As with all good ideas it started with a bit of work banter……. this time between UTC coaches Paul McKenna and Chris Clinch way back in the depths of the winter training programme.
The subject was of open water swimming and how soon we could get out of the pool and into the real thing – The Lakes! Paul reckoned it was doable before the start of the standard distance season, Chris more doubtful with memories of the Fred Whitton Sportive weather in spring 2013 in mind! Paul put a mark in the sand with the 28th April. Fast forward 3 months and, after some more banter on the Facebook UTC group, there we were: 11 “athletes” of all shapes and sizes in our wetsuits (after the inevitable kit faffing) ready to go in the car park at Brown Howe on the West shore of Coniston Lake.
It was a lovely night with still water and clear views up to the Old Man of Coniston and round to the hills of the central Lakes. And with a couple of days of warmish weather previously the lake should have warmed up a bit…….surely?!? The walk to the shore was punctuated with more banter and bravado with the common view it would be “straight in and out again” and lots of reassurances that “it was only an acclimatisation session….right!?”
As the first of us entered the water there was a lot of sharp intakes of breath and let’s say the tranquilly of the lakeside was broken for a moment or two! Once the group was in the general consensus was it wasn’t as cold as feared and confidence grew. The more advanced swimmers set off parallel to the shore with an intermediate group a little behind leaving those just content to bob about just off the shore admiring the views. Regular and frequent stops ensured the group kept together and to allow for adjustment of kit and catching of breath. The group soon turned around after a couple hundred meters and headed back just to be safe.
Back on shore onlookers would have been forgiven for thinking the group emerging from the lake had just swum the length of it as the endorphins (and relief) kicked in. Incredibly we had been in for 20 mins or so. Back in the car park everyone was animated with enthusiasm as the wetsuits came off and the coffee circulated.
Those with commitments headed off leaving eight of us donning road shoes for a warm up gentle jog along the road to Water Yeat, a kilometre or so down the road, and back. The evening light and warmth stayed with us as the exercise brought warmth back to our hands and feet. Everyone was relaxed and the pace was steady allowing for a good craic and taking in the views.
Packing up in the car park it was obvious how successful the evening had been with big smiles all round and requests for a regular session and talk of other lakes swim opportunities.Undoubtedly there will be more non coached, informal open water evenings with a spare wetsuit or 2 for those wanting to try it for the first time. For times and venues keep an eye on the UTC website or the UTC group Facebook site. Hope to see you there next time!