Winter Swim Sessions at Pilmuir Quarry starting the 29th October
We are also happy to announce the 1st Phase of our 2018 events, click here for the details and watch this space for the some great new and exciting swims for 2018 !!!!!
So, Nessie did not come out to play while I was swimming her Loch Ness on 5 September … and that was probably a good thing if one keeps in mind that the goal was to finish the swim in the first instance and not to see how quickly I can exit the water during a swim… And thankfully the swim did not turn out to be a two-day affair like Loch Awe. At 12h50 Loch Ness is my fastest big swim to date which made for a welcome change from the longest one that was Loch Awe (at 18h8) on 18 July 2017. Of the three longest lochs in Scotland, the actual distance I swam of Ness is also much closer to the scientifically recognised length of the loch compared to the other two: I swam 36 km of the possible max length of 36.61km of Ness (22.75 miles); compared to the 34.5km I swam of the 36.44km of Loch Lomond (22.64 miles) and the 38.1km swam of the 41km length of Loch Awe (24.5 miles). Perhaps more significantly, Ness was the first and only big swim I ever completed and thought minutes later ‘I would not mind swimming this again’. Of my five big swims, the only other swim I would not mind having another go at is the English Channel. The rest is on my Done and Dusted and NEVER to be Undertaken Again list with the North Channel in bold right at the top.
So, Ness turned out to be a special swim for me. I am not sure why since the weather that day was typical Scottish, i.e. all four seasons in one day repeating itself cyclically throughout the swim (a bonus was seeing five beautiful rainbows during the swim), and the wind came up in the first hour of the swim and never died down for the remainder of the day.
More importantly, the wind came in from behind me with a lot of gusto. Swimming with the wind was probably my least favourite swimming conditions until the Ness swim – in the past I struggled to find my swim rhythm in such conditions which irritates me endlessly. After we recced the loch the night before, I realised that I would need to employ some childhood bodysurfing skills, i.e. kick as much as possible, during the swim if I was to be comfortable in that water, and that I would have to manoeuvre the flow of the water in such a way that I could retain my rhythm, feel that I am exerting control over the water with my hands (even if this is perhaps just an illusion) and feel in relative control of where I was heading in the water (as opposed to being knocked around in different directions as it felt in Awe). Amazingly it worked out for most of the swim and I was fine with the waves, which were quite high during gusts, hitting me constantly from behind. Perhaps more significantly, I loved the conditions. I kept thinking while I swam that I had been blessed with ‘interesting water’, which I love swimming in. I also thought it fitting that the water turned out to be a tad rough for a swim that was dedicated to our friend and colleague Alasdair Ross who was a hardy Scott from the North-East. Temperature wise Loch Ness was also surprisingly good for a skin swim, despite the general weather in Scotland becoming Autumnal by the third week of August. The water temperature increased almost 0.1ºC every 45 min (Robert measured the water/air temps at every feeding stop) from 13.3 ºC to 14.6ºC by the end of the swim. Ambient air temperatures, on the other hand, started at 13.1ºC, reached a max at 14.2ºC before dropping down to 12.6ºC by the end of the swim. Perfect conditions really for a big swim in skins in Scotland.
There were some low points during the swim as well: the actual CNP feeds I took every 45min started out being mediocre and simply went downhill from there owing to the seals on all three vacuum flasks choosing that particular day to break. (For those unfamiliar with what I eat during a swim: I drink 60g CNP/Maltodextrin powder dissolved in 140ml of warm water every 45min. The heat of the warm water helps a great deal with heating up a swimmer from the inside in cold water.) This meant that my feeds started out lukewarm and cooled down as the swim progressed ending up being just cold by the very end of the swim. And the muscles in my feet, calves, knees and thighs cramped a lot. Just past Drumnadrochit (so well into the final quarter of the swim) my ability to control the cramps while swimming (basically block them out in my mind) went haywire for about 30 min which was perhaps the most challenging period of the whole swim.
As with all my swims, Loch Ness was not a success because of my stubbornness, swimming abilities, and good water and environmental conditions in Ness on the day. Getting me to that point where I could swim Ness, guiding me through the swim safely (and making sure that I stayed in the water), helping me keep my head in the right space, caring for me afterwards and celebrating our mutual success, requires team work from close friends who all contribute to make me a better person that what I can be individually. So, a big thank you to Robert Hamilton, my coach and the guy who heads up my team; Stewart Griffiths, our pilot; Robin, resident Nessie expert and handy with e-mail updates as well; Ella who came all the way from Israel to mother me after the swim; Sharla, who arrived in Edinburgh from the US while I was swimming Ness and who was a bit miffed with us for not choosing a later day to swim until she saw a picture of the rib and judged it not-female-friendly…; and my mom in Bloem, who worried and prayed, and the other members of my growing personal swim team who may have been physically absent, but who send so many messages throughout the swim that they were constantly on my mind. Solo big swims = Team work. Last, but not least, I owe a great deal of thanks to the folks at Vigour Events (www.vigourevents.com) for organising the swim for me. It is lovely to work with people who you know you can trust to have all aspects of a big swim covered without the need to ask about it.
Lastly, I would like to thank all those who have donated to Scottish Mountain Rescue on the JustGiving page. You have helped me raise almost £1,050 in memory of Alasdair Ross for which I am very grateful. The page will remain open for donations until 1 October 2017 (though the money raised so far has long been transferred to SMR by JustGiving). The website is: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/phia-steyn1
Thank you for your interest, good wishes and congratulations. I wish you all the best for the remainder of 2017 and promise not to bother you sometime soon with more swimming adventures. I will leave the latter till summer 2018.