As a blogger and a VisitScotland Ambassador I am very fortunate to be involved in some rather cool events and get to visit some really spectacular places but this event could have taken a rather different turn if I hadn’t noticed something strange. I won’t lie to you, I had a bit of a shock recently regarding blogging for the Great Scottish Swim event held at Loch Lomond last weekend. It seems I had inadvertently signed myself up for actually doing an open water swim!
The penny dropped when emails reading “just let us know which length you would like to swim,” came through. Of course I read it, and re-read it. Yup I had signed myself up to the event rather than photographing and blogging about it. *Insert swear words*
In short, I didn’t swim. There are no photos of me looking like a seal nor did I have to nearly drown all for the love of my blog. In all seriousness I have some health reasons for not being able to take part (and the fact that it slightly freaks me out). I did however, travel across to the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond last Saturday morning and here’s what went down:
The day was split up into different length of swims varying from half a mile to 10k and it all kicked of just after 8am when most folk were still in bed and the mist lay low on the loch.
Each “wave” of swimmers could take a few minutes to acclimatise in the shallow water by doing a few lengths of the start line and then returned to dry land to do a group warm up. The start of each distance category started with the same ritual, including some talk of having a wee in your wet suit! It had been mentioned that the loch water was a balmy 16° and someone had described it as a very “Scottish 16°“.
Sadly the view of the course is rather limited and it was fairly impossible to keep track on watching a loved one who was in the water anyway, what with everyone wearing the same coloured swim cap and a mostly black wet suit.
For those with a longer wait you could take advantage of the swim village and all its stalls or take the short walk over to Lomond Shores with all it’s shops and places to eat. Then back to the finish line to cheer everyone on.
What I love about sport is that people of all shapes, sizes and ages can get involved, and this was true for this event too. Of course there were the square shouldered, muscular swimmer types. There were teenagers, there were first timers in their 40’s and then there was Naomi, an 81 year old lady who completed her 2mile swim. What a legend!
There were people with heart warming stories of recovering from illnesses such as cancer or doing it to raise money in memory of a lost loved one. The motivation is incredible. Of course there are people who do it for fun and to keep fit but I did speak to one lady who did say swimming helped her lose three stone in weight and gave her the confidence to be out in public in a wet suit. And lets be honest that takes balls because there is absolutely nowhere to hide all your lumps and bumps in one of those things! I take my hat off to her.
A different lady that I got talking with has been enjoying Scotland’s open water opportunities for many years and loves the companionship she gets from being part of a club along with seeing the lochs from a special viewpoint.
The finish line was full of elation, relief, smiles and tears and it was lovely to witness some great support for the athletes and the event. There was also a rather cute and unofficial entry by a random dog who appeared from nowhere and joined swimmers coming down the finishing straight, taking some people by surprise!
In true Scottish weather style the day was a mixed bag – the dramatic mist I mentioned at the start of this post, the short but heavy rain shower and then glorious sunshine and blue sky. A standard day out in Scotland.
I am pleased I had the opportunity to attend this event and see it first hand but I don’t think I will be signing up to do it anytime soon. The Great Scottish Swim event was a top day out, heartwarming and inspiring. If you would like to share your open water swimming experiences or tales from the event then please join me over on the VisitScotland iKnow Community.
**I must point out that ALL participants were wearing a wetsuit and were competent swimmers. There were safety marshals all around the course too. If open water swimming is something you think you would like to try please don’t try it alone the shock of the water temperature can cause cramps and can lead into difficulties. Get yourself to a local club or with someone who has experience. Lecture over**