The cockerel spent quite lot of time seriously contemplating getting into then van in search of tasty scraps. A beautiful creature, but being stared at like that really starts to creep me out after a while.
And the rain came down in sheets - proper Lake Distrct rain, all night. But happily, when we woke up it was only grey and drizzly, and we counted ourselves lucky (especially Peter, who was going to be in the kayak). Down at Derwentwater, we met Alice Hervey (over from Jersey), plus crew Cliff and Dan Martin; it was also nice to finally meet Mark Robson, whose blog I've been following for ages but had never crossed paths with in person before. We registered, and set about pumping up the kayak, much to the considerable interest of passers by. It feels a bit like doing a magic trick - out of the suitcase, lay it out flat, and in 10 minutes, it's up and ready to go. We got Peter all kitted out and launched him successfully, with all the swimmers getting in 5 mins later and lining up for the start.
My aim from the outset had never been to race it, but I was also hoping that I'd improved sufficiently with all this training to get below 2.30 (I did 2.40 for this race two years ago). The start was the usual jumble, and I got a bit tangled up with one swimmer who was going about the same pace as me, but not necessarily in a forward direction. After zig-zagging into me twice, from different directions each time, I decided to just clear out of the way and moved over to the far right of the pack out of the bustle. After that, Peter and I settled down into a pleasant rhythm as we headed up the lake. About half way up, the blue alpha flag (signalling that a swimmer is in the water) that we'd stuck to the back of Peter's life jacked with duck tape came loose and he had to stop to try and shove it down the back of the jacket. I stopped, not wanting to get too far ahead of me, but the safety crews yelled at me to carry on as they went over to help him. Clearly, we need to rethink the duck tape method of flag flying.
The rest of the race was uneventful - hourly feeds, and lots of great scenery to look at when taking a breath. I felt good, but a little fatigued towards the end - I hadn't gone flat out by any means, but had picked up the pace enough to get out of my comfort zone - something I'm out of practice with after all these weeks of dedicated plodding. I eventually crossed the line in 2.35, which was outside my target, but I was reaonsably pleased with it anyway. Alice did a storming 2.32, and Mark R came in just behind me....although would certainly have pipped me if Kelly's kayak hadn't capsized towards the end of the race, giving her an unexpected dunking and causing a short delay while she got back on board.
What I love most about the BLDSA events is their complete lack of snootiness about speed. The winner - William Bott - was enthusiastically applauded for his tremendous time of 1.47, but so was Andy Page, who completed the swim in 4.27 - an amazing endurance feat, especially when he was obviously really feeling the cold by the time he got out. At BLDSA events, the award ceremony doesn't happen until all of the swimmers are back, so it's completely inclusive, and most people stayed around to collect their certificates and applaud the other swimmers.
This, to me, is what sport should be. It's a far cry from the ASA Midlands Open Water Championships that I went to watch a couple of weeks ago, when slower swimmers were either pulled out of the water, or the prizes were awarded before everyone had even finished, while just a couple of timekeepers stood waiting with obvious impatience for the slower swimmers to get in, and only one or two friends and family waited to cheer them in at the end.
So, all in all, a great day out.
Peter and I then headed off to The Lakeland Pedlar , where we were able to stuff ourselves with top notch veggie food before going upstairs to the bike shop so that Peter could drool over all the beautiful bikes....now he's decided to do the Etape next year, he's clearly eyeing an upgrade. Then we retired to the campsite for a sedate evening of books and DVDs (having passed through the mourning period following finishing all of the West Wing series, we've finally cracked open The Wire...I'm not convinced as yet, but will persevere for now).
And the rain came down all night, and into the morning. Although we'd been planning to stay until Monday, we decided to call it a day, and packed up our muddy, wet awning tent, loaded up the van, and drove back down to Keswick - the plan being to both have a swim, and then to drive home. By this time, the weather had cleared a bit, and we ended up having a lovely day. I swam first, doing a two hour loop around the lake, returning to the boat slips just as people were taking their post-lunch strolls, attracting an unexpected amount of attention. Then, after lunch, it was Peter's turn - a 1.5 hour loop in what was, by now, a beautifully flat, calm lake. It was nice to have the perspective from the kayak, and I drifted along looking at the fabulous ridges surrounding the lake while Peter swam. Then we packed up our kayak (to the entertainment of yet more curious onlookers).
All in all, in spite of the weather, a really good weekend...and a nice start to the beginning of my taper.