“Tenby…..Saundersfoot…Pembrokeshire….sea swimming….mini road trip with my swim family….summer? I’m in!” was my reaction when I first heard of the curiously named Tenfoot swim event.
Why Tenfoot? Seemingly obvious to most but maybe not all folk but basically you get to swim from Tenby to Saundersfoot! I absolutely love sea swimming in Pembrokeshire…beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, friendly locals and only about 2 hours drive from where I live, so I manage to get there at least seven or eight times a year, swim parent commitment and work permitting.
The Tenfoot swim was an inaugural event for a very good cause (raising money for two local charities) devised by locals who knew that the endurance sport community just might be tempted by it. Set originally in June but moved to July, it seemed perfect prep for some of the endurance swims I have planned for later in the year. Also, for me, it is very rare that you get to venture around some of the points of the beaches in Pembrokeshire due to very strong currents and shipping traffic so this event was a ‘must do’.
All my ideas of ‘training’ had gone out of the window due to dithering for an age about re-joining the local masters swimming club (I’d managed about 4 sessions prior to the swim). I had also managed a couple of open water jaunts but that was about it. One of those ‘jaunts’ had been the Long Course Weekend swim the week before but laziness had got the better of me on the day and I’d dropped down to the 2Km distance rather than the 4Km, preferring an earlier visit to the pub over another lap jostling with wannabe ironfolk.
I lined up on the beach for the Tenfoot swim with Lady Doubt playing her finest song in my mind along the lines of “You should have done the long distance last week, what were you thinking?…. You know you’re not fit enough to run 5Km let alone swim it!… Oh my god everyone looks really fit…. I’m going to drown or get stung by a thousand jellyfish (more on that later)…. Gosh there are more ironman bags and ironman finishers tattoos than you can shake a stick at….. Hope I’ve put enough BodyGlide on…don’t want to look like a 46 year old lovebite victim in work on Monday….God that looks like a really long way and all of a sudden that sea looks really choppy” etc etc etc.
We had a quick group picture before the start. The talented local photographer somehow managed to make the rain and the grey murkiness of the water disappear in his finished image.
Then we were off….
Less frenzied than a week earlier with the ironfolk and as everyone had their swim floats (essential to be able to swim the event, a visibility aid that helps spot a swimmer’s whereabouts in the water), so you could see where people were around you. I’ve never swum in an event where these were compulsory before but I’m definitely a fan as you could spot everyone really easily.
Everyone quickly seemed to settle into a nice rhythm…everyone that is except me….Lady Doubt had done for any confidence I had gained from the week before and I started to have a little boxing match with my swim float as the water got choppier.
I think, if I’d tried it the night before, I might have realised the leash was a bit short and used the longer one from my other float but no…Captain Cocky had visited and I had brought with me a brand new float that was still in the packet which had a leash that was a bit too short for my swim style.
Twenty minutes went by and the accompanying bobbing bits of neon inflatables (attached to other swimmers) had thinned out. God, was I last? Then I started panicking about cut off times ( you had to get to the check point within two hours or the tide would prevent you from safely continuing). People who know me will be aware of my fear of cut off times but basically after a double Ironman Wales DNF due to cut off time failure, I try not to do events with them if at all possible.
Panic set in as the rain set in…I did NOT want a DNF in a swim event….I might be a bit rubbish at cycling but swimming is kind of ‘my thing’…even with no training I can ‘do’ endurance swim events. I tried to calm my rising panic with some positive thoughts. My positive thoughts were the recent experience of going to see Coldplay in concert so singing ‘Paradise’ in my head was my chosen method of inducing calm (don’t judge).
“Para-Para-Paradise…Para-Para-oh shit there’s a mahoosive jellyfish-Paradise…”
God! Jellyfish! There were hundreds! More than I’ve ever seen when I’ve been swimming in Pembrokeshire and they were quite close to the surface. Positive thinking attempted again by going ‘oh wow they are really beautiful’ many many times in my head. I’d never been stung by one, so my fear was largely irrational but every time I see one I tend to let out an involuntary squeak of fear. Anyway, on I plodded… but I could see the check point beach (Monkstone) and after what seemed like the length of a double omnibus edition of EastEnders, I was moving swiftly towards it. I had chatted briefly to a fellow swimmer who seemed to be having similar struggles to me with the choppy water and weirdly she had the same wetsuit as me, the same pink float, her name began with a K (Karen) and we were both not overly fussed on coming last….I had a swim buddy!
Karen and I swam enthusiastically to the shore, gliding past Mr and Mrs jellyfish and their extended family and then the worst happened…..Brian Jellyfish who clearly hadn’t had a date in weeks, moved in for a snog!
OUCH! Imagine rubbing a big clump of stinging nettles across your lips and chin over and over again and you might just understand what I was feeling at that very moment! OMG…so painful…
I indicated my plight to a passing kayaker who promptly got his camera out to take a picture. “Did you just take a picture of me?” I demanded laughing…
“Yes” he said, “I wanted to get a shot of the lady that got stung on the mouth by a jellyfish!” Much guffawing ensued (from him and me) and with that my feet seemed to miraculously find dry land and I staggered like a Saturday night drunkard towards the checkpoint table.
Safely checked in, jellybabies consumed, funny chat with the clearly amused medic on the beach about my sting, ” you can have some vinegar to rub on it if you want?” said he…..”Errrmm…no ta” said I, and I stoically plunged back into the water towards some fierce looking rocks that were the next part of the challenge and the reason the time cut offs were in place.
The brilliant water safety team guided us safely through the fierce rocks and the sheer exhilaration of doing that helped me channel my inner Bond girl……after all, I now had the ‘trout pout’ to go with it! The ensuing endorphin rush helped me rediscover my swimming ability and, safely buddied up with Karen again, we seemed to cut through the water towards Saunderfoot beach like a pair of dolphins, albeit dolphins with neon pink rubber tails, but you get the idea.
One minor setback in that we (unwisely) asked a kayaker how far we had left and he said half a kilometre…well he fibbed….that’s all I’m saying on the matter. Setback overcome and we felt the familiar squidge of sand beneath our feet as we got to the shore and we realised we had made it….Karen and I hugged, muttered thanks to each other and wandered off to find our people.
My people, my little swim family, were both on the beach waiting for me, both looking suspiciously like they had been there so long they’d had time to blow dry their hair. I regaled them with tales of my jellyfish snog and they helpfully pointed out that they thought the stingy part of a jellyfish was it’s genitalia (no idea if this is true but I’m definitely not googling it).
Coffee was swiftly bought, food and ibuprofen (for the sting) promptly ingested and we were soon winging our way back to the ‘Diff, laughing about the day and marvelling at our most excellent day out.
Thanks Tenfoot Swim Crew…You were epic and so was that swim! Chapeau and thanks very much from all of us!