The second event of the weekend for Team Smith was Carn Brea and Helston Inaugural Open Water Swimming Meet at Stithians Lake. Stu and I had noticed this event was taking place not far from my mum’s house in Cornwall. We decided that we might as well take part before heading back to Southampton. I’d read in the rules that there would be a 2 hour cut off for the 5km swim, so I emailed the organisers and explained that I would be on the borderline for the cutoff and might not make it. I received a really nice reply back that stated: “Please come to the event. It is very rare that swimmers are pulled out of the water unless for safety or medical reasons.” This reassured me that I could take part, so Stu and I both entered the 5km swim.
Arriving at Stithians Lake for a 5km swim
When we got to the venue, we collected our swimming hats and I realised that there were not many people doing the 5km swim (3km and 1.5km events were also taking place) – I think only 5 women had entered, and 3 of them were super fit 15-17-year-olds. The race briefing was very detailed and strict with an explanation that there were be warnings shouted at 15 mins, 5 mins and every minute thereafter before the start of the event – there was none of the usual jokiness of tri briefings.
Stu and I then went to get our numbers written on our hands. We had been warned that each competitor would have to keep count of their laps and at this point I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed to wear my Garmin, which caused me a real panic as I never swim without it and can usually push myself to go a bit faster when I realise that I’ve been daydreaming. I was also told that one of my fingernails was too long and would have to be cut, which seemed a bit strange as they’re all the same length.
Starting the race
We got into the water and I felt much calmer as it was 19 degrees. Although Stithians has a reputation for being one of the windiest lakes in the UK and the weather was grey and overcast, the lake was completely still.
27 of us lined up, the horn sounded and we were off. It was a triangular course. Almost everyone seemed to have turned past the first buoy before I was even halfway there, but I just kept swimming at my own pace.
There’s not much I can say about the 5k swim itself. The lake seemed quite clean, but it was very deep, so there was absolutely nothing to see, which was a little dull. It was 10 laps of a 500m triangular course, so I saw Stu go past twice whilst I was swimming.
After I’d swum 9 laps, a kayaker came close to me. I stopped swimming and he told me, ‘You’re doing well, keep going’, so that’s what I did. Finally, I finished my 10th lap and swam over to the pontoon. (We had been told that we had to touch the pontoon to get a time). Then I swam to shore where Stu was waiting.
The low after the high
Everyone said well done to me and after a quick shower, I headed back to registration for a free cuppa. Staff there were writing certificates and they were asking what to do about the people who DNF’d. At that point, my name was brought up. I was quite surprised and said that I hadn’t DNF’d and that I had done the 5km. I was then told that as I’d only completed 9 laps within 2 hours, I was down as a DNF. This was completely gutting. I wish that I had been warned when I entered.
A few minutes later, a member of the team spoke to Stuart. They agreed to give me a certificate saying 2:05, which is my estimated finish time. I would have to go in the official results as DNF. I was the only one in the age category and couldn’t be eligible for a prize. So, I know that I swam 5km, but I’m not sure whether it really counts. Because of the ASA rules, I’ve no Garmin proof that I did it… although as a wetsuit entrant, we weren’t following ASA rules anyway.
The big positive from this weekend is that I swam 7.5km in two days. Overall, I have swum 11.5km this week, which is far more than I’ve ever managed before. Also, if anyone is ever in Cornwall, I can highly recommend Stithians lake as a tri venue. There were loads of cyclists from Trilogic, the local tri club, enjoying ‘cakey tea’ in the cafe there