Lake District 2017

After our week in the lake district last year, we were keen to do a longer Buttermere swim and also explore some areas of the lakes we hadn’t got to.

Saturday (Manda)

Saturday we arrived in Penrith accompanied by David and Brian to pick up our very small hire car, which with 3 tall adults, little me and our accompanying swimming paraphernalia meant the poor car was destined to have a challenging weekend.

We follow various Lake District residents on Instagram/twitter so we were grateful that  @suzannaswims (who now offers bespoke lake district swimming tours www.suzannaswims.co.uk) and @lottiethompson gave us advice when we ask where to swim in Derwent.

For our Derwent swim we started from Calfclose bay, where you can park 300m away in Great Wood NT car park.  We swam off with the idea that we would probably do around 15 minutes/1k taking into consideration we didn’t want to get cold (me, Katie and Brian were skins and David was in his thermal wetsuit!) and we were saving ourselves for Sunday’s race.  Despite the initial face burn the water felt “ok” or at least I thought it was until I tried to talk at 14 minutes and could hear I sounded almost drunk!  We promptly swam back to shore and therefore, ended up being in the water for around 30 minutes.  A quick change on the shore and a dash to the car where the heaters were turned up to the max.  Poor David who wasn’t remotely cold was subjected to sauna like conditions for the drive!

We dropped our stuff off at our hotel on the banks on Thirlmere.  Despite this being a non-swimmable lake/water (who knows what it is!!) this was a great location for us to be based as only 25 minutes from Keswick, 20 minutes to Ambleside and 40 minutes to Buttermere.

It was also a 5/10 minute drive from Dobgill car park where you can walk 20 minutes (uphill) to Harrop Tarn.  Following the instructions provided to us by Lottie, we eagerly set off.  According to Lottie getting there takes “10-20 minutes depending on hill fitness”…needless to say we are not hill fit!  The walk takes you up through the woods and then slowly you can hear water gushing getting louder and louder.  After coming out from the woods, you are greeted by a waterfall.  What a magnificent treat.  Further along the path, the tarn appeared.  We made our way through the grass/bog (see pics of Brian bearfooted!) to the water’s edge.  The water was Baltic.  We took it in turns to have a swim – it lived up to my magical expectations and then some.  Rolling hills, lily pads on the water, dark black water, pine trees, no one around -> MAGICAL.

After a quicker dash back to the car whilst the light was fading, we headed back to the hotel to pick up Katie, where she was deservedly resting at the hotel and headed to Ambleside for some pasta and then went back for an early night.

Note: if you do fancy some lake crawling, please ensure you read the below:

http://www.ntlakesoutdoors.org.uk/swim-safe

 

Sunday (Katie)

So Sunday was the day of the race.  It dawned nice and sunny but no sooner had we packed the four of us and our luggage into our tiny Citroen C1 it had started to rain and that turned out to be the order of the day.

The race didn’t start until 10.30am but we had heard horror stories about the state of the parking in Buttermere Village so aimed to arrive nice and early.  Having traversed the winding roads into Buttermere with our car barely making it up some of the hills we arrived at 8.30am and secured our parking spot.  It was still raining so we stayed in our car to wait it out.  During a short gap in the rain we rushed to register and for refreshments in the café which had opened early especially for the swim.

Manda, Brian and David were doing the 10km race.  I (Katie) was originally entered into the 10km as well but I am expecting a baby next year and severe sickness means I have done a total of 5 training sessions in the last 8 weeks which meant that I wasn’t feeling up to the 10km and dropped down to the 5km.  I almost changed my mind back again when I saw that the 10km race hats were purple!

The time soon ticked away and we were changing into our wetsuits and heading down to the start of the race.  It was still raining….we waded through what I can only describe as a bog to get to the start (okay well maybe not a bog but I am from London so I am mudaphobic) and arrived at the water’s edge.

The start of the race was about a 5 minute walk up the lake so I waved goodbye to Manda, Brian and David as their wave was starting 15 minutes before mine.  Soon it was our turn and I was walking up to the start.  One good thing about the cold and miserable weather was that it didn’t actually feel ‘that’ cold getting in.  It was one of the things I had been worried about, after a summer of a lido of 18 degree plus the advertised 14 degrees of Buttermere was quite intimidating.  I was wearing my booties though which helped keep me warm.

We all piled into the lake and started swimming…then about a minute later we all stopped again.  Oh you we were only swimming to the start!  You could see a lot of confused people frantically trying to re-set their Garmins.  Finally we were really off.  I swam down to the first buoy which seemed to have come loose and drifted to shore so a load of us then had to swim back up on the other side to next to the next buoy.

Conditions for the swim were really tough.  You felt like the wind was in your face the whole time which was making the water pretty choppy.  I wanted to give up a 100 times but before long I was at the top of the lake and then across to the other side and which point I had no choice but to swim back down.

I finished in 1h 30 mins which given my lack of training and extra human baggage I was actually reasonably happy with.  I do think the course was a bit short though as there were a couple of buoys at the top end of the lake on the course map which I don’t think were there.

After finishing I, very inelegantly, exited the water and went to retrieve my stuff.  I was walking back to the car when I found Manda huddled under a tree getting changed.  ‘I thought I might find you here’ I laughed.  ‘I wasn’t cold’ she replied ‘just miserable’.  I knew what she meant.  Buttermere is absolutely beautiful and a still one of my favourite places I have ever swum but the rain, wind and waves had not made for the most fun experience this time round.  Manda wasn’t alone with an early exit.  Out of 170 registered to swim only 56 people finished the 10km.

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We quickly got changed and then went back to see the boys finish.  David was beaten by only a few meters into second place in a time of 2h 28 minutes.  Brian in a hitherto unseen racing gentlemanliness let the lady he was swimming with finish in front of him coming in fifth in 2h 39 minutes.  Well done guys!

After finally getting changed and dry (well drier!) we couldn’t face going back to the lake for the prize giving so we headed back to Keswick for some well-earned lunch.  We mooched around Keswick eating fudge and drinking tea until it was time to get back for our train.

A lovely weekend despite the rain and race conditions – we will definitely be back in the Lakes next year!

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

OW Swimming’s super weekend?

If you are a keen open water swimmer then the weekend of 3rd / 4th September 2016 has riches in abundance to offer in the UK.


1. You could swim the 5.25 miles from one end of Lake Coniston to the other in the Lake District.  (Saturday)

http://www.chillswim.com/the-swims/coniston-end-to-end

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2. Or you could swim 10k down the Dart River in Devon.  (Saturday and Sunday)

http://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/events?s&id=101

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3. You might prefer to swim in a circle, in which case you could swim the 6.5km around Brownsea Island near Poole. (Sunday)

http://www.rlss-poole.org.uk/brownsea/brownsea-swim-details/

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4. If it is a new event you are after then you could try the Dock2Dock swim in London which takes you from Royal Victoria Dock through Royal Albert Dock and finally into King George V Dock. (Sunday)

https://www.eventrac.co.uk/race-course-map/dock-to-dock-london-swim-individual-race-04-09-16

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5. If you prefer a fast venue you can swim a range of distances between 750m and 10k at Dorney Lake near Eton. (Saturday)

http://humanrace.co.uk/event/eton-swim/

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6. If Dorney Lake is a bit boring for you, you could nip next door and swim between 2k and 10k at Bray Lake.  (Saturday)

http://www.f3events.co.uk/event/Bray-Lake-Swim-Challenge-1023

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**Note this has been moved to the 21/8 so we hope to be there**

7. If you fancy something shorter and more of a team event then RG Active will be hosting their annual 3.2km relay down at Ham Lake (there is normally cake!)

http://www.rgactive.com/events/team-relay-swim-race-2016/

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8. You could swim NEARLY the length of Windermere.  We would personally recommend doing this properly rather than doing this event but the swim is a challenge whether fully doing Windermere or nearly doing Windermere.  (Sunday)

http://www.mytrievents.co.uk/swim-series/wild-swim-windermere/


While it is great that open water swimming is so popular that there is enough of a demand to fill so many events on the same weekend, it seems a shame that they are not more spaced out so keen swimmers could enjoy more than one in a season.

Some of these races are iconic events and a highlight of the open water calendar, therefore, wouldn’t it be better if organisers made sure they put their swims on different dates?  Coniston and Dart are always on the same weekend but Brownsea has moved to be this weekend in 2016 (which we can only assume is tide related) but Dock2Dock swim is a new event to the calendar so presumably could have been on a different weekend.

DOUBLE UP?

That being said there is a possibility for doubling up.  The double up of Coniston and Dart is probably unrealistic but you could definitely do a Dorney/Bray swim on the Saturday and then head to either Dock 2 Dock or RG Active on the Sunday.  Anyone?

Team Mermaids Plan

So where will we be this weekend?  Team Mermaids will be up in the Lake District swimming Coniston.  As for 2017 who knows?!

Where to find the Mermaids this summer

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Jubilee 10k

5th June

Manda has very kindly given me (Katie) her the free entry to the Jubilee River swim as it is scheduled just a few days after her baby is due to arrive.  This was my first swim ‘back’ last summer so I am hoping to improve on my time this year.  Last year the weather was lovely and sunny and I have my fingers crossed for the same this year as it make the 10k go in a flash just floating down looking at the scenery.

Henley Classic: Alumni match

26th June
The Oxford vs Cambridge Alumni match will be returning at the Henley Classic in June this year.  Last year the Cambridge Alumnae ladies were the only team that were victorious over Oxford. Fingers crossed we can triumph again this year.

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1 mile handicap (SLSC club event)

1st July
Katie will representing the Team Mermaids solo at this event and this will be a reoccurring theme of the summer season. (Un)fortunately for her I (Manda) live right by the lido, so I will be sure to be down there encouraging her… I am thinking a fishing line with a piece of cake at the end. Otherwise how else will she beat the SLSC’s amazing Nancy. Note: the female winner of this event gets the “Mermaid Cup” – we have to win it one year Nancy – please!

The Boulter’s to Bray swim

2nd July

According to the website the Boulter’s to Bray Swim is one of the oldest open water swimming events, with a history dating back to the 19th century.  I can’t believe Team Mermaids have not swum this already and this is something we should quickly rectify!

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The Great London Swim

16th July

If I (Katie) can find a babysitter (any offers?!) I will be down at the London Victoria Docks competing in the Great London Swim.  I am keen for the 2 mile event this year having always done the 1 mile event in previous years.

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Thames Marathon (aka Bridge to Bridge)

7th August

Bridge to Bridge has been re-named the Thames Marathon for 2016 (we are not entirely sure why!).  Whatever it is called it was our favourite swim of 2015 and there I (Katie) am planning to be swimming the 14km down the Thames from Henley to Marlow Bridge again

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Coniston (ChillSwim)

3rd September
The weekend this event is taking place there are several other big ticket swims taking place in other parts of the country. Dart 10k, Brownsea Island and the new Swim the docks 10k. It wasn’t a hard decision to do Coniston again for me (Manda) and Katie hasn’t done it before so would be a chance for her to get it ticked off. To date it has been one of my favourite events. When you are travelling to a race it becomes more about the whole weekend experience and Coniston and the lakes mean that it really can be turned into a holiday. It will also hopefully mark my return to the water post baby arrival, if I don’t end up swimming I know I will have a great time supporting my friends, celebrating their success and sampling some of Coniston Brewery’s finest.

Oxford 10k 

11th September
This is a new event swimming from Bablock Hythe to Kings Lock.  We are quite tempted to book this in but in reality we don’t know how realistic it is 1 week after Coniston so it might be a case of seeing how we feel that weekend.

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Serpentine Swim

24th/25th September

Currently umming and ahhing about this event as we want to do the 110 length challenge so we are probably going to enter the ballot and see what happens.

110 length challenge (SLSC club event)

24th September
It’s an even year (110 length)… PHEW!!! Therefore, no defending our joint title instead the 10k will be divided by 2. I (Manda) was thinking I could maybe make Katie do more but seeing as she did 50% of it in 2014 when she was 5 months pregnant, I should probably just suck it up!

 

Windermere.. The secret swim 2014

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

Manda


*definition to be negotiated!

**Since I have thought about having another go at doing it faster!

Coniston – Chill Swim – End to End 2014

I (Manda) have managed to clock up 3 visits in 6 weeks to the Lake District this summer. Prior to that first trip to Windermere for our relay I had never been before and all I can say is WOW.

This was my final trip to the lake district (unless Brian comes up with another last minute silly idea 😉 ) for the year and what a great trip it was.

We (myself, Kate, Brian and Pivo) headed up on the Friday on the train and after some guardian cross word action (“Old Tissue (anag.) – Like a rake” – Anyone??) we arrived in Coniston and using Kate’s ordnance survey maps we headed for a walk to Old Man Coniston. We picked blackberries whilst we walked and debated over whether people should eat the low hanging fruit..a dog could have wee’d on it!!

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We then went and registered at the school, which was serving as the event HQ.

That evening the others arrived (Dave, Selina, Lisa and Tom) and we headed for dinner and an early night before the swim the next day.

The Swim was an end to end swim of 5.25 miles along Coniston and was organised by the lovely Colin Hill (who piloted our Windermere relay, as well as being known for the Olympic 10k swim and Great Swim events)

Saturday morning we didn’t actually have to get up too early as our wave (Pink – sub 34 minute milers) wasn’t setting off until 10:45, so we had some porridge, croissants and various swimmer friendly breakfast foods before we made our way over to the school.  At the school we chatted to various other swimmers, including the lovely Paul Bates of Big Ricks swim and Verity, who was doing the double.  She was swimming Coniston on the Saturday and Windermere on the Sunday.  Chillswim provided a bus to the start from the school.

I had decided to swim not at max effort as I was still feeling fatigued after Monday’s end to end Windermere 10 miler and instead relax and enjoy the swim.  This went against my competitive nature and after seeing the results it is something I questioned.

The start was really relaxed and something I think we all appreciated.  When you are an age grouper swimming 5.25 miles, no one needs a running start and all that hoy polloy.  Colin said “you may enter the water” and then slowly we made our way forward.. Note: at this point Brian hadn’t done up his wetsuit yet..Amateur hour Brian!

We had one half of the lake, therefore, the first 3.5 miles were uneventful and was able to just relax (apart from the shoulder pain!), enjoy the clean water and take in the surroundings (as much as a swimmer can).  At one point within the first 2 miles we swam between an island and the shore.  This island is from Swallows and Amazons, which was of much delight to Kate.  It was also a point of shallows rocks and I nearly managed to beach myself!  We were wearing Chill Swim tow floats, which we all weren’t sure how they were going to be swimming with.  I didn’t notice mine to the point that after half a mile, I panicked that I might have lost it and had to check it was there. I definitely recommend them.

There were 5 mile marker buoys and 4 feeding stations along the way.  1 was too near the start for the faster swimmers (as would have been there shortly after 30 minutes), 2 and 4 had jelly babies, which I don’t like. So 3 it was.  That feeding station was at approx. 3.5 miles so distance wise it worked well.  Per my aim of 2:15, I should be there around 90 minutes.  Sorted.  When I got to feeding point 3, Dave’s lovely girlfriend Selina was volunteering on it, so I pulled the VIP card and asked her for some banana and water.  Downed the water, tried to eat the banana and off I swam.  Only 1.75 miles to go.  Unfortunately some of the others got to the feeding stations later and they had run out of some of the food.  Not ideal and I sure something Colin will sort out for next time.

After the 4 mile marker there were some “Long Aquatic” weeds.  A few of the group enjoyed swimming through the weeds as it gave you a sense of speed but I didn’t get that same satisfaction so would ease down to go through weeds and then sprint in clean water.  By this point the water was more yellow, orange and green caps (the previous waves) so I was getting some sense of speed from passing these swimmers.  Some of these swimmers had been in the water since just after 8, so amazing effort from them to still being going coming up to 1.

I exited the water at 2:15.  Brian was already out the water (2:08) so I got some hot ribena and waited for the others with him.  We were shortly followed by Tom (who was in the previous wave and did an amazing time of 3:14 in his longest swim to date), then Dave came out.  Once Dave was out we headed to the beach to wait for Kate, Lisa and Pivo.  We were surprised to see Lisa and Kate exit the water together and thought they probably didn’t realise they were next to each other but it turns out they had been swimming on and off together for most of the swim.  Then Pivo came out shortly after.

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Chillswim put on a bus back to the HQ and then they had a presentation for all the winners.

The team didn’t win any of the prizes (well apart from some tunnocks and an arena bag in the spot prize raffle) but we found out afterwards that Brian had come 4th (wetsuit) male.

Thanks to Colin and Steph for an amazingly organised event.

It was Lisa’s birthday on the Friday so after the swim we had cake and prosecco to celebrate her birthday.  Then we headed over to the Black Bull for some food and Kate indulged in some beer tasting, whilst Lisa tried to set her up with some scottish bloke!

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On Sunday we had a massive breakfast and then myself, Kate, Brian and Pivo went for a walk, ordnance survey map still in Kate’s hand, along the lake before heading back to London.

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Only the way back Pivo and Kate taught me and Brian the card game hearts.  I’m looking forward to the rematch already!!

A brilliant weekend with great people and great swimming.