Mission Accomplished

Nearly 24 hours ago my alarm went off, and i find myself back at the computer typing a brief report. I will write a further report in more detail over the coming days, but tout i would post that at 21.40 on the 27th July 2014, Chris McGrenary and myself pulled ourself out of the loch in front of friends and family after swimming approx 24 miles, the full length of Loch Lomond.

Why am i awake at 3.30 am writing this?

a- my body thermostat is all over the place i can’t find the norm again after this length of time in the water

b- i needed a middle of the night feast!!

I’ll be posting images and a full report soon, but thanks for taking the interest in my journey

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Here we go!!!!

At 10.16 this morning i received the text i have been waiting for. The Captain of the boat and fountain of knowledge on the loch Dave Stark stated via text “Just checked and as discussed with James (Merman and world record holder) tomorrow is on starting from Balloch at 5am”

The weather isn’t perfect but its good enough to make an attempt, knowing if the moody Lady of the Loch doesn’t want us to finish tomorrow we still have a number of weeks to look her in the eye and take her on again.

The car is now packed as you can see from the images, everything bar my peanut butter sandwiches, my buttered Soreen, my High 5 protein drinks and the kitchen sink are ready to roll

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So the alarm is now set for 3.50am tomorrow for an epic adventure – How do i feel? its a totally different feeling to what i experienced with the Ironman, that was the unknown, i feel i know what this will take, the physical element is going to be a challenge and psychological i feel i went into the worst place ever during my Ironman and came through stronger, if i need to deal with these demons again i know what they will be saying and feel i am stronger now to cope with them even more.

My next post will hopefully be a 24 mile report!

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

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

Midge and Pike!!

Another weekend and another long swim, yesterday saw us leaving Luss at 5.20am and setting off on the Balloch route as featured in the next image. It was a stunning morning that gave us another glimpse of the beauty of this part of the world.

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I thought today i would speak about the more negative side of OW swimming as everyone who reads my blogs must think that all i every do is promote my wonderful relationship with the Lady of the Loch. Don’t get me wrong i still believe that the positives totally out weight the negatives but i also prefer to give the other side of the coin with a few of the dangers and annoyances.

Fecking Midges!!! – You arrive at the Loch at 5am on the morning and the second you exhale one breathe as you head to the boot of the car for your wetsuit the midges are attacking you, i even think they have the ability to bite while we are swimming as i only ever get bites on my feet, hands, neck and face. Here’s a picture of my foot from last week, apologies that my pedicure was booked in prior to the photo

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“Surely you must be scared of the fish” – I’m not a specialist on fish, i love to eat them and i have to say in my 4 years of OW swimming i have only ever seen one and i swam into it, it was dead, and yes i needed to empty out the rear of my wetsuit! The only times i have ever heard about these Pikes biting anyone are the fishermen, and i believe i would do the same ALA Saurez if someone had just lanced my cheek with a one way spike. When you see what these Pikes look like they are an ugly creature with huge teeth, the fishermen are always asking us if we want to see the photo of the “one they caught in there last week” i decline graciously – ignorance is bliss

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The Cold – The temperature in the Loch’s varies depending on a few factors, predominantly (and all you geography experts out there please this isn’t a lesson!) depth of the Loch, recent rainfall, winds, currents and the time of the year. We went for a dip on Boxing day and the water temp was in the region of 3-4 degrees, during this weekend the temp was approx 17 degrees which i am hoping will be the temperature for the big swim, anything below 15, for the length of time we will be in the water may be an issue. 

Other water users – For many years us OW swimmers i believe have been quite ignorant about our use in the water and ultimately our own safety. Just because we wear brightly coloured hats doesn’t mean we are instantly visible. Lately we have all been buying these brightly coloured Buoy’s which you pull along behind you and are the size of a beach ball, many Loch users have been complimenting us on these inventions as they state they see us from further away. The only real danger now is the rowers, which i have mentioned previously who haven’t got the foggiest whats behind them.

Please don’t let the above put you off, the slight issues are far outweighed by the stunning scenery, here’s a short video (1 min 36 secs)  taken last weekend of the over riding positive of OW swimming in Loch Lomond

 

The good, the bad and the Algae

We are now in the middle of what we must call summer, Scotland doesn’t often get the sunshine for any more than a nanosecond but we have been baked in glorious sunshine for the past 10 days and this can have a huge positives for us Open Water Swimmers but also many issues.

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As you can see from the image above the wet suit is still on but once i had banked the 4 miles training swim we ditched the suits and i have to say it was the warmest i have ever felt Loch Lomond for a suites swim, it was the equivalent of the swimming pool on holiday, chilly at first but once swimming for enjoyable.

With the sunshine also brings the negatives, we were swimming in Castle Semple Loch earlier in the week, this is the shallow loch that we used at the start of the year which is a very shallow Loch and holds the temperature well. We went for a swim on tuesday night and the Loch’s water quality had changed, it was like soup, i hadn’t witnessed the Blue Green Algae bloom previously but you just knew it was present. Rightly so, the local parks authority issued the warning the following day.

I mentioned last week that there are dangers and we met a few then with Jet skies, speed boats and even Water Planes. Yesterday we met what i consider to be the biggest danger- the rowers. All other water users no matter how fast they are travelling are facing towards you and we make ourselves as noticeable as possible, rowers are oblivious to what is going on behind and in Loch Lomond there isn’t any rowing lanes so we need to mind read.

I’m always courteous to them all and try to engage in a chat, coaches and younger rowers seem pleasant but we met an older couple on Saturday who were far too superior in their rowing boats, when i asked the question what part of the Loch will they be rowing in so we can stay out of their way the answer was firm “Don’t know”

I need to thank my swimming partner this weekend, Robert Heron, without him i would have been on my own and for safety reasons wouldn’t have managed to get a decent swim in. He’s another fish, we headed out to the green and red buoys without the wetsuits on the way back in he breaks into 50M of Butterfly and flies past my plod of a front crawl. Previously i would have been very annoyed that he was able to pass me so easily, now i just have to watch and admire!

So here i am sat at the computer tapping away with 6 weeks to go until the planned big day. How do i feel? I actually feel good, I am aware that we have only done a few larger swims at 4, 5 and 8 miles but we have certainly trained the strength into our shoulders.

Onwards an upwards!

Luss to Balloch Swim -Sunday 15th June 2014

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“Do you fancy giving the Luss to Balloch swim a try on Sunday big man?” were the words that came out of my mouth as i spoke to Big Chris on the phone, he didn’t answer but i could sense the smile rowing across his face.

Last year as i have written in one of my first blogs (Blind leading the Blind) we attempted the Luss to Balloch swim, we were successful but for some reason we went the wrong way and had a slight detour the wrong side of the island of Inchmurrin, it was agreed that Chris and i would meet at Balloch Car Park at 5.40am and leave a car there before taking the other one up to Luss.

We arrived at Luss to a peaceful, calm but damp morning, we were on our own apart from the midgies who came out in their millions to send us off, I am a magnet for midges and at this moment i am covered in bites form this 10 minutes exposed.

Wet suits on, my orange Buoy filled with food and into the water we went, not before the mandatory selfies featured above with Luss pier on the background.

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The swim was broken down into 3 legs, Luss to Loch Lomond Golf Course (3 mile), LLGC over to the point at Inchmurrin (2 mile) and then all the way home (3 mile)

The first leg was like being the first person of the day to enter the swimming pool, the water was so calm, the shelter that is given by the Islands around Luss (please note that the Mapmyrun image above doesn’t show these islands, but if you check on googlemaps you will see a number of smaller islands around this area) is brilliant for swimming, the first 3 miles were so peaceful, not having to worry about balancing against any waves, just relaxing into autopilot to ease through the water. The Big Man and I got into our usual mode of approx 3kph, just under the pace of 2mph and glided through the calm waters taking in the scenery, a truly stunning part of the world.

Once we reached the Golf Course when met with the Loch as we more regularly experience her, the geography of the Loch changes, no more shelter from the islands, the Loch open up as we spot out next target point – the most southerly tip of Inchmurrin. Once the Loch opens up you can always expect choppier waters and the Lady of the Loch obliged. This chop wasn’t as bad as the week before but the angle of these waves was a challenge. I find it easier swimming directly into the waves, however these were side on and when you get side on waves its the equivalent of a decent core session at the gym as you fight to stay balanced in your stroke.

Once we reached the point at Inchurrin, we took the pre planned break 5 miles into the swim. Within the highly visible orange Buoy that i volunteered Big Chris to pull today we fuelled up with energy bars and flat coke. I was noticeably shivering and we probably cut short this view point to get moving again before my chill became any worse. Looking back the coldest part of the swim that day was the preceding leg over to this point, and i also feel as though i learnt that we should have had another gel before we commenced that leg.

Into the final 3 miles to Balloch and we both felt brilliant at this stage, this stretch of water is usually notorious for the chop as you need to fight the waves for the first 1.5 mile to more sheltered waters however not only did we find calm waters we also found much warmer waters. This is difficult to explain and maybe someone scan explain it to me but across the whole swim we must have experience changes of 2-3 degrees, if not more.

Increases in temperatures for a short period of time can often be alarming especially when you are following someone!!!

Half way home and we started to notice more traffic on the Loch and this is the main concern for safety. Luckily enough the big man and me are OK at spotting these potential issues and some of them are a pleasure. What a pleasure it is to say that were were swimming in Loch Lomond when the sea plane took off (then landed 30 minutes later) right next to us giving us a perspective not may people are able to enjoy.

A bit further down the Loch and busier still, we notice a speedboat and a jet ski heading straight for us, this is where we know that the orange buoy that we drag along works well, however these two were having a race in the distance. We stopped and started waving the orange Buoy in the air and they noticed us just in time and came for a chat.

So we made it home to the Car Park at Balloch, cheshire cat grins all over our faces, 7.79 miles and 4.5 hours in the bag, we glided up to the car where there was a couple who Chris knew and they asked “Where did you swim to? Loch Lomond?” we had great pleasure in telling them