Slaying Demons

Posted on August 30, 2015. Filed under: great scottish swim, swimming, wetsuit |

I’m not particularly demonstrative. You’ll rarely know if I’m up or down unless you know me very well and can read the signals.  So no-one really knows how traumatised I was left by a 5k swim I did in 2012.

No matter how unpleasant an event I’ve done I have almost immediately declared I want to do another – the first marathon where I was so dehydrated I picked a fight with a blind man (I WANT TO DO ANOTHER MARATHON), the first Ironman where I spent most of the bike and all of the run with a stomach like Vesuvius  (MOOOOOOAAAAAAAR), but not the 5k swim.

I won’t go into it again but it is the first event where I said, “I hated that and I will never, ever do it again.”

As time dulled the memory, it remained my bête noir but I saw it as limiting.  I wanted to do more stuff but this mental block was holding me back.  I had to MTFU and put this demon to the sword.

And today, the morning after, I find myself uncharacteristically excited. I. Can’t. Stop. Smiling.

Everything about yesterday was wrong. It should have been a horrific reaffirmation of everything I thought about a 5k swim. But it wasn’t.  It so wasn’t.

Firstly, let me set the scene. I am a swimmer.  I was a swimmer.  Whether through evolution or development I have an ideal build for swimming.  For swimming very, very short distances.  Like 50m of front crawl or butterfly. I have shoulders so wide and biceps so big that six “normal” sized triathletes can take a draft in my Bismarkesque wake.  I have evolved to swim short distances, fast. I have no business swimming very long distances.

Secondly, I may have had suboptimal preparation.  At 1am the night before I was in a taxi in a drive thru McDonalds, 180 miles from the start line.  And I was full of gin, mojito, beer, German sausage and the dronings of Spandau Ballet.

And thirdly, I haven’t swum much.  In fact I have swum 41.6km since Ironman Austria in June.  June TWENTY FOURTEEN!  Honestly, it felt like more. And half of it was done in one week.  But it was clearly not enough for big time demon slaying.

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. I love the Great Scottish Swim. I’ve done it every year from the dark days of Strathclyde Park (the blue green algae was the nicest thing in there), I did it the year it didn’t happen and it has been my favourite event, anywhere in the world, since it moved to Loch Lomond.  It seemed a fitting, if chilly, spot to kick a demon square in the balls.

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Panicked by the prospect of a 3 hour drive I arrived early.  Very early.  Kinda three and a half hours early.  I bumped into a heap of people I knew including my buddy Bean, newly knighted as a half ironman and ridiculously invigorated by her mile swim.

I used my spare time wisely rehydrating and saving children. These are in fact both true. At one point the rain came on heavily and a mum grabbing for her raincoat let go of her buggy, the weight of her bag tipped the buggy, catapulting her daughter into the air.  I caught the child on the half volley and presented it to the mortified mother as she emerged from fixing her hood.

Several hours of watching pass and I start to think I should get on with it.  Twenty minutes before registration I head to changing. The clear strangle marks on my neck the target for two compeeds and thirteen litres of baby oil gel. (The strangle marks were not from some weird autoerotic asphyxiation event but a swim with Ironman Andrew in the stunning Eccleston Delph the weekend before)

At 15:01 the announcer calls “registration is now open for our last swim of the day, the half marathon swim”.  Twenty nine minutes to go.  I reach round for the zip.  It, unusually, moves freely. Then detaches from the wetsuit in three pieces.  HOLY SHITTING FUCK.

In my head the outside world falls silent.

Life goes into seriously slow motion.

There is a man standing in an Aquasphere gazebo. I walk towards him.

“Is there anything you can do to close this wetsuit”

“Sorry, that zip is completely broken

Everything slows further. Och well a bit of a waste of a drive.  Then I am offered a lifeline.

“Get over to the other tent in the main village and they will lend you one”

Twenty eight minutes to the start. Surely I can’t make it?

The outside world re-erupts in my head. The noise and the bustle escalates as I break into a barefoot sprint dodging ice cream lickers, wheelchairs, strollers and shitting dogs.  I start stripping the wetsuit.  Bean’s words from earlier reverberate in my ears “people were buying wetsuits; I can’t imagine swimming a mile in a wetsuit that was brand new”.  TRY THREE, BEAN!

I get to the wetsuit stand. And let me say this now – Ricky and the guys from thetristore.com saved my race – seriously, buy a cervelo or something from them. They size me, dress me, now dripping sweat and send me on my way. My feet are killing me from the barefoot sprinting.

I see registration. Despite the sweat now flowing freely into my eyes I see the clock.  15:11.  HOW FAST DID I RUN? My fastest transition ever.

I have no time for contemplation. I show the demon no respect.  Registration. Acclimatisation. Ooooooh chilly.  Race briefing. Horn.

We go.  I slow everything down. I have no time for breathlessness.  I pass the Maid of the Loch.  I am into my stroke.  It’s all going to be ok.

I sight.  Our caps are yellow.  The marker buoys are yellow; like giant smirking minions.  I can’t distinguish between cap or 8ft tall buoy.  I follow the crowd.

The half mile comes quickly. Then the mile.  This is fun.

Half way. Still crowded. Usual bashing. You can’t take it personally.  I think the 5k was the busiest wave of the day. I feel chafing. New wetsuit, new chafe marks.

Two miles. This feels surprisingly easy. I dig in and pick up the pace.

Two and a half miles. At the big pink buoy.  I stop. I tread water. I enjoy Loch Lomond for a moment.  A unique view.  A swimmer’s view.  I push on.

The final marker buoy. The elite’s finish gantry. Shallow water.  CRAMP.

SWEET JESUS THAT IS BIIIIIG CRAMP.

I’m done. I sit in the water. 1:37 on the watch. 5000m done.  Imagine if I’d trained.

The volunteer looks at me and extends a hand. I’m smiling. It’s infectious, he smiles back.  I try to stand but I’m laughing too much. Out loud too much fun laughing.  The announcer offers some encouragement to cross the finish line. I don’t care.

In your face 5k swim. I win.

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8 Responses to “Slaying Demons”

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You SMASHED that! Nice swimming and great report!! *Extra awesome points for catching flying child*

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Thanks Sarah. I definitely felt like I should have worn a superhero suit instead of a broken wetsuit.

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Maybe next time. Or just add a cape to the wetsuit …

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Fabulous! Well done. You kicked that 5K square in the balls.

What’s next, 10K swim? More autoaquatic asphyxiation with your pal Andrew?? Keep us posted.

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Thanks Lee! I’m swimming across the Forth next weekend. Standby for Reporting Scotland to discover me in Stavanger.

Liked by 1 person

Oh good luck! That sounds like a long way….

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Great read! Sounds like good fun.

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[…] all mental and entered the Great Scottish Swim 5k. A swim which IP kicked in the face last year (but not sans incident…) and a distance which fills me with more fear than ANY event I’ve taken part in so […]

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