This last weekend I participated in my second Lake Eland 3km swim. The venue is by far the best fresh water swimming venue I have raced in to date. It is surrounded by a gorge and stunning landscape littered with trees and wildlife. We spotted a few impala, wildebeest and Eland on our drive in to the start of the race.
I had planned to race the first 3km and then do another 3km as a training swim followed by a mile if I still felt strong. I set out at a comfortable pace knowing that I had a relatively long swim ahead of me. After the first 3km I was feeling strong and getting into a rhythm. I finished the race, grabbed a drink and then set out again for my next 3km. Still feeling strong I had a snack and set out to try and chase down the end of the ladies 1 mile race. After about 800m I hit a wall. The lactic acid kicked in and my arms felt heavy, my hip flexors were cramping and I was hurting. It came out of nowhere and I was grateful to finish the swim and call it a day.
The rest of the morning was spent doing an interview and hanging out supporting the last few races whilst waiting for prize giving. The last race was a 500m race around the small island for kids and adults who wanted to test open water swimming (OWS). Swimmers were given pool noodles and the life savers did an incredible job cheering everyone on and keeping everyone safe. It was a humbling moment for me and reminded me of where I have come from. 7.5km is a normal training swim for me now, but less than a year ago I wasn’t doing much more than 2km a session! I remember my first 3km race in Cape Town and how long it felt. I remember being in school and the thought of anything over 400m was horrendously boring!
How much has changed! We all start somewhere and for many this Sunday was their first exposure to open water swimming. It stirred something in me to want to grow the sport more.
When I think back to when I was at school and how much open water swimming did not appeal to me and how boring and big and sometimes scary I thought it was, it saddens me. I think I had a completely misinformed view of OWS. I think that it is such a good skill to have to be able to swim confidently in the ocean or fresh water and just admire the absolute beauty of our surroundings.
It is up to us to encourage the sport and educate others
We are so privileged in South Africa to have such phenomenal OWS venues at our doorstep that are safe and clean, but sadly, with the ever increasing rise of pollution and our consumerist society, that may not be a reality one day. It is up to us to encourage the sport and educate others on the essential task of keeping our country clean, recycling and coming up with innovative more sustainable solutions to ensure that the next generations of kids will have the opportunity that we do to swim in our beautiful lakes and oceans.
Thank you to MSC Aquazone swim club for organising another incredible event. The safety was first class and I hope that next year will be even bigger as the sport grows!