Sunday, 15 September 2013

Chillswim Coniston (DNF)

My first ever DNF...  Chillswim Coniston was the treat I was looking forward to after the half ironman.  A lovely, long distance swimming event, swimming the length of Coniston (5.25 miles or about 8.5k) which I knew that I was more than capable of, and a nice weekend away in the Lake District.

Of course, I had to complicate things.  If you've read this blog over the last few months, you'll know that I've been dabbling in swimming without a wetsuit recently.  I decided that I really wanted to give the swim a go without a wetsuit.  Unfortunately, because of the cold that I've had recently, plus the half ironman, time to accimilitise to the falling temperatures has been a bit limited.  We arrived in Coniston on Friday night and I had a quick swim, about 500m.  It was cold, colder than I'd swum in for a while, and I really didn't know quite what to do.

Mr Tuna and I talked it through.  We both knew that without question that I could swim the 8.5k without a wetsuit.   What we didn't know was if I could swim that distance in 15-16C water without a wetsuit.  So, we made a game plan, which was "to see how far I could get".  Obviously I wanted to get to the end, but I didn't know if it was possible.

It was a beautiful day, and the organisation of the event was excellent, as you would expect from something run by Colin Hill, who also has the Olympic Openwater Swimming events to his credentials.  However, the water was jolly cold for me.  I got in, and it was cold, and it eased off slightly, but by the first mile marker I was cold, and had stopped enjoying it.  I kept trying to sprint a bit to try to warm up, but it didn't make much difference.  Stopped at the 1.5 mile feed station and had a couple of jelly babies which gave me a bit of oomph, but was still really cold.  Kept going, hating every minute of it.  At the 2.5 mile station I asked if I should get out as I was really cold, but they said that I could keep going and that a kayaker would tow me to an exit point if I needed (I couldn't face the embarassment of that!).  I started chatting to a kayaker who realised I was struggling, but just before 3 miles I started shivering.  If there had been less left to swim, I might have persevered, but there was still around 3.5k which would have been over an hour of swimming (and I seemed to be swimming really slowly, around half an hour for each mile).  Mr Tuna had managed to get to a little bay to wave at me, and I knew that he had my warm clothes, so I said to the kayaker that I thought I should get out.  Mr Tuna dressed my shaking body, and we walked to the next feed station where 2 other people (one of whom wearing a wetsuit) had also come out, and were able to get a minibus back to the finish (Mr Tuna was on his bike!).  I shivered for a good half an hour.

I'm still undecided as to whether I made the right decision.  I feel like a big failure now, even though I did what Mr Tuna and I had agreed that I would do.  To only manage 3 miles in 16C water doesn't seem very impressive when my arms weren't tired and I wasn't even mentally or physically tired or drained (or at least, didn't feel like it - I acknowledge that I must be very run down from 20 weeks of training with a house move, a half ironman, and a world championships in the last 22 weeks), I was just hating it because of being so cold!  On the plus side, 3 miles/5 k is much further than I've ever swum in 16C water before, so that is an achievement.


  1. You have not failed. You have achieved so much in the last 6 months or so as you recognise. Looking after yourself was the key thing and you did that too by getting out.

    I am impressed and in awe of what you achieved. I get excited when I swim my 1k in less than 22 minutes.

    Have a rest, restock the tank with cake and decide in your next challenge.

  2. It's always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to swimming in colder temperatures. Sure, maybe you could've kept going, but would it have been worth it? You and your health come first!

  3. As far as my limited understanding goes, if you were shivering in the water and shivered for half an hour afterwards, you were right to come out. It's an amazing achievement to even get IN that lake in that temperature and after your hard, hard summer, and those LD lakes are scary as they are so deep. Well done.

  4. Oh dear, of course you're disappointed. You made the right decision though as you were developing hypothermia. Don't beat yourself up about not being able to do it when you could previously, or others can - your body is more susceptible to the cold than some people's and less than others', and the proportion of muscle to fat you have will change your tolerance over time. Hope you're feeling a bit better by now :)

  5. PS: I couldn't have managed 500 meters in those conditions. You're still amazing.