Swimming Upstream at Silvermine

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Silvermine Nature Reserve looks over the southern suburbs of Cape Town.

Training doesn’t always go according to plan. Whether it’s work, family, friends, fatigue or injury, sometimes it feels like you are trying to swim upstream. With a few niggles holding me back for the past few weeks, I was desperate to feel a sense of progression so I took to the seas. Or, well, to Silvermine dam.

After a few pool sessions, I set my sights on an open water swim. I figured the ocean was a really out of my league so I headed out to the dam at Silvermine Nature Reserve in Cape Town. Perched above the city in the Table Mountain National Park, Silvermine dam is nestled among the natural fynbos and is a popular destination for triathletes to practice open water swimming, especially since it isn’t too cold. What they don’t tell you is that the water is black!

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A little nervous for my first open water swim since I was a kid!

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The water was warm but the wind was freezing!

I got over the cold wind. I got into the cold water. But, as I put my face in to start swimming, pitch black water stopped me immediately. I couldn’t see more than a foot in front of me! I quickly planted my feet on the sandy bottom but, after a 30 second self pep talk, I made a second attempt, this time eyes closed.

Not being used to the variables of open water, I wasn’t exactly able to swim in a straight line and having my eyes closed didn’t help. However, as I zig-zagged across the dam, I actually enjoyed the freedom of swimming in a haphazard manner. Like taking to the road after a winter season of indoor cycling, I felt liberated from the pool walls and pretty soon I forgot about the somewhat terrifying lack of water visibility. Even though I couldnt see where I was going and I was taking the “scenic route,” I still managed to get a good swim session in. More importantly, I finally felt like my training was moving forward without the risk or hinderance of injury.  Swimming in such a stunning natural spot in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, that was just a bonus!

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