Updated: Jul 30, 2022
My name is Aerin Bowers, and I am an Open Water Swimmer from Rossland, British Columbia, Canada. I am training to swim the 26km Sri Chinmoy Lake Zurich Marathon Swim on August 9, 2022. This is how I came to swim a beautiful stretch of the Thames on Saturday, July 23, in one of the most memorable swimming experiences of my life.
I’ve been a swimmer most of my life, and was born into an extended family of swimmers, lifeguards, clown divers, lake lovers, and pool rats. I swam competitively until I was a teenager, when other high school activities (and boys) took priority. I’m also a passionate skier, cyclist, and hiker, and I live in a small mountain town where the bears roam freely. Although I spent plenty of time in the water during my 20s and 30s, it wasn’t until I did the swim leg in a fun team sprint triathlon that the open water bug bit me, and it bit me hard.
I discovered that swimming is a moving meditation, which has allowed me to breathe through a lot of challenging times. I describe it almost like being asleep – it’s a zone where I can slow down my thoughts and connect with my body, and the water.
With this newfound old passion, I started with local events in Kelowna and Sandpoint, and found that I was drawn to longer and longer distances. So then I tried Couer d’Alene, Alcatraz, Kootenay Lake, and the Serpentine. After that, I did the Lake Skaha Ultra (twice), the Riddfjardsimningen in Sweden, Konstanz, Vancouver, Lake Ontario, longer stretches of the Okanagan. I took any opportunity I could find to travel and swim, signing up for any event I could. And when I learned about the Lake Zurich Swim, I knew I had to try. I didn’t get accepted with my first application, but second time’s a charm except for the small matter of a worldwide pandemic that saw the event cancelled and impossible for two years.
But here we are today, with the swim just two weeks away. I’ve had an ambitious training plan, but had to be in the UK for two weeks of work (I work for a UK academic publisher) so I was concerned about getting my metres in. Especially the long swim that I needed to do before launching my taper.
I found Swim Oxford on Facebook, and connected with Darrin. I explained my challenge, and he immediately suggested a lock to lock 10km in the Thames at Eynsham Lock. We spoke once to firm up the details (including his generous offer of both transport from Oxford and boat support AND photography), and that was that.
That’s the thing about swimming, and swimmers, and our community. I knew when I spoke to Darrin that he was good for his word. I knew it would be an amazing experience, and that I’d learn a lot, and that I’d make a connection. Things just line up like that sometimes. When I met Darrin, he was as personable and energetic as I expected, and I knew I was in good hands.
Getting into the water at Eynsham Lock, I marvelled at the greens and purples and expanses of yellow a bit further afield, framed by hills and forest and all that makes the English countryside so charming and irresistible. I am accustomed to swimming in much larger, more vast bodies of water, so it was a treat to meander down the river with its unique long boats and grouchy swans. We even passed a rave, still busting out beats at 8am.
My swim felt great and the water was perfect. We turned around after 4km and made our way back against a little bit of current, which was refreshing and a good test of endurance for the 5-8 km stretch, which is actually my sweet spot.
We got out and crossed over the lock for the final 2km, which would be downstream from Pink Hill Lock. These last kilometres were magical, culminating in a finish under the Swinford Bridge, which might be the prettiest bridge in all of England (or anywhere else for that matter). Passing under a structure from 1769 was just another amazing example of how swimming has brought me to these unforgettable experiences and unforgettable people.
I needed this swim and I couldn’t have imagined a better morning, a prettier place with prettier light, or a better guide. I will definitely be back to enjoy other sections of the river around Oxford. And if anyone is curious about swimming in Canada (our lakes are really warm in the summer, I promise!), I’d be more than happy to host you. You can reach me through my website at openwaterlife.com
Many thanks again to Darrin. There’s nothing like making a new, lifelong friend!
Keep swimming, Aerin
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