Monday, 11 June 2012

Review: Speedo WomenOnly Swim, Dorney Lake, Eton - 10 June 2012

Yesterday, I 'raced' in my first ever open water swim! @rowenanews and I are both training for triathlons, and a few months ago she suggested we do the WomenOnly Open Water Swim at Dorney Lake. I'd just done the Maxifuel Half there, and a women's only event sounded just right for a first-timer so I happily agreed! There were three distances available and I signed up for the 1500m event.

Up until a few weeks ago I was focused on the Edinburgh Marathon, so I didn't have any huge expectations for this event. I'm comfortable with swimming and I knew I could finish, but not really race. My goal was to stay comfortable, get some experience with open water swimming, and see what it was like to swim in a wetsuit.

We left Brighton at 6:45am and got to Dorney Lake by 8am. The weather was cool, but at least it wasn't raining. It was quite a long walk from the parking area to the Boathouse, but when we finally arrived it just took me a few minutes to register, get my swim cap, stickers, and timing chip. Unlike most running races that I've been to there was no queue for the loos so I quickly popped in and tried to figure out what to do next. It was all feeling very unfamiliar! I decided that I'd better try to get my wetsuit on in case I got stuck.

Luckily for me, BodyGlide made a real difference, and it didn't take me very long to get suited up. From there I went to the Boathouse balcony...and happily found @rowenanews and @becsowengardner! It was so great to finally meet both of them, and then the very nice @windsorAndy arrived to cheer us on.

View of the lake from the Boathouse balcony. The race start was by the left landing,
left of the yellow buoy. The bike racks were set up for the triathlon later in the day.

I started to feel a little nervous so it was great to have @becsowengardner there with her advice and guidance. @rowenanews went down to the lake first (the 750m race started at 9:00am) and we headed down about 10 minutes later. The races were running late and we had the 3000m swimmers ahead of us, but before long it was time for us to get into the water. I dreaded going in, but Becs prepared me and told me to get some water in my wetsuit right away and then dunk my face in. The water was FREEZING and I could immediately feel the cold in my hands and feet. Thankfully they didn't keep us for too long and then we were off! The 1500m swim was two laps of the marked course, going clockwise from buoy to buoy.

I got used to the cold water very quickly, and while there was a little jostling and lots of swimmers around at the start, it wasn't too bad and I didn't get kicked. I tried my best to stay to the right but then found myself too far over and heading for the middle. I then moved to the left only to overcorrect and was suddenly too far off course the other way!

I continued to struggle with sighting throughout the swim despite by best efforts. I swam with my head up every few minutes so I could see where I was and stay straight, but still felt a little all over the place. The second lap was a little better as I noticed that I could see the line that the buoys were anchored to, which meant I could stay relatively straight.

Before I knew it I made the last turn and was heading for the finish. I decided to push it a little more with a 100 meters or so left, and it finally became too shallow to swim anymore! I was assisted out of the water, someone helped me unzip my wetsuit, and my timing chip was efficiently cut from my ankle. A medal was put around my neck, and I was offered PowerBar gels and bottled water. My first open water swim was done.

With no expectations whatsoever, I swam 1500m in 36.51. I loved the swim despite my wanderings, and it felt great to be back in the water. I can't wait to do another one!

Overall, I thought it was a great race. It was well organized, and the small number of swimmers meant it felt very relaxed. The 'lanes' were wide enough for it not to feel too crowded, and after the first 10 minutes or so I never really noticed anyone around. It was also nice not to have large men trying to swim over me, which is something I'm bracing myself for in other swims! It's the first time this swim series has had a women's only event so it might get busier, but I think it will always be a good race for a first time female open water swimmer.

A well-organized race at an easily accessible venue off the M4. Limited changing facilities in the Boathouse but more than adequate for a race of this size. The small event makes it a perfect race for all women, but in particular for someone looking to do their first open water swim. Recommended.

Stats in 2012:
Date: 10 June
Entry Fee: £34
Number of swimmers: 153 split into 3 groups (750m, 1500m, 3000m)
Timing chip on ankle strap
Free swim cap (to wear during the race)
Medals for every finisher


  1. Great post...really makes me think it's something I could try out, as always been a bit terrified of the whole people swimming over you thing, in a big tri, but this sounds like a great way to give it a go. Sure it'll help in your tri to have had this experience too.

  2. Great to get open water race experience ahead of your triathlon. It sounds like a fantastic swim.

  3. fantastic!! huge congratulations, nice medal x

  4. (A bit late ctahcing up with blogs!)...
    Congtratulations on your swim, great preparation for your triathlon. I can almost feel the cold having run a windy HM round the lake!