The middle of August 2017, and time for the annual Pier to Pub swim. This is one of my favourite swim races, and I was lucky to be doing it for the third year in a row. The race starts at Arden Pier on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, and finishes 2.3km away at the hotel on Inchmurrin, (the largest island in the Loch, and the largest fresh water island in the UK). In 2016 I had swum the race in skins, but this year I decided to revert to the wetsuit due to the conditions,, with a freshening headwind forecast for our swim east in the late afternoon.
I was joined this year by Vince, who was aiming to win the non-wetsuit or skins category; and George our erstwhile kayaker and sometime swimmer who was making his debut in the race. Both of them had been part of the swimming adventure in Milos Greece in 2016. Also joining us was Emma our channel swimmer in training, both Davids the men who was only happy when the water was cold, and several other Wild West Swimmers. I also saw several swimmers from the weekday swim group that I often joined for dawn service on Loch Lomond.
This race is magnificently organised by the owners of the hotel on Inchmurrin, and is a fund-raiser for local charities. The briefing at the start was short and to the point: start here, go to the right of the moored boats, then aim for the cruiser stationed half-way across. Then keep Inchmurrin on your left, the mainland on your right, and exit between the first and second jetty in front of the hotel.
This year, I was doing the swim for a bit of fun, and would be happy just to make it across. I had not swum as much this summer as I had in 2016, and as not in as good a shape as I would have liked. Regardless, this race is always fun.
I started on the left hand side of the start line, mainly to keep away from the rest of the 60 or so swimmers in the race. I noticed that the wind was starting to pick up even as we had waited for the start. Away we went, and I was quickly passing other swimmers, and went out past the moored yachts. I noticed Vince steaming past me, as I recognised his distinctive windmill stroke, and his bare arms. I let him go, as I did not think I would keep up.
After around 500m I noticed that Vince was taking a good line and was no more than about 30m in front of me, with another swimmers in-between. I thought I would try to catch him, as the wind had definitely picked up, creating a small chop hitting us head on. These conditions tend to suit me, perhaps because of my experience of swimming in waves and chop in Australia. Within another 500m there were two of us jostling to get on Vince’s feet to get that small amount of drag.
Past the cruiser at the half-way point we went, with the three of us battling the increasing chop from the rising wind. It was tough to get a consistent pattern going, with a battle for every stroke to try to keep balanced. These conditions were getting tougher, but still we swam on, and still we swam no more than 5 metres apart.
We approached the island, and I sensed this year’s swim was taking longer than the previous year. The chop racing through the channel had pushed us too far north, and we battled to keep out of the shallow water along Inchmurrin. Suddenly I noticed another swimmer join our pack, and he looked fresher than us. I decided to use an old trick as we approached a shoal of rocks, and managed to force this anonymous person to ground onto a shallow bank as I kept going in slightly deeper water Was this fair? For an event like this probably not, but George and I joked about it over a beer in the hotel (yes it was George I forced to run aground).
Finally we got neared the finishing line, and Vince had put on his infamous burst to get away, and he was just ahead of me. With the support of the cheer squad on the jetty, I tried to catch him, but as you can see from one of the photos, he beat me by about a metre or so. Great swim for a determined swimmer in skins up against other wetsuit swimmers. George had recovered from his premature beaching, and was just behind us.
My time for this 2300m was a slow 49 minutes, in a wetsuit. I had swum the same distance in 2015 in a wetsuit in 37 minutes, and in 2016 in 41 minutes without the wetsuit. The difference was the tougher conditions, swimming into a strong wind and chop.
Once again a great meal was provided to the swimmers in the hotel. Vince did win the non-wetsuit category, George won a raffle prize, and I managed another top ten finish overall. I also won a prize, a signed book by Adam Walker about his efforts to become the first British swimmer to swim the Oceans Seven (the English Channel, The North Channel, Catalina Channel, Straits of Gibraltar, the Molokai Channel, Cook Strait, and Tsugaru Strait). Was this a sign from the universe of what I should aim for into the future? I contemplated this on the ferry ride back to the mainland.
Once again another fantastic swim. I hope to be back in 2018 for four years in a row. A big thanks to Kim for some of these photos too.
My first summer race of 2017 was the Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club (RWSABC) Cross Clyde Swim from Kilcreggan to Greenock. This swim is in the lower reaches of the Clyde River as it flows through the Firth of Clyde out to the Irish Sea. It is an annual swim that is only held when conditions are favourable. I had the pleasure of swimming in the RWSABC 150th Anniversary swim last season, so I looked forward to this 3 km race.
There was the option of swimming in skins (no wetsuit) for this event, but even though I had done plenty of skins swimming, I decided to wear the wetsuit. The main reasons were the chance of encountering the dreaded lions mane jellyfish, plus the lack of recent training.
Joe the organiser of this event wanted us there in plenty of time to get the briefing underway, take the photos, and then to transport us across to the start line. Kilcreggan is on the north shore of the river, and is part of Argyll, while Greenock the finishing point is on the southern shore. It also gave time for the kayakers to paddle across to the start point. The ride across in the rib was fun, though I did notice there was a bit of chop out in the middle. Luckily the wind was going to be behind us, and with an incoming tide as well, the times should be fast. I was confident that Vince and Jade from WWS would do quite well, and I was just hoping to keep up my 100% finishing record.
As we stood on the shore at Kilcreggan out of the wind, with the sun beating down, we looked into the distance to try to get our bearings of where to swim to. I had not swum on this side of the Clyde before, and it took a little time to work out which hill and buildings would be good sighting points. Finally as the twenty-nine swimmers gathered, we were given our final instructions.
My tactics for the race were simple: finish and not to worry about racing anyone else. The start was quite sheltered and the fast swimmers were soon out of sight. I noticed that I was in the middle of the course with kayakers visible on both sides of me as I alternated my breathing. I could see a yellow channel marker in the distance, and thought that was a good place to aim for. I could see that I was keeping other swimmers in my eye-line on either side, which reassured me that I was heading in the right general direction. I remembered that part of the briefing where we were advised not to go too far left as it would be more difficult to swim against the tide at the finish.
I sighted my first big jellyfish, but luckily it was around 3 metres underneath me in the water. Then I saw another, but once again it as well underneath me. It was time to relax and enjoy the strange beauty of these creatures. The further we went in the swim, the stronger the following wind became, and its interaction with the tide resulted in some decent chop to contend with. I swam into some kelp, and my imagination immediately thought I had run into a rogue jellyfish. However, no stings, so just some debris on the water.
I was starting to get a bit tired at the 2.5km mark and could feel my energy levels dropping. By this time the finish line was in sight, and I was very happy with my navigation skills as it was straight ahead. I was catching a swimmer ahead of me, and I then decided to try to catch them. As we edged closer to the finish line we got closer and closer to each other, until I passed them in the last 50m or so.
I finished the race, and felt elated that I had made it. The conditions had not been easy with the following chop causing my body position to shift in every stroke. I was ninth overall in a fast time of 48 minutes for the 3km distance. Vince had come second, Jade was first female and first in skins. Other members of the WWS acquitted themselves very well too.
The presentation was fun, with prizes to each and every skins swimmer for braving the cool 14c water. Another well organised swim, and a real sense of achievement to have swum across the Clyde. Well done to Kristy who realised her dream of doing this swim after living in Kilcreggan for many years.
My first summer race of the 2017 season completed with not enough training.
This blog is about my swimming adventures around the world. However, bear with me while I diverge somewhat as there is a link. If I had not moved to the UK to further my swimming travels, I would not have had the opportunity to attend a garden party. The Australian High Commission in London had been granted passes for loyal Australian subjects of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second to attend a Garden Party at either Buckingham Palace in London, or at The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. As we lived in Glasgow, only 80 km or so from Edinburgh, it made sense to apply for a place there, rather than in London.
We also thought that having a garden party on 4 July (a sense of irony perhaps) in Edinburgh would mean a lovely summer’s day. It was with a sense of delight that I was told that our application to attend was successful. Wow, an opportunity to see the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in person.
The day of the event arrived, and I did not wear my kilt, unlike a large number of gentlemen who did (and they mostly looked very elegant as well). Unfortunately, the vagaries of the Scottish summer came to pass, with a cold wet day forecast, with a top temperature of 13c. We were going outdoors to have some tea and cake, and did not want to shiver and be miserable. I had lived in Scotland for a few years now, but can now share their disappointment of their disheartening summers and pale complexions.
We made it to the Palace quite dry, as the heavy rain of the morning had stopped, leaving its presence felt with the cooling breeze and leaden sky. Just before this event it was announced that the Prince Philip would retire from public life over the summer, and that this event would be one of his last. We did manage to get within 2 metres of the 96-year-old Duke, and could only admire the way he could still converse and walk unaided around the crowds.
We did enjoy the afternoon, despite the cold conditions. We felt honoured to have the opportunity to attend such an event, and recognised that sometimes it was good to be an Australian living in Scotland. You can certainly see that the Royal Family knows how to stage an event. Will I get to go again I wonder?
In May we headed to Corfu, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea for a well deserved break in the sun. Before I moved to Scotland I took the sun for granted, knowing it would shine in my native land down under more often than not. I would hide from it in the long summer from October to March, only venturing outdoors when it was absolutely necessary to compete or commute. After all the sun is a killer.
Now that I stay in Scotland, the land of mist and grey with a gentle sun that nurtures the body, to be sure of a sun filled holiday, a trip abroad is required. So a short three-hour flight to Corfu, the island made famous by the Durrell family, and as the birthplace of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. It is also recognised as one of the greenest of the Greek islands.
The place we stayed was on the east coast of the island and had a large swimming area. Each morning I would get up at dawn and go for a swim in the cool waters, often with only the sea birds and fish accompanying me. The dawns were magic as the sun rose over the mainland, with smooth conditions that were too hard to resist. I would often go for a swim in the late morning, and in the late afternoon as well, exploring the local environs. I was more often than not the only person swimming any distance at this time of year, as the water was considered to be too cold at around 18c. A few years ago I would have agreed, but not now that I swim in the cool waters of the Scottish lochs.
I did try to swim in the pools in the complex, as they were a decent size, and very clean. There was only one problem: they were too warm for me. They were also heavily used by other guests who did not venture too far from their sun lounges during the day. So I would leave them to their pools, and swim in the ocean, with the joy of some gentle waves generated by afternoon onshore winds, and the feel of salt water on my skin again. It was very relaxing to swim at dawn, have a shower, and then enjoy the delights of the breakfast buffet. Over the week I managed to swim around fifteen kms, a good way to get some time in the water under my belt before the start of the summer season ahead. My swimming at home had been mainly in the pool to date, with only short swims outdoors. It was good to swim with warm air on my shoulders and back again, after the blast of my first winter swimming without a wetsuit
We also managed to explore the island a bit, at least to see Corfu town. Whenever I travel in this part of the world, the sense of history is always there waiting to be discovered and lapped up. Having been born in the New World, this concept of a long history with all its monuments, buildings and myths are a constant source of wonder. It was hard to leave the island to return to Glasgow, but we knew that we would have to make plans to travel again.
I like to go for a swim in a local loch on special days, such as the summer solstice. For 21 June 2017 a short drive to Duck Bay just near Cameron House on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond for the 4am start time. I still find it incredible to live in a place where it really does not get fully dark in mid-summer.
A group of us decided to make this a swim event, even though it was the middle of the week. Such dedication from these crazy swimmers, with several getting up at 3am to make the half hour drive to the meeting point. Of course the weather forecast was for some cloud and rain, but we have come to expect that. After all we had our summer at the end of May when the temperature soared to 26c for two or three days with wall to wall sun.
When I arrived at the beach, it was grey and cloudy, and I doubted that we would have much of a day. It reminded me of a few years ago when we could not even tell when the sun rose as the clouds were so thick and it rained steadily. As I measured the water at a tropical 16.3c I noticed a parting of the clouds and a small amount of colour trying to break. As everyone arrived it started to look more promising.
As we all got ready to swim and gathered on the shores, the magic of the summer solstice happened in front of us, with a glorious colour flooding the sky and reflected in the mirror smooth surface of the loch. What a sight, and how incredibly lucky we all were to experience this.
So then we all entered the water, and swam down to Cameron House and back, enjoying the warmth of the water and the calm conditions of the loch. I know that I stopped swimming several times and just looked at the amazing show that nature was providing for us, knowing that most people would still be sound asleep and missing it all.
It was not long before the dawn show faded, and we were left with the grey light of another cloudy summer’s day on the west coast of Scotland. An incredible swim with the rain falling gently on the still loch, with the reflection of a beautiful sunrise. There was a power to nature on this the longest day of the year.
The Gulf of Corryvreckan is a body of water that separates the islands of Jura and Scarba off the west coast of Scotland. Most bodies of water are quite tame, but this one is famous for its treacherous whirlpool, which is the third largest whirlpool on the planet. When the spring tide runs, this whirlpool can be heard up to 10km away, and boats are advised to stay away.It is the place where George Orwell almost drowned as he was writing 1984.
A link to an article about the area:-
Here is a link to a video of a boat trip through the area https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoOdnqODHNs
It has been a dream of mine to swim this body of water, and in July 2017, I organised a trip for 30 intrepid adventurers from Wild West Swimmers to do just that. Now, a swim can only be done on this trip when the tide is slack, at either high or low water. The actual swim is quite short at around 1.3 km, but the maximum window is about 45 minutes.
I had hired a local boat captained by Duncan, who had been taken swimmers across this gulf for around 15 years. He has forgotten more about this area of the coast than most people will ever learn. As soon as I stepped on board, it was obvious that he knew his trade, and I felt quite safe. There were 10 swimmers on our journey that morning, with another ten to follow in the afternoon, and the last ten the next day.
We set out from the village of Craobh Haven early on the Saturday morning, with clouds trying their best to hide the sun from us, and with a fresh breeze keeping us cool. Two of our group, had opted for a two-way swim, while the rest of us decided on a one way. Of the eight doing the one way, two of us were doing it in skins (including me). We changed on the boat on the short 30 minute journey out to the Gulf, and waited for the water to slow, as the second safety boat checked out the conditions, and we listened to the safety briefing. The two-way swimmers Vince and Alistair jumped in and they were off.
We watched them head out on their challenge, and then it was our turn to jump in . The water was quite cool around 13c, but I could only think of the swim ahead. Off we went, with Tony leading the way. The water was not still, and it reminded me off my younger days of swimming off the beaches of Australia, and it was great to have that feeling again. I soon settled into my familiar pattern, and was enjoying the swim, keeping an eye on Scarba ahead of us, and the boat to make sure we were heading roughly in the right general direction. We were all so absorbed, that none of us saw the whale that swam near us (the passengers and crew on the boat saw it).
Now one of the things about this swim is that you swim in an arc, because that it is the way the water moves. We were pushed to our right as we started but as we got closer to Scarba, the water flow reversed and we started to head left. The trick is to make sure you compensate for this at the start, as you do not want to get too close to the whirlpool. The closer we got to Scarba, the more we could feel the gently rise and fall of the ocean swells, a feeling I had not experienced for a long time. Soon we had finished in around 25 minutes of swimming, and as we climbed back on board the smiles on everyone faces were huge. The two-way swimmers also managed to go across and back, a huge achievement.
A short ride back to the marina, and then off to the pub for a lunch and a whisky or two to celebrate our swim. I even managed to catch a game of AFL from Sydney on the tv. That night we all celebrated at our campsite, sharing yarns about swimming through the maelstrom. More than one person asked me if I was going to organise another trip next year, and with a twinkle in my eye I said maybe, as this was wild swimming at its best, with strange currents, salt water, sea creatures, legends, and superb company.
The International Ice Swimming Association were holding the 2017 Great British Ice Swimming Championships in the waters of Loch Lomond in early February 2017. Our group of swimmers decided to enter, but at the time of the close of entries I had not progressed my training enough, so limited my entry to the 50m sprint. Others were entered in the 1km, 500m and 200m events. The rules were simple, swim with one cap, one pair of goggles and one pair of swimmers.
The event was held at a function centre situated on the banks of Loch Lomond. Usually at this time of year this location is sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds. However, for the few days before the event, and on the actual day, a cold east wind blew in from Europe, meaning there would be a large chop in the water. For the efforts of the various swimmers to be recognised the water had to drop under 5c, and the temperature had stubbornly sat at just over 5c. Luckily for everyone, the effects of lots of snow, and cold temperatures resulted in the water dropping to 4c on the day.
I had volunteered to time keep on the day, meaning I had to stand out in the cold weather to record the times of the swimmers as they pushed themselves round the one km course in testing conditions. The air temperature was just above zero all day, with snow showers blowing through with Ben Lomond and Conic Hills taking turns to disappear from view as the day wore on. To keep warm I would think back to my days of timekeeping in Australia where I had a hot sun burning my back.
It was inspirational to watch swimmers from around the UK and the world swim in these testing conditions. It is hard enough to swim one km in water this cold at the best of times, but when there is a large chop on the water it became even more difficult. Fortunately for Scotland, a local swimmer of some renown won the one km and 500m events in very fast times (he also holds the record for the fastest skins swim of Loch Lomond).
I had entered the 50m event, and as my time approached I left the beach to get changed in the warmth of the function centre. It was cold as I walked down to registration where I learnt I was going to be in heat one of the event. We walked along the beach and entered the water. It was bracingly cold, but I knew that if I swam fast I would be finished in under a minute, hardly time to get cold. The gun went and we were off. I soon swam to the front, and kept my head down ignoring the screams of my body telling me it was cold. I crossed the finish line in first place, and obtained my time. I stood and watched the second heat, and watched as my winning time was surpassed by one other swimmer, but at least he was a fellow Australian (well done Nick). Yes the Australians had managed to come first and second on the podium in an event that we should not do well in.
I walked back up to the function centre and got changed into warm gear. A bunch of our group from the Wild West Swimmers (all of whom had done extremely well in swimming on the day, with some winning medals) went down to Balloch for a nice pub feed. The event finished with a traditional ceilidh (pronounced keilie), which is a dance with fiddles and pipes. It is very much like a bush dance in Australia, and it was a lot of fun.
Maybe next time I will enter the longer events such as the one km race, as by next winter I would have had more training behind me.
It seems like months since I have posted a swim story on this blog, so you probably think that I have been out of the water. Well, no I have continued my swim adventures, and now after the summer of 2017, it is time to get more up to date.
I swam through the winter of 2016 in the lochs of Scotland wearing a wetsuit, and yes it was not pleasant, but a big challenge. For the winter of 2017 I decided to set myself another challenge of swimming through in skins (ie no wetsuit). Now it is one thing to say that; it is another thing entirely to try it, and get the body to adapt to the cold water. I must stress that this is not something that should be attempted lightly, but once you are aware of the risks, and manage those risks, it is a very rewarding experience. I should remind you that the place where I had swum most of my life the water might drop to 13c or 14c (55F to 57F) in the middle of winter. Here in Scotland it is not unusual to go for a swim in summer when the water is that temperature; and in winter the water usually drops to 4c or 5c (39F to 41F).
My plan was to get back into the water after my swim adventure in Greece in October 2016, but it was not until December that I commenced my cold water swimming. By this time the water had dropped to 6c, and I would go in with gloves and boots to try to acclimatise. I would go on and take ten minutes walking in up to my waist, and then would swim 200m or so, with lots of stops as my face adjusted to the cold. Then I would get out quickly. Another day, I just sat in the water up to my neck for 20 minutes getting my body used to the intense cold.
Over several weeks, I would go in, and swim slightly further each time, always conscious of the risks of hypothermia. After several weeks, I went in without the gloves or boots, just wearing my swimwear, and a swim cap. Yes it was cold, very cold, so cold that it took your breath away. But to swim in stunning beauty of Scotland after a snowfall, or when the dawn sun broke through morning mist over a still loch was an absolute delight.
I was always swimming with other nutters in the loch, some who like me were not in wetsuits, and others who did wear them. The good thing about swimming with others is that we keep an eye out for each other, and can assist someone if they stay in too long.
I have mentioned the risks of swimming in cold water. I must stress that cold water can be dangerous, and you must be aware of your own limits, and the impact of a cold morning, wind chill and precipitation on your body. You recognise that when you first go in the body goes into shock and you will start panting, though at dawn in January the water is often warmer than the air. Once your face is in the water, you start swimming slowly, until your breathing gets into a regular pattern again. You notice as you swim your arms change colour and start to get heavy. That was my signal to get out soon. I always made sure that I would swim parallel to shore and would have an exit point available at all times. Then a quick walk back to the car on frozen feet, get changed as quickly as possible, and then have a warm drink and some food.
Each time I swam I would try two things: reduce the time it took to go from standing in waist deep water; and to increase the distance I could swim. Over the winter, I managed to increase my distance swum from 200m up to 1100m. I would also be able to walk in, splash myself, and then start swimming within 30 seconds or so. It was never easy to convince myself that this was a good idea, but would just get on with it.
The hardest part of the swim for me was the walk on frozen feet back to the car, knowing that it would be a few hours before my toes felt like part of my body again. If I had stayed in too long, the fine motor skills in my fingers would be non-existent too. But I always ensured I had several layers of clothing, gloves, two pairs of socks, a thick beanie, a coat, a warm drink, and sit in the car with the heater on to warm up. There was also the local coffee shop we would go to after to sit by a nice warm fire having cake and coffee to roast in the exhilaration of swimming in cold water again.
My winter swimming was successful, I swam on Boxing Day, New Years Day, celebrated Australia Day, swum with snow on the hills around me, and by the end of winter increased my distance up to 1km. What was more, I had done this in the company of friends who take equal pleas
The year 2016 in review. I used to do an annual review talking about the 20 or so open water swim events I had competed in. But 2016 was different, because even though I swam in nine events, the highlights were definitely what is called wild swimming in the UK. This involves just getting in the water and swimming: and we are blessed with so many choices here in Scotland.
But first some raw stats. I competed in nine events in 2016 to take my overall tally to 93 events competed in since November 2008 when I did my first event. I managed four top 10 places overall, and swam a total of 45.4 km in those races. I competed in my first and second 10km swims, did a 8.4 km swim, and two 5km swims. I even competed in my first race in Europe in Croatia where I swam a one km and a 5km swim. Of the nine swims, two were in Croatia, one in the Lakes District in England, and the other six were in Scotland.
So my racing highlights would include doing my first ever 10km event, which was down the River Spey in the Scottish Highlands with a water temperature of 12c. I also competed in the Great Scottish Swim 10km race in Loch Lomond in August and swam faster than I had downstream in the Spey. I used to be in awe of those swimmers who had swum those distances, but now I am one of them.
The races in Croatia were fantastic for the atmosphere of tuna steaks on a bbq for the post-race snacks, and the fashion in which I escorted a 5k newbie around the course and the applause from fellow swimtreckers at the finish line. It was great to race without the wetsuit again for the first time in two years.
I also completed my first race in Scotland in what is called skins, which is without the wetsuit. I did the Pier to Pub swim in skins, and yes it was cold, but magic.
Now that I have done 93 swims, I am within site of that magic century. Will I get there in 2017, or will I do more wildswims?
Speaking of which, my recreational or wild swims were awesome in 2016. I started the year swimming in the freezing lochs in Scotland in my wetsuit, including one memorable swim in Loch Chon when we swam alongside the ice. As the water slowly warmed from 4c in February, the swim times increased from 15-20 minutes up to 45 minutes. I can honestly say that you notice the temperature when it gets to 10c and want to celebrate the fact. In June we had a few weeks of relatively warm sunny weather, and the water in our playground in Loch Lomond jumped to 16c.
I did two Swimtrek trips over the year: one in Prvic Luka Croatia, and the other in Milos Greece. Both trips were amazing, and it was great to be go back home to Prvic Luka where the local people are amazing. It was great to make my first ever trip to Greece, and to meet people from around the world who share my love of swimming.
Back to Scotland for swimming, where I did three long swims over the summer. The first one was from Ardlui to Tarbet at the upper reaches of Loch Lomond, a distance of 12.6km in just under four hours of swimming. The second one was from Tarbet to Luss, the middle reaches of Loch Lomond, a distance of 13.7km in just over 4.5 hours. Both of these were with a social group of intrepid swimmers from Wild West Swimmers, and doing these long swims with friends is always fun.
There was also the group who swim most mornings at Balloch on Loch Lomond, another group of swimmers who were great to swim with, though I could not get to swim with them often enough.
And how could I forget Loch Tay, my longest swim to date of 16.7km in just over five hours. True I did not manage to make it from one end to the other (a total of around 23km), it was an incredible swim that was only possible due to the generosity of an amazing group of people (you know who you are). Each and every one of one helped make that weekend one of the highlights of the year for me. Special mention to Vince who swam the whole length, and George who paddled alongside me the whole way.
Lots of swimming, explored new places, swam in yet more Scottish lochs (Loch Leven, Loch Tay), and added Greece to my list of countries I have swum in.
I am conscious that my outdoor adventures in the water have changed from racing events to recreational. In Australia, it was not common to swim long distances in the oceans outside of events, due to the inherent dangers from the natural inhabitants of the marine environment. Now I live in Scotland, I can swim in the lochs without fear of marine life, and only have to worry about the cold water. That does change your focus somewhat, but I still enjoy the thrill of competing and pushing myself against the clock and the field. I also enjoy the challenge of long swims with friends, supporting each other, and learning about your own limits.
The year finished with great swims in Loch Ard and Loch Lomond in December (but that is another story).
A week after our grand adventure up Loch Tay, it was time for some relaxing swimming in warm water. A Four of us ventured out to Greece to swim on a Swimtrek trip on the island of Milos. The island is located in the Aegean Sea between Athens and Crete. After making it through the delights of a Scottish summer we were looking forward to a week of sun and warm water. The island is famous for the Venus de Milo statue which stands in the Louvre in Paris.This statue was found on the island in the early 1800s and the locals call it Aphrodite which is the Greek name of the Roman god Venue.
Now I have swum in some amazing places around the world, including the golden beaches of Australia, coral reefs in Vanuatu, the pristine waters of Croatia, the stunning lochs of Scotland, and in and around New York City. However, I have never swum in a place like this. We swam over sunken cities, into sea caves, around sea stacks, through sea tunnels, down and through underwater arches, over sulphur vents and volcanic rock piles that heated the water. Each day there were objects to explore and amazing things to see. I even set a new personal worst for the slowest 400m swim with fins of 25 minutes as I drifted in and around the incredible formations around the volcanic island. To swim with a warm sun on my back in warm water, having left the wetsuit behind was fantastic. Sure there were times we had some swell to deal with as the wind blew from the north, but I really loved the challenge of bouncing around in the sea once more, which is something I do not get to do often enough. However, we mostly were able to find places out of the wind due to the local knowledge of the crew.
Over the week I swam 25 km with the longest swim just under 3.5 km. But this trip was not about getting the distance up, but more about exploring and finishing the summer swim season with a bang. The guides were fantastic, the local boat crew were incredible, and all the swimmers were great company.
For regular readers of this blog you will know that I tend to write a description of the swim, and include a few photos. Well this time I will let the photos do the talking.
If you want a swimming holiday with lots to explore, on an island with so much history that you can reach out and touch, with great weather and good food, then I would suggest this one. But shhh do not tell anyone else….