Oxford Classic Mile – The Best Laid Plans …

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men 
Gang aft agley, 
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain

– Robbie Burns

How true is this! Over the last couple of months the Angus Active Team had diligently swam at the Serpentine Lido each week to make sure the whole team were accustomed to outdoor swimming. We had lugged our wet suits to work, fought our way through commuter traffic on foot, bike or bus, sat dripping wet on tubes on the way home all in preparation for the Oxford Classic Mile.

During the week before the swim we had carefully co-ordinated car sharing and public transport with military precision … and yet TFL let us down on the day by springing a surprise train cancellation on one of our team.

The Trainline app went into overdrive as we all desperately searched for alternate routes.

My amazing other half, came to the rescue driving 20 miles out of our way to pick up our abandoned team mate and then he drove like a mad man to Oxford. Actually, his driving like a mad man is only my interpretation. He chuckled as I ticked him off for buzzing a red mini saying if he really drove fast he would have no ear drums left.

Anyway, we arrived at the start and there was Natalia, bobbing on the spot – and she wasn’t even in the water. Registration was closed but Aga and I grabbed a person in high vis and begged! She looked blankly at us and said – ‘you’ll have to ask him’. A lovely guy, who was perhaps slightly stressed, listened sympathetically to our story (as the next wave of swimmer gathered around us eyeing our noncappedness with disdain). Lovely guy nodded, smiled and then said ‘No – he could not let us swim’.

I’ve taken some poetic license for the next part …. but essentially, Aga and I figured that no one could stop us swimming in the river. So we sneaked about 20m up the river and found a pontoon where we jumped in and set off swimming – just a lovely day swimming on the Thames.

A few of the kayak marshals approached and we cheerily shouted out that we were just taking a swim, not part of the event and didn’t need rescuing if we got into trouble. Bemused they nodded and assured us if we started to drown they would haul us out.

The one thing I will stress here is that without a tow float or bright swim cap we were quite difficult to see in the water and there were a lot of boats on the river. Anyone entering this event really must try and arrive on time for safety reasons. It is so important and I didn’t realise how stupid we were until it was too late!

We swam along, chit chatting in a carefree fashion when all of a sudden the water started to swell and foam. Arghhh – Aga – swim faster! I yelled as I saw the torrent of swimmer fast approaching from the rear, obliterating everything in their path!

I got a little carried away – it was like being in a stampede … so I just put my head down and flailed my arms and legs as fast as I could.

Every time I thought about slowing down, one of the maniacs behind tickled my toes threatening to just swim right over the top of me if I didn’t speed up!

Anyway the water was amazing. It was so clean and warm. The spectators and marshals were lovely cheering everyone on and keeping everyone safe.

As we approached the pontoon at the finish there was lovely guy – smiling as we clambered out. ‘No number’ he called as we grinned devilishly at him. ‘Or should I just push you back in perhaps?’ We absolutely pinky promised not to be late next year!

Natalia made a fantastic effort swimming with her fractured arm. I suspect the stiff drink before and after helped. This is her first open water event and I suspect it won’t be the last! She did amazing!

Aga, held a steady pace and big smile the whole way. I think she has shocked herself at how she has suddenly changed into this superfit cyclist and swimmer. What next – perhaps mud runs and 5k’s? Watch this space! And did you know she swam the whole event with a broken wetsuit? Her zip had popped allowing the water to fill the wet suit and almost sink her! I have no idea how she managed to keep on swimming.

As for me, well I was just motivated by the amazing homemade cake at the end. I don’t know who made them but I’m doing this event next year just for the cake. BTW – the chocolate cake was the best!

Photo courtesy of Swim Oxford

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