It was wet, windy and cold – it must be a bank holiday weekend and 9 brave kids and their parents travelled to Grafham Water near Huntingdon for an open water aquathlon.
3 of the kids had very little if any experience of open water swimming and another one had lost a lot of confidence after his last open water event and only decided to compete at the last minute providing a wet suit was hired.
The swim course was a 50m out and back around a large yellow buoy and everyone doing more than one lap had to get out the water run round to the start and dive back in again. Because of the wind the water was really choppy and became a bit more like a sea swim than a lake swim. The run course was reasonably flat following the edge of the lake before turning back inland towards the turn round point and finish. With the open water races they combine the boys and girls in a single age category together in a mass start
The first entertainment of the day after registration was how to get into wetsuits – baby oil, carrier bags and wet suit lube being the order of the day.
The kids then put on their coloured hats to signify their Tristar category and then listened to the race brief before being called forward to the water’s edge. There were quite a lot of nerves but the kids seemed to take to it like a duck to water.
In the Tristar 1 race was Sara Laitner who had a really good swim and came out of the water in an excellent 2nd place and was still in that position after the transition which involves getting the wet suit off and putting a number belt and trainers on. A 3rd place on the run meant she came a brilliant 3rd place overall (although they did initially announce her in 2nd place at the presentation afterwards).
In the Tristar 2 race was Sophie Mabbs and Christy Durbin in the girls race and Sam Newman and Tom Jarman in the boys race.
Sophie has done a number of open water races before, and being a quick swimmer had the advantage of getting away from the main pack of swimmers and so had a less impeded swim. For most of the time she drafted behind a boy that was in front of her bad has a bad habit of continually switching between front and back crawl – she says to help her breathing when cold. On the last lap she went past the lead swimmer to come out of the water first nearly half a minute ahead of her nearest competitor. Although she was gradually closed down on the run she had enough in hand to win the event with 19 seconds to spare.
Christy was in 4th place after her swim, as she had been hampered by a number of other swimmers which is the norm in open water swimming. A slow 10th place in transition pushed her down another place before setting off like a bullet on the run. Her time for the run was identical to Sophie’s (2nd=) and she passed 2 of her rivals in front of her to come home in 3rd place with 16 seconds in hand over the next competitor.
Sam wrote: “This was my first open water race and I have never even practiced with a wetsuit, so it was a bit daunting and weird. I didn’t really like the swim and I swallowed a lot of water and didn’t feel great as a result. I really struggled to get the wetsuit off in transition and lost even more time, so I was probably last at that point! (in fact there was one competitor behind Sam). The run was good and I made up a lot of time, finishing 7th on that leg, although I only managed to climb to 10th overall (out of 13). Still, it was fun and it was good experience.”
Tom really suffered at the start of the swim, being dived on in the mass start and being pushed under and then being pulled back by his leg. Although all of this is legal, one had to wonder if there were some club tactics being employed. Tom found the whole open water experience like nothing he had experienced before and from a coaches point of view the kids need to have more training in how to deal with mass swim starts and how to jostle and elbow and deal with kids barging and pulling back. Despite all this Tom was still in a very good 7th place after the swim and had moved up to 6th place coming on to the run. The trouble was that he had expended so much energy in the water that he had nothing left for the run and came in a very tired 12th place to finish 11th overall being pipped by Sam by 9 seconds.
In the Tristar 3 race were Tori Weston, Alannah Mabbs and Hannah Newman for the girls and our sole boys representative was James Mabbs.
Tori and Alannah have both done quite a lot of open water swimming in the past which is always a big advantage.
Tori was 1st girl in the swim by over 20 seconds. Her lead could have been more if she had not been a bit zig zag which meant she swam further than she had to. Despite only being 5th= through transition, she had maintained her lead on to the run. Unfortunately there are a number of quick runners in the Tristar 3 category and she was gradually reeled in losing her 3rd place on the final lap. Tori was finally 6th in the run and 4th overall.
Alannah was 7th after the swim but a really quick 2nd placed transition moved her up to 4th place coming out of transition. She then suffered really bad stomach cramps very early in the run and did well to finish being in quite a lot of pain. Alannah in the end was 11th on the run and 7th overall.
Hannah wrote ” This is my first open water race, so there were lots of new experiences and I learned a lot. I found the swim okay, but it was a lot different to the pool racing I had done previously. It was pretty choppy and the water was a bit smelly so after a good start I fell behind a bit, finishing 9th out of 12. I struggled a bit to get the wetsuit off and realised now that I could also have started removing it as I was exiting the water and as aresult had lost another place coming on to the run. I enjoyed the run but I took a bit of time to warm up, so I think my 3rd and 4th laps were faster than my first two. I need to work on this as this caused me to drop a place to 11th overall.”
Although James has done a number of open water events before, his confidence was very low entering the water. He actually did better than expected with a 9th place swim and a 4th place in transition meant he set out on the run in 6th place. A bit like Tom in Tristar 2 he found he had expended so much energy on the swim that his legs were like jelly on the run. A 12th place in the run meant he finally came home 9th overall and am sure he would have taken a top 10 finish before the start of the race.
All the kids should be really commended on how well they did in very alien conditions and hopefully with more coaching they will be better prepared for the next open water race in June.