Chillswim Coniston End to End 5.25 miles

The 31st of August 2019 may go down as a day that I decided never to swim again.

Temporarily anyway. I’m waiting for sleep and time to dull the painful memories.

It’s already fading as it is and I am beginning to think that I actually might have enjoyed it – in a type 2 kinda way!

So the decision to do the End to End was made nearly a year ago. A year ago when I went to watch and support friends. I walked up a hill to watch from afar – little spots in the water in the far distance swimming beautiful calm water in a beautiful calm part of the world. I was wishing I was in the water – not watching!

I decided that I would have to give it ago, and low and behold, Saturday morning came round and I found myself stood next to a lake wondering what I had let myself in for.

This weekends adventure started as we left York – I say we, as there was one of my mates, his gorgeous pooch and myself, all packed and loaded into the car and on our way – and already planning/researching an epic trip for next year! We stopped en-route at a fish and chip shop in Kirby Stephen that has not seen any modernisation in about 30 years (except maybe the till). They weren’t bad for all I mock. The second stop was Kendal before arriving quite late into Coniston. By this time we had already learnt that the swim had been put back five hours due to the weather forecast which meant we had time for a drink and chance of a lie in. Winning!

Morning came round and breakfast consumed – we wandered down to register and investigate the water (walk the dog and attempt some geocaching – we even bumped into Sean Conway!) and waste some time. Milling about waiting is actually harder than it looks. Our complacency though backfired as we realised the time – quickly scoffing some lunch before getting changed (I have NEVER put a wetsuit on as fast in my life) and heading to get the bus to the start line.

For once I didn’t feel nervous. I knew I could do the distance but that it might be uncomfortable – my kit was all ok, ear plugs in, hats on – even booties – which was a good call! Checked in, scoffed a snickers, stuffed one up my sleeve and finally got in to the water and off. And a water temp of 17 – I knew I could swim in that happily!

So far so good. Managed to keep up with one of my mates to the second food station. Was struggling a bit with sighting and a bit off initially but the first half was quite uneventful – I cant say easy – it wasn’t and some of the food stations meant getting so close to shore you had to walk out of the water. The real fun came between miles 3 and 4 – the sun had been out for the first half and considering the rain and wind of the morning – the afternoon was looking promising. Then the wind got up and the rain started. One the plus side I saw a rainbow and didnt notice the rain so much! Mile 4 or rather at the 6km mark, my shoulder started to give me issues and I debated getting out and DNF-ing. I am a bit stubborn though and I could not have worn the hoodie if I had so I carried on and the last mile was the worst!

After the fourth feed station pain, boredom and negative self talk started. My shoulder was making me miserable, I was struggling to see the five mile buoy and I misjudged the finish – like a few others. I also needed the loo – anyone who knows me, knows how hard I find it!

It seemed to take forever. All hopes of coming in in under three and a half hours were shot and I just wanted to finish. I have never been so happy to see a finish line!

The photos of me exiting the water say it all!

My mate was waiting for me as I wandered out of the water, down the finishing shoot and to the exit – first two things to sort were my need to go to the loo and food. Both satisfied – we got the buses back to the registration point. Lots of people around me mentioned that they had found it harder than last year and the conversations since suggest that a lot of people were about 20 minutes slower than they expected – which makes me feel somewhat better about the the 3:50 when I know I can do it in under 3:30!

Achy and sore, both my friend and I wandered back to our cottage and got showered before heading out for a drink and then eating tea. Wetsuits in the drying room, fed and watered, bed called. I have never been more happy to go to bed!

Still woke up tired though, but less painful memories of the swim!

As for the event itself – considering the delays – communication was excellent, organisation was excellent, the volunteers and safety crew were excellent and the whole set up fab. It really was worth doing and is worth doing – just because!

And yes, I was glad I wore booties and had snickers up my sleeve!

Will I do it again?

Ask me in a week or two!

Coniston Epic Swim 3.8km

Well what a lot of random fun was had!

This weekend just gone, I spent in the Lake District with a friend and a group from a mountaineering association in a bunkhouse in Coniston. I only knew my mate but had such a lovely time meeting everyone as well as eating lots and swimming lots!

I travelled up with my friend on Friday, in the rain, expecting a wet miserable weekend, only for the weather to improve greatly. The main purpose of the visit being swimming!

Saturday I did attempt to run – badly – my knee is giving me some serious issues – walked over to Hawkshead and then later swam in the still waters of Coniston, before a mini epic BBQ.

This was the Saturday – more important was SUNDAY!

Alongside my friend, we had booked on to the 3.8km Epic Swim. All well and good. A good training swim for Coniston end to end apparently (I swam 4km in my local lake earlier in the week remind myself I could actually swim!). We walked down to the start line – flip flops are the most annoying footwear ever = to the point that I am almost persuaded that crocs might be a good idea.

We were probably cutting it fine to be honest – but having already got my registration pack (advantage of mate having a pooch that needed walking – he went and got them!) it was literally a case of listen to the race briefing, dumping my bag and getting in the water.

Well, compared to the night before, the water was just a wee bit choppy. The night before, despite the amount of rain, was fairly warm and very still! We were (reliably) informed that the water temperature was about 17 – and in all honesty, it wasn’t really cold. I had taken my booties and gloves just in case but didn’t feel I needed them.

The route had changed – but that made life easier – just three laps rather than one short and two long. Only issue was that the wind meant that the chop was against us for the first half of the lap, but then with us for the second – I haven’t ever swum in conditions like it so wasn’t sure what to expect. Swimming into waves above your head and trying to sight was certainly interesting but no where near as bad/hard as I was expecting!

I found the first lap quite hard – and had to keep reminding myself that I could actually swim and the time didnt really matter, it just seemed to take a while for me to find my rhythm and mojo. I did though and by the second lap felt more relax and in the flow of it. By the third lap I was desperate for a wee and very happy to be swimming towards the exit point. I cannot pee in my wetsuit – which has now become my more pressing concern about the End to End swim!

I got out thinking my mate had beaten me – he hadn’t – he was 50s behind me! I couldn’t decide whether I have enjoyed it or not but I rather liked the medal! I was, however, very ready to go to the loo!

It was worth it though as I indulged in three breakfasts – including a communal fry up.

I also really enjoyed just swimming. Its the first time I have done just a swimming event and I really enjoyed it – it made a change from just running or cycling events – maybe thats the way to keep the love of triathlon alive – by doing the various disciplines in stand alone events?

Who knows?

What I do know though is that water fleas are actually a thing, and possibly the cause of the nasty bites/bruises I am now sporting on my legs!

KMF 10km and Road trips with friends

As part of my apparent ongoing road trip May adventures, this weekend was the club trip to the Lake District, or more specifically, the Keswick Mountain Festival.

In some way, shape and form, there were 9 of us milling about the festival village mid afternoon, chatting about the weekend and generally being sociable (like this is anything new!), and was followed by lunch in the town centre, but not before an awesome weekend with a great bunch of people.

Friday night, five of us went to watch Graeme Obree speak – mostly about his hour record 26 years ago but touching on other subjects. I had wanted to see him for ages and it was really worth waiting for. Saturday was chilled for some of us –  the Swim sessions for Keswick Mountain Festival (KMF) has been cancelled due to algae so some of us went off to do Keswick Parkrun (which is a lovely out and back along the old railway). One of us was racing Fairfields Fell race and the rest of us milled about either wandering into town and then on to some open water swimming in a very cold Buttermere, and the rest of us ended up getting lunch in Ambleside. Tea was curry (not wise pre race day!) and then a late night in the hostel drinking and chatting away – a very chilled day.

Sunday was race day.

Three of us had signed up for the 10km race at 10am.

Sunday morning came around. We went down to breakfast and checked the weather (and forecasts), got ourselves packed and ready and headed off to the festival village. Three racing, three spectating (this grew to 6 spectating the finish line which was awesome!).

We went down to the ferry to take us over to the start line – I was on the second boat as I’d had to rush round to the bag drop and I had been waiting for my mate at the hostel to get himself ready so we’d been later setting off.

Landing further up Derwentwater, the race wasn’t quite a ‘run back to the start’ but more of a run away and up, then back. I knew it was going to be a tough one as the race took us over Catbell’s Terrace. The sun was out, the weather was good and conditions under foot couldn’t have been better. I’ll admit I felt a bit nervous – I usually do. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fair either!

The race started and was pretty crowded, the first 4km the runners were all quite close as there was little room for over taking and a lot of walking uphill (I’ll put my hand up here and admit I was one of them) – for me, I could walk some of these climbs quicker than run them, and make up the time on the decent. And boy were those fun! The scenery was, without a doubt, worth the climbing today. The view from Catbells is one of my favourites anyway but despite it being hard, it was really enjoyable. I loved some of the more technical descents – and I think this is possibly the only area in running that I may actually be better than one of my mates at – and he is a far better runner than me!

The last 4-5km were a lot flatter than the first – but did include some tarmac and my feet let me know they were not happy about running on tarmac in trail trainers. I grinned and bared it until the route went back on to gravelly trail.

I even managed to run the finish line uphill and look fairly strong still – if the photos are anything to go by!

The organisation of this race was pretty spot on – I cant fault it, but if you don’t go to the festival, £38 can seem like a lot of money. I also made the mistake of ordering a medium tee for the finish as they were offering female specific tops – mistake right there. A small would have fit. Ah well.

Lunch became order of the day (after devouring post race pancakes and getting changed) so six of us walked into town, reflecting on time well spent and enjoying what was left of the weekend.

I feel I can sum up this weekend for me in seven words – Ate lots, drank lots, ran lots. Happy.

Cant ask for more than that!

 

Triathlon X Half Relay Antics

‘Empathy is about finding echos of another person in yourself’ Mohsin Hamid

I’ve rewritten this post more times than I care to remember before publishing. For various reasons – including being too wordy! September was a very busy month – three out of five weekends saw me travelling to the Lake District, all because of some link to the Tri Club, so not all bad.

So, why was I back in the Lakes?

The last Bank Holiday in August, a group of us went open water swimming. Not an usual event considering we’re triathletes, but this time, one of my friends – who doesn’t like swimming at the best of times, had a mini panic attack in the water. This led to a conversation about the fact that she had signed up to Triathlon X half and how she felt she couldn’t do it anymore. Two of us offered to do it for her if she could do it in relay. That turned out to be me. I had planned to come up anyway to cheer her on as I had nothing else on. So a couple of emails back and forth later and I was entered into Triathlon X half to do the swim! Now, TriX has a reputation. It is possibly the hardest triathlon (half and full) in the world. I definitely had the easy part. To put it in perspective, I was done with the swim by 8.44 – she was only finishing at 5pm – and she is an Age-group standard athlete for duathlon. If you want to see the elevation involved, I would just go search it if I were you.

Back to the race planning  – after a few conversations back and forth, I booked my own accommodation. It’s the first time I’ve stayed in a YHA on my own in a dorm room. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was actually ok. It is nicer having your own room but for £27 and to be located right next to the start line, I wasn’t going to complain. I hadn’t booked breakfast knowing that I would be swimming and up early (6am to be precise). I also didn’t check out when I left for the swim. Knowing I’d be finished before 9am, I decided to wait so after swimming I could go get a shower. This turned out to be the best plan ever – who doesn’t want a warm shower after swimming in a cold lake?!

Drinking coffee and eating some oaty breakfast bar I heading over to transition and met my friends. Dressing in neoprene – literally head to toe – hat, gloves, booties as well as wetsuit was more than novel compared to normal. I had been feeling ok about the swim until the night before. Then nerves started to kick in. Although I’ve been swimming again more regularly, this was going to be my longest continuous swim since Leeds Tri in June (1500m) and the water was a lot colder than I normally like to swim in.

The actual Swim 

I can now say I have a far better understanding of what my mate feels about OW swimming.

Not that I am not empathetic – just that I have a better understanding and wish there was more I could do to help her.

Water temperature was 13.3 degrees. Coldest I’ve been swimming in for a long time, especially any distance! It was definitely warmer than it was in April though. It was a deep water start and there was about 135 of us but there wasn’t too much of a washing machine effect as normal – although I started near the back. I spent the first 3/400m wondering what on earth I was doing? Debated getting out, decided I hated OW swimming, wondered how I was going to make it all the way round etc etc. It was awful. I’m not usually negative when I’m swimming but the first part was just awful. If this is even a fraction of how those who dislike/hate swimming feel – wow. This was bad enough and I am a fairly confident swimmer and love being in the water normally.

I finally found some sort of rhythm after I got past the first triangular buoy at about 800m and started to enjoy it. I was surprisingly warm (thank you neoprene!) and took it steady – to try and save my shoulder. The last 200m were cold and long but I was apparently smiling when I got out. Was a bit annoyed with myself as my time was 44.17 and I know full well I could have done a sub 40. My mini stress at the beginning and have to physically stop a couple of times to sight properly and get my bearings definitely didn’t help. My shoulder still isn’t perfect either but it’s only twinging a bit at the moment. I really need to rest it up I think and make sure I keep stretching it out.

I will point out though, that I was smiling when I got out – and dare I say it, I finally managed to enjoy it!

Racing in relay

Racing in relay was new, but the nature of the race (see comments about about elevation), meant I was actually quite glad I’d finished. I definitely feel I had the easiest part of the race. There was a picture of my friends stood watching the swim looking so worried. It turns out they actually were. A few got out during the swim and DNF’d – that worried them. The temperature worried them. My mates nerves got to her. The picture in question is worthy of a caption competition to be fair!

I got out of the water and hung around long enough to see my friend disappear up the road on her bike and I went and got a shower and changed. It was going to be quite a long day. I wasn’t completely on my own though. My day consisted of eating and drinking and generally wandering about until about 5pm when my friend finished. I do not know how she did it, and I am in genuine awe of her achievements. She is so unassuming, quiet and quite shy – I don’t think she realises her own strength, stubbornness and determination. I suppose that’s why I love her, and was more than happy to jump in a cold lake for her. I’d do it again too!

Looping a Lake and Heading Up Hill

Undulations and more undulations.

Took the bike up to the Lake District the other weekend – this proved interesting. My friends tried to persuade me up The Struggle – for those that do not know of The Struggle – it’s down as one of the top 200 Climbs in the UK, rated 8/10.

I did one lap of Windermere and got to Ambleside and refused point blank. My knee was already twinging from the mere 1700ft of climbing I had already done so I wondered back to the YHA we were staying at.  This left the two lads to go off and do it. I was quite glad when I got back that I hadn’t – I was talking to one of my friends when the lads rolled in. Looking wet and shattered!

This weekend I did a 30 mile circular route round North Lincolnshire – slightly hilly but same issue – dodgy on hills and dodgy left knee. What was also frustrating; I hadn’t ridden my bike in a week and I could feel it! I haven’t ridden anywhere near enough in last three weeks.

This has brought to the fore a few things….

  1. I need to do more hills and more climbing. This is nothing new to be honest. I am a bit of a rubbish climber.
  2. I need to work on my glutes – I think this is why I am suddenly having issues with my knee. Knee issues, apparently, are usually caused by weak glutes. Definitely my case with running, could be with cycling. Don’t think it’s my bike fit – its not long since I had one.
  3. I quickly get unfit on the bike. I haven’t ridden as much as I would like in the last few weeks. Partly because I’ve been busy, partly the weather. I suspect it is time I got the turbo out.
  4. It is officially winter kit season. I was cold on the bike yesterday. Shorts, base layer, summer jersey and arm. warmers – just not enough.
  5. As above. Cycle more hills. Cycle more.
  6. There aren’t many female cyclists in Lincolnshire. My 30 mile bike ride saw me get top 10 female positions on 8 different segments. Now, I’m a reasonable ok cyclist but that many? On one ride?
  7. I need to sort out the cleats on my shoes. I nearly came off my bike on a major roundabout – I slipped off the pedals thinking I was clipped in as I stood to get a move on around the roundabout. Serious wobble and thoughts I was actually going to fall. I’ve a nice bruise there now though…..

Anyway, despite all that, winter season is starting to draw closer, especially as today is the first day of Autumn. I don’t mind colder weather cycling as long as I’ve the layers on but I really do need to start putting the hours in on the turbo I think. I’ll be getting signed back on to Zwift but a friend has recommended Sufferfest. Either way, with Holkham half on the calendar and cyclocross to maybe brave… I need to start training again and stop being so lax!