Rising at 6am on Wednesday 25th August after a reasonable nights sleep, the weather looked fantastic as I walked the dog, prior to the usual uncomfortable and dreaded forcing down of porridge. This eating first thing on a morning lark never gets easier for me. The car was packed with enough supplies to feed every living relative! Chris Pearson arrived (he was going to swim in his wetsuit and as many other bits of rubber / under garments as he could find) Departing from home at 7am I was surprised by the amount of traffic using the roads as we crossed the A66. Progress was thwarted by the odd heavy goods vehicle, caravan or tractor. Ambleside as always, was a welcome sight, however just as Windermere itself came into sight...so did Chris' breakfast! not what I wanted to see, hear or smell. A brief welfare break and we were once more enroute to Bowness our intended rendezvous point with the rest of 'Team Robson'.
I had reserved an electric boat at Shepherds for a couple of reasons...no physical exertion to be required, some cover from the weather would be afforded to the crew, the noise would be minimal if any and most importantly there would be zero fumes to upset my stomach or head whilst swimming.
The ever jovial Sarah Tunnicliffe had already arrived, closely followed by our skipper for the day Mark 'Pash' Pashby, after introductions, hugs (and hungry parking meters) we off loaded the cars, the girls stowed everything on the boat whilst Pash was briefed by the horizontal laid back staff.
Moments later, slightly behind schedule we left Bowness and motored (at 4mph!) to Fell Foot the official start point of the swim. This was ample time for me to brief Sarah regarding the finer points of my feeding plan and Pash for the best route to Ambleside, as Chris rested his weary head.
Conditions looked near perfect, a slight breeze, breaking clouds, I couldn't have wished for more. The crew were chatting away, picking out landmarks for navigation purposes and becoming slightly nervous at the imminent event, to the extent that we all needed the toilet! With Fell Foot in full view Chris squeezed into his rubber torpedo suit, Pash skillfully moored us at the jetty, it was time to strip, grease up and commence my attempt to swim Englands longest lake.
(Some Windermere Facts: ten and a half miles long and a mile and a quarter across at it's widest point, with a depth of up to 220 feet. The lake is so large that it has a slight but discernable tide. Deeper than the English Channel.)
Chris stood on the Jetty dancing around freeing himself from nervous energy as I applied Vaseline around the arm pits, neck and groin, the crew took their positions, Pash started the clock at 11:14am as I lowered myself into the water and began stroking in as relaxed a manner as possible. Initially we had to manoeuvre around several moored yachts before having much open water ahead. The boat was positioned to my right hand side, so all I had to do was breath, I was completely confident of being piloted the shortest possible route, I didn't want to have to sight ahead which strains my neck, it was great having the boat for company, knowing all my needs were taken care off by a very upbeat, enthusiastic crew.
The arrangement was to feed every 30 minutes taking Maxim and possibly some solids in the shape of jelly babies, chocolate rolls, jaffa cakes, milky ways or similar. I had pre mixed the maxim just before we left home using the guide Nick Adams posted on the Channel group earlier this season. All Sarah needed to do was pour 200mls into the feed bottle, add 200mls of hot water, attach to the 'Cliff Golding reel and line' and dispatch to the swimmer.
The first feed arrived in what seemed like no time at all, I commented to KGB that the water was 62F, drank the maxim as quick as possible together with two jellies, and swam on. At this point my stroke rate was 64spm. I felt great. The next couple of feeds were fairly uneventful, Sarah was keeping notes on what I consumed, Pash logged the location as KGB snapped away with the camera..it was going like clock work.
According to Pashs' log:
Feed 2 @ 12:15 Blake Holme Nab..Plain Maxim 400mls
Feed 3 @ 12:45 Dog Nab.. Maxim and Coffee 400 mls. Stroke Rate 68 spm.
Update @ 12:54 passing Beech Hill Hotel
Feed 4 @ 13:15 Rawlinsons Nab..Maxim 400mls
So.. two hours had now passed, Pash recorded that I was in good spirits, was joking about the water temperature and splashing the crew mid stroke, I remember splashing both Pash through his open window and Sarah (she was quick to tell me off). I was happy enough, but was developing a bit of a headache which I put down to the Cressi goggles I opted for at the start (they have yellow lenses and make any day look bright and cheerful). As a result I flipped over mid stroke and spoke with Sarah requesting some clear Aquasphere Goggles at the next feed.
Feed 5 @ 13:45 Black Coffee
Feed 6 @ 14:15 Maiden Home..Maxim 400mls
Update @ 14:32 Passing The Lillies (adjacent to Belle Isle)
I recall this point in the swim, I knew this meant we had now crossed to the West side of the Lake where we would remain until the last couple of kilometres, I was also aware this was the half way point, all of this knowledge lifted my spirits I remember upping the pace somewhat as we travelled through the shallows.
Feed 7 @ 14:45 Thompsons Holme..Maxim plus 2 Jelly babies, Pash also entered the water here (he must have needed to take a leak!) he would swim somewhere near the boat upto, but no further than it was time to return to the East side of the Lake (plan was to cross somewhere near Wray Castle). KGB was now piloting the boat after instruction from the skipper.
Feed 8 @ 15:15 Bass Rock to the left side..Plain Water..I was starting to feel a little full on maxim and felt the need to flush out my system before I over loaded, Pash approached me in the water and asked if I was OK, I responded saying "I'm having a bit of a blip but I'm OK"
I swam on once more knowing the next hurdle was the cross over, somewhere around this stretch the water again became a little more difficult to the extent that I was adjusting my recovery to combat the waves, it soon became apparent this was due to speed boats and water skiers, I was amazed to see this as the lake has a 10mph speed limit..Is it possible to water ski at such a speed? Whatever the answer is to that, the boats as well as the passenger ferries all gave me something else to think about and broke up the boredom of the ideal conditions with which I had been blessed for most of the swim.
Feed 9 @ 15:45 Maxim
Feed 10 @ 16:15 Wray Castle..Plain Water..Pash now tried to leave the water, he was struggling to get into the boat so much so that I decided to swim on alone as this was clearly going to take some time. I could see a large green buoy in the distance and tried to make progress in that direction until such times as the boat caught up. I also used this time to backstroke for a couple of minutes resting my shoulders as well as seeing if the boat was on its way.
With Pash back on board and wrapped up warm, onwards we continued, I asked if we were about to cross the Lake and was pleased to be told we were already doing so, by this stage the days Maxim was feeling like it no longer wanted to stay in my stomach, it wasn't due to the swell, it was something else, I was becoming increasing agitated by the nauseous feeling, it was forcing to stop, face away from the boat and let out an almighty belch each time, I was not actually vomiting though it was on its way for certain.
Feed 11 @ 16:45 Offered a feed of choice.. maxim / water, I declined everything at this point due to the stomach issues and decided to continue without hoping it would settle down, a Rennie tablet had no effect so I plodded on recognising Low wood Hotel and knowing full well I was inside the final mile.
Throughout the next half an hour or so the sickly feeling continued, I stop several times to address this, took a breather before swimming on, Sarah was then entering the water for the final leg through the small boats moored near the Ambleside Youth Hostel, an area I know very well, the end was literally in sight. KGB was now seated on the front of the boat cheering us all on as we slowly closed in on The Ambleside Waterhead Pier.
After 5 hours 58 minutes and 58 seconds Chris, Sarah and I all swam across the finish line..to much cheers and congratulations...Job Done!
I was delighted to have finished, to have completed the swim and hit the target I set some time ago at the start of the season. I struggled to dry land, and proceeded to be violently sick, my hips were very sore and my stomach felt like it had been turned inside out.
Eventually we all dressed, returned to the boat and motored off South to Bowness, I was presented with bottle of Champagne by Chris (thankyou Chris) and a toy medallion from Sarah! The journey back to Shepherds was lovely and peaceful, the sun was shining allowing me to fully take in the days events.
The sickness continued preventing me from enjoying a post swim meal but that wasn't important. The day was a complete success...My Crew whom I cannot thank enough were absolutely awesome, everything went exactly according to plan and I learnt a lot. Not least of which is the strength at which I can handle maxim.!
Thankyou all so very much...it was a great day. I will be calling on your services again of that you can be sure. Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou