Well after all that preparation the Great North Swim in Windermere didn’t happen yesterday. The event was postponed due to levels of blue-green algae in the water. I won’t be swimming in any rearranged event and have been offered either a refund or entry into the 2011 event. I was wondering how an event for 9,000 swimmers could be re-arranged within the month, before the water becomes too cold, but the rumour is that it might happen on the first weekend in October. The Great Scottish swim was postponed and then cancelled 4 weeks ago and Salford Quays is currently closed to swims and they have a great swim event on the 25th.
Anyway this cancellation was particularly gauling for Andy as it was the focus for all his training and he was raising money for Banardos. He’d lost quite a bit of weight over the last year, was swimming 2 or 3 times a week and regularly training in open water. He’d booked a hotel for his family and his parents so to find out 2 days before that the event would not happen was a real blow. There would be 1,000s of people similarly disappointed and so a dive centre at Capernwray about 25 miles from the lake quickly hosted an open water swim competition to satisfy many of these frustrated open water swimmers.
I stumbled across the event first thing on friday morning, details on the site were conflicting but on phoning the organiser he explained that the flooded quarry would be available for use in the evening after the divers had cleared out of the water. They had hosted triathlons and open water races before, there would be ankle chip timers, a canoe to escort the lead swimmers around the 500m lap and a speed boat to rescue anyone in distress. The centre had a bar and resturaunt too and was a few minutes from the M6 so far more convenient for spectators than the Great North event would have been. Because of the compact course, swims were limited to 100 competitors per wave and we really wanted to be swimming early to enable our young families to enjoy the race too. Registration was on a first come first served basis and I turned up just after 2pm to find that they were expecting 400 people, so I called Andy to tell him to get moving and arrive at the centre before registration opened at 4pm. It turned out that this number was optimistic and only about 150 swam, and we were able to go in the first wave.
The water was beautiful, claimed to be the 2nd cleanest in the country and it was crystal clear allowing us to see the sunken objects that had been dropped in the quarry to make an underwater playground for the divers. There was a boat, a helicopter, a plane and a fairground horse nicknamed Shergar. I felt comfortable and well prepared before the start: Pizza for lunch, then a couple of bananas and 3 bottles of isotonic juice to gradually hydrate myself through the afternoon. In the morning I’d bought a couple of SIS caffine energy gels from The Sweatshop and the ever helpful assistant had advised taking them 45 and 15 minutes before the start.
I didn’t feel any particular buzz before starting but my unusually strong finish was definately assisted by the gels. We started in the water and I was on the second row, there was a big mix of abilities with the quickest swimming around 20 minutes but there were kids and a lot of charity challenge swimmers too. The first turn was only about 100m from the start but wasn’t as chaotic as I imagined, even with me taking a line tight to the first buoy. I relaxed and ensured my cadence wasn’t too high and at the end of the first lap I was pleased to see that I was along side Andy in his distinctive union jack hat. I was ahead of him along the back straight although I wobbled off course a bit and I assumed that he had settled down to track me and would push past with his extra strength in a sprint finish on the final lap. The second lap was comfortable and on the third I gradually pushed harder and harder spurred on by people I was now lapping (I had been lapped by the quickest swimmers on my second lap). As I turned in the far corner and on seeing the welcome sight of ‘Shergar’ beneath me, I upped the tempo again for the last 150 metres. I almost crawled out of the water to drag myself across the timing mat with my triceps burning in a way I had never felt before. Someone said that my time was under 29 minutes but Catriona had it over 29, I’ll find out tonight. I finished ahead of Andy who should have been a couple of minutes faster than me but he had taken on too much fluid leading up to the event and was almost sick. It must have been quite frustrating but being a first competative event you learn these things as I have done over the last year.
We hope to do the Great Salford Swim next year (algae permitting) as it will be more convenient than Windermere and we hope to have 3 more friends join us. I’m glad the training is over and won’t swim much until the spring. Capernwray looks a great venue for a triathlon and I’ll look to find an olympic distance event there next year rather than battle the open sea water around Llandudno.