The "Not So" Great Weegie Dook

Posted on August 19, 2010. Filed under: anaphylaxis campaign, Blue-green algae, great scottish swim, ness, Pentlands, shakey, swim, Threipmuir, wetsuit |

OK, so you get the message like I did on Tuesday night.  The final step, and the only guaranteed bling, of the challenge has been postponed.  Now given that Strathclyde Park is effectively a large Weegie puddle I had foolishly made the assumption that blue-green algae would be an enhancement rather than a hazard.   Who would have known that a little bit of plant life was a greater hazard than lightly diluted Buckie, shopping trollies, pit-bull jobbies and any of a selection of hoodies and shellies lobbing stale Gregs scotch pies at us?  But there you go – the Great Scottish Swim is postponed with no revised date forthcoming.
Now, for a one armed swimmer the Great Swim was always going to be like the ride into Paris in the Tour de France – a valedictory trip sipping champers from a flute, enjoying the crowds and stepping onto the podium to pick up a large piece of Jim’ll Fix It style bling.  But what it was really about was rounding off the challenge as a trilogy for a bit of symmetry, having a swim with a great mate and kicking off a 3 day bender.  So why let a bit of west coast plant life change the plan?
So Shakey and I, Pam and Ma and Da Shakey are heading to the hills on Saturday morning to finish the challenge.  Instead of risking life and limb with cyanobacteria in Motherwell we will head to the rather more genteel Balerno and face down irate anglers and liberate their brown trout.  The revised venue will be away from the razzmataz and glitz and instead we will head into the subdued waters of Threipmuir Reservoir in the Pentlands where we will don the rubber suits for the final swim of the season and complete the mile in front of an adoring public of three, 20 angry anglers and a couple of scabby dugs.
For those of you thinking “I can swim 64 lengths of the pool so what’s the fuss?” you need to understand the difference between open water swimming and pool swimming.  As Great Swim say “No walls, no lanes, no chlorine”……..or alternatively, “no visibility whatsoever, no sensation in the extremities, no desire to think about what is below” – true but not so catchy.  It can be viciously cold, no matter how experienced you are you can have anxiety attacks and you become convinced that everything that you touch in the deep, black water wants to eat you. 
It is only fair that I let on now that I have been teaching Shakey to swim for less than a year and when we first started lessons she couldn’t put her face in the water.  The Great Scottish Swim was always our target event and so now why should we let anything get in the way?  Not even a nervous swimmer commiting herself to water with the only support being from a one-armed, fatigued, half-ironman and no rescue boats.  I managed to get Shakey to come out of denial for 10 minutes to type a few words on her open water experiences so far.  To be clear she is a paddy and “feck” is not an obscenity – in fact, you can say it in front of your ma.
Prior to January of this year the only dip I ever took in water was in the bath and even then I generally tried to not get my hair wet. Now, it’s not that I’m afraid of water, I’m afraid of drowning (And for those that say it’s the most peaceful way to go….how the feck do you know that?!?). I quite like taking on new challenges and as I’m fairly fond of running and like the odd spinning class, triathlons seemed the next logical step (although in hindsight spending a couple of hours a week trying to keep your legs going in time to the theme tune from Rocky is probably not the best preparation of strapping myself onto a road bike and playing chicken with traffic). Clearly not being able to swim or even stick my head under the water was a tiny obstacle but sure how hard could it be to learn??? Very is the answer to that.
I considered going to professional swimming lessons but apparently I breach my local pools class restrictions, i.e. I’m not a 3 foot tall, 5 year old and they don’t make armbands in my size, so I was forced to take up Stumpy on his offer of lessons. After years of hearing him regale stories of his past swimming glories (modesty is not something he has mastered yet) and boasting that he could turn any monkey into a swimmer (hahahahahaha – he hadn’t seen me in a pool yet!!) it was time to put the self-proclaimed legend to the test. Lessons were to take place in Cowdenbeath Leisure Centre (and they think we’re scared of blue-green algae!) with the goal being a pool triathlon in Dalkeith, an open water triathlon in Ayr and an open water mile swim in some loch in Glasgow in August. On paper it all seemed fairly manageable…. in reality I should have been sectioned. Swimming is all about coordination and grace, and it is now apparent that I have neither. Coordinating arms and legs, breathing, dodging 10 year olds dive bombing, dodging retirees doing aqua-cise in tiny red speedos, dodging couples in the throes of passion (Cowdenbeath pool is a date night hotspot) all the while trying desperately not to drown made for a very stressful Monday night for me and hilarious one for Stumpy. But after a few months of thrashing about , I could finally get in to the nice warm (I repeat WARM) pool, stick my head under the water AND open my eyes, and do a few hundred metres of breaststroke without needing the Baywatch wannabes to drag me out of the water. Although I will admit to contemplating faking drowning on the nights when the fit young men were on duty.
So first up was the beginner’s triathlon in Dalkeith. This consisted of a 450m pool swim, 10km cycle and 5km run. All in all a successful day out and I managed to get through the swim with a reasonable amount of dignity and maintaining the feeling in my extremities. Onto preparing for the Ayr triathlon where it became apparent that there was a fundamental flaw with the training regime…. I did it in a nice WARM pool. Now I foolishly kept telling myself that if anything swimming in open water would actually be easier than in a nice WARM pool as there is no chlorine or belly flopping children to avoid. I can convince myself of anything if I set my mind to it, like for example that blonde is my natural hair colour. Oh how wrong can one person be? In the week before the event I finally decided to play along with Stumpy, mainly just to shut him up ranting about it, and buy a wetsuit and take a dip in open water. Sweet Jesus it wasn’t pleasant. First off there’s the shame of having to go out in public clad neck to ankle in rubber, which by the way is not a flattering look for anyone, and if I had of realised the extent of the shame I would have stuck with eating lettuce leaves in the run up to the outing (and in fact that would probably have allowed me to fit into the first wetsuit that I had delivered!). Then there’s the walking on rocks and all sorts of slimy sh!te to get into the arctic waters. And then there’s the awful sensation of the water trickling into your wetsuit…. think stone cold shower multiplied a million times over. Now when I initially went in I was surprisingly calm. But then I was made to stick my head under and open my eyes; now there was feck all point to that as I couldn’t actually see anything. Where were the nice lights lining the bottom??? Thereafter followed a brief panic attack when I couldn’t see or touch the bottom and all sorts of plant and animal life came up to meet me from the depths. It’s safe to say if I had known there would be no bling (i.e. medals) at the Ayr tri I wouldn’t have shown up for it after this experience but, to be honest, I’ll do anything for a trinket. Thankfully Stumpy talked me round and the moment passed. After that the water seemed to warm up a bit (although the look on Stumpy’s face suggested he had something to do with that) and after splashing around a bit we headed to the shore for Pam’s photocall with the ducks. So once again I was back to fooling myself and I was feeling pretty comfortable about the upcoming trip to Ayr. I’m an idiot.
As we’ve both said previously, and I generally don’t like to labour a point (hahahaha), it was freezing!!!! I mean toe curling, blood chilling, numb extremities, can someone please chuck me a hot water bottle to strap it to myself freezing. Even the hardened triathletes (i.e. the ones with the fancy bikes I considered licking) were shivering. Unlike the warm water in Loch Ore the river didn’t appear to heat up and again I questioned my sanity in thinking pool training was sufficient for a dip in the great outdoors. After all this you would think I’d have learned my lesson and accepted that swimming is not my forte, but I’m just not that bright. So on Saturday even though the good folk of the Great Scottish Swim won’t be joining us I’m going to complete my swimming challenge and drag myself through the water for 1 mile. Here’s hoping there’s no ducks so Pam can concentrate on dialling 999.

I did warn her we need to practice in open water to “toughen up”.  Did she listen??

The Daily Record Ironman Blog (which is well worth a bookmark) is written by a fella called James Moncur who raced Aberfeldy at the weekend.  You can get his alternative (ie faster) perspective on the race here.  He tries hard but I don’t think he does injuries as well as I do.
This is the penultimate post on the blog before you have to go back to the Daily Mail so I will give it one last push for sponsorship.  I am very proud and grateful to have raised £3235 in sponsorship for the Anaphylaxis Campaign.  I have spoken to the charity this week to learn a bit more about what they will do practically with the cash that has been raised. 
Education and Awareness.  Helping families that have to live with allergies, educating those that supply hospital food to patients who are particularly at risk of allergic reactions and missing nutritional benefits and attending events and exhibitions to raise awareness
Support for Vunerable Groups.  Which includes developing on-line training for health professionals, pre-school and nursery staff, research work into the particular risks of allergies in the diets of ethnic minority groups and working with older children and younger adults who face a series of challenges as they begin to take responsibility for managing their own allergy.
A lot of people have called and written with support because they have been directly touched by allergies and they have little support and very little public awareness to their plight.  Hopefully, we have done our little bit to help.

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3 Responses to “The "Not So" Great Weegie Dook”

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Enjoy the climax ! What a superb effort loon.


Now Steve, is that loon in the Aberdonian sense or are you calling me a mentalist?


We had been planning a trip to Balerno this weekend, how funny if we see the wet suit brigade although no doubt you'll be a bit earlier than us.Good luck Shakey, having been mentored by Dougie over the years I feel your pain! Will only admit he was a good mentor under extreme duress ;o)


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