After I (Manda) did the Windermere 2 way relay a couple of people mentioned to me that they were interested in doing a Windermere swim and I said I would be keen to do a solo after the 2 way relay so would be something to consider for next year. However, next year wasn’t enough for Brian so he suggested this year! By this point it was already late in the season so we were running out of time, however, I have somewhat promised the OH no “major”* events next year so the idea of getting it ticked off this year was appealing.
At this point I started throwing reasons at Brian for me not to do it
1) Blue green algae break out at Fell Foot, Windermere
2) There were no weekends free for us to do it
3) We had no one experienced to pilot us
4) Most importantly I hadn’t trained for it!!!!
But he didn’t give up.. so the swim happened on Monday 1st September with the caveat that it was to be a #secretswim for me. Brian told people he was doing the swim, whereas, I only told Katie, Kate and Verity who had a guess when she had seen a 10k training swim I did. I didn’t want people being aware of the swim as I didn’t want the pressure. I wanted a nice calm, simple swim and sometimes social media can make something bigger than the event itself.
We drove up to Windermere with Dom (driver of the weekend whether that be car or boat) and Sigrid, Brian’s friend who was going to be our support on the boat in charge of feeding etc. She is an experienced open water swimmer so was good to have her on board (excuse the pun!)
After checking into our hotel we went down to the Bowness marina where we were renting a boat from for the swim. They had to do our safety briefing that night as none of them would be there when we picked up the boat. We additionally had to be told how to unplug the boat from the charger.. which is something that didn’t sit well with me! Electricity..Water..Sunrise.. no thanks!
We headed for a early dinner of pasta and then went back for an early night.
We left the hotel at around 6am as we weren’t allowed to get the boat until sunrise due to insurance reasons. Not that I would have wanted Dom to be driving on the lake before sunrise anyway. Monday was chosen as we wanted to limit the boat traffic on lake when we were swimming. We got down there, unplugged the boat (Well done boys!!) and off we set to Fell Foot where we were going to start the swim. The trip down there took around 60 minutes and in that time, Dom scared me by practicing the kill cord. On the boat ride down to the start I also decided to break the cardinal rule of marathon swimming by trying something new on “race day”. Sigrid had brought Brian maxim for him to have at feeds, whereas, I was planning on having hot cordial or nuun at each feed and just some chocolate/shot blocks/banana. After all the channel swim horror stories re maxim, I had built it up to be liquid vomit in my head, so when Sigrid presented me with a ribena looking drink on the trip down I was pleasantly surprised so we decided I would have warm maxim at first feed and then let her know after that what I wanted.
We put on our wetsuits and jumped in the water. I wanted to wear my wetsuit to give me best chance of finishing. We had to start earlier to 1) avoid boat traffic but also 2) to ensure we could get back to London that day by a reasonable time. That meant the air temperature was cool. I knew from the relay, where I was freezing after my first hour, that I wouldn’t have been able to do it in 16 degrees without my wetsuit. We left Dom and Sigrid outside of the boat mooring and swum to the yellow buoys that marks the start at fell foot and off we set swimming back towards them.
I had decided not to wear my watch for the swim and this is something I really enjoyed. This whole swim for me was about relaxing, staying calm and what will be will be. So I didn’t want to be constantly checking how long to a feed and stressing over time.. finishing was going to achievement enough. The first hour went quickly and I was pleased that I wasn’t feeling cold. During the first hour there was a hot air balloon flying over us – this was an awesome sight, even if Brian didn’t notice! The 2nd hour again went quickly and at the 2nd feed I had prearranged to have some ibuprofen knowing that my shoulder would start hurting more and more and hopefully this would help. After the 2nd hour we decreased the feeding schedule to 2×45 minute swims and then finally 2×30 minute before a final swim to the end. The decreasing feed schedule was something Brian had suggested after experiencing something similar at Bridge 2 Bridge. This mentally worked really well for me and something I would definitely use again if required.
Towards the end with fatigue setting in I realised why having the man you are due to marry in 2 weeks piloting you is not a great idea. There is a lovely video of me and Brian swimming and then Sigrid pans to the scenery and pans back to us swimming at which point I stop and start swearing at Dom as I am adamant he is taking us not in the best line. Everyone said he was, although I am not sure they are just saying that to ensure the marriage was still on 😉 I did apologize afterwards and I think he has forgiven me… I hope!
We were approx. 10 metres from the end when Dom and Sigrid stopped us due to the ferry coming into Ambleside. More swearing.. we were 10 metres from the end and we were stopped! So after a quick discussion we swam the last 10 metre and high fived. We had finished in just over 5 hours. Time was irrelevant** as I was just grateful to have defeated the lack of training, the cold and my shoulder demons.
Dom moored up on the public jetty and after answering a few questions from the people sitting on the shore and some tourists who came over to chat, we got changed into warm clothes and set about back to Boweness. Brian at this point despite not feeling cold was a little blue in the face but nothing a dryrobe, hot ribena and a pack of chocolate fingers didn’t solve.
At the hotel we had warm(ish) showers and then started the 6 hour drive back to London. We arrived back in London at around half 9. So from 6am – half 9 we pretty much didn’t stop… I went straight to bed then was up the next morning at 6:30 back to work for 3 days before I was back up in the lakes for Coniston. What a week, what a swim, what a team!
Thanks to Brian for dealing with me, planning the swim and letting me tag alone. Dom for dealing with me, being a great boat pilot even if I didn’t realise it at the time and driving us there. Finally Sigrid for agreeing to take a day off work so she could sit in a car for 6 hours each way, then sit on a boat for 6 hours, where she counted strokes, prepared our food and was generally a trooper!
An additional thanks goes out to BlueSeventy and RG Active who provided me with equipment for this season and it is a testament to the helix that I swam 5 hours with just body glide on my neck and experienced no chaffing on my neck.. and no unexpected rub elsewhere.
Sometimes in life if an opportunity presents itself and yes there is a high chance of failure but there is a chance of success.
It is better to have tried and failed than to live a life wondering what if.
*definition to be negotiated!
**Since I have thought about having another go at doing it faster!