'I am not afraid of storms for I am learing to sail my ship'.
Louisa May Alcott
Got out of bed at 3 am on Sunday morning for a 4 hour road trip to Scotland.
First time in Scotland, first open skin swim race.
I’ve seen films and know exactly how this ends. They tell me there are no sharks in the Scottish lakes, but how can they be so sure? There are plenty of bad apples out there that would happily snack on a tasty little lady like myself. Sneaky crocs, blood thirsty piranhas, blue ringed octopus and the occasional great white; you name it- According to experts many attacks are merely a case of mistaken identity, they think the human is a penguin or a baby seal. To avoid confusion I opt to race without a wetsuit and to be on the safe side I even have a plan B which includes swimming in the middle of the pack. If ‘Brucy’ feels peckish he can feast on someone else instead; evidently he’d be full up by the time he gets to me. It really comes down to common sense and a good strategic plan-
I am singing on the top of my lungs with blasting music in the car to Whitney Houston’s ‘One moment in time’ but act normal upon reaching the parking at Lake Bardowie a minute before registration closes.
It’s announced that there are only 3 skin swimmers and myself amongst the 41 participants. Some of them even wear neoprene gloves and socks on top of their wetsuits. I stand timidly in my flip-flops, swim cossie and wrapped in my eye-catching green beach towel; hoping not to draw attention to myself. A little nervous and alarmed now about how today will feel, I listen carefully to the brief. It takes a little while for my ears to warm-up to the rather exotic Scottish accent :) They say the water temperature is 15 degrees; ‘practically tropical for the Scottish standards' adds the organiser. Ha-ha! There’s some Scottish humour for you.
I ask a lady to help me stick my race numbers. After careful examination she comments:
'You're brave for such a little lady, even the race number doesn't fit fully on your back, I’ll extend this on your shoulder too.’
‘The way I see it if I die from hypothermia today this is a great way to go.’
‘Oh please don't say that' she says looking concerned.
Wrong time to crack jokes? Possibly-
I get in the water a couple of minutes before the race starts. A smooth, controlled entry. The horn sounds and I try to relax the arms and promote a graceful swim. Instead, the cold makes my strokes flabby, tensed and I look like an artless amateur. This ‘tropical’ water is so cold it’s hard to breath. My options are getting out and calling it a day or measuring myself against my own potential. ‘Addi, just swim to the next buoy and then you can get out. You didn't drive all the way here to quit before you even got started’ says the little voice inside my head.
Surprisingly by the time I swim to the first buoy my body already feels that 'good to be alive’ feeling that lasts a long time afterwards. ‘This isn’t too bad actually’ I tell myself ‘this is nice and warm’; despite feeling that tangy sensation on my skin. By the time the 2km are completed (48mins later) I learn that you have to get on with things, pain is only temporary.
Clearly I wasn't going to win the race but today’s challenge; swimming with no wetsuit was a huge step for this ordinary lady. It was a journey towards my own evolution. After all, in our little family we make a big deal about not neglecting our personal growth by creating opportunities for new experiences in life.
And guess what? A bull shark didn’t get me and now I plan to venture into more open water skin swimming and possibly some personal defence classes to ensure if I do bump into a ‘Brucy’.
September 2016 finds me attempting my first long distance (10km) skin swim part of the Vigour Events in Lake Ard, Scotland. What a great excuse to visit beautiful Scotland again!