Coniston end to end 2016

Coniston end to end is exactly that.  It is a 5.25 mile (8.5 km) swim from the south end to the north end of Coniston Water that is hosted by Chill Swim aka Colin Hill.  I (Manda) have previously done the event in 2014, whereas Katie was away then.  As it was her first Coniston swim, it was only right that Katie writes the blog, however, Katie has been doing the majority of blog writing this summer due to baby Read arriving, so it was decided instead to write about the race from each of our perspectives.


Manda’s race

Entering Coniston end to end was a great (read: ridiculous) idea I had when I was in the early stages of pregnancy. Pre baby me was an idiot that obviously hated with baby me as why I thought with a due date of 3/6 that a 5.25 mile swim on 3/9 was a good idea I’ll never know.  Alas deeply entrenched in my own hyperbole and thanks to a punctual baby I had 7 weeks post sign off from doctors to train for this. It wasn’t pretty and there were plenty of times when I thought it just wasn’t possible but I made it to the start line thanks to lots of help from my husband, fellow mermaids and friends.

Mile 1
I had only one thing in mind for this swim: FINISHING, so I set off slow. The first mile ticked by as they often do however, this time I was faced with calming myself down as every niggle, mouthful of water, thought of coming last and gasp of breath made me doubt what I was doing. Once I passed the first mile buoy the monkey on my back decided to pee off and I relaxed and began to enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounded me.

Mile 2
I was achingly lonely, not helped by knowing that my usual partners in crime Katie and Brian were swimming together. At this point the person who was drafting off me swam alongside me and I recognised them, what are the chances!!! It was David Hook of Windermere 2 way relay fame!

Mile 3
I was swimming in a group with David and another girl and life was great and I allowed myself to believe that it was possible. Then came the fall…

Mile 4
‘Oh my days.. This is he hardest thing ever’. I made the decision to leave the pod at the 3rd mile marker as it was taking too much energy to tag alone and there was still nearly an hour to go. AN HOUR TO GO.

Mile 5
The end was in sight… well it was actually around a corner but hey ho.  I was deteriorating rapidly, so much so, that some swimmers from an earlier wave whom I must have overtaken in the previous mile were now swimming past me.  The worst was the shame of someone swimming backstroke that I couldn’t catch.

The final 0.25 mile.
“It is just 4 lengths of the lido” I kept telling myself as I willed my arms to turn over whilst trying to make every stroke as efficient as possible to limit the number of strokes needed to get me to the end.

I did it.  I victoriously clambered out in just over 2 hours and 30 minutes, scanned the crowd to find my awaiting husband and baby… Nope nothing.  Apart from the actual disappointment and sense of anti climax this created, it also meant that I had no idea where they were or when they would be turning up and with just a wetsuit and a tow float there was no way of contacting them.  Fortunately I bumped into Josie and her mum lent me the phone to call Dom.

I really feel like this swim was a massive turning point for me on my return. For the first time in several months I felt myself again and I’m now back to thinking anything is possible as long as you are deluded enough to sign up before you realise what lies ahead but that is how all the best swims have happened.

Manda with Katie’s son Max seeing as Baby Read was nowhere to be found

Katie’s race

I was away at a friend’s wedding in Chicago when Team Mermaids and friends first visited the Lake District to swim Coniston in 2014 so I was very much looking forward to swimming the 5.25miles from one end of the lake to the other.

Spirits were high as Kate, Brian, Max and I took the train up together on Friday morning.  The sun was shining and we had a lovely tea and cake stop in Coniston village before heading to the cottage Manda and I were staying in for the week for a pasta party.

Saturday, however, dawned grey and rainy and to the news that the lake temperature had dropped two degrees overnight to just 16 degrees.  It was with a little more trepidation therefore that Brian and I headed down on the bus to the start.  Due to the inclement weather Colin (the organiser) was about to start the race 15 minutes early before I had to run down and tell him Manda wasn’t there yet as she was still in the car park feeding Miles!  She soon arrived though and we were off!

After being ditched by Brian at the start of both Jubilee and the Thames Marathon and then finishing a long way behind him I was determined to stick with him at the start as I thought I would have a chance of keeping up with him if only I had him by my side as motivation to do so!  Thankfully the walk in start meant that it was easier to keep him in sight and I set off next to him.  Now I like a long gentle warm-up but a race is not ideal for this so I struggled a bit over the first 1km or so but I was in my stride by the time we passed the 1 mile buoy.  I checked my watch and we had swum the first mile in around 24 mins 30 secs which is probably the fastest mile I had done in 6 years so I was worried that maybe I was over cooking things.  Just after the mile marker we were joined by Vicky Miller who was swimming skins and we all pretty much swam together for the next few miles.  At the feeding station between mile 3 and 4 we stopped and had a gel for energy for the final straight.

I was feeling good over about the next km but then I started to fade rapidly.  By about 4.5 miles I was struggling to keep up with Brian and then came the WEEDS.  Oh my days as Manda would say.  As I had not swum Coniston before and true to form I had not read any of the pre-race information, I had no idea that there was about a 600m or so stretch of duck weed near the finish.  This made it really challenging to swim, as you couldn’t pull through the water properly and they kept on getting caught in my tow float.  The effort of swimming through the weeds and keeping up with Brian was too much and I lost him (sob sob).   I finally made it to the 5 mile marker and the water started to clear.  I was planning a final sprint from there but decided to delay this to the final 100m!

Overall I loved the swim.  The scenery is beautiful and the lake is pretty much deserted apart from your fellow swimmers so you can really make the most of watching the hills go by.  I was pleased with my time finishing in 2 hours 12 minutes.  After a summer of disappointments it was nice to post something I was pleased with at the end of the year – clearly I just need someone to draft off / motivate me!




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