Jane's successful 22 mile swim of Loch Lomond.
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The idea of open water swimming started when Jane was eight, she loved swimming in the sea and would happily stay in the water as long as she could. At the age of eight she had an ambition to swim the English Channel.
On the 12th-13th August, 2006, aged 50, Jane completed a 22 mile non-stop swim of Loch Lomond, which is the same distance as the channel but has actually been swum by fewer people. Loch Lomond is the largest (and coldest) fresh water Loch in the UK.
Jane was one of 10 competitors starting the 22 mile Loch Lomond swim - the British Long Distance Swimming Association's Premier competition.
The logistics and preparation for Jane had started much earlier with previous years seeing a 12 hour continuous swim in the pool and the 10.5 mile swim of Lake Windermere. However this year's cold water training started back in April with a 10 minute swim in the very cold waters of the River Ribble. Progressing to the warmer waters of lakes Rydal, Coniston, Windermere and Wastwater in June and July. Fortunately it has been an unusually warm year and the daytime temperature of Loch Lomond had reached 15 degrees C.
Jane was supported by a team of eight people on the day. Firstly Brian Blinkhorn and Merv Delmonte collected the boat and motored it up to the start at the North end of Loch Lomond encountering four foot waves and strong head winds. Brian's fishing hat is now somewhere at the bottom of the 600 feet deep loch!
The crew and Jane started to assemble at the caravan at 4 p.m. just in time to see the first three swimmers start. Jane was scheduled to swim at 6:30 p.m. after a briefing for boat crews. The overnight rowing crew were Brian Gorst, Edward Roe and Ian Rushworth (Jane's brother). Anne Rushworth (Jane's mother) and Fiona Archibold (Ian's partner) fed the crew a hot meal while Jane had cereals, adding to the plates of pasta and porridge already consumed.
The boat crew prepared the boat complete with flag alpha (swimmer in the water), Yorkshire and Scottish flags.
Ian (the gadget man) checked the VHF radio, GPS, mobile phones, maps and walkie talkies! Safety Equipment, flasks and food were loaded.
The next five swimmers, including Jane and crew were briefed at 6:10 p.m. Then Jane was greased up with Vaseline mainly to stop the costume rubbing, but also applied to inside of elbows, backs of knees and neck where blood vessels are near the skin's surface. The rules of the competition state only one normal costume, cap and goggles to be worn. Jane also attached her light stick ready to snap for swimming in the dark.
As the swimmers were about to enter the water one of the early starters returned due, Jane was told, to the cold and the fact that he is also diabetic. Fortunately, having some extra body fat, Jane started with better insulation against the cold. This is one sport to which she is ideally suited.
Entering the fairly calm water at the start with a following wind the conditions looked promising, but the cold water didn't feel like 15 degrees C. The swimmers were started quickly before they had chance to get cold. The boat crews were ready to pick up their swimmers on the far side of the moored boats.
It took Jane about an hour to get used to the water temperature and settle into a steady rhythm. Despite this a good start was made with an early average of two miles an hour and hourly feeds. After two hours and now much choppier water with frequent white crested waves two foot high, the pace began to slow and feeding intervals increase. The boat crew were getting used to the conditions and trying to steer a course despite being blown away from the swimmer. By this time Jane was also having to swim towards the boat at an angle just to try to stay with the boat. Then occasionally the wind dropped and the pace quickened. So far the scenery along the lochside was fantastic and visibility good.
The night began to darken as we passed Rob Roy's cave on the East shore. The crew and Jane activated their light sticks. (Ian also added two flashing ducks to the rear of the boat.)
The rescue boat came alongside to check that Jane was OK and then returned to check on the swimmer behind Jane who was beginning to struggle. Once again the wind and waves began to pick up. Also the temperature began to drop as the night closed in. At this point Jane was struggling to see the boat between the waves and the boat and Jane drifted apart whilst the boat crew struggled to catch glimpses between the waves of the light stick attached to Jane's back.
As the temperature began to drop Jane's goggles began to steam up making it more difficult to follow the boat. The boat crew hastily rigged up additional lights and progress down the Loch was made despite the dropping temperatures as the sky cleared and combined with the effect of wind chill.
Jane began to look forward to a midnight feast and the occasional promised meteor as they approached the maximum of the perseid meteor shower. Feeding was never easy with small amounts of food and drink being passed to Jane to consume whilst treading water.
The rules state that the swimmer must not touch the boat at any time.
The moon was now visible and, stopping for a longer feed, Jane began to notice the cold and tried to swim faster to keep warm. Less than 20 minutes later Jane had a very brief feed and began to swim faster as the cold was still of concern. As they approached Luss in these colder temperatures and after about 14 miles many swimmers began to struggle The crew heard on the VHF radio of swimmers having to be taken back to the start suffering from the cold. The air temperature eventually dropped to 5 degrees C and the water temperature to 12 degrees C, when a mist began to form on the Loch.
The day began to break and sunlight was a welcome sight for Jane now able to distinguish the crew from the gloom. Jane noticed that the crew during the course of the night had been fortunate to add extra layers and hats to keep them warm!
The crew informed Jane that another 4 swimmers had retired during the night and there were only five left out of ten.
The crew decided to set course for the slightly shorter and calmer route through the islands. Jane began to think she was swimming into a dead end, but the navigation was spot on and soon they were in the quieter waters passing between large motor cruisers moored up for the night with everyone tucked up warmly.
Jane took her time enjoying the shallower and warmer waters and seeing her first fish swim by, fortunately only about 4 inches long. The crew were carefully navigating the shallow waters only about 18 inches deep.
On leaving the shelter of the islands the wind again began to pick up coming from the west, but less choppy than previously. Just as Jane was thinking only six miles to go the wind direction changed and she was now swimming into a head wind, slowing the pace yet again as the island of Inchmurrin seemed to loom forever on the horizon.
Three miles to go and the wind began to drop as the boat and swimmer enter calmer waters. By now Anne, Brian and Fiona had arrived to see the swimmers coming home. One, an American lady, had already finished after 11 hours.
Three swimmers were visible, with Jane being the last of these. As the next two swimmers arrived they couldn't stand and begin to shiver for up to an hour.
Jane's crew managed to avoid the strong waters of the river mouth, unlike some of the previous boats, as Jane headed for home.
Arriving after 15 hours and 48 minutes and 16 seconds, Jane is the fourth swimmer to finish.
She waited a little while before attempting to stand as previous experience told her she would find it difficult to stand up. Yet despite this she managed to walk out of the water still talking!
A hasty shower and dressed Jane is awarded her certificate and second place lady trophy by Dee the president who will shortly be attempting the channel again. She asked Jane if the channel was next. Jane "replied probably not but I'd never say not". Unfortunately the fifth swimmer dropped out after about 18 hours in the water.
A welcome sleep was soon had by Jane and all the crew as Brian Blinkhorn began his adventure returning the boat single handed, but that is another story. Jane would like to thank all her crew and support team without whom this swim would not have been possible. Also all those who have sponsored her. The current total is about £1,100 plus gift aid. Also Jane would like to thank those other hardy open water swimmers who have braved the lochs and lakes with her and given her encouragement.
If you live in the Craven Area and fancy trying open water swimming then do get in touch.