Scotland is an amazing country to live in and every now and then we run a feature that highlights some of our beautiful countryside and an activity that makes us appreciate it as we should. This weekend the boss headed off to Loch Ness to take on the very first Swimrun event in the UK. Loch Gu Loch means Loch to Loch in gaelic. Invented in Sweden the point-to-point endurance races are growing in popularity with teams of two completing multiple running and swimming stages. Pippa Middleton recently completed the most famous of all Swimrun events, the ÖtillÖ in Sweden, bringing the sport to the attention of the British press. I am not sure I looked quite as glamorous in my wetsuit! Loch Gu Loch 2015
So why would you want to swim a total of 8km in the freezing cold waters of Loch Ness, where the monster lurks, and run 47km across the bits of land in between?
I am not really sure. It looked a bit different. I like a challenge. I didn't read the details very closely before I signed up.....Training and competing in endurance events is I think very like running a business. Things rarely go to plan but if you never give up, are prepared to change your plans as you go along and keep smiling then eventually you make it to the finish line. Not always as quickly as you thought but usually with a few interesting and unexpected experiences along the way. Training for these events is a de-stress and a different focus for me. I do often think about work as I run or swim or cycle and many a problem is solved by the time I return but it also provides a welcome distraction and time away from the phone and makes me a happier person. Loch Gu Loch SwimRun Journalist and outdoors enthusiast Fiona Russell wrote an article before the race with a quote from Stuart McInnes, the Loch Gu Loch founder, agreeing the race is designed to be hard. He said: “We wanted it to appeal to those who come from a fairly high competency level within sports like triathlon and trail running.” Luckily I only read this quote the night before when it was too late to pull out or feel any more anxious. Loch Gu Loch Start 2015The day starts bright and breezy boarding the Jacobite Cruises boat at Fort Augustus to head out to the stunning Urquhart Castle. Actually it was pitch black but the boat was warm and cosy and the competitor chat was very good. Lots of overseas entrants, most of them more experienced than us Scots so we tried to glean some top tips. Better late than never! I don't really feel the cold but having heard so many comments on the water temperature being likely to be our main problem during the day when we waded into Loch Ness I was the one exclaiming "ooh it's not cold at all" and for once I wasn't being sarcastic and it really felt quite pleasant. We heard later one poor lady emerged from the first swim with the initial stages of hypothermia...luckily I have that extra layer of fat then! So off we went. My brother-in-law Al taking the lead as he has far superior swimming skills and me on my bungee rope trying to swim in a straight line behind him. Whoever that guy was with the blue soles on the trainers who booted me in the face then got tangled in our bungee, no hard feelings! We soon settled into a good rhythm and I have to say the swims were the highlight of our day, we loved every one of them. The water tastes so good when you are getting tired and thirsty too! The running was pretty harsh, proper Scottish fell running which is not my forte and some of the scrambling up and down through heather nearly broke us but hats off to the wetsuit designers Zone3. Whoever could have imagined that running in a wetsuit and swimming in your trainers for 55km could result in only one tiny bit of chafing on my neck? Impressive, although on the road sections the locals must have wondered who had invaded as we ran along with yellow swim caps and goggles on our heads and pull buoys tied to our leg. I had a £10 bet with Al beforehand that we would be last as I really felt looking around the room during the pre-race briefing at the whippet-like, fit looking creatures around us that we were maybe a little out of our depth. Very quickly you realise a race like this is about survival, quite a few didn't make it to the finish and quite a few were behind us. 5 minutes into the first run when we realised what the terrain was going to be like we knew all we cared about was making it back to Loch Ness before the cut off for the final swim. We had to up the pace on the last downhill stretch and if I hadn't been so close to crying with relief that we had nearly made it I would have laughed when Al called out to me "run on ahead Anna" like I had a single ounce of extra pace left in me. What a day! We were so lucky with the weather, the scenery was phenomenal, the tunes and banter from the guys setting up the Loch Ness marathon taking place the next day "you coming back tomorrow?" as we crawled up the hill past them, the lovely lady we saw about 10 times on route as she appeared on her bike at various points, the Edinburgh triathlete club members who knew Al and gave us a shout out as we dived into yet another loch, the variety of competitors from around the world, the laid back and friendly yet super efficient organising team make me proud yet again to be Scottish and hosts to another world class event in a world class location. Tartan wetsuit at the ready for the next adventure. If you haven't been to Loch Ness and Fort Augustus it is well worth the trip. VisitScotland have lots of info and links on their website. Tell us about your favourite places in Scotland, why you love them and better still send us some photos. We love our country and we love to share the good bits.