It started with a slightly disappointing night’s stay in a slightly tired hotel in the slightly faded town of Barrow-in-Furness. The plan was to drive up to the Lakes the day before the swim so that I could relax and be refreshed for the swim on Sunday. While the overnight stay wasn’t terrible, it didn’t quite constitute “relaxing” either. If it wasn’t the people in the room next door who seemed to need the TV “turned up to 11”, it was the people leaving the pubs and clubs rowing in the street.
At least I got to carb (and protein) load the night before the swim.
Anyway, if I wasn’t refreshed from the night before, the plan did work in that I only had a short drive to the lake and could take my time and enjoy the amazing scenery. On the way up the Lakes on Saturday, as the rain was falling so heavily that the cars couldn’t drive at more than 40mph as visibility was so poor and the road was so wet, I was fully expecting the forecast storms to materialise and for the swim to be called of. On Sunday morning as I drove up from the south lakes to Coniston the weather was gorgeous.
The weather only improved during the day and in the end we had a day almost perfect for swimming, apart from the breeze that picked up a bit later in the day (but more on that later).
One of the reasons that I like the Coniston swim is the fact that the start is only accessible by walking through fields and over stiles, while the finish is on a small bit of beach at the end of the lake right next to a road. It somehow feels more ‘real’, but it does make the logistics tough and yesterday was no exception. We were given lifts to the start, after meeting at the Bluebird Cafe – but with so many swimmers wanting a lift that whole process took a long time. I ended up being in the last shuttle and so as soon we were dropped off it was “ten minutes to go please swimmers.”
Clothes off, sunscreen on, a bit of Vaseline here and there and into the water and ready.
This was the first time I’ve felt like a ‘proper’ swimmer at the start as I stayed in the main pack for a long time (I normally drift to the back pretty quickly). In fact I was stroke for stroke with another swimmer for a good half mile, possibly further. But eventually the swimmers spread out, we found our kayakers and we started our solo swims in the lake with everyone else.
At one point I thought about what a great spectacle it must be for the kayakers to see the start like that and then to be able to look down the lake and see the field start to spread out. As a swimmer I could see water, a kayak, tress and the sky and the bright sun (thank God for the sunscreen). I must kayak for someone one year soon.
And at this point I must thank my kayaker and everyone else that supported us – no swimmer could do what they do without the support of the boat crews, the safety team, the race organiser, the person that volunteered herself to drive us all to the start (and many others I’ve missed out). You are all wonderful and we thank you all.
The first half of the swim felt good and strong and I was really enjoying it. Last time I was a very annoying 6 seconds over 3 hours, so that was my target – and from my perspective I felt on track to hit that target. Then about halfway through we hit a headwind. It didn’t feel too bad to swim in – a bit of chop, but nothing serious and quite good fun to get your head and swim, but it didn’t make it harder for the kayakers.
But the wind must have had an effect on the swim (at least I hope it did) as I was offered a 4th feed with still a distance to go to the finish. I feed every 45 minutes, so I knew that the 3 hour target had gone and in the end I finished in 3 hours, 18 minutes and 44 seconds.
I had a strange feeling after that. I had thoroughly enjoyed the swim and felt strong and quick in the water; yet my time doesn’t reflect that and I’m really disappointed with it. However, before I feel too sorry for myself I’m going to try and compare myself to other swimmers’ times from other event this year – were they slowed down by the wind to an equal extent, or was it just a bad swim from me? I do know I beat someone that has beaten me the last couple of times, but she tried to get her excuses in early by claiming an injury, so we’ll have to see.
In summary I loved it, but…