Summer officially ended almost two weeks ago, but given the number of warm sunny days we have had it is hard to believe this is supposed to be autumn. Here is Higg after enjoying a swim session in the lake. I could have shown a photo of both standing together in our wetsuits "his and hers" style but it would've looked a bit twee! Our foray into open water swimming is one of the things that has been a key characteristic of my summer this year. This is an activity I used to do a few years ago when I was competing in triathlons. Back then, open water swimming was something I simply endured. It was that initial long pin-prick that you get at the start of a race before you settle into your stride and engage in the proper competition of cycling and running. Maybe I would have enjoyed this first leg of a triathlon more if there had been places to practice. It was possible to go on bike rides or running sessions as training in between races. But in the late 90s and early 2000s when I was doing these races, opportunities to do open water swimming training sessions were few and far between in London.
Fast forward to 2014, and it seems that open water swimming has really enjoyed a surge in popularity as people submerge themselves in this new fad. Wanting to try something new, I decided to renew my relationship with swimming. I was able to hire a wetsuit for the season at a reasonable cost, and even better, I found that there were lots of areas to do open water swimming sessions nearby. In the Northwest there are sessions at Salford Quays, other sessions in front of Media City, and also at Boundary Water Park, near Jodrell Bank (where Higg is pictured). In London there are various places - in the Serpentine lake in central London, in places near Richmond Park, and the place where we went to - Heron Lake, near Staines.
Although I am not a great swimmer, I have really enjoyed my trips to the different open water swim venues. I particularly enjoyed the USwim sessions at MediaCity. It seemed like every triathlete and keen swimmer in Manchester would turn up with their wetsuits on a Saturday morning or Wednesday early evening, pay a nominal fee, squeeze into a wetsuit and jump into the water, all to the sound of a playlist of retro funk and soul music. There's a choice of 400m laps or 750m laps of Dock 9, and sighting is very easy thanks to various landmarks like the quayside flats, the trams, the BBC building or The Lowry. Some people do breast stroke, most do front crawl, and a few do backstroke. Folks swim at various speeds and there are lifeguards nearby in case you get into difficulty. When not swimming there are areas to get refreshments and chat to others. For an activity that used to give me a lot of anxiety, I must say I quite enjoy open water swimming now. So having to return my wetsuit, and seeing the various venues ending their sessions until next spring is the real sign that summer has ended. I will miss open water swimming. Mind you, I'm not sure I would want to swim in any of those places in November or December either!