Saturday 24 November I headed out to Paarl with @beanker to join up with her Tri Fit group from the @sportscience_sa. They were taking part in the Ashanti Swim series as part of the build up to the Ironman South Africa 70.3 in January half ironman programme and had identified the 3km swim as the one to do. We picked up one of B’s talented tri fit group Claire Le Manach on the way who had unluckily been diagnosed with a stress fracture of the calcaneus during the week. The journey up went quickly and we arrived 2 hours early.
I was super excited for B taking part in her first open water swim race and longest swim outside of the pool. I had never been up to Ashanti before and I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Coming into the grounds I got a glimpse of the dam and although the weather was overcast and cold the setting was pretty amazing. The water was dead calm and conditions looked perfect and I started getting butterflies with excitement. @trailwill had warned us about the possibility of wind beforehand and he was on the money as within 10 minutes of arriving a steady breeze started blowing. I went down to the water’s edge to get a closer look at the course and to watch the 10km and 5km swimmers that had already started. They were making it look all too easy and I was feeling very aware that they were all not wearing wetsuits. It was nice to spot @philswim out in the water doing his thing and then great to have a quick chat though I nearly didn’t recognise him with his Movember look.
B’s Tri Fit group got together for a group photo before the start amidst slightly aghast looks that we were all wetsuit clad. The water it turned out was a tropical 23C whilst the air temperature and wind was sending a chill to the bone. We headed into the water for a wet start between the buoys. There were three turns to negotiate and the 3km course was going to be three full loops clockwise. I positioned myself on the outside right and behind the clearly over eager teenagers. Then the hooter went and needless to say that the pace to the first buoy turn was frenetic. I made sure I stayed out of the way of the faster swimmers and managed to get some clear water after the first turn. I continued on without much fuss and tried to get into a relaxed rhythm quickly. I had a little company at my side through the first loop and then shortly after that I noticed another wetsuit clad swimmer move along side me. As we were now very close together I recognised the cap and wetsuit as the Mexican Mariana. I was warned by B beforehand that she was a competent swimmer but I wasn’t about to get chicked. We carried on side by side for full loop passing Kim Woolrich halfway through the second loop.
The wind had now picked up and the stretch from the start/finish to the first buoy turn felt more like a sea swim with plenty of chop and pouring rain making it feel like swell spray. The third loop tested my lack of swim fitness and I couldn’t keep up with Mariana any longer as she began to pull away. I started feeling my bicep tendon (I tore a few years ago) pulling badly in my left arm and my lower back was disappointingly starting to hurt. I was feeling a little deflated at that point but was still happy that I was approaching the finish and banking my first 3km open water swim since Ironman in April. I finished eventually in 49 minutes and some change.
View my Ashanti Dam swim at Garmin Connect
I was happy to get under 50 minutes but hoped that when fitter I would be closer to getting in under 45 minutes that I know I am capable of.
I was 20 seconds behind Maryanna eventually which was a long gap but I was happy with my first race effort in a long time and knew there was plenty to work on. @beanker finished in 1:01 and I was really happy for her completing her first open water race and her longest open water swim. It was a huge confidence boost for her knowing that she got through it and was well clear of the 1.9km swim distance at Ironman South Africa 70.3 in January. Of course that is a sea swim and that will be her next challenge……. and mine also I feel as I continue on course to regain my swimming fitness and confidence back in Open Water.
See you out there!
Things Ive learned
- Better to start slow and build momentum and get into a rythm
- Recognise faster swimmers and stay out of their way
- Dont rely on another swimmer for sighting
- Lose the wetsuit and HTFU when you are outnumbered by Polar Bears lol
- Enjoy the journey dont expect miracles