It’s fair to say that virtually all my annual leave from work this year revolves around sport in some way or other. It’s also fair to say that I’m not the one actually exerting myself on 90% of those dates, thankfully. The weekend of July 23rd was to be no exception, so the day before I set off bright and early for The Lake District, to watch a bunch of complete tits swim the entire length of Lake Windermere. I’m not being cheeky (for once), they really are all T.I.T.S.*
Miraculously I managed to miss all the crappy traffic and landed in Coniston around midday, to set up camp. My pal Julie joined me a couple of hours later. Julie was supposed to being swimming the following day, but sadly needed to withdraw from the event due to a bad back. So although I was meant to be crewing for Julie, I was able to swap to another team and was lucky to be able to help out another swimmer, Phil. Never having met him, or the rest of the crew, I did wonder if we’d gel okay in such a short time to be able to be the best crew for him, but my fears were unfounded. Phil seemed suitably daft, and Ollie and Bradley the other two crew were as easy going and friendly as i’d hoped, so I knew we were on for a good day. Well, the crew were at least; swimming all that way was clearly insane. Relaxing on a boat in a beautiful lake was definitely the way to go.
All the swimmers and crew met at Bowness, half way down the east of the lake at 5:45 on Saturday morning to load up the boats and get organised. Judging by the amount of stuff being loaded on to some boats, I did wonder if a few swimmers were planning to relocate to the Lakes. For the triathletes among us (the term athlete to be used in it’s loosest sense) multiply transition kit by about 10 and you get the idea. So boat loaded, we all clambered aboard and set off for the 30 min trip to the southerly end of the lake. I don’t know about Phil, but if you made me motor 30 mins down a mahoosive lake, knowing it would take me hours to swim back to where we’d just left, and that I’d still only be half way, well, I’d tell you to ram it. Thankfully Phil was too polite to say anything. Or it may just have been terror-induced silence. Either way, we all congregated at the end, the swimmers lubed themselves up and suddenly they were off.
So time for the crew to kick back, relax and crack open a few tinnies before settling down to a nice breakfast of all the food Phil had loaded on board. Well, something like that. Having three of us on board was great. Ollie and Bradley shared the driving (or should it be sailing?) and had a tricky job of not going too fast so we were aligned with Phil the whole time. The other main duty of the crew was to feed Phil every 30 mins. He’d prepared a detailed list of what he wanted to eat and drink every half hour, and judging by the list he was expecting to be hungry. The first few feeds went okay, and he managed to snaffle down the requested energy bars, biscuits and energy drink (he said it was maltrodextrin, but I think it was 2 keys of coke in that box. I’m just glad the coastguard didn’t stop us…). However, a couple of hours in, Phil started to say he felt sick, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone projectile vomit so impressively. The grapefruit squash in the drinks gave the vomit a pinkish hue, such that he looked slightly like a poorly dragon spewing fire into the lake. At this point of course, he definitely didn’t want to try and eat anything else, so we let him carry on swimming until the next feed. A quick chat with Tracy (head coach extraordinaire) and we determined to re-assess when he stopped 30 mins later. Sadly for Phil, the nausea didn’t really abate much after that, though thankfully he did managed to keep down some fluids and amazingly energy gels got him through. There was another post-paracetamol vomming incident, but the less said about that the better.
That lake itself is stunning. It’s large enough to feel fairly quite, even though there were lots of other boats out and about. Other than a couple of times it felt like the boat would capsize after encountering the wake from a speed boat, it was a beautiful, calm day for us on the boat. Feeding every 30 mins meant that time actually passed really quickly (well, not for Phil I reckon!).
A couple of times throughout the day, two other swimmers Iain and Wayne jumped in and swam alongside Phil to give him encouragement and a bit of a boost. Wayne was good at telling Phil to stop pissing about during feeds, to stop faffing and get a move on (okay so he was a wee bit more polite), but it was great to hear because it meant we could just tell him to get a move on and stop fannying about as he got more tired. We were a caring crew, as you can see.
So nearly 10 hours after we left the southern extremity of the lake, Phil reached the end in Ambleside. I have to say that I’m completely in awe of what he achieved, esp. after being so ill less than a quarter of the way in. He is one hell of a stubborn bastard! All the swimmers were nothing short of inspirational. Such a close knit bunch of lovely people with fantastic swimming abilities, guts and determination. We had the easy bit on the boat. It was great to be a part of it, and though I’m sorry Julie didn’t get to swim that day, I know she’ll be back to smash next year’s challenge.
Every swimmer that started out that morning finished their challenge. It was phenomenal! The evening celebrations were fantastic, and suitably hilarious. It was a real pleasure to be a part of their day, and if you’re reading this and thinking about getting involved in race supporting of any kind, just do it. You’ll meet some fantastic people and be a little part of helping them reach their goals. It’s a great feeling 😊 Oh and it’s much easier than actually doing the bloody race which gets a big tick from me 😉
*Total Immersion Thursday Swimmers. See, I told you I wasn’t being cheeky.