End to End Lake Coniston Swim Race Report 31/08/19 By Sarah Lakeland

So last weekend I went for a swim in the lake district… it was the best swim I have had to date! 

I have quite a long swimming background from club swimming as a child and have been open water swimming for over 10 years but mainly for triathlon so I haven’t really swam much further than 3 to 4 kms continuously in the past. 

Earlier this year I wasn’t feeling the love for triathlon and Steve suggested a swim event as swimming is my strength. I can’t really remember how I reacted to the suggestion but I would imagine I appeared to dismiss the idea then after sent him a message saying “Length of Coniston 8.5km booked end of Aug.” (of course it would have been a much lengthier message as I am female and in my opinion emoji’s go on the end of messages rather than replace the message eh Steve!!!) 

The Chill Swim event is a pretty large event with 800 participants setting off in ability based waves. I put the time down per mile I thought was realistic to maintain over that distance, I briefly considered wetsuit or not and decided on the wetsuit. I am not a massive wetsuit fan but I was expecting between 2.5 to 3 hours in the water and I had the chance to edit my predicted time and wetsuit preference up to 2 weeks before the event. 

So training started, I was heading off to Mallorca to do the Swim Smooth Coaches course end of May early June so I had about 6 weeks training before then. I decided on 3-4 swims a week and followed the plan to the letter. I absolutely loved the training, load of variety with technique and endurance sessions. My training was very specific for my goal. I didn’t do any ‘junk’ swimming. Most of it pool based as that’s where the magic happens and actually only a handful of long open water swims but the focus was always on the goal. 

In Mallorca I did another CSS test with Paul Newsome and Adam Young and was thrilled to have knocked 15 secs of my 400m PB and all the number crunching on my splits indicated I have a diesel engine – perfect! Pacing could be improved and obviously endurance was a work in progress towards the event date. I had something to work with. 

I just kept on swimming really, the training swims went well and I enjoyed them, 7km in a pool was a physical and mental challenge but gave me confidence. Open water swims were good other than one where I had pain in my shoulder from some muscle dysfunction and cut it short but sports massage sorted that out. I trained how I planned to race, feeding at the intervals the feed boats were in the event. 

When the start list came out I was in the second to last wave, they set the fastest off last, I expected there would be more people faster than me but I knew I could do that pace over 6km in training so hoped the extra on the end wouldn’t slow me down too much! 

Come the weekend of the event we travelled over and as I registered the night before they announced that the start was delayed by 5 hours due to poor weather conditions. Instead of a 11am start I was now in a 4pm start and chasing the daylight! It did mean I have to revise the pre-race 

nutrition and had time for a Steam Gondola ride on the lake with my family. They made the right call as the weather improved and it was safer for everyone. 

It wasn’t calm conditions but it was better than earlier. They announced at the start that it was too rough for the feed boats so the feed stations would be on the shore so for each feed you had to swim into shore and back onto the course. I stuck to the plan though and fed as I planned which made the swim longer by about 4-500m overall! 

I got in and just got going, kept going and going and going! My Garmin was set to buzz every 500m and the fist 500m and second 500m flew by! I was into it and loving it. At no point did I think negatively even when my watch buzzed 8.5km and the finish gantry wasn’t in sight. I love the whole event and it went so fast! 

Only about 1.5 miles in I saw some spectators on the bank and a few metres along I spotted a beautiful little red head girl with her wild hair blowing and the next time I breathed to that side I realised it definitely was my daughter so I waved and shouted to them, I stopped when the safety canoeist was looking concerned at me! I saw them at a couple of feed stations too which was magical and energised me. 

Eventually I could see the blue gantry and I was out of the water almost 9km of swimming done and a big smiley face, medal around my neck, hot Ribena in my hand and a flapjack! Reunited with Andy, Pip and Sam. 

After I staggered about a bit adjusting to being upright again and got some warm clothes in it sunk in I’d done it and done it pretty well! Nothing like a 4 year old to bring you back to reality though! As we walked to the car Sam said “So is that it, you’re just swimming? What about the rest of it?” oh how we laughed! 

Seen as I don’t like stats, here are some to relate to you triathletes: 

I swam 22.5 x 400m continuously at a consistent pace of just under 7 mins per 400m! 

I did the 3.8km ironman distance swim in 1 hour 5 mins but then went on to swim another 5.2km at the same pace! 

I was 21st woman out of 302 and 5th in my Age group, 200 out of 800 people DNF! 

And, What next … Longer and faster…

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