14km Bridge to Bridge Swim NON WETSUIT for Sarah

I love a challenge and this year was bridge to bridge. This is 14 k from Henley to Marlow. Last year I loved it but this year I decided to go non wetsuit. The training was fine at the lake and climaxing to just the cossie and I loved the fact no hassle of getting wetsuit on and off!! But they longest swim I had done was 5k and really did not know how I was going to feel with no buoyancy and tiredness.  In training, work and 3 kids you can only do what you can and that’s life. Packing the car for a family holiday straight after B2B was really not the best preparation but then did put my mind elsewhere. 

5.30am wake up and all family into car for the quick drive to Henley. Arriving and registering and sorting out tow float thankfully as husband to order about. I really should have read the info as standing (with my warm dry robe!!) I questioned why another non wetsuit swimmer had a silver band on. Oh this is proof of non wetsuit!! Quick find husband and missing part of the briefing to put my band on, I wondered why these were in pack!!
Into the water, a mere 19degrees (I think this temperature as I tried to ignore that part) I waited as long as possible to enter. But once in my goggles steamed up. Too late to dry them and it was the start. Of I went but bang goggles started leaking and couldn’t see. But had to keep going as I was in the washing machine start. After a k it had all calmed down and goggles adjusted.
The first stretched was 4 k. I tried to get into a rhythm and felt ok. It didn’t help a twinge of cramp in one of my calves. At a weir stop there was fluid, bananas, jelly beans and energy bars. A fantastic concoction of food. A silly mistake was eating jelly beans just before going back in. They stuck to teeth. No chance of trying to dislodge them and had to stick there and naturally fall off. The next stretches was the longest and 6k.
This was tough and after 2 k I was struggling. But it’s weird how it goes in cycles as at 3 k felt great and stretched away from the natural pod I was in. But them at 5 k I was desperate for a wee!! I had to stop and then catch up the pod again. This was annoying but it made the last k if this section something to concentrate on and get into a rhythm and chase people down.
Another feed stop and fuelled up. This one I was shoved a drink in face. Not quite sure why me but then I got hold of it and it was a warm drink for non wetsuits. Oh this was lovely and needed!!!
The next section was 1.5k although short it was hard as you got tired and wanted to get quicker as a short section.
The final section was 2.5k this was by his time around 1100 and most people are now on the river in their fancy boats. So us swimmers had to battle and negotiate them (a strange feeling with a large boat coming towards me at speed and there is me with just my tow float to say stop I’m here!!) It was also the engine fumes and worst the wash from them. This last section was just awful. I was exhausted. No buoyancy and arms like lead just had to swim each stroke and get there. I knew slower time than last year but I did expect it (only 13 minutes!!) but 3 hours and 19 minutes and it was done.
Seeing family there to see me in was wonderful. Fuelled up again with as much hot liquid as I could and quick massage I was ready for a family holiday.
If you are wanting a great race to push you this is one. It is extremely well organised and the support crew was brilliant. Most likely be back again next year!!
Sarah Hempenstall
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About Kate Wallace

I've always been involved with sport of some description, particularly adrenaline sports (skiing, boarding, kite-surfing, bungi jumps, parachute jumps, mountain biking) and endurance events (7 marathons, lots of halfs, Caledonian Challenge, London to Brighton bike ride, Moonwalk, played/coached rugby), but I'm relatively new to triathlon as it's actually taken the place of other sports after a couple of bad accidents! Although looking at the biographies of all you other Viceroys I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that all I've done are a few team traitahlons (running or cycling leg) and a couple of super sprints and sprints on my own, I'm hoping that being a Viceroy might persuade me that swimming in open water over 400m is actually possible. Read more about me in the May 2012 Triathlon Plus: http://www.triradar.com/2012/04/09/were-inspired-by-kate-wallace/