Lake District 2019 – Coniston

Last weekend was time for our annual trip to the Lake District to dip in some Tarns and compete in our ‘big’ race of the season – Chillswim’s Coniston End to End.

After a journey spend gossiping about Bake Off and Netflix’s Working Moms, we arrived on Friday afternoon at Windermere station.  We nearly always get the train up to the Lakes at it is a super quick journey (around 3 and a half hours) compared to five plus on by road.  We were greeted by Pivo Taxis (we decided to re-hire him after Annecy – such good service and such a bargain price) and off we went for our first dip.  Pivo had suggested Blea Tarn, which we had never been to.  A friend had recommended it to him and it looked fairly close to the road (hiking to be avoided pre race) so win win.

Blea Tarn is off a pretty windy road between Ambleside and Coniston and as we were driving up we were in close pursuit of another car.  It started to dawn on us that this car looked like it was also going to the tarn and then it further dawned on us that it was probably David who we had arranged to meet there with his 11 and 7 year old daughters.

As we started to drive the weather took a turn for the worse and by the time we arrived the rain was lashing down and the wind was howling.  We are hardy wild swimmers though and a mere bit of adverse weather conditions would not put us off.  We got changed and started to trek across the field.  I managed to lose my flip flop in a bog and covered myself in mud recovering it (maybe Crocs aren’t such a bad idea after all…).  After that I needed the dip just to clean off!  Everyone, even Lottie and Ellie, braved the weather to get in, well everyone apart from David that is, who just stood on the side – what a wimp!

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After we had dried off, changed and refreshed we made our way to the second dip of the weekend – Yew Tree Tarn.  We have dipped here before and it is upper easy to get to as it is just off the road between Ambleside and Coniston.  You can just park in a layby and it is just a short walk to the entry point.  The rain had stopped and David was feeling braver this time so we all went for a dip.

Once dried again we headed into Coniston for race registration only to find it was not just our dip which the weather had impacted but due to the winds the start of the race had been put back by five hours!  We were originally due to start at 11.30am which meant a new start time of 4.30pm.

Waking up on the Saturday the delayed start looked like a great idea as it was pouring and there were actual waves on the water the wind was so strong.  We whiled away the time in the hotel playing the Hat Game which I introduced to the gang.  Each person has to write out and put into a hat (or in our case a mug) the names of people who would be familiar to the rest of the group i.e. famous people or characters or friends of the group.  You then divide into teams where the team has to guess as many people as possible in 1 minute.  The game has three rounds.  In the first you have to describe the person without using proper nouns (fine until you realise Manda doesn’t know what a proper noun is).  The second you do a charade and the third you can only say one word to identify the person.   Everyone loved it!  Given our overlap of interests we had many duplicate famous people (Manda and I both included our swimming crush James Guy and our swimming hero Keri-Anne Payne).

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But enough of that on to the race!  Chillswim Coniston is a race from one end to the other this is a total distance of 5.25m or 8.6km so a challenging but do able distance.  After a pep talk from Colin Hill, race organiser who was also swimming this year, we were off.  The weather steadily cleared throughout the day and by our start time it was lovely and sunny and I was enjoying looking at all the lovely scenery around.  The first obstacle to navigate is swimming around an island just after a mile but we took Colin’s advice and closely followed a kayaker.  We had agreed to stop for a gel at 45 minutes but I missed Manda stopping and suddenly lost her!  We were very quickly reunited and on our way again within everything going well.

We stopped again at 1 hour 30 minutes for more gels and things were starting to get tougher.  I tried to give Manda a little motivational speech “mermaids can do it!”.  I don’t think she was that impressed through.  The last couple of km started to feel really tough and when I stopped about a 1k from the end to clean my goggle I said to Manda ‘so nearly there’ – based on her facial expression I wasn’t not sure if she was ever going to talk to me again!

Finally after 2 hours 25 minutes we made it.  I crossed the finish line and then turned round to see Manda chatting to David on the other side of the timing mat.  I yelled at her that she needed to run over the line so despite swimming the whole race together there was someone between us in the results – I call it sabotage on David’s part .  We celebrated with dinner and gin / prosecco!

Sunday dawned mostly sunny and it was time for some more dipping!  We started off at Loughrigg Tarn which required crossing a field full of sheep and meeting a couple of bemused hikers on the way.  Our final dip was in one of my favourites: Grasmere.  Grasmere is set back from the road through a little forest and you really feel like you are away from everything swimming there.  All too quickly we were back on the train heading back to London where we no longer needed both our coats and waterproofs.

We are already looking forward to Lake District 2020!

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