Just 8 days after completing my second English Channel swim, and after two light training sessions in the pool at Clarice House, we set of for Kings Lynn in North Norfolk to compete in the 2008 BLDSA Lynn Regis Championship. Due to all of the weekend training sessions required for the channel, this was only my second BLDSA event of the season, the Champion of Champions race in Dover Harbour was the other one, and I was really looking forward to it.
This was a big family day out with our dog Casper in the back, and Baz with his friend Ben all attending on what was an absolutely beautiful September day. In fact it was probably the best weather we had had since back in July. It really has been an awful year for the weather as far as open water swimming is concerned.
Above: Beccy massages a small but painful knot from my left shoulder just before the swim.
We were all briefed by the race organiser, Stephen Smith, given our numbers (I was M16) then prepared ourselves ready to enter the water to start the race. Just before I got in, I drank a full 500ml of "Channel Swimmers" energy drink (Maxim with water) then proceeded down to the river to enter the 15.5 degree Centigrade waters of the River Great Ouse.
Above: Entering the water and swimming to our start positions, which was to form a line between the river bank and the kayak.
Above: Video of the start of the race, I was closely watching Simon Lee of Solent Swimming Club who has won 54 BLDSA races over the years, and in my mind he was the man I had to beat to win this race.
Above: Baz and Ben watch the race and thanks to Baz who took all of the photos and video of the race.
The start of the race was the usual affair with lots of frantic swimming, jostling for position and kicks in the face. To my left just ahead of me was BLDSA committee member Dee Llewelyn from Bradford Swimming Club and to the right was Lee Portingale from Hitchin. The first lap was quite physical, and try as I might I could not get past Lee who constantly veered in front of me whenever I tried. I was sandwiched in between Dee and Lee and out to the right just ahead was Simon Lee.
Above: Swimming down the back straight after about the first 1KM of the 4.5KM race.
I swum at about 85% effort from the beginning and I felt really strong. Not at any stage did I feel that my arms were getting tired or that I was fading. I think I still had my non existent second channel swim energy to get rid of from last week, and I was absolutely fired up!
Eventually, I decided to go for it and squeezed myself in between Dee and Lee. As I crossed the start/finish line for the first of three times, I thought to myself that I was in the lead. I couldn't see Simon Lee anywhere and I assumed that I was either behind him, or he was way out in front. I looked up a couple of times, but could not see anyone ahead of me, and so just kept swimming. For most of the next couple of laps, Dee Llewelyn was just to the left of me and slightly behind. As I turned around each buoy at 750 Metres, I could see that Lee was a good 30-40 seconds behind me, but I still didn't know where Simon Lee was so started to increase my pace.
Above: Swimming alongside Dee Llewelyn for about 3KM of the race. Casper watches patiently for the race to end so that he can get in the river. Each time I went past he barked at me!
Eventually, still not knowing if I was definitely leading or not, I started to sprint at about 95% effort and broke clear of Dee. I was now out on my own, but unsure of my exact position.
Above: Out in the clear on the final stretch before turning for the short sprint to the finish line.
As I turned round the last buoy, I saw a blue hat around the other side of the buoy about 100 Metres in total in front of me. It must be Simon Lee I thought, and so sprinted flat out. I caught the swimmer with ease and realised that I must have just lapped someone. As I crossed the finish line, I shouted "Where did I come?". One of the judges put her forefinger up and said "First!". I was absolutely astonished and delighted to say the least. I had won my first BLDSA race, beating everyone in the field, Male/Female/Juniors/Seniors at the age of 45! I was chuffed to bits.
Above: Getting my breath back immediately after the finish of the race.
Above: Chatting to Dee Llewelyn and Lee Portingale immediately after the race. Simon Lee (left) came in 3rd position.
Dee came in about 12 seconds behind me and Lee about 1.5 minutes behind me (I will know exactly when the results are published). "You've speeded up!" said Dee. "It's all that Channel training Freda's put me through" I replied. We stayed in the water for a couple of minutes chatting before getting out.
Above: Beccy and Casper waiting to congratulate me after my win. (He spent the rest of the afternoon jumping in and out of the river having a great time!).
Above: Chatting to other swimmers about the race while waiting for the other swimmers to finish.
Disappointment after a great day!
When all the swimming was complete, we went into the Ouse Sailing Club clubhouse for the prize giving. When I entered the race and paid my entry fee, there were quite clearly three levels of entry on the form:-
4.5KM (Senior) / 1.5KM (Junior) / 1KM (Novice)
I paid my £18.00 entry fee for the Seniors 4.5KM Gents Freestyle race. When the prizes were given out, I was presented with the "Veterans" trophy as the winner of the "Veterans" race. I was confused as I didn't know there was a "Veterans" race. To my knowledge I had won the entire event! Matters were compounded when Lee Portingale of Hitichin, was presented with a trophy for "First Male Finisher" and winner of the Senior Men's race. He came over to me and said "I asked them to give this to you but they wouldn't!". He was clearly uncomfortable accepting the trophy, and so would I have been if I was in that position. So the "Senior Male" who came second in the race, was presented with the winners trophy and the winner (me) got presented with the "Winner of the Veteran's race" trophy!
Above: BLDSA President, Janet Wilson presents Paul Hopfensperger, first person home in the entire swim, and therefore first Male over 16 home, with the Men's Veteran trophy, while...
Above: BLDSA President, Janet Wilson presents the second Male swimmer over 16 home, Lee Portingale of Hitichin, with the "First Male Swimmer over 16 home" trophy!?
I queried all of this with race organiser Stephen Smith, who said during the presentations that they had never had this position before where a "Veteran" (45 years old and over on the day of the swim) had beaten the "Senior Men" (Male swimmers aged 16 and over on the day of the swim - (Includes Veterans)) and so they were unsure what to do.
I telephoned him on Sunday evening, and he has promised to look into this for me at the next committee meeting in October, as he feels that I have a point, and the official results will show that I won the race. I entered a race as a "Senior" and there was no mention of the word "Veteran" when entering the race. The people I have spoken to think that I should have received both trophies and this is what I feel as well. I am a male over 16 and was the first male over 16 to finish the race. How can that be any clearer you would have to ask? I have never heard of anyone being too old to win a race! Isn't that discrimination?
Watch this space for further news...