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Our regular correspondent on the peninsula, Nic Goddard, tells of tackling the final two open water swims of the season, including a slightly nervy night-time effort in Loch Leven.
Saturday saw the final two swims in the 2019 programme of events with Resipole-based charity, Highland Open Water Swim.
The season started back in February with a swim at Glen Uig and finished up with a swim of the ferry route across the Corran Narrows on Saturday morning and a night-time swim around the Ballachulish peninsula in Loch Leven as darkness fell that evening.
As a very new wild swimmer with no real experience of distances, currents or swimming at night, I was feeling very nervous in the run up to the events.
I had been ill with a nasty cold preventing me from getting in the water for the three weeks leading up to the swims so all of my last-minute
training plans (for which please read leaving everything to the last minute) had come to nothing and my teenage daughter, who is my regular swimming buddy, had to drop out on the morning of the swims as she came down with the cold.
It would be fair to say my confidence on all levels was pretty low from being out and about in my wetsuit in public, to being convinced I was a prime candidate for being lugged out of the water by one of the accompanying kayaks we were assured at the briefing were there to keep us all safe.
The team of volunteers in kayaks and RIBs were already in the water as we entered the loch for the morning swim.
Shrieks from those getting shocked by the cold water rang out alongside the Corran ferry public announcement as we all left together. Obviously the ferry beat all of us across, but the swimmers returning were back long before the next ferry.
I was only attempting one way but managed the whole thing with a huge grin on my face before getting out of the water to catch the ferry back over to the starting line for soup and congratulating fellow swimmers.
A total of 93 people completed the 400m Corran swim, with about a quarter managing there and back. Later, having managed to only partially dry my wetsuit out, I was pulling it back on again and heading out to Glencoe for the night swim.
With glow sticks tied to my tow float, I joined the group which tallied 74 swimmers. Although we were never more than 20 metres from the shore it was a kilometre distance with changing tides and choppy at points and I certainly came out having swallowed a fair bit of salt water.
Darkness fell before I got to the finish and it was certainly more challenging but the constant presence of fellow swimmers who became just glowing, splashing points as the light faded and the kayaks alongside us meant I felt safe and in good company for the duration.
My own mental ‘last 100 strokes’ calculations were poor – I almost reached the tally three times over towards the end and peeling off my wetsuit in the car park took the very last of my energy before heading for home and a glass or two of ‘extra dry prosecco’ which felt appropriate to both celebrate my success of the day and a fitting twist to the ‘extra wet’ experience of two swims.
Highland Open Water Swims is a charity which aims to promote open water swimming with all the health benefits it offers and unique way to experience the beautiful scenery and wildlife in our area, and to raise money for charity, with with a tally so far of over £13,000 for children with
This year it is raising funds for The Brain Tumour Charity and with donations still coming in the total already stands at over £6,600.
Alex Reis of Highland Open Water Swims told me: ‘We would not be able to put on these events without the help and support of our fantastic volunteers who provide the safety kayaks and boats, help with organisation before, during and after the swims, and serve the swimmers soup and hot drinks.
‘We’ve had a great 2019 and are already planning swims for 2020. There will be some familiar swims such as Mull and Corran and a few new locations too which we’re still discussing – the problem is there are just too many lovely places to choose from!’
As for me, I’m already planning to carry on with regular swims throughout the winter and aiming to do as many events next year as I can.
And the next time I’m feeling impatient waiting in the queue for the Corran ferry, I really will be able to mutter to myself that ‘I could swim this quicker’, maybe not with a whole week’s worth of food shopping to bring home though…