Mark Cohen, of Glasgow, was one of 80 brave swimmers who took a dip in Loch Lomond on Saturday as part of Scotland’s first Ice Swimming championships. Mark swam in the 500m event after missing out on a place to swim in the 1000m race. “The event was full by the time I tried to enter it,” Mark said.
The water was choppy and only 4.2C, while the air temperature was a chilly 3C. Mark had been suffering with a cold for three days before the event and he only decided ti swim on the morning of the race. At that point he was glad he was only doing the 500m rather than the 1k.
He said: “As my heat started, I was incredibly nonchalant. I think this is because I swim further than 500m every week in pretty much the same location and I relish big waves. So I thought I would be fine.
“I had 7 minutes 30 seconds to do the first 250m lap in or I wouldn’t be allowed to start the second lap. The marshalls were strict about the speed people were swimming at. It sounds like loads of time, and in a pool at 25C it would be, but on a choppy loch at 4C you’re never sure.
“I attacked the water on the way out to the first buoy. Breathing was sometimes every second stroke, sometimes every fourth stroke, sometimes at the top of a wave, sometimes at the bottom of a wave. You kind of adapt your swimming to the water while at the same time trying to maintain the technique your coaches have tried to instil into your head.”
Mark, who trains with Glasgow Triathlon Club, finished the first lap and the safety divers allowed him to carry on to the second lap.
Mark said: “The last section was parallel to the shore so the incoming swell was awesome for swimming in. It was definitely a bit washing machine effect.”
He was delighted to finish in 14:35.He said: “I felt good and strong and I could have carried on for another 500m but I was equally delighted to get out as it’s much easier to warm up after 15 minutes in the water than after half an hour.
“There was a steam room and heated tent, but I just waltzed back inside and changed into warm clothes as fast as I could. You get to know your own body and how it likes to warm up. I need a third of a cup of hot tea, any more and I shake so much it just dribbles all over me.
“I could feel the blood returning to the surface of my body and I had a wonderful tingling sensation. Eventually I got the feeling back in my hands and feet. Then I was buzzing for the rest of the day.”
After the 1000m and 500m swims, the event hosted the shorter 100m and 50m races, as well as a few comedy relays, followed by a dinner and a ceilidh. “Everyone had a ball,” said Mark.