Back in 2019, after being on the Dover Coaster and not even getting to attempt the English Channel, I needed a challenge that was a little more certain. One I could do before our Channel window in July 2020.
A swim in a lake I thought, that is surely more guaranteed. I have done plenty of 10 Km swims before and 3 hours 3o minutes is my usual time. That’s enough time to be away from the kids so I haven’t wanted to do further until now. One step further came to me on a facebook advert and seemed to be the right option ……the inaugural Ullswater 7 miles end to end. A distance that lots of people have swum before, how hard can it be?. It should only add an extra 35 mins onto my swim, easy. I’ve swum in Ullswater lake many a time while camping, it is beautiful and with an end to end swim, there is less psychological battle to deal with.
A weekend away in the Swimfinity tour bus was planned, this time alone as the kids are playing football in their first match of the season. They had missed so much football already this year, there was no way I would get them to choose watching me swim! I set off late Friday night after the kids were sorted and my lessons had finished. Arriving by 8pm, just in time to register and collect my race pack.
What is in your Race Pack?
Race timing chip
A lovely Chillswim Hoodie
All important final details
Lucky for me I managed to get a parking spot and sleep in the van for the night near the start of the event. A good nights sleep and still feeling that the event was all going ahead as planned. 7 am start to make my porridge and be fully prepared. Involved in this prep was checking my messages to see that the route had been changed due to weather. The winds in the south of Ullswater were too strong so the contingency plan is a route swimming in circles around Park foot camp site.
Safety Cover was exceptional
Pretty gutted but there is nothing you can do about a change of course. Safety is paramount and the organisers know the conditions better than anyone. The Kayak cover was amazing, i’m sure the kayakers got colder than we did in the water! I already had the hoodie, I just needed to swim round in circles for 4hrs to be deserved of the medal!
The race start – Known as a “Mass Start” under normal circumstances!
As with anything in 2020, the race start was very different to anything I’ve experienced before. Queuing 2m away from everyone else in single file, setting off one by one, very few spectators. Some things remained the same, the crazy organisers outfits always amuse me and everyone has their own routines before a swim.
Great North Swim 2016 above compared to Ullswater 2020 below!
Seen here are Yellow Wave swimmers, planning on swimming a 40 minute mile. I set off 15 mins after them in an Orange hat with a normal time of 35 mins for a mile.
Why do people enter these events?
On my first lap round I caught up with a fellow Channel relay team swimmer Hayley who was swimming with her sister seen here below. They were not planning on finishing the distance in the crazy conditions, they were just happy to be out there swimming together in the open water. The Smiles say it all!
Next, on my second lap, I met a lady who was just testing out her new hip! A Green Wave swimmer planning a speed of 50mins for a mile. She said to me that she was trying out her new hip before she gets the other one sorted!
After a great 3 miles of the circular route I was feeling good and confident, the weather turned for the worse and the winds picked up. Swimming the last 4 miles was going to be tough. I made it to 5 miles before feeling I had reached my limit. Tougher than the channel and a real mental battle. I don’t think I would have finished after 5 miles had I not passed the exit point 4 times before! psychology beat me and I finished feeling like I have unfinished business. Chill swim 2021 here we come……….
Very few swimmers left in after 4 hours in the water
The swell was not easy to cope with