Swimming the 10.5 miles from one of end of Lake Windermere to the other is one of those right of passage type swims for any experienced open water swimmer. When Manda suggested in November 2017 we enter the growing Windermere One Way event at the start of September 2018 I was therefore keen. This would be the longest swim I had ever done and it would be less than 6 months after having a baby….eek!
Before I tell you about the swim, I thought I would talk about my training plan first. In short there was no training plan! When I could swim again after the baby, I started back in the lido doing 20 lengths (2,000 yards) at a time, which was as much as my fitness and the water temp would allow! At the end of April (7 weeks post partum) I did the swimathon which is a 5km pool event. This was tough and I knew I had a long way to go from there.
I didn’t want to have a massively structured training plan, as I just didn’t know how much time I would have to train or what I would be capable of at various times. I therefore just slowly built up the lengths at the lido until I was at about 50 – 60 lengths in a session. I then entered the London Royal Docks swim in June to force me to get a 10km training swim in. After that it was back to the lido to try and add the distance on. About 4 weeks before the swim I did two 7km training sets. We were then in Lake Annecy for a 5km race. When I was back in the UK from that I did my final long training set – 110 lengths in the lido, which is 10km. I hadn’t really planned to swim that far but once I was in I was enjoying it and felt fine so I carried on. My last week of training I did 5km on the Sunday and then 2km on the Monday and Wednesday.
Now what about the actual swim? We headed up to the Lakes on Friday morning and then did some tarn dipping before Manda and David swam Chillswim Coniston on the Saturday. The WOW swim was on Sunday morning so at 6.45am we headed down to the start at Fell Foot to get ready and meet my kayaker Lizzie.
They called us into the water in number order and by 7.50am I was swimming out to meet Lizzie to start our adventure. My first thought (and what I could be heard exclaiming as I entered the water!) was this is quite cold! The first 3km or so went by relatively smoothly and after an hour I stopped for my first feed (half a brunch bar). I set off again but at about 6.5km the GPS on my watch seemed to stop tracking which was a bit devastating as I was find the gentle buzzing of an alert every 500m quite comforting.
At about this point we crossed over from the right bank to the left bank of the lake. I think this was a bit later than we were meant to cross over but never mind! At about the 9 – 10km mark just before Belle Isle there was a check point / feed station. I reached this point at just over three hours and handed in my green bracelet that the organisers make you hand in to prove you were actually there!
I always think the third quarter of any swim is the toughest. I therefore decided I was going to count my arm cycles. This kept me in a relatively zen like state for about 2 hours with various stops for feeds (jelly babies and gels and more brunch bars of course). At about 2,200 on my counting I started to see the red arch of the finish at Brathay Hall. At 2,900 I had a lovely surprise with David and Manda swimming out to join me for the last few hundred metres or so. With renewed enthusiasm I therefore tried to put on a spurt! I finished in 5 hours and 21 mins. Before the day I said my goal was just to finish and I would love to go under 6 hours. Manda amended my goal to 5 hours 30 mins so I am pleased that my time was well under that!
I had no idea what to expect from the swim. Some days my mind set was like ‘this is going to be fine, you can swim 10km comfortably what is another 7km’ and other days I was like ’17km is so much further than 10km I am never going to make it’! In the end it was surprisingly fine. I felt pretty strong most of the way other than probably the last 45 mins or so. I was shivering to start with but that soon settled down into just being coldish. My neck / shoulder ached a bit but nothing unbearable.
The hardest part of the day was undoubtedly the journey home. Euston was closed for the weekend and our scheduled train was cancelled so we had to get a slow train to Milton Keynes and then a lift with Brian back into London before being dropped off at a tube stop and getting the tube back to SW London. GRIM.
Leading up to the swim there were some days I really felt I had bitten off more than I could chew trying to do this swim while looking after / feeding a new born. I am really glad I persisted though as I made it and it is something to feel pleased with. The extraordinary achievements Serena Williams making the Wimbledon final or Laura Kenny winning European gold shortly after having children are inspiring in making ‘ordinary’ Mums feel like they can do their own extraordinary things. And of course couldn’t have done all the training or the swim without my husband looking after the two children!