Great Manchester Swim – 19 July 2014

By Dave Clarke

At the end of the last blog after the Great North 10K I was quite excited about heading off to Ibiza for a few days.  The start of this one and I wasn’t so cheery about the fact I’d been as I now had another swim to contend with maybe wasn’t at my physical best.

Pete and Hannah joined me again for this one.  Pete had been out in Ibiza with me so at least someone else was in the same boat.  However, whilst out in Ibiza, Pete and I shaved our heads to support one of our friends who has cancer and as part of shave or style July.  As you can imagine we were looking a bit different this time around.  Then I thought to try my swimming cap the day before the swim and it went on a dream with no hair so I started to think maybe I’ll be streamlined and fly through the water.  Fair to say it didn’t improve my performance massively but it was a nice thought.

When I arrived at Salford Quays I sought out the hotel which was about a minute walk, found the start of the swim which was again a stone’s throw away and with a big Morrisons just down the road I had everything I needed.  I met with Pete and Hannah that evening and we went to check out the course.  From the angle we came in we got to the finish first and behind the swimming area that we would be in you could see where all the rubbish and horrible water had been pushed and blocked off so that it was completely out the way.  It was like pea soup!! It just goes to show how much effort the organisers put in to ensure that the water is clean and ready to be swam in.  And I’m glad they do, can’t say swimming through green sludge is top of my list to tick off.

We walked the rest of the route and I was quite excited as this was different to both the North and East swims in terms of the layout of the course.  The North and East swims you effectively swim out and do a loop back so  there is always a big distance in front of you.  The difference in Manchester is that you swim a route that I can only think to explain as a bunny ears or the letter ‘M’ with a stretched out middle bit.  Because you swim straight out then turn right and right again then left and across into the other quay and then up and back down that side of the quay as well.  For someone that isn’t great at swimming this was a massive help to me, mentally more than anything else as you couldn’t see the whole course on the way around you could only see the bit that you were in.  This has helpful as you just focused on the bit you were at rather than glancing over your shoulder and thinking ‘blimey, that finish line is a hell of a long way away’ – which is exactly what I did at the North and East.

Before going back to our hotels we thought we’d check the weather for the morning as it hadn’t been the best day for weather in Manchester.  Our swim time was 10.30 so we looked for that time on the weather and predicted at that time was heavy rain and lightning – fantastic.

On waking up the next morning I thought the weather could well be right as at 8.30 it was absolutely chucking it down.  We got completely soaked as we made our way over to the changing room area.  After all we were only going to jump in a quay so you couldn’t complain too much.  We all got changed and were ready.  Well, near enough ready apart from one vital thing for Pete.  He’d forgotten to bring some Vaseline for his neck to stop the chafing.  I don’t get it myself but if it’s your first time using your wetsuit I’d definitely recommend putting some on just to be sure.  It’s better to find if you get the neck chafing in training rather than on event day that’s for sure.  Anyway, Pete was determined to get some Vaseline and on our walk to the start area he was asking everybody but to no avail.  Good job he started asking people when we were right by the start and not on the walk there, he’d have looked a bit odd asking random people in the street for Vas!  Finally, he got some and we were ready for the start.

About quarter past 10 the rain, quite incredibly, stopped.  So we jumped in at half past and we were off.  On the way around I remember glancing over a couple of times and seeing a yellow rubber duck bobbing up and down on the water and so I was quite worried that I was hallucinating.  Thankfully when I looked again it was some chap that had stuck it onto the top of his swimming cap.  Great idea! Wish I’d have thought to do that.

I crossed the finish line and felt great so I finally thought I was starting to get the hang of these swims and despite them being such hard work, maybe even starting to enjoy them.  Just as I got out of the water it started to rain again so I was grateful for that, and no lightning either – result!

We quickly got our stuff from the baggage room and headed over to the hotel in time to get showered and out of the hotel by the 12 o’clock check out.  I’ve never swanned into a hotel in a wetsuit before, so that was a first.

The next was to get back to central station.  We got there in good time and so to continue the theme of all the other swims we got in the pub for a pint and some food before the train home – proper athlete me.  All in all a great trip to Salford Quays and the milestone event number 10 was done!

If you were thinking of doing your first open water swim I would personally recommended the Great Manchester as the perfect one to start with.  Everything is so close together when you arrive at Salford Quays and then the course is fantastic for the mental side of things and helping you keep going.  The support was really good as well.  I really enjoyed this one!

18th Learning – Don’t go to Ibiza the days before a swim

19th Learning – If you’re swimming cap is hard to get on and off and pulls your hair, shave your hair off! Fits like a glove then