I’m no Wincy Willis, but I was convinced that this week’s qualifying swim would go ahead on account of the water being too warm still (over 6oc- if you can call that warm!), and as last week the water was only just under 10oc it would need a significant drop to count. Even 0.01oc drop is a huge deal at the moment, however today needed to be a massive 4oc to count. Anyway, what do I know? Britain has entered a ‘cold snap’ this week, and qualifying would go ahead as planned.
The water temperature was 7oc, and under new rules from IISA, to qualify I would need to swim a mile at this temperature, rather than the 1,000 metres at 6oc that I was expecting. Even though today was qualifying day, all week I had convinced myself that it wouldn’t be happening, and felt quite grateful that I would have more time to prepare as the temperature slid slowly down the scale to 6oc. I’ll admit that I suddenly felt a bit overwhelmed and unprepared. This was 3oc difference from last week, and by far the coldest swim I’d done, added to this Shark was absent from duty again, and as I had also expected to be swimming round the short course (nice and near the shore line), rather than the long course, I hadn’t brought my tow float either!
As Leon gave us our safety briefing I felt calmer knowing that there would be two motorized safety boats on the water, along with spotters, and a crew of people waiting at the finish to take me inside and look after me (and the others – thought I’d add).
As I readied to get in, I realized how quickly a small group of people, all with the same achievements and goals in mind, comes together to support each other when one has a mini meltdown (over dramatic I know, but I’ll use it anyway). It’s both lovely and worrying at the same time how the folks I swim with have very quickly got the measure of me. I’m usually quite chatty (surprised?), but when I found out I would be doing the qualifying swim after all, needed a few minutes to gather my thoughts and regroup if you like, and this was when one lovely member of our group began offering supportive words and encouragement, the worrying part was when of the crew members asked me for my after swim drinks order. On the tip of my tongue was to suggest celebratory champagne, for if I do it then I will deserve it, however my mind was read, and before I could make any such proposition I was beaten to it with “if alcohol and swimming could be mixed I would be serving you your first choice, however they can’t and so shall we go with your usual cappuccino instead?” I settled for coffee, but resolved to celebrate later, nothing flash… just a little tipple, warm fleecy blanket, gloves, a hot water bottle and me, hovering dangerously close to a radiator. After I’d sorted out my drinks order, Star Baker Chris came to see me to wish me luck and to ensure that I knew what was waiting for me, lifted the corner of his Tupperware container to (just about, if I squinted) reveal the fruits of his labour, his “new and improved recipe” chocolate brownies. Now I wasn’t sure how he could top the original ones, I happened to think they were perfectly fine, and on occasion have been known to have a couple after a swim, and then have one for the road, so speak from experience when it comes to the quality of them!
We all made our way down to the shoreline, and after the group photo, and being reliably informed that the pike would be low in the water as it’s so cold (so only debris, other (and much harder) fish, swans and the actual cold itself to worry about), always a silver lining! I went through my usual pre-getting in routine (slurp of hot squash and strip off – nothing complicated), before taking the plunge and setting off. On one hand the swim went really fast (not in speed of movement), I was constantly checking how I felt, and being thorough and all, this took up time (time that was usually spent worrying about possible fish and swan attacks), whilst on the other hand my stroke felt all over the place (except when the support boat did a drive by- I think I pulled something decent out of the bag for that), it just felt slow and not altogether smooth. I was definitely accurate though. I know this because I hit five out of the sixteen buoys with a body part (not always including an arm or hand). A new course record for me, although sadly there's no certificate for this. Quite proud!
All done, I tried to stop my watch at the last buoy (priorities all wrong). This shouldn’t be attempted in really cold water, with cold hands that were not cooperating, but my stupid self was quite determined, and after much faffing about with the tiny button whilst trying to keep my head above the waterline, I realized that my time would have been greatly improved had I decided instead to just swim out and ask someone more capable to do it for me.
Getting out was literally a whirlwind. I was briefly congratulated, wrapped in towel and Swimzi whilst ushered inside, whilst being asked a series of very difficult questions (how do you feel? Did you order tea or coffee? Did you drive here today?) I think I answered all correctly, but have little recollection as I was concentrating on trying to walk whilst keeping my shoes on (it’s no good, I’m going to have to order more fitting shoes for this- and I can’t believe I’m going to, but, yes - probably fleecy Crocs or similar) without breaking my neck, or a toe (although if I were to break a toe at this stage, there’s a probability that I wouldn’t feel it for quite some time). Once inside I felt a bit weird, I felt like I was burning on the inside, I’d never experienced this before, and was quite alarmed, however was told that this was normal. I was stripped of my wet costume (I really didn’t care), dressed in warm clothes and my coat, reunited with my re-warmed hot water bottle (although at that point it could have been anyone’s, as it was put down my back, and given my coffee in literally under two minutes (these girls were utterly amazing). It was so quick that I lost all track of time, and was beginning to think that the after drop wasn’t coming this time…WRONG! I was shivering enough to dislodge a filling at one point and continued for quite some time. I was keen for it to stop soon as I was impatient and wanted to tuck into my “new and improved recipe” chocolate brownie that had been waiting for me. I couldn't chance it before, when I was shivering, as there was a dangerously high possibility that I may well drop a bit, and that was just not worth the risk!
So, that’s it really. My qualifying swim is completed, and was made not without the support and help of a great group of people. The incredible support crew at Swimyourswim, led by Leon and my fellow comrades, all of whom were amazing. There was only one person missing from that lot, my non-swimming swim buddy, Shark, having said that, she may as well have been there. I received a text message five minutes before I got in, which read as follows:
Shark: “Please take care and the very best of luck today. Sorry I can’t be there but will have celebratory cake on me next week. You can do it! X”
Me: “Thank you. Wish you were here with me, but you’re not. Celebratory cake? I see right through you Shark, it’s guilt cake really. It better be a huge slab- AND I’m not sharing.”
Shark: “You’re right… I’ll buy the whole cake if needs be. What time you in?”
Me: “Getting in now. Talk later?”
Shark: “Okay, good luck. Call me when you’re out?”
Me: “Will do!”
After this I get in the lake and do my swim. When I get out, and look at my phone, so that’s about an hour later to find six missed calls and a text that reads:
Shark: “I am worried. I’ve called you lots and you’re not answering. If you don’t call me back I shall be forced to call Leon to check up on you.”
Me: “I’m here, I’m fine, all done. Yay! Sorry to make you worry, although slightly amused that you called me not ten minutes after I said I was setting off. How fast did you think I would be swimming? I am not Michael Phelps, or a mermaid…”
Shark: “Did you get a photo you could send?”
Me: “Oh no, sorry, my paparazzi loving Swim Sherpa isn’t with me today (better offer I think), so there are none thankfully.”
Shark: “Well now I know you’re alright I shall continue with my very important trip away and see you next week for cake and detailed account of the swim… excluding the stripping and getting dressed bit. You can leave that out! X”
See, incredible support crew… Even the absent ones!!!
Finally, it's a year since I first began writing my little blog, which stared as a way of writing about my recovery, the training and the swim I did last year (Windermere one way). I have been amazed and overwhelmed at the amazing response, and lovely messages of support I have had. After I had completed the swim I was asked if I would consider putting last year’s journey into a book. Going from a blog to an e-book is something quite different, and a lot scarier, however I decided after a lot of consideration to take the plunge (no pun intended) and do it, and finally has now been published this week on Amazon. How amazing (but mostly scary) is that? I hope that for those of you that read it feel inspired to not only take on difficult challenges, but also to never underestimate how far you can push yourself to achieve what you set out to do.If you have enjoyed reading my blogs also I have a "group" on Facebook. Its not really a group, as it's only me, but on it I post more regularly, and I'm also on Twitter and Instagram. You'd be very welcome. Here are the links. 😊
|Open Water Woman Swims Windermere is available on Amazon|
Open Water Woman