This summer I finally entered myself into the “Lamlash Splash”, a 1.3 Mile swim in the sea, from the Holy Isle to Lamlash pier on the Isle of Arran, just of the west coast of Scotland. The distance is not a problem for me since, during the summer, I had been doing roughly the same distance whenever I had a chance to get into the pool!
I have never been a great fan of swimming in the sea, I guess it’s that unknown factor…you never really know what is beneath you, or behind you for that matter. Its probably because I am so used to swimming in the pool where you can see any obstacles and know your boundaries (the walls).
After buying a nice 3mm Gul wetsuit and having a few swims around Sannox Bay I was ready for the big day! Of course you can’t just turn up and expect to swim that distance in a sea temperature of 13C without preparing your body for it. As well as the training, practicing in the sea, and plenty rest in the run of to the event, I had to make sure my body was fuelled up. People who know me know how much I can eat on an average day! In the days leading up to the event I stayed away from sweets, crisps, and fizzy pop and just stuck to healthy food packed full of energy. On the Saturday of the weekend I had my usual bowl of porridge, a few sandwiches, a couple of dinners, and then on top of that one great big plate of pasta at 3pm and then another at 11pm (after work). That was me fuelled and ready!
Sunday 24th September 2006. As usual if its windy anywhere on Arran it will be hurricane force up our end. The sea was being whipped up by a “trÃ©s fort” (very strong) northerly gale. I thought it might have been called off, but in Lamlash Bay it was much better, the waves were smaller and the sea was not as choppy as it was around the North End.
About an hour before the swim people started to gather around the lifeboat station, getting in their wetsuits and trying to stay warm. Because of the conditions there was some debate as to whether the swim should go ahead and there was some talk about swimming to Cordon and back, in the end, much to my relief we were given the ok to swim from Holy Isle to the Pier at Lamlash.
The Lamlash Yacht Club and a couple of locals were kind enough to give us a lift over to Holy Isle in their boats. After what felt like 10 minutes of scudding and thumping across the waves we arrived at the small slipway where we assembled and waited for everyone to arrive. After we were given our safety briefing, the first group of people started to make their way to Lamlash. That group was expecting to take between 50 and 70 minutes to complete the swim (anyone in the water after 70 minutes would be picked up by the safety boats for their own safety). 5 minutes later the rest of the swimmers set off. There were 18 swimmers and 6 of them local, including me!
Having been of the first to arrive at Holy Isle I was the last one in the water, which was lovely and calm, clear and surprisingly warm (honest!). I promptly got myself to the front of the group so that I didn’t have to swim in other peoples wakes. We were told to stay behind the boats and if were went ahead then we’d be on our own. After a minute I began to think I can’t swim at this pace, so I gradually went faster until I got to my natural stroke rate. This is where I find it most comfortable to swim for long times. As we made our way to the middle of the bay, the rocky seabed rapidly fell away into the greeny depths
A wee while later I was out on my own in the middle of Lamlash Bay. I could see the orange of the safety boats but couldn’t see any other swimmers near by. By this time the waves were pretty large but wide apart. I rolled over onto my back to sort my goggles. It was an amazing feeling, out there in the middle of sea, the only sound was the large rain drops plopping into the sea. I couldn’t see the pier from that far out because the waves obscured it from my view but, from the crest of a wave, I spotted the Lifeboat station, which is right next to the pier, and headed for that.
A navigating my way through some jellyfish and the moored yachts, I was at the slipway at Lamlash pier! Arguably the hardest part was trying to get a footing to stand up! The waves had stirred up the sediment, making it impossible to see the slipway beneath me, and they were slamming into the side of the pier and tossing me from side to side. My time for this swim was roughly 33-35 minutes and I was the first person to make it back, it was a great event with everyone finishing within the allowed time.
By this time a fairly large crowd had gathered to welcome everyone back, and to be honest I think they were colder and wetter than the swimmers were! The rain was absolutely pelting down!
I felt really good after the swim! I wasn’t out of puff and it was such a great feeling to have taken part in such a swim! That was the first organised swim I had taken part in since breaking my knee cap 2 years ago. It had taken a lot of hard work to recover from that and get back into condition. I was so glad that I had challenged myself to do it!
I am sure I will be doing that swim again and possibly others!
ps. A swim that has caught my eye is the Banana Boat Bondi to Bronte Oceanswim