After the first leg of our swim down Loch Lomond from Ardlui to Tarbet, we returned the following weekend for leg two. This leg would start at Tarbet Pier (where we finished leg one), and finish at Luss, a distance of around 13km. We arranged to meet at Luss with one kayaker and five swimmers being the van man, the rose, the actor, the slow one and myself. The weather forecast was not great so the actor and the rose left their cars at Inverbeg which was at around the half-way mark, just in case. They were both carrying injuries, so this was a sensible decision.
As we left Luss, I was feeling a lot stronger than I had before the first leg. I had tweaked my swimming schedule and had not done as many dawn swims during the week, which I had hoped would have left me with more energy. The dawn swims at Balloch are magic, but with crawling out of bed at 430 in the morning, hitting the water at 545, swimming for an hour, and going straight to the office, the energy levels by mid afternoon are very low. So I reluctantly left them off the schedule.
However, I did do a fantastic swim around Inchtavannach one of the islands in Loch Lomond one evening with my swimming buddies from Wild West Swimmers. It was an evening swim with light rain falling and no wind. At the back of the island there is a narrow channel to the wallaby island that is quite surreal as it is quite easy to forget you are in Scotland.
As we set off from Tarbet there was hardly a breath of wind, and the low clouds were hugging the hills and Munro from view. We shortly passed Firkin Point which is the deepest part of the loch at over 220 metres, which I am told is even deeper than the North Sea. I did look down at that point and trusted that none of us would drop anything.
As we swam south down the loch the five of us kept close together guided by our trusted kayaker. I felt much better I had last week, and was enjoying every part of the swim, and once again the scenery was stunning. Up in this northern part of Loch Lomond, the loch narrows with the hills squeezing the water between them. It is so different to the flatter southern portion.
Before long I could feel the forecast southerly wind starting to increase in strength. We kept to the western shore to try to protect us as much as we could, but we had to swim around a point to cross a wide bay before Inverbeg. It was here that we faced our first obstacles: the twin menaces of jet-skis and head wind. As the wind picked up, so did the chop, and while I do not mind this too much, some of the rest of the group were starting to struggle. So we took a slightly longer route in a diagonal direction towards shore to try to find some protection from the chop. This worked, and it also took us away from the buzzing skis and let us swim in smoother water.
At our feed stop the actor advised that he would go to us car as he did not fancy the idea of swimming the next 7km into bigger chop. He had been battling an injury, and we all agreed with his decision to focus on his goal swims later in the season. The rose was also thinking about aborting as the call of her car was quite strong as well. I must admit it was tempting to join her, as I knew this next section would not be easy. It was agreed that we would poke our heads around the point and that she would make a decision when the waves and wind hit.
Around the point we went, and instantly we were going straight into the wind and waves. The rose yelled good-bye to the three of us, and swam to her car. Up until now the van man and the slow one had been much faster than me. But now that we hit the chop I found that they were no longer pulling away from me. All me years of swimming in the ocean around Sydney paid off as the chop grew higher with the increasing wind. It was a case of putting your wind down and just focusing on each and every stroke as the waves hit you in the head. I tried not to look at the shore too much as it felt like I was making hardly any progress.
I knew that the finishing point was at the base of a hill line we were following. So I looked at the trees, and the sky, and over my shoulder Ben Lomond as it smiled at my futile attempt to swim into this wind. On an on I went as my mind just concentrated on my technique: catch, pull recover, repeat each arm, and kick for a change. Yes I was forced to kick to help with my balance in the chop. Normally when I swim these types of swim, I do not kick much, and only do it to relieve cramp, to circulate blood in my lower leg, or to assist with balance if there is chop.
This stretch of the swim which was around 5km was quite open as it is here that the loch broadens and the hills fall away. I did enjoy the challenge of keeping momentum, but I was tiring. I signaled to George our trusty kayaker that I needed a break on the shore to get one last feed. I swam past some open-mouthed campers who must have wondered what was going on. The other two had pulled away from by now, but I managed to have some gels and sugar sweets and a drink, and sat in the sun for a short while. I knew from the landmarks that I did not have far to go, as we often swim at Luss and is the location for our swim on New Year’s Day.
So back into the water, hugging the shore. Along the camping ground, around into Luss, past the hotel, and onto the beach. I felt great, I had done it, and I even managed to finish the swim with 30 metres of tired butterfly. The other two were only a couple of minutes ahead of me, and we were all smiles as we congratulated each other. It was a tough swim, but we had done it: a distance of 13.7km in 4 hours and 35 minutes of swimming, and just over five hours since starting at Tarbet. Five of us had started, and three of us finished. Of the seven who started leg one from Ardlui to Tarbet, only two of us had made it to Luss. In two legs the van man and I had swum just over 26 km in just over seven hours, with our favourite kayaker George never far away.
None of us could have done this swim without George. He was there to give us food and drink, to advise us on a better route to avoid trouble, and to make us smile with his wonderful turn of phrase. He also provided the photos for this entry. It was a team effort, and congratulations to all who played a part.
For me I knew that I had swum the length of Loch Lomond in three long legs and a wee small one over two summers. My next challenge is to try to do the 35km in one swim….another swim on the bucket list that does not seem to get any shorter.