Grand Cayman is home to the world's richest open water swimming events with over 900 swimmers taking part in a one-mile race every June. Until this year I’ve managed to stay dry watching the event from the beach and marveling at the hundreds of people taking on the challenge alongside Olympic athletes. This year the company I work for pledged to sponsor the entry fees for anyone wanting to take part and so, with considerable peer pressure, I put my name down.
Before I had time to reconsider, race day was upon us and it was time to gather my swimming kit and head to the Ritz for the start.
To complete a sea swim you only need 2 things:
- A swim suit or a bikini. My top tip is to make it as jazzy as possible
- A pair of goggles – that fit. Check before the race that they’re confortable and that they don’t leak. Basic I know but very easy to forget!
Once you have those 2 items, you’re almost ready to race. The final step it to register for the event and collect your luminous swimming cap. One day I’ll meet one of the organizers and ask why it’s necessary to make everyone dress up as Dr Evil, but for now I’ll assume that the purpose of the silicone torture device is to make the participants stand out in the water and easy to spot if they’re in distress. Let’s face it , at least 80% of the swimmers are more concerned with staying afloat than they are with optimum aerodynamics. Whatever the reason, without a cap, you don’t compete. So on it went.
After a short swim to the start line and a few seconds treading water the horn bellowed and we were off! Here are my top tips for a decent start:
- Pay attention! There’s no countdown so you need to be ready to set off at any moment. The claxon caught me off-guard leaving me caught up in a whirlwind of arms and legs scrambling past as everyone who was on their marks got a head-start.
- Plan the direction you want to go in over the first 20 metres, and stick to it. When you put your head down at the start, the only thing you’ll see is bubbles. There’s no way you’re going to be able to follow your friend unless you have a plan.
- Don’t panic! The crowds soon thin out. Leave the start line with purpose and determination and don’t worry about the people around you. As soon as you find some space you can get into a rhythm and relax.
I was surprised to find that I was able to swim front crawl (freestyle) for the whole distance but there are no rules about which stroke you use. It’s totally acceptable to use all of them if you want to mix things up and allow yourself a bit more time to catch your breath! You can even put your feet down if you need to, as long as you don’t travel forwards on your feet.
You have 75 minutes to complete the mile and cross the finish line. I’ll be honest and tell you now – its exciting and relieving to reach the end of the swim but I thought the last 50 metres were the hardest. I was exhausted. I lost focus on my goal due to the cheering I could hear from on shore and a failed attempt to spot my husband resulting in me losing rhythm and swallowing water. My lips were stinging from the salt and the pack of swimmers had gotten tighter as everyone swam for the narrow corridor roped off to mark the finish. The water was murky with churned up sand. And I was hungry. But perservere! Your goal is insight!
A shiny medal makes the whole ordeal worthwhile.
Not to mention the pizza!
The Flowers group do a fabulous job at organizing the swim and put on a pretty impressive spread of food and goodies afterwards. Swimming a mile is a huge achievement – whether you do it in 15 minutes or 75, anyone who takes on the challenge and completes the distance is a winner in my book. And when you’re done, you deserve a Beergarita :)