2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

The Longest Day of My Life

At 21.40 on Sunday July 27th we eventually reached the end of the journey, 24 miles and 16.5 hours after we began our journey from Balloch to Ardlui, the full length of Loch Lomond.

Balloch seemed a lifetime ago when we arrived at the car park at 5am to be greated by our support crew Dave Stark and Fiona Ramsay as well as James Leitch and Stuart McPhail who had arrived early for their shorter swim to see us off, James the Merman who i have mentioned previously and Stuart who achieved this goal last year and ultimately planted the seed for Chris and I on setting this as our target.

DSC_0565

The daylight had only just arrived as we approached the slipway next to the Maid of the Loch and dipped our toes into the water that would turn us into prunes by the end of the day.

14774135243_af0812aef8_o

As we set out we knew the size of the task and stayed nice and steady over to the first stop at the point of Inchmurrin, 2.8 miles and approx 90 minutes, at this stage we knew we weren’t going to be in for an easy day as forecast had predicted calm(isn) weather and the buffering we received from the west was just knocking our stroke enough to add a bit more thought to the stroke rather than be able to engage the autopilot.

photo 2

From Inchmurrin we head across towards Loch Lomond Golf course and the buffering continued until we hit the sheltered area between the islands at 6 mile towards Luss; this is always very sheltered and a route we had enjoyed many times on our training swims. After the westerly buffering it was nice to get the shelter for the 6-8 mile stage and ensure we were able to get some relaxed stroking.

DSC_0631

During the first half of the race I had planned to eat as much as possible to ensure i didn’t run out of energy in the second half, my food of choice was Chicken Cup-a-soup, Peanut butter sandwiches, doreen loaf with butter and energy drinks. I believe this strategy worked well for me and Big Chris followed suit downing the Soreen especially along with hot chocolates.

At Luss we were met by my better half Lynn , Lewis my oldest and Leni my youngest child. At 8 miles this was a great distraction and just to see their faces gave me a huge lift.

What we experienced next might well have broken us, Luss to Inverbeg mile 8 – 11.5 usually takes us just under 2 hours, however today the wind direction changed and the Lady of the Loch decided she was going to challenge our resolve. Constantly throughout this 3.5 mile section we would breath to the side and see the Alpha Flag (a flag to warn other Loch users something is happening around the boat) rigid flapping south which only meant one thing, we had a severe head wind. This section was the toughest we experienced, this leg took us 3 hours and we were feeling it badly. The next photo is one of my favourites as i believe it sums up how i felt at this halfway point, Cup-a-soup and peanut butter sarnie in hand with the next leg of the swim in the background, i’d title this picture “Lonely”

DSC_0623

Again i was expecting another visit from the 3 musketeers at Inverbeg to show their support for me and Chris but only the 2 big ones appeared, I was informed that Leni was stung by a wasp at Luss getting back in the car so had been rescued by Granny.

At 11.5 miles we were now heading into the unknown for me, the unknown in distance as i had never swan further than this in one day but also the top end of the Loch, Chris had been to the top and a few times however i prefer to bury my head and experience the new visuals as they appear. Not knowing how far something is works for me!

Inverbeg to Rob Roy’s Cave Approx 11.5 to 19 miles; We had experienced a westerly at the start a head wind to Inverbeg and now the Lady decided she would test us with a southerly wind with the addition of torrential rain; that was fine for us but the support crew scurried under the boat canopy. You may think a southerly wind would be of assistance, it was certainly better than a head wind however this once again challenges the stroke, often waves are passing us heading in the same direction, again this was disrupting the stroke, this was constant for the whole leg.

I have to admit i experienced 2 real dark places during the swim, to anyone that has ever been there you will know what i mean, mine appeared mile 9-11 and also the last 2 miles towards Rob Roys Cave at 17-19 miles. These dark places turn the mirror on myself and i find a clarity for the things that are important to me, this helps me remove the crap from my head and subsequently my life.

Some additional support and cheers which were very welcome from a passing tourist boat

DSC_0634

Reaching the 19 mile mark we were both in a horrible place and arguing with each other in our minds, my stroke had gone, my rhythm was shot and Chris was through his dark spell and feeling good and wanted to crack on. We took our next break and one that would actually change our mindset.

We had 5 miles to go, the Loch had thinned and the water was calmer and flatter, not only that but the sun broke through the clouds and shone down upon us. I know i speak of the Lady of the Loch as though she is real, but i genuinely believe she was thinking, “OK guys, i’ve tried to break you, I don’t let many swimmers achieve the full length, but you have got this far and now i’m going to remove all the obstacles, if you still have 5 miles left in you i won’t stand in your way”

photo photo 2

 

DSC_0659DSC_0651

The last 5 miles were stunning and also broken up by another well wisher, Cammie who is also looking to complete the swim in the next month was stood on a sandbank at the side of the loch with 3 km to go, we obliged with a 2-3 minute chat before heading on our merry way.

DSC_0670

We found our rhythm again and switched to autopilot then Dave stopped us again, I was about to give him some verbal abuse but his words were music to our ears, with 1 Km to go he stated “there’s Ardlui boys, nearly there”;

DSC_0672

The smile across our faces must have been ear to ear as our stroke became stronger and between strokes as we breathed we started shouting celebrations between each other, screaming at the top of our voice mid breathe with euphoria.

21.40 we touched down on the Beach at Ardlui to be greeted by friends and family and billions of midges. The feeling was very similar to the finish at my Ironman, a mix of relief that months of planing had paid off and physical exhaustion. We were handed a couple of bottles of bubbly and Big Chris did the F1 champaign spray all over me, there was nothing i could do but accept the drenching in good spirit.

All challenges deserve a medal!! Leni presenting me with my medal (which was her medal from her 1KM run but i will cherish it!)

 

DSC_1152

photo

How do i feel now 4 days after the event? Still exhausted and only just recovered from the midge bites, i think i will potentially get back in the water this weekend but only for a mile or 2 to relax and see the people that supported us so well

photo 2 photo 1

Will i ever do this swim again? – not a chance!!!!

photo

My phone was actually in the boat and they weren’t as direct as us, we still believe the Loch is 24 miles not 27.19, that was due to Fiona’s driving!

The Big Day is close

It looks as though the big day is about to arrive 8 days early. For months we had planned that the swim would take place on Sunday August 3rd, however the advice we took from the Merman (James Leitch) was – if  the opportunity arrises don’t let it pass –

Our opportunity is here and we are lining up our big day take place this Saturday, with a period of warm weather over the country the Loch temperature which is already pretty high will continue to rise or at worst stay the same at around the 16-18 degree mark. The forecast for Saturday looks reasonably calm and if anything there will be a slight wind assistance from the North (and less helpful the West), which will give us some assistance.

So how do i feel? I have just been asked this by my son, I honestly don’t know. On one hand i’m so excited that the day is upon us and i can accept my challenge fully, but on the other hand its a huge step into the unknown. I need to reiterate the fact i’m not a swimmer, this is so far out of my comfort zone and i have never swam more than 12 miles in one day. There aren’t any other swimmers of my standard who have done  this challenge so i can’t buy them a coffee to get advice.

I think  i’m excited, confident but very aware that i need to treat the lady with total respect or she will chew me up and spit me out.

We will be watching the weather again for the rest of the week however the provisional plan is to leave Ardlui (North) at 5am this Saturday 26th July to swim south and finish at Balloch at a predicted time of approx 7-9pm with a swim time of approx 14-16 hours

Bring it on!!!

My Office wall - constant motivation

My Office wall – constant motivation

The Taper

I’m just out of another weekend Loch Lomond training swim with Big Chris and a cameo visit from Fiona. Due to a few uncontrollable reasons we decided that a shorter swim was in order today; we looked at the weather for the weekend and there was an easterly wind across the loch so decided to start our swim from Luss and use the shelter of the islands to ensure we achieved a smoother swim than fight the chop from our usual entry point at Balloch. The following “MapmyRun” visual doesn’t show the islands in the Loch so if you visualise islands to the right of our swim route you will see the shelter we sort after and achieved.

photo

One of the other reasons we decided to cut short the swim today was the fact for the second week running i was swimming with a world record holder, no James wasn’t with us again but my partner in crime Big Chris “Shoulders” McGrenary was drafted in on Thursday to be part of a Loch Lomond relay team who were trying to break the record for 24 miles, each of the 4 members of the team had to swim an hour leg at a time in only their Budgie smugglers and goggles, needless to say they smashed the record in a time of 9 hours and 20 mins. I was delighted for the big man, but he was feeling his shoulders today so needed to ease back into the distances.

I have to admit i am starting to get worried looking at the longer term forecast over the next 10 days, its a period of temperamental weather which probably means that we wont be taking on the big challenge until into August. I’m no weatherman but we could do with a few days of high pressure over a weekend ideally starting on a Thursday to enable us to confirm the day the journey will take place. Maybe i am worrying too much, we set our projected date as August 3rd so hopefully anytime in the next month will be perfect!

 

Weather watching

Weather watching

We always stated that we would try to swim the first Sunday in August, and in our heads the date was set. However now we are approaching that date all I find myself doing is watching the various weather sites to check the winds and try and find the perfect day.
It’s not about the rain, that’s easy to cope with, it’s the winds that need to be favourable.
We discovered after several discussions with our own Merman – James that Loch Lomond flows North to south slightly therefore the ideal conditions are a slight wind in the same direction.
That would be perfect world scenario however northerly winds are rare in the summer therefore the choice seems to be;
A) pick a calm day and use the drift North to south or
B) choose a wind (usually) southerly and take the ride but fight the drift
So here we are weather watching hoping to find that day over the next 5 weeks to take the plunge!!
Off to bed for a 5.05am rise for a dip Before my working day starts

Half Way There – 3 weeks to go

14413498448_9e5ace4ca7_o
What a Sunday 11.5 mile swim in 7 hours, I decided to watch the Netherlands v Costa Rica game to the bitter end, not one of my best decisions i realised as i reached over to switch off my alarm at 4.05am.
With my car packed the night before, i dashed down stairs, made my porridge (What else when you are about to swim beneath the “Bonnie Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond”) and headed out the door to meet Big Chris my usual sole accomplice, however today we were accompanied by Cammie in the water (he is also looking to complete the feat in August as well) Dave and Stevie who had so kindly volunteered to give us boat cover for this important training swim.
We parked one of the cars at Luss and headed back to the starting point at Balloch, chosen due to the southerly wind direction that morning. What a stunning morning greeted us.

14413475750_68816fcf8d_o
Setting off with a planned route and stops, i have to say that we kept to this plan practically to the letter. Balloch to Inchmurren (2.8 miles) food stop, Inchmurren passed Loch Lomond Golf Course, another stop at the start of the Channel to Luss (3 miles) through to Luss (2.2 miles) then onwards and upwards to Inverbeg.
7 hours in the water and your mind goes to several places, i have to admit i was expecting to head to the dungeon that i encountered 15 miles into the Ironman run 3 years ago, this place can never be explained, if you’ve been there you will understand.
To anyone who has read my blurb previously i like to detail all elements of the day, good or bad. When you get up so early on the morning, lets just say that your body and your “Morning constitutional” may not realise you are up yet.
Everyone has heard of the saying “Does a bear shit in the woods” well you can now expand that saying to “Does a bear, Chris and Cammie shit in the woods” as we have photographic evidence to prove this. I just hope not many people actually set foot on Inchtavannach island.

Bog Roll
I have to say that we were advised by James (one of the swimmers that holds the world record) that the Luss to Inverbeg was the longest stretch visually in the Loch and he wasn’t wrong, i felt like the treadmill nightmare where you can see where you want to be but it never gets any closer.

But we made it in the end, the route can be seen by my much ridiculed “Mapmyrun” device on my iPhone

MapMyRun Swim 11.52 miles

 

 

I am pleased to say we have decided not to go any longer than this until the big day, hopefully this experience will put us in good stead to now look at tapering down over the coming weeks, an 8 miler is planned for tomorrow – alarm is set!!

On the big day in August hopefully we will have the same look of satisfaction with completing the full Loch

14577132526_0b443c693c_o

Controlling the Controllables

Controlling the Controllables

Just when you think you are getting there with the training, you are reminded how weak we can be psychologically.
I’m preparing for the 24 mile swim and all the variables are taken into account, I call this “Controlling the controllables” there are so many factors that make up the whole event and I was faced with one of the Uncontrollables this morning.
With 2 x 8 miler swims in the bag we plan on reaching a 11-13 mile swim on Sunday so I decided to head to Loch Lomond this morning for an hour swim with the troops for a loosener – 1.6 miles later the doubts were abundant!!
In the space of 5 days the Loch temperature had plummeted. From a balmy 17-18 degrees to what felt like more in the region of 13 degrees.
These temperatures are ok for shorter bursts however we plan to be in the water for 8-9 hours on Sunday and as I look out the window the rain and wind is in full swing so I can’t see any great increase before Sunday.
No turning back though, the support boat along with two willing volunteers is booked for Sunday morning for a 5.30am departure. Big Shoulders and I are heading into the unknown distances.
I’ll report back post swim, hopefully the Uncontrollables don’t ruin our day