Tag Archives: Windermere

51kms in Windermere

I started this blog as a way to motivate me to swim one length of Windermere – which I did in 2012.

On Sunday I swam my third length of the lake, so a total of 51kms swum in that lake alone.

Sunday’s swim was cold and it took longer than I had hoped / intended. But it was also completed, so there is that I suppose. It didn’t have the “Oh my god I can’t believe I’m doing this” excitement of the first swim. Nor did it have the “Oh my god I can’t believe I’m doing this” despair of the second time I swam it. This time I just swam it (albeit slower and colder then I would have liked).

I suppose that is a level of success in itself. I can swim a length of Windermere in water temperature that may have reached the dizzy heights of 14.5 degrees and at the end I can shrug my shoulders and be a bit disappointed with my time (7hours 45minutes). It doesn’t really feel like success, but if I was forced to look on the bright side…

Anyway, it’s done and the season is done for this year. Let’s see what next year brings…

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The Windermere swim was the second of my swims raising money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. If you’re able to spare a few pennies I’d be really grateful if you could donate on Just Giving. I’ll leave the page open for a couple more weeks, but then close it down by Sunday 8th October.

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Windermere v3

This Sunday I’m hoping to swim Windermere.

I say hoping because there’s a lot that can happen between now and then (not least that we haven’t finalised the logistics) and a lot that can happen during the swim. But I’m committed to making it happen, so all things being well, by Sunday evening I will have swum Windermere.

If I do it, it will be my third length of England’s longest lake (at 10.5 miles) and that fact alone surprises me. I still don’t really consider myself a swimmer, but I seem to be doing a good job of fooling everyone, so I’ll keep going until the charade is spotted.

From a swimming perspective this year started badly with a mental and physical hangover from last year’s bad back. I couldn’t quite find the motivation at the start of the season and so the goals I set at the start of the year will be mainly unfulfilled (that’s for another post). However, over the last few weeks I’ve really started to enjoy my swimming again and have enjoyed both the physical challenge and meditative quality of swimming longer distances. Ever since the Ullswater swim I’ve had my swimming mojo back.

So after the channel relay I decided I wanted to do more. I did have a 2-person relay planned, but unfortunately that fell through, so Windermere was the next logical choice.

I’ve done it before. The first time I just loved being there, the second time I tried too hard to ‘achieve’ something and had a very bad day at the office. Hopefully for the third I can do something between those two. I have a goal, but I also want to enjoy it and have a good day. Fingers crossed.

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One last thing – I have been raising money for charity over the last few weeks with the channel relay and this Windermere swim. This is the last time I’ll mention it, but if you can spare a few pennies for the MNDA then I’d really appreciate it.

Please donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-swim

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2017 Swim Plans

I hardly swam at all in 2016 – a couple of dips as it got colder towards the end of the year, but no events and certainly not the Windermere swim I wanted to do.

Unfortunately I was injured. I had a [probably] non-swimming related back injury and it took me out all summer. It started in the middle of April and by mid-summer I could hardly stand, yet alone swim. It started to clear by the end of September, but too late for any ‘real’ swimming.

But 2017 has started much better. My back feels better, I’m getting my general fitness back and my swim fitness feels good at the moment. So I’m going to state my goals for the year. Here they are (in order of priority):

1 – 2-way Windermere
This was always the main goal for 2017 and another reason why it was so frustrating to be out of action all of last year – 2016 was meant to be a training year.

2 – Channel Relay
I’m really looking forward to doing another relay. I’ll be in a team of four with Rach, Cathy and Jayne and, fingers crossed, we’ll smash it!

3 – 2swim4life
I’ve signed up again to the 24 mile / 24 hour swim in Guildford again. When I did it in 2015 it was the biggest, hardest thing I’ve ever done and it broke me. I’m hoping this year that it will be good mental and physical train fun for the 2-way Windermere swim later in the year.

4 – 500kms
Not an event, but a personal target to swim 500kms over the year. I’d actually like to swim 600kms (50 per month), but I’d be more than happy with 500.  I managed 39.4kms in Jan.

Of course I’ll be swimming in a number of BLDSA events over the year as training swims and I’m also organising two BLDSA swims again this year.

Colwick Park – May 21st
A 1km swim for those wanting a shorter challenge and a 5km swim for those wanting to kick off their summer season with a bang. Both swims allow wetsuits.

Coniston – July 29th/30th
The Vets 3.5m swim (for those over 45) on the Saturday. And the full length 5.25m swim on the Sunday.

Both swims can be entered through Entry Central – just search for BLDSA to see all of our events.

Hopefully I’ll see you in the water in 2017.

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Swimming Season Over

At least it is for me.

I’ve been injured for the last eight weeks or so and although it’s slowly getting better it’s a long way from fixed. Tonight I finally bit the bullet and cancelled my entries to the BLDSA’s Bala swim. I also withdrew from my place in a Channel Relay team.

The Bala swims were to be one of my training weekends for Windermere – the plan was to use events as long distance training opportunities. Without Bala I’m not going to be able to train enough for Windermere, so that’s out for this year.

Bugger!

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Swimming Windermere – on TV

If you want to get a better understanding of what swimming Windermere is actually like, then it is covered in a recent TV programme on BBC called Countryside 999.

As you can guess from the programme title, it’s not exclusively about swimming and is actually about all the various ‘accidents’ that can happen in the UK’s rural locations and the emergency services that help in those situations. One of the people covered is a lake warden on Windermere and one of his duties was to check on a couple of groups of swimmers swimming the lake.

You can catch the programme on BBC iPlayer here – the swimming bits start from about 7 mins 30 seconds and again from about 31 mins.

What I love about it is that even the lake warden thinks they’re a bit mad!

Some of the swimmers setting off

Some of the swimmers setting off

Swimmers by the ferry (about half-way)

Swimmers by the ferry (about half-way)

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Psychological Strategy

I was asked this morning on Twitter by a friend of mine, “What psychological strategy do you use when it gets tough on a long swim?”

I was going to reply on Twitter, but I realised that it probably needed more than just a tweet, it needed more than 140 characters. So here goes…

Team Bear Logo I’ve recently joined a virtual team called Team Bear. One of the main reasons that it appealed to me is the motto they have, which is “Suffer but NEVER surrender.” And that is one of the things that gets me through. I’ve never yet had a DNF (did not finish) for all the swims I’ve done and I want to do all I can to make sure I don’t have one.

It’s the old question of, how would you feel the minute after you’ve stopped? If you can honestly say that it was the best decision (and in swimming that can be about health reasons, especially hypothermia) to stop then do so. But if once you’ve retired you realise that maybe you could have just carried on, then you’ll regret it – if I’m struggling I do that analysis… and then carry on.

Another thing I’ve learnt through experience is that I need to play to my own strengths. And although it’s tough in open water swimming I’m a talker, so that’s what I need to do even while swimming. I’m someone that likes to downplay the effort involved, downplay the hardship and make jokes / comments about the trivialities. One of the reasons that I didn’t do as well this year in Windermere was that I was trying to be too focused and that’s just not me.

One thing that did help massively during Windermere was when I took a break and started swimming breaststroke for a couple of minutes. My boat crew leaned over to see if I was ok. I shook my head and explained that I was finding it hard. “Of course it’s bloody hard,” was the incredibly caring and considerate reply. And actually that helped enormously as I realised that that was all it was – a bit of hard work. It wasn’t any more serious than that, it just required me to dig in. Well I could do that, so I did.

Mmmm carb loading before the Channel Relay

Mmmm carb loading before the Channel Relay

Finally, one of the biggest ways to stop yourself struggling in the first place is to feed well. If you don’t, then energy levels drop and if energy levels drop then you can feel the cold more and all of that affects your ‘head’. Just imagine starting the day without your normal cup of tea or coffee, then go to the worst work meeting you can imagine, now think what kind of mood you’ll be in. That’s what it feels like if you’re swimming without proper nutrition. If you can crack that, then most of the psychological battles become minor skirmishes. If you don’t crack the nutrition, then they become full-on wars which you may lose.

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A great haul

The open water season is over – or at least it is for me, I don’t swim in lakes and seas when it gets proper cold. So it’s time to look back on the season and see how it’s gone and what I’ve achieved.

I could write a lot of words about this – but I think this photo is a great summary.

The season's haul

From the back, left to right we have:

– Windermere certificate and swim hat – a tough, tough swim for me, but still another 10.5 miles under my belt and I can start to see it as more of a learning experience now.

– Colwick Park certificate and swim hat – the first event of the season and I can’t say I enjoyed the swim (probably due to poor nutrition), but it was a lovely and local day for me.

– Coniston certificate and swim hat – I always like Coniston, it’s just a beautiful swim.

Wykeham Lakes certificate (x2) and swim hat – a 5km swim, followed a little later by a 1km swim, hence the two certificates.

– SwimTrek hat – provided as part of the Long Distance Training course I did with them in April in Mallorca. A great, GREAT trip and I met some amazing swimmers.

– 100% swimming hat – provided by Paul of 100% swimming as we sat and chatted one day at Activities Away.

– French pebble – probably my most treasured swimming possession. A memento of the channel relay I did in July and although I didn’t collect the pebble myself, I will do one day.

Not a bad season all told.

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I’m Gonna Swim the English Channel

I’m hinted and murmured about this for a few months, ever since the successful Channel relay, but I’m going to state it out loud (or write it down at least):

I Will Swim the English Channel

I don’t know when yet, but it now a confirmed entry on my personal to-do list.

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A true long distance swimmer

At the weekend a great little package arrived for me – a swim cap celebrating the Windermere swim.

Windermere swim hat

Windermere swim hat

What’s even better than the hat itself though is the message that came with it. Windermere is unofficially recognised (certainly by the BLDSA and by many others) as the swim that marks a swimmer out and confirms you as no longer someone that swims long distances, but a true long distance swimmer:

a true Long Distance Swimmer

a true Long Distance Swimmer

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And yes, despite still not being happy about it, I can almost celebrate the swim.

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Brutal Honesty

I get a bit sweary in this post – don’t read this kids.

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My recent post on my Windermere swim has had quite a few reads so far and it seems to have been well received. The two main comments I’ve received from people on social media are:

1) That it was an ‘honest’ post

2) That it was a successful swim as I managed to complete it, despite it being so hard

Although well meaning and well received, both of those views are wrong.

1) I didn’t aim for ‘honesty’ in the post in some artsy attempt to be ‘real’. Instead I just told it how it was – although I accept that kind of is the definition of honesty. But it seems that people see this post as more honest because the swim was so hard for me and I admit that. However, I’m not sure the post was honest, as I don’t think I was telling the whole truth.

2) And where I wasn’t telling the whole truth – and the reason it wasn’t a successful swim – is that I fucked up. I wasn’t beaten by the conditions, or the day. I was beaten because I didn’t train enough, I didn’t plan enough and I did a lot of things that were almost guaranteed to mean I had a shit swim.

Since my SwimTrek trip in April I hadn’t done a single swim that was longer than three and a bit hours. In fact I was so complacent I even took a two week holiday just a week before Windermere. Instead of knuckling down and training – and also using longer swims to test my feeding plan – I focused on pool stuff and speed and pissing around on the edges. Now life stuff may have been a contributing factor, but not an excuse. And yet there I was still arrogantly assuming I could hit my seven hour target.

That’s the truth and that’s why even a few days later I can’t see this as a successful swim. Ultimately I’m just fucking annoyed at myself.

Thanks you all for your support and your good wishes. In the wider aspect of things, positives will come from this lesson. But I refuse to see this swim as anything more than a stupid, stupid, shit swim – and all my own fucking fault.

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Thank you, normal non-potty mouth service will be resumed following this post.

 

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