Saturday, 8 June 2013

First Visit To The Big Pool

How could you not want to swim there?

Today was Great North Swim Training Day at Windermere - biggest pool in the country! It was very good indeed, I'm glad I went. My training has been sabotaged by various things since January - snow, cold, viruses, dodgy hips and finally a visit to A&E last Saturday when I got an eyeful of either grit or anti-fog solution which pretty much made me blind in one eye for 24hrs. I was properly cheesed off because the weather was perfect and I'd planned to do two miles but I barely managed a 750m lap. So I'd been worrying that in booking the Intermediate class I'd been far too optimistic. It turned out to be the right level, though - I'm slow and obviously my fitness has taken a nosedive, but in terms of technique it was spot on.

Windermere itself is just breathtaking. I don't have enough superlatives to describe it. At 16.5oC it felt absolutely tropical - I know cold water swimmers say that at ridiculous temps like 5oC, but it really did feel extremely warm and didn't need any acclimitisation at all. Were it not for Great Swim regulations I wouldn't have bothered with the wetsuit at all. The sun was bright and there was no wind; other than the small chop from the ferry every so often it was as flat as a millpond. It's not as clear as Salford - the waters are greener and you can't see the bottom once you're in past shoulder-height. I found this a little difficult; Salford's so clear that I'd got used to sighting on the buoy-ropes underwater as I went round them, not the actual buoys above the surface! It smells and tastes different, too, and entry was via a rocky beach which was fairly painful to get in and out of! I was glad I'd taken my Crocs, ugly as they are.

Everything was well-organised - I wasn't really clear on where to go once I'd arrived at Brockholes but the Visitor Centre knew where to direct me and it was well-signposted after that. Sign-in was easy; changing facilities minimal (I recommend arriving with your swimsuit on under your clothes and having a big towel for afterwards because it's poky toilets or "find a handy bush to change behind"!). The coaches and kayakers were friendly, observant and encouraging - my group was taken by Emma from ActivBlu, who was great.

There were around 30-40 people there, all of us with some open water experience and around half had done a Great Swim before. Emma took us through breathing, sighting and drafting, with some practice on swimming in groups. Since Great Swim isn't really a race event there was some nice chat about camaraderie and cheering your fellow swimmers on, which I thought was really lovely. These events are pretty expensive, but the atmosphere at GMS last year was well worth the money. I'm not sure I'd feel as confident in a race situation. I fully intend to swim at my own pace, not worry about anyone else, and just enjoy the water as much as possible.

So today was a big success in terms of a) getting to know Windermere as a body of water, and b) learning about drafting (mostly that I'm not a fan because my fitness is poor and I can't keep up to take advantage of it!) and group swimming (important if I go to not-officially-organised swims). What wasn't so good was my goggles steaming up so much - I need a substitute for anti-fog that won't hurt my eye - which had a big impact on my sighting, particularly on the smaller buoys. If last year's GMS is anything to go by they'll have flipping huge buoys and loads of kayakers, so I shouldn't go too far off-course, but it is a worry. I'm intending to go to Salford next Saturday, hopefully sans wetsuit, to get some sighting practice in before Great North Swim on Sunday.

In other news, my big girl got her gi today. Doesn't she look great!