Total Pageviews

Friday, 24 June 2011

THE CAKE LADY - an ode to Justine Gillespie

Coffee and cake has rapidly become a habit for the group...and a fine one to have I am sure you will all agree. After all how many times do you do swimming with your friends to a pool and stand around afterwards drinking coffee and eating cake. It’s an impromptu habit that we have formed and the banter that comes with it is priceless.
Any exercise you do will result in a healthy appetite afterwards.  Nicely sore muscles need fuel to repair themselves but I will not bleat on about correct food groups etc....we like cake!!!! After every swim out come the flasks and Tupperware containers....each of us eagerly eyeing up the spoils...but also waiting, hoping that Dominic Gillespie has turned up. His wife, Justine, is a superb cook and her cakes are rapidly becoming infamous. Dominic is welcomed with huge grins followed by “did you bring cake?” The response of yes is guaranteed to set us all of salivating. All foods brought by ourselves are then put on hold as Dominic reveals the latest marvels.
Melt in the mouth cakes soon disappear under the onslaught of us swimmers diving (no pun intended) into the container....god forbid you are at the back of the queue...heart pounding as the numbers of slices disappear before your eyes. Luckily for us Justine bakes BIG!
For a long while the cakes came and were devoured by us with little thought to the work gone in to their creation. Was Dominic with his soft Scottish accent the secret chef? He claimed not. Proof was demanded...we need to meet this woman, to bow down in front as not worthy. This woman’s baking puts ours to shame.
Naturally we are spoilt with such wonderful baking and as you can imagine there are some of us furiously working away in our kitchen to match such skills. Kathryn there’s another with a talent...her lemon drizzle cake is not to be sneezed at. Kathryn started off as one of the quietest members of the group but is rapidly coming out of her shell (remind me to tell you of her texting in the changing wish I had had a camera that day!)
Eventually Dominic gave in and brought his beautiful wife with him. Joy!!!! She is not a figment of our imagination...real life in the flesh (well fully dressed) in front of us...this is one woman guaranteed a warm welcome. And she even claims to enjoy baking for us!!! Wow an asset for any group of hungry swimmers as you can imagine. And as luck would have it Dominic purchased a wetsuit (he does not wear them himself unless absolutely necessary!) So now Justine swims with us too.....another swimmer to the group and she brings cake. Heaven! Justine also bring other talents, she has a knack for taking rather good pictures whilst swimming..some of which are already on the blog site. But now she starts another wave of competitiveness....we all need these cameras.  
Long may the coffee and cake tradition continue...we justify our intake by promising ourselves we will swim harder next week....but then next week comes and so do Justine’s cakes!!!!


Having survived the first swim of the season, the hardy amongst us knowing the draw of the water, gave in and returned to Ellerton Lake the following weekend. The temperature was still a brisk 8 degrees. Lots of contact had gone on during the week, the newbee’s or tadpoles as I nick named them, had enthused the previous week about returning to the water. Several other people had also been in contact about joining us.
So at 2pm (soon to become a regular timeslot) we arrived in the car park...who were we looking for. Mobile numbers had been exchanged so people could contact me when they arrived. But soon enough several people nervously approached me “Are you Pauline” they asked.....I replied in the affirmative. Marie Lovell and her son Tristan had arrived...with wetsuits and all the other advised kit. I could see it on their faces, yes they wanted to get in but they were also very nervous about what to expect. I was going to have to be gentle. We were soon joined by the hardy crew and other new people. Jackie Cavensish, Alison O’Brian, Kate UpShall Davis and Kathryn Ayre, their nervous chatter belied what was going on in their heads.
In the changing rooms, the women learned the first lesson...putting on the wetsuit. An unforgiving piece of neoprene that if it does not wish to move – won’t. Over time they would get this down to an art form but for now the battle had commenced. Much laughter, cursing and wiggling later and they were squeezed in to their suits, discussion turning to makes and models and where to purchase other ‘swim’ items. Caps, goggles, earplugs, and for those that brought them gloves and socks at the ready it was time to head to the water. The chatter dying down as we got closer, these people were getting more and more nervous. “We’ll let the hardy group get in I said, and watched the look on the tadpoles faces and said group consisting of Joanne Charlton, Amanda Bell, Mark Robson, Dominic Gillespie and Geoff Armstrong deftly entered the water, gasping as the cold wrapped itself round their limbs and touched like a lovers kiss the back of their necks. And off them swam!! Movement equals warmth and they knew it.
As soon as they left the chatter commenced, us ladies turning the air as blue as the water in anticipation of the impending cold. I took the group onto the jetty to show them the swim route that we normally took. I then dispensed the vital information - surviving the cold. How to enter the water carefully and safely, by wetting the back of the neck and the wrists to lessen the shock of the water temperature on the body and prevent hyperventilation. Then the important bits....PEEING in your wetsuit! Mouths were agog that as adults we would willingly pee ourselves in public and not encased in the privacy of our toilets....oh yes I told it, it will warm you up....and I will proudly let you know when I am doing it!! The other important bit....if you get into difficulty and I come to get you and you struggle – I WILL PUNCH you. Laughter at this but there is potential for the drowning victim to also drown the rescuer with their panic....I broke the tension by telling them that mouth to mouth would only be done if monies were exchanged!
With family and friends stood wrapped in fleeces, hats, gloves, body warmers and thick quilted coats it was now time to get in the water! “Just go to the jetty’s end” I instructed and get in when you are ready. Who would be the bravest and get in first....there was not a stampede; all of a sudden politeness rules...’no after you’ was said a lot. With huge gasps, they entered the water, chests heaving with the exertion of breathing,  with chests tightening in the cold, further restricted by the wetsuit.
Bobbing like peas in a pan they waited by the end of the jetty.....was I getting in – not yet, I am not daft, I know what they are experiencing and know that when I eventually get in we will start swimming but they needed to get their breathing under control first and get used to the floatation that the wetsuit affords. “Have you peed yet” I ask....NOOOOOO comes the chorus, this will change in time!
I tell them what they are experiencing, the tightness of breath and why its happening and more importantly what to do to ease it. I tell them what I will be looking for incase of hypothermia (the temperatures mean it will kick in fast). Float on your back I tell them, more gasps as the icy water hits the back of the neck properly.....see you can if all else fails go on your back and you will be fine. To take their minds off what is happening to their bodies I point out the route that the others are swimming. You’ll be doing that soon enough I tell them – Jackie at this point found this funny. “Yeh right”, “What all that way”, “God I’ll never do that” were the cries from the water. The lake having buoys laid out that we use to train with, 3 times round is approximately a mile plus a little bit I tell them.
And finally it was time for me to get in – in my normal fashion I cursed like a navvy trying not to show how cold it was. Was it colder than last week, it certainly seemed it but maybe that was all in my mind. Swimming round to where the tadpoles were waiting I got right in the middle of them; waited a few seconds then proudly announced “I’m peeing”, I extolled the warmth that was now travelling round my wetsuit. Surprisingly enough the biggest protest came from Tristan...that’s disgusting he announced! But my peeing seemed to bring on a mass urination with protests coming from those that couldn’t. For those that managed it the look on their faces said it all – WARMTH!!! However temporary it was welcome.
Shall we swim I said, we’ll go to the first buoy and then beyond. Having seen the new items tied to the boat at the bottom I described what they would see. Put your faces in if you wish I told them....another valuable lesson is now being learnt; make sure your goggles fit! At this time of the year the lake is crystal clear, the boat standing out proudly in the water to be viewed. For those not yet ready to put their faces in they watched as the tadpoles entering into a starfish position went face down in the water to have a look down and marvel at the view. Within nano seconds of their faces returning to the cold of the air they had ‘brain freeze’ another problem for open water swimmers to contend with. Putting my own face in the water, opening my mouth, the gums instantly protesting, I could appreciate how they were feeling, but also it allowed me to see the fit of the goggles, you tend to go through lots of them in a season in open water swimming. In a pool if your goggles fail you, you can touch the side; put your feet on the bottom to sort yourself out, that luxury is not afforded to us!!!
With confidence growing the group swam towards the second buoy, a good chance for me to look at their swimming style both above and below the water. Kate Upshall Davis, later nicknamed bob had an unusual style of breaststroke....the girl needs to do frontcrawl , passed through my head. She would later achieve this and be renamed Dory. At the second buoy the chatter turned to questions, how do I do this and that, I answered all as fully as I could. Hands up and let me look at your feet I instructed....were they clawing, was their still blood circulating in the feet, this ritual I would repeat often until they were to become aware of their own bodies reaction to the cold. All checked, I told them to view the surroundings. The trees gently moving in the breeze, the ducks swimming at a distance in protest of being joined by us, the horses running loose on the side of the lake. “ Look up and breath in”.... sky and fresh air. Isn’t it wonderful they said. They were relaxed enough not to notice how far they had drifted from the second buoy – another lesson to learn, even though the water was calm it had a small current and you could drift quite abit. With that mind we headed back to the and friends had gathered camera’s in hand to record the moment. It felt quite special to induct these people into the water and whilst they were not yet confidence of the distance they would be required to swim I had plans forming in my head of how we would get them there.
Diving for the showers they learnt yet another lesson, regardless of how much they protest and shiver...I won’t get out until I am warm! As they struggled out of their wetsuits chattering of how great the water was and what they wanted to do next time I knew they were all hooked. They had been in the water only 40 minutes but in that time thoughts of pool swimming had already started to disappear from their heads..the water had called them, embraced them and they had enjoyed it.
Once dressed, the coffee and cake came out, Dominic producing a rather fine cake as produced by his wife....a woman we had yet to meet and thank. All refuelled it was time to leave the lake. Same time next weekend I asked a chorus of ‘Yes’ when up, I’ll post it on the web then. They departed grinning but still shivering slightly, the cold forgotten in the anticipation of the next time!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Photos from the extremely talented Dorothy Mills

Windermere June 2011

Ellerton Lake...we do swim i promise...!!!!

Photos of some of the group taken by Justine Gillespie

 Ellerton Lake
 Joanna Charlton

Amanda Bell

Pauline Squire

Amanda and Joanna

Pauline, Janette Mosley

Dominic Gillespie


Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Last year’s swimming was marred by several things...the dreaded blue green algae and also some of the water temperatures. The algae, I could do nothing about but the temperatures....I could. Rather than blaming it on the rain, the rivers, the lakes, I decided to look at me and see what I could do about it, after all I had been doing open water swimming a good while now....there must be something I could have done...or should be doing differently that would make things easier. After much (ok very little) thought, I had the was so obvious – start the season earlier. Brrrrrrr!
With that in mind and after having responded to some requests for ‘when do people start in the water’, I bit the bullet and went for it. The date was decided April 9th....others would be turning up; I couldn’t talk myself out of it now. Water temperature a freezing 8 degrees, I ask myself why on earth do I want to do this?
The answer is simple there are others out there that do it, we enjoy it, and new people want to give it a go. My own initiation to open water swimming was brief, in horrendous weather, where skilled seasoned swimmers turned up to help me get in and get swimming. Afterwards shivering so badly I could not talk properly (a plus some people would say) they told me that ordinarily they would not have got in the water in such conditions but because I had turned up they could not back out. I felt I owed the same to others that bravely had turned up.
We started off slowly...chatting to convince ourselves that we REALLY did want to get in, didn’t we? The newbee’s turned up, having chatted online to them they came prepared: wetsuits, gloves, hats, socks, fleeces, hot drinks the lot....we looked like we were embarking on an expedition let alone a quick dip. Duly changed we walked, slowly, towards the water. Surprisingly it was clear, relatively calm and actually looked inviting. I dispatched advice about entering the water safely, after all this is not a swimming pool with its regulated temperatures. I didn’t want anyone getting into difficulty right at the start and put them off. Those seasoned in the art of entering tentatively entered the water, Mark Robson followed quickly (or not as the case may be) by Amanda Bell. Amanda’s gasp and rapid breathing told me all I needed to was going to hurt! Time to put the game face on!
Next in was Geoff Armstrong, then the newbee’s, thankfully with no children around we were able to voice freely what we thought of the temperature. Then it was my turn....oh my god...instant numbness, breathing gone, brain and face freeze and this is meant to be fun? But then slowly realisation dawned, we were all in it together, those seasoned and those new to it, Mark, Amanda and Geoff quickly started their mission of warming themselves up. I stayed with the newbee’s talking them through what their bodies were experiencing, getting them to talk to me, basically taking their minds off of the fact that they could no longer feel most of their bodies, that they were in a lake not a pool but most of all trying to equip them with the skills needed to get over that first initial blast of cold.
Once everyone was comfortable or as comfortable as you can be in 8 degrees, we started towards the first buoy, under each buoy is ‘something’ after all the lake is also a dive site. My first sight of one of the boats years before sent my heart rate through the sky. Nobody had told me there were ‘things’ in the water. So a few feet away, I stopped everyone, told them what to expect and that at ‘their’ leisure and only if they wished to put their faces in and have a look. Wow’s and oh my gods abounded..I put my head under to some point from last year someone had tied dolls onto the boat...I noted to myself to view before others next time. We continued to swim...towards the dreaded boat, its under the second buoy and is the first boat I saw, mentally I suppose that initial fear was still there, but helping others to see it calmed me and all of a sudden it was no longer the big scary object that was to prove my doom (I still swim faster round that buoy though so some fear must be there). By this point Mark, Amanda and Geoff were heading back in, my little group and I started swimming towards the jetty, the group were now talking...nice words like ‘this is fantastic, so much better than a pool’....were they bitten by the open water bug already, I hoped so.
Once out of the water, we practically ran towards the showers, Amanda and I leading the way...we knew there were only two in each changing room....and wanted to get in first. Chatter abounded as we got changed, more advice given, nervous laughter about how they had survived and most of all how they could not wait to get back in.
Dressed like Eskimo’s we stood around in the by now very brisk air, chatting about the swim.....this was to mark the start of a now compulsory ‘coffee and cake’ ritual. The next date was set, I told everyone I would organise it and post it on the web (what would we have done without the net). Car engines on, thermostat set to its highest. Talk in the car on the way home surrounded the newbee’s, had I done enough to entice them back, to make their first entrance into the sport/hobby of open water swimming to make it an experience they would want to repeat. Time would tell, let’s see I said to myself if they turn up again.
The first swim of the season I rate as a success, the lake was kind to us: clear, cold and calm. The clarity of the water allowed us perfect uninterrupted views of all that it had to offer, with the sun (when it showed) bathing us with its rays and sparkling down through the water right to the bottom. Yes the season had started and I hoped it was going to be a good one.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

great north 2011 training group

For all of those new to me...and some who are old (well older) you might be pleased ....not not that i have decided to create a blog...about open water swimming (wild swimming some might call it!), the venues and the wonderful people i have met along the way...if at first your name is not there....don't worry it will be at some point. The first few blogs will be historial....our achievements to date this year and after that......who knows.!!! If you want to add anything, please feel free and i will add it to the blogs.....lets get ourselves out there so others can join us, learn of our experiences etc, i wll be privately emailing some of you to ask you to write specific things so please indulge me!!!!

Great North 2011 training group

For all of those new to me...and some who are old (well older) you might be pleased ....not not that i have decided to create a blog...about open water swimming, the venues and the wonderful people i have met along the way...if at first your name is not there....don't worry it will be at some point. The first few blogs will be historial....our achievements to date this year and after that......who knows.!!! If you want to add anything, please feel free and i will add it to the blogs.....lets get ourselves out there so others can join us, learn of our experiences etc, i wll be privately emailing some of you to ask you to write specific things so please indulge me!!!!

Clear water Capenwray - published in Swim Shawmethod

Clear Water Capenwray
Open water swimming could not be more different from pool swimming. The pool, solid, straight sided, lined bottomed, laned and always filled with chlorine. Lakes, rivers and oceans – no lanes, colours ranging from yellow  through to black, weed, fish, temperatures, often you cannot even see your hand in the water let alone the bottom or sides, couple this with wind, rain and sunshine and its easy to see why so many are drawn to its attractions. However all of the above can wreak havoc with your style, speed and the distance you can swim.
So with that in mind, I am permanently on the hunt for new venues to try (and hopefully fall in love with). Last year I found just that venue, through a series of spring water races organised by Davy Newell from Adventure Challenge solutions, ( Races,  OW clinics, and open afternoons take place in the stunning setting of a limestone quarry, which could sound ominous but let me let you the water is spring fed and crystal clear, the temperature are consistently warm throughout the summer and autumn, lengthening the season. The height of the quarries walls mean that there is virtually no breeze, no current or tides. In short it is the closest replication of pool conditions you could achieve. The series and conditions are perfect for all abilities and levels of swimmer. Events held are extremely family orientated, and for those wanting to introduce children to open water you could not get a more perfect introduction. Swimming at whatever speed you choose, you will not only see the beautiful fish (I have yet to see the elusive Sturgeon!) but also a variety of interesting objects placed for the divers and swimmers alike, such as numerous boats in varying sizes several helicopters and fairground horses and even gnomes.
Adults and children will relish the clean clear water, (I’ve swallowed loads with no ill effects). Water temperature, visibility and quality are rigorously checked and posted on the website so swimmers can check before they travel. For those requiring a break before ‘double dipping’ there is no requirement to change out of your wetsuit as the club house welcomes one and all. Families and friends can have a bird’s eye view from the club house or come down to the water to cheer on and get those essential photos as us swimmers literally pass right by you. Entry into and out of the water is by way of a natural gentle pebbled slope and having had several foot injuries whilst attempting to get out of lakes at speed it can only be seen as another bonus. The wonderful temperatures really do aid with maintaining your ‘pool’ speed and style so for those like me who are always seeking a new PB this could be the place for you, everyone however gets a round of applause and a congratulatory cheer on exiting the water. Swimmers then head to hot showers (for once only to wash off the smell ) and immaculate changing rooms. You can even extend your season by doing the ‘Dip in the Dark’ glow sticks at the ready the hardy (or just plain mad!) jump in for a lap of the quarry, follows by fireworks, hot food and drinks, and as with all events there is never any hurry to leave as swimmers proceed with post swim analysis and families sit around to congratulate. A truly magical experience each and every time in an amazing setting, highly recommended and well worth the trip...once you have been once you will return and bring your friends.