Leisure Report: As in not a race :-)
The Dart 10k is annual event held by the Outdoor Swimming Society. Starting at Totnes you swim downriver to Dittisham, which is near the mouth of the river Dart. The event is a sell out every year and you have to get up early in the morning to register the day it opens or your will miss your slot.
Pics: The swim start at Totnes and map of the swim route.
The organisers of this event should give themselves a huge pat on the back for the way they manage and run this event. From the moment you sign up to the time you enter the water the organisers do everything they can to assist with training and reassure you that this is going to be an enjoyable experience.
Swimmers are set off in waves with slower swimmers going first so that in the end everyone finishes roughly around the same time. We seeded ourselves mid pack based on our predicted swim time so there were a couple of waves ahead of us when we set off.
One of the key things to be aware of in this race is the fast flow of the current. You only realise just how fast it is pushing you along until you stop at a floating feed station and have to hang on other wise you will be swept away.
Pic: Feed station mid swim, paddleboarders maintaining safety for swimmers
There is lots of food available at each feed station, mini flapjacks, sweeties, energy drinks, gels etc which you do need to take on board. Again lots of encouragement, smiles and laughter from the people on the floating stations and these continued all the way down this event.
Safety boats and paddleboarders line the route and keep you safely on track and out of the way of ferries and boats, which become more frequent as you get further down river near to the end at Dartmouth. You always feel really safe and you are never alone on this swim. I noticed some people swimming breaststroke but mostly people swam front crawl.
While we started together, Adrian and I lost each other almost immediately amongst the other swimmers in our wave. However, as I reached the first feed station there he was clinging on and waving at me. From there we swam together which was really nice and made the whole experience much more enjoyable for me.
Pic : Just messing about in the river!
It is hard to describe the actual swim itself and the scenery because although the surroundings are pretty, there is not much to see when you are face down front crawling in the river. The day we did the race (Sept 2017) was after a torrential rain storm and the river was quite murky with all the run off from the fields. I will admit getting in at the start was not that inviting and there was also a fair bit of wood and rubbish floating around. So, all in all nowhere near as nice as any of the ocean swims we have done and because of that it's unlikely we would do this or another long river swim again. But, if you are a keen open water swimmer I can see why this would be a bucket list swim because of the distance, challenge and excellent event organisation.
Generally, 10k is a long way to swim and you do need to train and get swim fit for the distance, it is not one to just wing it or have a go. We spent hours and hours in our local swimming pool building up the mileage and swimming long sets over a period of weeks, which got us swim fit, if not fast. We are also lucky to swim with a bunch of regular swimmers that go to the same pool as us, who are mainly all faster than me but equally massively supportive of you joining in swim sets with them.
For this event we did well finishing in 2 hours 40 mins, which gives you some idea of the speed of the river flow, as neither of us would manage that sort of time in a flat calm lake or sea.
Pic: A faster swimmer than us whooshes by :-)
When we reached the end at Dittisham, I was really very glad to get out, felt a bit sea sick and even with my wetsuit on I was getting quite cold. My lips were blue which is a new one for me and Adrian, who does feel the cold was literally shivering all over. The organisers have a huge tent with massive heaters and helpers on hand to help you get out your wetsuit and changed. They also have hot tubs and all sorts of food and drink stalls set on site which we didn’t really make much use of as we were so keen to get dry, warm and our clothes on.
Pic: At the finish as the sun came out!
Every finisher was given a large towel with the Dart 10k branded on it, which is a lovely keepsake of the event, together with your branded swim cap.
Glad to have taken part in this one.