First Lake Windermere next up the Channel

CHALLENGE Chris Pitman during her swim across Lake Windermere
CHALLENGE Chris Pitman during her swim across Lake Windermere
Grace Hutton after the cut
Pictures by Ellie Pilmoor

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CHRIS Pitman is one step closer to her record-breaking channel swim after a gruelling 18-hour night swim.

She is aiming to become the oldest woman to swim the English Channel next year, aged 61.

In preparation for the challenge, she took part in the British Long Distance Swimming Association’s two-way 21-mile swim of Lake Windermere – but it all didn’t go to plan.

For three hours she had to swim with water pouring into her broken goggles.

Mrs Pitman, of Hulbert Road, Bedhampton, said: ‘I had an amazing support crew with me on a rowing boat but one of the rules of the swim is that I must not touch the crew or the boat or I’ll be disqualified.

‘My leaky goggles made it very difficult to see at the beginning so they had to pass me the eye wash in a children’s fishing net.

‘They eventually settled down but even if they hadn’t I wouldn’t have stopped. Not completing it simply wasn’t an option.

‘You just can’t give up. Too many people had given up too much for me to do it.’

The swim began at 5pm on August 13 and it was another 18 hours before Mrs Pitman got out of the water.

She managed to get into a rhythm stopping only for energy drinks and Jelly Babies. Chris said: ‘Twenty-one miles is the longest I’ve ever swum.

‘It was very cold at times, especially when I stopped to eat, I had to tread water and I’d shiver. You have to be in the right frame of mind.

‘To keep going I sometimes think of songs or imagine my family and friends are tugging an imaginary rope, pulling me in.

‘Also, the sound of the bubbles when I breathe out into the water is rather hypnotic and I get into a good stroke rhythm.’

Out of the 16 people who took part in the Lake Windermere swim three dropped out and Mrs Pitman said she was proud not to have come last considering she was somewhat older than the others.

She will take her Channel challenge between September 7 and 14, 2012.