Matthew Lawley
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Blenheim Palace Triathlon – training day aquathlon – 3rd May 2014

Matthew Lawley
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09 May 2014

Experience open water swimming first hand through the wonders of a Go Pro...

I had previously taken part in a number of triathlons and many open water swims prior to this training weekend; but never before had I competed wearing a camera strapped to my head. After the recent purchase of a new Go Pro sports cam, naturally I felt obliged to test it out and what better reason than to replicate the experience of open water swimming. The swim discipline of a triathlon is often seen as the one that causes most anxiety and fear. Hopefully this will go some way in dispelling that myth!

The venue was Ham Lake, Richmond, a small overspill of the River Thames. It’s popular for watersports and open water swim training. On this occasion the water was dank, dark and murky. On an earlier training swim that day, I had noticed the remnants of what must only be duck or swan faeces floating past my face. I made a mental note not to inhale too deeply at the start of the aquathlon race*….

The resulting footage should hopefully provide an example of what an open water swim is like. Although there was only 30 or so taking part in this small scale event, it does replicate the nature of the open water swim discipline of a triathlon. Multiply this by 5 and you’ll have an accurate representation of what Blenheim is like.

I hope that the video also conveys what I had hoped it would; that the swim part of a triathlon is not half as daunting or difficult as it’s often anticipated to be. What used to be my ‘Achilles heel’ is now my ‘favourite’ part of the triathlon. Too often the anxiety and stress can ruin the enjoyment of the swim. It’s important to practice open water swimming and to experience what it’s like to swim in a wetsuit. It never ceases to amaze me how many turn up to a triathlon having never swum in open water or not having trained in a wetsuit. It really can be an enjoyable experience if you practise before your event!

My advice would be to take part in one of these training days. There are many listed on the internet through companies like RGActive and SwimForTri. Many just think that practicing in a pool will suffice but you just can’t replicate the exact experience of an open water lake swim (though you can of course learn technique drills and endurance). If you do have time; sign up to a local triathlon/swimming club. They often have memberships or discounted rates for open water lidos/lakes. Swimming with those of a similar experience level is vital and will help to build your confidence.

*Top tip! – After an open water lake swim it’s advisable to drink Diet Coke. That’s not an issue for someone like myself who readily drinks 4/5 cans of the stuff every day. Apparently it’s known to kill those kinds of bacteria that can cause stomach bugs after swimming in lakes. Lord only knows what it’s already done to my stomach lining…



Awesome video Matt! Rather you than me...

Great tip on the diet coke as well - I think that's where my fiance came a cropper as she was really sick after she did Blenheim a couple of years ago.