If you’re going to do it, do it with style. Jo Lockhart waited until she was on the world stage for her first DNF
One of the things that
I love about open
water swimming is the
camaraderie. As I walked
out of arrivals in Budapest on my way
to the World Masters Championships,
someone asked me if I was from
Cambridge – she had seen me in Jesus
Green Lido. We chatted and realised we
were swimming in the same age group
in the 3km open water race in Lake
The following morning, my daughter
Alex and I were up early to catch
the free train to Balatonfüred. On
arrival we had a practice swim in Lake
Balaton. The water was calm and all
was looking good for Friday.
My race was the last wave of the day. The weather was glorious but as the
day progressed the wind started to get
up. News started to filter through that
there were metre-high waves on the
course! After the safety briefing we had
a 5-minute warm up. I was the first
to jump in, eager to get going, but it
quickly became obvious that this was
not going to be a normal swim. The
water was very choppy and holding
on to the pontoon before the start was
exhausting. I wished I hadn’t been so
quick to get in.
The three whistles sounded and
there was no turning back. As the start
gun fired, we all set off. Before too long
there were just three of us at the rear.
I knew if I kept with them, I would be
okay. The swimmer behind gave up
within the first 1,000m so I was then
last. But that didn’t matter because I
was swimming at the Worlds!
Swimming away from the shore, the
waves got larger and front crawl turned
to breaststroke. I had already taken
on a great deal of lake water
and was retching violently.
I reached the first buoy at
1,200m and turned to swim
across the waves. All I could
think about was another 500m
and I would be turning for home.
One further intake of water was too
much and I vomited it back up.
As I was nearing the second buoy,
I could hear the kayaker next to me
shouting. That’s it, I thought, they are
stopping me because I wasn’t going
to make the cut-off. I had no idea
how long I had been swimming for. I
stopped and shouted out, “What?” She
indicated that it was not at me but to
the boat. She then repeated herself to
another boat, but this time she stopped
paddling. The next thing I knew was
that the rear of the kayak swung round
on the waves and hit me hard on the
Tales of woe
But I was determined to finish. I finally reached the buoy and turned
for home. The waves by now were so
high that I could not see the next buoy.
I was eventually pointed in the right
direction. Each time I stopped to sight, the kayaker asked me if I had finished.
I was not giving up! Eventually, after
about another 400m, I was exhausted, I
couldn’t see the finish line and I started
to panic. With a very heavy heart, I put
my hand up signalling the end of my
World Championship swim.
Then followed two boat journeys,
a trip in a wheelchair and 30 minutes
with the medics. Despite assuring them
I was fine, protocol had to be followed
and I eventually made it out to find an
extremely concerned Alex.
The train journey back to Budapest
was full of tales of woe and I was
pleased to hear that I was not the only
one who hadn’t finished. My first ever
DNF and it had to be at the Worlds.
But watch out Lake Balaton, you will
not get the better of me and I will be
back to conquer you!