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.
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.
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!