I had many concerns about Bala.
They were real n they were mine. But they were measured. I wasn't going into something so big with my eyes closed, or naively blagging my way through it.
I respect myself and the water too much for that.
I was aware of my concerns and the impact they would have on my swim if they reared their ugly heads - but they weren't 'definitely' going to feature as a problem during my swim. They were maybe's.
My limited cold water exposure of this season was potentially a factor - as it turned out the water in Llyn Tegid was balmy n warm.
Almost bath like.
A tropical 18*
The whiplash was potentially a factor, but I knew I could swim (and had done half the distance to check everything worked) I knew where I would ache and knot and knew that Tracy had RockTaped me to within an inch of my life - literally.
I had my recovery plan that was probably tighter and more detailed than my swim plan.
I was weak from my injuries - and that might mean I was overall slower, but I could still swim.
I had been bollocked (at length, repeatedly) about fretting about these various things.
I was reminded that if the worst happened (the worst being that I was unable to complete the full distance of 6miles/10km) then, actually, Bala was 'just' a training swim.
Windermere is my 'A swim' for this year.
It was a weekend away with friends n fellow Bears. The plan was that 3 of us would swim our longest swims to date. The plan was that we would spend time with old friends, make new friends, giggle, eat cake and ice cream, drink and swim. The plan was, we would have a nice time.
I had a race/feed schedule which I had shared with my kayaker, Patrick.
I had shared my fears about the wind with Caroline n Cathy in the car on the way to Wales. I shared them with Patrick in the pub.
Not the Beaufort variety of wind.
The trumpy variety of wind.
Blowing bubbles out of my backside was a real concern for me.
And something that I do frequently when I swim long distances.
Nobody needed to see that for a few hours while I swam!
In through the mouth, out through the bum.
A variety of yoga-breath for swimmers.
We went to the lake early to watch Rob swim (he came second in his event!!), exchange squishes n generally fret.
Naturally, I'd had beans with my breakfast to aid with my power-ups and turbo-boosts.
There was definitely weather.
Weather of the windy, lumpy, blowing a storm variety.
While it wasn't in the plan, we can handle weather.
We've swum in lumps before.
It was made better by the fact it was blowing the right way.
First 5km into the head wind, 5km home with a tail wind.
Double tail wind for me if you included trumps \o/
Negative split almost guaranteed.
I'm not a fool when it comes to open water swimming.
The changeable nature of the elements is one of the things I love about it.
Being in the outside brings wonderful things, but it also brings risks.
And risks have to be taken into account.
There has to be a line of where a risk is manageable and where it is a risk too far.
The BLDSA ask that each swimmer has it's own support kayak for swims over certain distances - to minimise risk to the swimmer and for those who will need to perform the rescue.
The safety briefing explains very clear rules about distances that should be adhered to between swimmer and kayak, what it means when the swimmer touches the boat (insert many references to Finding Nemo and touching the butt) about when the safety rib patrolling will make the call and pull a swimmer/kayak pairing.
At no point, do the race referees want the swimmers to fail.
I knew that despite my fears and my shoulders falling to pieces, if I started, the only way I was getting out was through being pulled.
And that's what happened.
I was pulled.
I got my first DNF.
I had been fighting the waves for 3km - swimming at the pace I had predicted, but battling hard.
The waves didn't allow for any rhythm and I kept taking gob-fulls of water.
I tried breathing on 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5.
There was no pattern to the being blown about.
Rolling further over to take a breath pulled on my neck and shoulders and I was having to adjust my stroke which wasn't great, but I knew I was making progress (despite asking on more than one occasion if I was actually moving)
My left thumb had started to go slowly numb about a mile in. By 2 mile it was completely numb. I'm attributing this to my newly invented and whiplash combo. I was also concerned about seasickness.
A part of me was loving the challenge and a part of me was concerned about Caroline and Cathy. How were they?
Were they ok?
Of course they were.
We hit a point of sticky-out headland at the same time as 2 other swimmers.
We must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
One of the pairings, the kayaker came in the pond n decided to have a little swim, the other pairing turned round n headed back n we were pulled.
All within a 30m square area of a bloody big puddle.
Coincidence? Me thinks not.
Would it have been as bad if we were 20m closer to shore?
We will never know.
I can't help but think that maybe we would have been ok.
Patrick couldn't keep up with me - neither could Michelle's kayaker.
When the safety rib came to see what they could do to assist, they identified issues with the kayak hired out to us - after trying to fix it, I was starting to get cold from waiting in the water and so kicked when I started swimming again, the wind prevented Patrick moving and he was going nowhere fast but I was pulling away in my bid to get warm.
Jackie made the right call n kept us both safe.
I was pulled, cocooned in a blanket and my Dryrobe n we hitched a lift to shore.
I was first woman back.
It was my first 10km swim n I was first woman back.
I will never be able to make that claim again.
After coffee and ice cream and quiet reflection n cuddles, the tears fell when Caroline and Cathy arrived back, Caroline's beautiful, precise stroke visible down the lake.
SO. FRICKING. PROUD.
They fought stupendously hard.
Being out there was exhausting.
Cathy admitted, if Caroline had been a faster swimmer, she wouldn't have been able to keep up with her due to the conditions. They too would've been pulled.
Patrick was visibly distraught and blames himself.
If roles were reversed, I would be the same. I would be devastated and no amount of understanding words or kindness would make it better.
I think my being so understanding pissed him off further. I suspect he wanted me to be pissed off with him.
Yeah, well, sorry, not sorry.
I don't blame Patrick.
It's a hazard of the sport and part of it's unique charm.
Swimmers get pulled all the time to keep them safe.
Saturday was my time to be pulled.
I've taken part in events which have been cancelled due to the weather n conditions being on par with Saturday.
Coniston last year (run by EpicEvents) wasn't as bad as Bala was n got cancelled.
That was like swimming in the sea too.
I got a surprise and unexpected swim on Sunday which I didn't have to do solo n unsupported. I owe thanks to Helen for allowing last minute entry and Rob for kayaking.
It wasn't anywhere near as lumpy.
I was in the water as Cathy set off to do her longest ever swim.
Did i mention she only started OW swimming in September 2014? Did i mention that in March she couldn't swim more than 100m front crawl?
I had a great weekend with great friends n hopefully made some new ones.
My marathon swim will happen, it is likely that it will take place quietly and unceremoniously.
I am likely to cry when it does - as I seem to be bawling at least once a day currently.
But a bit of eye leak never hurt anyone and it doesn't count when you cry into your goggles.
Saturday and Sunday was about Caroline and Cathy.
About their longest swims.
It was about friends and life lessons.And actually, I wouldn't change a thing about it.