Please take a read of Jane's experience of the Scottish Winter Swimmig Champs hosted by Swim Wild. Who's in for next year?
On a dank and dismal Wednesday morning me and my girl packed up our trusty pick up and headed north to the Border for what can only be described as an epic event in so many ways. So pleased we had the pick-up to load all the gear. How much stuff do you actually need for a 4 night stay and 3 days of swimming competitions?
We were soon across the Border (we’re lucky to be a half hour drive away) and making good time. Me being me kept driving and wanted to be North of Edinburgh before we took a pitstop. We were soon zooming along the M90 and over the awesome Queensferry crossing-Forth Road Bridge, quick hip stretch and a bite to eat we continued our journey and were greeted by the gorgeous scenery, eyes on the road we wound our way along the A9 and were soon in Aberfeldy. The apartment wasn’t available as we had made good time so we did a little detour round the lake to look at the gorgeous lakeside house across from the marina (my dream is to have a house like this on a lake in Italy).
Once back round to Taymouth Marina the venue for the Swimwild Scottish Winter Championships we unloaded and settled down on the balcony overlooking Loch Tay with the backdrop of the snow capped tip of Ben Lawers. The sun on our faces, a sharp contrast to what we had left behind in Northumberland. We were soon repackaging our swim gear, the Loch was calling. A short drive down to the beach area in the village of Kenmore and in we got, I for one was expecting it to be freezing following the recent snow and ice melt but us hardy Northumberland girls entered the Loch with little or no tingly reaction a balmy 6℃. That helped our confidence for our swims over the weekend as we knew our bodies were able to handle the temperature and a glorious sunset to wrap up day 1.
Thursday we headed out on an adventure further a field following breakfast on the balcony, bit nippy but the view was breath-taking and we wanted to soak it in as much as possible. We found a waterfall but not the best for dipping so continued our travels further into the hills. Charlotte headed off for a hike but me being cautious decided on a bit of retail therapy. On return to the marina we met up with some of our fellow H20Trails gang and enjoyed 2 hours in the onsite Hotbox, a luxurious 38℃ jacuzzi more like a mini swimming pool, a massive walk in sauna and steam room. But the highlight is a slide into the lake, now not one to veer away from a challenge I had to have a go! Caution on the hips totally out the window, what great fun though, into the lake quick warm up in the steam room and back to the jacuzzi. A great way to spend time and relax with friends before the start of the events the following day. It was great to meet up with some of my Dip and Dales buddies that I met on my Winter Solstice dip too and I look forward to many more meet ups.
Friday is endurance day for what I like to call the hardcore swimmers of the event. With 60 competitors taking part varying in ages from 18 our Charlotte to 79 years young. It is amazing to watch the determination and competitiveness of the swimmers. Hats off 450m in 4.8℃ with times ranging from 6:23 to 15 minutes, I’d be happy just to say I could complete it. There are competitors from all over the World taking part over the weekend and some of the GB Ice swimming Team were also there. Day 1 of the event came to a close with the medal ceremony, Charlotte getting her 1st Gold of the weekend, the swim community started to grow as more people were arriving on site in preparation for the shorter distance events over Saturday and Sunday. Now I’m not going to lie the nerves started to kick in after this and I had to grab my bag and do a quick dip in the Loch just to convince myself I was willing and able to do the 50m Freestyle (not my strongest stroke as I have had to relearn and master following my double hip replacement as I was advised not to continue my breaststroke) dip complete we chilled and headed for an early bed.
Saturday morning saw the sun rising and the scene set for the epic heads up breaststroke - the favourite for most of the dippers after the fancy dress relay obviously. Charlotte smashed her swim and I was soon called down to muster the nerves kicked in. I am a competitive person at heart but my aim was to complete and enjoy the experience. Not having done the straight in and off I was a tad anxious. Deep breathing down onto the pontoon and relaxed as the lane guide had been my fellow swim buddy the previous night. “Swimmers undress” OMG this is real I thought to myself, I unrobed “swimmers into the water” I climbed down the wooden ladder into the water and under the lane rope into my swim lane, not going to lie the adrenaline was pumping and I was totally out of my comfort zone, no time to think as “time keepers ready” then bleep the hooter went and the race was on. Now in the words of one of my fellow H2OTrails team “I was like one of those wind up bath toys ploughing on ahead” no idea what I was doing, breath, strokes and everything else totally out of the window, panic had set in as I wanted to do the perfect swim. %0m is longer than you think when you aren’t swimming as you should be as your body knows you can. The mind is powerful and no amount of relaxation and meditation was going to override my subconscious mind. Job done 50m completed and an overwhelming sense of achievement as I hauled myself back up the wooden steps onto the pontoon, and focused on the prize of sitting in the hot jacuzzi. Once I relaxed into the warm jacuzzi and Charlotte repeatedly told me it was an epic swim I started thinking forward to Sunday and my 150m freestyle and how I could take my time to get into my rhythm.
Unfortunately this was not to be as following the lunch break the event had to be cancelled for safety reasons due to a discharge of sewage into the marina, luckily this happened when there were no swimmers in the water. Now whilst this was very disappointing for all competitors everyone understood the reasoning behind it. The water is such a safe space for many and we all get so much out of our cold dipping but this has highlighted the damage that we as humans can cause to that environment not just for us but the flora and fauna that live in or around the water too. Hats off to the organisers who acted swiftly and with our best interests at heart.
We now had free time on our hands and a chance to chill and socialise on a whole new level, with no competitions for the remainder of Saturday and Sunday the hotubs were duly put into action and a chance to catch up with friends who would normally be focused and relaxing in there own personal space was an awesome feeling of being part of a loving, caring swim community. Complete with a clear starry sky to end the day.
Sunday saw us hiking to a waterfall swim spot along with alot of other swimmers making the most of the spare time, following an overnight frost it was a tad nippy but the sun was glorious. Along with our swim coach we dutifully found a hard to access spot, not wanting to risk the clamber down with the hips, I was nominated photographer but it was a great way to round off another epic trip to the Scottish Winter Championships. Every cloud has a silver lining.