Richards 15KM marathon swim

Richards 15KM marathon swim

By Richard Pollard, 16/10/2014

On Saturday I swam the annual ‘Clean Half’ Marathon Swim: 15kms from Stanley on the southern end of Hong Kong island round a headland then up the other side into Deep Water Bay. Unknown to us innocents there were to be stronger than normal tidal currents for at least half distance after the recent full moon, with an ebb as fast as some of us could swim.

The race started well, 2km to the first buoy then a 4.5km leg down to the base of the headland where large satellite dishes helped visual spotting. The 1km swim round the bottom of the headland was expected to be rough but fortunately wasn’t though I was nearly hit by a speedboat accompanying a relay team as they picked their swimmer out of the water (all looking at the swimmer, no one looking out front).

mapThe problems started as we turned up the 5km leg on the west side of the headland against a strong current. It was a brutal swim, stroking as hard as possible whilst making little progress, hour after hour. I eventually made it to an island after which we’d change direction and get out of the main ebb however I couldn’t round it, the tidal stream was too fast. A terrible realisation that I couldn’t beat the current and was going to have to stop. My paddlers would hear nothing of it and insisted I could get round. I was joined by another swimmer, equally stuck and together we took heart and pushed through much to my (French) paddler’s delight. ‘Only 3km to go now Richard, c’est facile’. I quietly begged to differ, a spent force contemplating another hour+ of mechanical windmilling into a lesser tidal stream.

That 3km was drudgery. I knew I’d finish but still had to go through the motions with plenty of time to contemplate how distance swimming is largely mind over matter (assuming you’ve done the training).  And then I was walking out of the water, finished. I anticipated doing the swim in 5.30 to 6.00 hours however it took 7.03.48 for a measly 15km!! The tide had cost me an hour+ and it felt like it.

I came up with the word ‘brutal’ during the race and I maintain that. Normal people would have given up, I’m simply too daft. Under normal tidal conditions I would have finished in max 6 hours but arriving at the tidal gate when I did meant I had to do it the hard way. It was a necessary eye opener to realise marathon swimming is not all flat water and weak currents which also highlighted the importance of a safety paddler – lesson learned. Great experience, well organised and everyone involved were extremely nice as usual.

In summary:
A great day, my planning worked out, Desitin nappy cream (40% zinc oxide) to counter the sun, correct feeding despite going to 7 hours and the weight/gym work I’d done made it possible to keep battling the current. Downside, I wish I was 30 years younger and 30 kilos lighter!   I’ll be back.

There’s a cool video at:


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