If you don’t like the weather.

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This was my second time ever swimming in Loch Ard. I had not swam since the previous week, and that was in the 210m section of Glaswegian canal, with a bunch of triathletes. It is great for regular pool swimmers wanting outdoor water exposure in a controlled environment.  John and Crawford run the classes professionally. It was an experience, better than a pool, but a poor comparison to a Loch. I want to progress, but I’ve learned that a wee bit tuition pay’s dividends.

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I stayed in Plymouth for a while and a few of my friends became regular golfers. It started with about 10 of us playing on Sunday afternoons at the local pitch and putt in between Peverell and Plymouth Argyll football club. The Royal and Ancient St Andrews golf society might not have approved but we let girls play.  It was a good laugh, helped by the fact we always had more tins of beer than golf clubs. We adhered to some golf etiquette, letting smaller groups play through, after all it takes a few hours for a group of ten to play 18 holes, even longer when we all played rubbish and the girls were better than the blokes.

A few of us became interested in playing golf regularly. I caught the bug quite bad. When my friends were busy I would go to the course by myself. When the weather was poor, I would head for the driving range. When my wife (girlfriend at the time) and the girls from the flat above where we lived went to the bar, I would head across to the grass opposite our flat, armed with a sandwedge (it’s a golf club not an “Isotonic super-food cheese, beetroot, left over beer-can chicken and lime pickle” sandwich), a hand full of golf balls and a pint of White Russian (made with equal measures) then proceed to chip balls into a bucket, refilling the pint glass as required, until the balls were going in the wrong direction or I was relaxed enough to handle 4 mad drunk girls shouting more tequila at the poor barman.

I started working offshore at this time and when I came home, I had a lot of time on my hands. My wife worried about me playing golf by myself. When we moved back to Scotland I continued playing golf but also started hill walking. My wife was a wee bit concerned about me being on the hills by myself. Then came mountain biking. My wife was slightly more concerned, that I take off,  huff and puff a bike up a hill, and then would hurtle down at speed, on my own. I think I managed to increase her concern even further by choosing swimming as my new hobby.

Recently I read on a blog, that statistically, it’s more dangerous, driving to an outside swimming location than it is actually swimming there, this should help alleviate some of her worries, but it is still 30 times safer to swim in a pool. But I couldn’t swim in pool every day. It’s not the blue line, I actually find the line a wee bit calming, it’s the tumble roll things that scare me and you have perform one every 25m. In a empty Loch Lubnaig on a Wednesday morning, I am lucky if sight every 25m. It’s the stroke, next stroke breath staring down into the murky depths that that keeps me going. It’s hard enough to figuring out how to kick my legs, never mind a tumble roll.

It might be that after 4 weeks confined on a boat for work that I choose to spend most of the week days on my lonesome, but most people, golf, hill walk, or mountain bike on the weekends when I am spending time with my family trying to correct and make up for not being at home six months of the year.

Drinking White Russians and chipping golf balls for hours helped my short game and I got more accurate round the green. But my long irons and drives were woeful. I finally got a lesson at a driving range up on the moors past Derriford hospital near Yelverton. My golf balls trajectory went up to the left then faded right and dropping quite rapidly out of sky. The golf professional encouraged me to complete my swing as it had no confidence and the power reduced before hitting the ball. By pushing through the ball with confidence and completing the swing, I gained an extra 50 yards on each club and they went straight, all within ten minutes. I realised I was not an anomaly, golf swings are individual, but most problems are common and once spotted can be worked on. I am hoping swimming is the same.

My first swimming lesson was in a pool. I contacted the first local instructor I found claiming open water experience. She worked at a local pool, but it was closed for maintenance. We agreed to rendezvous at a pool close by. She would not be able to stand and watch, but swim close to me due to the fact she didn’t actually teach at that pool.  My swimming stroke was not altered at this lesson. She suggested I join the local wild swimming Facebook group. They have over 500 members and their regular posts and photographs of safe swimming locations installed confidence in me that I was not a weirdo. There are lots of people on the quest for rush of endorphins and shaky hands from immersion in lochs and rivers. I do try and swim with them as often as possible, however their swims are mostly evening or weekends and I have only met 5 of their members in half a year.
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By the time the Friday morning canal swim came I had swam 9 km over 2 days in Loch Lubnaig in water temperatures hovering close to 9 degrees after a 6 am start which did not allow for much sleep and respite. My first session with the triathletes was not the most energetic. I am still discovering how physically draining swimming is. I swam for less than 2 hours on 2 consecutive days and was wiped out for the next few days. I have learned the hard way not to over do it with running. I can run 5km day after day. My knees hurt if I run 10km a day for three days and then I limp for the next three. These are the limits I’m trying find with swimming. How far? How cold? How often? Maybe when I find these answers boredom will set in and the search for another hobby will continue…… My wife will be hoping for something less life threatening so she will be able to relax at her work if she knows I am happily drinking peppermint tea at a watercolour painting or pottery class. I was cream crackered during the canal swimming class. I felt as though I was running on fumes. But they did point out that my arms were crossing in front of my head making me snake my hips which was sending me left.

The first chance to practice what I had been told was at Loch Ard. There is a 1 and 1/2 foot wall following the 5 mile single track road from Aberfoyle to Kinloch Ard. Round every corner on the twisty road could be from a old cliche flavoured biscuit tin. It’s breath taking. Deciduous trees over hanging the road on right, the making’s of the river Forth over wall, on the left, if drivers don’t concentrate they could quite easily get wet. In March with water temperatures below 5 degrees I swam close to the wee island Eilean Gorm or the Green Island. gorm could be blue or green but because of Frank McGarvey, i like idea of a green Island. Eilean Gorm sits in South West corner about 1km from the Loch Ard Hall in North west corner. Standing in the rain, taking water temperature just above 10 degrees, I decided to leave my gloves and boots on the shore side. My swimming left a lot to be desired and I struggled to find a rhythm.

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Just as I reached the Island, beams of sunlight cut through the murky depths. It had stopped raining and I dawdled round Eilean Gorm, doing a lot more breast stroke than my Strava time/distance recorder found acceptable, taking in the blue skies and hills in the background. The swim might have not ticked technique, time or distance boxes, but if you don’t like the weather in Scotland, wait 15minutes and everything will turn out alright, but then again, the wind and snow could arrive….. image

Note to self.

Next week I won’t swim until I have dissipated all my energy. Every day is a school day.

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