I heard of the sport of “Swimrunning” from a friend last year. It’s a growing sport that comprises of multiple swims and runs in succession, pioneered by the Scandinavians, and involves being completely “amphibian” – with 20+ transitions per race there is no time to change, so you need to swim in your trainers and run in your wetsuit. It needs to be done as a pair. Something about the wild swimming, long runs, scenic locations, teamwork and novelty of these events appealed to me immensely. When I heard about Loch Gu Loch, a Scottish Swimrun comprising of a total of 8k swimming and 47k of running, I (half-joking) suggested to my partner Mark that we enter, and was rather horrified when he said yes.
I am a very reluctant swimmer and had about 6 months to prepare myself for swimming further than I have ever done before. I knew I would need help to improve my swimming – having never had any real swimming lessons before, and having taught myself frontcrawl as an adult, I had a lot of work to do. I couldn’t even bilaterally breathe!
I contacted Mike about organising some swimming sessions. I am actually fairly fearful of the ‘open water’. I know Mike as both a Coach from my Tri Club and friend who has helped pace me through some long runs in the past, and knew that if there was anyone who could help improve both my technique and confidence, Coach Mike would be it.
We had some focused sessions in the pool where we identified key issues I needed to work on to improve my stroke. We mastered bilateral breathing in one session and Mike gave me recommendations on what to focus on in my own time. I was fearful of letting down Mark, who is a much better swimmer than I (not hard), so I went to the pool in my own time and practised and practised. We also managed to get into the sea about once a week, and practised working as a team, swimming alongside each other, and getting used to different pieces of kit.
The day of the race finally came round. The event started with a 5am ferry ride from Fort Augustus up Loch Ness to Urquart Castle, where the start was. I was very nervous about the 2 kilometre 10 degrees swim across the Loch that was at the start - but somehow, after we got going, I managed to relax and even enjoy some of the swimming once I got into it. It was very peaceful and much more pleasant than swimming in the salty sea. We got out at the other end of that swim in 39 minutes - 39 minutes across Loch Ness! I still can’t quite believe it.
I already knew once we were out of that first swim we would be able to finish. The rest of the event was tough and beautiful in equal measure, and we finished in a decent time of 10hours and 3 minutes. And Mike, I’m already thinking about how I can knock off those 3 minutes for next year…!