Yesterday I swam the two-way Bala swim, organised by the BLDSA.
It sounds a lot easier when it’s written down like that. In reality it was a six mile swim that took me 4 hrs and 31 minutes and towards the end in particular was agony. My shoulders were burning with every stroke in the last mile or so, but – and this is the good bit – I did it.
I stayed overnight on Friday near Bala, so I had a relaxed morning after a wonderful breakfast at the B&B and I just had time to have a snack before the briefing meeting at midday. Then it was time to get changed, put on some grease and get ready to go in the water ahead of the 1pm start.
The water was cold – 14 degrees – but once we got swimming I didn’t feel it. In fact apart from a couple of sections the cold wasn’t an issue at all.
It all started well and I got into my rhythm quickly and was really enjoying it. We got to the first landmark, the white house (no, not the White House), which is at about 1.25 miles, in about 45 minutes. And then it was time for a quick snack and drink.
At this point I have to praise my wonderful canoeist. I’d never met him before yesterday, I found him through the incredible kindness of strangers who had responded to a Twitter plea and had introduced me to people who could introduce me to people who could help. Anyway Jon agreed to canoe for me and he provided the perfect mix of calm, support, reassurance, guidance (literally and figuratively) and even technical advice. And towards the end he also cleverly appealed to my competitive spirit, but more about that soon.
After the first stop we hit the cold patch, but once through that it felt good and steady and actually felt like I was making good time. Unfortunately what happened then was I became too much of a tourist. I stopped swimming hard and started to look around and enjoy the scenery a bit too much. That meant that instead of making good time I didn’t reach the turn until 2 hours and 22 minutes.
I was disappointed in the halfway time so I put my head down and just swam for the next mile or so. But then things started to get hard. The furthest I’d done in training was 4 1/2 miles, so as I was reaching that distance I could really feel it. For a while I was really concerned that I wouldn’t make it, it just seemed to be going on forever … and ever. But then I saw the white house again – it was tucked around a headland and was an incredibly welcome sight.
It was at this point that Jon started appealing to my competitive nature, telling me that the breast stroke swimmer was gaining on me. This was the tough bit. I was desperate to finish, desperate to beat the breast stroker and I also wanted to beat 4 1/2 hours, so I dug in. For a while I was grunting like a female tennis player with every stroke, fortunately though my head was submerged so it didn’t sound like Centre Court.
Well, I achieved two of those goals.
I didn’t quite beat the time I was aiming for. But then, as predicted I took, almost to the second, the same time as I took to finish my first marathon. In my second marathon I knocked about 20 minutes off my time, so that’s the goal for next year. In the meantime it’s more training for Windermere, starting with a 5 1/4 mile swim next weekend in Coniston Water.