Bling! Big beautiful bling! Anything is worth it if you get bling the size of your face at the end of it. That is one thing I found when I moved to London from Sydney: at most races here you get a nice shiny medal to celebrate your achievements. I ❤️ bling.
The Swim Serpentine this year was about getting not one, but two shiny medals on completion. I had originally signed up for the 1mile swim option, but when London Marathon Events (the organisers) announced the ‘London Classics’, I quickly changed my entry. The London Classics is a new Hall of Fame which recognises those people who complete the London Marathon, Ride London 100mile and Swim Serpentine 2mile. This was the first year of the 2mile option at Swim Serpentine, and thus the first year of the London Classics, and I wanted in! Although I completed all three races in one calendar year, the Hall of Fame is open to anyone who has ever finished all three races – there is no time limit.
My preparation for the swim was limited as I’ve been focussed solely on marathon training, but I was hoping that my past experience in open water and general endurance would get me around. I knew it was all about ‘completing’ not ‘competing’, and my main hope was to not get any cramps like I did in the Great London Swim a few months ago. I don’t why I got these in the first place, but hoped that by swimming steadily and without pushing the pace, my calves would behave themselves.
While waiting for our wave to start I met up with my friend Simon, and spent a good deal of time nattering away about pointless topics. We’d been able to get in the water in an ‘acclimatisation’ area pre-race, to get used to the 15degree water. It was cold, but I think standing around for 20min afterwards was almost worse: my feet were frozen and I just wanted to swim already!
Our wave started late due to the vast number of people that had to get checked in. Luckily Simon and I had made our way up in the pack and were able to get in the water fairly quickly. Surprisingly I didn’t find the water that cold when I dived in – the acclimatisation must have worked. I found a rhythm fairly easily and made my way around the two lap course.
2 miles is a long way, but there’s not a lot that happens during a swim other than occasional water swallowing and accidentally kicking people. After half a lap or so the field had spread out and there weren’t many people left near me. However, the start of my second lap coincided with the next wave of swimmers setting off, so I once again found myself surrounded by people: a lone silver cap amongst the pink. At first I thought this was good, because it can be lonely swimming by yourself, but I found that the people I swam near were very pushy near the turning buoys. I hadn’t had these issues on the first lap, and it was quite annoying to be swum-over at this stage in the race.
My tactic with open water swimming is to try and stick as close to the buoys as possible, in order to minimise the total distance swum (who knows if that’s legit or not). This time though, I often found myself being pulled out of line by the water and into the centre of the pond, which did make me slightly concerned about being told off or disqualified. It was worst around the 600m/2.2km mark, and I had to concentrate to stay on course.
By the last turn of the second lap my goggles had fogged up quite a bit (although had not leaked!) and I found it hard to sight off the dark-purple turning buoys. I don’t think this was the best colour choice by the organisers – the yellow buoys on the rest of the course were much easier to see. Once around the last turn I also had no idea where the finish funnel was, and had to stop and look around to make sure I hadn’t passed it. Of course, it was further that I thought it was, and on the opposite side of the course to where I was swimming. Because of the overlap of waves there was a lot of criss-crossing going on by everyone to get to the right place: there was one pink-hatted swimmer in front of me who swam halfway down the finish funnel before realising he was in the wrong place and still needed to do another lap!
On the whole though, the swim went well. I felt strong throughout and never got overwhelmed or tired from the distance. I didn’t wear a watch so had to wait until the end of the day to get my result: 1:05:29. Officially that’s a PB, although I know I didn’t swim as fast as I did last time (where cramps added minutes to my result).
And best of all: THE BLING! The Swim Serpentine medal is lovely and big enough, but the Classics medal is huuuuuuuge! Both were awarded on exiting the water, and walking around afterwards they made a satisfying ‘clank’ with every step. I think it’s great that London now has it’s own challenge, and I hope it inspires more people to take on the race trifecta in the future.