This weekend I swam what is probably the most iconic open water swim in the UK after the English Channel – Windermere. There is now a steady stream of swimmers attempting both Windermere and the English Channel that you could start to think they’re a walk in the park.
I had never visited the English Lake District and didn’t know what to expect with Windermere. My expectations were probably little more than that I would start at one end, keep swimming, and eventually arrive at the other end. But I certainly didn’t expect a walk in the park.
I was off to a good start, choosing my day for the swim well. It was a crisp start with mist hanging over the lake but this soon lifted to offer a fairly gorgeous day. It sounds like most swimmers and their support crew get a good dose of wet weather for this swim. The water was also a comfortable 17-18c when I was mentally preparing for colder. Adding to the mix an experienced kayaker and I had the recipe for success.
The first half of the swim was truly awesome. I was feeling strong. I got a good pace going. The water felt good. I was outside in a beautiful location doing what I loved. I was also leaving my competitors behind which is always a bonus.
I would love to say the swim was truly awesome the whole time but that would be a lie. The mind game hit at half way once I got to the Windermere chain ferry. After being briefed on the course I had expected this part of the course to be a highlight as you head around the back of these little islands which sit on the lake. Wrong. Everything became harder.
I didn’t enjoy the marked change in water quality – boat fuel. And every stroke seemed slower and to require more effort – the shallower water potentially contributing to this. Passing through ‘the Lillies’ I became conscious of my arms getting more concrete like (this was when I thought about the extra training I could have done). Finally when I started getting angry with the innocent people in boats (why did they have to share my lake?!), I realised that this was a mental challenge more than anything.
The lake then started to open up (and got deeper). It was spectacular. Like a sea with white sails everywhere as Brits tried to make the most of their last weekend of holidays. I picked myself up mentally and got back to business. I resolved to keep focused on the swim, keeping both my pace and stroke rate up. I got my mojo back. My kayaker commented at the end that my pace was pretty consistent throughout.
Before I knew it the lake and my swim were coming to an end. I had swum the lake (10.5miles) in under 5 hours (4h53m). I was also 20 mins ahead of the next swimmer. Very happy.
The finish line:
Exciting to lay claim to one of the BLDSA’s oldest trophies (but not to fear – it isn’t coming back to NZ with me):