Donnie has been swimming with us for a few years now and last year completed 12.5k at Loch Ard, this year he has set his sights on swimming the length of Loch Lomond in August. This is his story......
I was a very keen swimmer when I was a kid, but I "retired" from competitive swimming at age 12. Since then, I've always tried to keep ticking over - fitness, triathlons, open water races. However, I recently was given an incentive to undertake a properly challenging swim in order to raise awareness and money for a small charity - LoveOliver.
You see, one of my close friends from university days and his wife have benefitted from this lovely little charity. I would say that they have been fortunate to benefit from the charity, but that seems a bit of a paradox because you are likely to be in a very unfortunate position to benefit from the generosity and care that LoveOliver provides. Their son, Milo, has had the most unfortunate start to his short life. At only six years old, he has already had heart surgery within the first few hours of his life, and cancer - twice. LoveOliver is close to the family's heart. They make life in the ward a lot more fun for the children by providing toys, arts and crafts, treats and help cover some of the day to day expenses. They also fund vital research into improving treatment and survival rates.
The challenge - the full length of Loch Lomond, non-stop. At just over 26 miles, it's further than the English Channel and the same distance as a marathon. The average water temperature will be around 12 degrees. I know that I will be in safe hands because I'm being coached beforehand and piloted during the swim by Vigour Events very own Robert and Kirstin Hamilton. They are hugely experienced in open water swimming and all of the necessary safety requirements around it. They will give me peace of mind and allow me to focus on getting through the 12-14 hour endurance challenge.
I took the opportunity to have an intense swim lesson with Robert. He said I had a very nice stroke... for sprinting. Oh! Over that session, he changed everything. Hands, elbows, underwater pull action, recovery action, breathing, rotation, body position, kick. It was intense. I actually came out of it a bit numb and confused, but I did take it all in. Over the next few weeks, I followed his advice and broke down each of the component parts. When it finally all clicked into place - what a difference. I was swimming easier, smoother and faster. I took my 5km time down by 12 minutes and it actually felt easier! My stroke rate went down from about 17 per length to 13. All good.
As part of the challenge, I knew I had to train - a lot. Therefore, I scaled it up from what I thought I would need to do, and find a nice phrase to summarise it - One Million Metres for Milo. http://www.facebook.com/onemillionmetresformilo/
Thanks to Robert, those 1000 kilometres will now be smoother and easier. Thanks to Milo and his family, I have an amazing reason to complete this challenge. Thanks to LoveOliver, families who are dealing with the harshest of situations for the youngest members can get some support when they need it most, and investment into childrens' cancers can continue.