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!

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!

Ellerton Park – Swim little fishes swim!

Swimming has its educational value – mental, moral, and physical – in giving you a sense of mastery over an element, and of power of saving life, and in the development of wind and limb.’ Robert Baden-Powell

Swimming, over the last few months, has been a blessing and a heart saver. A lot of my friends swear by running as cheap therapy but for me, it’s always swimming. My swim set, how much I swim, where I swim, how much effort I put in – the ability to actually swim ‘mastery over an element’ is my therapy. I really can switch off when I swim and focus on the moment and what I am doing. It has helped my mental wellbeing after everything that’s happened and it has helped my physical body get physically fitter. Not so sure about the moral benefits, other than being able to take the moral high ground after an early morning set before work!

As such, I always feel the need to share my love of swimming and finding little gems. Today, myself and seven other club members headed over to Ellerton Park to go and swim. My friend wanted to so we opened it up to the club and in the end eight of us rocked up to swim.

For those who haven”t heard or been to Ellerton Park, it is not far from Scorton, Richmond in North Yorkshire. It really is a hidden little gem! Clean, quiet and open all day – what is not to love?

I really should have asked everyone how far they swam in order to get a grand total – I know that I did four laps (my longest OW swim of the year at 2.3km) and that one mate did 11 laps, and another 5, so theres 20 between three of us. I also heard later on that another club member had gone across in the afternoon and enjoyed it.

It was a bit of a trek to Ellerton Park from home, however, as I think I’ve mentioned before – I think it will become important in next year as I train for my planned A race of the season. Apart from been clean and quiet – it has, as stated above, long opening hours. It is definitely worth a trip.

Quick run down….

Location – Ellerton Park, Scorton, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 6AP

Cost – £5, cash only.

Facilities – Changing/shower room, steps into the water, burger van (varied opening hours – so don’t count on it!), not far from local cafe though, with Tri-ology located above it.

Spotters/lifeguards – no. Definitely worth taking a tow float/mates to spot.

Swim loop – 530m loop around 3 buoys, clockwise, can get a bit choppy.

Opening times – If I remember rightly, the season is usually March to September, and opening hours at rough 9 to 6, give or take an hour. I’ll try to double check next time I’m up there – but regardless – you can swim all day if you want!

Water quality – really highly rated – and you can tell when you get in! No pool/lake fever for me at all. Definitely a major selling point.

Parking – yep – and a decent amount of it too.

Other important info – Can be weedy, going off past experience, spring water fed so although warm when sun has been on it, can be cooler quite quickly. Usually pretty clear. Quite deep – you cannot stand up unless you swim right to the side, and even then it is only a small ledge. You may find yourself swimming over divers and occasionally some boats may be in there. They only accept cash! This is also a venue for a local midweek sprint triathlon too.

Trying new things!

So in the theme of travelling, training and triathlon, my trip out yesterday saw a mixture of these things come together. Having been at Ellerton Park on Saturday and seeing just how glorious the lake was, I headed back there yesterday with a friend to actually swim. I might as well make most of having a week off work.

It is only £5 to swim and the beauty of this spot is that it is open all day nearly, every day. Perfect for the likes of me who don’t work all day every day! The water is so clean and clear (and really quite warm at the moment too) and it’s deep too. The course is marked out with three buoys, which you swim around clockwise. That’s it. There are no spotters or life guides so I bought a new tow float (I used to borrow his but, obviously this isn’t an option now). I felt better for knowing I had it, and that one of my friends was keeping an eye out. It was bliss! I’m lucky that I have a lake very close by to swim in, but for my plans for next year, I really think, despite the distance, this may be my lake of choice! I need to go check out Blue Lagoon though too. It was so nice being in the wetsuit again and out swimming rather than being in the pool. Even my friend managed to get in, despite doing no OW Swimming in nearly a year. There are showers and toilets, as well as a cafe near by. What else could you want or need? Having not eaten very much, I only did 2 laps (still struggling with eating) around the lake before swapping with my friend, but it was just nice to be out!

Later on though, there was a second appointment with a track session. I always said I wouldn’t do track, but I am conscious I am not a particularly speedy runner and I need to work on it. But boy – what a shock to the system that was. I knew it would be hard but I really need to up my running. I nearly hurled a few times but then I pushed myself harder than I would have done if I’d been on my own. I’m suffering today though as well. One of the coaches did say you need to be averaging 15 miles running a week to make most of track sessions. Best start upping my running and find some better trainers. I have sore calves and blisters this morning and I’m supposed to be running tonight.

I really hope that in a few months time I can report some more success in my running in general.