Not so much mileage over the last couple of weeks, but two good weekends of racing. Last weekend, I did the BLDSA Bala 2-way race (6 miles in total). Lisa generously offered to kayak for me, and to brave the manifold uncertainties of coming away in our new (quite old), untried camper van, to sleep in a new and untried awning, and to use a kayak that had only been inflated in our back garden but hadn't actually been on water yet. However, in the end, all our new toys worked perfectly, and we pitched up at the lake last Saturday ready to go; with a bit of help from Julie and John, we even got the kayak successfully inflated and launched in time for the start. The weather was a bit grim - low, grey clouds, drizzle, and a stiff breeze blowing down the lake towards the start, but off we went and Lisa and I soon settled into it. The first 45 was absolutely fine and I felt great, but then the wind really picked up and the water got really choppy, and the second half of the swim up the lake was a real battle - I could see the yellow turn-around buoy, but it never seemed to get any closer, and it was quite disheartning to see so many of the other swimmers pass me on their way back down the lake while I was still struggling up the other way, seeing the same clump of trees to my right for what seemed like ages.
The swim back was much easier because of the tail wind, and I was 11 minutes faster on the second leg. I was desperately trying to make the most of it, and was still hoping to break 3 hours, but the wind and waves meant that I needed to increase my stroke rate to keep up (it felt a bit like swimming with fins on), and I started to flag towards the end, crossing the line at 3.05. Luckily, the weather held out for the swim, but the clouds lowered as the afternoon wore on, and it soon began to bucket with rain, so Lisa and I retired gracefully to the van for a very pleasant evening of pasta and a glass of wine. It was a tough swim, but good practice for me in terms of trying to make a sustained effort.
This weekend, Peter and I went up to the Lakes for the BLDSA Coniston race (5.25 miles), this time with my friend, Adrian, kayaking for me. This is the biggest open water race I've been to (outside of triathlon), with about 50 people at the start, causing a certain amount of chaos in the first 10 minutes or so as swimmers and kayakers found each other, but it all worked itself out eventually and we were soon heading up the lake, helped by a following wind (although nothing like as strong as at Bala). The weather forecast for the weekend was awful and I'd been very worried that Adrian was going to have a very grim few hours indeed, but it was lovely in the end - sunshine and clouds, but no rain, with 16 degree water. The views along the lake were spectacular and it was a wonderful swim; there are also these amazing weeds towards the end of the course, with long strands reaching up from the bottom and almost touching the surface - they're really beautiful and part of me was tempted just to dangle about in the water and watch them. With the finish buoys in sight, I realised that breaking 2.30 was a possibility so tried to dig in but didn't quite make it, eventually crossing at 2.32, which I was pretty pleased with nevertheless.
I felt a bit bad for Peter and for Celia (Adrian's partner and a very good friend of mine) and their two young sons, since it inevitably involved a lot of waiting around - it's a wonderful sport, but pretty rubbish for spectators. It was lovely to see them all afterwards, though, over tea and cake in the cafe, while the boys marvelled at the spectacle of tractors pulling boats in and out of the water. A good weekend all round.
After a couple of short weeks, it's time to put a bit of distance in again in prep for the relays, and for the round Jersey swim (on the tide starting 19th August). So, it's back to Dover next weekend.