P and I headed off to the Lake District this weekend for the BLDSA Derwentwater swim, plus a bit of much-needed rest and relaxation. Well...that was the plan, but then the campervan overheated and ground to a halt (again), and we had to sit and wait anxiously while our local garage went to work. But £300 later, Bob the campervan was up and running again, having had various important innards replaced, and only a day later, we headed north.
And the rain came down. And then more rain. By the time we arrived at the lovely Dalebottom Farm campsite (relaxed, friendly, stunning location - I definitely recommend it), the rain had reached biblical proportions. We put the awning tent up, getting soaked in the process, then hunkered down in the van for the night, breaking cover only to run to the toilet block or wash the dishes. That night, we slept to the sound of yet more rain drumming on the van roof, and woke to cloud so thick that we couldn't see the hills. And the rain came down in sheets.
Not to be daunted, we breakfasted, packed up the kayak and swimming stuff and headed down to Keswick for the swim. We registered, caught up with a few old and new friends, inflated the kayak and generally got ready, buoyed by the slight lifting of the clouds. A 10 minute warning, then 5, and I slipped into the water, passing my shoes up to P in the kayak. It had stopped raining, the water was warm, and I was feeling very happy. I had a plan, of sorts, for the swim. This was my third time for this event, and I've never got under 2.30 - the closest I've been is 2.35. So part of me really wanted to go for it and break 2.30, but at the same time, I'm not particular swim-fit right now; plus, I don't enjoy hard swimming, and Derwentwater is just too beautiful to rush. So, P and I decided to wait and see. We agreed that if I was at 1.30 at the second buoy (with just over two miles or so to go), then I would go for it. Otherwise, we would just pootle back enjoying the scenery.
The first hour flew by, and the swim across the top of the lake was livened up by being REALLY cold - I think it must be fed from that end. At the buoy, P told me I was under 1.30, so it was time to bite the bullet and go for it. I swam as hard as I could, trying to hold on to the changes in stroke that I've been working on over the winter. I really felt my lack of fitness, especially with the new stroke, but with just a few hundred metres to go, I knew I must be close to making it because P had stopped gazing enchantedly at the mountains and was cheering and clapping me on. And finally, I passed the finish jetty, and was delighted to hear that I'd made it in 2.29.16. Only just, but who cares. And I'm pretty sure that if I'd pushed hard from the start, I could have made 2.25-ish, so a good day out for me.
And then, surprise of all surprises, it turned out that I'd come second in the senior women's race, and was awarded a silver medal for my efforts.
Now, I'm very aware that quite a few of the usual speedier swimmers weren't there this year, and that this is more a case of 'right place right time' than a great leap forward on my part, but still, with nearly 6 minutes off my previous time, I was chuffed. After all, I'm a 44 year old sociologist - there aren't many opportunities in my everyday life for medal-winning, and I'll take what I can get! Many thanks to the BLDSA and all the volunteers who make their events so fantastic.
We were also rewarded with several hours of sunshine - yes, actual sunshine - that afternoon, and after a few hours of hanging about with some friends, we went back to the campsite to dry out our sodden possessions, then sat in the sun with books, wine and olives. Life is good.
solid-framed inflatable is fantastic for swim-supporting, but we wanted to be able to go out paddling together sometimes too and we can't afford a second high quality single like that. So we picked this up for £100, and although it's got a bit more of the 'airbed' about it than the other one, it did the job just perfectly and we paddled most of the way up the lake and back with no trouble.
Before the clouds closed in completely again, P decided to go for a swim, and I paddled alongside, attracting the usual stares from leisure boaters. P looked so happy in the water, and it was lovely being able to bob alongside looking at the mountains. Unfortunately, about 45 mins into the swim, it started to hurl it down again, and I was only wearing shorts and a windbreaker over my swimming costume, so got completely soaked and freezing and we eventually had to turn back. But it was a fabulous 1.30 swim for P, and the new kayak gets top 'cheap and cheerful' points. We dried off and got changed, then headed off to the glorious Lakeland Pedlar for a vegetarian feast. If you're ever in Keswick, go there....and make sure you have an empty stomach and enough room for pudding. You won't regret it.
By now, it was slewing with rain again, and we went back to the campsite and tried our best to hang our wet clothes to dry in the awning tent, but by now, both the van and the tent smelled faintly of wet dog, and with no promise of another decent break in the weather, we decided that we would quit while we were ahead, cut our trip short by a day and head home.
So...a good trip, a splendid swim, an unexpected medal, a great deal of rain, and a welcome break.