Clevedon Aquathlon, Marine Lake, 2008

My second attempt at Aquathlon came unexpectedly after a speculative internet search on Saturday evening revealed an event within an hour's drive with an 800m swim and a 6k run - just what I need to get more open water and transition practise ahead of the Gower Tri.

Unlike the Bryn Bach affair, I arrived in glorious sunshine and a good mood - both factors helping to make it a fabulous event. The Marine Lake, recently restored, is a walled off section of the sea in a sheltered curve of the bay, with amazing views over the channel to the area where I had had such an encouraging race just four days earlier. Registration was easy and uncrowded, and only 20 or so were expected - in the event there were more like thtirty I think, most opting for the 400m/3k while I had decided to go long for the much-needed swim practise. The one-lappers went off while we basked in the sun for a couple of minutes, then we were in for a warm up and ready to start about 5 mins behind to avoid congestion. First thing I noticed was the big-time buoyancy of the salt water, coupled with the flatness of a lake - this could be the perfect swimming envirnoment for skinny oiks like myself who sink in the pool.

Some had opted for shorts only on the swim, as wetsuits weren't compuslory, but I was well glad I had mine on! I positioned myself on the outside of the course for a slow-and-steady swim away from churning limbs and all that chaos, and waited silently for the off. A short count-down, then the hooter went and I was soon into my rhythm, enjoying the excellent sensation of being flat in the water for once and taking regular sightings to stay on course.

In the event, I reckon I wiggled around a fair bit, but the buoys were easy to see and the turns, for a slower swimmer like myself, were pretty clear. Having had fogging trouble before, and found the anti-fog spray not that great, I tried spit on the goggles and found it worked great! So great to have clear vision and a nice water temperature - this went far better than all my other swims, and gave me hope that I might actually get reasonable at the swim if I train hard and stick at it.

Pic shows Marine Lake at high tide - the weather was just like this for the race, but the tide was out.

I was a fair way back in my group (the second wave, or two-lappers) but I was happy just to be swimming steadily and avoiding disasters. Towards the end I chased the guy in front, kicking hard to warm my legs up for the run, but I couldn't catch him. My exit went ok, transition was a little clumsy (wetsuit reluctant to disengage from my left ankle) but no-one passed me on the lakeside, so it wasn't too bad. Once desuited I ran confidently out of the lake area, taking the steps two at a time, then dug in for a pretty hard run on the prom. The course undulated, and with such a warm Sunday morning there were plenty of dogs, pushchairs and families to dodge, but I managed to pass a few on the run and not get passed - always a nice feeling.

I was just catching a pack of four or so when the finish came into view, so my position was not that great, but I was well pleased with the swim and had kept my pace up ok on the run. More important, I'd been happy throughout the event, drinking in the wonderful views and the sunshine which helped to keep the exhaustion at bay (and not drinking in loads of the water, which is what I often do in the swim leg if I go off too fast). Turns out you can train any time in this recently restored marine lake - thanks to Marlens, who have campaigned to get it cleared and fixed up - so I may well be making a few trips over here. You can swim alongside the lake wall in kind-of-open water 12 feet deep in your wetsuit, for free, so that's a pretty good resource to have around.


Next up in my 40 races for the year (well, that's the target anyway) are the Tintern Trot and Gower Tri.

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