Friday, 13 April 2012

Swimtrek Gozo Training Camp 2012

Addictive this long distance swimming lark......A friend of mine had encouraged me to go to the Swimtrek Gozo week early in the season to help with focus for the year ahead. I had even had 3 lessons with the great Ray Gibbs at Swim Canary Wharf in the run up to this after experiencing Rotator Cuff pain in the 2011 summer season. 'You are not going to believe this Ray, but the last time you saw me I could only swim 25 lengths but last year I swam Winderemere'....he was thrilled to take me apart in the pool with his cameras!
I felt horribly under trained..... BUT.... I had spent the winter working on the blubber/insulation layer working my way through as many portions of Kelly's Clotted Cream Vanilla Ice Cream mixed with Malteeser's as possible and worked on the cold water by only having cold showers since my birthday on the 4th February. I had swum at best 2x 1 hour on the weekends, 2 pilates classes and 1x40 minute session on the rower per week. This felt really inadequate for what was forthcoming....

I had begged favour with the family (and made my sincere apologies) as I flew out early on the day of my daughter's 10th birthday (31st March) and was due to miss our 15th Wedding anniversary.....(not sure how I managed sign-off for this)...

So...I found myself at the hotel at Xlendi bay with some of the other Swimtrek rascals that transferred over from Malta airport via the ferry and was handed a sheet of paper 'see you at 7.30pm for dinner and 7.30am tomorrow for an acclimatisation swim'. Starting to feel a tad nervous...
After dropping the bags off, I had to take a look at this idyllic bay with a few of the group. Crystal clear blue water and nice friendly cliffs surrounding a perfect bay which almost appeared hand-crafted for open water swimming. Many of the other Swimtrekers started turning up and immediately went into the water. Instead of swimming a few of us decided to lash down a burger and a beer to savour the last few moments that we were not going to be put through our paces.....

There were some real athletes here for the week. At dinner I sat next to Mark Bayliss who it transpires is down for the Arch to Arc this year which makes my ambition to swim Loch Lomond seem like a nice warm up. Next to him was the very able Lucinda (Mark's wife) who came second in the ladies race at Winderemere 2011 (who I only recall seeing briefly at the beginning and at the certificate presentation). Opposite me was Clive, a retired GP, embarking on his journey to swim the channel this year and had close to zero experience of open water swimming. This is the essence of what I love about Swimtrek - bringing swimmers together regardless of experience & ability. Just get on with it and share views. Clive's experience (and medication) came in invaluable during the week...

Day one - 3 hours of swimming
After a sensible early night and no booze like a good boy, the acclimatisation swim started at 7.30am where we were told to swim to the other harbour wall and back twice. I got out with 5 other pairs of flip flops/Crocks still left on the wall (out of 14) and was presented with an orange coloured swim cap (others got orange, pinks or yellows). What was to happen for the next 3 days was almost an army-like drill of seminars on various topics, swims we had no knowledge how long we were doing and eating (as much as possible which is fine by me).

After experiencing rotator pain in my left shoulder the year before, coach Ray had changed my stroke and he was keen just that I focus on technique and not speed. That turned out to be a wise move as last year's technique was not going to cope with the onslaught of relentless amounts of swimming....

Photo: There's only one way to enter the water...
The first real swim of the day was a 1 hour round a 450m circuit of the bay where I think I completed 6 or 7 laps. The water was beautifully clear compared with (and a welcome relief from) the ghastliness of Dover harbour. The only difference was that we could now see some of the jellyfish that were around - predominantly Mauve Stingers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelagia_noctiluca) but 1 in every 10 the guides were plucking out was a Portuguese Man of War (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_Man_o'_War). How nice.......Difficult to find the perfect stretch of water after all (Paradise doesn't exist!!)..... I plodded around and 2 of the lads who were more used to tearing around in wetsuits seemed to 'man-up' (probably from peer pressure from the rest) and dropped the wetsuits for this first one. After this hour, it was quite clear from the shivering, however, who was going to feel the cold more than the others for the rest of the long swims ahead. One of the faster guys with no fat on him and the 2 normally wetsuit-clad lads both came out a slightly whiter colour than the rest of us carrying a bit more. The temperature of the water was in the parish of 13-15 degrees.
In the afternoon, we did a 2 hour swim in the same bay and had our first feed after 1 hour of the maxim concoction that Nick Adams is famous for. This length of time seemed to put more cold water training to the test and a couple of the guys were really worse for wear due to cold. I recall focusing on being smooth and had the recent BMW video of Addlington on my DVD player that I had watched in my room about 10 times (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuJo_lVmO1Q). The only difference is that she is 10x faster....with one arm..
I continued the cold water immersion training for Loch Lomond when I got back to the room with a cold shower.....why am I doing this, what am I doing here??
I remember after another seminar going to Supper and feeling stiff. Mark Bayliss calmed me down by noting that in the first hour tomorrow I would get to relax the muscles again though exercise. He was right.
I went to bed feeling physically tired, enjoying the vibe and generally forgetting that I had a 'normal' life outside of this cocoon (gotta love escapism!).

Day 2 - 4 hours of swimming
After an enormous breakfast of muesli, toast, fruit and yoghurts (washed down with the rankest machine coffee known to mankind), we got into a minibus that seemed to have been around in the 1950s to take us to the magical bay of Mgarr ix-Xini (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C4%A1arr_ix-Xini).



Dropped kit on side and told we were going to be here for the whole day so get comfortable... After 5 mins, they told us to kit up (or down in most cases) as we were going in for 3.5 hours.... This sheltered bay was still out of the sun and felt cold that morning. The water was crystal clear blue and visibility was incredible beyond 30m. After plodding around a few times at this new bay where the cliffs came sheer down into the water, we came in for our first feed on the hour. One of the quick lads got out due to cold and the slowest lady in the group got out to put on her wetsuit. We carried on for another few laps and then I saw a beautiful jellyfish at the far end of the bay. I failed to realise, however, that once you are upon it, it has 2 meter tentacles that are starting to wrap itself around you.....It nailed my neck, back and arms and the more I pushed to get away, the more it felt like it had latched onto me. I then had a searing burning feeling on my neck and waved to the guides to get them to pluck this beast out. They asked if I was alright and requested that I carry on if I could.... The cold water seemed to soothe the pain somewhat. Once I got back to the start of the bay one of the guides, Fiona, was blowing her whistle and before we knew it we were being pulled out of the water after only 2 hours. No 3.5 hour swim? What a shame.... The quantity and variety of jellyfish species that were entering the bay was making the whole operation too hazardous. I took the time to then use the pause in proceedings to eat as much food as possible to get some more calories on board. Someone found some Jaffa Cakes at the bottom of a tub of biscuits which were rapidly all dispatched with remarkable ease...
After getting out of the water, the rest of the group had a jolly good old laugh at the mess that the jelly had made of my neck and the lovely guides, Mia and Fiona, soothed it with cream. Here is what that rascal did....



After getting back to the relative safety of the Xlendi Bay and after a seminar, we were back down for a swim. I had, however, taken an anti-histamine from Doc Clive and wondered if this was going to make me feel drowsy or cold. It made me feel more of the latter. I also discovered at this stage my preference for greasing up with Lanolin rather than Vaseline as this lasted better to solve the beard rash that was developing at a healthy pace on my shoulders. We were told that there was 2 hours on the cards. After the first hour, I felt cold for the only time in the week. I couldn't work out whether it was fatigue or the drugs Clive had given me but recall that feed on 1 hour was utter nectar and warmed my core up. Remember going round for the second hour enjoying the effortlessness of the new stroke and was conscious not to muller myself ahead of big day tomorrow....

Day 3 - The big day - A 6 hour swim

After another record breaking intake of calories for breakfast, we met up for a seminar and you could, rather amusingly, almost feel the nerves in the room. The group was aware that there was a 6 hour straight swim on the cards after this interlude. For some, it was a pre-requisite for their channel, for others it was a 'see what you can do moment'. For one lady in particular, it was a revisiting of difficult memories of the year before where she got out after 1 hour. I could feel the rather heavy exhaling coming from Tim next to me who is an accomplished fast club swimmer (one of the pink hats) but had obviously been feeling the cold more than most in everything we had done that week so was understandably nervous...
At 10.45am we entered the water and weren't due out until 4.45pm (nice day out!).  Laps of the short course, washed down with laps of long course (out to pole at the edge of bay ) then back for more punishment of the short course 450m loop. I was really looking forward to this and trying to find that swimming Nirvana & Zen heaven from the year before that I experienced at various junctures. Set off slowly and found my stroke (tried to ignore absolutely everyone else completely...).
Plodded around for the first 2 hours then hit a really tricky patch between hours 2 and 3 where I wasn't even half way. Oh dear...hitting a brick wall Sheridan? To get through this I thought again and again of my charity, the Rainbow Trust, the moving DVD that they had sent me of the poor lad Josh James who died recently of terminal cancer and how much this road was going to help me raise money for lads like him, his brave mother and his lovely sister. That DVD moved me so much inside that this was an insignificant swim compared with the pain that family had endured.... I was soon back in the zone and back onto my mission now.



After 3 hours, I settled in, my mind got close to vacant (nothing new there) and I was back on the swimmers high. I knew this swim would get knocked out. The water was stunning and during hours 3 & 4, the longer loop out to the pole at the far end of the bay by the open ocean meant a chance to swim near schools of fish of different varieties. It was just clear, pure and fresh. During the day, the guides had plucked out the multitude of jellies and the water felt fine. After 4.5 hours, they gave a couple of us a top up feed from the boat to practise feeding from that mode of transport and gave a chance for the more muscular of the group to take on more fluids.....A few more loops of the shorter course and we were close to done. As we approached 6 hours, I really didn't want to get out and wanted to keep going. The cliffs, the nature and the whole experience became more and more intense. The shoulders felt stiff but I was relieved that the stroke had held up and there was no real rotator pain from the year before. We got out of the water to raucous applause of the patrons who were hitting the bars in front of us who were obviously made aware (by the guides) which screws we had loose and what we were up to. After getting out of the water, one of the lads who was down for a massage at 5pm wasn't in a real state to turn up so I even went forward in the massage queue - the importance of having an insulation layer!

As a group, we had achieved something remarkable. All of us had finished the 6 hour swim. No-one had given up (that hadn't happend on these weeks before apparently). Even the members with no swim or goals booked that year didn't flinch. That was some feat. A couple of the lads and a lady completed it in a wetsuit and I think (in fact I know) they had a renewed respect for the rest of us who were in cossie only. I felt a new level of admiration for the mental strength of my co-swimmers and no-one bottled it. I was particularly chuffed for Alex who complete the 6 hours where the year before could only manage 1 hour - this must have opened up a whole new world to her.



I rewarded myself with a cold shower (ever mindful of Loch Lomond) to rinse down and got myself up to the massage table. How arduous!

A phrase I will take from Nick Adams with me on future adventures after this experience is 'Man-up'. We had all 'Manned-up' when it counted. I then felt sorry for the group the following week who would get some stick as the benchmark had been put in the sand.

The Rest of the Trip and reflections....
The main 3 days of back to back swimming was over and the rest of the 'holiday' comprised of fun swims and more seminars. We went over to Comino to swim the blue lagoon. I even noted that Superman Mark Bayliss had a chink in his armour plating on the boat ride over to the island as he admitted he can suffer from sea sickness. We all have our weaknesses. We swam through an amazing cave and around the blue lagoon. Dodged untold jellies until getting back on the boat. This was the only time of the week where the water felt warmer than the air temperature!



At dinner on the last night we all received our certificates and Nick Adams did a terrific job of presenting them with a little sum-up speech about all of us in turn. I think mine was along the lines of quiet, thoughtful and always upbeat & especially so when others were at the most difficult moments. Felt a sense of pride and achievement & couldn't think of a nicer way to kick off the season!

Clive, Thomas and I stayed on an extra night when the others had already gone home and being partial to the fine food, we went in search of a Lobster to wash down with a proper bottle of white Burgundy to celebrate completing the week. We tracked down a dish called Spaghetti lobster that had made it all the way from........Scotland!

Quite a week and back to reality....

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Windermere 10.5mile Swim 2011

The longest swim to date. This was not some kind of non-sensical 'spur of the moment decision'. This was at one stage a mammoth undertaking and required the logistical skills of the greatest administrator just to get the crew (and myself) to the start line!

I called the swim secretary for the BLDSA (British Long Distance Swimming Association) swim, Gill Stables, in January 2011 to express interest in swimming Windermere that year at the BLDSA-official swim on 3rd September. I was taken aback at the time about how serious she was about training for cold water and she noted she had plucked a 'fit lad out of the water' the year before due to cold - this was not just about 'being fit', she remarked...this was about 'being comfortable in your stroke'. Gill enquired as to where I lived (rural Kent) and pointed me towards Freda Streeter who would 'sort me out' (or something similar). I then proceeded to eat as much as possible as a decent insulating layer before taking myself down to Dover in May. She finished the conversation by noting the pre-requisite for the swim just to make the start line (swim of 5.5 miles in open water in under 3.5 hours and no wetsuits). Never done that distance before....

To cut a very long story short, I managed to edge myself across that pre-requisite fulfilment after finishing the BLDSA Champion of Champions 5 miler in 3hrs 17 mins in 13 degree water in weather that can only be described as atrocious (even Freeda Streeter's lot didn't train that day which is unheard of). I trained every Saturday in Dover with the Channel Swimmers with a few swims of 5, 6 and 7 hours.
I managed to locate a wicked crew - Kevin Dalton - my best mate from Uni who was going to be in charge of feeds and navigation. Luckily I had the best oarsman on the Lake that day in Michael McCarthy (the father of my eldest daughter's best mate). He takes a great pride in everything nautical being an engineer on the Thames and his attention to detail (even having the nicest flag pole for the flag alpha) deserves some major OCD accolade. He even properly spliced my feed bottle onto the line the night before the race in the hotel bar!

I was nervous for quite a few reasons and these were difficult to ignore (forgive me for being human!). I had trained in Dover mainly in salty seawater which is so buoyant you don't have to kick to stay upright. I had undertaken a 7 hour swim in the harbour but that was in a sunny day in July and I never felt cold once. That was 17 degrees and we were now back down into the realms of 14.5 as I had taken the temperature after showing the crew the lake from the Bowness ferry.
I had raised £6000 for my charity, the Rainbow Trust, and didn't want to let them down. The stories of how these kids and their families handled terminal illnesses had moved me many times during the summer as I fought with the training sessions and motivation. I really wanted to do what I could to help.
I had endured rotator cuff pain during long swims in training and didn't want this rascal to be my undoing on the day. There were so many uncertainties I resigned myself to yoga breathing (into the belly) and listening to some chill out music to get back to something resembling reality.

After getting zero sleep whatsoever, I woke up at 5am on the day of the race/swim to mix my feeds (3 thermoses of tea with maxim and 3 with hot water, orange juice and maxim). How naive that plan now seems. I also, for good measure, thew in a load of bananas, some gels, milky ways and even a can of red bull that I thought might help in dire straits....(remains untouched to this day thank God)
I had spoken to the managing director of energysports who had recommended carbo cake to me as a pre-race feed. I therefore mixed up a load of this with porridge (& maxim) which was a super combo and felt absolutely stuffed & almost ready for action. I then met the crew outside our Hotel in Bowness at 6.30 am and we drove down to Fell Foot. I looked at Kev in the eyes and said, 'whatever happens, don't let me give up...' .....he remained silent....

This drive seemed like an eternity (20mins) and we were only covering 1/2 the lake. OMG moment. The size of this body of water really dawned on me...
We had all the kit ticked off by the swim secretary's team and made our way to the cafe to get last minute refreshments. Yet another cup of tea that seemed so vital...... After the crew returned from the 'crew briefing' they were absolutely soaked right through already (this was northern not southern rain)  and the race hadn't even started yet. Picture of Kev prior to the swim here (very hopeful of sunshine that the rest of the country was going to experience that day complete with sunglasses on bonce)....





They looked reasonably well prepared in their waterproofs when I saw some of the other crews in shorts! I recall was worried about my mate Kev's ability to deal with the damp and cold given how thin he is given his athletics background (under 10.5sec 100m runner).... I gave my kit to Kev and in a dignified manner as possible asked whether he could Vaseline my shoulders etc to stop them rubbing against any chin stubble during the swim. He then got the rest of my things and I was then sitting in the cafe with the rest of the swimmers armed with swimming cossies, caps and goggles. 'Good lucks' and tense but impromptu conversation amongst unrecognised swimmers began to take place. I bumped into a young lady wearing a green costume & cap which said 'Ireland' on them. I asked what her feeding plan was - she remarked 'well..... after the first hour, I'll have completed 5km so I'll probably stop then and have a feed'....I realised some of these endurance athletes were in a different league. (Unsurprisingly she finished first in the Ladies race..)
Just before we were set on our way, it transpired that 2 of the men were not wearing 'regulation' trunks (Speedo shorts instead of the banana-hammock variety) and we therefore stood around for 1/2 hour for someone to get 2 speedos for these guys. What a pollava and nerves continued to jangle...

We were then ushered in line (number order) into the water and I was really touched when some of the young kids on the pier at Fell Foot said 'good luck' to each of us in turn. How considerate for young kids at early o'clock on a Saturday. I looked at the remaining southern part of the lake that was virtually non existent save for a buoy that stopped people from going any further otherwise they were going to come out of the Lake via the river at Morcambe.....

The moment of truth had arrived. Had I done enough? Was it going to be as freezing as some had said? I got into the water and immediately thought this is going to be absolutely fine (the training I had done in some lakes was much harsher). It was raining hard and the water felt warmer than the air. (I actually prefer swimming in rain).. After a minute we were set on our way by the race starter. I remembered in that first few strokes what my mate (and fellow swimmer) Kevin Welsh had offered by the way of advice 'remember to relax your shoulders and just find your stroke'... 'Get into the zone and don't snatch at the water'. I let all the elite athletes just slug it out down the middle and made my way to the right hand bank where I knew my crew would be rendez-vous-ing with me. I made steady but sure progress in that first mile, lashed back my first feed which was tea (with maxim mixed in). We then made our way up to the first Island, Blake Holme and swam inside it for a bit of fun (we were told we could go anywhere on the lake as long as we stuck to the west of Belle Isle. Round the corner we past the Tower Wood Outdoor pursuits centre with loads of teenagers learning the ancient art of using a Kayak. They asked the crew what kind of braincell I had loose and when they realised what we were up to, they just started cheering and clapping like crowds do during the London marathon. It was very moving and gave me a huge lift.

Shortly after that we had a decent backwash and it felt like I was being taken up the lake by some kind of eddy or back current - it was so strong that Mick on the oars was even very animated (it takes a lot to get him going!). After the long sweeping bend of that east bank, and at about 2 miles, we then could see the vast expanse of water that would take us to halfway marked by the Bowness ferry. It looked like light years away. We made for the Storrs Temple next to the Storrs Hall hotel that protruded out into the lake. The lake was now wider and more exposed and was beginning to whip itself up into some fair old chop. This now felt like I was beginning to find out what I had signed up for..... a real slog! For the next 3 miles we fought the motion of the water and I longed for the shelter of the bay after the Ferry. Feeds were becoming problematic as each time we stopped, the boat kept getting swept away with the wind and feeding bottle was being yanked out of my mouth as it was attached by lanyard to the boat (how naive). (I was still foolishly feeding on tea thinking that it was going to warm me up but all it ended up doing was making the tank feel empty and me needing the loo!)



Anyway...eventually, we passed the Storrs Temple and made for the Ferry House on the Western Bank. The chop again was hard and I recalled having 2-3 other swimmers with boats close to us. This now felt competitive and I wasn't going to let these teams past (this was now a race to try and avoid the wooden spoon!). We got past the Ferry house and immediately turned left into the shelter of the bay where I said to the crew that I need to have a proper feed and switched to the orange juice & maxim mixture other than tea that was just running through me. After some OJ, a milky way and a bit of banana, I felt more human and noted that one of the swimmers in front of me about 200 yards ahead was doing breaststroke. This was no ordinary breaststroke of long glide but short vigorous bursts of up and down (I assumed to keep warm). I decided I needed to put on my best freestyle for the rest of the event to keep going past.... I then got my head down and we swam with more purpose past Belle Isle. I stuck like glue to that West bank and made decent progress up to Bass Rock. I could see the bottom again and felt more comfortable that I was actually moving.

I was, at this stage, completely unaware that this stretch of water was the highlight of the crew's entire weekend. They had spotted a gorgeous young lady in her early 20s deciding to go for a swim completely nude - not only that she was taking her time thinking about it and was enjoying the lads watching.....oh why didn't they alert me?? This caused much excitement and aided by me swimming slowly past completely unaware and focused with the swim at hand feeling more and more worn out....The crew will be talking about this decades from now, I'm sure....

Soon thereafter, we were now into the final 1/3 and made our way across High Wray bay which seemed to take an eternity as I was beginning to feel the effects of having been in the water for 8 miles and 5 hours. Kev suggested I have a Gel and a warm feed and he was absolutely spot on and I felt better. We got to the point after Low Wray bay and then decided to make for the finish across the Lake at Ambleside. Half way across, Mick on the Oars noted that I was going close to nowhere as this was the point that the two rivers that feed Windermere at the North end show a decent current. We then swam to the East side and made our way gingerly through the moored boats and into the finishing line near the pub. The President of the BLDSA was waiting on the beach to greet us. That was very touching of Bev Thomas to greet all the swimmers as they came in. (absolutely spot on). I recall giving her a kiss and noted 'I can't believe it', 'I can't believe I did it'. (Bev in the background in the blue top)....



We then got ourselves dry and I had 4 hot chocolates with extra lashings of double cream to warm myself up.
The swim was completed in 7 hours 5 minutes and although the winner of the men's race was done in under 4 hours, I was mindful of not being too harsh on myself - the person who couldn't swim more than 25 lengths 18 months prior. I was surprised to note that 4 others actually could swim slower than me with the last swimmer leaving the water completing his 50th Windermere in 8 hours. Well done that man...

After we nestled into the pub, we were joined by the seasoned breaststroker and his crew. He was much more at home with this swim as he started to work his way immediately through 5 pints of ale. Rock and Roll...

The year's aim was done and I hadn't let myself and my crew down plus I could give the Rainbow Trust the £6k cheque which was going to enable a carer to accompany a terminally ill child to treatment at Great Ormond Street for a year. I called my wife and then the enormity of what I had done with all the emotions behind started to pour out and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The release of all those training concerns and worry now fell away amongst the tears of unadulterated joy.

We got back to the hotel and went out immediately in search of the finest Steaks the local area had to offer. We dispatched of 3 fillet steaks with remarkable ease... We talked about challenges we had all undertaken and I was really blown away by this humble duo in front of me. Kevla, my best mate from Uni,  recited stories of being in charge of the foredeck of a boat during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in the most gruelling and costliest year in terms of lives lost. He stepped in on the feeds and encouragement at the right times when I was unable to make sense of it all....
And Mick, who had, in his quiet & humble manner, saved countless lives on the Thames after plucking people out of those treacherous waters to get them safe. Mick, was head and shoulders ahead of any other Oarsman on the lake that day and I only wished I could have tested his abilities by swimming quicker! In Kev and Mick, I had some remarkable people supporting me and without them, this epic swim at the end of all that training wouldn't have been on the cards. These guys are legends.
I then dropped the crew off at the pub (didn't feel like getting bladdered) and they were hoping to get re-acquainted with that skinny-dipper they had fallen in love with two thirds of the way up the lake....

Picture taken the day after when the conditions were absolutely perfect!


Wastwater 3mile Swim 2011





This has to be my favourite place on the planet. It's moody, unpredictable and the temperature changes of the surrounding area and the water in the lake can move very rapidly. On 24th August 2011, I asked Mrs Sheridan (Wife) and the 2 girls to drop me off at the Wasdale Head end and meet me at the Youth Hostel end. I stuffed 2 gels down my trunks and swam down the screes to the other end. It felt almost prehistoric and for the first mile thought that the monster from the murky blackish brown depths was going to take me out.

What was I doing there? Well, I was down to swim Windermere on the 3rd September 2011 and after many hours of training with the channel hopefuls in Dover Harbour all summer wanted a final bit of freshwater and cold water training (less buoyant!). I figured that if I could handle Wastwater solo then Windermere would feel at least warmer and do-able. It might feel unsafe to some but after a Swimtrek weekend in the Lake District, I was full of confidence and decent acclimatisation after swimming Grasmere, Rydal Water, Easedale Tarn in 'skins'....



This was a magical swim and after taking the temperature (as always before a swim) with my digital thermometer, I turned to Mrs Sheridan handed her the temperature gauge and asked her to note 13.7 degrees Celsius at the edge where I entered near the farm and 'beach' at Wasdale Head. I then rinsed the goggles and got the show on the road. The water felt so cold at one stage in that little bay that I thought someone had handed me someone else's arms and legs. After one mile I waved to the family as my signal that I was OK so that they could make preparations to get in to the car to go to the other end. I then necked one of the maxim orange gels that I had stuffed in the trunks and felt immediately about 5 degrees warmer and happier. Back almost in comfort zone. Instead of then thinking about the length of the cold swim I focused on the edge and getting to the next massive bolder under water that had been repelled by the cliff face above.

During this phase we went past the mighty 'Screes'.......




There were loads of these huge rocks with some of them bigger than cars immersed in this clear water with no plant life growing around them. This was just me & the lake and each time I thought about this I just thought about dinosaurs roaming this place and how prehistoric it all felt. I just couldn't remove this thought from my head for what seemed like ages. After 2 miles I knew that I was going to make it after necking my final gel and the water was now less choppy as I had swum through a bit of a storm. I could make out the end and the little calm & sheltered bay that was going to be the landing point. This was paradise to me. I was now in the long distance swimmers state of Nirvana (probably something similar to runner's high) I savoured every last minute here and the bay felt warmer (it was in fact barely so at 14 degrees). I could make out the figures of the family and everything seemed quiet, serene and peaceful. Mission accomplished, a huge confidence booster ahead of Windermere and an achievement a few years ago that would have seemed almost impossible. This is not the longest swim in the world but it means a whole lot to me and always will. I then necked a maxim protein shake to recover and we decided to spend the afternoon taking on Scafell!

The end of Wastwater (note lovely clear water, screes on the right and storm that passed in the background).