Alpe d’Huez assault part ten: In at the deep end

Warren Pole follows Team 33Shake as they take the open water plunge for the first time...


Thank heavens summer finally decided to poke its head out this week, because with their inaugural race just days away at Blenheim, the Team 33Shake girls were fast running out of time for their first open water outing.


Swimming in Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake is an acquired taste at the best of times, let alone for a trio of refined ladies who, until training began, would have thought twice about boating here let alone actually getting in. Mindful of this, and also mindful that both Erica and Giovanna had grown up on the toasty beaches of Northern Italy and so may not enjoy the traditionally British  ‘bracing’ delights of a frigid murky dip in the lake, I had my fingers crossed for some sunshine to minimise their fears of leaping in to open water.

These fears mainly centred around it being cold (it would be, but the wetsuit would soon sort that), and it being a disease hazard on a par with something out of Alien. While I had to agree the duck poo-lined edges of the lake don’t exactly inspire confidence, in four years swimming in there I’ve never had an issue and don’t know anyone else who has either. Besides, a host of Olympians all ploughed through it last year so it must be fine.

A major moment in any budding triathlete’s career, this first transition from pool to pond is where you quickly realise swimming in open water has bugger all in common with pool swimming beyond the basic action. Open water looks different (assuming you can see anything at all beneath the surface that is), tastes different and most certainly smells different. Not only this but handy lane markers are no more, you may not be able to touch the bottom at all – thanks to nature inconsiderately omitting to create all open water swimming areas with clearly marked shallow ends – and you’ll quite likely be sharing your swim with the local wildlife.

So while open water swimming may be a magical thing, it does take some getting used to. As do wetsuits, a point made when Giovanna first exited the Serpentine changing rooms with hers on back to front…

This fashion mishap sorted, it was into the water where after some grimacing and shivering as they hopped in, the girls proceeded to hammer out a very respectable session. Distance wasn’t the plan here, simply starting to acclimatise to the conditions and wetsuits was. All three of them nailed it and came out buzzing. There’s now just time for one more session before Blenheim to work on sighting, extra breathing (first-timers in open water often don’t breath enough as they’re worried about swallowing water) and that all-important post-swim speedy wetsuit removal.

Stay tuned for the next episode and a full Blenheim race report.


Team 33Shake is naturally fuelled to perfection by 33Shake, 100% natural superfood sports nutrition (, with additional big thanks to Specialized bikes for the Dolces (