Posts Tagged With: open water swimming

Lake Windermere: Fell Foot to Wray Castle

10 miles. 9 hours. One huge mental challenge.

As we set off into the mist we had no idea how hard it would be…

windermere swim  12

It was without doubt the hardest thing we have EVER done. 

I think both of us doubted whether we would make it and I don’t think we could have done it for any other reason.

The first few miles were chilly, but it seemed like an adventure…

After a few hours, despite the amazing scenery and the fly past from the Red Arrows, it began to seem less fun… actually it began to feel like a hellish nightmare! All I wanted was to lie down on firm ground… At the halfway point I was dizzy and shivering uncontrollably! But Alice and I both knew (and Luke kindly reminded her at regular intervals) “if you don’t swim, you won’t get there”! So we kept going. Actually it was too cold to rest so slow and steady seemed the only way. I tried to deceive my body that it was warm by imagining that I was swimming in a huge vat of chicken stew… it actually kind of helped 🙂

Miles 7, 8 and 9 were the hardest as the wind had picked up and there was a lot of boat traffic so it felt like we kept swimming, but weren’t making any progress and as the water was at it’s deepest I was terrified that i was going to freeze to death! I think I had three mars bars in the space of an hour! Helpfully my paddler thought it would be motivational to lie about the distances – so when I had done nearly 8 miles I was told I had done only 6… Possibly the most demotivating lie I have ever heard!! I was NOT happy!!

Finally the red balloons came into sight and it seemed like we would make it. But the actual finish was around the corner and it took what felt like an age to get there… Mummy was waiting and both Alice and I were sobbing as she helped us scramble out of the water and collapse onto the matting provided for exactly that purpose! I have never felt such relief.

To be honest I think the day was almost hardest for Mummy – she must have been so worried and she had to rush around the lake from side to side to watch us as we struggled along. It actually takes well over half an hour to drive from Newby Bridge to Ambleside, which is some indication of the distance we’re talking about!

It certainly felt like Daddy was watching over us and giving us the strength that we needed. I don’t think we would have made it under any other circumstances…

windermere swim  32

 

There are so many people we would like to thank and so much more to say… but perhaps that is for another day.

For now it is still hard to believe that it is over and we made it… As Clint Eastwood would say

“Let’s not go and ruin it by thinking too much”

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Buttermere and Crummock Water: End to End and Back again… Twice!

No cycling this weekend… but we did make up for it by swimming over 8 miles in the Lake District 🙂

All the advice we’ve had said we needed to do at least one swim over three hours, so we decided that we would do two end-to-end-and-back swims in a weekend and despite the dreadful weather we managed about 5 hours swimming and had a great time! We were very lucky to find an Open Water Swimming shop – Head to the Hills –  entirely by accident next to our B&B in Ambleside. I persuaded Alice that she really did need a wetsuit to spend over 3 hours in water below 17 degrees. Even she ended up being grateful for the added warmth which made all the difference – we’d never have completed the mileage without it!

Saturday was Buttermere (about 3 miles) and was actually a pretty enjoyable experience – we were apprehensive about our first proper lake swim – and although our boat support did their best, we certainly missed Borut’s calm reassurance (from Strel Swimming Adventures)!

We set a very leisurely pace and probably because of this – I was surprised how much I enjoyed the swim. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking in every direction which meant I kept wanting to look up, but for the first time I did manage to get into a reasonable rhythm and actually just began to enjoy the experience – I couldn’t believe how easy it felt! However, (maybe because she thought things were going too smoothly!) Alice made the mistake of removing her wetsuits half way… and ended up nearly blue by the time we’d finished!! It was a valuable lesson to learn before attempting Windermere! Luckily the Croft House Farm Cafe supplied us with copious quantities of “ButterBeer”, a drink I thought only existed in the pages of Harry Potter, but turned out to be a delicious concoction of warm milk, butterscotch syrup (apparently from a secret recipe) cream and marshmallows! It was absolutely what we wanted with our yummy sandwiches we’d brought from The Apple Pie shop in Ambleside!!

As we emerged from the cafe the clouds cleared and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery before celebrating in style with more conventional ale, pie and the most competitive game of Jenga I’ve ever played at the nearby Langstrath Inn 🙂

Sunday at Crummock Water was a little harder… the Weather was worse, the swim was longer and we were already tired, but we (or more realistically our support team – You were amazing guys!!) were committed to at least making a start. We rented a boat from the Wood House, where the owner was distinctly unhelpful, although he did reluctantly provide us with a mop bucket to bail out the water! Getting in was not very appealing, but the promise of a second round of ButterBeer kept us going – we set ourselves a target, if we completed the end-to-end and back in over 3.5 hours we would have to forgo the cakes and drinks – it was clearly sufficient motivation as we completed the five miles in just over 3hrs 15mins! The last hour or so was difficult, my arms were tired and felt a bit like jelly, but we were in a good rhythm again and our wonderful support crew made all the difference – stopping us like clockwork every 20 minutes for isotonic water, jelly babies and carbohydrate gels. Actually given how rubbish our boat was, they probably had a tougher time of it that we did. Alice admitted that she kept herself going by dreaming up new cake recipes… I’m hoping she’ll start making some of them! They sounded unusual but yummy… hopefully I can post some photos soon!

Now that we are back it seems like a bit of a dream. About this time last year a great family friend took us on a wonderful tour around the lakes, and if he’d suggested then as we drove past Crummock water, that just a year later we’d be swimming it both of us would have thought he’d developed a severe case of dementia!! Amazingly though, the fact that we struggled initially with open water swimming makes these little achievements all the more rewarding! We did imagine Daddy looking down on us and felt sure he’d have approved – he always was a massive Water Baby!! We drove home feeling like we’d really made a breakthrough and Windermere might just be achievable after all! Although it was a little disconcerting when we stopped to have look at the longest lake in England and realised that from our viewpoint neither end of the lake was within sight!

Oh well… I guess we’ll just have to take it 20 minutes at a time!! Amazingly we’re actually beginning to look forward to the challenge 🙂

 

 

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A Croatian Adventure with Strel-Swimming

A few months ago (as panic began to set in) I persuaded Alice that we ought to dedicate a week to full on swimming training. A week with Strel Swimming Adventures in Croatia seemed like a pretty appealing option, but it surpassed our expectations in every aspect!

It was quite possibly the best holiday we have ever had!

The organization, the location, the scenery, the water and the food were all fantastic. Borut had thought of everything, from the vibrant swimming hats and comfy T-shirts, to the pre-swim Vaseline sessions and delicious tea-breaks… dried fruit, nuts and chocolate are just what you want when you are coming out of the water feeling a little chilly!

Hotel Spongolia on the Island of Krapanj was the perfect base, with very few tourists, but absolutely everything you needed, including (most importantly) a gelateria and a local bar/restaurant serving the best Seabass I have ever had!!

Even the water bottles came with motivational messages…

Bottle QuotesIt was amazing how much we were able to fit into our days, without ever feeling rushed or having to worry about organizing anything… the guides had phenomenal knowledge of the area and plans were always flexible to allow for changes in weather, tide and the energy levels of the group, which meant even on the day when conditions weren’t optimal we still had a fantastic swim.

Every day included at least one new Island to explore on foot, two new swims – always with plenty of training tips and stories thrown in. It really was the ultimate adventure where each day was new and exciting, but everything seemed to fall effortlessly into place 🙂  It was just what we needed: a proper workout for our bodies and a complete break for our minds!

We racked up quite a few firsts:

  • Island to Island crossing (3km)

    The Islands we swam between

    The Islands we swam between

  • Island circumnavigation (3.5km around the Island of Krapanj)
  • River Swim (2.5km)
  • Tunnel Swim – to see Hitler’s submarine hideaway
  • Waterfall swim – at the Krka National Park
  • Blue Lagoon swim at Kornati National Park

Borut even filmed us underwater and gave an analysis of our swimming technique, which was really useful (I had no idea I was actually only using half my arm power!

More than anything it was the people who made the trip so special! Clearly a ‘swimming adventure holiday’ attracts an eccentric crowd – we had an artist, a playwright, journalists, a sports engineer and an Egyptologist amongst our group.

Everyone had a story to tell and they were all pretty inspiring! The local spirits made from herbs and walnuts certainly helped us learn more about the quieter members of the group on our night out in Sibenik. I’m not much of a drinker, but no trip to Croatia would be complete without sampling Grahovac and Pelinkovac!

We were also joined by Tori Gorman – the 22nd Australian woman ever to swim the English Channel and swimming with her was completely unreal! (especially as we couldn’t begin to keep up, even when we were wearing flippers…) She radiated passion, enthusiasm and boundless energy – a total inspiration and so generous with her advice and encouragement! We just hope some of her positivity and drive rubbed off on us!

You can really tell that Strel Swimming is a family run business… Borut Strel, founded the business a few years ago, having spent years supporting his father on his record breaking swims around the world. Amazingly it has grown organically from just 4 swimmers in Croatia four years ago to over 140 this year. Over 50% of customers return within 2 years and it is easy to understand why – Alice and I can’t wait for our next Strel Swimming Adventure – we just can’t decide whether we should do Slovenia or Lake Powell, Arizona first!

We are so grateful to everyone at Strel Swimming for making this adventure possible and for all the help, advice and encouragement for our Windermere Swim – we are now more excited and determined than ever! Here is a video Borut made with us at the end of the trip… As you can imagine – we can’t recommend them highly enough!

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And then there were Three…

And then there were three...

Mummy is now officially part of the team! 🙂

After cycling thirty miles (for the first time ever) with us this morning Mummy has decided that she will join us on the cycling part of our challenge. Now we are even more excited… although it looks like camping might have just gone out the window (sorry Alice ;)) Daddy would certainly love to know that we are all doing this together. I hope he is looking down on us with a smile…

And happily it seems that everything (even lake swimming!) is better when Alice is around!

Our thirty mile cycle this morning was via Queensford lake – a beautiful open water swimming lake near Oxford where Alice and I duly attempted our first ever 750m lap. And although I still didn’t love the cold feeling around my neck – having Alice there certainly made it all seems so much easier. We are thinking this will have to become a weekly activity… (Alice wants to include a wake-boarding session after the swim. Obviously.)

Thankfully the water was cleaner and warmer than the lake last weekend and having Alice meant it just felt like a bit of fun! Clearly I needn’t bother attempting to train without her!!

Queensford

Although I think I will probably have to do one more session before I feel prepared to cope with the swimming leg of Blenheim Triathlon next weekend 😉

I think maybe Alice thought we all needed cheering-up as her post-cycle yoga outfit was pretty entertaining…

Thanks Alice! You certainly made me smile…

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Training Sessions without Alice are clearly a bad idea…

On Sunday, despite the fact that Alice couldn’t make it, I finally decided that it was time to actually get in some cold water to accept the reality of what we are trying to achieve…

Clearly I don’t train as well without Alice. Getting into a cold murky lake near reading was not as easy as I’d anticipated. I’ve always ALWAYS been a water baby – I think Daddy had us paddling in the pool before we could even walk and I’ve always felt at home in the water – so I just assumed that this would be easy. Even though the water didn’t exactly look like a caribbean sea…

I was wrong. I had an early morning training session with Clive Anderson – who was fantastic and even kindly suggested I might benefit from reading this training manual…

He was really gentle with me and an absolute fund of knowledge…

 

But it was much much harder than i’d thought! I should have thought more of it when he asked if I was claustrophobic… When I got in the lake and set off to the nearest boy I was completely amazed to find that I was short of breath, actually I seemed unable to breathe out into the water. It was totally weird. Apparently it’s not uncommon and partly due to the cold, partly due to the darkness of the water and the newness of the experience.

 

Anyway at least I’ve learnt that i need to forget all my “pool swimming” technique, learn to be much more economical and accept that I naturally veer to the right.

The most significant lesson seems to be that clearly I just shouldn’t go training without Alice… It might not be obvious from my face, but I have to say the experience didn’t fill me with positive thoughts – swimming 350m seemed like a massive achievement let alone 11.5 miles! But I guess at least this just makes it a real challenge! Alice is coming with me next weekend – so I’m looking forward to a much more fun and invigorating swim 🙂 Fingers crossed 😉 !!

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