I’ve never been the strongest of swimmers, but I really enjoy being in the water. I have been swimming since before my weightless journey and this has continued off and on as part of my training schedule. Open water has always appealed, and as I am sure you are starting to learn, I am always up for a challenge.
Some open water groups require their swimmers to be members of local tri clubs. Luckily at Chasewater, this is not the case, however you do have to register with NOWCA (National Open Water Coaching Association). This is a great organisation that ensure the quality and safety of the clubs and lakes that are registered with them. A years membership costs just £10.00!
Chase Open Water Training are the organisation that run the swimming over at Chasewater. I don’t like going into new things totally blind, so I have been speaking with one of their instructors via Facebook for the past few days. This meant I had a feel for the group, and what I was letting myself in for. They run 2 sessions one on a Thursday evening and a second at 7.30am on a Saturday morning. As I have to fit these things around my shift patterns, I had a lovely 6am wake up call on Saturday morning – my day off!
They have fantastic facilities at Chasewater including changing, showers, a cafe, large car park & wetsuit hire, so I didn’t have to worry about anything. I wore my GoTri clothes as they are much warmer than my normal swimming gear, and I thought hey every little helps!
After arriving lakeside, I was suited up and collected my NOWCA wristband. A great system that scans you in to the location itself, into the water and then scans you out. Perfect for safety – but also it records your distances and times for your personal records.
It was then time to head on in! As a beginner I was asked to wear a very fetching bright pink float which attaches around your waist. This is so you can be spotted in the water, it gives you something to hold onto if you panic and stop swimming, and of course stops you from drowning! There is a wading area which myself and a few other newbies were taken to. Guided by a regular swimming and a volunteer who stayed lakeside. Slowly I started walking into the water so my body acclimatise, but it really wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. Although, I think my feet went instantly numb!
Top tip, you can buy neoprene boots – BUY THEM!
The trick I found was to keep your breathing under control. Deep breathes to stop the panic which worked a treat for me. We then had to dip lower into the water and let some into the wetsuit, again to help the body get used to the cold. But once again I was surprise, as it was not as cold as I thought. In our own time we started to swim out to the main course. I was feeling more and more comfortable every second that past. And the feeling of being in the open water is so invigorating. sharing the water with swans, and being surrounded by nothing but trees and fields beats any swimming pool any day!
I didn’t hesitate and headed straight for the main swimming course which is a total of 400m. Marked with large buoys and surrounded by men in kayaks and canoes. At no point did I feel in danger or unsafe. I thought I would struggle not having a wall to swim to, rest on or push off. But in honesty this is what made it a wonderful experience. You just have to keep swimming. There are no lanes, you’re not bumping into people, and there is room for everyone.
I managed to complete 1 lamp of the course and headed back to the shallow area to walk out instead of climbing out onto the pier. All in all I was in the water for 30 minutes. And I loved every part of it. I already feel confident to do it again and go straight for the course. I am aiming for 3 laps on my next visit.
After scanning out of the water, you receive an email from NOWCA confirming your times, distance, calories and water information. This is when I learnt the water was a ‘toasty’ 11 degrees! Apparently it gets warmer!!
I honestly can not recommend open water enough. I think it should be on everyones bucket list! The guys at Chase Open Water Training were incredible. So friendly and helpful, and made me feel really comfortable, confident and at home with them. A great sport and a great group of people.
The cost of the swim was £5.00 and the hire of the wetsuit was £10.00. So at £15.00 a session it might not become a weekly thing, but I will 100% be back. I’m even looking for my own wetsuit now!!