Incentive to swim can come from the most unexpected source.
I’m sorry to say that I had lost all enthusiasm for swimming in any shape or form after a couple of big swims in August 2016 when I was simultaneously dealing with some rather difficult family concerns. It’ll come back I assumed, but time went on, the passion didn’t reignite, my winter cough returned and I pretty much excused myself from all open water swimming (and pool swimming) claiming illness.
I organised the successful Loch Ness Vampire Swim and watched the fun from the shore. More time passed and I found myself increasingly happy to look on, joining the winter swimmers for their post swim coffees and in no way missing the cold water swim endorphin rush or post-swim shivers. I began to seriously consider myself as retired. I cancelled my spring slot for Gibraltar, avoided entering any winter swim events (although I did complete a long-standing entry at Chillswim in December), and made no fixed plans for another big swim. I was devoid of desire to swim anywhere or anytime, content to be a bystander and towel holder.
And so it was on the morning of Saturday 25 February 2017. Another blustery cold winter saturday morning on the shores of Loch Ness watching swimmers squeal and grimace as they entered the cold wavy waters only to exit with wide grins and excited chatter. I was there to watch and greet them as they exited, reminding them to get changed quickly and not stand about, joining them in the pub around the warming log fire for post-swim hot drinks and cake. I witnessed their recoveries, listened to the stories about the morning’s experience, their fun in the waves, the complaints about lack of feeling in hands and feet, their plans for the week and year ahead; and I felt a little distant from this group of Wild Highlander swimmers that has been a huge part of my life for the past 5 years or so. I looked inside me and just couldn’t feel any desire to restart swimming. Some of the group voiced their concerns about my lack of immersion for so long, some understood that maybe I wasn’t in the right place, others just wondered if I was still unwell. I had no answers.
But then came the incentive. An unexpected phone call, five years after the previous communication from NBC (see https://wildhighlanderswims.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/a-brief-celeb-swim/)
That one phone call saw me hit the water the very next day to see if I really could still swim and to test my cold tolerance following the fairly substantial lay-off (thanks for the company Pat). And then I swam again later in the week in front of the NBC cameras for a lighthearted piece on Nessie.
The incentive? An opportunity to earn a few quid donation to a small support charity that has been helping my family since last summer. I am grateful for the opportunity to earn a few pounds for the charity but also for the push I needed to swim again in cold water. The swims brought a smile to my face and a bounce in my step I thought had gone. The simple joy derived from open water swimming is still there. And, amazingly, I remain cold tolerant.
To view the short, cheesy clip you’ll find me about 1:50 into the 4 minute piece after the 15 second advert. http://www.today.com/video/in-search-of-the-loch-ness-monster-with-keir-simmons-897483331937
I’m still not sure how much swimming I will do this year…but perhaps I have not retired completely.