A Tick on the Bucket List

Posted on September 3, 2015. Filed under: Firth of Forth Crossing Swim, swimming |

When I was growing up all I wanted to do was swim 50 metres freestyle at the Olympics.  That would have answered all of my birthday wishes.  With hindsight I should have wished for another couple of inches in height.  At just over 5’11” I had already lost against the 6 footers before I started, so I never made it to Seoul or Barcelona.

Disappointment prompted a long sabbatical with occasional re-appearances for my club and the odd sponsored swim until I discovered open water swimming.  Some may say, unkindly, that open water is all about the rubber fetish but, that aside, I love it.  I love it in the same way I love a walk up a hill or a cycle to a pub – not the most efficient training but a great way to while away some time outdoors.

When I discovered open water swimming I googled a lot to find swims.  There wasn’t much internet to google back then and swims certainly didn’t really have websites but there were 4 swims that I put on my bucket list.  In some bizarre penitentiary obsession I wanted to escape from Robben Island, and from Alcatraz (which I have ticked off the list). I wanted to swim in the wake of Leander and Byron from Europe to Asia in the Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim and I wanted to do my own backyard swim.

For a variety of reasons I have never managed to schedule a crossing of the Firth of Forth even though the finish is less than 5 miles from my back door.  The first couple of years it fell on my birthday so I got no further than that.  Then one year it wasn’t on my birthday but it was run by the SASA who insisted I had to be a member of a club to do it.  That seemed a bit much and as Marx said (Groucho, not Karl), “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”.  Then I forgot all about it as I focussed on a couple of Ironman and various other shenanigans.  And then amazingly, while idly browsing, I discovered that THIS YEAR IT IS POSSIBLE.

Now this isn’t the longest swim in the world (especially considering I swam 5k open water with added wardrobe malfunctions last weekend) but it is a serious stretch of water.  Cruise ships, gas tankers, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and huge frigging jellyfish ply their trade up and down the Forth.  The last time I was in I sighted to find a robustly built bull seal was showing me some attention.  I can only assume the fine spray of fish breath in my face was flirting as it then marked me right across the bay until I shot out onto the crowded beach like Jaws was pursuing me.  I think he liked my shiny black suit and I was really not in the mood to be rogered by a large sea mammal that day.

Anyway, at 9am on Sunday morning in an hour of slack water I am taking on the crossing.  It is a 2.2km swim across heart stoppingly cold water with whatever swell, chop and wildlife the North Sea throws at us.  The race instructions included my favourite race guidance ever “We are unable to place buoys out for the course for this swim however as the swim follows the bridge you will simply be following the bridge across the river”.  If you excuse the fact that there are now three Forth bridges  and they don’t specify which, the original Forth Bridge is the best course marker you could ever hope for.

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New wetsuit has been tried on, interrupted only by an undignified doorbell ring by the postie.  Weather looks swimmable.  All systems are go.

*Excited face*

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