The day after the great Scottish Swim, a group of four fanatics from Wild West Swimmers, organised a training swim for the Big Un swim. What is the Big un swim? Well that is a 10 mile (16km) swim from one end of Loch Rannoch to the other, to be held in mid-September.
The training swim was to start at Aldochlay and finish at Balloch, down the western shore of Loch Lomond, a distance of around 11km. I was feeling a bit tired after my efforts at the GSS, but showed up at the rendezvous point at 8am to get changed, and leave my clothes in a car, and take George and Col to the start point. I would then leave my car there, along with the kayak car, and after the swim, George would drive us back.
Our intrepid kayaker was feeling a tad dusty after working late attending a rugby international in Edinburgh with clients. Though during the swim he did start to recover, and he mostly drifted along with us.
We entered the water at Aldochlay, and I had decided to wear my boots to keep my toes warm. Even though the water was 15c or so, the day was much better than the day before, with much more sun on our faces, and a gentle breeze. We headed around the point at Aldochlay, swam past Wee Peter Statue, down the channel. This was the opposite direction to the one we had taken on our five islands swim.
It was clear that our party of four would split into two groups: George and Col were much faster, so they swam ahead and waited at the agreed meeting point, while Jess and I tried to keep within sighting distance of them. The first mile was tough, as my body adjusted to the requirement to swim again, just under 18 hours after my last race.
It was grand to swim past the bay where I had swum at dawn on the summer solstice, and to see it from a different perspective. Then it was along the shore of a golf course for a while, and I even managed to collect a couple of golf balls that some hackers had hit into the loch (they must play as well as me).
We stopped for some food and drink and listened to the whack of golf balls at another golf course, so I threw the balls onto the fairway. By this time we had swum through a squall, meaning we lost sight of Ben Lomond for a while. But just as quickly as it appeared, the rain passed, and the sun shone down on us, just to remind us that this was still summer, even if it was Scotland.
We swam around a point and there in front of us in the distance was our destination, with Duck Bay, Maid of the Loch, and Lomond Shores all clearly visible, yet still quite a distance away.
We approached Burnfoot ferry where we started the Pier to Pub Swim, and it did look different from the water. Then it was onto Duck Bay for our last feed stop, and those jelly babies tasted divine washed down with water. This was familiar territory again, as I had swum to Duck Bay from Balloch several times with the WWS; not long now. I was getting tired, but only had around 1.5 km to go, and I knew I would make it.
Past Cameron House we swum, past the leaning marker, waited for some float planes to come and go, and then onto the Marina where we waited at the end of the pier (well everyone waited for me). Now we only had a couple of hundred metres to go, and Jess called for a sprint finish. Now I did not want to be beaten by a pom and a couple of Scotsman, so I did try to sprint, but all I was doing was creating a big splash and scaring the swans and ducks. So I let my imperial masters claim the glory over the mere colonial boy. It was a huge relief to stand up on the sand, and take the wet suit off the shoulders and back and dunk down in the water to cool down. We had done it, 11km in just on 4 hours: the longest swim of my life. I felt quite chuffed.
Now I have had some feedback that my swimming distances to date have not been commensurate with some of my previous swims in Australia (for example a 5km race from Coogee to Bondi in Sydney, or the three times I have swum the 3.8km Cross the Lake Swim at Belmont in Newcastle Australia). I hope those commentators are satisfied with this swim, and I challenge them to report on their recent attainments. The month of August has also resulted in me setting a new high for the monthly distance swum.
This is what open water swimming is all about. A beautiful swim in a stunning location with great company, and a huge sense of achievement. And we could not have done it without our guide in the kayak, who must have been regretting his choice of career that morning.