Thursday, 9 July 2015
Two Way Windermere
2015 so far
2015 saw me start some new medication which has on the whole been pretty helpful. I also, finally, after 15 months on the waiting list, got my CBT. However, the CBT has been hard work, and although I think in general things are a little bit better than this time last year (evidenced by my discharge from the AMHT at the end of June), they are still bloody difficult. As ever, having a challenge to focus on got me through some sticky spots and even helped me with some good patches. I've been fortunate that work let me reduce my hours last November which has also been helpful; unfortunately this can't be permanent and I am back to full hours soon which I am dreading.
Training for Two Way Windermere
I have always found doing plenty of volume comforting for long swims, knowing that if I can get the kms in then I have a good chance of success. However, with such a long swim it did mean that the longest efforts had to be broken over several days. It also needed to be mixed up a bit:
January saw me at a Swim for Tri Fitness Bootcamp where I swam nearly 17k across 2 days - all good quality work under the eye of Dan Bullock. January finished out at 120k.
March was just a keep on plodding month; finishing at 111k again, but also incorporating some running. In April I attended another Fitness bootcamp, but really struggled due to mood issues and ended up leaving early. However, the following weekend, I was back and completed 5 x 5k swimathons across 2 and a half days! I PB'd twice, taking my best 5k pool time to 1:20:21. Not bad given that really I was concentrating on volume!
In May, the openwater season kicked off and it was absolutely freezing! However, I was anticipating Windermere being cold so I just needed to get on with it. It was not very pleasant swimming outside in May. However, I raced my first race since 2013 - in 11C water! - a 3.8k distance, and whilst I was 40s outside the time I wanted to get (under the hour...still eludes me...) I got a second place which I was very pleased with [I'm looking forward to doing a bit more racing soon].
May and June were basically big volume months. I struggled to get enough lake time, so there were a lot of very long pool swims - including all the way up to 17k in a 25m pool (genuinely not as bad as it sounds). I did get the opportunity to do a 5h swim in the lake which I really enjoyed and didn't feel that tired after. I regularly split the 33k distance of Windermere across 3 days (well, often it was 35k) and that made me feel a bit more confident. I was a bit worried about the water temperature but entirely out of my control. May and June came in at around 175k each month; I found myself needing sports massage every week and the occasional osteopathy treatment, but in the main I mostly stayed in good shape. The end of June saw the training suddenly fizzle out as I was exhausted; it was taper time anyway so I tried not to worry too much about it.
I was due to swim on 8th July, however, like last year, the weather had other ideas. Luckily, like last year, Colin from Chillswim who was taking me, was very flexible and made sure that the best possible day out of the not such great options was selected which was Sunday 5th. This necessitated some last minute changes to travel plans but on the plus side, it meant that I was able to slip off under the radar without too much stress as everyone was expecting me to go later in the week :)
We met at 5.45 ready to set off at 6am. After all of the worrying, the temperature was pretty warm - it was about 18.5C at the start, going down to about 16.9C and must have been 19/20C back at the finish. As well as Colin, I had my friend H and Mr Just Keep Swimming on the boat. Mr JKS was in charge of in swim catering and communication with me, H was an extra pair of hands with that and in charge of communication with the outside world. I was also raising money for Mind with my swim. We set off pretty soon after 6 from Waterhead, the water was incredibly still. My arms were very fresh for the first hour, second hour was a little flatter and then I had an excellent third hour, the highlight of which was being asked if I'd got lost from the triathlon which was also going on on the lake! I was feeding on the hour for most of the way; first feed was water and breadsticks (I was feeling sick from excessive sugar consumption the day before), second was water and breadsticks, and third was water, banana and breadsticks.
I said brightly at the 3 hour feed, I'd be jolly happy to get to the other end in 5 hours - and I really think that would have been on the cards but the weather deteriorated and was against me which made for a very hard 1.5 hours which also seemed really cold. However, I switched to hot chocolate feeds which were lovely! I hit the turn point at 5h6 mins, which is about 11 mins slower than my one way PB. I did a tumble turn (obligatory) and then we turned around... I felt ok at this point as with 17k left to go that was a distance that I had tackled before. However soon after that my arms started to feel sore and by about 7 hours into the swim they were really painful.
Along the way, the team put some of the Facebook and Twitter messages on a white board for me to read. Until the end when I was shouting at my arms, I wasn't thinking about anything much, I looked at the scenery, but when I got the messages I took the time to think about the person, how I knew them and to send them positive thoughts which I hope got through. I never found it a tough mental challenge, I just knew that I needed to keep swimming and that as I had completed such thorough training, I would be able to do it.
From hour 8, I started feeding on the half an hour and I switched to coca-cola to try to give me a bit of a boost. I also had some sweets at around hour 8 which helped me through the only patch where my blood sugar felt a bit wonky. It did get pretty tough the further I went at this stage as my arms were so sore. The last stretch did seem very long and I felt compelled to ask Colin if he was taking us the shortest route possible (sorry about that!); we seemed to be hugging the western shore for longer than I was expecting! However, eventually I saw the Low Wood bay hotel, and the Low Wood bay where I swam the Great North swim in 2009 which all kind of started this outdoor swimming malarkey. The crew told me it was a mile to go and apparently I picked up my pace a bit. But no sprint finish like when I did my one-way! I was still really struggling and with 500m to go, I asked how far it was. I misheard Mr JKS and thought he said 400m to go. 100m later with 400m to go, I stopped, accused him of lying and said that I couldn't swim any further. The crew managed to persuade me to keep going, and I did a little breastroke as that was easier on my shoulders, before a bit more front crawl. I then stopped again and burst into tears and said that I didn't want to do it anymore :( My arms just hurt so much. I did however finish, or I probably wouldn't be writing this. 10:46:41 and it was all over. I couldn't even swim to the shore but had to be pulled onto the boat...
I was expecting to feel as jubilant as I had done after my one-way. It felt like a bit of a damp squib to be honest after that meltdown in the final throes of the swim. 10:46:41 is really a pretty good time, but apart from a few odd moments I haven't felt especially excited. There are a few wow moments, such as when we drove from Ambleside to Windermere as part of the trip home and I was looking at the small bit of the lake that we went past (which is pretty big) and when I saw the photo at the top of this page which H took on a walk the day after. It's difficult to work out what's post event blues and what's the b***** depression really.
My arms were so very sore on the night after that I could barely wash my hair and I couldn't dress myself. We had some lovely fish and chips to eat and then went to bed, but my sore arms kept me awake a lot of the night! Bizarrely I didn't feel that hungry for the next couple of days, the hunger kicked in only on Tuesday. Tuesday am saw me back in the pool, but still unable to properly lift my arms which meant breastroke and kicking on my back only! However, after a sports massage on Tuesday afternoon, I was able to do a front-crawl motion as soon as I got off the couch, and Weds am saw me alternating 50m FC with 50m breastroke and swimming 2.5k. This morning, I felt almost back to normal although I did throw in a bit of breastroke as my right arm is still a bit sore and completed 3k in a fairly good speed. My mood is still pretty low but my appetite has settled and I'm kind of glad that the swim was much earlier than planned as much more time to recover before going back to work, where I need my arms!
I am pretty sure that I have got Very Very Long Swims out of my system. 17k is FUN FUN FUN; 33k is not so much. I think anything up to 25k would be enjoyable, probably with a bit less training than I did. Less painful but still challenging.
I'm taking it easy now for a bit and planning in some non swimming things - I've been making loads of cards the last couple of days and am hoping to start some yoga. Mr JKS and I are going to give Stand Up Paddle Boarding a go, and we have our first non-sports-event-related trip away in several years to look forward to in a few weeks.
However, I have a number of races entered and if I can get some speed back, maybe I can get that elusive sub 1h 3.8k...I'm looking forward to being back in the lakes to swim Coniston again in September, and I am wondering about an Ullswater swim for 2016... watch this space. I also have a space in the Brighton Marathon for 2016 so some running is on the cards.
Colin Hill did an excellent job as pilot with a perpetually cheery expression and didn't get upset when I asked him if he was sure that we were taking the shortest route home. I really recommend Chillswim for doing a Windermere swim! H stoically sat on the boat in the pouring rain without a loo for 11 hours in order to prod frustratedly at various phones to get a signal and communicate with the outside world. Last but not least on the boat and probably the biggest part of team Verity, Mr JKS who put up with being called a liar, mixed lots of hot chocolates, passed out sweets and breadsticks and generally was all around super husband both on the boat, during the training and whilst I've been unwell...
Thanks to Liz D who helped coordinate communications from home despite being poorly; thanks to Martin Boddie and Daniel Bullock for Tenerife swim camps and fantastic coaching, the results of which you can see in the video that Colin posted, thanks to Paul Smith for being my wingeboard over the last few days, thanks to Joanne O'Donovan from Complete Massage Oxford for prodding my arms back into shape on a weekly basis, and Ben the osteopath from St Clements Osteopathy for fixing the really broken bits, thanks again to H and my other two swimming twins V and F for their moral support and company and huge amounts of fun in the pool this year, K for organising the 5h lake swim and all the people like A who do safety support at Queenford. Thank you to M at Mind for all the support with fundraising. And thanks to everyone who is reading this for their support, whether you have sponsored me today, whether you bought and ate cakes or helped to make them (like B!) whether you have left kind messages, or whether you have put up with me being flaky from the combination of depression and very long pool swims.