Saturday, 16 August 2014

Windermere ..The Fifth

I am writing this post from my sick bed having contracted leptospirosis from swimming in the River Tees, more about that at another time.

A little history on my relationship with Windermere to start with.
I first swam in England's longest lake (10.5 miles from Fell Foot to Ambleside ) in September 2007 on a Swim Trek lakes weekender (recommended if you are new to open water swimming)  these swims were pretty short and I blogged them back in the day. After this short trip I made many visits with KGB and swam numerous times usually around the north end of the lake in the vicinity of Seamew Crag.

August 2010: my first 1 Way Windermere 5h 58m during which I suffered like a dog from approximately 8 miles with motion sickness and general fatigue. My feeds were far too complicated.

July 2011: second 1 Way Windermere with Joe Hunter (EC 2011) a few days after his Seaton Carew mind numbing 6 hour swim, lots of messing around and back stroke due to Joe being very fatigued. Was still very nauseous on conclusion. 6h 42m.

August 2011: 2 Way Windermere 13h 50m first length in around 6 hours but again suffered like a dog this time from around 17 miles. This was a very tough day at the office ! though I was delighted to complete the swim and proves to be my longest swim to date.

That's pretty much the history, so having taken more or less 18 months away from Open Water, this year I needed a target (without one I don't make the effort to train) On an earlier post I mentioned the build up training being somewhat lacking, however I was of the belief I had enough miles in my body to get me through a six hour swim.

Midday on Tuesday 5th August 2014 (a significant date for Amanda Bell !) Charlie and I headed across to Langdale Chase where we had arranged to spend the night. We spent the afternoon and late late evening monitoring Amanda's Channel Swim and updated her swim page where possible. It was almost midnight by the time we managed to get to bed, I needed to rest with an early start and longish swim ahead. My mind was racing after the days activity, this coupled with some pre swim nerves led to very little sleep.

In what felt like the blink of an eye it was time to force down some breakfast. Gavin Wild (Pilot for the day) had arrived and before we knew it, the boat was loaded and the journey in the little electric boat to the start at Fell Foot was underway with Charlie at the helm. This takes around 65 minutes so plenty of time to brief the crew regarding navigation and feeds.

The swim started at  0846 in pretty poor weather, Gav started the stopwatch and I began to swim the most direct line through the moored yachts at Fell Foot, whilst Charlie and Gav took the easier route into open space. Before long the heavens opened for what seemed like a lifetime. The heavy rain flattened the water, though it did nothing for visibility or the comfort of my crew. The noise was quite weird, I actually thought it was hailstones as the bombs hit my back.

The initial plan in terms of feeding was take have 300mls of CPN (same as maxim pure maltodextrin but reportedly easier to stomach) every 45 mins, before too long I spoke mid stroke to Charlie and said "feed on the hour" as is normal at the start of a longish swim my mind was racing, I was already doing the maths and didn't want to waste to much time feeding. 

At the second feed (2 hours) we were just about level with Storrs Temple. I remember drinking as quick as possible and saying to Gav "Don't get pushed right" at this point I knew exactly where we were and what the next sighting point was around Ferry Nab.

The weather had started to improve in that the torrential rain had turned to showers, part of the roofing in the boat was removed occasionally though I could see the flag alpha fully aloft as the wind began to build.

Before the next feed we negotiate the rear of the stationary chain ferry (the start and finish point of my 2 way swim in 2011) again the boat/crew took the safest route through the shallows and I cut the corners in the most direct route swimmable, I was still clear in the head and was hoping to keep time to a minimum. 

Somewhere around 'The Lillies' I took the third feed, and glanced ahead to the newer jetty at Bass Rock where the cross over would begin, I asked to drop to 45 minute feeds from now and began to swim on. Mentally this was the toughest part of the day, it felt like it was taking an eternity to make up some distance, I fed again before the cross over at which point the fun began.

The weather had improved again in that the sun was almost always present, however the wind coupled with the lack of exposure away from the lakes western side made swimming conditions a little tougher. I told. Charlie "next feed in 30 minutes" the intention being to swim hard and attempt to get about a mile of the crossover over with whilst I still had some energy. I was getting the thumbs up from the crew and was aware that my stroke rate had picked up. 30 mins soon passed at which point pilot Gav said words to the effect of 'keep that up and we will break 5hours 30' my reply was a simple "NO CHANCE" in hindsight I had probably swam a little to hard and I began to pay the price.

From a physical standpoint, this point to Holme Crag were by far the toughest, due to the wind and the swell from passing steamers I had to distance myself from the boat, failure to do so just meant I was getting some rebound from the boat adding to the difficulty, another couple of short feeds I could see Langdale followed by Low Wood, we were being pushed into the bay slightly but I was very aware of the visual target at Holme Crag. The boat swapped sides and again I took the shortest route, passing the rock I gave the crew a wave and my spirits lifted knowing the end was in sight. I tried to sprint the remainder of the course passing the YHA and into Waterhead and the jetties. 

The watch stopped and it was all over, I was delighted for a number of reasons.
There was no sickness
I had completed the swim on little training comparative to other years.
I had achieved a personal best by 12 minutes in not exactly perfect conditions.


Massive thanks to Gav for Piloting, I will be doing the same for you in less than a month, and to my top crew mate and feeder Charlie Rob.

Charlie piloted us back to the boat hire place after which it was straight to Langdale to see Thomas and Claire for tea and medals !

In closing I believe I can still reduce my time by around another 10 minutes, if you fancy this swim its easy to organise and relatively cheap compared to some of the big marathon swims, the electric boat allows for a little comfort for your support team, they don't have to row and become fatigued therefore they can concentrate on the needs of the swimmer, granted the boat is not rapid in the event of an emergency (though you are never more than an hour from Bowness) but that is the only downside and I wouldn't expect anyone to start without some experience.

No comments: