Swim Oxford 4K Thames Swim

Race report from lasts weekends 2017 Swim Oxford 4Km swim 


Key Facts

  • Date: Sunday 18th June 2017
  • Start: Eynsham, Oxfordshire
  • Finish: Kings Lock, Oxfordshire
  • Distance: 4k downstream river swim

The race began early at 7.30 (6.30 registration) on a beautiful Sunday morning.


The route was set from Eynsham lock to Kings lock, 4km down a tranquil part of the Thames river.

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The water temperature was a cool 19c but because of the high outdoor temperature the river was refeshing and comfortable to swim in.


There were about 200 participants with a range of abilities, the start was a shallow water waist deep start from Eynsham lock. Plenty of support crew and water saftey from the start to the finish of the race.


The Swim Race

The swim start was less agressive than a normal open water race or triathlon, i think because of the distance more people took the start of the race easy rather than a ma dash to get in a good position.

I began the first 1Km of the race i third position, sitting nicley in the slipstream of the lead two swimmers. As expected this made it easy to hold a strong consistent pace at the start. My HR was low and stroke was strong but steady.

Once the river began to meander at about 2Km I struggled to stay in the lead swimmers slipstream and drifted to the side loosing my advantage and dropping back into 5th place.

At around 2.5km the gap between me in 5th and the front 4 swimmers widened to about 100mm and although they remained in sight for the final 1.5km I never reduced to gap and swam in 5th position from 2.5km all the way to the 4km finish line. in a time of 52.35. (results)

The hardest part of the swim was Km 2 to Km 3, the river meandered alot and it became quite hard to keep a swimming in a straight line and not drift off the edge of the river. I had a saftey kayak point me back on course on a number of occasions.

The last 1km of the race flew by and seemed effortless, either it was actually shorter or the rush of adrenaline as the finish neared helped speed the final stretch up.

The finish

Over all the  Oxford 4km was a great event, well organised, safe and alot of fun. The part of the river you swim down is so serine and beautiful you feel like you could be in the wind and the willow’s and during the swim there was not a building or boat in sight.

To top it off the finishers were treated to Tea and cake at the end, how very english.

Freestyle Arm Recovery


Top Picture:  High elbow recovery.

Bottom Picture: Straight arm recovery

  • Historically the high elbow recovery has been the “correct”way to swim freestyle.
  • However as knowledge increases and we see more and more swimmers succeeding with a straight arm style it has become clear that there is no one size fits all for freestyle technique.
  • If you feel more comfortable using straight arms or you are able to more easily find your rhythm this way then straight arm recovery may be the right option for you.
  • Switching to a straight arm recovery during more choppy swims.
  • If you find it difficult swimming in a wetsuit using a bent elbow then a straight arm may help with this.
  • It is also useful to be able to modify your stroke so that you can perform with both a straight arm and high elbow and use each different style when required. 
  • Experiment in training and find what works and how it affects your speed, pace and rhythm.

First Triathlon of the 2017 Season

Nuffield Sprints.- Eaton Dorney Lake  21st May 2017

Key takeouts

  • Based at the 2012 Olympic rowing venue
  • A great race to participate as as season opener
  • Distance 750m Swim 20Km Bike and 5km run
  • Clean, clear and warm lake (18c)
  • Well marked swim course with buoys and finish markers
  • Cycle is fast but a little boring as its 5 laps around the lake
  • Crowds mostly around the transition areas
  • Head wind on 50% of bike, slows down you average speed.
  • Run is an out and back along the foot path
  • Run is dead flat and generally smooth surface
  • Sold out for 2 straight days means busy and popular event
  • Lots of first timers as well as elite and high level age group athletes
  • Well organised race but lacks a little atmosphere

IVBP8285Bike Transition DCIM100GOPROTT Bike Set upDCIM100GOPROSupporters at the start/finish DCIM100GOPROPerfect setting for the swim DCIM100GOPROFlat run course IMG_6053Bike check in MZGF5197Riding back to car after the finishIMG_6060Finishers medal to add to the collection

Open Water Skills: Drafting 



One difference between swimming and racing in open water vs swimming in a pool is that you’re often surrounded by other people (and clash into them) during your swim. Although this may make for a more physical swim, it also has it’s upsides. Positioning yourself correctly in relation to the swimmer ahead of you during a swim means you can benefit from sitting in their slipstream resulting in:.

  • Going faster than you could on swimming in isolation  or
  • Swimming at the same speed as usual but expending far less energy.

The benefit from drafting is so significant, it can save over one minute per 1500m. So if your swimming an Ironman distance swim of 3.8km you could be looking at a time saving of 3.5minutes.

There are two main types of drafting:

  1. Swimming directly behind a faster swimmer (the most common)
  2. Swimming to the side of a faster swimmer.

Drafting Directly behind a faster swimmer

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  • The aim is to position your self so you are directly behind the swimmer in front.
  • Be at least one arm length behind them so you don’t swim over the top of them.
  • Keep you extended arm as close to their feet as possible without touching, if you hit their feet you will slow them and yourself down.
  • Watch out for the wash they produce from kicking, it may cause you to swallow water when you try and breath, so adjust your breathing pattern accordingly.
  • Sight regularly, do not rely on the swimmer in front to be taking the correct route.
  • Stick behind the faster simmer for as long as possible, then use your conserved energy to pass them in the final part of the swim


Drafting to the side of a faster swimmer

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  • Position yourself either side of the faster swimmer in front of you.
  • Make sure your shoulder is adjacent to their hip
  • Breath towards the swimmer in front so you can keep an eye on where they are in relation to you. it will be is easier to breath the opposite side, however this will cause you to drift off their draft zone.
  • Sight regularly, do not rely on the swimmer in front to be taking the correct route.
  • Learn to adjust the rhythm of your stroke so your arms don’t clash.
  • You may touch swimmer in front from time to time, this is ok but too often will slow you both down.
  • Don’t swim on top of them as it will slow both of your swim speeds down.
  • It takes constant focus to ensure you don’t drift apart from the swimmer in front.
  • You should be able to feel the wake of the lead swimmer and notice the increase in speed (or decrease in energy)

Practice makes perfect.

  • Find a swim partner who is willing to let you practice drafting with and alternate being the lead swimmer.
  • Become comfortable with swimming in close proximity to another swimmer and understand how you need to adjust your stroke and breathing timing.
  • Practice both drafting potions and find which is most comfortable.
  • If you practice enough then on race day you’ll find yourself naturally entering a draft zone without the need to really think about it.
  • Being familiar with the feeling of drafting will help reduce anxiety on race day.

The Importance of Stroke Length


How fast you swim can be calculated by a simple equation:

Swim Speed= Stroke Length x Stroke Rate

This is why good swimmers tend to be tall with a long arm span (as they already have a competitive advantage).

When trying to swim faster most peoples instinct is to increase their stroke rate (i.e move their arms faster). In reality this is not the best way to swim faster as increasing the rate your arms turn over will:

  • Push your heart rate up so you start working anaerobically and you will begin to fatigue quicker.
  • Exaggerate any flaws in your stroke so that each stroke becomes incrementally less efficient.
  • Unless you already have a strong smooth stroke, when pulling  you will chop at the water and have less grip on each catch which will feel like your spinning your arms with out progressing forward.

The right way to swim faster is to focus on increasing your stroke length, to do this you need to incorporate drills and practices that will help you maximise critical eliments of your stroke:

  • The distance you travel on each stroke pull.
  • The quality of your ‘Catch’ (the point your hand begins to pull backwards).
  • The length of your reach forward after your hand entry point.
  • The drive forward from your leg kick.
  • Your body rotation at the hip.

Focusing on your stroke length and not the rate your arms turnover, will gradually enable you to become a smoother more efficient swimmer, traveling further on each pull and using less energy to do so.

Next time you see a great swimmer note how effortless they look, it is normally because of their smooth, long and efficient stroke.





Day 1 of the Open Water Season

Saturday morning April 22nd 2017 is the first day the Tri2o swim centre is open for the 2017 season and it opened on a beautiful clear sunny morning. Air temp 10c water temp 14c

Despite it being the first day of the season the lake was pretty busy already with some people even braving the 14c water with out a wetsuit. I decided to play it safe and keep the wetsuit on.


The main change for my attire this year was I had sneaked a neoprene hat underneath my silicon hat to stop myself getting the classic ‘ice cream headache’ for the first lap. it was the best £9 investment. It stopped my head feeling the cold and even kept my hair completely dry for the swim.

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Once I was in the first 200m were pretty chilly and I did feel like 14c but as soon as I reached the first boy (2-3 mins later) the feeling of cold had subsided and it felt close to the perfect swimming temperature

The water was clear and clean and was like swimming in a mill pond and the blue sky only added to the enjoyment.


I completed 3 laps in 45minutes which is a record for day 1 of the season (historically its been too cold to do more than one)

Skills I practiced in my session:

  • Acclimatisation to cold water (pre entry)
  • Shallow water entry (diving)
  • Flushing the wetsuit to keep warm
  • Siting to the buoy
  • Turning around the buoy
  • Long efficient stroke
  • Catch drills to improve stroke length
  • Speed work as approaching the buoy
  • Bilateral breathing to help swimming in a straight line


Now the first session of the season is complete and the temperature is comfortable enough to train, its time to focus on fitness and skills, I will be posting some sessions on the website or get in touch if you’re interested in some coached sessions.

Preparing for the Open Water Season


With less than a month to go before the open water swimming season starts I thought it would be useful to highlight what you can do in preparation of the opening day :

  • Wetsuit: It may have been a few months since you last squeezed into the wet suit. Before your first swim check it still fits. Check it has not corroded over the winter and address any holes with a neoprene adhesive.
  • Swim Cap: You may have been used to swimming in warm waters over the summer, but the start of the season tends to be significantly cooler. Invest in a neoprene hat  to keep your head warm. It will also mean you can swim for longer during the initial weeks of the season without getting brain freeze.
  • Booties and Gloves: Some people don’t notice the cold on their hands and feet, but if you suffer from cold extremities then investing in booties and gloves could help you enjoy your cold weather swim with out worrying about numb hands and feet.
  • Swim Buoy:  Swimming in the open water is very exciting especially the feeling of isolation and adventure, to ensure your safety (especially in rivers and ocean) investing in a swim buoy  is a must. the Swim buoy will ensure you are seen by passing boats. It also doubles up as a dry bag to tow some shoes, fuel or mobile.
  • Goggles: There are endless goggles on the market and the right ones tend to be a personal preference. Two things to think about for open water swimming are; protecting your eyes from the sun by using polarised lenses and making sure you have as wide of a field of vision as possible, generally the wider bigger lenses will help with this.
  • Dealing  with the Cold: Water temperatures in the early season are likely to be close to 10c. Being mentally prepared to be submerged in this temperature is a must, otherwise there is risk of panic attack or loss of consciousness in extreme cases. Practice being submerged in cold water baths or spend the first few sessions at the lake acclimatising to temperature before you swim off into the open water. All the previously mentioned accessories will help your body mange in cold water.
  • Build your Endurance: Open water swimming generally is longer and slower than pool swimming, use the next few weeks to focus on longer sets to build your endurance, which will help you manage the longer distances in open water.
  • Have a plan: Make sure you are making the most of each session in open water. If your putting in  the effort to swim outside make sure your session is structured to help you become a step closer to your goal. i.e you may want to practice swimming in large groups, or practice swimming alone for long periods. If this is the case make sure your sessions reflect this.
  • Have fun: If your goal is just to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, then no plan is necessary! Bring your friends to experience the swim with you are chat to like minded people to make some new friends who are as crazy as you are.