I started to write this blog yesterday but the words were not coming out as fast as the leftover Thames water in my belly from Saturday. Yes, I was finally initiated to the dreaded Thames Tummy and while it wasn’t a pretty 24 hours, I still think the Henley Swim Club to Pub was a great event!
I signed us up for this race last year as a Christmas present and it resulted in Alex getting swim cap #2! No pressure then. Being a swim to the pub we knew it was one of the more relaxed Henley Swim events and looked forward floating to the pub.
We took an early train out to Henley and explored town a bit before registering and setting up on the bank of the rowing club at the start. We found Claire who had cycled from London and debated the pros and cons of wearing a wetsuit for the swim. Pros – speed and floaty-ness Con – putting a wetsuit on in a 35* tent. I decided to brave the wetsuit and worked with my sweat to get into it, while Claire went for the skins option.
After a quick safety briefing the men set off up stream for 400m before turning around some buoys and an island and joining the downstream pull back to the pub. After watching the men go off (and Claire sneaking in the last half of her sandwich!) we realised the flip flop bucket had been packed up without ours. Luckily the event director saw our confusion and tossed our flip flops into the back of the leaving van – he saved our toes at the finish thank you!
As we got in for our Women’s Open Start wave we started to float back with the flow of the river, which was disconcerting especially when the start was delayed so a row boat on what could only be an urgent sundowners mission absolutely needed to get past the hundred or so of us. Once we started I felt pretty good but was clearly putting a lot of effort into swimming, knowing my sustainable pace wasn’t quite that high I tried to slow down a bit but the up flow was strong enough to make me swim harder than usual.
I’m not going to lie, I was exhausted by the time I go to the buoys. The only thing that kept me going was knowing the rest was downstream. I love downstream swimming. You feel like you are FLYYYYING with every stroke. Trying to keep my breathing in check and steady I started counting to one hundred strokes while taking some time each stroke to peak at the people on their boats watching us swim by.
With some nice open water as I approached the pub finish line, swam under the gantry, and walked up the stairs to be given my medal and a bottle of bespoke beer before I could even unzip my wetsuit. After a quick squirt of sanitizer on the hands I found Alex and we made our way over to the river taxi to get back to the start where our bags were waiting.
You could hang out at the pub in your wetsuit as long as you wanted and/or walk back to the club but for £2.50 we appreciated the quick lift.
Using the bottle opener medal I opened the beer for the walk back to the pub. Over burgers in the riverside beer garden we ran into other swimming friends and spent the rest of the night chatting until having to catch the (almost) last train back to London. The endurance version of this race might be called the Club to Pub to Off licence to Train as lots of people continued the theme all the way back to London.
It was such a great Saturday night just enough out of London to enjoy some wide-open space and water. The entry fee is a bit pricey for a 1.5k race, but it’s more about the entire day/night as an event rather than just the swim. If you’re looking for a special swim (or one that doesn’t start at the crack of dawn like most) I highly recommend the Henley Swim Club to Pub.