Loch Morlich 3,000m Swim Event

On Saturday I did my second open water swim event, up at Loch Morlich near Aviemore. The third and last in the Go Swim series this year, I entered this last minute after enjoying the event at Loch Lomond so much at the end of August.

With this event being three weeks after, I was well trained up for it, and I wanted another go at what I expected would be another well organised and fun event. And it was.

My training leading up to it was 2-3 swims a week including 1 mile time trials, and an open water swim of 3,000m in Knockburn Loch. During my swims I played abut with practicing and varying my breathing, away from the usual breathing every three, abs being more flexible with breathing every 4 or a pattern of 3/4/3/4.

All of that seemed to help on the day in Loch Morlich as I was able to be less structured with my breathing and breathe based on the waves, the current and the sun. To be honest my breathing was all over the place (in a good way – controlled, but varying) on the day, but it and I was nice and relaxed throughout.

The 3,000m event started at 945am and registration was from 845am. We had an early breakfast in our hotel, berries, yoghurt, coffee and a couple of bits of cinnamon french toast with maple syrup. I probably didn’t need the cinnamon french toast, but it was very tasty.

After breakfast I got ready and into the bottom half of my wetsuit before we drove the 20-30 minutes to Loch Morlich. It’s a lovely part of Scotland. It has a great Sandy beach too… so I knew the entry and exit would be fine. I imagine the place possibly gets a bit busy on nice days, but I’d be tempted to come back, or to some other lochs nearby, one day.

We got there about 9am, and I registered. My number was 190. There were less competitors here than at Loch Lomond, maybe a third as many (Loch Lomond had two 3,000m starts with 80-90 people, Loch Morlich has 62).

You might remember I surprised myself with a fast than expected time at Loch Lomond, and also surprised myself with coming 3rd female veteran… (the pluses of getting older in lockdown – I’m 41 now). With an even smaller field and more confidence now I had my first event under my belt, I wasn’t sure how Loch Morlich would go, but I felt good about it anyway.

That was until there was a bit of a scramble for me before the start. We got there in plenty time, but I didn’t want to get ready too soon… I was ready by about 930, but then realised I needed a pee… so I found a portaloo, but the minutes ahead of 945 were ticking away. And I probably should have been over at the start line!

I’d been hanging around at the changing rooms a bit long, and ended up speaking with Sean who was selling bobble hats… he seems to have infected the Highlands with lots of people wearing bobble hats.

I forgot to take a caffeine gel that I was going to take (not that it mattered much)… but then I headed over to the start with a fe minutes to spare. I popped in the water to get my body and wetsuit wet and used to the cold, but it could have been done better by me!

Anyway, I got to the start fine, and at exactly 945 I hadn’t number written on my hand, and I had scooted up to the front where I was part of the second group of six swimmers going in the water. I think I like to just get it started and over with rathe than hanging around.

The course was a bit different than Loch Lomond, smaller loops of around 750m, which we had to go clockwise around, four times. I thought it wouldn’t be as easy as Loch Lomond, but it was maybe easier to sight and keep on track over the shorter distance. (It was only after my swim was tracked in Garmin that I realised the route map above wasn’t to scale – and we only swam in a wee bit of the loch 😂).

I got into my flow quickly. It was cold, but I told myself to relax and let my swimming take over. I’m as swimming with the same group for a while I think, and I ended up coming out of the water just behind someone I’d started with I think.

About 500m in I noticed that my goggles were steaming up, so not long after I took an opportunity to clear them, and from then on in they were fine. The sun was out and low again, but the glare didn’t seem as bad as Loch Lomond – my mirrored goggles probably helped.

My watch does splits every 250m in open water and I could see that most 250sAdd were ticking off in under 5 minutes which was good. I think there were only 2 which went to 5 or above… 2 less than in Loch Lomond.

As I was swimming I was conscious that it felt I was going a bit wider than other swimmers, so as the swim went on I tried to focus on getting myself in a straight line towards the bouys.

As I was starting the third lap, I noticed a couple of swimmers in pink or red hats (ours were blue)… these were likely the 10,000m swimmers. I nearly kept swimming with them, until I realised they have a longer course, and go straight on, where we turn right at the top.

Around 1,500 – 2,000m in I was starting to feel a little tired… imagining if I just did three laps, but knowing I would do 4. then when my watch ticked off at 2,500m I knew I had just 500m or less to go and I decided to get my head down, focus on aiming for the shore and breathing every 4 where I could.

At the bottom corner where I started lap 4, I noticed what looked like crowds of swimmers, instead of blue or red caps, most of them had green caps, so we had been swamped with the start of the 1,500m swimmers. I was careful to swim on route to the bouy and try to steer clear of any other swimmers, although I’m sure I touched a few at points.

It was quite hard to see the finish line, with the sun in your face,,but I managed to get there ok. I followed some splashes of other swimmers, and seemed to be heading int be right direction. I’d scoped out the finish before we started, and I remembered from last time, so I knew I needed to aim for the big yellow inflatables.

I’ll get the videos uploaded soon

As I was swimming in, I got what felt like a shove from another swimmer. I may have crossed his path, or who knows that… but it seems he was a 1,500m swimmer and I ended up out of his way and behind him as we both swam in.

I swam as far as I thought to come in, then stood up (maybe a wee bit too soon) and ran as much as I could to the finish line on the beach. As I’d stood up a bit soon, my legs fought to get through the knee high water, but it was maybe a fraction faster than swimming further. Maybe one for practicing ahead of any other swim events.

I ran across the finish mats, and stopped my watch. It looked like my watch tracked 2,850m… so about 100m shorter than Loch Lomond. I’d worked pretty hard in the last 500-750m of the swim, so I was a bit gubbed at the end, but I got my medal at the end and felt great once I’d recovered. (The photo shows me knackered and not so pretty!)

A bit of analysis after it and I realised I swam this a bit faster than Loch Lomond… 55:08 on my watch, 55:06 as my chip time card 58:17 at Loch Lomond. Some of that would be the 100m less travelled, but it seems with one event under my belt I felt more confident and able to go a wee but faster and more consistently at Loch Morlich.

Here are my splits at Loch Morlich:

And here are my splits from Loch Lomond 3 weeks before:

After I finished, I met Fit Girl who had my bag and flip flops. I dried myself off a bit and got my flip flops on. The sand at Loch Morlich is nicer to walk on than pebbles – but it gets EVERYWHERE.

After a few pics, I went and got changed in the changing tent. This one was a lot smaller than the one at the Loch Lomond event, but I guess they were catering for less people. The base of the tent was sand, so it was a bit challenging to take your wetsuit off, but I put a towel down and it seemed to work ok. I think I’d recent benches in there for future verbs if possible.

My heart rate didn’t measure true on my watch which is a bit annoying, perhaps my watch wasn’t tight enough on, but I know I was working hard enough. My feet had been pretty cold towards the end and they took a bit of time to heat up.

Once I’d had a coffee, some soup and a tasty to refuel… I felt great. And once again, I don’t seem to have any doms or sore bits (like I would after a run event). Another reason why I think swimming is my thing!

After the race I had a quick chat with the race organiser Richard. I congratulated him on and thanked him for the two well run events I’d been at. He knew I’d packed 3rd female vet at Loch Lomond, and he’s sending my trophy out once things have settled down.

And it seems that I placed again here – unofficially 3rd female veteran again. 6th female and 12th overall. How cool is that?

Now I’m trying not to let my mind get away with me to think maybe I could do the 5,000m event next year… sort of the half marathon equivalent of running, I would be swimming for around 1:30-1:45 I’d think. We will see.

I’m actually wishing I’d done the Loch Tay event as well this year, for a full three… but maybe I’ll do that 3,000m one next year and see how my training goes for what I’ll do in the other two (if I choose to do them). I’ll see how I get on with my swim training in the Winter.

As expected, I really enjoyed this event, and I’ll hopefully be back for some more in future years. I might need to make some more room for some more medals I think.

Once again it was a great event, with swim distances catering for lots of different levels – 250m, 750m, 1,500m, 3,000m, 5km and 10km.

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