Great Scottish Swim

, October 3, 2011

Great Swim Strathclyde, Scotland
Lifeguards gearing up for the first wave

The final Great Swim Series event of the year took place on a beautifully sunny September day in Strathclyde National Park.  Scotland’s usual cold weather kindly abated for the weekend, making for a spectacular swim and an enjoyable day for the nearly 2,000 participants and their supporters.

The route

The Scottish Swim was originally to have a ½km wave and a 2km wave, although in the weeks leading up to the event, lowering water temperatures shortened the 2km distance to one mile race.  This was a bit of a disappointment for many of the 2km swimmers (myself included), who had trained specifically for the slightly longer event and were looking forward to swimming the length of the loch.  Perhaps next year the organisers will hold their nerve and allow this 2km course to be swum.  As a result of the course re-design, both distances were designed in a loop, making it easier for spectators to be able to catch both the start and finish of the athletes.

The event

As with all Great Swim events, participants are sent their cap and ankle chip in advance of the day.  Race timings commence when swimmers cross the start line and finish exactly when the swim crosses the finish.  It is now even possible to set up an immediate text notification of the swimmer’s time on crossing the finish.

The swim 

Great Scottish Swim course
The course for the day

Given the beautiful weather and the shortened course, I don’t think that I was alone in hoping to pull out a competitive time and season’s best.  However, the race was deceptively tricky.  With the water temperature at around 10 degrees, the first 100 meters proved a bit a shock to the system.  The organisers did a great job in handing out second caps to anyone looking for a little more head warmth, but that obviously did little to protect the face.

Despite the calm, sunny day, at the first corner the water became a little rough and remained so for about 400m. After reaching the halfway mark the water calmed, but due to the location of the sun (directly infront of the swimmer) and the the expanse of water on both sides of the swimmer, I found holding my line tricky.  With no river bank to gauge direction, and the glare of the sun in front I went a way off course as did a few people around me.  At least that’s my excuse…

 A First-timer Great Swim Perspective

This was Daisy Miers’ first open water swim event.  Here’s what she thought of it:

Right off the bat, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the Great Swim experience. Not only was the weather gorgeous and I had my family to support me, but the actual swim itself was enjoyable and really rewarding.

I had been training for a few months leading up to the swim in my local pool, as well as getting used to the wetsuit in the Hampstead Heath Ponds and felt very ready for the 2km. When it was changed to a mile, my confidence grew, until I saw the course. I knew I could swim the distance and know what it is in terms of lengths, but seeing it laid out in one big distance, is a bit daunting. It only lasted a few moments and soon, with the atmosphere and Elite swimmers floating around, I was extremely excited to begin.

I thought the whole day was well executed with each wave setting off on time and no impression of anything being rushed. There was plenty of space to get changed and before I knew it, I was making my way to the start. The warm up they do is great in the sense that it gets you moving after testing the freezing water, and gets your mind focused and in my case, time to answer a minor swim cap dilemma.

Great Scottish Swim
The pink wave about to race

In the water, I had the typical start where you have people swimming over you and limbs everywhere, but nowhere near as bad as I was expecting from the stories. The water was cold, but manageable, and once I was a few hundred metres out, rhythm set in and it was just a matter of completing the course. I set myself a goal, and was incredibly pleased when I finished, received my pack, and realised that I had succeeded. 

I think it’s a fantastic thing to train for, and makes for a really active day out, especially when you have friends, family and others supporting you, as well as gorgeous weather. I highly recommend!

Getting there and away

Situated between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Strathclyde National Park requires a little bit of prior planning to get to. However, as one of Scotland’s leading centres for outdoor recreation and one of the chosen venues for the 2014 Commonwealth Games there are plenty of public transport links.  There are regular trains that operate direct routes from London to Glasgow and London to Edinburgh, both of which are within a 30-minute bus of the Loch.  More information can be found on the Great Swim how to get there page.