Thursday, 3 July 2014

One way Windermere - 4h 55 minutes

The subject line is the short story, here is the longer story with a few photos.  There are some more photos (on Mr Keep Swimming's phone) to come, perhaps in a separate post. 

The day started with a very, very early alarm.  As I wrote in my last post, due to the change of plan, we now needed to drive up to Windermere on the day.  The first plan was to leave at 6.30, with a late morning start but worries about the weather deteriorating by lunchtime (wind picking up) and worries about traffic meant that we revised this forward.  I was a little anxious about the early start, but it was reasonably ok.  I think I would still have felt sick even if we had left an hour late, probably eating a whole victoria sponge as carb loading didn't help :-)

We made excellent progress up to the lakes and were there by 9am.  I managed to sleep a little bit of the way.  As soon as we arrived, I walked down from the carpark at Fell Foot to the lake, whilst Mr Just Keep Swimming got himself and the bags sorted out.  It was a beautiful morning, and I was impressed by how lovely it was (blurry photo below), and I saw about 10 bunny rabbits!  Colin from Chillswim, my guide and boat driver, had just pulled up at the jetty, so I went and said hi, and then we returned to the car to collect the stuff.

About 5 minutes of sorting ourselves out on the jetty ensued, and I got myself into the wetsuit and tried not to get too grumpy with Mr JKS.  Colin took a photo which was later tweeted from Chillswim "Are you ready to swim a length of Windermere?"

(photo Colin Hill)

I did feel a bit pathetic wearing my wetsuit but I think it was the right decision.  Doing the long swim in 19-20C water did actually make me feel a bit cold at one point.  Anyway, I turned to the left of the photo and swam about 100m to the start, which is very shallow, so I stood up.  Colin blew the whistle and I swam back to the boat and off we went.

It was my first experience of swimming with a boat.  Bit weird as you are just trying to keep in line with the boat rather than really sighting, although I did occasionally look up ahead to see the mountains at the north end, and occasionally behind when out of my peripheral vision I would see something interesting like a sail boat, and there was a point later on where I was told to sight to make sure I didn't swim into a buoy.  I trusted Colin to keep the line so it was just a case of swimming and not really worrying about anything else.

Mr JSK was in charge of catering and communication, and we had agreed that km markers would be shown.  It's more traditional to measure long open water swims in miles apparently, but I swim in km both at the pool and at the lake (because it has a 1k circuit!) and anyway, km markers would be shown more frequently keeping the support crew and myself entertained.  The first one was shown it seemed very quickly, it seemed that the second one took ages to appear although I apparently swam the second kilometre a touch faster.  Then there was the third kilometre, and a little after that the first food stop.  I had some squash.  I felt quite dehydrated at this point, probably because I hadn't drunk enough so far that day (due to wanting to get to the lake without too many stops!) so I made sure I drank a lot.  The plan had been maybe to try some solid food but as I was feeling a bit off I couldn't really face it.

With the fluid in my system, and with the swim under way I started to feel a bit better, and definitely enjoyed the next couple of hours.  There was a further drinks stop at the second hour, and although I'd planned to go to three quarters of an hour after that, I didn't want to interrupt my rhythm too much, so asked to stop at the third hour.  In fact, shortly before the 9k mark, we had to stop anyway for the ferry.  This might even have been the best bit of the swim, floating in the lake waiting with no pressure to keep swimming and having a look around.  I got a cheer from the man driving the ferry!

Then it was back swimming and I was pleased to get 10k in under 3 hours.  I then asked for some gingerbread man as a treat with my squash at the 3 hour feed.  The gingerbread was easy to eat and helped a little with my nausea.  I was definitely enjoying the swim in the second and third hours.  I kept thinking about how much more fun it was than a half ironman and wondering when I could do a two way swim!  I was also thinking about how Mr JKS and myself should take a boat trip the following day so that I could properly see the lake as without my glasses, and mainly looking at the boat I felt I was missing out on it!

The 4th hour was interesting because that was the longest time I had ever swum for.  My right shoulder was definitely starting to hurt a bit by this point, as was my wrist - whenever I missed a hand entry it would jar my wrist.  But on the whole, and Colin said this afterwards, my stroke remained consistent.  My stroke rate remained the same at about 60-66.  I think the word "machine" was used to describe me at one point!  Colin seemed to spend the entire swim looking cheerful, which was a great help and I didn't really have any negative thoughts at all for the whole time, which is pretty weird for someone suffering from chronic and severe depression!  The only little negative was that I could see the crew having a chat on the boat and pointing things out and sometimes it felt like at me, and I did feel a little bit left out and wasn't quite sure that I liked them staring at my stroke.  In fact, I stopped kicking for a pee in the first hour (I can swim and pee but not whilst kicking my legs...TMI) which concerned the crew slightly, so I explained, but then this made me too self conscious to pee at any other point than a feed stop for the remainder of the swim!

By the 5th hour, we had made excellent progress.  As the weather had stayed good, we were able to take the "racing line" across the lake.  I began to wonder what my time would be.  I had been hoping for a time for 5h 30, but by the time I was at 10k, I was wondering about 5h15, and by the time that we hit 4 hours, I was wondering about 5 hours.  (I certainly never anticipated going under 5 hours!).  I had planned to start to pick up my speed if I could from 15k, which I did.  At the four hour feed, which must have been a bit before that, I said that I would like an additional stop at 4h 30.  At this point, I was feeling a little bit grumpy as I couldn't properly see Mr JKS and felt a bit ignored, so I said firmly "I need you to be looking at me more please" (all throughout the swim I tried to remain extremely polite to the crew and cheerful in my interactions).

I should also mention that we swam past the Low Wood hotel, which was pretty cool, as that was where I did my first openwater swim event, the Great North Swim in 2009.  Which incidentally Colin founded!  I've come a long way since that breast-stroked mile!

At 4h 30, the crew realised that they could probably get me in for under 5 hours and so started chivvying me along and I started trying to really sprint hard.  What felt like 1500m pace, but was probably more like 3.8k pace, either way, very hard when you've already been swimming for a long time.  I did get a bit stressed after seeing the 16k marker, as they were still hurrying me up and I didn't know whether it was worth carrying on to sprint to the end, and indeed how far I had to go.  So I put my head up and asked a couple of times how far, and asked for an indication in metres rather than a "nearly there".  100m was said, so I thought, right, that's 100 strokes.  Counted 1-10, 1-20, 1-30, and so on, and before I got there (although I may have miscounted), the whistle blew because we were past the jetty, and the end point isn't actually the shore, it is a line just beyond the jetty, because the lake on the lefthand side turns into a river.  Phew!  4h 55.  Everyone including myself was very pleased, including the welcoming committee of Steph and Coraline (Colin's partner and daughter).  I swam breast-stroke up to the beach whilst the boat was parked and then climbed out, feeling a bit odd, although almost immediately I said that I wanted to do a two-way!

Further entertainment was added by some very bemused tourists who asked if I'd just swum from "over there" - pointing at the opposite side of the lake.  "No", Colin told them, "she's come from the other end"!!

Here is a screenshot of the tracker below.  Whilst I was swimming, the lovely Liz D led a cheering squad on twitter and facebook, and I'm not sure that there was much work done amongst the people that I know yesterday!  She also persuaded me to set up a fundraising page for Mind - even though I wasn't intending to fundraise with this event as I asked people for sponsorship last year - it seemed that people wanted to give as without even trying I raised over £100! 

So, after getting out and getting dressed, we had a bit of a chat and I got very positive feedback from Colin.  Steph then kindly drove us back to our car at the other end of the lake (I had a snack and some water in the car), and then we drove back again to check into our B and B.  After a shower and a lie down we went out for dinner where I ate a pizza, a pizza base garlic bread, most of a salad and a large ice cream.  We then had a walk down to the lake, where the wind had really picked up now, and then back to the B and B where I ate some chocolate biscuits and some crisps, before going to sleep and sleeping pretty well despite the very small bed!  I did just feel brilliant though!

This morning I woke up and my arms were pretty sore.  In fact, in the night it had been too uncomfortable to pull the duvet cover over!  I promptly booked a sports massage for Friday.  The rest of the day was spent doing a little bit of sight seeing (boat trip on the lake, Grasmere, Sizergh Castle), wondering about 2-way logistics and thinking about the lessons learned (another post perhaps?) and eating about every 5 minutes.  Can't wait to do it again, and luckily I have it booked for September, with a length of Coniston the day before - I reckon that'll be pretty good training for a two-way.  Of course, my length in September will be with a kayaker and I think that could well end up being quite a lot slower as I think much of my speed was down to the ease of feed stops, the morale boosting of Colin and Mr JKS and Colin's expertise in driving the boat.

As ever, many thank yous to record.  From yesterday, firstly and foremost to Colin from Chillswim for being an excellent guide and boat-driver and making the day run so smoothly (as well as being flexible to change the date to suit the weather) as well as very friendly and cheerful and good company for Mr JKS.  Secondly, to Steph from Chillswim for handling the booking, arriving to greet the finish and taking us back to our car.  And thirdly, it goes without saying to Mr JKS who always supports my challenges and got up ridiculously early and then spent 4 hours driving and then 5 hours sitting on a boat assisting my latest challenge.  He was also been responsible for looking after me over the last few challenging months (broken wrist, depression) and quite obviously I couldn't have done it without him.  Thank you to Liz for leading the cheering on facebook and twitter, and for encouraging me to set up a fundraising page.  Thank you to everyone who cheered, and sent emails and messages in the days running up to the swim and who donated to Mind to celebrate the occasion.  Thank you to Katia and Alison B at the lake for the support and encouragement on the long Sunday morning training swims and passing me jelly babies.  Thank you to Kate (and Steve) who lent me "Wilson" the tracker which meant that everyone could follow on and that I got an excellent record of my swim.  Thank you to Laura for helping to fix my wrist on 26th February so that I didn't need an operation and holding my hand in A and E because you understood how upset I was at the thought of not swimming.  Thank you for Dan from Swim for Tri for getting me swimming confidently again so soon after the accident, and for helping me develop the technique over the last three years that has made it possible for me to complete a swim.  A lot of thank you's but Team Verity is very big!

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