Sunday, 18 December 2016

Part 7

The Great North Swim weekend arrived, and with it the nerves. I'd been really calm and focussed until the day of the 10k, which was the Friday. Unfortunately the race didn't start till 3pm and so I had the best part of a day to worry and stew over whether I had done enough. It's got to be a really bad case of nerves when your friend is trying to force feed you cake.

The evening view of Lake Windermere near the start/finish lines, from my room, prior to the swim and prior to the nerves.

At the start line- also the night before.
The water was a balmy 21 degrees Celsius and completely calm. Perfect conditions. I was very lucky. There were only 100 of us swimming the 10k, all of which looked like well seasoned athletes. I hung at the back waiting for them all to go first rather than risk another elbow injury. I suspect I was the only swimmer in this pod over 40!  I soon got into my rhythm with the help of the tempo trainer in my cap and so was able to keep to the stroke I'd been training at. Swimming in Windermere made for a lovely change view wise, however as it was 6 laps of the mile course by the time I was on my 3rd time round I realise that I would need to start thinking of something to occupy myself with. Lapping swimmers would have been a great one, but that wasn't happening, so it was back to thinking of ways to get those elusive concert tickets and my outfit choice for it should I be so lucky!

I'd just stopped at the pontoon at the end of lap 3 for some Jelly Babies, my only stop during the swim (I had a gel pack up my leg in case I needed it, but planned not to stop again), and getting into the rhythm again when someone tapped my toes. I'd read on some forums that in some pools this was etiquette if you wanted to overtake a slower swimmer. It let them know that you were there. I joked with Shark that if someone toe tapped me they were likely to get a (n accidental) swift kick in return, and yet here I was in a lake that is approximately 10 miles long by a mile wide getting toe tapped! I couldn't believe it, someone wanted me out of the way and were practically swimming over me rather than using the width of the lake to go round. The thing is in reality you can't actually swiftly kick anyone doing front crawl, I know, I tried (I tried really hard) and also there was a risk that I may injure myself. What to do? The next best thing - do a carefully timed wee...!!!

The swim went so well. I was determined that I would maintain a 30 minute mile throughout, but as the thing about open water is that there're no ropes to guide you, or tell you the exact distance you've swum, which means that you're never bang on the mark, and your time will be affected. I wore a watch with a GPS in it to be sure, and I was right, this swim was no exception to the rule. I swam 6.31 miles in total, despite the buoys!

I was exhausted when I got out, I'd put so much pressure on myself to swim it in 3 hours that I hadn't enjoyed it as much as I should have. The watch was great though as once I have taken the time I'd completed it, and taken off the stop time for Jelly Babies (at 3 miles) and taken into account the extra third of a mile, I'd done it.

This should have been one of those moments in your life where you really feel you've achieved something, and I had, but I was just so annoyed with myself for not taking a moment during the swim to realise it. This only meant one thing...enter another!!!

The 1 mile race that my son, Shark and I have entered together was on the Sunday. We arrived in good spirits and on the 2.5 hour drive there we had discussed our entry strategy, which was to get to the front and that way for the first few seconds we would be in first place!!! A great morale boost...And literally it really was for the first few seconds. My son went first and Shark and I followed. The plan for Shark and I was to swim together and enjoy the experience, however nothing about the start went to plan. We entered and I breathed to my right, and then to my left, and Shark was gone... It was such a scrabble that I'd lost her! After a frantic look round I gave up and thought perhaps that I might see her further along. Turns out she'd had an asthma attack, and had slowed down to do breast stroke to regulate her breathing. In the meantime I had also assumed that Jake had ploughed on ahead as usual, but he had been sick mid swim thanks to the Jelly Babies he had eaten before we swam. They do say that you shouldn't change anything you would normally do on the day of the swim. Never was that truer than today. When I got out, sub 30 minutes (get the bunting up and order a marching band!!) he wasn't there... Despite him now being 17 the mother mode kicked in, and after a worryingly long minute he emerged, shortly followed by Shark.

It was such a great day. We had so much support from family, friends, swim coaches (who came to watch us), colleagues (one of which swam with us in the same pod and deserves a mention), some of the staff at my son's school, including the head teacher joined him (us) for a swim when he was training at Hatfield and people we didn't know so well wishing us well, and also telling us we were completely mad (won't disagree). It's one of those teary moments when you realise you're surrounded by such a great and caring bunch. My son raised over £1,000 for the children's cancer charity Candlelighters fulfilling his promise to raise some money.

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