I knew if I was even only 80% better from my cold today, I would be racing at Dorney Lake this afternoon. I think I woke up about 87% better, although with nerves, it's always difficult to tell. The water was forecast to be 15C which is still pretty reasonable, and although there was quite a wind, it wasn't raining and there was even a little bit of sun.
I know the drill now for racing. I know if it's cold to keep my jacket on until the last minute over my wetsuit. I know to splash my face with water before putting my head under. I know to get my head under before the race starts, and to get water into my wetsuit (usually I achieve this by turning a forward roll, cumbersome in a wetsuit but effective). I know that I like to start at the front. And I know that I like to know my time in the race, but that it's best to start my watch 5 seconds before the race begins so I am not fiddling around at a crucial moment. So all that went well, and I set off and it felt ok.
I hadn't swum since Wednesday, and I've not done enough training over the last month. But Dorney Lake can be a very fast course since for much of it, you can get away without sighting. Dorney Lake is the Olympic rowing venue and consequently full of buoys which are all attached to an underwater rope which you can follow like you would the line on the bottom of the pool. I think this made up for my lack of fitness and recent speed work, and who knows what time I could achieve on the course if I was in top form. I wasn't. After the first lap I considered getting out as I had had enough, I wasn't sure I could be bothered to keep swimming to get 1h6ish. I considered the same at the end of the second lap, which despite a sighting error (onto the wrong string of buoys), was actually faster than the first lap and took the 20 minutes that I would have needed to achieve on each lap to hit the hour. The third lap was hard, but I was pleased that I had stuck with it. The second half of the third lap was even harder. I kept going, but made a navigational error as hadn't looked beforehand to see properly where the swim finish was. OOPS. But I got out and I stopped my watch at 1:02:42; as is often the case there was then a 50m run to the final timing mat, so my finish time came in at 1:02:49.
I was actually pretty pleased with that given the circumstances of the previous week. More importantly, I have knocked off over 22 minutes since I first attempted this distance at the same venue in 2010 (when I got so cold that I had to be defrosted in the St John's Ambulance afterwards). It's the second fastest 3.8k that I've done this year, and whilst it's 2:30 slower than my pb, I reckon that the navigational errors must have cost me at least 30 seconds. It was my goal to break the hour for 3.8k in 2012, and that won't happen now, but I think I am getting much, much closer. If all else fails, I'll have to buy one of those £600 wetsuits that can cut off a minute per km! I also think that I might have broken the hour if I hadn't taken up tri halfway through the year and lost some swimming time and energy to cycling. Oh well, you win some, you lose some! On this occasion however it seems I won some; I should have stayed around for the prize giving as it looks like I was 3rd lady in.