A Big Deal. 

The plan was simple: following last years triumphantly non-shit effort at the GSS mile swim, I would actively train for it this year. And like… Win or something. I knew I could do well if I got on with it after VLM. 

Two weeks post London, I jumped in my local pool and so began Mission: Let’s Get Faster. With some serious work, I’d reduced my CSS (Critical Swim Speed) from 2:07 in May to 1:52 by the end of June. With some additional coaching off my lovely friends, I dipped into the 1:40’s. I was getting quick. I decided I should probably go ahead and enter the race. 

But. I have this friend. This crazy, stupid friend. Who last year slayed some demons by actually volunteering AND PAYING to swim 5000m FOR THE SECOND TIME. I know, right? What kind of crazed fool would do such a stupid thing…….?

Ahem. Well… He sort of bullied (gently suggested) that I might actually be quite good at endurance swimming. 

So off I went all NO NEVER HAPPENING and clicked ENTER NOW on…. The 5k. Shite. 

Training had to be upped. Considerably. And around this time my lower spine found out what I’d entered and shouted NO NO FOR FUCK SAKE NO every time I went over 400m in a pool. This wasn’t entirely convenient, if I’m honest. Fiona (local coach and total swimming goddess also training for the 5k because also mental) couldn’t see anything amiss. After years of pleading for his help, I finally persuaded Ironman to give me a swim MOT and after a gruelling afternoon in the pool, we decided I would stop using my legs. Yup. No legs. I haven’t kicked my legs in the pool since July. It’s not even dented my CSS pace. Turns out my legs are 100% useless anyway! 

Training peaked with a 3000m continuous swim which was literally the most draining experience of my life. Backwards. Forwards. Backwards. Forwards for 59 minutes and 7 seconds. Yawn. And WHY AM I DOING THIS. 

I’ve blogged before about how I have always been a swimmer. But I was a sprinter. I’ve forced a body designed for short bursts of kebab eating and Netflix-bingeing to work hard for a long time. 

5000m was my nemesis. Scarier than a marathon. If anything goes tits up in the water there’s no quick escape route. Also sharks. It is nearly 2 hours in water colder than a witches tit. (16.5 degrees water temp is NOT THE SAME on your skin as 16.5 degrees air temp.) it’s cramp. It’s worrying about my weird dizziness thing that keeps appearing. It’s THREE LAPS of a 1 mile course where you pass the finish TWICE. 


At least I wasn’t doing a 10k swim. *camera pans slowly to Ironman*. So there’s that. 

Anyway. The morning arrived. I forced porridge down while dry heaving. I tried not to piss myself in a car. I got dropped off and found a changing tent and began the arduous task of putting on my rubber suit. Lube. More lube. MOAR LUBE. Ear plugs. Hat of Sexiness. Cap. Goggles. 

I met Fiona, fellow Team Painless victim and #SwimGoddess. we selfied. She looked awesome. Me – I looked like I look. 

And then it was time. 

Time for a quick Acclimatisation Dip where everyone made the same “OOH AHHHH OOOHHH” noises as the BALTIC water eaked it’s way into our bones. 

Time for a man named Dave from Edinburgh Bootcamp to make us dance in wet rubber suits. (Someone somewhere has a fetish for this.) 

And then time to be unleashed on a loch.

This loch, to be precise. 

The Great Scottish Swim is a well oiled machine. Despite misgivings about generic medals, they really do put on a fantastic day. You’re safe, well looked after, everyone is lovely and the setting is… Well…. Just LOOK at it. 

When I did the mile, I took time to look around. I’d planned to look around today… But I just got stuck the hell in. 

The start is always a splashy, elbow-to-the-tit affair. I held back and stayed out to the right hand side. I got passed the granny breaststrokers and was swum over by inconsiderate bell-ends twice (IT IS SELF SEEDING. YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY TERRIBLE AT SELF SEEDING) and then I was clear. No one on my right, buoys on my left. 

Lap 1 flew. I was round in just over 30 minutes. Quicker than I’d planned even though I wasn’t out of breath and had gone out at my slow pace. It was peaceful. Dizziness never appeared. The water was dark and freezing. But I felt totally at home. 

Lap 2 went on for fucking ever. I misjudged the buoys on the way back and the one that I thought was the turn WAS NOT the turn. I nearly cried. I kept my stroke strong and deliberate. I began to overtake. My neck felt as if my cap and wetsuit were made of razor wire. “Ignore it. IGNORE IT” but my word it nipped. 

As I turned onto lap 3, the 9am wave of 1mile swimmers had been released. I was back in a stramash of swimmers and choppers and I had to pick my way through to find someone I could draft behind for a bit. The part of the pack I’d swum into contained some not-water-savvy types who didn’t seem capable of checking who was in their close proximity when switching from front crawl to breaststroke. I took at least 4 kicks and 2 lung fulls of water. Not what you need on your last lap of a 5k endurance swim. 

I overtook for ages at this point. My green cap picking through the yellows. On to the last home straight and I started to kick. (Yup. No kicking for over 2 laps) I discovered pretty quickly that if I then stopped kicking I developed CLAW FOOT. So kicking it was. By this point my body temp had plummeted. I was cold. I just wanted it to be over. I swam under the gantry and kept swimming. This is not where they stop timing you, FYI. 

The one thing I will criticise with this race is that there are no mats laid at the swim exit which is over very sharp rocks. My claw toes found this INCREDIBLY difficult to negotiate. I stumbled ashore past the cameras probably looking much like I’d actually been spat out by a seal. Looks like I won’t be searching for those finisher pics. Someone said “congratulations, Ginnie, one of our 5k finishers…” Over a tannoy but to be honest I was just trying to remember how to work my hands. 

I beeped out and checked my time. I’d have been delighted with 1hr50. 

1 hour 36 minutes. 

What. The. Actual. Fuck. 

I had swum hard. Not hard enough to be out of breath (tis not a sprint) but I hadn’t sat about either. I was ELATED. I found Fiona who’d finished in 1:21 (amazing) and we made our way painfully over the gravelly path to the changing tent to find warmth and examine our garrotted necks. 

1:36. Shit. Omg. What. Nailed it. 

Wetsuits were forcibly removed. Warm, dry clothes put on. Hoodies purchased. We wandered off in search of MEATS. I had literally the third best burger experience of my life. We met Mike and Brian, my chauffeurs who’d been to Drumchapel and done “the hardest park run ever” up a mountain. And then I napped in the car home. 

Hours later I am hungry, my neck looks like I’ve been attacked my some kind of skin- eating bacteria, I have napped extensively and continue to eat anything not nailed down. But I am over the moon. This has been an epic challenge. Endurance swimming is tough. Even fewer people do endurance swimming than run marathons. Because it’s fucking ridiculous, really. I am incredibly proud of that time and of myself for actually having the balls to enter the madness. A proper Big Deal. Successful year, I’d say!

I think I’ll sleep tonight!  

365 days

I would consider 365 of most things to be ‘a lot’. Other than donuts. That, my friend, is a challenge. Or hobnobs. Or peanut butter cornetto’s….. I digress… A lot can happen in that many days. But equally, it’s not a lot of days. It certainly doesn’t feel like that long since I tackled my first ever triathlon. 

Much has happened in the days, weeks and months since August 16th 2015: about 8 Big Macs in the immediate aftermath, for a start. Then a not non-serious back injury, chest infections, ruptured hip flexor, subsequent evil French Physio, his elbows, redundancy, London Marathon, numerous 10ks and a new job. 

It was Facebook that alerted me to this milestone memory. “You have memories”, was the reassuring notification this morning. Glad to see I’ll still have the ability to recount tales from my past should my cognitive functions ever be compromised. 

 I thought about it for a bit. Wondering if it was really that big a deal. Cringing at my gushy, triumphant blog. And then I snapped out of that. It’s easy to discount an event once it’s done. Once the rose tinted glasses have gone on. Once you’ve tactfully removed memories of almost peeing on your beautiful carbon bike, crying at 15km into your run, mainlining brownies while lying on the floor, bursting into tears when you saw your mummy and punching yourself square in the jaw during the swim exit. 

I am very lucky (#blessed 💁🏻) to be surrounded by wonderfully accomplished friends. I have ironfolk who inspire me all of the time. When we chat about their achievements, it makes my Wee 70.3 (and I’ve still only done ONE tri!!! Been busy with other shiz innit) seem a bit…. Well….. Wee. And to be honest nothing else has appealed to me as being worth getting my hair wet for. 

But at the time it took over my life. I didn’t just want to survive it, I wanted to do it as best I could. And I did. I put in one of my best ever swims.  I couldn’t have pushed any harder on my bike or I’d have done worse than piss on Stella. By 18km in to the run I literally had nothing left. My bro in law had to drag me to the finish. 

I trained 6 days a week, sometimes twice a day for MONTHS. I ate upwards of 3000kcals on big training days (fucking BLISS, by the way. Yes. Yes I will have that piece of cake. AND THAT ONE. And I’ll have an extra side of JAM PLEASE.) 

It was a MASSIVE achievement. Seventy miles. That’s fucking FAR. and there were bastard hills as well. So it’s not like I could cruise it either! 

My little legs took me a long way. And continue to take me long ways. Even my arms are getting stuck in now, with hopefully a 5km swim in a couple of weeks. 

I guess my point is this; while it’s good to focus on the future, and your past will always fade a bit with time, never forget the journey. Because the journey is what makes you who you are. (Deep. As. Fuck) 

Once you’ve finished cleaning up the vomit I’ll continue…..

I’m stronger, more resilient, faster, fitter and much much more determined. I also give fewer fucks about what other people think. Which is a new development for me. Miss Cares What Every Body Thinks. 
I know I can do things. I don’t even care remotely how fast or slow they are unless I’m comparing them to my own effort because, let’s face it, very few of us are pros. So what’s the actual point in getting worked up about age group positions when actually what you’ve achieved compared to your own efforts is nothing short of miraculous. 

Aberfeldy changed me. And I love that I pushed myself to do that. So today I am INCREDIBLY proud of myself.

Finding Dory.

Swimming has always been my special favourite. As a baby and a wee girl, any water anywhere got my undivided attention. During summer holiday drives, I would force my granny and grandad to stop the car near rivers, streams and lochs and lakes so I could paddle. Water has always soothed my soul. It’s never intimidated me.

As a youngster, I was a wind-up bath toy. Wind me up, pop me in the water, let go and I was off in a cacophony of kicks and splashes and happiness. Proper water baby.

I competed from a young age. Fly was always my strongest and favourite. 25m Fly was my best event until I was 13 when it became 50m Fly. 50m and 100m freestyle (front crawl) were my next best events. 100m Individual Medley came third. And I was on a very successful frontcrawl and IM relay team. Backstroke was fun but I lacked the spacial awareness to nail turns and breaststroke has bored me stupid since I was first taught “frog kicks”. I grew frustrated because I could never nail it, and thus stopped trying. I can swim it, I just hate it.

So. Having entered a 5km swim at the end of August (lets just skip the bit where I thought IT WAS AT THE END OF FUCKING SEPTEMBER) I figured I’d best get a wiggle on and start some serious training. I’d been averaging over 5km a week in the pool, but…um…. I’m supposed to be swimming that in one actual go. Like…. with no cake stops and no chatting at the shallow end. Balls.

The first challenge was to work out what the shitting fuck is wrong with my back. It’s always stood in the way of me actually being any bloody good at any sport. But, as discussed previously, swimming is my special favourite. It CANNOT destroy this too… I persuaded my buddy Fiona to spend some time with me in the pool. She couldn’t see anything that would nip my back but gave me some fantastic advice on my pull and some drills and in one single session took my 100m ave from 1:57 to 1:49 and my 400m time from 7:48 to 7:22. Serious progress from half an hours coaching! And properly ace to spend some time watching her swim. #SwimGoalz

A couple of 3000m sessions later and my back was still being a pain in the…well… back. Physio couldn’t diagnose anything specific so we just decided my back is a dick and she pummeled me to death with her teeny tiny pointy elbows instead.

I am lucky enough to be very close to a local weekly OW session at Lochore Meadows. If swimming in swan shit is totes your fave Wednesday night activity, I totally recommend this. I try to go every week if I can. Mostly to acclimatise to that shit-your-pants moment the water goes down the back of your wetsuit. But also because swimming in open water is so very very different to the pool. You can’t see. It tastes weird. And WHAT THE BASTARD SHIT IS THAT WRAPPED AROUND MY HAND. You get the picture… I’d been enjoying it and getting some good distance practise in, and then a weird thing happened. A good friend mocks me for my “squid lid” (neoprene swim cap) but I forgot it one night and got so seasick I had to stop after a measly 1600m. Puke was actually imminent. I made sure I packed it the following week and hey presto. No puke. They are ridiculous but they work.

Unfortunately, I was still sore. I had become INCREDIBLY fed up. I was being held back by an invisible rope. I was running out of options. I had been pestering my pal IronPugsley for some coaching for-LITERALLY-EVER. He is a proper swimmer and also the most mental person I know and as proof of this is swimming 14km in the fucking THAMES this weekend. Not just swan shit there, my friend. Oh. And 10km in Loch Lomond at the end of August (note: not the end of September). If anyone was going to help me figure out what was going on, it was him. With a similar background to me (sprinter, competitor, 90% shoulders) and tonnes of expertise on hand, I knew I needed his help. Finally he had an idea. “Let’s go swimming, Bean. I’ll figure out what’s wrong.” Once I got my jaw off the floor, we got some lane time and it was brilliant. We swam, tweaked technique, shared advice and I got to race a sprinter. Great fun! Even though I lost (BARELY. BARELY LOST, Ironman….)

In that hour, he gave me a heap of pointers and areas to watch and improve. I have a weird hand thing that I do, apparently, and now I’m aware of it it’s doing my nut in but I’m all off balance if I don’t do it…. my breathing was also requiring attention. Body roll was good, head position fine. We worked out that the best way to proceed was to…… not kick. The Pull Buoy would be my new best mate. Now all my sessions are pull-only. At the 5k I will be kicking as little as possible. (I’ve lost but 4 seconds off my 100m time without my legs….)

Reassuringly, today I bashed out 3125m in a mixed session without kicking once. And I managed it in just over 65 minutes. Not too shabby. This was a few days after my lats decided to go on strike for a day.

Coach has been increasing my upper body work and I’m starting to see some awesome definition in my arms and shoulders. I’m also becoming leaner, despite my best efforts not to track macros. More protein and less sugary carbs have made a massive difference to my weight.

Here’s hoping I can keep the speed increasing and the weight decreasing without sacrificing energy and strength/endurance.

Like any event I enter, it’s never the distance that intimidates me. That probably makes me naive, but actually, I just don’t think about it as A Scary Thing. Running 26.2 miles? Yeah, huge deal but not scary. Break it down into bitesize chunks and hope for the best. 70.3 miles of triathlon? That’s a paddle, a bike and a bit of a jog…. hahahhaaaaa. Hahaha. Yeah. ok. But I did it! And I LOVED it. 5000m is going to be a bit different. I can’t just stop and stretch. I can’t stop for a snack. If I want a gel it needs to be shoved somewhere in my wetsuit. Warm. Squishy. Yum. The chafing on the back of my neck will be awful.

Time marches on, getting closer to my date with the Maid of the Loch, my date with Body Glide. My date with cramp and pissing in a rubber suit. Oh good!