Trailing the adventures of an ultra-marathon runner; Sheffield & the Peak District National Park, UK

Bala End to End

This swimming lark is quite fun. Exactly a year ago I swam 28 miles in 23 hours at Hathersage Open air pool. Part of me wanted to see if I could get up to 30 miles, but something told me that I would prefer to be swimming in open water having started to dip my toes into open water swimming just a couple of months ago.

Having booked the weekend off (its hard to get time off with multiple jobs) I had to do something and when the opportunity came up on Facebook to swim Bala with SwimYourSwim I enquired and got myself sorted to SwimMySwim at Bala – the largest lake in Wales. The idea of the event was a challenge not a race and I quite liked the sound of this. A challenge to swim the longest lake in Wales. Fantastic.

The end was at Bala the start was at Llangower public beach separated by 3 miles ish of water. It was that simple. We would swim across the lake and then down the North west shore of the lake back to Bala. The distance per se didn’t phase me but the fact it was a point to point did phase me and it was messing with my head. Quit over thinking it and enjoy!

My weapon is my body
My element is the water
My world today is open water swimming

After registering we were all put into ‘pods’ based on our mile time (roughly). I was pod 5, I couldn’t work out if this was slow or fast but I was soon to find out when we had to group into our pods and introduce ourselves.

After the briefing we all had to go and stand and have our photo taken in our wetsuits and DryRobes (swimming porn – though I don’t have one -yet but I really really REALLY want one), wave our hands and look really really REALLY silly. Then we were all transported via minibus to the start at Llangower.

That open water swim isn’t going to swim itself

Our lovely driver for the swim – that is someone in a boat looking after us introduced himself and told us the rules. We had to stick together and look after each other and swim near to the boat, it wasn’t a race it was an event where we would all help each other out. If we were too fast we could double back to the boat and then swim again, the challenge was to swim Bala not to swim as fast as you can. There are other events as races so this was something different, to swim Bala.

All pods started together due to a sailing regatta so they wanted to get us to the other side in one go. We all acclimatised. The temperature was nearly 18 degrees which was great despite the air temperature being lower and a gentle breeze stirring up the water.

Good things come to those who swim

Pods 1 and 2 began to swim out and our boat – the yellow boat started his journey to guide us to Bala. Instantly everyone got a bit mixed up, fast swimmers slow swimmers, fishes and boats. I got a bit confused. My yellow boat man was way behind but surely my pod who were the fastest swimmers weren’t back there. I double backed to the yellow boat man and asked him and he told me to keep moving. In front I could see about 6 or so swimmers going at a good pace, way ahead of the rest of the pods and a yellow Kayak guiding them along. They were my pod. I had to catch up with them. I put in some effort to try and catch them up and ended up swimming on my own for quite a while. After a time or so the Kayak man stopped in the distance and waited for me with the surrounding swimmers treading water to wait for me. I apologised and got into my correct pod. We were now following the yellow Kayak man not the yellow boat man. Confusion over lets swim!

That was better we were all more or less together. The regatta was stirring up some waves but it was all good fun as the ever changing landscape of the undulating hills passed by on my right. On occasions we had to ‘regroup’ and wait for the slower of the pod swimmers. I was kind of in the middle of the pod pack and was happy with my progress so far. I quite liked the regrouping it gave us a chance to catch up with each other, ask how each other were and breath without blowing bubbles. I’d got my watch on so I was informing the group how far we had left (not how far we had come). We could see Bala in the distance but 3 miles-ish is a long way when swimming and the shoreline sometimes never gets closer. I was loving all this, dynamic changing landscape and challenging currents and waves all made it a real proper journey.

Believe you can and you are half way there

Support at the shore asked what we were doing when we had another re-group, and the fastest swimmer, a young girl shouted out to them that we were waiting for the others all for safety. The Kayak man also asked how we were at each re-grouping. So kind, so clever.

The final stretch was in sight after a choppy section. My hands were getting a little cold, though I didn’t have any booties or gloves just x2 swim hats (the obligatory SwimYourSwim hat on top). Towards the end the younger girl put in a bit of a spurt so I set out to join her and began to put in some ‘effort’ – that is kick a bit more and move my arms about a bit more but forever blowing bubbles.

The yellow Kayak man then stopped and guided the faster younger girl into the shoreline where the SwimYourSwim team were waiting. I followed just moments later with a helping hand, a congratulations, asking my name in order to ‘sign out’. The job was done, I had swam Bala. Fantastic.

Certified Aquaholic.

This was a great experience swimming with others in a relaxed non ‘race’ event. I found it much more enjoyable than a complete bum fight (arm fight) at events where I have swallowed so much water, and had mild mind panics. This was much more relaxed and I felt safe and well looked after.

I got changed straight away due to it being rather cold. Most people had Dry Robes, I just had my  homemade Decathlon towel robe thingy made by my mum and my old down jacket. I ran to the showers, but there was really no need as the water was not going anywhere. Fighting the cold shower  I gave up, to discover later that there was a charge for a hot shower. Woolly jumper, body warmer x2 and a free cuppa tea back at the SwimYourSwim tent soon warmed me up. I watched the other swimmers come in, some had been in the water nearly 3 hours but did remarkably well and everyone came out with huge smiles on their faces. This was so lovely to see.

The job was not yet done, each individual was presented with a certificate and SwimYourSwim tee on the shoreline with a silly photo . A lovely gesture to have everyone’s names called out and a little bit of history on some of those that had achieved something very special. The SwimYourSwim team like to see progress and some of the guys used to ‘swim backwards’ or could only swim 1 mile a year a go, and now they’ve swam Bala. A brilliant achievement.

Don’t tell people your dreams, show them.

I can not fault the friendliness and funniness of the SwimYourSwim team and all the helpers getting us from A to B. I was nervous to start with but I made it, forever blowing bubbles.

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