Saturday, 24 June 2017

Still yet to overcome the fear of weeds...

With only 10 weeks to go till I swim Windermere (my stomach flutters every time I think about it) I have to be diligent with training and stick to my plan with military precision, so when I had to change my schedule this week, thanks to a family birthday party, it meant a change of venue. I don't mind admitting it threw me a bit- creature of habit that I am ... however being given the un-enviable task of 'entertainment coordinator' for the party I cleverly thought that a 6 mile swim would give me enough time to plan, seeing as though I'd left it till the eleventh hour!

Shark and I arrived at our alternative venue to be immediately informed by the only other swimmer there (and he was getting out) that the temperature was okay, but that there were tons of weeds. When I enquired as to where they were he did a sweep of the arm in the general direction of the lake. I was confident at the time that we wasn't being all that specific; now I know differently. Determined not to be put off Shark and I discussed how many laps we would do (20) and when we would stop for feeds (laps 9 and 15) and set off. 


Swimming in weeds is no fun. Fact. For starters my imagination was running riot thinking about what's in amongst them. This was not helped by the website for the venue who advertised the you can fish there too, and to demonstrate how well stocked it is with mature and extremely well fed fish, there is a photograph of a proud looking fisherman, with what can only be described as a monster pike in his arms, on their home page. This does nothing to taper my vivid imagination. Don't those things hunt in packs for crying out loud?

We were sufficiently spooked enough to stop after one, record breaking lap, to gather our wits. Shark looked ashen and actually suggested that we just get out and call it a day already and head for the cafe (which happens to do the most amazing lemon meringue pie). I was tempted as it wasn't just a handful of weeds, we were pretty much swimming through spaghetti (I'm talking The Second Task kind of problems here). Sounding braver than I felt, I suggested that we carry on. We had driven for over an hour (would have been less if I hadn't thought I knew better than the SatNav...) to get there, and seemed such a waste to get out so soon. Also, this was our one opportunity this week to do our long swim. We needed to get over ourselves and get on.

After another neck breaking lap Shark stopped again. I knew it wasn't because of the pace, but rather that she wasn't happy. I have to admit that I wasn't all that over thrilled myself. At this stage we hadn't even swum a mile. Shark complained that her goggles kept leaking, to which I suggested that if she un-furrowed her brow this might help. We needed to slow down and try and relax. There was little chance that we would be able to maintain the pace, and if I'm honest if I were to be hunted down by aforementioned pike, I'd need to conserve some energy for the chase.

We began our third lap at a steadier pace, however as we approached the middle of the weeds Shark took a sudden ninety degree turn and literally swam sideways, away from me. Confused, I stopped to see what she was doing, and my feet found themselves in amongst the weeds, not that I could see them. This sent me into a panic and a high speed swim to the less weedy part of the lake. Shark in the mean time was wind-sprinting down the other side and back to the jetty. You would be forgiven for thinking that she were being chased, however she confessed when I caught up to her (I did this slowly - if she were being chased there was no way I was swimming straight into the arena) that she had actually seen a sunken boat (this is there, amongst the weeds, for the divers) and, wait for it - thought it was a shark (Yorkshire is full of them😂) and fled for her life. 

After thanking her for leaving me, it became clear that neither of us were going to get in 'the zone', and I was never going to be able to drift off and think about organising party games suitable for a seventy year old with a dicky knee. It was a relief to get out truth be known, and although we laughed (me more than her) nervously about Shark's Olympic speed sprint afterwards (for quite some time), it became clear that even if we are in a lake 'alone' we are never actually going to be- weeds or not. The weeds aren't going to hurt us it's the Yorkshire river bound, boat shapes sharks hiding in it that will!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The lake is at its best in glorious sunshine ... unlike me today!

I've been fortunate enough to have had glorious sunshine for every open water swim this season so far, and today was no exception, but it turns out that a sunny day and perfect conditions do not always make for a good swim ...

Water temperature today 19.9oC

All was not well from the off. I'd had a bad night's sleep and instead of heading to Shark's house to pick her up was on auto pilot and went the wrong way heading towards work instead (and on a Sunday, which is completely outrageous😐). After performing a seven point turn (no laughing this is seriously impressive for me) I eventually was on the right road only to pass her coming the other way heading to my house. She hadn't seen me and I knew phoning her was pointless as her phone wasn't synced to her car, so followed her all the way back home. Anticipating that it might be one of those days my tired and slightly grouchy self rechecked my bag before we left again. It would be just my luck today to have left a crucial part of my kit at home. All present and correct I (we) set off again.

We had decided on a three mile swim (9 laps) but would stop at 6 for a drink and to consider whether or not we wanted to continue. As soon as we set off I looked back at the banking to see fellow, and more diligent, swimmers warming up - Whereas we had just got in and hadn't - unlike us, but too late now. Half of the first lap in and my shoulders already felt tight, my watch was too loose and kept catching on my wrist and I was struggling to see out of my new "anti fog" goggles. The rest of the lap I spent talking myself out of getting out and calling it a day.

As we completed the first loop I stopped (well away from the buoy) to sort out my watch and my goggles. Whilst I was faffing about I was quite literally swum over by a swimmer doing breast stroke (and no apology offered😒)!?! How I wasn't seen I do not know, but on the plus side the large involuntary gulp of water I swallowed negated the need to get out to get a drink saving a little amount of time.

Setting off after our unauthorised stop my goggles once again fogged up. I was struggling to get into my stride without being able to sight properly. It was very unsettling. I didn't like it and knew I needed to stop again. This was forced sooner than I expected when I accidentally toe tapped Shark at the first buoy at which point she caught my eye and smirked, making me smile. The movement from which made my cloudy and not fit for purpose goggles leak ... This was not my day! We stopped again as I readjusted them. I persevered for a couple more laps with limited vision in one eye and almost none in the other. Enough! I got out at the start of the next lap, put on my spare goggles and got back in. Fog free we set off again.

It's especially busy at the moment with people training for the Great North Swim, and in previous years it has never bothered me, however this year all the time that I am swimming I am in self preservation mode. I'm really guarded around other swimmers and concerned that they will knock me or tap my feet. Added to this I was especially cautious after last week when whilst swimming as we went past the third buoy I managed to scrape my toe on the bottom. I thought I'd seen a huge fish and just panicked. The water level is particularly low at the moment and as it happens the 'huge fish' was actually the bottom of the lake. I limped back and after a brief examination from Shark was told it was a graze and to get over myself! I'm not sure I liked her bedside manner - and she's a nurse!

With my new all seeing eyes I was finally relaxing into my swim, that was until I got to the third buoy, and now that I could see again panicked when I saw the bottom (still very shallow after no rain) and pretty much swam over Shark to move to deeper water. As we finished this lap Shark stopped, and after a heartfelt apology and explanation she suggested that we swap sides swimming. I am a creature of habit. Shark always swims on my left side, and I really didn't like the idea of change, however I liked the idea of scraping my toe on the bottom again even less, so to avoid further injury I agreed, and during the next lap gave myself a lengthy internal talking to, yet despite this did exactly the same again, only this time not to Shark, but to the man from early doing the breast stroke! There's Karma at work right there! After a fleeting (and I'll admit not very heartfelt) apology I carried on, swimming more towards the middle of the lake, incurring no further injury. Phew!

I was tired from the off, and usually would be considering some food to combat this, but I was tired due to a sleepless night, not from swimming and wasn't convinced that any amount of Jelly Babies or food would have perked me up, so kept going. We completed the swim and although it hadn't felt fast (probably due to all the stops), surprisingly it was. Feeling uplifted there was one final hurdle - to get out of my wetsuit in one piece without injury or exposure. I think I managed it, I say think - I definitely didn't injure myself, and nobody near by looked particularly traumatised or alarmed, so assume I didn't unveil anything I shouldn't have 🎉. Relieved we head to the cafe for well deserved refreshments. Usually we would also have been analysing our swim, however today the very brief general consensus, as we sat enjoying the sunshine, was that it was just "one of those days!"