"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy Swim Run - Albufeira, Portugal - Jan 2nd 2019

Thanks to BIJOY for his photos (the good ones are his, others from my phone or Kokila's).

The day after our trail race I was out on the beach before sunrise getting ready for the Swim-run organised by Vasanti, a channel swimmer and devotee of cold water immersion. The water was placid and the sky perfectly clear, but both air and water were a touch cold for my liking so I opted for a thin neoprene top that I'd picked up for peanuts in Aldi and my new neoprene swim cap. I had a full wetsuit in my suitcase but as no-one else had one it seemed unfair to use it - some had shorty wetsuits or tops a bit like mine, others were going for the full skin-swimmer experience.

To encourage people to have a go, there were three options - all ending with a run of approx 800-1000m (2 lengths of the beach) but with the choice of a 70m, 300m or 800m sea swim. You could decide mid race, which is a pretty flexible arrangement, so I went for the 300 with an option to carry on swimming if I warmed up well and felt strong.

Once in the water after the 70m crew had set off, I got my head under and found it was OK temperature-wise. Someone said it was 15C and I imagine that wasn't far off.

Vasanti shouted to us to start and immediately I set off fast, probably anxious to warm up. The cool conditions meant my goggles misted up a little but I could still see pretty well. I felt like I was making good progress, but with no buoys to sight against and not much of a pack of swimmers to orient myself by, it felt a little strange. I found myself out on my own and wondered if I'd strayed out to sea, but a quick head-up showed me I was simply out in front. That's a first.

I kept going until I was almost level with the rocks at the end of the beach and managed to check that I was roughly in line with the tiny buoy in the surf that marked the turnaround, so I turned just ahead of Lukas and swam back at full effort. I had to move out from the beach at one point as swimming a straight line level with a curved beach had brought me too far in to the breaking waves, and that combined with the fact I had gone off at sprint speed made it an easy decision to head for the exit buoy instead of carrying on. My breathing felt strained and I had not really warmed up at all as I would have done in a full wetsuit, so 300m was going to be about right!

I stayed upright coming through the surf, which felt like an achievement, then pulled on trainers and glasses ready for the run. I started running down in the same diirection we had swum, only to hear a chorus of marshals calling me back as I had gone the wrong way. doh! That's the cold water effect - mental acuity definitely impaired! This mistake actually worked in my favour as it meant I started the run at the same time as Lukas and he soon pulled ahead of me. Having no chance of catching him I just ran steadily and didn't strain or tweak anything in the process. If I'd had a head start on Lukas I would have really raced it - he would still have beaten me in all probability but I might have come away with one of my old niggles aggravated and that's no way to start a new year.

So, I was happy with second place, happier still to have been first out of the water and most happy to be uninjured after 2 races in 2 days. The cold water was a challenge at the time but I felt incredible for the rest of the day.

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