Wild loch swimming. Four months ago I would have been crying…
I am not a big fan of open water swimming. Many of my friends love it but I just can’t seem to get the bug for it. But still I swim open water every week in Loch Ard because my World Age Group Triathlon Champs is an open water event. I get in, get it done and get out. And mostly I feel a sense of achievement. The best part of the evening is the short social gathering in a nearby pub for a refreshing beer or wine!
There have been occasions on warm, still evenings when I have come close to understanding what my friends so enjoy about loch swimming. There is, I can see, a sense of freedom and a kind of delight in being surrounded by nature, but usually it’s the worry about what “nature” there is hidden in the dark waters that unsettles me! I don’t like the thought of big fish (especially pike!) and while I have never actually seen a fish I have imagined seeing one and that has been enough to scare me into very fast swimming.
I have almost got over my fears of bare feet on the floor of the loch (when getting in and out) but I hate being able to see the bottom when I am swimming. I fear lurking loch creatures. I know that there is very little chance of a loch creature hanging about to encounter me, let alone attacking me, but these thoughts are always in my mind when I swim in the loch. Ridiculous I know.
Wild waters on Loch Ard
With only a couple of open water sessions to go (endure?!) before the Champs on September 13 I was persuaded to venture out in choppy conditions yesterday. Normally I’d not bother and would head to an indoor pool instead. But Coach Vicky said I can never know how windy the actual race day will be so I shouldn’t be such a wimp. She didn’t actually call me a wimp when I asked if I should swim in the loch given the wind and rain that evening – but I knew what she was thinking!
I have never swam in waves in a loch. They were big enough to see me accidentally gulping down (seemingly) pints of water. I had to stop several times because of water in all my airways. I felt tossed about and nauseous. I tired quickly too because the choppy waters made my crappy technique even more crappy. And on the way back, swimming into the waves, I almost became hysterical.
And it’s this “almost” that is the breakthrough for me. Several months ago I would have definitely been hysterical. I would have felt out of my depth (literally and metaphorically) and close to tears and a tantrum. But thanks to weekly sessions I have become stronger and more familiar with unpredictable open water conditions. I just tried to stay focused, to listen to Vicky’s advice when swimming in choppy conditions and to make it to the shore without crying.
I still don’t like open water swimming but I know that I have done the right thing by putting myself through weekly loch swims. I can’t imagine the Serpentine in Hyde Park, mid-London, will serve up conditions like last night but if it does I will be able to get in there and get on with the swim. It might even be an advantage!
Loch swimming in Scotland certainly offers great training for all eventualities in a race!