Sunrise over Windermere
FEATURES,  Readers' Swims

Stormy weather

Outdoor Swimmer reader Jacqui Hargrave is training to swim the 10-mile length of Windermere this summer.

Last week, in glorious sunshine and a water temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, I experienced a very frustrating swim. I was hoping for a good time, however after little sleep the night before and a difficult journey (I went the wrong way – twice) I wasn’t in a great frame of mind. The plan was to swim three miles, but agreed with Shark (swim buddy) to stop after two and, depending on how I felt, either continue or call it a day and go for a coffee (and probably cake). Anticipating sunny weather I’d purchased some polarised goggles (a brave move bearing in mind this is England), but felt optimistic that the sunshine would continue and develop into a long Indian summer.

While the polarising bit was great, the fogging was a surprise, especially since the goggles were new and advertised as having an ‘anti-fog’ coating. Being unable to see clearly was very disorientating, not to mention frustrating, and after stopping a few times to clear them finally admitted defeat and got out to put on a non-polarising, non-fogging pair. I settled into my swim, but was very quickly spooked by what I thought was a fish and in a bid to get away, swam into someone, dislodging my goggles and taking an unexpected mouthful of water. Up until now I had been blissfully unaware of fish. I know they are there but thanks to the faulty goggles I hadn’t seen them. In fact, now I think about it about it there was some good to come out of the fogged up goggles after all…

Despite all the ‘drama’ I managed to clock up a fairly decent time, which came as a complete surprise. For this week’s swim I had fairly low expectations, as in sharp contrast the weather was just awful. The plan was to swim six miles, however if the weather deteriorated I was prepared to ditch the swim in favour of the warm cafe. Six miles is a long way in choppy, cold water and the last time I swam in the rain it began to thunder mid swim and I was rescued by a boat (nothing like in Baywatch) and so was really mindful of the weather.

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Jacqui and Shark

Swimming was hard work at times. The less sheltered part of the lake was rough and sighting was challenging, but it was also great fun (except the bit where I was repeatedly hit in the face. That was less fun). I was able to catch my breath on the more sheltered side and thought I would be able to relax back into my swim and, as I wasn’t sure how the conditions were affecting my time, thought it would be a good opportunity to gain any lost time. Turns out pretty much all of the fish in the lake were also favouring this side, and were using it for shelter, so wasn’t quite as relaxing as I hoped for. I’m not a great fan of fish, or anything else that lives in the water if I’m being completely honest, and began pining once again for my defective polarised goggles, working on the theory of if you can’t see it… The rain and wind also meant that there was tons of debris which continually spooked me and although I’m not sure what kind of threat a branch could be, it did nothing to keep my paranoia in check. All this said I swam the full six miles, too busy battling the chop and on red alert for fish to think about the cold and rain. The time flew by and despite what felt like a slow swim I was actually only a minute off my usual pace. I was delighted.

Reflecting over the two contrasting swims, over cake as usual, it’s blindingly obvious that I had underestimated how difficult swimming Windermere might be. There is more to a good swim than sunshine and clear, flat water, and despite giving myself the best odds by swimming in the summer, there is a possibility that conditions may be difficult and obviously there will be fish (probably large, probably lots of them). It’s been a wake up call and I’ve decided that I will need to practise in all conditions rather than cherry pick the sunniest, warmest days, and also possibly reconsider whether I should return the defective goggles after all, or keep them to swim in ignorant bliss!

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.