Saturday 16 July 2016

Second time on an introductory open water course

Some months ago I booked with Swim The Lakes  on an open water intro course as my first foray into lake swimming. In the meantime I fitted in a course in Hatfield which made the Lake District seem a little less threatening.

Pete and Tori welcomed our group of 13 to the Ambleside shop and after taking orders for teas and coffees we introduced each other. As I found last time, there were aspirant triathletes, those up for a new challenge and some of us wanting to broaden their swimming horizons. Pete did a short presentation covering key safety matters, cold water immersion and a finally a good demo of how to put on a wetsuit.

Around half of us were hiring wetsuits and I was allocated a Blueseventy Fusion in Small/Tall sizing which made perfect sense. Then we dispersed to our cars to travel to The Badger Inn on Rydal Water; everyone had transport but it is a pity that a minibus isn't organised to facilitate the use of public transport. Perhaps no-one would use it?

It was a lovely countryside walk from the carpark (well once the road was crossed) to the beach area on the lake. The southern bank appeared to offer several bathing spots and two other groups of swimmers were making their way into the lake as we arrived. Some time was spent getting changed but the day was fairly warm and so this was fine. For once I wasn't the last one to be ready and so started to acclimatise by standing in the shallows. My recently bought Zone 3 socks did a good job of buffering the cold on my feet although I wonder if the top fastening is a bit tight.

The swim started with a few laps of some buoys, around a 80m loop, with Pete in a canoe and Tori leading in the water. After each lap we were given a few coaching tips, mostly a need to relax, reach and not gasp for air! Then Tori demonstrated two ways of sighting so that we had a chance of staying online. After a 'race' around the buoys, which resulted in a bit of a scramble around the first turn, the main swim was explained to us. We were to swim to the next beach, to the island, then around it and then choose a route back to 'our' beach. Pete outlined the approximate distance of each leg and options for stopping if anyone didn't feel they could do it and off we went. I was very much mid pack and at my steady pace found that I was warm enough, not tiring, but veering to the left a little.

After the loop of the island I set off across the lake at which point I got cramp in my left calf. I stopped to massage it a little, Tori noticed that I'd stopped and came over to check up which showed that the leaders were looking out for us. After a few seconds I was Ok to set off, although the cramp moved to the left. Of course the wetsuit gave a lot of buoyancy so I tried to ignore my legs and just got on with the swim.  My tendency to the swim to the left was very apparent in the open part of the lake and I had to repeatedly sight and correct to keep a good line. I'm going have to relearn non-dominant side breathing to help to keep me straight.

Back on shore everyone struggled to get the wetsuits off and clothes back on whilst feeling slightly dizzy and hoping not to get a chill. The sun was warm but I was very happy to walk back to the pub in my Dry Robe. Tori reckoned that open water swimmers are often recognisable by the vast amount of clothes being worn.

Despite Pete's planning we were running a little late and so the group started to break up during coffee at the hotel. Everyone seemed to have big smiles and to have had a good time, I was certainly very happy to have been in the water again and achieved a 'proper' swim beyond the edge of the lake.

I wasn't very keen on the wetsuit even though the Fusion is a well regarded model and the sizing right by the manufacturer's guidance. I found the shoulders tight and thought the legs could have had bit more buoyancy. Perhaps I was merely more aware of these aspects on this swim than I was on my very first time out? On the positive side, I noted little ingress of cold water during the morning.

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