Two swimmers talk through the reasons to do the Lock to Lock 10k this year, or rather one swimmer tries to persuade her friend to join her and just do it.
One evening in September 2016, I tossed a stick into the river at Bablock Hythe, the starting point for the Lock-to-Lock 10k that year. My two swimmer friends and I watched the stick, anticipating that it would leave on the current, expecting it branch off and drift downstream while we talked of our misgivings about swimming the 10k in a few days. We had many misgivings to discuss, and the stick stuck around to listen.
We checked our plans – who would drive, who would pick up who, who had family coming to watch, how we were getting back... And the stick, captivated by our conversation, remained rooted to the spot. We discussed what kit we would need, whether we would be warm enough, how we would keep our energy levels up… All this time, the stick gazed back up at us, wondering at the fuss, because why wouldn’t we just float on our backs and contemplate the later summer sky like – well, like a stick…
I’d been persuaded to do the first Lock-to-Lock 10k by a friend who had done doing the Dart 10k. He described having to cling on at feeding stations so he wasn’t washed away.
The stick foretold of an event that would not be like the Dart 10k. Would I manage? I’d done the Lock-to-Lock 6k in July of the same year and found it fine. But 10k – with no current to speak of… Had I done enough training?
That first Lock-to-Lock 10K, I felt the apprehension of not enough training too. I relied on six circuits of Queensford Lake being enough! Then at the 6K point of the 10K event, it became really hard to move; so this is the wall. It was a huge effort, mentally and physically, to finish… What pulled me through was the team behind the event - it was calm not panic that I felt, there were support craft all along the river. But I don’t think I was prepared enough for that distance – you learn though.
The preparation and training issues are ones everyone who swims events must be thinking about this year. When asked if I would do the 10k next month, my first response was a clear and obvious no: how could I possibly do that this year when my swim fitness is lower than it’s ever been?
It’s true we’ve had less training but it would be wonderful to revisit the event, some years on, to experience how things have changed – how we have changed. We’re so much more used to the river now; by osmosis, we know more now than we did then…. It will be a challenge but it will be exciting to find out what we’re capable of, are we more efficient swimmers? This is the perfect event to find that out because there’s so much support along the way.
The last time I had a good base level of swim-fitness from regular pool swims through the winter. In spring of that year, I began building this up and had several months to work at it. I was fine; I had done enough training in the months before and, on the day, I even put in an OK time for a leisure-swimmer. It did feel like a massive achievement – I’m still proud that I did it.
Yes! It is a fantastic achievement. But more than that – swimming that distance, spending so much time immersed in that beautiful environment, is an incredible experience.
I remember how the race becomes spread out. How there are moments of solitude and patches of such quiet – but then there was the accompanying splash-splash of a kayaker, shepherding the stragglers, like me, along.
I did get out and walk a while – my arms really had stopped moving. I heard my name on the radio: She’s out of the water and she’s going to walk for a bit… It was reassuring the team were watching out for me. I also got back in and hung from a tin boat a kilometre from the end, and had a slow conversation with one of the crew for a while about carrying on. There is room to breathe on this 10k if you need it.
That’s reassuring but I would like to feel fitter than I am. Pools have only been open a few weeks and even now, timetables are restricted. The only pool I can get to easily is an indoor pool and I’d prefer not to be indoors. Open waters have been too cold to allow us enough time to swim any distance – and it was long cold winter, followed by a very cold spring so I’m only just building up my strength again. No way will I get back to the same levels of fitness in the limited time available.
But there is still time to train in the pool and work up to get very close to the 10k distance and every time you’re in the river, you are more relaxed and can think about your technique, one bit at a time: how is my stretch; how is my pull through the water; are my hips rotating, where am I going…
This year, the event is a celebration – being able to do what we’ve missed… a collective celebration. It’d be so great to do something epic on our doorstep – a swimmer’s marathon of an event, an elemental trip we couldn’t do on our own.
It is epic. And it’s looking pretty certain the current will be more supportive this year. We swim that stretch of river regularly and at the moment, the downstream return swim takes about half the time that the upstream swim takes. Sure, there are a few weeks to go but it’s not going to be as still as it was in 2016 when we’d had a long, dry summer.
Anyway, there are three break points on the route so if I’m really struggling, I can stop. Or at least pause to catch my breath.
Yes, you can pause and take your time…. also refuel at the feeding stations.
And if I need to, I can take my time at those stops because I don’t actually care what time I complete the event in; completing this distance is an achievement in any time.
It is one great adventure for your whole being; body exhausted, mind bent, and spirit moved.
One of my top reasons for possibly signing up, if I do, will be the route. The finish is now at the ruins of Godstow Abbey, a truly beautiful location. We finished the 6K there in 2016 and the spectacle of neoprene-clad figures perched on the ruins was definitely memorable.
The end will be magical. Imagine the feeling of becoming vertical after that epic swim, climbing out onto the bank before Godstow, and staggering through the ruins to the tea tent to their whoops of ‘Well done, swimmers!’
Yes! The legendary cake at the end!
Well done, swimmers! Whoop, whoop!
If you like a challenge of a longer swim, set in beautiful surroundings with a safety crew to assist, go for the 10k Lock to Lock next month. You might feel like you have not trained as you much as you could but if you need to do a long swim, this one is a fantastic one, with a supportive group of volunteers, feed stations and epic location. Sign up at swimoxford.co.uk