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

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.

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(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

Medals

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

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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!

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.

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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!