The Lady of the Loch – Mood swings

What a morning, after heading to bed in the early hours of the mornings the alarm went off at 5.50, normally this is too early for me especially with only 4 hours kip. However with the sun shining in the windows and my velux it was a pleasure to roll out of bed and head downstairs for my mandatory bowl of porridge and coffee.


(The image above was from last year but we visited this spot twice today and i wanted to take my iPhone out of the bag and copy the shot, however the waves wouldn’t let me even get my balance to even attempt the selfie)

Big Chris and I had organised to meet at the Car Park at the Maid of the Loch at 6.50 to ensure we were in the water for 7am. What greeted us was one of the mornings we dream of, calm waters, bright blue sky and warm in the air; however what we were about to experience over the next 3 hours was a roller coaster.

We headed into the water and set the ‘Mapmyrun’ on my iPhone (If you are wondering how i swim with my phone – I have one of the water sealed orange buoys which drag behind us when swimming, great for not getting hit by boats!!) and were straight to the first yellow buoy. As stated earlier the water was crystal clear, calm with the sun glistening on every breathe, at this yellow buoy the first mention of Inchmurrin arose and we totally believe “The Lady of the Loch” heard this conversation, as we headed off due North and into the open waters you could feel the air pressure changing and the swell of the water beginning. The land geography in a nutshell is shelter for the first mile then the Loch opens up and at this stage we felt the changes.

Call me a coward, i call it sensible, as soon as we felt the swell and the change in conditions we both made the decision to turn and swim the distance required in more sheltered waters, the lady didn’t think we were ready to bridge the return journey to Inchmurrin (6 miles) so we duly accepted her opinion and turned due west toward Duck Bay. I have taken on the female species for most of my life and usually end up losing the argument. Therefore when the Lady of the Loch informed us that she didn’t want us to proceed we duly obliged.

Once we were back into the more sheltered waters the Loch changed again back into the tranquil place that we all love, however that only lasted for about 30 minutes as what can only be described as a temper tantrum raged through the Loch once again – the swell returned

Now i have to let you know a secret about Big Chris “Shoulders” McGrenary, he is an absolute powerhouse through the water, that is the flat calm swimming pool water but in the chop he struggles and this makes me feel a far better swimmer than i actually am, as he struggles and i feel great! bonus.

2 and a half hours into the swim and about 4.5 miles done we notice another group of swimmers heading back towards us at the well known stopping point “The Witches Hat”. As we hadn’t seen anyone since we left we stopped to have a chat an they were proud to tell us they had been to Cameron House and back and had been in the water for 40 minutes and heading back pretty tired. Its moments like these that have made me embarrassed previously by blurting out our morning achievement, so i decided to keep quiet. However “Shoulders” responded in a way that i may have done a few years ago “we got in at 7am and are approx 4 miles into our swim”

Needless to say both groups headed off in different directions thereafter and later in Costa for cake and coffee, the big man asked if that sounded a bit big headed? “Not at all big man” was my response

So there you have the first long distance LL swim of the year in the bag, 3 hours and 5 minutes with a distance of 4.98 miles. Very pleased with that until you realise only another 19.02 miles to go!!


Sporting Achievements

As a child i grew up addicted to sport, anything that i could try my hand at i gave a go. However i always had one annual event that always took my imagination; The FA Cup Final.

At the age of 2 and a half my first ever memory was of my dad and all his mates returning to the house head to toe in read and white stripes singing and dancing. They were celebrating, drinking plenty but the vibes that were between my wood chip walls and atrocious 70’s decor will live with me. In 1973 Sunderland (the underdogs) beat the mighty Leeds United at Wembley in an FA Cup Final. Through the years i always remember sitting down at 12 noon with my dad and brother Graeme and we watched every moment of the build up and every second of the match.

From a very early age it was my ambition to play in an FA Cup Final


In 1992 i was lucky enough to live my childhood ambition, to play for Sunderland in a FA Cup Final at the tender age of 21. A memory that i will take to my grave and surely the proudest moment of my life????

Do you see the other piece of metal sat to the right of the solid gold, royal mint FA Cup Final Medal?

Let me put this in perspective the FA Cup Final doesn’t even come close to the achievement of completing an IronMan. I get asked constantly about the final and i puzzle people when i describe the difference between the two.

In simple terms – Football is a team game, players can hide, I was a forward and i may have had a horrible week at training, had the odd day when i decide to go easier than normal and on the saturday i was in the right place at the right time and score the goals and get the headlines. Within the Ironman or any individual sport its about you and only you, if you fancy a lazy few days you only cheat yourself.

Don’t get me wrong i am very proud of the Cup Final medal, however the IronMan one dwarfs it more than 10 fold.

PS – It was put to me once – Am i the only person with both these medals?

Stunning Country



The plan has been simple so far, as many 1-2 miles swims as possible during the month of May.

Now we are at the start of June the distance increases and hopefully by the end of June we will churning our 10km swims weekly.

7am this morning and we were greeted at Castle Semple Loch with these stunning views. There are many days when the weather is rotten and you still pull on the wetsuit because you have committed, today was a pleasure. Big Shoulders and me didn’t want to get out, a stunning way to start the day – 3.54 miles, 0.54 more than expected or planned for but we couldn’t resist.

More of these days please!


When you embark on any challenge you always have periods of doubt “Why am i doing this?” “I have got no chance of completing this” “What if i don’t finish, i will let myself and everyone else down”

I have to admit i have been having a spate of these thoughts over the past couple of weeks and i’m sure the other 2 participants will have these moments as well. Let me introduce my follow swim buddies who have also signed up to the challenge

Fi – swims like an olympian, technique is unquestionable, makes swimming look so natural and an around female version of me, a true love of all sport3 amigos in Loch Lomond

Shoulders – Big Chris, what can you say, power and power, self confesses his lack of ability to chill and slow down, in the Edinburgh swim festival last year he won the race ….. to the first buoy. An incredible talent, he’s 6 ft 12 inches with shoulders that dwarf his size.

Me – The Plodder, not fast, not slow, to put me in perspective i did 2 x 2.4 mile swims one month apart, i decided to do one race as fast as possible (65 minutes) and one race efficiently as possible (68 minutes) – 3 minutes worth of a difference and i was breathing out my ……. Therefore i have come to the conclusion an efficient plod is for me!

The 3 of us are hopefully embarking on this adventure / challenge / lunacy with an open honest approach, which i believe is the only way we can stay friends!

In training I’m always last to each marker and i totally expect that, so i decided to have that honesty with them and state that i felt i will be holding them back, their answer was very simple we are in this together, the Lochs are too cold at present and everyone just needs to stay as warm as possible for as long as possible.

So here we are heading into the months that matter, the focus and drive to get out of bed at 6am on a Sunday morning to head into whichever mass of water we choose. The worries are always there “What if?” The big fish and boats don’t worry me, its the psychology, and more importantly its managing those Demons

How do you Plan?

How do you compile a training plan for a 24 mile swim?

There are hundreds of books on how to prepare for a Marathon, a Triathlon or even the longer 140.6 milers, which always include some sort of training plan, structured ones that vary in length, “IronMan training in 12 week” the plans (that vary from quality to absolute bullshit, IMO!) that try and make the most extreme challenges look easy.

Lets face it – it isn’t called IronMan because it is easy. Therefore this is where i feel the foundation training plan for the epic swim will have a foundation that I am comfortable with, my plan for Regensburg in 2011.

I have spoken to each of my 2 swim buddies Fi and the Chris “the Shoulders” and we are expecting to complete the swim in approx 13 -15 hours therefore we have decided to base it on the Ironman theory for the following reasons; these are the only training plans that are anywhere near this length of time on the course and more importantly for me – i know this works.
A lot can be said on following training plans, but if you truly believe in a plan the confidence it can give you as you stand at the start is immeasurable.

What has been in place so far? The Loch’s are still too cold to be in any longer than an hour, (Loch Lomond this morning was only 1km in 23 minutes due to decreased temp over the past few days, due to rain and temp drop) therefore the basis of all training up until this month of May as been pool and gym work. Now we are into May the training plan is based on;

May = as many shorter distance swims as possible 1 mile to 2 mile ideally each swim, average of 8 swims per week between pool, sea and Loch’s

June = increase those distances once we remove the ice from the surface of the Loch!! Probably taking individual swims up to the 5-6 mile mark by end of the month

July = increase the distances again further to 8-12 mile swims but break a long swim into shorter 2-3 mile blocks, with break(s) between swims of 10 minutes and nutrition

One of the best pieces of advice i received was “You don’t train to finish an IronMan, you train to be at the start” and this is so true, you need to be in the best shape possible on the day of the event.

I fully believe the planning will be key to whether we are successful in August. We must develop a training plan that meets work / home life balance, but ensures when we walk towards this great Loch early (5am) on that August morning and we truly have the belief that we have done everything we could to take on this challenge.


Swim or Sin?

Sitting like a sardine on the usual chaotic but cheap(ish) Ryanair flight to Barcelona, wondering if I will be able to extend my open water swimming season to a few dips in the Med.
This seems like an exciting option especially after deciding not to get back in Loch Lomond this year due to a number of factors; the darkening mornings, the plummeting temperatures and the one lane rush hour roadworks on the Erskine Bridge. So ideal that I find an opportunity to pack the budgie smugglers and my goggles for a couple of last ditch open water swims in a hopefully warmer climate.
There is always a huge issue though and one that could jeopardise my plans, and it’s nothing to do with the threatening wildlife that may take a nosey at me thrashing about pretending to be a decent swimmer, no it’s much more serious than that;
It’s an issue that was set by my mum before she passed away in February, the bar opens around 11am everyday in the “casita de Vinaros”
Therefore can I refrain from the vino tinto and a wee cerveza por favor or do I just say sod it – August is 10 months away and my core training is on track for now and ensure we toast my mums tradition and remember her every morning with a small refreshment and a clink of glasses

Pushing Limits

The title says it all, this blog is slightly off the norm but I thought I needed to share a 10 minute youtube clip with anyone who is joining me on my swim journey in reading my regular bloggings

I first saw this clip prior to my Ironman adventure and only really saw it as a motivational clip, however it runs much deeper than that. Pushing Limits – not just physical, but more importantly psychological barriers

Please, cut and paste the above link to the browser- turn up the volume (ideally plug in the headphones and shut out the world) now enjoy and hopefully you understand why I NEED to challenge myself – Unknown limits

“The question isn’t why, it’s why not”

i promise that next blog will be more of my more traditional drivel!

Life Goals

I have been writing a regular column in the local Greenock Telegraph for 6 months now. This talks primarily about my thoughts on football related matters and I felt a recent insert was very relevant to how i came to decide on my 24 mile Loch Lomond swim as a key challenge in my life. Therefore please find a slightly “de-footballed” version which were published in the paper on Wednesday 11th Sept 2013


I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to achieve some great successes throughout my life, both inside and outside of football. A few of these have been what I call ‘life goals’. I was lucky enough to achieve my boyhood ambition of playing at Wembley in an FA Cup Final at the age of 21.

But for years thereafter I never had a burning desire to complete any one specific ambition or goal. It was more a desire and a need to be successful, one that is still with me today. A desire to give 100 per cent in everything I do; to make the most of every opportunity. However, I found at the age of 40 that I now had a second life goal that I NEEDED to achieve.

I had developed an insane desire to complete an Ironman [2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run]. After managing to achieve that particular goal, I have to admit that I struggled psychologically with a ‘what next?’ scenario. CT0036_40603

I had developed a need to set new targets. I know that I constantly need to have a new life goal, and when I don’t have one I can be an absolute nightmare to live with.

The Ironman experience gave me so much strength and made me realise that life is too short to sit about waiting for things to happen. You have to make them happen.

To everyone out there, ask yourself is there something that you really want to achieve or experience in life but never seem to get round to it?

I know your football team winning the Scottish Cup would be up there, but I’m really referring to something that is within your own personal control. Would you like to run a 10K? Complete a triathlon? Travel the world? Write a book? Skydive? Learn to fly? Or even mend a broken relationship with a loved one?

Do it! Don’t wait until next week, next month or next year. Make the time and start out on the road today and achieve that one thing which will help fulfil you.

In football, I have experienced a lot of wonderful talent lost to the game because the individuals didn’t have the correct application and attitude. That unbending desire to achieve their life goals. I have lost count of the number of people who approached me over the years sneering that they were a much better player than x, y or z professional footballer. But these guys were often sitting in a pub with a beer belly. The reason they didn’t make it was obvious. They might’ve had all the talent in the world but none of the commitment.

Attitude, commitment and desire to succeed are the biggest attributes anyone can have in life. I have seen so many average players make a fantastic living out of football due to having an at times unhealthy desire and single-minded focus to achieve their dreams.

Ambitions can come in all shapes and sizes – focusing on your ambition is key.

Your ambitions are not out of your reach. Far from it in fact. If you have the correct attitude anything is possible!

You can achieve a life goal; something you have dreamed about doing but never really thought possible. All you have to do is commit to it and make that first step TODAY!

In my case it isn’t so much as a first step but a dive! 11 months and counting!

Blind leading the Blind

Me, John and Kevin

Me, John and Kevin


“Blind leading the blind” – this is actually cruel to the optically challenged

I thought as i began the planning of the Loch Lomond Swim i would review the longest swim of this year
DATE = August 25th VENUE – Luss to Balloch – DISTANCE = Should have been 8 miles
After meeting at 5.40 at the usual car park we left 2 cars and drove to our starting point at Luss Pier.
Kevin, John Big Chris and myself parked the cars and a few of the team armed with wet wipes needed to head into the bushes to do “what bears do in the woods” before heading off in a southerly direction down the Loch.
A cool air temp of 8 degrees was quickly met with a pleasant water temp as we set foot into the Loch.
It was a stunning morning, barely a ripple in the water until we showed up, i wish i could share my photos with you but they are all lodged in my grey matter and i will take some fantastic memories to my grave.
“Does anyone know which way we are going?” at this stage we should have been a little more prepared but everyone relied too much on the other 3 and made a basic error, looking at the map afterwards and with that fantastic but never on time attribute; Hindsight – within the first mile we should have clung right to the shore and followed a pretty direct 8 mile route all the way; However we were taken aback by the beauty of the loch and the scenery we decided inadvertently to visit every island south of Luss, you may think i am kidding, well i’m not.  Inchconnachan, Buchinch, Inchfad, you name them we saw them all.
What i will say though if anyone gets the chance to swim (or boat!) through the enclosed area to the east of Inchconnachan, give it a try; stunning! we had an eerie mist descend on us just prior to heading into the secluded area but we can’t blame this on navigational cock ups as that happened practically as soon as we left the car. sunshine and dense fog, again a stunning memory.
Once we finally discovered Inchmurrin was on our right instead of left we headed towards Duck Bay in the distance and i have to state, i never liked that Fecking place even before i start swimming, now i detest it as i’m sure it moves further away the more we swim, either that or a bugger of an optical illusion.
Anyway we all flapped along passed Duck Bay and Cameron House and onto the sticks and eventually home to the beach at the side of the “Maid of the Loch”, 5 hours after beginning and probably in excess of 10 miles due to detours, John and Chris slightly more majestically and quicker than Kevin and i, but we made it.
Back to a fully tourist packed Luss to collect the cars and we hit the Coach House for soup and monster rolls with ham and a huge gloat and smile all round
This was a cracking day out, the weather was immense and certainly planted the seed for swimming further in 2014.

No turning back – 38.6k

We are now at the end of the Open Water Swimming season and have been blessed with a fantastic late summer. April 2012 was all that last summer really had to offer, this year it took a while for the water temperature to rise or even the ice to break but what we lacked in April and May was more than made up for later in the year.

Many of our early morning family (Loch Lomond Loonies) have been on separate journeys throughout 2013, pushing our boundaries as far as we dare go or even imagine and i will “chauner” on about these in later blogs. My journey was simple, my longest ever swim increased from 3.8k in early 2012 to a fantastic and thoroughly exhausting 15k swim in late August this year with a Luss to Balloch epic.

Loch Lomond is 24 miles, to put that fully in perspective that is 2.2 miles short of the marathon and a total of 38.6k. When i raised concept idea to Big Chris and Fiona (who both swim like fish, i am very much the weakest link) and invited them over for a chat “are you planning on a relay so we share the distance?”  They asked in stereo, I have to admit my answer was pretty sharp and it involved expletives. In my opinion relays are cheating and i told them this in no uncertain terms, all 3 of us are out there to cover every inch of the distance for ourselves, no help, just each of us against the distance.

So hear i am scribbling away, 11 months to go, the date hasn’t been set but we expect it to be one Sunday in August, totally weather dependant. but as i finish of these final ramblings I fully realise that once that [PUBLISH] button is pushed there is no turning back, i will have set my challenge and i don’t quit, I wont give in, I’m too proud, the competitive juices will be flowing. I’m not going to be the quickest, i don’t care about that, it’s a battle with myself, with my mind and my need to punish this old body again.

So here we go, the publish button needs to be pressed and i’m fully committed to the challenge, i hope you enjoy my journey

My Office wall - constant motivation

My Office wall – constant motivation