Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Great North Swim

The intrepid trio (Daphne, Stephen et moi) have just returned from Bowness-On-Windermere in the Lake District where Daphne was taking part in the Great North Swim.

10,000 swimmers, of all shapes, sizes, ages and sexual persuasions, take part in this annual swim across part of Lake Windermere and it is the main one of the 5 Great Swim series which covers the whole UK. The swim goes on over the 3 days of the weekend and so there are plenty of competitors still to brave the lake waters today (Sun). They go off in 300 person 'waves' as 10,000 entering at once would be a logistical nightmare and Health & Safety would have a fit.

I've never seen a more impressively organised event. From traffic control to changing facilities, on site announcements to catering, safety supervision to after swim arrangements, the organisation was top drawer. When you add in the friends, family and supporters who came with each swimmer, the numbers on site were staggering.

While Daphne went off to change into her compulsory wet suit (due to the water temperature), I had a look at the swimmers who were gathered nearby for the upcoming wave. There were different coloured hats for each wave and as these photos show, this was the white hat wave.

Not everyone was taking in the spectacle and there were other distractions for them.

Then just after 12:00, it was time for the 'orange hats' to prepare to set off. One by one they exited the changing tent and gathered near the ramp leading down to the lake. The announcer brought everyone to fever pitch as he did over and over as the day wore on. There was an opportunity to go to a small area of the lake to get acclimatised to the water temperature and also to get used to swimming in a wet suit as for many of the first timers, this was to be a new experience.

And then there was Daphne...........

Her wave was due to set off at 12:30 but for some reason, the organisers slotted in the men's elite race at that time. A handful of famous swimmers (famous if you followed open water swimming that is) lined up down by the edge of the lake and when the klaxon sounded, off they went on the 1 mile circuit. About 10 minutes later the 'orange hats' got the ok to set off and 7 minutes after that, the elite swimmers had reached the finish point !

But back at the start, the waters were being churned up by 300 or so more inexperienced swimmers who probably had personal times to beat but were there for fun and to 'earn' their sponsorship monies.

Once out on the course, we lost sight of individuals as, even using binoculars, it was impossible to pick anyone out. Stephen went round the lake to try and spot Daphne, but I went to the finish area to work my way to the front to be ready for her arrival about an hour later. Whilst waiting, I saw the full extent of the good, the bad and....well....the rest. As well as being impressed by the body shapes of many of the swimmers who had just completed the 1 mile course in well under an hour, I was also impressed by just how much rubber can stretch.

After a while the elite podium finishers came back, showered and dressed, to be presented with their medals and here are the photos. The men's race was won by young Brit Tom Allen who looked about 15 and completed the 1 mile course in 16mins 30secs. Jan WolfGarten from Germany was second, with another Brit, Dave Carry in third.

The women's elite race was won by Germany's Isabelle Haerle in a time of 17mins 52secs with Maaike Waaijer second for The Netherlands and Switzerland's Swann Oberson in third. Brits were 4th and 5th.

The winning teenager was happy to pose for photos afterwards..........

This was not a fun swim in the way that marathons can be fun runs and character costumes were NOT allowed. I can't imagine anyone wanting to swim a mile wearing a chicken suit but you never know. One swimmer did manage a token 'costume' which hopefully didn't scare anyone around her during the race.

One by one the swimmers completed the course and came along the finishing route towards me. Each had been wearing a computer timing chip around their ankles and these were triggered at the start and finish arches and all the times are being constantly posted on the official web site.

Despite being IN the water for up to an hour, most swimmers just wanted a drink of better tasting water at the finish point. They also got free flip flops which they needed to get to the changing tent and a well stocked and very impressive 'goodie bag' containing a t-shirt and a medal amongst other items.

Most unexpectedly, to me anyway, along the finishing route came probably our most recognisable swimmer, 54 year old Duncan Goodhew who won the breaststroke Gold Medal at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Recognising me immediately, he came over to where I was standing and I had a word with him. Well the word was 'DUNCAN' and he only came over after I yelled it at him but that's just for us to know.

And then, just over the hour mark, along came a very happy Daphne. She had her photo taken for the web site and then it was my turn. I was so proud of her as, despite swimming the distance many times in sports centre pools, this was her first time in a lake and swimming with so many others. But she set a new personal time and it would've been even better, and maybe under the hour, if she hadn't stopped along the course to chat with other swimmers.

DAPHNE !!! What are you like !!!

Anyway if you go to the web site results link and enter her number (5145), you'll get her time and where she finished in relation to the others.

The final photo is her back at the b&b and proudly wearing her medal.

Well done, Daffy. You were very nervous about the swim but I was so glad when you finished and said how much you enjoyed it. There is still time to add something to her fundraising cause so if you can, please do. It's a worthy cause and let's face it, she more than deserves to raise oodles of money for it.

Swimming a mile in Lake Windermere (water temp 16c) isn't for the faint hearted.

It's for the big hearted and Daphne's is massive.

Just to end on a sad note, a 60 year old swimmer had to be airlifted to hospital after suffering a heart attack early this morning while taking part in the swim. At this time, he is in critical condition. This comes on top of a local 46 year old man who collapsed during the swim yesterday and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. My sympathy goes out to their families, friends and supporters.


Daphne said...

Your wonderful photographs really capture the atmosphere of this very memorable day.
I was VERY nervous beforehand as I just didn't know how it would go - - but I loved every moment. Thank you for your very kind comments, and thank you so much for your great support too.

Jennyta said...

Amazing! I saw Duncan Goodhew being interviewed on Look North on Friday evening. Couldn't spot Daphne though. ;)

Milo said...

Enjoyed the write-up and the photos.

rhymeswithplague said...

I'm linking to this post today from my blog.

rhymeswithplague said...

Oops, I will be linking to this post on Thursday.

Most Recent Awards

Most Recent Awards