Great North Swim 10k 2016

Fiona did the Great North swim in Windermere this year and seeing as we have never done the ‘North’ event of the Great Swim series we asked her to write us a guest blog.

ps cheery bakewell cocktails… Yum or Yuk?


I’m writing this from the heavenly super king size bed in our guest house in Windermere. Whippet and I have just had northern fish and chips (the best kind) after a surprisingly successful 10k Great North Swim. It wasn’t looking good on any front…

My training-in-earnest started later than usual this year after the shocking and heart breaking loss of my Dad in March, but I gradually eased myself back in, spurred on by wanting to keep his water baby genes alive, and a comment by Manda that “swimming is therapeutic”, which I have found it is, in a meditational way. I find that the sensory deprivation of swimming is a welcome relief from the exhausting sensory overload of everyday life. I also resolved to stop pressuring myself to train a certain number of times a week, to stop feeling guilty if I didn’t train, and to stop beating myself up if I was knackered after work and couldn’t face a hellish public lane. As soon as I removed that pressure, and allowed myself to just work and go home during the week, the tug of war instantly stopped, and I found myself wanting to swim – it was no longer a chore. Pushing and pressure are not effective motivational tools for me. Indeed, the same applies to my OU studies. So I’ve more or less been doing one or two masters sessions a week, and one or two lido sessions a week, maybe only once swimming more than three times in a single week. I think I have finally found what works for me. It’s only taken me seven seasons of open water swimming to figure that out, so don’t ever accuse me of being slow on the uptake!

The other worry about Windermere was the temperature. I thought that it could be between 13c and 16c, so I was preparing for 13c and hoping for 16c. My first lido dip of the season, also later than usual because of the chilly spring weather, was 10c in early May. Head up breaststroke skins. No point faffing with a wetsuit if I can’t get my face in, or stay in long enough to make it worth the faff. Later on, I managed a two mile skins job at 16c, but I was still behind on the sorts of distances I wanted to be covering in the lido.

My final worry was injury. I’ve had sore elbows for a year and a half now, and the odd shoulder twinge. I’ve spent a small fortune on physio, osteo, sports massage and Dan (Bullock; should be obvious to most people reading this, innit) to try to give myself the best chances of long term swimming health.

The last few days leading up to the swim weren’t too hot either. I had a nightmarish alcohol incident the previous Thursday, and a dreadful stomach on Wednesday when we drove up here, and this morning. I was psyching myself up for a DNF.

In the end then, my training fears were unfounded, my temperature fears were almost reversed when I feared I would suffer heatstroke in the day or two leading up to the swim (I’m a fragile petal, and since when was the Lake District subtropical?) and the lake was a staggering 21c on the day, my injury fears dissolved when I hit the increased volume, and I smashed my 10k time (Dorney in May 2010; 04:06) by over half an hour to bag myself a 03:35:48. Three thirty-five forty-eight!!! How the hell did that happen?! What am I capable of? Whippet rushed over to me with a glass of fizz and I sat on the grass in my swimming costume semi speechless. I’d only hoped to make the four hour cut off, and that was before taking into account all of the above adverse events.

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In conclusion, I think this was a confidence boosting training swim for Henley to Marlow in August, which I “accidentally” signed up for after a couple of my special homemade cherry Bakewell cocktails.

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