Justin Tait – I got hooked on open water swimming by accident!
Having started a new job in Oxford in January 2015, just around the corner from a swimming pool, I joined a swim-fit session and thought oh this is fun and good for me at the same time.
Fast forward to the summer I did a 15km bike and 5km running race at my local village Olympics – most events were for kids but there were some competitive mums and dads in there too to keep amused!
For some strange reason I got a real buzz from doing the two races in a row. Standing in the pub later that day some bright spark said all you need now is an open water swim and bingo – triathlon. The missing link was that I had only ever swam in the sea whilst on hols, which I love doing. Up for a challenge I signed up for the Cotswold sprint tri taking place in September. Time to find out more about swimming in open water! Enter Jason and Southwest swim….
I started with a one-to-one session, first time in a wetsuit, and remember clearly how Jason said I will probably not want to swim in pool again after a few open water sessions – and he was right. Now all I think about when I do swim in the pool is what it means for covering distances in open water!
Since the sprint triathlon I have done an off road triathlon event in Scotland, swimming in a beautiful location (Loch Marie), tearing up and down mountain bike tracks and panting up hill and speeding down for the run. I also did the Devil’s Aquathlon at Cheltenham Lido, 2km swim and 10km run – up a rather big hill!
Thoroughly enjoyed all of it so far and looking forward doing some events over the winter before triathlon season gets going in 2016. Aiming to do a 10km or more swim in 2016 – so will be back to Southwest Swim for help with that!
Jennie Harwood – My dart 10k .
My lovely dad threw me in a pool at the age of 4, he was a great sea and open water swimmer and thought I should be the same. I liked the sea but nearly drowned off St Agnes at the tender age 12 so was very wary of it from then and tended to stay in the pool.
We had a wonderful outside, freezing pool at school but I never really enjoyed it that much, so when my dear friend cat suggested we go swimming in lake 32 in March, 5 years ago, I really don’t know why I agreed.
Cat went on to complete the dart 10k, 2 years running and I went and supported her both times. I never ever thought I could achieve anything like it.
At the end of last season (2014) I decided I was a rubbish swimmer and wanted to improve. I had never had any lessons and thought I should try and improve……….. hello Jason and a couple of one to ones in lake 12.
I was thinking of entering the dart, as I am from Devon and knew my chums would love to come and laugh at me, to my horror I got a place.
Panic set in and the training began. Tuesday night coaching sessions with lots of other like minded wonderful people, all training long distance events. We bonded well and spent lots of time admiring fish so we could have a rest, but the training paid off. Time trials, were really useful and you can really gauge how your performing. 2 years running I did the big Cotswold swim in 38 minutes, this year I did 35 minutes. The end of the season when it was cold Jason did our last time trial, I managed 15.47 for 750m.Lots of laps of lake 32 were swum this season, getting to love jelly babies as a staple mid swim feed food. Lots of other chums were also swimming big events such as the Dart, Windermere or Coniston. The longest training swim before the race was 10 laps, I did this on my own as Dawn wasn’t well on the day and it was so tough to get into the lake at 5.45 and swim until 10am. In fact this swim was much harder than the race but was great preparation for what was to come.
On event day I went down the dart sighting buoys, really focussed and with little trouble. We had done lots of drafting that was so useful with so many people starting, it got you used to people close by.
At the start of the dart, you make friends, the atmosphere is great. I had done a few swims in the dart so knew what it was like, but it was colder to begin with this year.
I loved the whole swim, managed a time of 3.04 and of 800 starters I came 418, I was delighted, although part of me wanted to do it in 2.50. I was never competitive and without Jason I would still not be.
Just entered Bridge to Bridge, and no doubt we will be doing some excellent Tuesday night sessions again to get us through our events.
And as for the shorter swim in lake 32…………..I am aiming to do the big Cotswold swim in 32 minutes this year !
I’m a 57 year old who smiles every time I get an email from Jason addressed to “Dear
Athletes’…. I started running when I was 40 with a friend, and when I was persuaded to join a
running group at 50, I surprised myself by running a 10k then a half-marathon. I’ve done a few more
since, and discovered that I enjoy training. A couple of years ago I thought it might be a good idea to
improve my swimming and cycling skills, so that if I decide to run less as I get older, I can still
To motivate myself, I entered the Cotswold Women Only Novice Triathlon in 2014. I could
swim a mile in a pool, so I thought the 200m lake swim might be too easy. It wasn’t, and I swam
quite a lot of breaststroke because I didn’t have sighting techniques. I decided I wanted to feel more
confident and competent in the open water before I tackled another triathlon. I asked around my
networks for swim buddies without success, and a year slipped by. In May 2015 I phoned
Waterlands for advice and they told me about COWS (Cotswold Open Water Swimmers) – a
Facebook group set up so you can co-ordinate with swim-buddies.
Thursday 21 May was cool, bright and sunny; I did an Introduction to Open Water session
with Jason. The last lake swim I’d done was the previous June, and I was a bit apprehensive, but
Jason’s steady presence and encouragement put me at ease. I came back buzzing with enthusiasm; it
was like being able to run outdoors after being confined to a treadmill. I signed up for Jason’s Sunday
squad to do much-needed work on technique.
I joined Waterlands so I could swim regularly and found swim buddies through the very
friendly COWS group. Two of us were complete novices and we started by swimming nervously to
the nearest buoy and back to the shore; about 100 metres.
In July whilst I was complaining about a running injury, Jason suggested I have a go at the 1
mile Cotswold Big Swim which was coming up in September; it sounded impossible when I’d yet to
tackle the 750metre loop at the lake. By swimming at the lake at least twice a week, and having fun
(working hard) with Jason’s Sunday Squad, my confidence improved. The idea of doing the 1 mile
event stayed with me and spurred me on; I soon managed the 750metre loop and more. I finally
signed up, and not only did I swim the mile (at a sedate pace), I also enjoyed it.
In 4 months I’d gone from being nervous about 100m to swimming a mile with confidence.
On the day I’d been a bit nervous about the water temperature which had dropped to 15.5 degrees,
but a couple of months on I’m still enjoying swimming at the lake in water temperatures of about 9-
For me, open water swimming is not solely about distance (and definitely not about speed.)
I’ve shared some magical moments with my swim buddies: there have been mornings when the lake
and the sky have been clear blue and the sun so bright I could see my shadow ahead of me on the
lake bed, autumnal days when the sun has been rising through mist and the lake has been mirror-
calm, and days when the wind has whipped up ripples so we couldn’t see the rain splashing.
I’ve made new friends, found it rewarding to improve my skills in a new sport, and the main
thing – I’ve had a lot of fun.
Back in November 2014 I decided it would be an excellent idea to sign myself up for the Cotswold Classic half-iron distance triathlon. I’d recently bought my first bike since I was 13 (1995) and had been running for a few years. However I hadn’t tried to swim since I stopped swimming lessons in the early 1990s. I didn’t enjoy it then and I wasn’t looking forward to getting involved again. After putting it off until New Year 2015 I started swimming in a local pool during public sessions. All the old memories came flooding back. I couldn’t do anything more than about 400m breaststroke or some very poor front crawl. After 3 months of stop-start training I knew I needed some serious help if I was going to get myself fit for 1,900m in a lake 5 months later.
I found Jason and South West Swim after searching online for local open water swim coaching. After discussing where I felt my swimming was at with Jason I agreed that the best course of action would be some one-to-one sessions and to go straight for the lake (as temps were ok by April). A couple of lessons made a huge initial difference, which we kept refining across the whole summer. Having worked on all elements of my swim stroke I’ve gone from more than 3 minutes per 100m in the pool in March to not only completing my 1,900m swim in just over 39 minutes. I also successfully completed the 2 mile Cotswold Big Swim the following month. I’m now working with Jason in the pool on a Thursday evening with the aim of tackling my first iron-distance triathlon in July 2016.