry what to get us, our kit, and our stuff to the finish. Luckily a guy beside us noticed our confusion and was on a team last year who said it’s best if we all went to the start and walked the route as each person was swimming.
After a quick bus ride to the start near the world’s biggest car boot sale (an endurance event in itself I guess) we made it to the riverside start just as the sun peaked through. Off went all our layers, except for Helen’s who was putting on more ready for the first leg of the swim.
A quick briefing by the race organiser (head down stream, get out at the weirs, and use hand sanitizer if grabbing some haribo) the Wave 2 swimmers were in at 10:30 and bobbing around trying to keep warm. Although scorching on the banks, the water was still a bracing 14.3*C. Helen kept a brave face on during the count down and then they were off.
We followed the swimmers along the bank, with Josie running ahead to get to the next change in time to change.
After probably the most epic transition in swim history, we dropped Josie into the river and collected Helen to continue on our walk to the next weir.
Each relay swimmer got their medal after their leg, which was awesome, except they were HUGE and it was very sunny. Helen’s tan lines from the day are great, and I think her neck is a little more sore than usual.
3.6km later Josie was picked up out of the water with a huge smile on her face. “IT WAS FUN, IT WAS FAST! I LOVE RIVERS!” Krista was up next and after a quick squeeze into her wetsuit she was off past the weir and into the river. I rushed ahead at this point, knowing she was a speedy swimmer and wanting to find a loo stop before the next weir!
The lovely people at the Jubilee River Riverside Centre let us use their facilities at the last transition and as soon as I had my wetsuit on, Krista came out of the water ready to pass the baton to me for the final leg.
I felt like a little bit of a fraud getting into the water with the 10k swimmers and “only” 1.5k left. Most of them were so happy to be so close to the finish and one guy even gave me a huge smile as we eased in and said, “We’re so close, let’s smash it!” Even after walking 8.5km along the river and desperate for a cooling swim, the water was chilly. I started quite fast just to warm up my hands and toes. As we swam under the first bridge of this leg I noticed how fast we were going every time I looked to the side to breath. Current assisted swims FTW! Out from under the bridge and we just had to swim straight, I didn’t do great with sighting as I kept veering to the right of the course and then getting worried I’d wash up in the reeds. Sighting a river swim was also a new experience as the turns were harder to judge and pick a point to keep on a straight line. It was still fun and since I was swimming the last 1.5k of the race there were loads of people lining the banks cheering for their friends who were almost done.
We swam under one last wooden foot bridge (so cool) and the end was in sight, we paddled to the right bank and were pulled out of the water by two very strong men and set up the steepest hill to our medals and snacks on the top of bank.
Joining in with the rest of my team filling up with flat coke and flapjacks we plodded back to the race HQ to spread out on the most comfortable grass (thank you Eton) in the sun.
Drying our wetsuits and digging into our post-swim feast we shared stories with our other friends who swam the 10k solo event.
I had such a great time swimming in this relay event with the best possible team and friends in the race. It was great to be able to walk along the river as our team was swimming and see everyone at every transition. Sometimes relay events can be a bit lonely but this one gets full social marks. The only time I was walking by myself I was actually walking at the same pace as this woman in skins was swimming and she had the most beautiful smooth swim stroke and it was just so nice to watch her gliding along the river. On the bank of each weir there were dozens of supporters for the swimmers and it made for a great atmosphere (and lots of people to help you zip up your wetsuit!) over the whole day.
I can’t recommend the Jubilee River Swim Relay enough for people who want to try an open water swimming event but aren’t quite up to the 10k distance yet. Yay for a summer of cozzie tans and goggle marks!