Josh Blackley experiences the Windermere Great North Swim “washing machine”!

So after not swimming for at least 15 years, I decided I would like to give it a go. Somehow I found Lincsquad. (yep the guy who wrote his own sick notes to get out of PE at school joining a tri club??) madness, but anyway, I found everyone very welcoming and friendly.  I headed off down to The Pods on a Sunday afternoon and found the swimming lessons/training sessions brilliant, they really got me going and helped me a lot, as I had never swum freestyle before, only breast stroke as a child.

So the more I swam the more people I spoke to and found out you can swim outside too !!! in lakes etc…

In the meantime, Bel and I decided to go to Windermere walking for a couple of days, bear in mind its winter, we went on a ferry trip, sat with our woolly hats and large jackets on the top deck shivering, when the guy says over the tannoy ‘on your right hand side is where you will find the hotel the great north swim takes place here, where swimmers from all over the country come to take part’. It was at that point I decided right am definitely doing this outside swimming lark.

About a week later and after a bit of investigating on the internet, we find our way to TFN total fitness Nottingham to buy me a wetsuit. I can highly recommend them; they were really helpful.

Impatient as I am, I think I lasted 4 days before I decided that it wasn’t too cold to go swimming outside. Ha-ha down the place that cant be mentioned I went, frost on the ground, Bell stood there (We’re glad you had a safety spotter Josh – David H.)  and must of been thinking ‘what a nutter you should stick to fishing’. In I went into 8 degrees’ water, I had a swim around and was barely able to breath, but I had done it. 2 miles seemed so so far away it was unreal.

Back to the pool I went.

In the meantime, I had some lessons with Steve Clark at Off That Couch Fitness this made a big difference, 1-2-1 sessions in his endless pool, he gave me lots of pointers and tips that helped a lot.,

I swam a few Tuesday sessions at Lincsquads open water swim session at Barton and a few at the authorised open water swimming at Hatfield to get me used to swimming open water.

So on the day we were up at 5am, I packed the car, Bel made the pack up and we set off at 6 am picked my Mum on the way, 3 loo stops about 4 and a half hours and 20 quids worth of motorway services coffee and bacon butties (that’s what happens when you travel with 2 women ha-ha), later we arrived at Windermere around 10,30. I was due to swim at 4 pm. It seemed very quiet, the car parks were empty so I parked in the yachting club car park for £4 for all day bargain!

More coffee for the girls not me can’t stand the stuff. Nice walk round Windermere looking at shops etc….

We had a look at the ferry time tables they had put one on specially for the Great North Swim dropping you off 1-mile south of the start. They were running every 20 mins. We boarded at 11.50a, the weather was perfect, nice and sunny.

We had a nice steady walk up to the start, carrying enough food and drink to feed a army, time for lunch, Bel had made a spectacular pack up for all 3 of us, we munched through that, watching the other swim waves start.  After lunch we had a walk around the swim village, looking at the stalls, listening to everyone’s best sales pitches. Didn’t get me to part with any money though.  Nothing was going to make me swim any better now.

3 pm arrived, right time to get changed in the huge boiling hot tent, I got into my wetsuit only half on as I had about 45 mins to stand about, I’m always mega early for everything, so boiling hot I stood there, 3.30pm I could go acclimatise, so in I went, got my chip scanned, goggles on, swim cap half on, then rip, broke it trying to squeeze it onto my huge head!!, ( just my luck),  so trying to get  another one sorted seemed to take an age.  Finally got it sorted, in for a quick dip, then back into the collection area for a warm up, as if I needed this in the heat!   Off we went jogging waving my arms etc.

Anyway 4.00 pm came and for some reason I decided never swimming in a group before it would be a good idea to be right in the mix, about 30th-40th person in with about another 150 following, big mistake.  Kicked, pushed, barged within 25 yards my goggles were totally steamed up, I couldn’t see anything, so had to go to one side and wash then out with water, then I was on my way.  Lap 1 felt good, tried to pace myself as I knew it would be my longest swim to date.  As we got further out the water seemed really choppy that made it hard work for me.  Had to alter my goggles again, that was a good time to take in the views right out on the lake.

Lap 2 was ok for the first half, but the second half the waves were coming towards me and I took in quite a few mouthfuls of water, which put me off a bit and I was flagging towards the last few hundred metres. The orange buoys didn’t seem to be getting any closer, they did eventually though, I gave it a last push to the line 1 hour 21 mins…. 6 mins slower than I hoped but I can live with that, I was happy I had completed it. It was all a bit of a blur as I was dizzy, the commentator was shouting, people cheering, it was a great atmosphere. Through the timing arch I went off to collect my finishers bag and a pot of noodles, to warm me up, Bel and Mum were waiting for me, both nervous wrecks and happy to see me back.

All in all, a great day, another 1 mile walk to the ferry then back to the hotel for tea.

The morning brought many aches and pains in my back, neck and shoulders but me and Bel decided, well more Bel than I, it was a good idea to go for a run in the rain before breakfast. It was a brill run though, just steady but great views, although we were soaked to the skin.

Nice full English for brekky, well-earned I think, then to the Trafford centre on the way home for some shopping.

Will I do a 5 k event later this year or even start of next year? Yes, I think I will, more training required I think, but well doable.

If it wasn’t for Lincsquad and Steve at Off That Couch Fitness for helping me no end with my swimming, I would have never been able to do it. So thanks a lot to you all.