We catch up with iTAB Senior Account Manager, Debbie ‘swim like a’ Fish, after her epic 11-mile Windermere One Way Swim

Huge congratulations! How does it feel to have conquered
Lake Windermere?
It still feels slightly unreal to be honest!  Windermere is a stretch of water I’ve known and loved for an extremely long time, having left home as an 18-year-old to live in Bowness-on-Windemere for a couple of years.  I have since revisited Windermere over the years, more recently with my husband Nick and I’ve always been in awe of its expanse and ever-changing beauty.  Windermere is such a special place for us, and I now have lots of new images in my memory bank from a completely different perspective.

You swam an epic 11-miles from the southern end of the lake to the northern tip! How was it?
Well, the water itself was at times very choppy, black and cold, green and still and the weather was typical of the Lakes… rainy, sunny, misty with poor visibility, windy- a powerful crosswind, cloudy and bright!  The views of the fells were incredible, and I felt as though I was (along with around 150 other swimmers and kayakers) quite a tiny little being in this immense body of water.  (Windermere measures one mile at its widest point.)  One of the best views was close to the finish near Brathay Hall when I recognised Ambleside in the distance and I stopped to take in a wonderful bright, bold rainbow which appeared to be on the surface of the water.  It was a joy to stop swimming and to look in absolute wonder at the stunning scenery, the swimmers and the colourful fleet of paddlers all around.

You were accompanied throughout the swim by a support kayak – did that help with the nerves/swim?
Absolutely yes!  It was amazing to have one-to-one kayaker support from David Reynolds of the Liverpool Canoe Club for the duration of my seven-and-a-half-hour swim (official swim time 07:28:45).  I had not met David before, although we had spoken on the telephone at length which was brilliant.  We chatted mostly about our joint love of jelly babies, the cold-water temperature, how long I might be in the cold water for and what if I got hypothermia!?  I lost a lot of sleep fretting about the water temperature, and David did his best to alleviate my fears before Windermere One Way and my nervousness on event day.  David is an experienced paddler and first aider, and I felt very secure in the knowledge he would be there for me every stroke of the way.  I have to say am in absolute awe of anyone who can swim for hours on end in just a swimsuit, hats off to these hardy people!

How did you feel at the end?
I felt exhilarated, relieved, proud, very emotional, cold and physically quite broken all at the same time.  My tears flowed as I approached the finish gantry, so by the time my legs were working again and I reached Nick, I was a complete wreck and crying a lot of happy, joyous tears!  The fabulous event organisers were on hand to help everyone out of the water and they had arranged lots of pasta in the warm comfort of Brathay Hall for the swimmers, paddlers and supporters.  I had a huge plate of pasta, followed by jelly babies and flap jack which was quite a feast having burnt around 3,500 calories!

Now, tell me about the bling…
Firstly… the lovely chunky gold medal, it’s amazing and shiny and my personalised iTAB ribbon hanger finishes it off beautifully of course!  I received a lovely fluffy white towel, an over-sized stripy blue bobble hat, an embroidered distance badge and a certificate… all with the Windermere One Way logo on them.

How did you train for an event like this?
Earlier in the year, I took part in a few longer distance open water swimming events locally, including our own fabulous 10K Jubilee River Swim in June, our epic Humdinger 6-hour endurance lake swim (16K completed) and the lovely 14K Thames Marathon swim.  Having completed these swims, I became more confident of the distance but very worried about the cold water!  I read ‘A Boy in the Water’ by Tom Gregory who swam the English Channel aged just 11!  Tom completed some training swims in Windermere which he described as ‘brutal’ and reading about his experiences certainly helped me to prepare myself mentally in the run up to #WOW. 

Any tips or advice for anyone contemplating tackling the #WOW swim? Yes, go for it, you will not regret it!  It’s a stunning swim, take the time on the day to enjoy it as it is an incredible opportunity and it is a fantastic reward for all those hours of training.  On the day, swim steadily, get into a nice rhythm and certainly don’t look up the water temperature on the morning of the event (I thankfully didn’t, as the water was 16.2C – chilly for me).  It’s a cliché but during training, eat-swim-eat some more-sleep-repeat!  I also gleaned as much information as I could from seasoned Windermere One Way-ers which proved to be invaluable.  Big thanks to Siobhan!

Are there any more challenges on the horizon for you? Or are you having a well-deserved rest?
I am considering swimming a longer distance than the 11 miles of Windermere One Way, but I do need to think very carefully about this!  It was an extremely tough challenge for me, and I am delighted to have conquered an endurance swim.  I am now taking some time out to swim for pleasure and to have some fun on the water too (water skiing).  I am reflecting on #WOW, which was for me a much bigger physical and mental undertaking than I had perhaps prepared myself for.  Who knows what the future holds, something in warmer water maybe? 

Fancy the challenge? Visit Windermere One Way
And if you want to personalise your hard-earned medals, you’ll need an iTAB Ribbon Hanger