To be sure of winning, invent your own game, and never tell any other player the rules.(Brilliant, 1933)
The end of September heralds the changing season and brings the shifting colours of the leaves, the cooler, misty mornings and the darker evenings. I am not a fan of the autumn equinox. I find, that as the daylight hours shorten and the temperature begins to drop, my mood begins to drop with it and my motivation begins to wane. I am always slow to adjust to the realisation that the days of long swims in calm waters are drawing to a close; to the acceptance that I need to start thinking about layers of clothing and hot drinks again; and to a shorter window of opportunity if I want to swim in daylight or sunshine.
However, one of the good things about September, to my mind, is that, despite the falling air temperature, the sea is still comparatively warm. The water temperature may have begun it’s downward trajectory, but ‘warmer in than out’ will always be the saving grace of autumn swimming and making the most of opportunities to swim in the sea, will always be my way of coping with that ‘September feeling’. If you are planning on swimming through the winter this year, now is the perfect time to start.
Different Ways of Winning
September also, usually, brings the last of the ‘events’ that have taken us on our trips around the South Coast, swimming in new and undiscovered waters and exploring the local surroundings (see You Are My Sunshine). This September we swam in two events in two glorious locations on spectacularly sunny days. Firstly, on Sunday 18th September we continued with our ‘return to Cornwall’ season of swimming events and swam in the Carbis Bay Swim Festival. Carbis Bay is part of an array of beaches that make up St Ives Bay, listed as one of UNESCOs Most Beautiful Bays in the World. The bay is served by the scenic St Ives Bay train that runs along the coast and is described as ‘one of the most scenic train routes in Britain’. It was a lovely, relaxed way to travel to the swim location – and a bit like a pre-event meet up, since just about every other traveller on the platform was heading to Carbis Bay to take part in the event!
The sea that day was challengingly ‘bumpy’ and cool and I was more than a little bit daunted by the numbers of truly fast, strong and experienced and enthusiastic swimmers taking part. I’m not really a fan of swims that involve multiple laps around a course marked out by buoys (especially when the sun in your eyes means that you (I) can’t see where you’re going. I inevitably get ‘lapped’ by all those fast, competitive swimmers and I prefer a swim that ‘starts here and ends there’, where I can feel ok swimming at my own pace. This was a 3k swim made up of 3 laps around the buoys and I struggled, I won’t pretend otherwise. However, I didn’t give up (some did) and I kept going until I completed the course – at which point it became clear that I was the last swimmer in the water!
The great thing about these se swimming events, I have found, is how friendly, supportive and welcoming they always are. Those fast swimmers waiting to take their place on the winners podium might have finished their swim almost an hour sooner than me – but they were all there, the whole beach, waiting to cheer me as I limped up the sand and was awarded a prize for being the swimmer who was ‘the longest in the water’! There is more than one way of winning, that’s for sure!
Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall – and did it my way (Sinatra, 1969)
Seven Years of Winning
The following week, Sunday 25th September, we took part in our final ‘event’ of the season, getting up at dawn and swimming in the early morning September sunshine in the ‘Dawlish Swim’ at Dawlish Warren. Dawlish Warren has a beach next to a National Nature Reserve and is a popular swimming location. As it happens this swim was exactly 7 years to the day, since I took part in my first ever sea swimming event (see It Started There) and there were some similarities between my experience of the two events.
Both events involved me lining up to start the swim in the very early morning when, despite the promise of the cloudless sky and sunshine, it was not yet warm (in fact it was cold!). Both events were designed to encourage people to try their first triathlon or their first sea swim – and there were many first timers taking part. Both events had me standing on the shore wondering why on earth I had let myself be talked into doing this. And by the end of both swims I felt exhilarated, proud and thankful for the opportunity – and for the sea.
I didn’t win an ‘official’ prize this time either, so I awarded myself one (quite legitimately I might add!). When looking through the list of other competitors, I confirmed that, although I wasn’t first or last, I was ‘the oldest swimmer’ in the event.
I am going to hold on to that! Oh yes! There will always be more than one way of winning!
Photo Credits: Beth Oliver (Carbis Bay) and Nik Langdon-Ward (Dawlish Warren)
The Carbis Bay Swim Festival was organised by Mad Hatter Sports Events
The Dawlish Swim was organised by Sportiva Events
Sea Temperature: 16 degrees celsius
Distance Swum: 3200 metres
Swim Time: 90 minutes
Sea Temperature 17 degrees celsius
Distance Swum: 1500 metres
Swim Time: 39 minutes
Brilliant, A. (1933) Ashleigh Brilliant Quotes
Oliver, B. (2017) It Started There, justkeepswimmingbillie.wordpress.com
Sinatra, F. (1969) My Way, from the album My Way, Reprise.