2017, I began my distance training with Robert. In August I swam my first 10K in Loch Venachar and I had the privilege of swimming as a member of the Beatson Team Relay of Loch Lomond. After the relay I thought why not swim Loch Lomond solo, the seed was sown and the answer Yes!
Robert was more then happy to help and coach me through the following months and he was always there when me or my parents had any questions. A meeting in January confirmed the plan and my training commenced. My swimming hours in the pool increased from a 2 hour session to a 4 hour session. When the Open Water season began I was able to train in my favourite place Loch Lubnaig and meet up with Robert. A weekend of back to back 6 hour swim sessions, then another 6 hour set and the date was confirmed for my BIG swim.
Wednesday 25th July at 5:45am my dad waved me off as I left with Robert and Stewart to start my challenge, little did I know the terror and anxiety my family were feeling. I was excited and ready to swim! I knew that I was going to be in for a totally different experience to what I am normally used to (swimming in open water competitions).
My swimming wasn’t the problem, this swim was about the mental aspect and pushing through the pain! As I started the swim from Balloch, Robert asked me go at a slow pace so I did not go too fast just in case I tired too quickly. However as 2 hours had gone by Robert knew that I was not comfortable swimming at the slower pace, during my feeding break Robert told me to go at my own pace. As soon as he said that I was off and got into a great rhythm and the pace of my stroke rose!
I kept my positive mind set going and kept pounding the kilometres down. I made it to my 8th feed, I knew that I was at the 6 hour mark and knowing that I kept the pace going I told myself “another 6 hours like that and I can get my chicken sandwich.”
At feeding time I wasn’t very talkative, I hoped Robert and Stewart didn’t take it personally but that was only because I was focused on the swim. I planned my feed the day before so I knew exactly what drink and food I was going to be getting every 45 mins, that didn’t work out as jammie dodgers are not nice soggy!
Once I realised I was at Inverglas I knew I only had about 4 hours to go, I told Robert that I knew this but he was not going to let me focus on the time and said “okay Jessica if you think that”. At that point I could only think of the end, the relief of the it being over and the finish. However I didn’t know what the top half of the loch looked like, as I rounded the corner I thought I would see the small point where the end was! All I could see was another island where there was another corner and all I could think about was “if this corner leads to another corner I am going to turn around and swim back to Balloch!” I turned the corner and saw the shore line, that made me excited. At this point I was swimming and mentally couldn’t think of anything but how much pain my right shoulder was in. So I rolled onto my back and shouted “I am so bored!!” then turned back onto my front and just kept going. I’m sure Robert and Stewart thought I going doolally at that point.
The end was near and I knew that I only had about 20 minutes to go and could not stop now, the chicken sandwich was within reach. I never saw my family waiting for me on the shore, I was fixed on finishing and getting my goggles off. As I finished I heard a round of applause and I walked out of the water, my mum and dad wrapped their arms around me and hugged me for what seemed an age. Tired, hungry and aching I had finished, Robert and Stewart had survived the slow journey down the loch watching my every stroke, feeding me and without their support and encouragement the last 11 hours and 26 minutes would have been impossible.
Celebration commenced with my family who have supported me throughout and have spent many an hour at the side of a Loch watching me swim. The chicken sandwich - well it was worth the wait although I was too exhausted to enjoy it!
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my training and during the challenge, my mum, dad and sister for their constant help, support and patience. My grandma, nana, papa and aunt for believing in me and being my support team. My swim clubs for all the well wishes and encouragement . To everyone who donated and sponsored me for The Berwick and District Cancer Support Group.
Special thanks to The Vigour Events Family, Stewart and not forgetting Robert who has helped me develop, set new goals and achieve my dream of swimming Loch Lomond.
I am looking forward to my next challenge but will let my parents recover from this one first!
Tuesdays & Thursdays at Darnley Dams from 6:30pm to 8:30pm
9:15am at Fannyside Loch
Long Distance Training
There will be no long distance training this week as we have our event on.