Angela Osman is usually found at 24 hour mountain bike races, staying up all night to support Team JMC racers Jason Miles, Dave Powell and Phil Simcock but she’s also a pretty good swimmer as a win at the Buttermere open water swim demonstrated. Here’s Angela’s account of the event….
Stumbling out of the chilly shallows of Derwent Water into the pouring rain, blood running from the wetsuit friction burn on my neck, I stammered through chattering teeth – “I never want to do that again!” It was only my second ever open water swim and I was suffering; cold, nauseous and in pain but, moreover, annoyed with myself for going way off line (the neck abrasion making me reluctant to look up).
Even as the words left my numb lips, I knew that it was not true – after all, my next 2 events were already booked and paid for! I just hoped that the memory (and wound) would fade quickly. Fast forward to 3 weeks later… one spent on holiday in Tenerife, eating and drinking too much (I’m nowhere near as serious or disciplined as Jase and Dave!), whilst only doing a few cursory laps around the weirdest shaped pool ever… and I’m Head[ing] to the Hills for the UtterlyButtermere.
With 3 distances (1.5k, 5k, 10k) it’s billed as a sportive but with prizes for winners and a results list in time order – which smacks a little of “race” to me, though maybe that’s just my keen competitive streak! Anyway, I had something to prove to myself. The conditions were polar opposite to the Derwent Island Swim, it was gloriously sunny and still, the water perfectly mirroring the impressive fells. I pondered if I should have entered the 5k; the idea of pootling around the lake at a more sedate pace, drinking in the stunning surroundings, appealed somewhat – though I’m pretty certain it would have been extremely hard work (kudos to anybody who did the endurance distances btw!).
I had a basic plan to break the triangular course down into its 3 obvious sections: get into position and relax; stretch out and maintain; push with what’s left and/or cling on grimly! Firstly I got myself to the front line of the mass start and then we were off; immediately I was getting buffeted by the guy beside me and corralled towards the throng. Determined to remain on the periphery away from trouble, I decided to ease off, let him veer across in front of me and slipped into the space left on the right. With clear water ahead, I tried to ease into a rhythm; the sobering thought that my arms already felt heavy flickered across my mind.
Rounding the first buoy I almost came to a complete stop as I tried to spot the next tiny marker across the whole width of the lake – no time, just keep going and wait for my eyes to focus. I glimpsed the distant buoy with a kayak alongside – great, a larger target! I struck out towards it, noticing that I appeared to be alone. Traversing the lake I realised the kayak had drifted away from the buoy and I was going off line – don’t panic, just a quick adjustment and I glided on.
Skimming around the last buoy I was greeted by a kayak shadowing me; my mind was reeling – did I look like I was struggling, were they waiting to pluck me, spluttering, from the lucid lake? Then I allowed myself to speculate that maybe, just maybe, I was doing quite well; I knew there was at least one person quite far ahead but I was definitely out of the pack. On an over-exaggerated breath I peeked behind and saw a splash, I had company! I dug deep and found my arms unresponsive so looked to my legs, desperately willing them to kick harder, bile rising to my throat with each pitching stroke.
My final “tactic” came into play, swim as far in to the shore as possible, avoid tottering over the slippery, sharp rocks. I glanced up and saw the marshals virtually on top of me, beckoning me into the finishing funnel and I lurched out of the water onto dry land. Another swimmer was loitering there and immediately proffered his hand with congratulations; somewhat bemused, I returned the compliment. I turned to find another girl had emerged from the water behind me (only 4 seconds separated us); he met her with a more profuse greeting (it turned out they were engaged) and expressed how well she’d done, and how fast. To my surprise the girl’s response was in my direction – “you were my beacon, my guiding light all the way round”. A fleeting feeling of mild irritation, that I had done the hard work, pacing and spotting, whilst she had latched on for the ride, was soon replaced by the realisation that she must have at least tried to overtake me and had failed.
As the bewilderment lifted I found I had finished as the 1st female and, moreover, 2nd overall. J There were hints from a marshal that the course may have been under distance and my rather quick time (20:24!) seemed to bear this out but I don’t care, I’ll take the “win”!