Friday, 2 September 2011

2 Way Windermere

On the morning of Wednesday 24th August in poor weather conditions we loaded the car and headed cross country toward the Langdale Chase Hotel where Thomas Noblett had reserved rooms in the fabulous Lake House for KGB and I, Sarah Tunnicliffe, Andy, Ruth Williams and Angela his crew. Arriving around 3pm we were delighted with the very plush room and its beautiful surroundings...I was however less pleased with the rain as it lashed down outside.

Before too long the others arrived and checked in, without delay we headed into Bowness in order to secure the Electric Boats required for the swim, the actual marina would be closed at our estimated start time, however the staff at Shepherds were very helpful, supplying us with the gate access codes so that we could take the boats as soon as daylight appeared.

After this it was off to the shops for some last minute supplies (some alcohol for the girls) then back to the hotel where we met up with the extremely hungover Thomas, his boss Claire and of course his right hand man Andrew. The weather had now started to clear as we prepared to sit down for our evening meal. I scoffed my standard two main meals...(pasta followed by steak) and generally relaxed around the table with all involved except for Mark Pashby, my pilot, who was due to arrive very early next morning.

We retired to our room, together with Sarah, where I made up my maxim, and discussed the feeding pattern with the girls, all sorted and off to bed (Sarah went back to her own room!) I slept OK til about 2:30am. After which I was tossing and turning until I finally got up to make coffee around 4:30 and attempt to force down some breakfast at this crazy hour. Thomas had kindly offered to take us to Bowness at 5:15, despite my doubts he arrived bang on time. We loaded his car and headed to Shepherds a year to the day from my first one way Windermere swim (and 136 years to the day since Capt. Matthew Webb first swam the English Channel)

Thankfully no issues with the codes, we were on the jetty and loading our boat named 'Kate' in no time at all, Andy and his crew arrived moments later and set about their own pre swim routine (Andy was swimming one way starting from the South) Capt Pash arrived and was introduced to everyone and that was it...'Team Robson' was reunited, Pash took to the controls and we were off..a brief trip across to the west side of the lake and our start point of Ferry was a beautiful morning, not a breath of wind, not a ripple on the lake but for the disturbance we created ourselves, a few scattered clouds but it looked set to be the perfect day..we had clearly been blessed..

The concrete ramp for the Ferry soon came into view, the team were aware of the plan to grease up on the slipway clear of the water. Pash manoeuvred the boat then accidentally crashed into the brick wall, almost putting KGB through the windscreen in the process! I jumped across onto dry land. Now... I forget why, but KGB decided to do the same, however, with one foot still in the boat and the other on the slipway, we were soon hysterically laughing as she just about did the was so funny. Sorry Kell..

Once we stopped the giggles I covered the usual body locations with Vaseline, (all those that rub and some extra today any areas which might be exposed to the wind), I wasn't sure if it would make a blind bit of difference, but I did so anyway.

It was time... I gave KGB  a kiss and pointed out that I had suddenly began to experience some doubts, I was quickly reprimanded by the whole crew and told to start on the Captains signal...At 0615 Pash gave the shout and I eased into the glassy water to begin my attempt as the boat was positioned to head south aiming directly for Fell Foot, I breast stroked out from land getting control of my breathing, until I was alongside the boat.
The clock had already started but this was not a race, a few final words of encouragement from the crew and I was ready..."OK lets go" I said.. and we were off..gently settling into front crawl, trying to be as economical as possible, my mind was racing but we were doing it at long last. This was exactly what I had spent the last year or so training for and the conditions couldn't have been better.
The feeding plan was to be fluids after the first hour switching 45 minute intervals more or less straight away, I was still experimenting and wanted to try maxim on alternate feeds, having tea, coffee, hot chocolate or similar left to the discretion of the crew and each other feed.

Sarah had updated Facebook and The Channel Swimmers Google Group, as a result of which messages of support soon began to filter through, either through the wonders of the Internet or text message and phone calls..modern technology seemed to working a treat, with the exception of the spot tracker which did not want to play game.

In what felt like no time, the white board made its first appearance with the message "Storrs Temple already" a mile south of the start point, this was nice to know. I am quite familiar with many of the lakeside features so my progress was easy to gauge (at this stage).

As we approached Blake Holme

My mind had started to settle down albeit I was still doing the maths regarding distances and times, I figured if we reached the turn at 3 hours, we would be ahead of schedule by around 30 minutes (I had predicted 3and a half hours per leg, the swim being split into 4 legs in my head)

My stroke rate was being recorded at 60-64spm, and was holding steady as we approached the yachts moored close to Fell Foot, I told the boat to speed ahead so that the girls could use the toilets, by the time I reached the last jetty, the girls were out of sight, Pash handed me Feed 3; Maxim and Juice with a welcome piece of sandwich. I requested Pash to drop the feeds to 45 minutes from now on. Some stretching in the water, then I headed off breastroking through the yachts so as to keep warm and not get too far ahead, moments later the boat was with me again and I was back into front crawl.

Soon as we got beyond the shelter of the trees at Fell Foot I starting having issues with the clear lens goggles I had chosen, I was getting lots of glare as the Sun was shining directly into my eyes every time  took a breath to the right (which is the only side I breathe) whilst I do swim a lot of time with my eyes closed this was getting very frustrating, between breathes and with a word or two per head turn I asked for some tinted lenses at the next feed. It was only 45 minutes but it seemed to take forever.

Feed 4 eventually arrived I changed to some yellow lenses and took the nutrition, which on this occasion was hot chocolate and maxim, chocolate roll and medication. I swam on as quick as possible after the food and the delays of the goggle change, however in no time I was feeling sick, I made a note to not have any more hot chocolate or those type of jaffa cake rolls, the goggles didn't help a great deal but they were a slight improvement...I was wishing I had my mirrored aqua sphere goggles but had to just get on with it.

At 1045 it was time for Feed 5, I was pleased by now that the sun had risen high enough to not be in my eye line and I was able to settle back down with no squinting or head ache worries (I have an intolerance to white light) Feed 5 was Coffee and banana, I told the crew about the chocolate issues and swam on, I could see the mid section of the lake ahead, by the next feed (Feed 6 Maxim and Juice plus jelly babies) we were back at Rawlinsons Nab, my stroke rate was holding at 64spm and I felt great, one more feed and we should be back to the start point.

6 hours into the swim and we were more or less at the start point where the Ferry crosses the lake, I took Feed 7(1215h) hot tea and milky way and asked for my clear goggles to be returned.
It seemed to take an age to get through the midsection behind Belle Isle, through The Lillies and the shallow areas, my stroke rate was now 60spm, seeing the bottom of the lake and weeds going by kind of messed with my balance or eyes or something as I started getting a little dizzy ?? bit strange but it was soon gone once the water depth improved.

Feed 8 (1300h) was taken at the north end of Belle Isle and consisted of maxim juice and chocolate. I was still feeling good and was aware of my location, the time and what was remaining of the challenge. I remember saying to KGB "OK this is where we go into the unknown" (this was reference to my previous longest swim being 7 hours in Dover Harbour).

By this stage my hip flexors and quads were really giving me trouble, I was trying to stretch them at each feed with little respite from the discomfort. This proved to be the most troublesome body part for the whole swim, my concern had been for the shoulders and some ongoing bicep tendonitis issues, however it seemed that all was well except the legs.

Feeds 9 and 10 are a bit of a blur, albeit I know from the records that I had some electrolytes in the shape of 'Lucozade Sport' at 8 and a quarter hours, we were well into new territory time wise, I recall looking across the lake and noted we had  levelled with Langdale Chase Hotel. In my head it was around two more hours til the final turn. It's kind of weird how some parts of the swim are totally forgotten, yet some moments are crystal clear. I vividly remember making the cross over towards Ambleside, thinking in my head " I am actually going to do this"

Sometime before 3pm I was asking for a savoury feed, Sarah asked if I would like a cup-o-soup and chicken sandwich, it sounded fantastic, I looked forward to it for the whole period before it arrived...and yet, as soon as I took a mouthful it was rejected, it tasted way too strong, I declined waiting for the prep of another and swam on. 

The records show I also rejected Feeds 12 and 13 the latter being at 4pm, I took a little plain juice but that was it. 

Andy had by now finished his one way in around 7hours 20 minutes, he was dressed and changed and back on board his escort boat, when I reached the turn point (About 10 hours in, the notes are too sketchy to be precise) he was standing on deck shouting "Turn, Turn, Turn" I had no idea that his boat and mine had swapped places, I turned to face south and found my crew positioned to take over. 

I plodded on, suffering with the swell from the passing Ferries, my stomach started to play up with what I think was motion sickness? I was unable to take any feeds of great benefit, fatigue was taking hold, clearly evident in my pace. Sarah joined me in the water and offered verbal encouragement as did KGB and Pash from the boat. The thought of having swam for ten hours lifted me a little but I really didn't care about time any more.

I was stopping far too regularly to either stretch, complain and or rest, my neck was very stiff, my legs were in agony, each time I stopped I flipped over and made a feeble attempt to breast stroke kick, I was slowly becoming more and more exhausted, Andy's boat was still alongside to the left, I could hear Ruth and Angela shouting at me, trying every trick in the book to get me moving. 

The further into the swim I try to re live, the more hazy it becomes, I was drifting off in the water, I am not sure if I knew exactly where I was, my mind was in a very strange place, I did not believe anything I was told and the end was in in my opinion no where to be seen. I did however feel there was no way I was getting out without getting the job done, the dozens of white board messages and the knowledge that lots of people were willing me on inspired me to plod on. The embarrassment would have been too much to live with.

After what feels like a life time, the slipway from where we had started almost 14 hours earlier came into view, I struggled to the front crawl until I could see and feel the concrete below me. The video on the previous post shows me for some unknown reason clearing the water and looking like a person under the influence of mind altering substances..

I had done no small part due to the fantastic support from everyone involved both my boat and Andy's...

a physical and mental wreck is an understatement....

more to follow and next post..regarding what actually happened next! recovery, lessons learnt and of course multiple thanks and appreciations


bettsy180258 said...

What happened next ?

KatieBun61 said...

So much respect, Mark. y our blog's really helpful, too. Thanks.

Guy Willard said...

Awesome, just awesome and inspirational.

Jen said...

Hi Mark

I currently swim 2-3 times a week however I have never yet taken the plunge outside of my local pool. I am keen to give open water swimming a go prior to undertaking some triathlons next year.
I am thinking of trying Ellerton as a starter.
Any tips for a newbie?

p.s I have already posted this on one of your other blogs but I didnt realise it was about 6months ago this blogging is all new to me!

Mark said...

Thankyou for the comments. You are too kind.

Jen, drop me an email or find me on facebook

Caroline Cooke said...

Inspirational, as always Mark! Looking forward to the next installment!

Mink said...

Wowser! That was simply and truly awesome. So proud to know you lovely xx

greekswimmer said...

Brilliant read with amazing detail. Well done in awe.

greekswimmer said...

Brilliant read, such detail and what a fab awe!