Firth of Forth Crossing Swim

Over, Over, Over, Over, Over, Under

Posted on September 5, 2017. Filed under: Firth of Forth Crossing Swim, forth bridge, open water swimming, Queensferry Crossing, running, swimming |

Scotland is beautiful. It’s official. An internet survey said so. And not just a wee bit beautiful but THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.

Aye, ya bass.

Everyone knows Scotland is beautiful. Or bonny, as we call it. Whether you learnt it from the picture on a shortbread tin or Brigadoon or watching the skag boys alight the train at Corrour as Rent Boy declared “It’s shite being Scottish”.

It’s not a one dimensional beauty though. Whether you long for the road through Rannoch Moor to the Buachaille moodily guarding Glencoe or wish your days away for the long trip up to climb the grande dammes of Suilven or Liathach of the most remote North West.

Or if water is your thing there are the vast lochs Ness, Lomond and Awe or the small but perfectly formed Venachar or Lubnaig.

Then there are the cities: the sparkling granite of Aberdeen always caught in the gloomy half light of the 57th parallel or the Athens of the North, my long since adopted home town, Edinburgh.

Then there are Glasgow and Dundee. We don’t talk about them.

But the beauty extends to our architecture. We love our Kelpies, for sure, but if you want to see a Scotsman get truly misty eyed you show him a bridge. Particularly a ginger bridge.

Not 5km from my house is the Forth Bridge, now a World Heritage site. And from the front of my house we can see the gleaming towers of the Queensferry Crossing.

This weekend was a big weekend for Scotland’s bridges. Before the Queen came to open it and before the Red Arrows flew over it, they gave the hoi polloi “the opportunity of a lifetime” to walk over the new Queensferry Crossing. Two hundred and fifty thousand people entered a ballot for one of 50,000 tickets to walk across the bridge before it becomes a motorway. AND WE GOT TICKETS.

And so the idea of a weekend of adventuring was born. How many times could I cross the Forth in a weekend by different means?

OVER (1)

Getting out of the car at North Queensferry station the sun came out to add a little sizzle to the first crossing. A gentle jog up past Gordy Broon’s house before a descent down past the scrappys and into the perpetual roadworks of the bridge construction.

If you have never run across the Forth Road Bridge the thing that you need to know is that it is quite a steep ascent and it shoogles. Quickly you are high above the Forth but as every lorry rumbles over the expansion joints (also known as the gi-doofs) your fillings get a rattle in your head.

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The good news is that what goes up must do down so I always look ahead to the cables to see the inflection point where the descent begins. And, after passing two charity groups doing a crossing in the opposite direction, the run over the bridge is done and I am jinking through the streets to the station in South Queensferry. Or more correctly Queensferry. Or even more correctly Dalmeny. Or, as it is labelled in gaelic, Dail Mheinidh. A station so good they named it four times. How anyone actually manages to get on a train there is beyond me.

OVER (2)

I just miss a train so stand enjoying the sun with a great view of the Forth Bridge. This is the Forth Bridge by the way, the original, not the Forth Rail Bridge as some try to label it.

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£2.50 for a 3 minute journey to retrace my 45 minute run. I wait for the train twenty minutes later but it is delayed by eight minutes. It occurs to me that I can swim across in about that time.

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The conductor turns out to be a bit of a wag. He has a double take at my ticket.

“Saves walking across, I suppose”

“I’ve just run across”

“At least you didn’t have to swim it”

“Doing that on Sunday, actually”

He didn’t look like he believed me. Not even a “really?”.  As he sauntered off down the carriage I am convinced he thought I was the village idiot.

And then I had the chance to look down on the start line and, a few moments later, the finish line of Sunday’s swim glistening in the glorious sunshine.

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OVER (3)

The opportunity of a lifetime.

First of all I should say that I had a sense of trepidation about the Queensferry Crossing Experience. The organisers were GSI events who “organise” the Edinburgh Marathon and I’ve just never had a very good experience with them. But let me be the first to say that they absolutely nailed the security, logistics and experience. They should do more bridge openings and other things that don’t require baggage or results or water or finisher’s t-shirts or any other run related stuff.

They started digging into the seabed of the Forth in September 2011 just after wee Roar was born and one of our regular trips has been going to see “how the bridge is getting on”. It has grown up with him for the last 6 years so it was great to take him for a walk over it.

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Look at that wee abseil guy!

After much ID and security checking we were dropped off on the northern approach and let loose for an hour. In theory we had an hour to walk to the southern approach but once we were on the bridge it was really relaxed. And so the opportunity of a lifetime began.

Roar, as any 6 year old would do, found a white line and followed it. For 1.7 miles. Only looking up when instructed to.

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Statistically the Queensferry Crossing is the longest of it’s kind in the world and the tallest in the UK. It also continues the trend of building a bridge over the Forth every century. I could excel at being a bridge bore but I’ll let her pictures speak for themselves.

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OVER (4)

My fourth Forth crossing and still have never retraced my steps. An uneventful northbound council bus trip back to the car as a huge container ship crossed below the Forth Road Bridge and cruises out towards the Forth bridge.

OVER (5)

Another bus. This time southbound on the Forth Road Bridge. This time I wear a rubber suit and eat a banana.

I don’t mess around with making these trips unique.

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The weekend closer. A swim in the shadow of the Forth Bridge.

After a wait for slack water 122 swimmers enter the water in a spluttering, salty stramash and then disappear into the vast dark water of the crossing. Progress marked only by kayakers and ribs man-marking the swimmers spread across the Firth.

I can’t begin to explain the entirely unique perspective that you get of all the bridges when your eyes are two inches above the waves. The old ginger bridge rises majestically on our right and the 20th century and 21st century bridges slightly more distant to our left.

The sun is warm. The water is cold. The waves are light but untamed. I increase my cadence to keep steady power through the steady flow of the river ever present even in slack water.

I sight the arch on the slipway. I swim through the floating wrack seaweed. My feet touch down.

Of course there is a full race report. As a spoiler I do quite well. But you’ll have to read it to find out the whole story.

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Quietly pleased with my race result. Very pleased with 6 crossings of the Forth without doing the same crossing twice – one on the Forth Bridge, three on the Road Bridge (one north, one south on road, one south on foot), one on the Queensferry Crossing and one by shoulder power in the shadow of the Forth Bridge.

 

 

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One Came Second in Third Forth Crossing

Posted on September 5, 2017. Filed under: Firth of Forth Crossing Swim, forth bridge, forth crossing race, open water swimming, swimming |

The title kinda gives the game away, but who am I to deny myself a puntastic headline?

It is fair to say that the Vigour Events’ Forth Crossing Race is my favourite race of the year. Like the Great Scottish Swim I have done it since it began (in it’s current form, previously it wasn’t open to your average wetsuit fetishist) and will keep coming back as long as I can.

This year was also special because of the other events going on across the Forth and the adventures that I set myself. You can read about those in Over, Over, Over, Over, Over, Under.

I am conscious that the Great Scottish Swim 10k race report was a bit light on detail, mainly because I disengaged my brain to cope with the distance, so I resolved to soak up the detail of the Forth Crossing.  As a consequence I am at risk of being accused of writing two thousand one hundred and thirty three words of swimgeekery.

Slack water was at 12.30pm this year and 25,000 people were expected in Fife for a daunder across the Queensferry Crossing so the morning preparation for the swim was very not standard. My aim was porridge at normal breakfast time and then two evenly spaced bananas to keep me topped up to start for the 2k crossing,

Andy picked me up at 09.15am and we headed down to the Albert Hotel for registration. At this stage my day was still all going smoothly.  It was not to last.

We took the, now customary, race selfies and then assumed our, now customary, spot on the pavement. Or our changing room as we like to call it. If it ever rains on Forth Crossing Day I have no idea what we will do.

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Just before the buses were due we pulled our wetsuits on to the waist, stuck on warm tops for the wait at the other side and shoved essential kit into the provided black bin bags that would be brought back as we swam.

Over at Queensferry, Andy and I found a quiet spot to sit in the sun on the slipway while everyone else loitered in the car park.

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That was when I started my usual methodological preparation of my kit. Almost exactly 2km away from my swimming bag and where being methodological would have been helpful. I am trying to build suspense here but I know that you have all concluded that I made a dick of preparation already. But bear with me to appreciate the size and scale.

I took off my down jacket and t-shirt and stuffed them into the black bag.  Then I laid out my goggles, ear plugs, and the dubious sex device that saves my neck from the wetsuit garrotte. Out came the baby oil gel and I lubed the rubber collar and set it aside with my ear plugs.

And then I pulled my swim buoy out.

Now, you see, I don’t often use a buoy.  I only use it when they are mandatory in races or if I swim in the sea. And I only swim in the sea if I am escorted by a flotilla of kayakers and at least two high speed ribs because, frankly, I have a not unreasonable fear of being swept into Stavanger harbour unable to speak a word of Norwegian. So, in effect, it hadn’t been used since the Forth Crossing last year. When the strap became detached and I lost it and couldn’t attach it to myself.

I wasn’t alarmed when the buoy came away from the strap, because now I knew that was a thing but I had both pieces in my hands. I just footered with the carabiner and reattached it. And then it fell off again. 30 minutes to go and my mandatory buoy was in two irreconcilable pieces. A bit of frantic running about and I found some mariners with cable ties. Problem solved.

I then started on my second banana and, with a thunking realisation, noted that my swim cap was just over 2000 metres away.

I saw Kirstin, from Vigour, walking by and approached her:

“Errrr Kirstin. You know we didn’t have to remember much?”

“Yes”

“Well, I’ve forgotten the only thing that I really had to remember”

Kirstin had a sharpie in her hand. She gestured with it. It was an innocent gesture but for  more than a few seconds I was pretty certain my face was going to be sharpied with my race number.

“We don’t have any spares over here, we  really never thought anyone would forget a cap…..”

I’d love to say that this was never mentioned again but, really, there was bugger all chance of this stupidity being overlooked. Och well. Bare napper it was going to be.

We were called up for the race briefing. Robert, the race director, took his spot and gave his briefing. And then drew everyone’s attention to the spanner who had forgotten his cap.

I’m not easily embarrassed so I focussed on the key thing to remember.  The key thing to remember from the briefing was to sight for the north of the road bridge and that a yellow kayak would lead the first place swimmer. That would be really useful as picking the right line is crucial to a stress free crossing.

We are cleared for a dip on the slipway.

I guddle the collar on, plug the ears, get Andy to zip me up, and start to wade in.  In all the dickery I have completely smeared my goggles in baby oil gel. Holy shit, can anything else go wrong?

I need to get wet. Firstly the Forth is 15c and secondly I’m going to be swimming bare headed. I spend as long as I can in the water, keeping my chest and head under as long as I am allowed. And then we are called out for the start.

With a couple of minutes to go I am standing with the water lapping my toes, frantically de-smearing my goggles with a wetsuit sleeve. I’m not going to rush in but I’m going to take my spot on the front row. Just before Robert starts the countdown from 10 he  wittily checks that everyone has remembered their caps. Little does he realise that my goggles are now my main concern.

And then we are off.

My basic race start principle remains the same – dead slow. If I get my heart rate up too soon I’ll end up treading water, with the cold water crushing my chest, gasping for air 200m into the race.

Everyone runs past me as I stroll in. There are probably 40 or 50 people swimming in front of me as I wade. Then I find a spot and dive in.

I cut around a couple of people and take a slightly aggressive line along the harbour wall. Bad choice. I am pinned between a rough harbour wall and a skins swimmer. It’s Sophie’s choice – a lycra banana hammock in my face or grind the skin off my cheek against the wall. Several more strokes and the wall subsides below the water.

In the sunshine the water in the Forth takes on a milky opalescence. Clear but cloudy. Impenetrable but bright. I watch the line of the wall under the water. It’s time to piss or get off the pot, I break left away from the budgie smugglers and expect my nose and teeth to rattle over the wall. Nothing. I was clear but taking a wide line to the left of the beacon at the end of the slipway. Brain freeze grips my baldy heid.

I’m feeling good so I accelerate from stall speed to my usual race pace. As I sight I see a handful of buoys bobbing ahead of me. I pick them off quickly, too quickly even to take a tow from the feet as I pass.

I sight and I think I can see a yellow canoe ahead.

The thing about a sea swim is that scale is deceptive. With your eyes two inches above the water and a playing field about a kilometre wide it is impossible to get a handle on distance or speed without stopping and treading water. I think the canoe is probably a couple of hundred metres ahead. I don’t want to lose sight of the only flash of colour on the horizon.

For the middle kilometre of the race I set a punishing pace trying to chase down whoever is with the canoe. My normal stroke rate is 32 strokes per minute but for the middle kilometre I am over 37 strokes per minute, not giving an inch to the flow of the Firth. But eventually I lose sight of the kayak and the buoy.

I see no-one. And then from nowhere a swimmer pulls alongside me on my left. We swim together for a couple of hundred metres and then he pulls in front of me. I love to swim in clean water so I took his draft for about 10 seconds and then swam to his right. I never saw him again. I assume he is off towards the finish line.

I become conscious of two things. An occasional tap on my toes which I assume is my buoy and a kayaker about 5 metres to my right.

Still keeping up the same pace, hoping that I can salvage a third place position I see a yacht ahead of me.  Too close and not doing enough to avoid me. With a bright orange buoy and a kayaker I am certain that I am visible and I resolve to ignore it and power on.

With hindsight I think I am fighting against the flow of the river at this point.  My 100m pace for each 500m of the race went 1:18, 1:23, 1:46, 1:49. Given that my splits for the Great Scottish Swim were 1:35 for 9.5k and 1:45 for 0.5k I think it is safe to say the flow of the river changed half way across.

It dawns on me that the kayak to my right is yellow. I was sure I saw a kayak in the distance. What if it wasn’t a kayak? Maybe second place has a yellow kayak escort too? Am I in the lead? Surely not.

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Me. In the lead. With someone on my feet that I didn’t know was there.

With the finish line in sight, maybe 200m away, a skins swimmer appears to my right. We slug it out shoulder to shoulder and then he pulls ahead and to my left. I stay directly on towards the finish.

We come inside the harbour wall and the seaweed appears from blow, tangling in my fingers. He is probably two metres ahead of me.  I put my feet down and try to run. Too deep I dive under and swim again. He is knee deep he puts another metre into me before I can find my feet. I go to run but we are out of the water. The swim race is done.

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The winner, then me, THEN ANDY

I look over my shoulder and see someone else. Apparently I have led a group of three across the Forth without even realising it.

I cross the line and congratulate the chap in front of me.  Tara screams that I was second and Andy is third. What? Wait? Second? And Andy? I am not totally alert yet.

Andy has his swim of the year and finishes with a huge PB and a podium place. He was on my toes from about half way across.  God knows we’ve practised it enough and made amends for our day out in the lakes.

Apparently I was second and first wetsuit. In 2015 I was 27th and thought I could do better, last year I was 4th and hoped for more. This time I was second. SECOND.

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Tara, Pam, Rory and Charlotte are all hoarse. They sat on the harbour wall and had a bird’s eye view of the last few hundred metres of the race developing.

My ear was bleeding quite heavily. I still have no idea why. I am assuming a shark or a crocodile took a piece of me but I never even felt it. Maybe it hung on a bit and thats what slowed my pace in the latter part of the race.

Like all Vigour Events there is a lovely family feel to the event and we stayed and cheered all the swimmers into the finish and cheered the amazing water support team that kept us safe in a vast stretch of shipping lane!

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I always enjoy the prize giving in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, but it was extra special this year winning a prize for first wetsuit swimmer. And, of course, Robert managed to mention the missing cap during the presentation. This year I made my mark in more ways than one!

Afterwards, sometime after beer and before hangover, I plotted the three years of GPS trace. This year was the longest swim by far but last year’s straight swim felt much more brutal, especially in the latter stages. Because we think of the Forth as the sea, it’s easy to forget it is still a river so there is a lot going on even in slack water.

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Orange – 2017, Blue – 2016, Pink – 2015.

And that concludes another fantastic Forth Crossing Race. Top marks again to Robert and Kirstin for organising an amazing event for the ever expanding and inclusive Vigour family. And all the thanks to the water safety team without whom we would be spending Sunday afternoon in the carvery at the Hawes Inn.

For some additional reading Andy’s blog is here

The video of the event:

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Mission Accomplished

Posted on September 13, 2016. Filed under: Firth of Forth Crossing Swim, forth bridge, forth crossing race, swimming, vigour events |

My 45th birthday was sandwiched between two swim races. Almost perfect metaphors for my reluctant transition from early 40s to mid 40s.

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This picture of me finishing the Loch Ard swim is exactly how I felt approaching my birthday. And approaching the swim the week after my birthday.  Let me explain.

 

I don’t often set targets for races. For a whole variety of reasons – mainly because since I’ve started doing endurance events just finishing is winning for me; but also because I hate that moment when you realise despite all the planning and effort a target is slipping away. It devalues the real achievement for me which is doing something I previously would have considered impossible.

But last year a switch flipped in me. I had recovered my love for swim racing. This happened in two stages – when I realised that I had the mental strength to swim long distance and when I had a decent result.

The second happened fortuitously at the race that is probably the closest race that I have done to my front door! At last year’s Forth Crossing Race, I was surprised when the results came in that I had finished in 27th place in just under 35mins.

I was pleased with that at first. And then it niggled me. If I was a minute faster, I would be Top 10. And that would feel like a proper result. I wanted a proper result.

I decided there and then that I would train for the first time in forever and I would convert my 1:38 5k Great Scottish Swim into an ambitious sub 3 hour 10k and that I would place in the Top 10 at the Forth Crossing.

This wasn’t just ambition or hubris. I understand swimming. And swimmers. I can watch a swimmer and see the talent, or the potential or whether they are in form. And similarly, I can feel it. Through two long Ironman campaigns I never felt any kind of swim form but this time last year I could feel myself being caught in a swell of form and enthusiasm and I would use that.

And that is where I found myself approaching my 45th birthday:

I had opportunistically entered the Great North Swim at the last moment and blew away my 5k PB by 17 minutes. I swam the Thames Marathon and blew away my expected finish time by 33 minutes. I swam my A race on a chilly Friday night at Loch Lomond and blew away my 3 hour Great Scottish Swim by 19 minutes.

Good Times.

But then, Bad Times. The form shuddered to a halt.

I entered the Loch Ard Swim Festival at the 11th hour and what should have been a beautiful swim in a beautiful loch turned into a tortuous grind. I started badly and finished 4 minutes down on the 5k time I had set at Windermere and the half way split I had at Loch Lomond.

I was filled with doubt. I was tired. It had been a long swim season with most of it carrying a shoulder injury and numb fingers. I was about to turn 45. I’d overcooked it and there was no way I’d make top 10. Bugger.

My mood was as black as the Forth as I approached my birthday.

But the show must go on.

We had a squad this year – the two Bolton Ironmen. Andy and Andrew. Or Fergie and Traff to avoid confusion.

Fergie and I did the Forth Crossing Race last year so we knew the drill. Jammers on, avoid the toilets, park early.

Incredibly as we arrived in North Queensferry to register the weather was as good as last year. It’s like there is good weather on the Forth once a year and it coincides with race morning!

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We find a sunny spot in the street and get our wetsuits tattooed and pulled on to the waist. Take a quick bridge selfie and jump on to one of the three coaches ready for us. As has been my experience at all their events Robert, Kirstin and the Vigour team made the event unrushed, unfussed but as smooth as clockwork.

There are plenty of nervous first timers on the bus. A few with wetsuits already zipped up. Knowing the water temperature I would be zipping up at the very last moment and getting as long in the water to acclimatise as was possible.

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We arrive at South Queensferry and those in the know wander down to the smelly public toilets. Not the most glamorous location but it was still far to early to, ahem, warm the wetsuit.

By 9am the Forth was uncharacteristically millpond’ish. The kayakers were taking to the water and we were ready to be briefed. While we definitely paid attention, Fergie and I were definitely also considering our idea for a two (or three) Bridge race. Using the flood tide to go inland, the slack water to cross and the ebb to take us out to North Queensferry kinda speedily. Sounds crazy but it will definitely be A Thing one day and I will definitely do it avoiding aircraft carriers and sharks and things.

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By 915 we were allowed in the water. At 12c it was the nippiest I have swum in for a while. I had a chat with a kayaker and confirmed sighting to the end of the road bridge was the best tactic, then I peed, then I got out ready for the start.

Special guest, Howard James, world record holder for the earliest Channel swim strode past us in his speedos (arousing Fergie’s attention) and dived into the Forth like it was a steaming hot tub. That was pretty much the last we saw of him until the prize giving.

We counted down from 10. A cheer and we were off.

It’s a long slipway and a long walk in. Fergie was first to swim on my left when the water was mid thigh. A few steps later and Traff swims on my right. I wade until my belly button.

Traff and I are about evenly paced and we swim a few strokes side by side then he disappears. Everyone disappears. That was the last I saw of anyone until about 200m from the end.

I feel the cold rising in me and my chest crushing. I slow to sinking speed but I feel the panic rising again. Please not again.

I breathe every stroke. I exhale fully. The panic is held at bay but it is not receding.

And then, as soon as it arrived, I feel it rush away from my chest down my body and out my toes. Now I can just swim.

I have a sensation I am doing well. I can’t see anyone at all. I batter out a rhythm:

Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Breath. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Sight. Stroke. Breathe.

And repeat.

As I build momentum the most amazing thing happened. I feel the force of the water underneath me hit me hard. I see nothing but assume a seal has just swum under me.

At some point I smash into the wake of a late passing vessel. It is brutal and I feel myself out of the water and then falling back into it. Two smacks in the face and then back to the grind.

Last year I had a clear approach to the finish arch. This year I think the tide is ebbing earlier. I am approaching the arch from the east despite sighting to be on it’s west.

I see a swim buoy come in from my right hand side but I can’t quite get on the swimmer’s feet and let them go.

With about 200m to go I see another buoy on my left and manage to get on the feet this time. But I’ve got nothing left for the pass. I just take the tow for the last few minutes of another amazing swim.

I climb onto the slipway just behind the swimmer. I can tell there aren’t many finishers yet.

In a lovely touch Robert welcomes every swimmer in with a handshake and we are presented a medal at the arch.

I see the sherpas but all I want to do is return the Forth from my mouth and my nose to where it belongs.  Having cleared the tubes I wander over

“YOU WERE FOURTH AND THIRD MAN”

Sometimes it’s great to be chicked, even if you have no idea in a black rubber suit and red hat that you were.

My work is done. Top 10 blown away.

I look round and I see Traff coming up the slipway in 8th. And a few minutes later Fergie in 18th with a 4 minute PB.

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I couldn’t have hoped for better. I was 8 seconds down on 3rd, 57 seconds down on second and 1:39 down on Howard from the Guinness Book of Records. Finishing in 30:10 it was pretty much a 5 minute PB.

Chuffed? Just a little bit.

The Forth Crossing Race was yet another amazing event by Vigour. Water safety and organisation were impeccable and the race retains an incredibly personal touch. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again though, this event needs a serious bit of medal in the shape of the Forth Bridge to accompany such an iconic race.

I’ll be back next year to pick one of those bad boys up.

That’s the last swim race of the year done and my body is sighing with relief at having the opportunity to recover before I start to think about next year’s events.

But I need to say something really important.  I would like to say a big thank you to all the swim event organisers, lifeguards, boat crews, stand up paddle boarders, and kayakers that have kept me and the other swimmers safe through the year. We literally couldn’t do it without you and if I generally didn’t see you while wearing a rubber suit I would give every single one of you a big hug.

Now I just need to get through Berlin Marathon with shin splints and no running miles in my legs. Perhaps there is a Guinness Book of Records category for most bratwurst eaten during a marathon?

 

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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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