July 15, 2016
I didn’t enter the HOWL aquathlon until the day before the event as I wanted to be sure that my chest infection had cleared up. I was feeling more confident that my swim would be OK as I survived 1.9k in the sea in Tenby. Triathlons are off-limits as I’m a bit nervous about cycling with others that I don’t know well now I’m pregnant, so I was excited to be able to do the aquathlon.
Allegedly the lake was 22C, but I’m not convinced it was quite that warm. I have happy memories from a couple of years back. The lake got so warm that it felt like getting into a warm bath and no-one wore wetsuits. For this race, some people chose not to wear wetsuits. I thought the speed gains when swimming would outweigh the time it takes to remove my wetsuit.
I’d chosen to wear my 2014 SOAS Ambassador kit. It’s one of my favourite kits and also one of the larger ones that I own, so I thought it might be the best to accommodate my growing belly! I then roped in Jenny and Liz from STC to help zip me into my wetsuit, which just about fits!
I’d asked Steve Cooke from HOWL whether there would be time for a warm-up before the event as I need to acclimatise before taking part in any open water race. Steve had said that my best option would be to get in the lake as soon as possible, so I was first in the water! It wasn’t too bad, but a few more minutes might have been helpful.
The swim was 2.5 laps of the lake (750m). I knew I should be able to do the distance, but I’m also acutely aware that I’ve never been a good swimmer and I’m even less aerodynamic than usual, so I glide through the water with the elegance of an elephant. It was a floating start, so I positioned myself near the back, as I didn’t want to get kicked in the stomach.
I had thought I would see Liz from STC during the swim, but she was nowhere to be seen, so I assumed that she had a cracking race. (She later explained that she had only swum 1.5 laps, like some of the others). Liz and I usually swim at a similar pace and her wetsuit has a distinctive flower on its rear, so it makes her easier to spot.
Before the start of the race, I’d had a chat with the man next to me. He’s said that he wasn’t much of a swimmer, but I always take comments like that with a pinch of salt. It turns out that he was being honest. He was probably a slightly better swimmer than me, but my sighting was better than his, so I had a slight edge and was able to exit the water before him.
Swim time: 21:47
I briefly wiped my feet (and silently cursed for having forgotten to bring talcum powder to put in my shoes) and put on my socks.
Transition time: 1:16
I was looking forward to the run part of HOWL aquathlon. It consists of two laps around Lakeside (5km), which always reminds me of my first parkruns. There were slight changes at the end of the route as there have been some major building works at Lakeside. It is back to being a more appealing place to run. The trees that were cut down when a development took place next door have now grown up again. The run goes around the edge of the lake before a slight incline and then a run through a shady avenue of trees. There is then a (miniature) railway crossing before the back straight which is on a gravelled path. There is another slight incline to go up onto ‘the bowl’, where the grass is quite long. The next section has a down and an up before heading down again and across some more railway tracks before heading down onto a narrow path. There’s yet another small incline before an immediate descent and the path to the finish/second lap.
It was good to see a few of STC’s faster runners out on course. They were speeding past on their second lap as I was on my first. It was also lovely to catch up with cheery Liz. We had time for a brief chat before I pushed on.
Run time: 30:06
My thoughts on HOWL aquathlon
The marshals at Long Course Weekend were some of the best I’ve ever encountered, but the marshals at the HOWL aquathlon were also great. They were cheery and encouraging and most of them knew me so they were able to call out my name. 🙂
I was pleased that my run time was close to 30 minutes. Usually, I would expect to be several minutes quicker, but that’s very close to my current parkrun time and I can’t push as hard as I normally would. Overall, I finished 3rd from last, so it wasn’t a terrible night out. Sadly there were no split times for the swim and the run as I think I may have beaten several people based on run times. My best time last year was 46:37 – Swim: 20:22, Transition: 1:10, Run: 25:04, so my swim and transition times were reasonably close to the best I’ve managed.
There were quite a few entrants from Southampton Tri Club and many of them did well (with Sonia and Jacqui placing first and second in the Vet ladies category). The men’s category was tougher with entrants coming from as far afield as Weymouth (Bustinskins Tri Club!). Southampton Tri Club won the team event.
I loved taking part in HOWL aquathlon and wish it were part of a series. I’ll definitely be back next year and aiming for a PB!