Something brushed up against my foot. My heart skipped a beat and the adrenalin coursed through my veins. I stopped hoping to see what it could have been, and realised that I had swum into a bed of long clingy seaweed. This was my second solo swim in the icy waters of Loch Glendhu. The waters of which are crystal clear and almost cry out to be swum in, belying the freezing temperature of the salty Antarctic tide that flows in and out every 6 hours.
The waters had been sending out invitations to me daily and I had vision of myself slicing through the still waters and revisiting my joy of swimming freely in nature – you cannot get much wilder than swimming in remote lochs in Scotland. But my mind and reality proved to be poles apart.
After being warned about strong currents and the possible dangers of swimming solo, I had decided to time my swims with the tide, in or out from one jetty to the other. The tide was going out, so headed off up the road, wet suit attired, wet shoes, swimming cap and goggles, (must have looked a really odd sight), only to find that the water at the fishing jetty, where 2 fishing boats rocked gently against the quay and the water was slightly more sheltered, was teaming with jelly fish. Time to get really wild and make my way through prickly gorse and rocks and slimy seaweed to get to the waters edge a little further away.
The extreme temperature took my breath away. I needed to get moving to warm up my body. By now I could not feel my feet or my hands and after a few strokes of freestyle with my face submerged, I realised that a smooth stroked swim was not on the cards. My head pounded and my face froze. Instant ice-cream headache. So, it was backstroke most of the way. Looking up at fluffy clouds and the occasional seagull, I am in my element. An inquisitive seal pops his head up a few meters away, watching this ungainly creature making steady headway to next boat jetty. The sense of accomplishment was immense. It was years since I had last swum in open water and these open waters are extreme. And it was this that brought me back the next day, this time with my face slathered in Vaseline to try and keep some of the freezing effects at bay. It worked (to a degree). Think I might harbour a bit of masochism and thrive on pushing my limits, I am hooked.
Swimming in these unknown waters got me thinking about my initial fear, how deep, how cold, what lies beneath, the unknown. On looking down into the dark depth of the loch, there was a prickle of fear. It is of the unknown. And right now in every day life we are all living with the unknown. How much longer, what is going to happen, what lies beneath. But as I swam toward shore and started to see the shimmering bottom of the loch and welcome sight of the concrete slipway, so too there is a shimmering at the end of this dark tunnel. We are wired to survive. Life will return as we knew it and we will look back in years to come and be able to say, remember when….! So keep swimming and when something brushes against your foot, know that it is only your own fear which you can control and head for that shore.