On Saturday 2nd July we swam the Boulters Mile (which is actually 1600m or 0.9m). They claim it’s similar to the bakers dozen and this works for me!
In a Dukes of Hazzard style drive by pick up, Vagner collected me and we made our way to Maidenhead Rowing Club to register. As we were late, we didn’t have time to go and change so we just stripped off in reception and threw our wetsuits on! Bet Vagner was glad I’d reminded him to wear swimmers! I’d just bought a new wetsuit from wiggle and this time it was a TriWetsuit by DHB. It was a perfect fit for my ample size 14 36DD figure although I refused to look down as my numerous lumps and bumps were gloriously showing themselves off to all and sundry!
The start was about 20mins waddle away on Ray Mill Island at Boulters Lock. You wear your flip flops to walk from the rowing club to the start and then leave them at the start where they are transported to the finish to meet you for the walk back. You can also leave your car keys in a sealed envelope.
As we arrived the safety briefing was just taking place and everyone was nervously giggling, eager to get started. A group of non wet suit wearers were huddling around their only team member with a wet suit in the vain hope of catching some radiating heat.
We were sent away in two waves depending on whether we were doing the short or long swim. This entailed climbing over a low barrier and then wading into the cold murky water. My advice is that it’s better to just swim in and get the cold over and done with rather than standing as the swan poo sludge pushes its way between your toes. Surprisingly, it’s not that cold. And my wet suit was amazing – I don’t think my legs or arms even got wet?
The current was apparently 37m3 (safe swimming is below 65m3) and last year was 11m3. This might seem meaningless but as we all had to tread water waiting for the start, the curren slowly carried us down stream so we had to keep swimming back up before we were finally released.
Our group set off surround by the volunteers in kayaks who were there to keep us safe. V had somersaulted off his bike into a pile of sand the day before and had treated his back with deep heat. We always tell each other we are gladiators … But sometimes we are stupid gladiators and should rest! Not that this we’ll ever happen but I feel better having duly reprimanded myself and Vagner.
Anyway, I think the cold just caused Vagners muscle to sieze! The lovely support lady in the kayak came over and ask Vagner to grab the front but he wasn’t able to lift his arm. ‘Right – call the speed boat’ she said! And that was it … Vagner was dragged from the water! And when I say dragged I mean it. Apparently, since he couldn’t use both arms, the support grabbed his feet to drag him in, but in so doing the let go of his good arm, dunking him head first under water!
By this time the main group were a fair way ahead of me and although I tried to catch up, the distance was too great. So I just decided to get into a nice rythm and enjoy the swim.
The river was gorgeous – it was totally quiet with the sun beating down and just the odd few quacks from the ‘passing’ ducks! <not embarrassed!>
I swam comfortably under Maidenhead bridge and had the sound arch in my sights. This is the rail bridge designed by Brunel and opened in 1839. The double arch spans the river creates spectacular echoes hence the name ‘the sounding arch’. And here’s a little culture for you – in 1844 Turner featured the railbridge in his painting Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway. The painting is currently displayed in London’s National Gallery.
A booming voice shattered the calm ‘come on lex’! Vagner was standing on the balcony of the rowing club … Coffee and bacon butty in hand cheering me on. A random stranger joined in with the support – obviously feeling sorry for me as I was last!
Of course you have to shout echo (or if your a bloke rude word of your choice) as you swim through the amazing sounding arch.
Then, just a few hundred metres further downstream was one of the helpers waving the finish flag! Fab job! I was so happy to see that waving flag and used the last of my energy to make it to the finish!
The organisers at the finish were brilliant … Shouting ‘quick get out and over the mat’ so the time would register. I’ll not lie … I had wibbly weak arms as I tried to haul myself out.
It was an amazing day and I’ll certainly be doing it again next year … But watch out – I’ll be going for a time next year!
Thanks to the organisers for tremendous support and for keeping this event going. www.boulterstobrayswim.org
Also, thanks to Maidenhead Rowing club for the much appreciated warm showers, coffees and bacon rolls!