I did the Henley River swim last year. This is what I wrote before my blog was hacked. I still want to do it again in 2009…
Out of interest, I got quoted in the Henley Standard. I guess they read my blog!
Next week is the start of the Henley Royal Regatta. I am not a rower and so don’t know much about it. I’ve learnt that some of the best crews in the world come to Henley to race up the river. They race along a straight course in the Thames. The course is completely straight because they put wooden logs along the course. It is 2,112m long and it goes up stream so it is “really” a bit longer.
I think 5 years ago some people thought it might be a good idea to swim the course. They decided that they didn’t want to get run over by anyone training on the course and so they started at 04:30 in the morning. Over the next three years it got bigger but was still an “informal” swim. I first heard of it last year but could not make the date. This year they made it “formal” and I could make the date. So I did it.
It still starts at 4:30am. Registration is 3:00am to 4:00am and so I planned to turn up at 3:30am. This meant getting up at 2:00am and leaving 30 minutes later. I did this and got there at 3:30am only to find that I had shrunk. I’m average height but most of the men in the club house were much, much taller than me. They were mostly rowers. Some might have been corporate finance – they’re always tall too.
At 4:00am we left for a ten minute walk to the start. It was a beautiful morning, a little bit of mist on the river and no wind. Absolutely perfect conditions. A quick race briefing (go that way, stay in the course, the finish is at the end) and we were in the water.
Here’s a picture of the course with the Regatta is in full swim. It was likely that except there were very few people in the crowd at this time in the morning.
We started by the island at the top and were aiming to swim towards the bridge. There was a current but it was nowhere near as strong as Windsor. Also, there was little opportunity to swim in shallows and the course was bounded by wooden logs, I decided just to stick to left hand side rather than to try and guess where it was best to swim.
The start was a bit of a bun fight and I swam quite hard but not all out. People went past me. After about 400m I started to go past the people who might have gone a bit hard at the start. As there was no bike or run afterwards, I had decided to go harder than I did at Windsor.
After about 1k I saw a group of people ahead and pushed a bit harder to catch up. I then eased off a bit and drafted in the group for a bit before carrying on. For the last part I swam with a bloke without a wetsuit. He was a bit ahead of me and then a bit behind and then I “wobbled” into the centre of the course and I think he may have beaten me. There was also someone who stuck to my legs/side for the last 1,000m or so.
I had no idea where the finish was and that was kind of frustrating. Eventually I got to it. I couldn’t do a sprint finish as I had been sprinting for most of the swim! By the finish my side hurt with the effort I had put in and my arm muscles felt like they were running out of strength.
I finished in something like 37mins plus change. The winner did it in 29m 30s or so. Karen Pickering, an Olympic medallist and former world champion came 7th in about 33 mins. I think I came 19th out of 87 or so and so I was very pleased.
My average HR (inc 2 mins before the start) was 170bpm and my max was 179bpm. I have never swam so hard!
If dates allow, I definitely want to do this next year.