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Aquatic Chimp's Swimming Adventures

The Swim 4 Dylan Swim

AquaticChimpby AquaticChimpAug 25th 2012
I woke up on the morning of Saturday 4th August 2012 to find that the small butterflies in my stomach, had grown much bigger during the night. I was confident in my swimming ability and fitness, the thing was we had what felt like a small army of supporters that had come with us, I was feeling the expectation, which in turn was sowing the seeds of doubt in my head, "What if you let everyone down?" "What if something goes wrong?" "Have you done enough preparation?" I'd popped to Llyn Padarn the day before, to find the wind blowing up quite a chop, "What if it is really rough today?" "Will the boat cope with the wind and chop?" "Will you be able to get into a rhythm with changing your breathing technique in the chop?" "What if you get water in your mouth from both sides? Bilateral breathing wont do you any good then"

I'd set my alarm to make sure I was up in time to have breakfast, and leave three hours window to the swim. It was all planned, a large bowl of Muesli, a cup of tea, and a bannana. I'd now be sipping water and weak squash until the swim.

I checked I'd got all of the equipment in the bag, wetsuit, goggles, swim hat, towel, wetsuit lube, first aid kit, foil blankets, crocs, booties, gloves, snacks for afterwards, flask of tea, and tiger balm ... I was nothing if not prepared.

I packed the car, and then we headed off to Llyn Padarn, Llanberis, from where we were staying, about 15 - 20 minute drive. Our entourage of two other cars were in tow as we pulled into the proposed start point, at the bridge adjacent to the A4244. There we found my safety boat crew and another dozen supporters ..... my stomach was now in knots.

I walked up the bridge, ignoring most of the supporters to begin with, and looked at the length of Llyn Padarn. Time to start composing myself. Positive thoughts only. "You've done the prep, now do the swim" "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, " ""Just picture Dylan, think of the bad nights he has, the bad days, his falls and when he picks himself up, dusts himself down and tries again" "YOU CAN DO THIS".

My mind then turned to the logistics of the swim. The safety boat is an inflatable four man boat, with a small electric outboard motor, and a couple of sets of oars. The window was blowing, quite strongly into my face. A quick chat with my Dad, and it was agreed. We'd start at the other end, and head for the bridge I was now standing on. We all saddled back up and headed off to the slate museum car park.

Once there, I noticed the Snowdon Star Trip Boat Ticket hut was closed up with an A4 notice on it: "CANCELLED Due to High Winds". Well two thoughts on this: 1. I don't need to worry about the trip boat. 2. How on earth will the safety boat cope with High Winds if the trip boat suffers in them? One way to find out. We got the boat out, got it blew up, and got kitted up. I wriggled once more into my now trusty wetsuit. Once I had all the kit ready, I went and said bye bye to my boys, who were quiet happy watching a DVD in the car, but wished me luck all the same.

Back to the boat. I'd got my bright red hat and two pairs of goggles, first aid kit, booties etc were in the boat. Motor was ready to be connected, batteries ready to go into the boat. I'd asked to be left alone from this point on so I could concentrate on getting ready for the swim, mentally by giving myself a good talking to, and physically by stretching. We walked down the slate beech, and left my boat crew to get the boat ready whilst I stood in the cold water and finished stretching. I got my goggles on, and then my hat. Splashed my face with the water, picked my sighting "targets" for the route across the Llyn. The bridge was a touch far to focus on from water level, so picked the Llanberis Railway Station, about halfway across for an initial sighter. Then it would be the bridge, or an electricty pylon that was proud above the tree line, beyond the bridge. I checked with my safety boat crew, and got the nod from them.

I waded out, with the boat alongside me, up to mid thigh depth water. One look at the boat crew, the nod to go and the video was recording. Now or never.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

Deep breath in ... ... and fall forward, the water rushed over me, over my face, it was cold. "Just Swim". I kicked my legs and started front crawl, getting a nice little nod on through the water. "It's cold" Don't think about it, keep it steady, don't sprint off. What time is it? I want to know how long I go for, a look at the watch 11.14. I stopped, look back to see the boat lurking behind, not really moved off. Got the OK back so carried on. It was a good job I started swimming when I did. Within a dozen strokes I was there, the thing I had tried not to think about, the drop off. "Oh well, crack on. Right get into a rhythm". I gave it very little thought after that, other than every now and then realising I was floating in the blackness, my black suit in stark contrast to my white feet beneath me.

Ignore your feet, that are feeling the cold for some reason. It's OK, it's not that cold. The temperature on my watch had dropped from high 20s, to low 20s in a matter of seconds. Half an hour will tell me an accurate representation of the water temperature. My feet will get used to it. Just swim, "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming". The water was much calmer than the day before, which was another positive I held onto.

I'd worked out that once I'd got over the initial depth, cold, distance etc. in my head I needed something other than the swimming and breathing to keep me in a rhythm. My choice was to sing songs in my head. My choice, "Times Like These" by the Foo Fighters, with intervals of "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming" in appropriate Dory from Finding Nemo voice.

I cleared my goggles a couple of times, as I couldn't find the train station through the fog. I checked my watch, 14 degrees at present. I'd been going for twenty minutes. The time had flown by.

To be honest for most of the swim, I was enjoying the moment, the views, the feeling, without thinking too much. The highlights that spring to mind about my swim, is seeing the supporters walking along the side Llyn Padarn waving at me, cheering me on. I would wave back, claer my goggles, just make out the faces of friends and family. It was quite surreal to see the Llanberis Railway come past me. A toot on the whistle from the driver, and waves from the carriages was a great sight , from the water level. I plodded on and a little later the train passed me again, back the other way, again a toot on the whistle and the waves of the passengers brought a smile to my face.

I reached the train station, and needed to find another sighting target. The bridge was there, I could make it out, that'll do nicely. Still along way off though. I looked across the lake, just trees now, now coves or beaches with the supporters waving at me. A little chat with the safety boat crew, a check of the temperature, 12.5 degrees. Feels about right. My feet were now used to the temperature and I felt great. I looked back at how far I'd already swum and felt quite pleased. The V of Llanberis pass behind me, with the darker skies of the rain coming through the pass , towards me, the blue sky above me reflected in the calm waters behind me, it all looked awesome. A sight I wont forget I'm sure.

By this point I was starting to tire slightly, but the sight of the bridge and the noise of my supporters meant I was able to focus on finishing and not worry about my tiring shoulders. I continued plodding along, but started to get distracted by my goggles fogging up more and more regularly. I decided to swap goggles for the other pair I had with me. My spare pair were a pair of ordinary swimming goggles. I called to the boat and let them now what I was planning. I swapped over goggles and carried on. Again I was staggered at the difference. My field of vision was massively impaired. Underwater I felt like I couldn't see as fair, or as much (not that there was much to look at other than admire the depth), but that lack of peripheral vision resulted in the return of those feelings of fear. I looked up to find the goggles had already completely fogged up, so cleared them. I then looked again and could hardly see the bridge, I was using to sight my way, due to the lack of visibility and light that the goggles let in. I again called to the boat and returned to the open water goggles. I could once more enjoy the views of my surroundings.

I continued to plod on, but couldn't resisit switching to Breaststroke, to lift my head from the water, and take in the views. As the bridge I was aiming for became clearer and closer I decided that I just had to try some butterfly in openwater. I let the boat know what I was going to do, and cracked on. Face in, a couple of leg kicks, then the arms started, over the water, keyhole pull, keep kicking, over the water, lift my head to breath which led to a stronger kick ..... and ...cramp. Right leg went a little tight, though it was a slight pull so carried on for another stroke .. no, that's cramp. Complete agony and mild panic set in. I could no longer kick, I couldn't tread water with it. I was so close to the end, but this threatened me even finishing.

I called to the boat and told them what was wrong. They powered straight over. I was managing to stretch slightly in the water, but not enough, so I lay on my back floating alongside the boat whilst I got a good stretch from one of the safety crew. A few minutes later and I felt a little tight, but no pain and OK to carry on. No more silly ideas now, just get to the end. I got my head down, got the rhythm going and started, "I, I'm a one way motorway......".

I got to within a 100 metres of the bridge and the wall of rock appeared, back to three feet deep, with some large rocks scattered around. I could hear the fantastic support from the bridge, several voices urging me on. I let the boat know it was shallow again, and started to see the rain drops fall on the surface of the lake. Looks like everyone else is going to get wet to then. The water got to about two feet deep, and I was heading for a white pole sticking up out of the water, mainly to stay away from the current of the water rushing under the bridge. It was quite difficult to swim now, as my hands would touch the bottom, I had to zig zag around some larger rocks, so allowed the voices to get louder and louder until I heard, "Just Keep Swimming!!" At which point I was about 15 metres away from my intended exit point, dragging my hands on the bottom, enough now. I stood up, to a great cheer, and I was immensely proud of myself. I'd loved the swim, and was now completely hooked on open water / wild swimming.

I must say a huge thank you to my safety boat crew: My Dad, John, My gorgeous wife, Emma, and my brother in law, Max.

Another huge thank you to everyone who came to support me on the day, and cheer me on. It did make a huge difference seeing everyone along the banks as I swam. Thank you all very much. And thank you to everyone who sponsored me and supported our cause:
The Swim 4 Dylan Swim
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